Mind Clutter

A little bit about my experience with clearing my mind to focus and some general advice on your personal work environment –Griffin

Every dad has an office. Even if they don’t have a job they have a place where they just work. Maybe its the garage or a studio and they just work on hobbies, but that is the purpose of the whole room. My dad has an office: a desktop, papers, folders, hard drives. It’s all there to be as efficient as possible. At least that’s what I assumed it was for streamlining work and organization. However recently I have noticed a trend with myself and my Brown classes.

As my laundry builds up, my desk gets cluttered, and my computer fills with tabs I can’t work. A cluttered dorm clutters my mind. You may have heard it before but the environment in which you work definitely has an impact on the kind of work you do. Even when my dorm is nice and tidy (by 18-year-old male standards) I don’t seem to work as productively as I should. It’s psychological. I sleep, eat, and play in my dorm; naturally, there are distractions even if its organized. This is why adults have those offices, studios, or garage space. You want to separate your work area from everything else so it is solely for focusing. At the very least you want to be in an environment you can focus without distraction. I now go to the common room on the floor to do work. Sitting down in a new work environment focuses my attention on the task at hand.

What my desk looked like 4 weeks ago lol

If you are having study problems I highly recommend trying a new environment to study in. I recommend local coffee shops with Wi-Fi or Starbucks, and of course, make sure to sit outside. While it may seem counterintuitive to study somewhere with people coming in and out, I find it turns into kind of a white noise that I enjoy having in the background. If your kind of person that needs silence to focus I suggest a park, assuming you don’t need Wi-Fi.

Of course, it’s not completely realistic for you to go out to a café or the park every time you need to work on an assignment, and in the era of COVID, it’s hard to get a spot in the library. I suggest you do what I have done recently. Clean off an area in your dorm or bedroom. Completely clear that sucker literally nothing on the desk. Then set yourself up for success and make that desk/table in your room your “office”. It’s not quite as great as literally having a designated study space but its better than nothing.

Hope that helps anyone out there struggling to focus I know those tips helped me become more productive. My work music has shifted from the Arctic Monkeys and Cage the Elephant to Marcy Playground and The Pixies. Debaser is a bop change my mind. –Griffin

Brown U Quarter 1

My first quarter experience and impression of Brown University in the era of Covid. Brown U and ROTC pt.3 –Griffin

A new college perspective after some mid-term results and another round of exams just next week, a trip to a military base to relearn some marching basics, and stolen markers. I got a lot to unpack and tell you about since the last time I posted.

I am taking 5 classes: Chem 100, Calc 3, The Art of International Relations(HMAN), Animal Behavior(ANM BHV), and AFROTC. HMAN and ANM BHV do not have midterms which is awesome and the AFROTC midterm was very straight forward. I really only had Chem 100 and Calc 3 to prepare for and take a few weeks ago. The Chem is not graded yet but I am fairly confident on it, however, I did not do well on the Calc 3 midterm. This really freaked me out two weeks ago because I felt like I had a pretty good handle on the content and then I bombed the exam. It was a real eye-opener on the difference of intensity of studying I am used to and what is required to maintain a high GPA at Brown. Covid has made everything really strange. While there are opportunities to go to office hours and attend sections with TAs I don’t have an informal study group as I did in Highschool. In my experience, it seems like I don’t know what I don’t know. Previously with a study group while you did problems you might have explained a problem to a friend, which may lead you to ask more questions and further your understanding of a topic. With no way to really “study” with a group, I have nearly completely lost this. I am currently attending sections and consulting a Calc group chat to make up for this loss but it is hard to tell if it completely compensates. There is another exam next week and of course because of the last exam result there is a lot of pressure to performs well so I will be quite busy with calculus through the next 7 days.

Of course, studying has to work around ROTC, as they are paying for school. A few weeks ago my detachment got the opportunity to go to Ft. Devens a nearby army base to learn some basic drill. The covid guidelines were followed, always outside and masked 6 ft apart. Once we got there and settled in somewhat they dropped the bomb on us; an Army drill sergeant was going to be teaching us. We were to call him Master Sergeant and nothing else. It was intense. We performed above his expectations the entire time which eased the tension as he had nothing to directly attack. By the end, we were singing jodis while performing near perfect column movements. It was actually a really fun time by the end, I got to meet some of my classmates from WPI and other crosstown schools.

We have only met the other freshman from WPI twice I believe and for the most part, the Brown Freshman are nearly completely isolated from all other students. We are in a very unique situation and don’t know anyone from previous years so we have all somewhat come together. I made the fine purchase a few weeks ago of a whiteboard for our floors common room. Our group of freshman use it almost exclusively, so we use it to write jokes or pranks on each other. Currently, we are making funny tinder profiles of each other on the whiteboard with our horrible artistic skills. The whiteboard just makes the common room and the floor overall feel a little homier. I leave out the markers for people to add to whatever we are doing. However recently someone has not only stolen few colored markers but drew over and screwed with things we had drawn. This was very lame, to say the least. We are currently thinking of ways to catch this culprit as our drawings our deface consistently through the week. The current top idea is to get a spy cam and record for a couple of days and watch what happens when we aren’t in there.

Overall there isn’t a lot of time for messing around on the whiteboard or in general. A lot of time goes to studying, hence why I haven’t posted since September. However, nearly everything takes a back seat to academics. It is a lot of work and a hard transition to virtual college work. While no one here is pumped for Halloween, I am. I got my Cowboy hat and boots coming in the mail. It’s such an easy costume: boots, hat, button-down shirt, and jeans. I think everyone else is dressing up in at least something simple, but I honestly don’t know. Of course, there are no parties or anything of the like, so maybe we will hang out outside or socially distance in the common room.

I also wanted to recommend The Arctic Monkeys and Cage the Elephant as my current favorites while doing work. –Griffin

Brown U and ROTC pt.2

Some major changes to the Fall semester –Griffin

I made it, Brown campus. I know, I know, Griffin you’re not supposed to be there yet you’re a Freshman what the hell. Well the Air Force told Brown if they didn’t start the Freshman cadets in the Fall they would take away our scholarships. Naturally Brown, ever fearful of losing money, let us take a full course load and return to campus. There are 5 of us Air Force Freshman, 3 Army, and 1 Navy. Other than us 9 there are 5 other freshmen with extenuating circumstances that are here as well.

I am currently taking Chem 0100, Calc 3, The Art of International Relations, and Animal Behavior. I have only been through a couple of lectures so far but as far as I can tell the semester should not be insanely difficult. Calculus 3 will most likely prove to be the most difficult. All my lectures are over Zoom and for the most part they are asynchronous, meaning they aren’t live. This is pretty nice because I can view the lectures whenever I want.

In other news Brown has completely changed the timeline for on campus living. According to an email I received from the University out of 5,000 tests only 5 came back positive, and some of those positives are because of residue from being infected months ago. The phase 1, phase 2 system is thrown out. We are now on a 3 level system. Currently we are on level 1 which is limited campus activity with virtual classes. Level 2 is limited in person classes and more freedom on campus. Level 3 Is almost back to normal. I believe they decide tomorrow whether or not to make the move to level 2 within the next month. Hopefully they do because I would like to go eat on Thayer Street.

To end on a more comedic note I have met an international Chinese Communist student and another international Chinese student who is not Communist. It was interesting to hear their takes on the government and how much they conflict. Alright I have a live lecture to attend. — Griffin Smith

Brown U and ROTC Pt.1

A little series where I will write about the recent happenings of my experience with Brown University and AFROTC. –Griffin

I got a phone call this morning(8/17) while I was lying in bed watching Tik-Toks. It was a random number, normally I don’t answer if a name doesn’t pop up but it was a local number so I answered. I am very glad I did. It was the Col. Matthew J. Hearon Scholarship Co-Founder. I had applied earlier this year and she called to tell me I had won and received the scholarship. It’s a $5,000 check that I am extremely grateful for, it will help out with things from housing to a laptop. Because of the extenuating circumstance, they are not able to present the award to me at my High School ceremony. I now have to decide how and where I want to receive this award. I have a couple of options: meet somewhere, my school, or my house. I’ll have to ask my family where they think would be best as the presentation would be mostly for them.

In other news, Brown recently announced all undergraduate in-person classes are cancelled and no one will be returning to campus. This decision comes after a few weeks of Rhode Island COVID cases rising. There are a few exceptions to this and they are reassessing on 9/11, so hopefully, the campus will be considered safe for undergraduates to return by then.

I have recently been shopping for a laptop for college. I want a laptop that will last me through medical school so I am shopping pretty hard for it. The three best I have found is The Surface Book 3, Dell XPS Touch, and the Alienware M15 R3. Each one has just one little downside that makes me think its not my 8-year computer. The Surface Book has an older processor and lacks 4k. The Dell has a worse graphics card. The Alienware is very heavy for a laptop and is less reliable. I believe I am going to go with the Dell XPS because I think the graphics card is the least important part of my college work computer, even if I do plan on gaming with it a little. — Griffin

Creative Problem Solving

My thoughts on creative problem solving and some problem solving I have been up to lately. –Griffin

People don’t think about it much but we problem solve on a daily basis. While most problems are quite rudimentary it is an important skill to have. Everyone enjoys problem solving, but not everyone enjoys the same problems. Artists enjoy picking the correct medium or paint, engineers enjoy critical thinking, and athletes find happiness in the split second decision making involved in a play. Everyone is a problem solver, and if you want to be a good problem solver you have to be creative. How does one solve a problem if the solution is not immediately obvious? You have to create a solution, hence creativity.

I have recently been working on building a modded Minecraft server. I know a little out of style now but I thought it would be a good time with some friends. I spent roughly 3 hours on the 15th then about 1 or 2 hours a day everyday since then troubleshooting with no progress! What started out as a fun little experiment has turned into a massive project of research and configuration. I consider myself an efficient problem solver so to work that long with no results has driven me even further. Despite the frustration i actually enjoy troubleshooting the server. I look forward to going to my computer and figuring out why it continually crashes, weird as that may be. However I’m certain just as I find it enjoyable to watch code crash on my computer you enjoy something frustrating as well, because you are a problem solver.

Short one today I have been busy with Brown and college related stuff. Thanks for reading. –Griffin

College Applications and Goals

How I built the college application that got me into Brown with a full ride and how I believe Corona will affect that process. –Griffin

Let’s talk about college applications first. When you’re applying to prestigious schools like the Ivies you need to stand out. Unsurprisingly this is easier said than done. If you come from a rough situation for example a low household income, your struggle to overcome that hardship should be the epicenter of your application. However a lot of people applying to college are fortunate enough to not have experienced any true hardship in their life. So what should the focus of their applications be? It should be one or two dominant characteristics of yourself. You can take these character traits and use it to describe why you do almost everything, connecting all your school, work, and extracurricular activities with a unifying theme. You are marketing yourself to these colleges, and they don’t want well rounded people. They want people who are very good at certain things, this is what diversity on campus means. So to market effectively you want to portray yourself as very good at one or two things and those would be your dominant personality traits as previously mentioned.

I marketed myself as a leader/problem solver. I was Corps Commander of my High schools JROTC unit, captain of the lacrosse team, and captain of the golf team. I was also in the highest level classes available to me. Looking solely at my achievements you can see I am intelligent and a leader. So I took that and branded it better, tying the two traits together. I am a leader because I like solving problems and people seek me out to do this. See the key here is there are thousands of people smarter than me, and there are thousands better at leading. By focusing on the combination of the two I provided a unique personality that not many others have, a leader that enjoys helping people solve their problems. This kind of individuality peaks universities interests because they are looking for the most diverse possible student body.

All of that brings me to this year and Corona. I have heard of colleges not requiring SAT or ACT scores because of the limited opportunity to take them. This means you should only send your scores if they are impressive. Most people will have extra time on their hands because of the limited opportunities. I believe colleges will actually expect applicants to be finding uses for this extra time. Learn another language, study on college level courses, or start an online community/business are all things you can do to enhance your application. The average high school student will not use their extra time to do anything productive so you can use that as a way to separate yourself from the rest. Covid will also provide a good excuse to why you didn’t do something a college might expect you to have done. An obvious example would be testing like I previously mentioned. While I don’t suggest lying on your college application if the reason you didn’t take a certain higher level class, play sports, or work a job/internship was Covid you should express that on your application. However you should also provide along with that what you accomplished with the time provided to you by not participating in that activity. For example if your Football season was cancelled because of The Rona and you were going to be captain you should put that in your app, along with how you used the extra time to learn the fundamentals of French.

Overall I don’t think Corona will make or break anyone’s college application. I believe colleges will be more forgiving about organized extracurricular but will be expecting something to replace it on your application. Keeping that and your unifying theme in mind will help you build a very strong and competitive application you can be proud of. –Griffin

Quarantine Hobbies

What I do when your civic duty is to stay away from everything fun. — Griffin

Self-quarantine is awful, everyone knows that. So you’re looking for something to pass the time in between working, studying, and sleeping. Well, I got a couple things I have been doing lately that may inspire you to stop watching Tik-Toks all day.

Surfing is an awesome hobby I picked up about 3 months ago. Most people surfing are naturally a good distance away from each other so they don’t collide so social distancing won’t be a problem! I live on the East coast of Florida where the water is warm and the waves are small, perfect for learning on. I surf about twice a week and I just recently have started to stand up on the board consistently, so it is definitely not an easy thing to learn. Despite the difficulty surfing has been one of the most enjoyable pastimes of my summer. The gradual improvement day to day is noticeable giving you that great sense of accomplishment. Not to mention the wonders surfing a couple days a week does for your pecs, triceps, and back. Paddling out is definitely the hardest part of surfing so if you’re a good swimmer you’ll have an edge on learning how to surf. My friends Nick and Basford showed me the ropes of surfing so having some friends out there with you can go a long way in the learning process. While surfing is very fun, it relies on mother nature to create the right conditions for you to enjoy yourself.

Board game nights are a great way to enjoy yourself and keep your social gathering small. I have been doing this a lot, having a few friends over to play smaller board games. I have been playing Lords of Vegas recently, if you like monopoly but think its too slow then LoV is the game for you. I have also been playing a lot of Inis a board game similar to risk but, again its a faster pace. So if you like Risk and want to try some board games you might like Inis. If you aren’t comfortable with smaller social gathering I have heard Tabletop Simulator is actually a really enjoyable way to play games online. I have watches the Yogscast play some board games with it and it appears to be well developed. The only reason I haven’t picked it up myself is each game costs an extra $20 on top of the price of Tabletop Simulator and I believe each player has to buy that extra. You might be better off splitting the price of the physical copy.

Speaking of friends in a virtual setting, something I have been enjoying a lot lately is Trouble in Terrorist Town. I was inspired by the aforementioned Yogscast, it is one of their more popular series. The game is quite simple. You have a group of people, a small minority of them are bad guys, the rest are good guys. However only one good guy, the detective, is publicly known to be good. Every other good guy only knows 2 things: the detective is innocent and I am innocent. It is also a first person shooter, but because of the nature of the game reflexes and aim are less important. It is an investment of time to be able to play and enjoy. It took me roughly 6 hours to learn how to set-up a server, download the correct files, and collect the mods that would make the game more interesting and fun. But once you get your server up and running and some friends playing man its a good time. My friends and I have been playing this about 2-4 times a week for the past couple months during quarantine. You can easily get new maps and weapons to play with through the Steam workshop so the game always feels fresh.

Now TTT is by no means a competitive game, it is extremely casual. However I have seen a rising popularity in online competitive games such as: Rainbow 6 Siege, CS:GO, Valorant, League of Legends, and Warzone. I got a confession, I’m not super into any of these games. Mainly because I am really bad at them. I know all you have to do is click on the enemies heads but jeez is it frustrating to miss. Even so, I still have a good time with friends playing these games. I have been mostly playing R6 with friends, but we are going to start picking up Valorant as well. As with surfing, you can see yourself improve with these competitive games. In a way its actually more rewarding because the game gives you a rank that you can use to see exactly how much better you have gotten.

Of course my most recent hobby/activity is writing this blog. I created it because I am a poor writer who needs practice and I thought I have an interesting and relatable experience with this global pandemic. I was actually surprised to see people finding and exploring the site so quickly.

I am also studying chemistry a little and researching Brown and AFROTC, but in terms of fun you have heard most of my activities for the week. –Griffin

Planning Travel During a World Pandemic

Planning a high school graduation trip in the era of Covid — Griffin

Back in the Fall of 2019 I started planning a Summer vacation with my friends. I have been to Europe 4 times before and they were all eager for me to lead them on their first journey into the cultural enrichment that is a European tour. Then some Chinese dude ate a bat or something and we never got to travel. However we haven’t given up hope on a great graduation trip we just couldn’t do it in the Summer of 2020.

Europe is a fantastic place to visit. Unlike America where everything was built in the past 500 years, Europe is much much older. European cities normally have an old town center that are smaller than a medieval looking town square and around that center are the more modern buildings. While in America most cities don’t have the history to have a classic old town center. In Florida you can drive 7 hours and still be in Florida. You drive 7 hours in Europe, you could pass through 3 or 4 countries that all speak different languages. The amount of culture and history in a place that diverse is mind blowing. I have seen the Spanish forts in Florida, namely St. Augustine, they pale in comparison to the castles you can see in Germany and Austria. The superiority of European culture can be seen in one simple statement, the drinking age is 13. Now it’s not that young universally across Europe, but in Germany kids can start drinking very low alcohol content beverages at 13. 

Me (Griffin) roughly 2 years ago in a section of the Opera House in Paris. Yes it is all gold, real gold.

Germany, France, Austria, Italy, and the Czech Republic. Those are the 5 countries I have been to. Bringing the boys to Paris and showing them the sheer size of the Louvre would have been magnificent and I still haven’t given up on that dream. We started planning to go this Winter. However I don’t think the travel ban will be lifted by this Winter and I also don’t want to miss seeing my family for Christmas.

Speaking of Christmas going to Europe in the Winter is legendary for two reasons. First, I am a Florida boy so snow is not a thing that happens here, winter isn’t even something that happens here. Second, Christmas markets. What is a Christmas market you ask? It is similar to a fair except everyone is selling either food, drink, or hand crafted gifts/things. At bigger cities like Paris there are also booths selling lighters and stuff you could get on Amazon, which is kinda lame but the other booths are awesome. I don’t know why but Nutella is huge in Europe, for example some places by default use Nutella instead of chocolate when you ask for chocolate. Christmas markets are just a very easy and fun way to fill in the time between sites you want to visit. When we were in Paris after we saw the Eiffel Tower we walked around the Christmas market until we wanted to eat. I honestly had a hard time envisioning what my friends and I were going to do on a Summer Europe trip because I normally spend so much time in Christmas markets.

Me (Griffin) looking at a Christmas market booth in Paris.

With Europe fading away as a possible destination for our trip we are now looking to do a road/camping trip in the U.S.A. However Corona is now messing that up as states are putting mandatory quarantines on people arriving from other states. Basically I don’t know what we are going to do but we will have a trip even if it takes a year to celebrate making it through high school.

If you are planning a trip for when Corona is over I highly suggest Europe namely Germany and Austria. Munich and Vienna are awesome destinations. — Griffin

Nick’s first post

Hello people.

Griffin already explained what this blog is about in general, so if you want more information on the blog itself, I would refer you to the post below this one. This post will mostly be about myself.

That being said: my name is Nick, and I’m a first year aerospace engineering student and the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech). My immediate goal is to work for either NASA or SpaceX as an engineer, but it’s my dream to be an astronaut. I spent my high school years enjoying a few hobbies such as tennis, flying RC planes and drones, and model building. I’ve also done a substantial amount of flight training toward my Private Pilot’s Licence. I took my first solo flight last November, and I would certainly have my Licence right now if it wasn’t for Corona virus stopping my training in it’s tracks. High school is also when I met Griffin and Nathaniel. I believe they met each other a few years ago through JROTC at our high school and became pretty good friends. I only met them last year, at the beginning of my senior year, but since then we’ve become a pretty tight trio.

So what am I doing at Georgia Tech? Well, like I said, I want to be an astronaut. I have since I was 8 years old. There are two main paths to becoming an astronaut: Military fighter pilot with 1500 hours in high performance jet aircraft, or have a degree in a STEM field with 3 or more years of related experience. You may be confused at this point to find that I chose the second option. While I’ve found out first hand that flying planes is a lot of fun, it’s just not what I want to do with my life every day for the foreseeable future. No one likes airplanes more than I do, just ask anyone from my school. But what I really love to do is build things. I love to solve complex problems and challenge myself in different ways, and that’s just not something I get from flying. At the end of the day, a career as a pilot ends up being pretty much the same thing day in and day out. Engineering is much more my speed. I know that i love to design things, I always have. The thought of getting paid six figures a year to design things that go into space excites me to no end. And that’s why I’m pursuing the second option.

Once I came to that decision, I set my sights on the best engineering school in the world: MIT. And despite having the necessary test scores and what I personally think are some pretty unique extra-curriculars, I was rejected. So I enrolled at what is agreed to be the second best school in the word for aerospace engineering: Georgia Tech. And that’s where I am today, and I’m pretty happy about my decision. It’ll take me 5 years to graduate instead of 4, because I’ll be doing the Co-op program. Griffin and Nathaniel are both using the military to pay for their school, and if you ask them, they’ll tell you they’re going for free. But it’s not free. When Nathaniel graduates, the Navy owns his ass for 5 years and the Airforce owns Griffin’s ass for 8. So they pay with their time instead of money, which is great for them since that’s what they wanted to do. But I wasn’t willing to make such a commitment. Instead, I’m doing the Co-op program at Georgia Tech to make up for the gap between the financial aid Georgia Tech gave me and what my family had saved for me. It will take me a bit longer to graduate, but I’ll make a decent amount of money and gain actual work experience before I even graduate.

So that’s basically where I’m at going into my first year at Tech. All but one of my classes will be online, so I’ll probably be doing all kinds of clubs and activities to be able to meet people and keep myself entertained. That’s probably what the next post will be about. I move in in 4 days. Wish me luck!

– Nick

First Post

What the Blog is and why? –Griffin

I don’t leave for college for 5 more months. Everyone else is gone or leaving, it’s a really strange feeling. This blog is being made for a number of reasons but primarily to keep myself, Nick, and Nathaniel together over such a long distance. They are great guys and I’m sure they will have great posts and stories to tell on here. We all graduated high school this year, we are Corona graduates.

Prestigious Universities

Every hard working high school kid’s dream right? The three of us got it Ivy League, Military Academy, and one of the best tech schools in the world. Then Corona came and took our first year experience. Nathaniel is grinding Plebe Summer right now at the academy but it was delayed and shortened. Nick is on his way to Georgia Tech as I write this but he has nearly all online classes. Then there’s me, sitting around waiting for January to go to school.

So posts are gonna be about college stuff. Yes but actually no. I’m sure a lot of our posts will be about college or related to college, however I plan on writing a lot about hobbies or other things completely unrelated to college. I play board games, video games, golf. I have traveled to different parts of the world. I have a lot of experiences and interests I want to share in hopes of simply entertaining or broadening your mind.

Who am I hoping you the reader are? Well, I am obviously targeting college students and to some degree high school upper class men. However I hope you are entertained or intrigued whether you are a college freshman like me or a 50 year old senior executive. To be honest this blog is to help improve my writing skills more than anything while getting to share some stories and connect with other people like me.

I plan on writing on this blog roughly 2-3 times a week until I go to Brown. Depending on the popularity of this blog once I am there I will adjust the frequency of posts. I don’t know the frequency of Nick or Nathaniel’s posts as they are already at their respective schools and will have to find the time to post. I hope to write posts that are mainly entertaining but should also be interesting or thought provoking. By January I hope to have a small group of consistent readers/viewers about 25+ people. That would be a signal that we should continue this blog.

Alright that’s the jist of it.

First post done. — Griffin