Five Books To Start Off The School Year

Five Books To Start Off The School Year

Here are five books to look at before you have too much homework!
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Now that the school year has started up, or is about to start up for some, what better time to grab a few novels for your downtime? The further you get into the school year, the more work you're going to have, so it's best to read while you still have the chance! In the list below, I've listed a few books I'm planning on reading.

1. "Armada" by Ernest Cline

By the author of "Ready Player One", "Armada" follows Zack Lightman as he dreams. He wishes that the real world was more like the science-fiction books, movies, and video games he loves, but he knows better to separate real life from fiction. That is, until one day, an alien ship lands, and Zack is the hero the world is looking for. The only problem is the ship is straight out of a popular online flight simulator called Armada. Has Zack lost his mind?

2. "The Magic Strings of Frankie Pesto" by Mitch Albom

"The Magic Strings of Frankie Pesto" is told from the perspective of Music. Music is a talent personified to show how it was able to change lives through its most beloved disciple, Frankie Pesto. Music follows him from being an orphan as a result of a Spanish War to becoming a famous rock star. His gift of music becomes a burden as it becomes more clear that his music affects people's futures. Frankie Pesto is destined to change six people's lives with the six strings of his guitar, but it's unclear where and when.

3. "Eliza and Her Monsters" by Francesca Zappia

"Eliza and Her Monsters" follows a girl named Eliza Mirk who has a hard time fitting in. However, online, she finds a world of people who accept her, and even adore her for her extremely popular web comic titled "Monstrous Sea." Eliza doesn't think she'll enjoy the real world, but is comfortable with her online fame. Things change when Wallace Warland, "Monstrous Sea"'s number one fanfiction author transfers to Eliza's school. No one knows her secret still, and they become close. But what happens when suddenly her secret is shared with the world?

4. "Spaceman of Bohemia" by Jaroslav Kalfar

In "Spaceman of Bohemia," Jakub Prochazka is an orphaned boy raised by his grandparents in the Czech countryside. He rises from the small town to become the country's first astronaut, and gains fame for accepting the dangerous solo mission to Venus. Jakub has always dreamt of this fame to atone for his father's sins as a Communist informer. In his quest, he leaves behind his wife, Lenka. In deep space, and on the brink of insanity, Jakub meets a giant alien spider, who may or may not be imaginary, to have philosophical conversations and form a bond with. Will this strange friend be what makes it possible for him to return to his wife with his sanity in tact?

5. "The Wolf Wilder" by Katherine Rundell

Feo and her mother train domesticated wolves to return back to the snow wild of Russia, and Feo couldn't love their work more. There are a few that been wilded that won't leave Feo, and have become her friends. Still, not everyone loves wolve, espeically the General Rakov. To save her mother, and the wolves, Feo must leave the icy woods to St. Petersburg to trust strangers who might be able to save her.

Cover Image Credit: Stewart Butterfield on Flickr

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5 Small Ways We Can Help the Planet Everyday, Not Just On Earth Day

Trust me, they're super easy.
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Earth Day has come and gone, but there are still so many ways for us to do our part and help our planet!

As a species, we have produced more plastic in the last ten years than we did in the entire last century. The average American throws away 185 pounds of plastic each year and half of it is only used once. When it's thrown away, the trash just floats along. Literally.

By 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.

This is really really not good. But, luckily, it's almost entirely avoidable.

Here's a list of things we can all do to keep our planet pretty and kick some ass for Mother Earth.

1. Ditch plastic straws

Yeah, you've probably heard this one before — but hear me out. We only use straws once and then we throw them away. They end up in the ocean and kill sea turtles. We're all guilty of this. Hell, I used to drink everything with a straw. But the important thing is that we change our ways and better not only ourselves but the environment.

If you still wanna use a straw, that's totally okay! Try using a glass or bamboo one. You can buy packs of them on Amazon for less than ten dollars, which isn't bad considering you'll be able to reuse these as many times as you want.

2. B.Y.O.F. (Bring your own fork)

And your own spoon. And knife, as well. If you plan on going out for the day and you don't want to bring your own food, you can just buy your lunch and use your own silverware. This way, you won't waste any plasticware and there is no unnecessary waste from your lunch.

3. Cups, too!

While we're on the subject of just bringing your own stuff, bring your own cup when you're out for the day! Whether it's your water cup or your travel coffee mug, bring it (even if you don't plan on making your own coffee or tea).

Why, might you ask? Well, because you can just go to your favorite cafe and get your favorite hot drink in your own cup! This is both more sustainable and more cost-effective (they actually charge you for the cup).

4. Don't! Use! Plastic! Bags!

No matter where you are or where you're shopping, please be sure to use a tote bag or any other kind of reusable grocery bag. It's better for the environment, it's easier for you to carry, and you can get one with whatever you want on it! Mine says "You look radishing" and it has a drawing of radishes. Very cute.

Also, if you're buying fresh produce, you can use lighter mesh bags instead of the plastic bags from the produce section!

5. For *that* time of the month

If you're a period-having person, you might want to rethink the way you handle your lunar cycle. On average, people who have periods will throw away 300,000 pounds of menstrual products in their lifetime. This is really really not cool.

I suggest switching from tampons and pads to menstrual cups and cloth pads. While the cups might seem weird at first, trust me — they aren't weird at all. Both cups and cloth pads are easier and longer lasting than your conventional period tools.


While there are a bunch of other tips I could most definitely talk about and rant about and advocate for, I feel like this is a good place to start.

Just be sure to reduce the number of one-time plastics you use and make sure you're cautious of the waste you produce.

Cover Image Credit: Penelope De La Cruz

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What YouTube Says About Our Generation

We can learn a lot from high school vlogs.
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Last week I wrote an article that sought to examine YouTube, not as an entertainment platform, but as a revolutionary and powerful tool, capable of documenting and preserving our generation in ways which no generation previously could.

I wrote:

"The ubiquity of cameras has made it so that our images are being captured constantly whether we realize it or not. And with YouTube and the Internet, we are seamlessly being cataloged into a massive and growing database of humanity ... I think of YouTube as a time capsule. Centuries from now, everyone can look back through YouTube and wholly experience our generation: its sights, sounds, issues, and—most importantly—the individual personalities of, not just its Kings and Queens, but its ordinary people."

With this article, and in subsequent articles, I'd like to elaborate on this concept by exploring and showcasing various content on YouTube. In doing so, I hope I can get some people to look at Youtube through a different lens—one that understands it as a historical tool.

In this article, I'd like to share a type of video I've found much of on YouTube: "day in the life of high school" videos. In these videos, someone goes around with a camera and basically shoots, in documentary style, a full day of high school.

Here's one from 1996:

One of the fascinating things about a video like this is that, when we watch it, we tend to see it in the context of the present. I'll watch the video, but instantly my brain seeks out the differences and similarities between high school in 1996 and in 2016 (when I graduated high school).

Through this video, we see, documented in an unbiased fashion, the lives of ordinary people. And through watching these people, we can also extrapolate further information about that generation. We are ALL a product of our times, whether we realize it or not. Everything posted on YouTube lends some kind of window into the present that it was posted in.

For example, at around 17 minutes into the video above, the cameraman begins to hum the Mission Impossible theme, a movie which came out in May of 1996, right about the time this video was shot. It was a big blockbuster hit and was most definitely on the minds of high schoolers like these. While that might not sound too fascinating right now in 2018, it will be a much more fascinating detail to those studying pop culture history 100 years into the future.

Now take a look at a modern "day of high school" video:

Now, imagine you were somebody in 1996 watching this video today. In just 20 years, we can already see tremendous generational differences. In the 1996 video, people were detached when confronted with a camera; it was something strange to them. In 2018, the digital age has taken over completely. In this video, everyone understands that he is "vlogging," a term that didn't exist in 1996.

In fact, everything about this video screams of our generation: the slang, the music, the fast jump cuts, the concept of a "YouTuber," the dress, the technology, Internet culture, how everyone's plugging their Internet identities (Instagram, SoundCloud, etc.)... the list goes on and on. Going from the 1996 day of high school and then jumping to this one really puts my generation into perspective.

This video is much more polished and edited, and its clearly made with the intention to project oneself to an audience, rather than for purely documentary purposes like the video from 1996 was. It brings to light an unforeseen force working all around us: the rise of a new type of global culture, one that, through social media, is growing larger by the day.

But these are just two videos out of over a billion YouTube videos. Estimated, it would take 60,000 years of non-stop watching to watch every video that is on YouTube right now. That is a LOT of content, and ALL of that is focused on the thoughts, concerns, issues, and realities of THIS generation.

We will leave a footprint unlike any other generation in history; I think its important for all of us to understand that.

Cover Image Credit: YouTube

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