Spring Break is Coming!

We used to sing a song in middle school every year before Spring Break. I still remember it.

It’s nearly Spring Vacation, what a big celebration when they finally let us out of school, hurray! Be it bright or breezy we will take life easy, on our Spring Break holiday!

With my unique school-schedule this year, Spring Break has more meaning than usual. I finish school on May 1st, and so April is essentially my last month of school. Preceding April is March, and in March is Spring Break, SXSW, Round-up, and Young Life Placement.

I have plenty to look forward to in March, so it will pass quickly. Plus, it only has three weeks of school in the first place. Once March hits, I have seven weeks of school left at most. Classes will be cancelled, weekends will fly by, and I will spend so much time in the library that I will blink my eyes and school will be finished.

My point: school is practically over.

In the short-term though, I have plenty to look forward to as well. For Spring Break my friend Patrick Noe organized a backpacking trip at the Grand Canyon. Patrick, Aaron Schulze, my friend Luke Harle, and I leave the first Saturday of Spring Break and will return by Wednesday.

I am excited for the trip for numerous reasons. First, we have taken great pains to make it inexpensive but robust. This is quite likely the only time I will visit the Grand Canyon, so I want the experience to be thorough; however, because I have to pay for everything, I am happy we won’t be lodging at the Ritz.Thankfully, Patrick plans everything and does a remarkable job at it.

The second thing for which I am excited is the group of guys with whom I am going. The guys offer the possibility of good, deep talks, but also the ability to joke around and have me cracking up with laughter.

I can’t think of a group of guys with whom I would rather go to the Grand Canyon with than these fellows. In addition, the Grand Canyon itself will be sublime. Everyone says that pictures do not do it justice, and I am blessed with the opportunity to visit the national park with people whom I know will appreciate the vistas.

It is worth mentioning that part of the reason I am looking forward to Spring Break so much is that I am in the midst of what has been my hardest week of school this semester. Three papers, over eight hundred pages of reading, and sleeplessness lie in my future. I am currently typing at 5:13 in the morning. The Grand Canyon, campfires, guitar, and camaraderie are the only thing motivating me at this moment.

But, as General Patton said, “Ardour makes victory sweet.” True words, dead General, true words.

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Spring Break is Coming!

The Vegetables of My Labor (and Patrick’s)

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My garden has bloomed! Results (this picture is about half): A LOT of turnips, garlic, kale, cilantro, onions, and broccoli
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Here are the greens I've gathered: spinach, arugula, and butter lettuce
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Pat and I experimented and put green apple and raw turnip in with vinegar to pickle
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We also made a traditional German dish with turnips, onions, nutmeg, and sour cream. You can see it in this picture, where I combined all of the food from the day onto one plate. The eggs are Patrick's; he's a chicken.
The Vegetables of My Labor (and Patrick’s)

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Friendship test: what are my three favorite books?

Fill out your scantrons.

Turn in your scantrons.

There’s no curve.

The answer is: The Life of Pi; Mere Christianity; and The Omnivore’s Dilemma

You better have gotten a 100; if not, there’s the door.

(Look at the door).

Jonathan Safran Foer is making me rethink my list, though. He has written several books, among the most famous are Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close; Eating Animals; and Everything is Illuminated.

I read Eating Animals because a fellow vegetarian and friend recommended it to me, and the book opened my eyes to JSF’s style of writing. Eating Animals didn’t change my life, but the arguments were sound and, moreover, the writing was brilliant.

Read.

The thing about JSF is that he doesn’t limit his communication with the reader to just text. In his books, he regularly uses entire pages for pictures, text manipulation,  and other ways to send a message. In Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, he underlined and circled sections and sentences of his own writing. I got the book from a friend, and so I thought that she had marked up the book. When I realized that those markings were intentional, I was incredulous. I’ve seen text manipulation (the word “circle” in a circle), but I’d never seen anything like it.

So, if for no other reason, you need to check out JSF because his writing style is avante garde. Personally, I’ve never seen anything like that. Granted, I have very little perspective when it comes to books because I’ve been reading for a scant fifteen years or so.

But that’s not the only reason to read his books!

Especially in ELaIC, the plot-line is complex and his characters are so real. I almost cried at two parts in the book, and books typically don’t bring me anywhere near to that level of emotion. Oscar, the main character, is the perfect kid. You suffer in his isolation and despondency, and you laugh at his candidness. The book is brilliant.

I don’t know that I’ve done a book recommendation on my blog before, and I hope to keep them rare and in high regard. So heed my advice and read this book soon.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

40 Days and Nights of Lent

For those of you who do not know, Lent is the season of the Liturgical year that precedes the Triduum. The Triduum is Black Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday.

Look at the three o'clock purple!

Lent commemorates the 40 days and nights that Jesus spent in the desert after he was baptized by the Holy Spirit. For 40 days and 40 nights, Jesus did not eat or sleep in order to prepare His mind and body for His ministry. At the end of the ordeal, He was tempted by the Devil but resisted the temptations. Then, He began his three years of ministry.

We as Christians use Lent as a time of penance, self-denial, and contemplation as a time to prepare for Easter. Catholics give up meat (except fish) on Fridays and Ash Wednesday, and many denominations have a practice of giving up some vice for the forty-four day season. In addition or instead of giving something up, many people opt to do something they don’t normally do that they think will strengthen their relationship with God.

Lent is a fantastic opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. First, you get a defendable reason to try and make yourself better. Many people question you if you say you’re going on a diet, but if you say you’re giving up sweets for Lent, that seems to be ok. Some people try to exercise more, others try to pray more, some try to go to Daily Mass, and other try to be nice. Whatever it is, Lent seems to be an umbrella that allows you to try any self-help experiment without catching any flack for it.

You see, that’s where the second bird is killed. All these things that make you a better person typically also give glory to God. Especially acts you do or give up that are specifically spiritual, like praying daily or reading the Bible. However, even physical asceticism gives glory to God. Even if you are giving up chocolates or red meat to get your beach bod, people also notice that you’ve chosen to stop eating red meat at this odd time. They may ask “Why?” You then say “because of Lent.” They then say “What is Lent?” Boom. Faith ice-breaker.

Also, many things that people give up or reduce also allow them to grow closer to God. Perhaps someone gives up TV after eight in the evening. Most likely they won’t pray all night, but there is a good chance that they would go enjoy the sunset on their backporch and relax. They may feel more peaceful after watching the sunset, treat their family nicer, and then–indirectly at least–God has blessed a family with peace through Lent.

So, I encourage everyone to try and give up one thing or do one thing for Lent. One spiritual thing would be great, and physical things are good outwardly as well. Don’t limit yourself, do as many as you want!

I will be doing three of my most tried and true game-changers that really better my life and help me think about Easter. I will be: giving up soda, reading the New Testament in 40 days, and giving up sweets. The new one I”m doing this year that might be hard is praying the Rosary every day.

I encourage everyone to pick something! And, go to church on Ash Wednesday!

P.S. contact me if you want a 40 day read-the-New-Testament plan

40 Days and Nights of Lent

Los Campesinos! Starring: My Brother, Featuring: Sean Flack

This weekend my brother came to Austin because I bought him tickets to a concert. Talk about coercion. I go to College Station a lot, and so I wanted him to have a reason to come to Austin!

We saw the band Los Campesinos, which has a very famous song, or at least a very recognizeable one.

I like their stuff enough, and I wanted something that worked with our schedules, so I got him two tickets for Los Campesinos at The Parish on February 18th.

February 18th is, funnily enough, my roomate Sean Flack’s birthday!

(Happy Birthday, Sean)

So, on Friday night Mike and I threw a surprise birthday party for Sean in our room. I stayed up till three the morning before baking him a cake at a friend’s apartment, and Mike and I bought decorations at H.E.B. to let Sean know we were serious about the end of his teenage years.

The surprise aspect of the party was somewhat small, but he was surprised nonetheless! Then, people came coming and coming, and by around 11:30 we had a really good party going. My brother Dan got to meet a lot of best friends, and I think everyone had a good enough time. So far, Mike and I are two for two when it comes to throwing soirees.

Around one, I shipped off to a friend’s apartment to jam a little bit.

Patrick Noe, Mark Lupton, and Sam Leonard: some of the best musicians I have heard in Austin, and they let me join in with my banjo. They’re honestly good enough to have a band and play some shows.

They inspired me to take the next step with my banjo, and so now I think I’m going to set up a second lesson, because I’ve mastered the rolls and fingering that I learned at my first lesson.

Anyway, here is a picture of the terrible cake that I baked–with love–for Sean.

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Real rose petals

The day after Sean’s party, Mike, my brother, Ashley, Sean, and I went to eat at 24 Diner: possibly my favorite restaurant in Austin.

The weather was a real bugger the whole day–really this whole week. But those are some of my favorite people in the world, and Ashley gave Sean some much needed accessories.

Yay, accessories!

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Brokback Flack

We passed the day away inside our room, because we couldn’t really go out and do anything.

It was really nice though, because everyone has had a rough and tiring test week. Mike and Dan have some serious tests on Monday, so they did some studying.

That night, Dan and I went to the concert!

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Big Brother is Listening
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Opening Band: Parenthetical Girls

The venue was on 6th Street, a place called The Parish. Which, if you’re an avid fan of the blog, you might remember that I saw Noah and the Whale at The Parish this summer.

Needless to say, the venue brought back fond memories for me and set the bar high for any future shows I would see there. Los Campesinos did not disappoint! Plus, it was their last show of a month-long tour, and so they went nuts at the end.

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Los Campesinos!
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A seven member band that I think does a lot of ecstasy
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The lead singer, Garth!
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They are from Wales, England, and were very funny and Welsh
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Very easy to dance along to, and so I did not resist

My brother also got to see one of his good friends Justin Shank. Dan got plenty of time with me and my friends, but he also got to see a lot of his old friends. In addition, he got to study, be at 6th Street on Mardi Gras, and sleep on my couch!

This weekend was a celebration of two of my favorite people in the world. Daniel Stenberg and Sean Flack, I love you two!

Los Campesinos! Starring: My Brother, Featuring: Sean Flack