Yup, that’s right… more about TED Talks

If you’ve looked at my posts at all in the past couple weeks, you should have some cognizance of TED Talks… If not, don’t worry, I’ll copy-and-paste again:

“If you don’t know what TED Talks are, they are talks in which one person speaks, sometimes with visual aids, for about 20 minutes about a certain subject. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, & Design. The talks are meant to be informative and entertaining. Many discuss a certain issue to raise awareness or propose a solution.”

If you’ve seen my blog lately, you probably also know that I’m giving my own quick TED Talk in one of my Communications classes. Well, this just in, I’m now giving two TED Talks – one in each of my Communications classes.

This second talk is in a course called Ethics in Communications. So, logically, my talk will address a certain ethical matter when it comes to communications technology. That being the case, I looked over all my potential topics for my first TED Talk (lacrosse; whitewater kayaking; Spanish; language learning in general; my fraternity) and threw them all out the window.

However, I think I’ve come up with an idea.

This time, I wanted my talk to center around a story, something with some chronology that might hold my audience’s attention well. (I realize, of course, that my audience is a class that isn’t listening to me anyway because they’re all rehearsing their own talks in their heads… but I’ll try to draw them in anyway.)

I studied abroad for a semester in Madrid, Spain. For about 99% of my time there, I didn’t have a working phone. I don’t know if the phone was faulty or if I just wasn’t smart enough to figure the darned thing out, but either way I was, at times, communications-less.

It actually caused a couple pretty drastic changes in my lifestyle.

 This is pretty much what my international phone from my trip looked like. Hello, 90s!

So, for my Ethics TED Talk:

  1. Central Idea: Giving ourselves some distance from communications technologies, social media, etc. is healthy. We get so caught up in those things that they consume our lives to a certain degree. It does our brains good to get some rest from all the texts and tweets and wall posts sometimes. Furthermore, it’s relaxing! It feels so good to sit back and have some personal quiet time instead of always being ready to respond to 50 different people at once. Even when it comes to getting work done, communications technologies and social media are huge distractions, and it’s nice to liberate ourselves and be able to focus and finish what needs to get done.
  2. Catchphrase: It’s fine to answer your phone, but you shouldn’t have to answer to your phone. Similarly, it’s okay to make a call on your phone, but you don’t need to be on call for your phone.
  3. Opening my talk: I will open with the account of my time abroad in Spain. I will tell stories of things that happened due to the fact that I didn’t have a phone. (Spoiler alert: Some of these stories might be funny, and some could be catastrophic!)
  4. Post-opening: I will talk about what I learned from not having a phone that whole time. I will weigh the positives with the negatives, the benefits with the disasters. Basically, I will discuss the implications of having a less-proactive role when it comes to communications. I am still working out how to make this section into a clever little quip – probably a mnemonic – so that it sticks with the audience.
  5. Speech body: The structure of my talk will be a bit of a hybrid between situation-complication-situation and idea-concepts. It will be “situation-complication-situation” because the audience will hear the story, see what changed by not having a phone, and understand why that is good or bad. It will be “idea-concepts” because it will be almost like a little list of situations that can arise without access to communications-technology, and each story will have its own quick lesson.
  6. Concluding my talk: I will conclude my talk with a challenge to the audience: that they just try stepping back from communications technologies/social media/etc. – not necessarily all the way, but that they use it substantially less than is normal for them. I will challenge them that, if the really make an effort to do this, they might discover that life is a little more enjoyable without the buzz of a phone following them around constantly.

Why Higher Education Is Not for Everybody… and It’s Not Necessary

It seems like everyone these days is going to a four-year college (and oftentimes grad school after that) in order to get a desk job and work their way up the corporate ladder. But meanwhile, what’s happening to all the labor jobs? Many Americans don’t even consider them when choosing a career path. My TED Talk will explain why these jobs should be valued more. Many people don’t realize the benefits and high pay they offer. Additionally, they provide a huge job market for the unemployed. In today’s economy, we should not consider ourselves to be above these jobs.

My Own TED Talk

If you’ve read my blog before, you might have learned what TED Talks are. If not, I’ll make it easy and copy-and-paste the explanation:
(If you don’t know what TED Talks are, they are talks in which one person speaks, sometimes with visual aids, for about 20 minutes about a certain subject. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, & Design. The talks are meant to be informative and entertaining. Many discuss a certain issue to raise awareness or propose a solution.)

For one of my Communications Studies classes, I have to give my own quick, 5-minute TED Talk.

When the talk was assigned, I was very nervous about coming up with a topic. Our instructor’s biggest advice was to talk about something about which we’re passionate.

This started me off thinking about my hobbies and interests: lacrosse; whitewater kayaking; Spanish; language learning in general; my fraternity (Lambda Chi Alpha).

Some of these ideas provide potential opportunities for the talk. However, the next advice was to make sure to engage our audience. While I am passionate about the aforementioned things, it is not likely that these topics will reach many of my listeners on a real level.

Therefore, I needed to come up with something else. That’s when I remembered the TED Talk given by Mike Rowe. (I wrote about it in my blog post The Craft of Storytelling.) One major theme of his talk is how the importance of “dirty jobs” is overlooked.

From there, I came up with the topic for my talk: Higher education is not necessary, and it’s not for everybody.

This is to say that it has become expected for most people nowadays to go to college, get a degree, then to go to grad school and get a Master’s, and from there to get a desk job and try to work their way up to CEO. My talk will dispell the perceived unimportance of laborous jobs (e.g. plumber, electrician, truck driver, etc.) and highlight the positives of them (of which there are many!).

More to come as my ideas develop…

Lima en dos palabras: delicioso, agotado

¡Había que beber mucho café para sobrevivir este viaje!

El viaje empezó con 8 horas de vuelos: primero de Philly a Miami, donde me encontré con mi hermana, Beth. Salimos de Miami a la medianoche para Perú. Llegamos a Lima a las 5 de la mañana y pudimos dormir por unas 3-4 horas antes de levantarnos a las 9. Desayunamos de prisa y nos forzamos a la vuelta de la esquina para hacer un tour de Lima en bicicleta.

El tour empezó en el barrio prestigioso de Miraflores, donde esquivábamos los coches y autobuses del distrito comercial. Próximo, visitamos Barranco, la región bohemia de la ciudad. Vimos las “casas” de varios artistas famosos. (En realidad, la mayoría eran pisos enteros de edificios.) También teníamos vistas bellas de unas playas.

La última parada, y la más al sur, era Chorrillos. Fuimos en bici por la costa rocosa, donde los acantilados se encuentran con el Pacífico.

El punto más lejano que visitamos se llama El salto del fraile. Según un folklórico peruano, el niño adoptado de un terrateniente rico perdió el amor de su vida y fue forzado a hacerse fraile. En su desesperación, se lanzó de los acantilados y terminó su vida. Hoy en día, tres hombres, vestidos como frailes, saltan de los acantilados al agua, recreando la leyenda.

El lugar de El salto del fraile

Al regresar, paramos en una taberna para comer un sándwich de jamón y beber una Inca Kola. (¡Ten cuidado España, el jamón peruano te hace competencia!)

Después del tour, cogimos un taxi a la Plaza de armas para ver la catedral y el palacio real.

Luego volvimos al hotel para ducharnos rápidamente e ir al Hotel Westin para encontrarnos con un amigo de Beth,  Miguel, un nativo de Lima. Nos bebimos la bebida principal del Pisco del hotel, el “Lobby Lounge”, y nos comimos una comida que lucía como la versión peruana de taquitos.

Próxima parada: La calesa, para tomar un Pisco Sour.  La receta de La calesa es una de las más famosas, y el mesero Sami, el creador de la receta, fue él que nos preparó nuestros Pisco Sours.

Nuestra tercera parada era Malabar, un restaurante prometedor con un chef creativo. Tomamos un Pisco Punch, una bebida tropical. Nuestra selección de comida aquí fue una valiente… Además del ceviche (claro), cada uno de nosotros pedimos el “caracol gigantesco.” (¡Cuando uno ve algo tan original en una carta, hay que probarlo!) Lo que nos sirvieron fue un caracol delicioso, preparado y devuelto a su concha original. Era tan grande como un puño.

La última parada era Mama Tusan, una chifa de primera calidad. (Una chifa es un restaurante peruano-chino.) Ahí pedimos dos platos de Dimsum (ambos algún tipo de bola de masa con pollo y camarones), y dos platos principales para compartir entre los tres, y luego unas Cusqueñas (una cerveza peruana).

Con los estómagos y las papilas gustativas satisfechas, volvimos al hotel para una hora de descanso antes de despertarnos a las 3:30 de la mañana para volar al Amazonas.

Lima in Two Words: Delicious, Exhausted

The trip started out with about 8 hours of flying: first from Philly to Miami, where I met up with my sister, Beth. From there, we took a midnight flight to Lima. We got in around 5AM and were able to grab a couple hours of sleep before a 9AM wake-up call. We ate a hurried breakfast and then dragged ourselves around the corner from our hotel for a bike tour of Lima.

 Coffee was a much-needed stimulus throughout this trip!

The tour started in the prestigious Miraflores neighborhood, where we had to dodge cars and buses in the business district. Next, we visited Barranco, the Bohemian section of town. We saw the “houses” of various famous artists. (In reality, most were entire floors of condo buildings.) We also had good views of some beaches. Our last stop was Chorrillos, the southernmost district. We biked around the rocky shore where the cliffs meet the Pacific.

Our farthest stop was a point called El salto del fraile (The Leap of the Monk). According to Peruvian folklore, the adopted son of a rich landowner had the love of his life taken from him and was forced to become a monk. In his despair, he tossed himself from the cliffs and ended his life. To this day, three unknown men dress up as monks and leap from the cliff into the water every day, reenacting the legend.

 Spot of El salto del fraile, now with a restaurant in the legend’s honor

On the way back, we stopped at a little taberna for a ham sandwich and an Inca Kola. (Watch out, Spain! Peruvian ham might have you beat!)

After the bike tour, we took a cab to Plaza de Armas to see the cathedral and the royal palace. Then it was back to our hotel for a quick shower, before heading out to the Westin Hotel to meet up with Beth’s friend & Lima native, Miguel. We got the “Lobby Lounge,” the hotel’s signature Pisco drink, and a plate of what seemed to be Peru’s take on taquitos.

Next stop was La Calesa (The Horse & Buggy) for a Pisco Sour. Their recipe is one of the most famous, and ours were poured by its creator – the bartender, Sami.

Our third stop was Malabar, an up-and-coming restaurant with a creative chef. We got Pisco Punch, a beachy drink. We were a bit bold with our food selection here. In addition to ceviche (of course), we each ordered “giant river snail.” (When you see that on a menu, how can you not try it?!) What we were served was a delicious snail dish, prepared and then replaced into the snail’s original shell, which is about the size of a fist.

Our final stop was Mama Tusan, a fancy chifa. (A chifa is a Peruvian Chinese restaurant.) There we got two Dimsum dishes (each some type of chicken-and-seafood dumpling) and two entrees to split between the three of us. We washed the food down with a couple Cusqueñas (Peruvian beer).

Stomachs full and taste buds in ecstasy, we turned in for an hour of sleep before a 3:30AM wake-up call and a flight into the jungle.

U Can’t Text Here!

For my Ethics in Communications course, we had to create a Public Service Announcement. While there are a number of serious issues in the world today, my group chose to take a lighter topic. We decided to alert the world about some of the situations in which it is discourteous to use your cell phone. We focused on three main places: at the cafeteria with friends, during class, and in church.

What do you think? Is it rude to be texting in these places? Have you ever encountered one of these situations where you notice that one of your friends (or just anyone around you) is being rude by texting? Have you ever caught yourself being the culprit of bad texting manners? What are some other places you think it’s rude to text? Let us know in the comments, or share a story about texting etiquette!

Anyway, check out our video and let us know what you think about it. Spoiler alert: We have some unexpected special guest appearances you won’t want to miss!

Digital Story: Independence Hall

For my Communications Theory & Practice class, we had to choose one site in Philadelphia to which we had never been, research it, go there and collect data (photos, sounds, etc.), and create a digital story out of what we gathered.

I had never been to Independence Hall, and I felt that was kind of a shame. It is incredibly important to the USA historically. I love history (although my past history professors probably wouldn’t be able to tell you that) and I love my country, so I chose Independence Hall as my location.

The reason it popped into my head is actually kind of funny. Recently, there was a marathon of the National Treasure movies on TV. My roommates and I would watch them and make fun of Nicholas Cage and the whacky things he says. However, one of his lines struck me. He is being chased because he has stolen the Declaration of Independence, so he runs into Independence Hall to hide. Talking about the Declaration he remarks,”…the last time this was here, it was being signed.” I thought that was such a cool idea, and it made me want to experience such a historically significant place.

When I went there, I brought with me pictures of historic paintings and tried to take photos from the same angles. Using these photos, I contrasted the past with the present. In the past, there were men in wigs and stockings. There were horse-drawn carriages and cobblestone streets. In the present, there are people wearing Nikes. There are public transit buses and traffic lights.

This gave me the idea to have my video serve as a reminder of the past. That is, I wanted my video to inspire a sense of patriotism and pride in the viewer, and to remind the viewer of the things for which our forefathers stood.

We have come so far as a world and, specifically, as a country. We have grown in technologies, tools, abilities, ideas, and knowledge. This progress is certainly not a bad thing intrinsically. However, I hope that my video will admonish its viewers against letting our original values and freedoms become eclipsed by the bright lights and loud noise of the modern-day United States of America.

No praise, no blame; just so.

For one of my classes, I listened to two audio stories. As in the post about TED talks, the themes of these stories are unrelated. However, they both use storytelling methods to capture emotions, inform, and tell a story. (Note: To hear these stories, see the link at the end of this post.)


The first is a piece on Dan Knudsen, a musician from Portland, Maine. In order to set the stage, the piece begins with a clip of his music.

 Dan Knudsen

The clip immediately draws you in. His voice is a bit off-key and nasal. The lyrics are extremely strange. This is a bit humorous, but more importantly, it is intriguing. It makes the listener wonder, “Why is someone doing a piece on this mediocre amateur musician?”

Throughout the piece, it is stressed that his music is different. More specifically, his lyrics are pretty weird. But this being different is crucial to the story because it draws the audience’s curiosity.

Knudsen throws in another intriguing factor. There are a couple mentions of his signature trademark: a fannypack. What the fannypack contains is never revealed. A clever quip is that it is “where the magic is.” This fannypack has a sense of mystery that adds to the allure of the story.

Finally, throughout the piece the listener is almost forced to like Knudsen. He is simple and quirky. He is described multiple times as being a good guy. It is noted that his music contains no cynicism or sarcasm.  And, based on the things he says and the way he speaks, it is apparent that he has not a bad intention in him.

This piece is so successful without visual accompaniment because of the clips of him playing live music. Whenever one is played in the background, one’s imagination immediately paints the picture of a smoky barroom with a man, a microphone, and a guitar.




The second audio story that I listened to describes a convent of nuns in Waterville, Maine in the wake of a tragedy.


The beginning of the piece sets the scene with an audio clip of women praying the rosary. The sound is echoey, putting in the mind an image of nuns praying in a chapel.

The first commentary does two things: First, it sets a tone of being in the aftermath of a crisis. (“We are all so… so wounded. We need to keep bonded with people around us…”) Next, it sets a tone of wanting to move forward. (“We need to keep bonded with people around us instead of setting up barriers and saying, ‘They did this,’ and, ‘They did that.’ You can’t live that judgmentally. It does something to yourself. You can’t judge.”)

Next, the narrator (Jessica Alpert) offers a visual by describing the appearance of the convent and the ages of the nuns. This makes the story that much more real for the listener.

Following the description of the convent, you hear an account of the tragedy. As the nuns describe a mentally ill parishioner forcing his way into the convent and strangling one of the nuns to death, you can sense the fear. The shaking voices of the eyewitness accounts put the listeners in the action and impart the fear into them. The emotion is again able to be felt when one of the nuns begins to cry.

The narrator then describes a dramatic scene – the falling action. It sounds like it was taken from a movie. The police burst in, guns drawn. The murderer is standing there with a statue of the Virgin Mary in his hands. The police instruct him to to drop the statue or they will fire. This vivid description puts the listeners in the action.

The account turns eerie when the nuns describe their dying Sister’s screams. One nun says quietly, “[The police] didn’t get here in time to save her life.”

These descriptions make the audience feel as if they’re witnessing the scene firsthand, seeing the attacker, hearing the screams and commotion, and feeling the fear that the nuns felt.

Afterward, the piece becomes more peaceful. The nuns announce that they quickly forgave the murderer. They explain that they symbolically dramatized this forgiveness by inviting the parents of the murderer to have their feet washed at Mass on Holy Thursday. This represents the washing away of any blame or guilt. While talking about this, church music is played in the background to realize the scene even more.

The feeling of peace and forgiveness is reinforced when a nun quotes a wise expression from Zen Buddhism: “No praise, no blame; just so.” She softly speaks this quote twice, and is followed up by a short moment of silence.

Finally, a nun uses a bell as a metaphor for this experience. She explains that every strike must hurt the bell, but it produces a beautiful sound. In other words, for every incident that causes pain, make something joyful come out of it.

The piece closes with the sound of a congregation singing a hymn. This brings the theme of praying full-circle. (Remember that the piece began with the sound of nuns praying.) However the song implies that the ending is joyful and beautiful.




The Craft of Storytelling

I recently watched three different TED Talks, all with unrelated themes. But in each of them, the speaker told a story about his or her life. In this post, I will discuss elements of storytelling that each of them used to make their story successful. (Note: To see these talks, see the link at the end of this post.)

(If you don’t know what TED Talks are, they are talks in which one person speaks, sometimes with visual aids, for about 20 minutes about a certain subject. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, & Design. The talks are meant to be informative and entertaining. Many discuss a certain issue to raise awareness or propose a solution.)


The first talk I watched was given by Mike Rowe, star of the Discovery Channel show “Dirty Jobs.” His talk was about being completely wrong.

First, he gained credibility by explaining his show. He told how he has worked in all major industries firsthand as an apprentice and has seen (and lived, for a day) these people’s lives. He also gained credibility by referencing classical literary terms – anagnorisis and peripeteia – to explain different feelings he has experienced on set.

The first is one he seeks in every episode. Anagnorisis, in Rowe’s words, means discovery. He finds out what it’s really like being someone else, one of the “average Joe” laborers in the USA.

The second hits Rowe without his seeking it. He experiences peripeteia, which is like a sudden, surprising reversal of circumstances. These peripeteias are realizations that the lives and jobs of these people are very different from his expectations.

These two experiences – anagnorisis and peripeteia – are important to his story because: a) realizing that something is not what you thought it was is intriguing to people, and makes them want to know the truth as opposed to their preconception, and b) it exposes certain lifestyles to people who have no previous experience with them.

 Mike Rowe working a dirty job

Finally, he relates his experiences to the current economic crisis that so many people are experiencing. He talks about how society has these preconceived notions that “dirty jobs” are low on the totem pole.

However, through his agnorises and paripeteias, he has found that these jobs are devalued. In his talk, he remarks, “People with dirty jobs are happy.” These people, who didn’t “follow their passion,” are happier than you’d think.

He is speaking to the general public and “talking about the forgotten benefits” of “manual labor, skilled labor.” He is giving people the power to see that, especially in today’s economy, they do not always have to shoot for the stars and follow society’s sparkly idea that you have to be CEO to be happy.



The next speaker I watched was John Hodgman, who talked about his theory that alien beings have infiltrated Earth. Furthermore, he says that he has been targeted multiple times by these extraterrestrials.

 John Hodgman

The first element that he uses is humor. He begins by talking about a scientist (Enrico Fermi) who, one day, asked his colleagues out of the blue where all the aliens were. This element of surprise draws people in. It makes them laugh and it gives them a sense of anticipation – like, “Where is this going…?”

 An alien sketch next to Enrico Fermi’s photo

However, besides his humor, what I think makes his story so successful is that he is able to put together this argument that, taken for what it is, is completely ridiculous. However, using traditional logic, it cannot be disproven.

He tells stories of his past in which odd things happen. He posits that the memories of these odd moments were put into his brain by the aliens (or by the brain’s natural reaction) to block out memories of alien abductions.

While part of your brain is saying, “But… but…” trying to logically disprove his theory that he has had contact with extraterrestrials, the other half of your brain is enjoying these ludicrous, but entertaining, anecdotes.



Finally, I saw a talk by Becky Blanton, in which she tells of a time in her life when she was (voluntarily) homeless, living out of her van.

Becky Blanton and her Rottweiler with the van – their home for a year

The first element of her story is experience. She provides a firsthand account of a lifestyle with which not many people are familiar – homelessness.

Additionally, she draws on emotions from the get-go. She talks about how she became depressed when her father died. This makes people want to listen and hear how she coped. Later, she mentions that she had suicidal thoughts. Something this extreme usually catches the ear of the audience.

Her emotional appeal comes full circle when she finishes with a happy ending. She talks about how she got over her depression, ending by saying, “Hope always, always finds a way.”

These words alone somehow give us hope. And in her talk she explains why they should.

She makes the you think about how you regard yourself. She says, “…negative perceptions of other people can impact our reality if we let it.” She is questioning societal values. In particular, she talks about how homelessness is stigmatized. But she is implying that one should not live by what others think. Rather, we should strive to live up to our own expectations for ourselves.

Finally, she makes you question how you think of, and treat, others. She explains that sometimes where someone lives or where they are in their life does not really explain who they are.

Her talk is a great example of the old rule “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”



Did you see what he just tweeted?

How do I use digital media?

I’d like to think that I am not one who spends much time on digital media. But why is that? Sitting here thinking about it, using digital media is certainly not a bad thing.

I think I just have a block against being thought of as one who spends all day on the computer. Maybe I just try to convince myself that I do more productive things. I don’t know.

I do know, however, that I spend too much time on social media sometimes. Like any college student, I feel like time-wasting sites draw me in like a magnet whenever I have something to do.

But when I try to think about it, I’m not really sure what digital media I “consume.”

A lot of times – again, usually when I have work to do coincidentally – I’ll find myself just scrolling through my Newsfeed. I’m not looking for anything in particular. It’s just a time-killer. I’m seeing what other people post: funny things, political things, and just getting updated on goings-on.

I also spend a decent amount of time on Twitter. I mainly follow funny accounts – fake celebrities or even my own friends that tweet a good joke every now and then. I also follow some Spanish-speaking people just to keep up with the language. (Although the Spanish jokes are really corny, figuring out punch lines is a good test of fluency in a language.) So every now and then, I’ll scroll through my Twitter feed and see if there’s anything entertaining.

Finally, I watch YouTube a good amount. Usually I’m drawn there for a certain reason: watching a sports highlight, checking out a band’s new song, etc. However, most of the time I view a video, I’ll somehow spend the next 10 minutes (or two hours) browsing. (That stupid “Related Videos” section!!)

I really do like to think that I don’t spend “too much” time on digital media overall. Yes, I admit I’ll use it to procrastinate too much at times but other than that, I think I balance it well with the rest of my life. I seldom miss out on things going on around me because I’m engrossed in digital media. My digital media consumption would most likely be categorized as “moderate.”

 “Too much” digital media.