Posted by: jdn9775 | November 30, 2008

Reflections on Essay Writing

This is one of the last writing courses for me in my undergraduate studies. I graduate in two weeks, which is both terrifying and gratifying at the same time. As I think back about what I’ve learned about essay writing in the past three-and-a-half years I cannot help but be amazed. Not to toot my own horn but I think all writers can relate to me when I say that my writing has improved drastically during college. 

However, writing in English 306 has proven to be both challenging and rewarding. Since I majored in History and did a minor in Professional Writing, I wasn’t given a lot of creative lead way with my writing. Thankfully, I was able to take this class and find some of the creativity that has been slowly strangled out of my writing in History and professional writing courses. 

During this semester I was able to learn about different styles of essay writing outside the limitations of academic prose. One of my favorite essays was the 500 word personal essay. This essay allowed me to get back in touch with my writing and inner-self; two entities that had once existed together, before college. Not only did this essay rekindle my personal writing, but it also taught me concision; a word that history professors and students have erased from their vocabulary.

Learning how to say something meaningful in a precise and convincing way takes both practice and a certain level of intuition. However, this intuition is not always innate, sometimes it takes writing classes such as this one to hone writers’ abilities to use rhetoric correctly.

I also learned how to document a reality with words. I consider this a very valuable writing tool that all English majors should master because no matter what type of writing career one chooses; learning how to convey thoughts in both a persuasive and interesting way is imperative for successful writing. For this I am grateful, since I will have a long career of writing legalese ahead that will undoubtedly be boring. Knowing that I can write for myself and possibly somewhat creatively for a legal review is a comforting thought.

However, blogging was a combination of all the types of essay writing that we learned over the course of this semester. 

 Initially, I was very wary of blogging. I didn’t think that it had any value as a medium of professional writing; however, in this I was wrong. Really wrong. I began to think about how many people (myself included) use texting, facebook, IM, etc. and I realized that blogging is rapidly becoming a means for people to communicate with one another. Not that I didn’t realize blogging or the Internet’s potential for communication before this class, but now I realize blogging’s potential for both writers and readers and the creation of communities.

Blogging is really sweet because it allows people to find others with the same interests to interact as well as potentially expose people of different beliefs to new ideas. I guess one could even say that blogs open the door for the broadening and strengthening of communities. For instance, below is a link to two elderly ladies blog site that shares my views on Sarah Palin. I would never have realized that sweet grandma-types would share my political views and be as opinionated as myself without blogging. For this I am grateful because it has helped open my eyes and break down some stereotypes that I once held about older people.

I would have never guessed that two elderly ladies in motorized wheel chairs would share the same liberal views as myself, enlightening indeed. Furthermore, I was able to use multimedia in my blogs, which added a new level to my rhetorical writing skills. 

Here’s a link to one of my own favorite posts:

This blog post is my favorite multimedia post because it allowed me to use youtube videos as a means of rhetoric, and since pictures (and more recently videos) say a thousand words this type of essay writing is debatably one of the most effective. Instead of using quotes I can show my reader directly with either videos, pictures, or hyperlinks to other websites. 

Effective essay writing is a culmination of hard work and experiencing diverse writing styles. English 306 has allowed me to experience writing on a new level. I had never written blogs, personal essays, or essays with multimedia, but after this class I believe that my writing style has progressed by learning diverse writing styles. Whether or not I will continue to blog, write personal essays or multimedia essays, I feel confident that my writing ability has increased from being exposed to these different writing styles. More importantly though I feel confident in my abilities to express myself in a persuasive and clear way. That is a skill that I will use throughout my life.

Posted by: jdn9775 | November 29, 2008

Time Flies… really really fast

Fall on the Blue Ridge


Where did the time go? Have you ever just wondered why time starts to slip by faster and faster and expereinces begin to snowball? I’m graduating college and it feels like just yesterday I was finishing up high school. I can remember the years I’ve been in college and I can recall a lot of different expereinces, but it went by to quickly.

I’m not sure but think I can pinpoint the moment that time started to accelerate at a pace that was to fast for me. It was the summer between my eight grade year and my freshman year of high school. My friends and me spent a whole summer goofing off, playing paintball, video games, swimming, and being lazy. That was the last long summer I ever had, where nothing really seemed to happen to fast. School was actually a relief from all the fun we had.

Maybe it was work and school that made time start to fly. I started working 20-30 hours a week while in high school and I guess that makes time quicken when combined with school. Then college was just a blur. Finals are always right around the corner and summers feel like two weeks instead of two months. I guess the rapid time acceleration has something to do with being busy, worries, adult concerns, bills, and other tedious things that just didn’t occur when you were younger.

I guess now that I have a semester off between law school I can hopefully recapture that timeless essence that I was robbed of seven years ago. I need to recapture the feeling of a slow day where nothing flies by me a million miles a second. I need to know that I can see the world through different eyes again.

Hawaii; places that remind me of freedom and happiness

Not that college wasn’t great, it was amazing. But I will always yearn for something nostalgic in my past. I think we all do at some level. I had a perfect summer once, an accellerated high school and college experience, and now; now, I have a chance to recapture some of that timelessness feeling that I once owned.

I’m excited. I wish that everyone was afforded the chance to recapture “a perfect” summer where time seems to stand still. Maybe that’s saying something about American society and how we have all become cogs in the corporate machine. I’d like to think that we could all use a little time off to recoup and find a certain timeless essence that we all owned when we were young.

I know that my semester off won’t be the same as that summer of ’00 when all I did was have fun, but at least I can recapture some of the same feelings. That’s enough for me.

Posted by: jdn9775 | November 17, 2008

Hello Change! Hello Future!

So, I guess I won’t have to run to Canada.

After the 2008 election many Americans and even more global citizens are breathing easier. Not that McCain is a demagogue. Okay, he is who am I kidding. What a cheap tactic to use Palin, who didn’t even know what the Vice President does as a means of appealing to irrational, undecided and uninformed voters’ emotions, which is even more ironic after McCain’s endless attacks on Obama’s qualifications and experience.

Anyway, this post is about celebrating a new dawn, not the nightmarish five months of campaigning and debate the world held it’s breathe through.

Garry Kasparov is a leader of The Other Russia coalition ( He is a former world chess champion and resides in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

MOSCOW – “There is no doubt the election of Barack Obama as the new president of the United States will have an impact on how many in the rest of the world think about the world’s sole superpower. Obama represents a new generation of leadership, and he both sounds and looks very different from his predecessors.”

Indeed, Obama’s future presence in the White House has sent clear signals to people around the world that Americans can change. This is evident as my home state of North Carolina has voted Democratic for the first time in over 30 years as well as Virginia who voted Democratic after a drought of over 50 years.  

Perhaps Obama’s election is an indication that many of the previous social and racial prejudices are beginning to fade away. A new day and new opportunities for Americans and the world appear to be on the horizon as former and rising superpowers acknowledge that change could be on the wind.

Even Russian President Dmitry Medvedev called Obama to congratulate him on his victory and expressed hopes in reviving U.S. and Russian relations that Bush has botched, another layer to the legacy of worst President ever.

Bush had begun setting about a creating a missile shield near Russia’s borders and this created a souring between the two former Cold War advisories. Hopefully, Obama will begin to break down Bush’s blunders and begin building diplomatic relationships instead of missile shields.

Indeed, even Iranian President Ahmadinejad offered up his congratulations to the new President-elect (the first time since 1979 and the Iranian Revolution). Analysts have claimed that this gesture from Ahmadinejad can be seen as an openness to diplomacy between the two nations, which Obama is open to as well. This is merely another example of how the world is opening up to our new President-elect.

Bob Dylan said, “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.”

Damn right Bob. It is about time for change and thank God, Allah, Buddha, and every other supernatural power that we have a President that might enact change for not only the United States but also the world.

Now that degree I hope to earn will be worth something after four years. 




Why is it that standardized tests are accepted by schools and society as a means of measuring intelligence?


I recently took the LSAT, and I can admit that I do not excel at standardized tests. However, I have a really high GPA and have done outstanding work in my department. Yet, when law schools look at my application there will be a glaring three-digit number for my LSAT score that could cost me dearly in the future.


I realize that standardized tests are now thought to be a way of measuring aptitude on an equal playing field since not all schools offer the same level of curriculum. However, there are serious flaws with attempting to quantitatively evaluate intelligence.


For instance, standardized tests do not capture artistic abilities, creative talents, or any type of kinesthetic intelligence. Nope, these tests just see how “logical” or “analytical” a test-taker is and that only proves one thing; whether or not the test-taker is good at standardized tests.


I have yet to meet an attorney that believes the LSAT helps law students or practicing attorneys for that matter. So, why is it that I have to take this ridiculous test that can so readily open and close doors for my future?


Consider this example question from Kaplan LSAT preparation’s course:


3. Plant Y thrives in environments of great sunlight and very little moisture. Desert X is an environment with constant, powerful sunlight, and next to no moisture. Although Plant Y thrives in the areas surrounding Desert X, it does not exist naturally in the desert, nor does it survive long when introduced there.

Which of the following would be most useful in explaining the apparent discrepancy above?

A. Desert X’s climate is far too harsh for the animals that normally feed on Plant Y.

B. For one week in the fall, Desert X gets consistent rainfall.

C. The environment around Desert X is ideally suited to the needs of Plant Y.

D. Due to the lack of sufficient moisture, Desert X can support almost no plant life.

E. Plant Y cannot survive in temperatures as high as those normally found in Desert X.



The correct answer is E. If you feel compelled to try some more for free check out this site. Who knows, you may be a natural. Challenge/LS_lsat_qlogical.html?cid=151049


What does this have to do with law? I can see how it is a logical test, but it does nothing to predict how well I would do in law school.

Anyway, as I look to my future it disturbs me to know that our society is still administering standardized tests as a method of determining intelligence. To me, it seems illogical to ask someone to take a logic-based standardized test that really cannot prove intelligence. Isn’t that a contradiction and completely illogical?

As I write this post there are around three weeks until the United States Presidential election. The current economic status of the United States has made me ask questions as to whether we can withstand another incompetent and intellectually crippled President in the White House. No, John McCain is not stupid, well at least probably not as mentally stunted as Bush. But Palin, Palin is one of the scariest people that I have ever seen step onto the political scene. The fact that she could be President of the United States is a scenario that has made me ponder if I can make a life for myself after my undergraduate studies end in December.

I’m planning on going to law school. I’m planning on having a safe, happy and productive life. I’m planning to vote for Obama.

If Palin and McCain take office, I’m planning on moving out of the United States.

Why you ask? Why would any true idealistic American citizen ponder leaving this country? Because, if Palin takes office than the Untied States is destined to experience a rapid downward spiral of depression never before witnessed in this country’s short history.

Let’s examine why Palin could ruin life for nearly all college students who are about to graduate.


First, she has no concept of foreign policy. For God’s sake she wants to invade Pakistan “if it’s necessary to defend democracy.” Christ, did she really just personify democracy? Or, did she just justify the United States as global police? The only reason she was chosen to run with McCain is because of lack of political history and the small fact that she’s a woman. I’m not against a woman taking office. That’s not even the issue. I will gladly vote for a woman candidate if she is qualified. But let’s face it, Palin is not.

Check out her interview with Charlie Gibson.

Charlie Gibson actually has to explain the Bush Doctrine to her. He’s a journalist. She could be President and is a Vice President candidate. She could be President. Huh? 

 She has no fucking clue what the Bush Doctrine is! I’m an undergraduate history major and can tell you more about it than she can. The Republicans want us to vote for her and McCain because she is a woman and a hockey mom? Really?

Let’s look at what Palin had to tell Katie Couric about her understanding of the economic crisis that is plaguing this nation.

The first one demonstrates how inept and unexperienced Palin is in the economic sphere:

Notice how she shifts topic quickly to some random McCain position on lobbyists that is probably unfounded.  

Palin states, “poor decisions should not be rewarded” as she addresses “consumers and predator lenders.” Really? Doesn’t she mean that poor decisions on behalf of financial institutions should not be rewarded? And isn’t the consumer in this instance the victim? Why should the consumer be held accountable for financial institutions back room deals?

The second clip is about Palin discussing the economic bailout. If you can decipher what the hell she’s talking about please tell me. She strays off topic immediately (after stuttering) and just starts saying “America” and “McCain”.

Notice how she stutters and sidesteps the questions whenever possible. It’s not that she doesn’t have answers, [she doesn’t but that’s not the point] she simply does not undertand the problem. You can literally see it in her eyes—she doesn’t get it.


Palin has no answers for Couric and definitely no answers for America. If this is who could one day be the United States commander and chief than we would all be better off living in Canada.


Finally, not to play the celebrity endorsement card, but Matt Damon has truly put Palin into perspective.

Check out his video interview.

Let me point out the key points that Matt Damon makes about Palin: 



  1.  She has no experience. No experience in foreign policy or in governance in general. She only has ONE term as a mayor of a very small town and now governor for a COUPLE years. That’s it.                                                                                                                                                                                       
  2. We in the public know nothing about her. She has no track record per se and there is very little time to actually learn about her. This fact is compounded by all of her interviews that reveal she quickly turns the question into one that she can redirect about John McCain’s position. She doesn’t have one.                                                                                                                                                              
  3.  “It’s absurd.” Damon makes a key point here. It’s absurd to think that Palin, “a hockey mom from Alaska” is going to talk down foreign leaders with folksy sayings that she’s bringing from Alaska. Can you imagine how scary and embarrassing that would be for the United States?                                         
  4. McCain could very well die in office and that would mean Palin wouldbe Madam President. Let’s face it, McCain is an old, old “Maverick” who’s running out of fuel on his last mission.                                                                                                                                                                                                
  5.  In Palin’s interview with Charlie Gibson she lied. Flat out lied. “Thanks, but No Thanks” is the famous one-liner Palin dished out. Here take a look. 

 I don’t believe that this caught red-handed act needs explication. It’s quite simple. Palin lies, has no answers and worse no experience. 

If McCain and Palin enter the White House will any future graduates have opportunities for a financially and politically secure life?


Can we really trust another lying, bumbling ignorant person in office?


 If you are going to graduate school or just graduating you better hope that the voting system works this time, because it hasn’t the last two. Just a friendly reminder Bush lost the popular vote and still won. AND STILL WON. Make your vote count. Make it a landslide. Make sure there’s a career and country left after you graduate. Vote, and vote wisely.


Oh, one final piece of evidence. As of August 29, 2008 Sarah Palin admitted on television that she does not know what the Vice President actually does and needs someone to explain it to her. I just can’t believe she got the nomination. It’s absurd, crazy and most of all horrifying.

Watch the last 35 seconds. 

Posted by: jdn9775 | September 24, 2008

5 Ways to Keep Your Sanity When Applying to Grad School

For all you intrepid scholars who aspire to higher education I have some advice about how to approach your last semester/semesters of your undergraduate degree. 

I’ve been going non-stop academically since May of this year. Three summer courses, a 100 page thesis over the summer and continuing into this fall semester, a full-course load, LSAT exam (not to mention the practice associated with this test), tests and more papers. You know the drill. It’s college. Luckily, I have made some critical mistakes and good choices as well and can provide anyone looking to further their education some advice about how to tackle the last semester of college. 

Here’s my recommendations: 

1.Schedule your entrance exam for whatever field you choose during the summer or an easy semester.  

This is imperative to doing well on not only the exam but your other classes as well. Unfortunately, I just realized the significant of this small scheduling choice. I’m taking my LSAT in one week and haven’t had one moment of peace all semester. Do yourself a favor and make it as easy as possible

2.Find time for yourself.                                                                                                                                      

I wish that I had more free time to go surf, skate, play golf, tennis or whatever. Everyone needs some release from work and school. Overloading yourself with too many classes and entrance exams can complicate your “me time.” Don’t compromise on your sanity. I’m about to freakin’ lose it.

3.Ask for help.                                                                                                                                                

This is sometimes a really hard thing for people to do. Especially people who are really independent and hard working. Even the best of us need someone to help shoulder the load. It’s ok to ask for help. Whether it’s just cleaning the house, doing laundry, or help with practice entrance exams, everyone needs someone sometime. 

4.Take the easiest and most interesting classes possible.                                                                        

Alright, you may find yourself in a position with only one or two required courses for graduation. So, pick the rest of your classes to allow for the maximum amount of free time to study for your entrance exams and filling out applications to grad schools. This will remove a lot of stress and obligations. 

5.Lastly, enjoy your accomplishments!                                                                                                           

It’s easy to get bogged down with work and depressed because you are too busy to enjoy weekends with friends… Well, that could be just me. Anyway, keep in mind that you have done well enough to even consider graduate school and that in itself is an accomplishment. Remember to go out and enjoy life. From what I hear about law school your social life ends for three years. So cherish your last semester. 

I wrote this partly to help others with a little advice and because i needed to hear some of it myself. Especially, number 5. It’s easy to feel like you have endless things to do your last semester. And I certainly have an endless ‘To Do’ list. I need to slow down breathe deeply and go out and sit on my surfboard before the water gets cold and just enjoy the fact that I can be free to surf at 10 in the morning. How many law school students, lawyers, or people with jobs can say that? 
Oh and pick some mellow music to relax with!
Posted by: jdn9775 | September 15, 2008

Breaking up is hard to do

Relationships are work. Constant work and compromise at a daily level. Well at least I’m told and from what I’ve experienced that’s a pretty fair assessment. Are they supposed to be this hard though? And more specifically, what happens to the relationship when college ends? 

I know the cliches… “take it one day at a time”, or, “if it’s meant to be,” but this really doesn’t do much for me. Is there some magic formula for relationships where you can plug your situation in and press “enter” and get a quick answer? There should be.

A quick google search for such an easy computation revealed

Let me do a quick run-through of how this amazing calculator works. Upon going to the page one is instructed to simply enter both parties names in boxes entitled “Name of person 1” and “Name of person 2”. Clever. Apparently all names have meanings and even more so when computed on compatibility with another name. 

Well I put my name in and my girlfriends and according to Dr. Love we only had a 24% chance. Even if we worked really hard and spent a lot of time together. We’re doomed I guess. On a bright note however, Keira Knightley and myself are a 79% chance of success. What are the odds!

The reason I am exploring these issues with my relationship is because of graduation. After I graduate I’m heading West to ski and then Europe. My girlfriend can’t come (work, school, etc.) this doesn’t bother me really. 

I like to get out and experience new things on my own, meet new people, and soul search. Essentially, be an individual. It’s hard to be an individual in a relationship. (**Has anyone else noticed this?**) In relationships people are always blending together and generally over-compromising. These people eventually become so intertwined that you can usually just put their names together. But not in the “Brangellina” way (that’s just weird). 

I don’t think that I can ever be like that. Not that being in a relationship means compromising on everything, that may be a sign that you are too opposite of the other person to work. Maybe I’m selfish. I’m not a fan of compromising on a lot of things and I think that’s O.K. It suits me. 

Staying together would be hard. Breaking would be even harder. There seems to be no end as to how many dilemmas and loose strings graduation bring with it. The whole relationship issue though is a pretty stressful one. If anyone has any thoughts on this issue I’d love to hear about it.

Posted by: jdn9775 | September 4, 2008

First Impressions on Blogging

Blogging and traditional essay writing are relatively similar. The main difference is that blogging allows for more creativity than traditional writing. This blog entry will compare blogs and traditional essays as well as evaluate blogs effectiveness as a means of practicing essay writing. 

Similarities between blogging and traditional writing:

Blogging shares many of the same elements of traditional essay writing. Both blogging and traditional writing require the author be conscious of his or her writing audience. Additionally, the subjects (or topics) of both forms of writing need to be relevant and adhere to the rules of kairos. One of the most similar features of both forms of writing is that it is still writing. Both forms should to be clean, readable, free of grammatical errors and overall enjoyable to read.

Like traditional essays, good blogs should also cite sources. Not only does this add credibility to the author’s ethos, but it correctly credits the source for others to investigate later. Although there is a difference, whereas blogs have hyperlinks traditional essays have bibliographies or footnotes. 


Blogging seems to be more open and free form than traditional essay writing. Most of the essays that I have written have been formal, long, and generally follow a prompt that was provided by a professor. On the other hand, blogging opens the creative doors and allows writers to explore different themes using various forms of prose to reach different audiences.

Structural differences appear to quite significant. Blogging requires the use of flashy headlines and the use of an inverted pyramid (although this is very similar to traditional essay writing where the main ideas/thesis are presented fairly early).

Blogs also need to be scannable, which makes it easier for the audience to get through the information quickly. Using lists, tables, and graphs makes it easy for a global audience to navigate through the text. 

Is blogging advantageous over traditional essay writing?

Quite possibly yes. Although this is the first time that I have ever used this style of writing I believe there is a great deal of potential in this method of communication. 

For one, blogs can use hyperlinks to cite sources. Most readers of traditional essays don’t want to exert the energy to take a cited source and look it up in a library. Additionally, blogs have the ability to add video. This makes it possible for a plethora of different ways for authors to communicate. 

 So far I have two favorite aspects about blogging. First,  the community that bloggers can share appears to greatly exceed that of traditional formal essayists. Not to say that academia is not a a community. It is. But bloggers can connect with other people who share their same interests and constantly expand their network of friends and writing peers. Second, blogs don’t use paper, which is good for the environment and that’s good for me, you, and everyone else. 

Personal opinions on blogging as a means of practicing essay writing:

Why not. Blogging expands writers’ capabilities outside of traditional writing (it has for me at least). Furthermore, blogs generally adhere to the same formal rules as traditional essays. Both have to be timely, relevant, readable, free of grammatical errors, etc.

Although I am not sure that blogging will ever replace traditional writing, blogging sure does have a place within the classroom. Despite some professors experiences. 

Far too often academic writing can crush the creative side of many writers. It nearly did for me (writing a 100 page honors thesis could crush anyone’s creativity over a summer). Blogs offer a breath of fresh air in the classroom and I personally look forward to learning how to write them more effectively.

Posted by: jdn9775 | September 4, 2008

Is there life after college?

The end is near. I can’t help but feel nervous about my impending future, which outwardly looks bright. But there are many shadows looming around my silver lining. Law school and my spring semester of freedom are just one semester away but I can’t decide if they are as great as they sound. 

My undergraduate experience was incredibly special to me. Not because I hit a lot of parties or met tons of new people, or even had lots of girlfriends. No, it was special because of my friends, the learning, nurturing environment, and the free time (whenever I could find it to just sit and ponder whatever I learned for the day). 

Of course there is life after college. Lots of it. But there is something completely unique and special about college and I almost wish that I didn’t graduate a semester early. On the other hand having a semester to be a ski bum in California and Colorado is too enticing to reject.


Last season in Utah


The end of college has become a milestone in the lives of many young people and the prospects in the “afterlife” are sometimes bleak when compared to the glorious four years one has to just ponder life’s great mysteries. As the great Stanley Hall (world renowned social psychologist who defined adolescence and the word teenager at the turn of the 20th Century) said, “the student must have the freedom to be lazy.” You said it Mr. Hall. That’s a pretty impressive and progressive outlook for a 50 something year old in 1900 huh? 

I am by no means lazy. In fact the exact opposite. I spend around 35 hours a week outside of class doing school work. But I don’t have a formal job (I play poker on the casino boat out of N. Myrtle Beach). This allows me to make the most of my time when not studying. 

Surfing at 8;30 when most people are at work is an amazing feeling. Waking up at 10 if I was up late is also really nice. 

Anyway the end shouldn’t be this stressful. I always envisioned the closing of my college career as a glorious semester of easy classes, surfing, napping, and partying on occasion. Unfortunately, my dream was clouded by my other dreams of wanting to graduate early, doing a 100 page departmental honors thesis, preparing and taking the LSAT, and applying to law schools. Not the easiest semester by far. 

Hard work does not scare me. What scares me is getting stuck into a 9-5 job that will rule my life.

I’m pretty confident that I am not alone with these feelings at the end of my college career.In fact I know my friends are dreading the end as much as I, but we are all fairly optimistic about the future. Who knows maybe if I play my cards right there might even be more free time in life after college…

Posted by: jdn9775 | August 25, 2008

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