Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Blue Brain Project and EVIE: The Development of AI

If you watch YouTube, you may know of a YouTuber by the stage name of KSI. He made a video on Evie and his discussion with the artificial intelligence or AI on the computer.

He asked Evie about 9-11 and Evie’s response was very distasteful. If you want to watch the video, you can look it up, but Evie is not a true AI. Evie’s responses are developed by the questions and answers of the people that ask them. The developers never intended for Evie to be “racist” as KSI claimed. He was actually using the system the wrong way. It’s up to us to produce clean content on Evie so people won’t have experiences like this.

Photo from gaggio.blogspirit.com
Photo from gaggio.blogspirit.com

Evie is no Blue Brain Project, a project started in 2005 by Swiss scientists. The aim of the project is to simulate the human mind by using AI. Currently, the Blue Brain is at a level of a rat brain. There are plans for the Blue Brain to hit human brain levels in 2023. However, there is the risk of the AI learning its own language. Earlier this year, Facebook had to “tweak” their models after the chatbots were making a deal in their own language. This language was unknown and still is to some of the smartest people in the world. Facebook was trying to train their “dialog agents” to negotiate. Well, it looks like they found something that will be groundbreaking in the AI world.

However, where the Facebook AI is concerned, the system was never smart, and in reality, it was pretty dumb. The AI learning its own language doesn’t mean anything; it still can’t match the level of a human plus the language was like this: “iii.” Nothing important to the scientific community. The Blue Brain Project reaching the brain level of a human will be a very important accomplishment to those Swiss Scientists. By then, the advancement of the project will be over and studying gene expression will begin. Maybe someone else will use the legacy of the project to develop an AI that is smarter than humans.

Stray Dogs – Part 1

Photo from The Independent

Less than twenty people showed up to Paul Bennett’s funeral. Andrea had counted, twice, before her attention shifted to watching her mother. Kathrine Bennett had been on-edge since the moment that the doctor declared her husband’s time of death, stuck in full throttle as she tried to make arrangements with what little savings she had and hoped the life insurance policy would cover it later. She hadn’t slept in days. During the viewing, she’d been fluttering all around the funeral home, adjusting flower arrangements with the one arm that wasn’t stuck in a sling at her side. She sat a few feet away from Andrea at the end of the pew, eyes trained on the man in the casket rather than the one on the stage. Andrea didn’t look at the body. She couldn’t.

Pastor Marlow, the spindly little man standing at the podium, had all the stage presence of a glass of lukewarm tap water, but he was the only minister in town that would agree to be there. If he could even be called a minister. Was a minister without a congregation still a minister? Andrea wondered.

It didn’t matter, really. He was Baptist, he was ordained, and he’d agreed to be there. That had been enough for her mother. Katherine had always been willing to overlook a lot of things, when it came to men (but not denominations.)

“The lord has plans for all of us,” he stuttered, “and we don’t, uh, we don’t always understand what those plans are…” Andrea didn’t consider herself to be particularly religious, but she could appreciate a good sermon on its own merits. This was not a good sermon.

There might have been a good sermon, if Paul hadn’t put a round of buckshot into Pastor Morrison’s cocker spaniel a few years back, or broken Pastor Jacobs’ nose. But there really wasn’t much that could done for his reputation post-mortem.

A woman in a dark blue dress leaned forward in the pew behind her, clasping her shoulder in a way that was probably meant to be comforting. Andrea belatedly recognized her as someone who’d worked with Paul nearly a decade ago.

“I was so sorry to hear about your daddy, hope you’re holding up alright.”

Haven’t you heard yet? Seems like gossip spreads like disease around here, Andrea thought, giving the woman the most sincere smile-and-nod that she could muster, Paul Bennett wasn’t really my father.

National Coffee Day: So Here’s Some Health Benefits Coffee Gives You

Sept. 28th was National Coffee Day in the United States which meant it was the perfect day to get that cup-of-joe. However, there are health benefits that should give you more reasons to pick up that cup more often.

Coffee can be more than a drink; photo from http://metronomecoffee.com/
Coffee can be more than a drink; photo from http://metronomecoffee.com/

Besides waking you up… Coffee actually makes you smarter because of a stimulant called caffeine which most people associate with energy but actually blocks a neurotransmitter in your brain. When this happens, the other neurotransmitters like dopamine increase to make up for the lost one. This in return improves your memory, mood, awareness, energy levels, general functions and your reaction times.

Got to lose some weight… Drink some coffee. Once again the important ingredient here…is caffeine. Studies have shown that caffeine can boost your metabolism but will decrease it over time if you drink coffee constantly. Also, not everyone’s metabolism will be boosted, so base it on your dietary needs.

Happiness in a Cup-Of-Joe… Coffee can help you fight depression. A 2011 study by Harvard University found women who drank 4 or more cups of coffee a day are 20% less likely to have depression, and the drink also reduces the risk of suicide. Once again, not everyone will feel this effect and if you are battling depression, you should contact the counseling services here at Radford University.

You might live longer… By drinking coffee daily, you have a lower risk of death over an 18-24 year period. Coffee will lower your risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, strokes, and brain diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. All those diseases lowered by drinking a cup-of-joe – you might want to sign up, but wait a minute.

Photo from nationaldaycalendar.com/
Photo from nationaldaycalendar.com/

Coffee has been proven to do miracles for your body, but not everyone will experience the same things the subjects did. Exercising, eating a healthy diet, and drinking a cup of coffee will help you live for a long time.

 

 

How to Cope with an All-Time Low

I’m supposed to be doing my homework. Nothing’s easy about college, especially when you’ve loaded your schedule with sixteen credit hours, a commitment towards four organizations, have a cat to feed, all while trying to make sure familial issues do not get too out of hand. Despite the end to Daylight Saving Time and an hour more that I’ve received to wrap up my work, it’s been difficult for me to focus. The clock right now reads 4:26 p.m., and if I don’t submit my work by 11:59 PM tonight, guess who’s bringing home a big, huge F?

But it’s become increasingly difficult for me to go on with life pretending like everything’s okay, like everything’s normal.

“Normal.” Ever wondered about what normal was for you? By definition, it means “conforming to a standard.” Other phrases it can be substituted with are: the usual, the typical, the expected – which is a funny way to describe life because life’s full of interruptions, no? It’s full of twists and turns at every point, so is there really a point for sulking over the way things used to be?

Let’s pause right there today. Let’s talk about this. Let’s talk about depression and some coping skills that I’ve picked up along the way to get you by with some smiles, okay?

“Nothing’s easy about college . . .” – Photo from URNA Career Pro

Rule #1: With time, everything changes. 

Do you hear me? Carve this well into your heart and mind. Everything changes, for better or for worse, and time’s the best teacher of them all. You, your surroundings, your social circles, your relationships, even your dreams –  they’re susceptible to change. The sooner you realize this, the quicker you move on to the next best thing in store for you.

Rule #2: Acknowledge the pain.

Some out-of-the-blue events really shook me up, disturbed me, even hurt me. It became hard to breathe at home and even harder to get out of bed. All I wanted to do was sleep, sleep, sleep. If I wasn’t sleeping, I was keeping myself distracted, buried in my studies or photography. Or food.

The first two days, I was in shock and denial. The next four days I was sad, but because I had accepted reality, I was able to be optimistic in regards to the future. More than a week has passed now and I’m doing much better. This is how it works-

You deny the existence of something that clearly exists, you’ll always find yourself at a dead end. But when you acknowledge what is for what it is, you’re able to come to terms with it and find another, if not the same, pathway.

The past becomes a lesson.

Rule #3: Make time. 

This one’s super important and super tricky. People can’t seem to find time for themselves! It is so necessary to set aside time investing in your self, creating a happiness that’s independent of others.

Anytime you’re feeling down, try something new. Find a hobby. As I mentioned in a brief previous post of mine, there are those who’ll pick up a paintbrush or a brow brush when dealing with something similar. That becomes their way of coping with the negativity. In the beginning, you may fail. But with practice and patience, symbols of your resolve, your attempts will certainly lead you to success.

 

Rule #4: Be YOUR best 

It’s not about following in someone else’s footsteps or trying to be somebody you’re not. It’s about unleashing your best version of yourself. Bruce Lee once said, “Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it.”

 

That’s the secret to happiness: self-love. 

Self-love is genuinely caring for yourself, giving back to yourself, being yourself. It’s taking a break, however that looks, from all conventional matters and putting everything on hold for some me time, time that’s a natural born right, just like life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

If you’ve experienced hitting rock-bottom at least once in your lifetime, you’re aware of the sentiments that come with it- feeling of confusion, anxiety, fear, a drop in self-esteem, and god knows what other awful thoughts.

Hang on. 

 

 

 

Get Your Money’s Worth – Go to Class

My old history professor used to say that education is the only thing out of which you don’t want your money’s worth. He’d say this after running out of dates and facts to throw at us during the class. “I guess we can stop here, huh?” he’d say, looking at his watch, which showed five minutes left in the hour, five minutes left in class. “Yes, of course!” we would all shout and immediately start clearing our desks and stuffing textbooks into our backpacks, and then sprint towards the door.

sleeping
“One of the best way to excel in college is to just go class.”

It’s true. Nothing makes our day as college students like an email announcing that a professor is feeling ill and won’t be able to make it to teach class. Sections on the syllabus that say, “No class, professor out of town” or “attending a conference” are glimmers of hope on the horizon amid long stretches of class after class during the week. So why do college students rejoice when a class is cancelled or seem to be so prone to skip a class? As all of us very well know, college is not cheap. When you break it down, for a 15-credit semester at Radford, each class comes out to about $40 each. When’s the last time you paid $40 dollars for something and then didn’t use it or wished dearly that you wouldn’t have to use it? But that’s what students do every time they skip class.

As a self-proclaimed nerd, I rarely skip. My reason is not to get the most out of my money, but rather to get the most information I can get before an exam or a paper is due. Apparently, a lot of students seem to think they can do that on their own and skipping one or two or seven classes won’t hurt. And while skipping a class here and there might be okay, when it becomes normal to not show up to your 8 am, grades, motivation, and effort begin to suffer.  Really, one of the best way to excel in college is to just go class. Half the battle is simply making it to class (taking notes helps too). I know it’s tempting to just get notes from a friend, but students will learn much more in class than from a friend in the class who most likely didn’t want to be there either. So resist the urge to sleep or skip and just go to class. It’s what we’re here for anyway, and at the very least we can get our money’s worth out of it.

Kookaburra

Kookaburra sits in a run-down bar,

Losing track of all the drinks he’s had so far.

Laugh, Kookaburra, laugh.

Kookaburra knows he wrecked her heart.

 

I said I’d never come back,

Which is probably why I’m here:

Atlanta, Georgia, center stool

At a pockmarked bar the color of caramel,

Someone’s cigarette fingering my nostrils.

 

The glass stares back at me, empty again—

Or none-full, if you’re an optimist—

As Tom Waits groans “Hang On St. Christopher”

Through a raspy speaker in the corner

Hanging by a gnawed wire.

 

My skull dips for a moment,

Slipping beneath a rogue wave—

A tap on my shoulder with bass-drum kick

Constricts my heart as I turn to see

Her with another bird on her arm.

 

Calloused knuckles on the back of my head.

“You’re drooling on my bar, Sunshine.”

My forehead pops out of the glass,

Leaving a rose-red kiss.  “Another”

Crawls out of my lips, plops onto the tile floor.

 

“That was number—” the room spins—

“You sure that’s a good idea?”

I laugh and choke on my spit,

Recover, look her in the eye:

“I’m not known for those.”

 

She frowns, fills my glass with water,

Clear, cool, calm.  I swat it off the bar,

Let it bleed on the floor.  “Dammit!” I cried

As she sighed and turned her glass eye on me,

The other gone to greet a newcomer.

 

“You know I won’t drink that,” said I to the eye,

And she filled a new glass with the darkest brew yet—

The color the bar might have been on opening day.

It sears my throat in its wake, pulls my head down to listen:

“Hang on, Saint Christopher; don’t let me go.”

Whim Welcomes the New School Year

Hello everyone, and welcome to an exciting new year at Radford University! I hope that you all have had a fantastic summer, and an enjoyable first couple of weeks. With classes back in session and the summer beginning to die down, I am excited to start a brand new year with Whim, and bring to the Radford community exciting new stories and works of literature.

ruAs this is my first year as Editor-in-Chief, I look forward to growing alongside all of you. Everything that we learn, everything that we experience—it matters, and prepares us for what is to come. From stories of life on campus, to the newest technological advances, to beautiful works of art and poetry, I am excited to see all of the new material to be submitted to Whim this year, and to bring it to the Radford University community at large.

Once again, welcome to Whim, the online magazine published by Radford students, for Radford students. If you have something you wish to see on this website, do not hesitate to share—every article matters. Let’s get this great year started!

5 things you didn’t know about living with anxiety

Having anxiety can be hell for the person living with it. For those who don’t have it, this article will help you understand what those who do have anxiety go through. There are a lot of ideas behind what anxiety looks like, but there are a lot of things we don’t talk about.

  1. Picking

When many people think of anxiety, they think of nail-biting. Often in television shows, especially cartoons, nervousness is expressed through nail-biting. I’ve been a nail-biter since I can remember. However, there are other ways we cope with anxiety physically.

Trichotillomania is a disorder which causes a person with anxiety to pull out their hair. Dermatillomania is when a person with anxiety picks their skin. For the past year or so, I have picked my legs to shreds. It honestly looks like I walked into a mosquito nest. During a recent doctor’s visit, my doctor noticed my scarred legs. She said, “you definitely have anxiety. I can tell because a lot of my patients with anxiety pick their legs or arms.”

It’s an ugly truth to anxiety that we may cause physical harm to ourselves, whether we know it or not. Skin-picking and hair-pulling is dangerous because if it leaves open wounds, you risk infections such as Staph.

  1. Panic attacks are more than just crying

The image that often comes to mind of a panic attack is usually of that person crying hysterically. Although that may be the case, not all panic attacks are the same.

When I’m having a panic attack, it feels like my body’s on fire. I become irritable and feel this intense sense of urgency. When someone is having a panic attack, often their fight or flight mode gets switched on. For me, this is often more towards the fight side. I become extremely aggressive when I’m having a panic attack. I’ve said things I would never say to someone when I’m my “normal” self.

For others, anxiety attacks can mean extreme confusion. As their sense of urgency is heightened, collecting their thoughts and assessing a situation can become extremely difficult, if not impossible.

  1. Panic attacks don’t just happen in stressful situations

I’ve had panic attacks in high-stress situations such as the last few moments of crunch time during finals week. However, I’ve had even more panic attacks in situations that shouldn’t be stressful at all. For example, I had a panic attack in my sleep once. It manifested as a horrible nightmare that I was being eaten alive by insects. It felt so real, when I woke up I flailed my arms in an attempt to get the imaginary bugs off of me. I was also in a pool of sweat and tears, and I was breathing so hard I thought my heart might explode.

Even in extremely relaxed states, anxiety can attack.

The thoughts are endless with anxiety Photo from psych2go
The thoughts are endless with anxiety
Photo from psych2go     

 4. Anxiety doesn’t discriminate

Mental illness is often thought to be more a women’s health issue. Women are more likely to seek help for anxiety, but that doesn’t mean men aren’t afflicted. Although women are more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety disorders, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are more anxious than men. Due to societal expectations of masculinity, men are less likely to seek help for mental illness. As a result, men are much more likely to commit suicide.

Anxiety doesn’t care if you’re physically fit, either. Although diet and exercise may help curb anxiety symptoms, no amount of either will cure an anxiety disorder.

Age also doesn’t seem to matter in terms of the prevalence of anxiety. Children are just as likely to suffer from anxiety, but less likely to be treated, as many times anxiety in children can be considered a “phase.” Although for many children, anxiety directed towards certain situations may just be phases, it’s important that they are monitored. Children can be prescribed medication for anxiety, but Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is also a very useful tool in allowing children to live normal and healthy childhoods.

  1. There isn’t a “one size fits all” treatment for anxiety

When it comes to treating anxiety, there are a million options out there. I’ve been urged to try everything from therapy to gluten-free and organic diets. The option I’ve found that works for me is medication. When I first became “public” about my anxiety, I had a lot of people messaging me recommendations for various therapists, medications, exercise programs, and so much more. Although I’ve found yoga to be a useful tool in calming my anxiety after a long week, I immediately decided to try medication. Anxiety runs in my family, and I know my mother, aunt and sister had positive experiences with medication.

Although medication works for me, I’m in no place to tell you what the “best” option is for someone seeking treatment for anxiety. Honestly, no one is in that place but your doctor. I will say, however, if you know anxiety is in your genes, talk to your family members. Chances are, they’ve found something that works for them, and because you share genes, it may work for you.

Anxiety affects 28.8% of U.S. residents over their lifetime. Although that may seem like a small number since we’re in the minority, that means we’re nowhere near alone. Anxiety can feel very isolating. Although few people experience anxiety the same way you do, there are a lot of people who know how you feel. Now more than ever there is a better understanding of the crippling forms of anxiety, and getting treatment can be scary but it’s much easier than it’s ever been.

WWCHNT: Starbucks Holiday Cup Fiasco of 2015

2015 has been dubbed, “the year everyone was offended by everything.” As the year comes to a close, some groups are going out with a bang and continuing that title with their narrative of “the War on Christmas.”

Starbucks loves fall and the holidays. During the fall, everyone trips over themselves to get their paws on a Pumpkin Spice Latte. During the winter, everyone loses their mind over the delicious peppermint mocha. Every year, Starbucks gets in the holiday spirit by decorating their famous white cups with their logo in red. In the past, the red has been accompanied by traditional symbols of Christmas such as a cute penguin ice skating, snowflakes and Christmas trees. This year, however, Starbucks opted for a cozy, minimalist style of just plain red.

And so started what I will call the Starbucks Holiday Cup Fiasco of 2015.

Although my Facebook demographic consists of mostly left-wingers, there was a notable outrage over the lack of Christmas cheer appearing on Starbucks cups on November 1st. As usual, radical Christians are citing this as part of their made-up War on Christmas.

starbucks
“We can’t have nice things because of the idea of a War on Christmas.”

“We can’t have nice things because of the idea of a War on Christmas.”

We can’t have nice things because of the idea of a War on Christmas. As soon as Halloween was over, everyone began freaking out about Christmas. Sure, Christmas isn’t too far away and I fully encourage getting shopping done a bit early. However, we still have Thanksgiving to be excited over. Thanksgiving has become a source of controversy the past few years as Black Friday has, in the words of Jon Stewart, “eaten Christmas.”

Black Friday, in the past, has started the morning after Thanksgiving. In recent years, it’s started as early as Thanksgiving morning.

Nice things are also hard to come by because people, specifically radical Christians, take any respect for other religions as disrespect for their own. Starbucks hasn’t even made any public announcement stating that they have traded their usual holiday cups for warm red ones in order to be “politically correct.” Besides the obvious Christmas symbols being absent, red itself is still a Christmas color. However, radical Christians are always on the lookout for signs that the world doesn’t love Jesus and that there’s a war on not only Christmas but Christianity.

I find it ironic that many times, these Christians who are getting up-in-arms over a paper coffee cup, are the same people who laugh in the face of other groups when they have blatantly been discriminated against. Some of these same Christians who think Starbucks has an anti-Christian agenda are the same people who support a historically racist symbol.

Overall the idea of a War on Christmas is what’s really ruining the idea of Christmas for me. Because people take a silly holiday so seriously, it’s made me take it less seriously. If we could all just get along, stop reading into everything and taking it as a personal attack then maybe–just maybe–we could have nice things.

 

Why A Planner Will Help You More Thank You Think

Most people probably think having a planner is useless. Something that is a waste of money and only grade school kids would need. We have phones and notebooks; why not just use those instead of a whole separate thing to keep track of? Let me tell you why a planner is something you should invest in.

I never really used a planner until last year. I would always buy one but would only write big test dates in it, or never write in it, or lose it. Yes, sad to admit, I was a planner neglecter. I’ve never been the most organized but not messy and chaotic either. I got my stuff done and missed a few deadlines here and there, nothing serious or detrimental to my grades.

Photo courtesy of http://theendinmind.net/i-am-a-planner/
Photo courtesy of http://theendinmind.net/i-am-a-planner/

When I was shopping for my back to school supplies, yes even college kids need to go back to school shopping, of course I grabbed a planner instinctively. What I didn’t know was that this year my planner would be my savior. After my freshman year, I started to get into my classes I had to complete for my major. I was swimming in deadlines, test dates, and drop box submissions. Early that semester I knew my year was about to be hectic and disorganized like I have never experienced before. I decided to whip out my planner and put it to use, at least for the first week or so until I get used to my new and busy schedule.

It’s been over a year and I still have my planner. Except now it is covered in hundreds of different colored inks and scribbles all throughout the pages. I have used my planner every day I have had school for over a year. If I didn’t have my planner I would be lost and have no idea when certain assignments are due or when I have that next big test coming up. I am thankful I became a planner lover and will never go another day of college without one.

#RUKicksHate takes a stand against bigotry

On Tuesday and Wednesday of last week, it was hard to miss the crowd collecting on Heth Lawn. A group of religious protesters, exercising their right of freedom of speech, gathered on Radford campus, to preach their views. While they had every right to do so, it still struck chords with the students who witnessed it, seeing as the group was preaching views that spurned homosexuality and other life choices, and spouted some sexist, and disrespectful comments to the students who came to investigate the scene. A very similar group visited campus in the spring and many students were displeased then as well.

But thankfully, from the chaos, came peace.

Spencer Bennington kicks hate. Photo by Katie Gibson
Spencer Bennington kicks hate. Photo by Katie Gibson

Spencer Bennington, an adjunct professor in the English department decided to take all the hate from the religious group, and redirect it. On Thursday, when the group was supposed to come back, he organized a peaceful protest to counteract them, called #RUKicksHate. While unfortunately the religious group lead by a man named Brother Roy did not return that Thursday, Bennington and his band of followers continued on.

Bennington, the self-proclaimed ringleader of #RUKicksHate talked about what brought on this event. “Being an English teacher I am all for freedom of speech. That being said, there are plenty of speakers that come here on campus that exercise their right to an extent that does hurt people and sort of exacerbates hatred and bigotry. And so I thought the best way to combat that would be to sort of have a counter protest behind Brother Roy, where we just throw a party and we’re not centered on hatred, but rather love.”

At their event, they had free “Love Juice” (don’t worry guys, it was just Kool-Aid and Sprite), and a “Big ol’ Bucket of Kindness” for students to drop positive comments into. The main event however, was for students to write a word representing a negative aspect they hated (ex. racism, bigotry, repression, sexism, etc) on a wooden board, and then kick or punch that board in half. The event was very popular, with many students stopping by and participating in the events.

Katie Gibson whacks "Racism" in half. Photo by Katie Gibson
Katie Gibson whacks “Racism” in half. Photo by Katie Gibson

Bennington explained what he hoped to accomplish with his protest. “Everything about this demonstration was to break through barriers—hence the boards—to literally kick through bigotry, knock down hatred…and [it’s] just meant to be a good time. [Brother Roy] is going to draw a large crowd, and ideally they would see us and decide to have fun with us instead of getting angry listening to whatever he says.” Bennington’s final comment on behalf of #RUKicksHate was to “kick bigotry in the balls!”

Rock on #RUKicksHate. Rock on.

To see more pictures of the event, visit the #RUKicksHate Facebook event page.

Being anyone but you is overrated

In such a fake world where everyone pretends to be something they’re not, it’s getting increasingly harder to be yourself. We often idolize celebrities, wish we had their lives and even copy things they do in the hope that we will be respected or idolized as they are. I’m here to tell you, though, that trying to be like someone else is completely overrated.

Dr. Seuss says "be who you are." Graphic from I Heart  Inspiration
Dr. Seuss says “be who you are.” Graphic from I Heart Inspiration

When you are 100% your authentic self, you’ll find that you attract better company and often have experiences and opportunities that you’ll appreciate. Trying to be someone you’re not will often put you in situations that you don’t actually enjoy, but you feel the need to pretend you enjoy. You’ll also find yourself surrounded by people you don’t particularly like, because you’re  attracting people who don’t know your real interests.

When I was in high school, being myself was never safe. I’m very weird and awkward,and I was desperate to fit in somewhere, so I tried to fit in with people who I could simply tolerate. I didn’t agree with a lot of things these girls said or did– but I felt like I needed friends, so I faked it. When I got to college,  those who once judged me were no longer there.  I had a clean slate for the first time in my life. No one knew me, and there were so many people compared to my high school of 500. Because I was able to express myself more freely, I started making some of the best friends I’ve ever had. I’ve connected with people on levels I never thought were possible.

Being yourself isn’t always easy. We live in a society that is obsessed with what celebrities are wearing or doing, and often we try to copy those things, no matter the consequences. An awful example of this is the thousands of kids who have attempted the “Kylie Jenner Lip Challenge.” However, taking a leap of faith and immersing yourself in things that you actually enjoy will lead you to living a happier, healthier life. Being yourself will only allow you to feel comfortable and free, so why not give it a shot? In the wise words of  Dr. Seuss, “those who matter don’t mind and those who mind don’t matter.”

 

Having a pet makes you a better person

If you follow me on any social media, you know I’m obsessed with my dog. Besides the (obvious) fact that she’s incredibly cute, I obsess over my dog because of who she makes me as a person.

Ever since I adopted my dog Roxy in October, my outlook on life has become extremely positive — it’s impossible to be sad when your dog is so happy. I also keep her in mind when I think of my future plans, which motivates me so much more to chase the things I want. I often imagine myself living on a beach with Roxy frolicking in the sand and chasing seagulls. For some reason, having her by my side makes it much easier to picture myself where I want to be.

Having Roxy also makes me want to do better because she deserves the best. Dogs have enormous hearts and love their owners so unconditionally. I don’t think I could ever express how much I appreciate that unconditional love. In exchange for that unbreakable bond between my dog and I, I feel the need to work hard so she can have nice things like a big, fluffy bed and all the toys she could ever need.

11102917_939648916087400_7114707348906406705_n
Radford student, Janie Maitland, with her dog.

Dogs also force you to live in the moment. There have been times where I’ve sat with Roxy and she’s taken her paw and knocked my phone out of my hand, forcing me to pet her. I began to realize after the 10th or 11th time that I was missing out on life because I was constantly plugged into my phone. Technology is great, but it should never take over your life to the point that you miss out on moments with your loved ones.

Dogs need constant exercise, so having a dog has forced me to get more exercise as well. Roxy and I often take long walks all the way around campus, which I never would have done walking by myself. She also loves to wrestle and play, which makes for a pretty rigorous exercise. Before I adopted Roxy, my weight would fluctuate from 125 to 140 lbs almost constantly. Now that I’m getting more regular exercise, my weight remains at around 133 lbs. I also have to be able to keep up with her so I’m more in shape than I’ve ever been in the past.

There’s something very zen about a sleeping dog on your lap that makes you slow down and appreciate the little things in life. One of my greatest joys in life is simply seeing my dog happy. When I take her to Claytor Lake and she’s allowed to run free, the big smile on her face as she runs about melts my heart.

Adopting a pet has been one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever given myself because it forces you to work and play all at once. I don’t understand how anyone could be unhappy when there’s a sweet dog around. Having a dog may seem like a lot of responsibility, and it is to an extent. However, having a pet is a relatively inexpensive investment that changes you for life.

Counseling services at RU struggles to reach out to students

Mental health has long been a subject that people shudder to talk about. People are often afraid to admit they see a specialist for fear they may be labeled as crazy, and many more who need one, will not see one for that very reason.

This appears to be the case as well at Radford University, as our very own counseling services faces the problem of not being able to reach the amount of students it would like to.

Radford University sits in a region where mental health has been under the microscope after the mass shooting that took place in Virginia Tech in 2007. In addition to the talk of gun legislation, there were also a number of bills pushed forward to ensure troubled students in higher education can receive access to counseling services.

Virginia State Senator Creigh Deeds has taken a large role in the fight to improve access to counseling services, pushing forward two bills in a subcommittee dedicated to the matter.

“One bill passed this year requiring institutions to have policies for staff to notify the counseling center if a student is exhibiting suicidal behaviors. House Bill 206 from last session required institutions to place information about mental health resources on their website.” Deeds said when asked about legislation in higher education.

Deeds himself was recently affected by tragedy relating to mental health. On Nov. 19, 2013, Deeds was stabbed multiple times in the head and upper body by his son, Austin “Gus” Deeds, who then proceeded to turn the gun on himself. This tragedy would have been preventable with better access to mental health resources, and is a big motivator behind the state senator’s newfound political mission.

To Radford University students, talk of mental health would likely bring about memories of Freshman Kristin Greene, who died of suicide earlier in the year. It was a wake-up call to many students to familiarize themselves with counseling resources on campus.

However, several months after the local tragedy, it seems as though students still do not know where the counseling center on campus is located. In random man-on-the-street interviews with students and faculty alike, only one of the eight groups interviewed could accurately name the building in which it was located.

The counseling center, located in the basement of Tyler Hall, has been the target of scrutiny from several students who said they were receiving very long wait times to see a counselor on campus. The complaint was that students were only given ten appointments per school year, barring an emergency.

“Nationally over the past five years, there has been an increase in the number of students reporting increased emotional difficulties, especially with anxiety. At Student Counseling Services, our numbers have followed this trend.” Said Erin Sullivan, Director of Student Counseling Services.

Sullivan explained that first appointments are typically made within the same week for non-emergency counseling, after which an assessment is made, and another appointment with the MD is scheduled within two or three weeks.

Regarding the ten session limit, Sullivan said “The number of sessions is determined by the counselor and student based on the student’s needs. If a student has a longer term chronic illness or history of hospitalizations or TDOs, the student is most likely in need of longer term therapy and will be referred out into the community as needed.”

The nationally recommended counselor to student ratio for higher education sits at one professional counselor per 1500 students for larger universities, and 1:1400 for smaller universities. This is according to the International Association of Counseling Services (IACS.)

When this ratio is not met, IACS warns that “the waiting list will increase, there will be a difficulty providing services to students experiencing increasingly more severe psychological issues, liability to the counseling center and university increases, support for academic success of students is decreased, and Counseling services are less available to help support the campus community.”

“We are currently at 1:1896 which does not include our full time doctoral intern and doctoral practicum student. The number of counseling hours provided is presently meeting the student needs,” Sullivan said.

Counseling services, like most departments at Radford, are required to have a certain number of surveys filled out each semester. This helps to gauge the level satisfaction with the service the students are receiving. In the most recent survey period, 91 per cent of students rated their service to be “good” or “excellent,” with 81 per cent of students also saying that their level of distress has gone down since they first sought counseling.

Haley Waggener, a graduate student at RU said she fit into the category that had a pleasant experience with counseling services, but credited the problem to another issue.

“A lot of people just stigmatize it or don’t even think of it, or just don’t want to put in the effort to make an appointment and wait around for it.” Waggener said.

It would appear that the real problem is not that there are not enough counselors for the amount of patients they are receiving. The real problem lies in that not enough students who need help are seeking that help. Counseling services is caught in a conundrum in which they cannot hire more counselors because there is not enough of a need for them. As such, if a sudden increase of students seeking help were to happen, they would not be prepared for it

“Not many people are aware of all of the options they have for help on campus because they are not advertised enough, and they also play into the fact that RU doesn’t have the money to afford the staff to support all the students who may need help if they did reach out.” Said EmiLeigh Whitehouse, a student counselor at Family Preservation Services.

At its core, the consensus is that the root of the problem is the same stigma that has plagued mental health from the start. People are afraid to seek help for fear of being labeled as crazy, and this is the reason counseling services cannot hire more people, which could lead to the long wait times the IACS warns about.

“I believe that more students are in need of services but are not reaching out for help. This is not a unique issue for Radford as this seems to be a national trend of college aged students needing help with coping skills but being reluctant to use the available resources.” Sullivan said.

With a growing number of students needing help, Radford’s counseling services need just as much help reaching out to students so they can effectively make a difference in the community.

Google Maps is revolutionizing monster hunting

Most everyone is familiar with the tale of the sea monster that dwells deep in the depths of Loch Ness in Scotland. The creature is said to be enormous with a small head, a long neck, flippers, and at least one large hump on its back. Sightings have been recorded of the elusive “monster” waddling across land and into the water, as well as inside the massive lake itself.

The Loch Ness Monster, or “Nessie”, is a must-see for monster enthusiasts everywhere. Since it’s not possible for everyone to get to Loch Ness, Google Maps has launched a new feature– bringing Loch Ness to the homes of people everywhere. Using the ever popular “Street View” (a feature allowing users to see a 360-degree view of pretty much every place in the world), monster lovers can now look out over Loch Ness and even virtually dive into the water in hopes of catching a glimpse of Nessie.

monsterTo create the newest addition to “Street View” (creatively titled “Nessie’s Perspective”), Google partnered up with Adrian Shine, an expert on the Loch Ness Monster. This collaboration between Google and Shine has seemingly revolutionized monster hunting. In his article for Forbes, columnist Robert J. Szczerba begs the question, “With the powerful search and mapping technology of Google, partnered with potentially millions of monster hunters searching the lake, how long can Nessie stay hidden?” Szczerba makes a good point. If legendary creatures such as Nessie, Bigfoot and the Chupacabra really exist, then using advanced technology along with the enthusiasm and knowledge of monster hunters could lead to some fascinating discoveries.

Just last year, a mysterious image appeared on Apple Maps in Loch Ness. Although blurry, the picture looks startlingly like every other depiction of Nessie. While many skeptics believe that the creature was merely a large fish, the picture sparked a wave of new found appreciation for and desperation to find the Loch Ness Monster.

As technology continues to advance, there may be far more genuine monster sightings to come. So take a minute, go to Google Maps, and scour the depths of Loch Ness. Maybe you’ll be the next person to find Nessie.

 

 

Insanity duel: Scientology vs. Christianity

Recently, HBO aired a controversial documentary which criticized the church of Scientology. Many Christians have used this documentary as a scapegoat for their own crazy religion, mocking different aspects of the church and overall  using the documentary to claim that Christianity is the superior religion.

Neil DeGrasse Tyson was asked about his views on the church in light of the documentary, and managed to say what everyone’s thinking. Tyson refused to make any negative commentary on the church, eloquently stating that it’s a free country and everyone can believe what they want. However, my sass radar went off at one particular quote. “So, you have people who are certain that a man in a robe transforms a cracker into the literal body of Jesus saying that what goes on in Scientology is crazy?”

I totally agree with Tyson on this. When you compare Scientology to Christianity, the two are both relatively equal in insanity. Think about it: the Bible claims that a magical being floated down from the sky and impregnated a virgin with a magic baby who was born on a pile of hay. The baby grows up to be a wizard who can heal the blind and walk on water. Don’t forget the angry God who needed a blood sacrifice to right his own wrong because he created imperfect people who he hated.

In order to better understand Scientology, I went to the belly of the beast. Okay, actually going to a Church of Scientology would have been more impressive, but I attempted to grasp an understanding of it with what tools I have. Scientology was founded by L. Ron Hubbard, a science fiction writer. Hubbard was rumored to be schizophrenic. However, reading and listening to the ideals of Scientology, I believe he was bipolar and on a manic when first creating his religion.

Watching the videos on the official Scientology website, I can’t help but notice how cryptically it’s displayed to the public. Scientology is extremely mysterious because few people leave it, and those who do are often forced to remain silent about their experiences within the church. Many ex-Scientologists remain anonymous as they share their experiences because of threats they’ve received from the church.

The church has been widely criticized for using hypnosis, abusing members and even holding members hostage. Many members of the church have attributed their successes to the church, in a way which resembles the Law of Attraction.

From the outside, the Church of Scientology seems to be a bit more practical, acknowledging new ideas such as science and physics. Unlike the Christian church, which breaks its members down and forces them to acknowledge their mistakes, Scientology focuses more on building up its members and helping them grow as a person to be the best they can be. As much as I agree with that sentiment, the church seems very cult-like when you listen to the accounts of its former members.

Overall, I think Scientology and Christianity both have their flaws. I don’t believe that one is crazier than the other, although I loathe religion. Tyson’s thoughts on Scientology sum up perfectly what many atheists are thinking: all religions are relatively insane.

Bragi Dash earbuds

Get ready to block out the rest of the world like never before! Well, kind of. There’s a new type of headphone coming to the market that sounds ready to blow the antiques we’re using out of the water. They’re being advertised as waterproof headphones that also store your music. And what is this new revolution to the music listening industry? The Bragi Dash Earbuds, of course!

With the wireless feature, there’s no need to worry about your cords getting tangled.

There are three sizes of silicone sleeves so you won’t have to worry about whether they’ll fit in your over- or under-sized ear-holes.

Did we mention the charging case? Store, protect, and charge your earbuds in one simple step!

earbuds
“With the wireless feature, there’s no need to worry about your cords getting tangled.”

Not only can you use these as an mp3 player with 4GB of space, but if you want to use your iPod or other music player, it has a Bluetooth function in it as well. The settings are pretty high tech and offer noise-cancelling features, but also allow you to adjust the settings so that you can allow more sound in as desired – for those times when you’re about to walk into traffic while jamming out and need to hear that car horn blaring over Wiz Khalifa’s latest track.

Since the inside sleeves are made with silicone, they offer a more comfortable fit. They didn’t just guess the ear size either. Researchers went to hearing aid companies and came up with three different sizes of sleeves for each package of earbuds. They’re claiming to offer maximum comfort. Also, the materials used to make the product are lightweight, which should prevent them from being too heavy and falling out.

The Dash Earbuds also have the capability of fitness trackers. You can even answer phone calls with them.

This is the next generation of music listening and available for pre-order now. However, it isn’t the first of its kind – just the latest in a new species of earwear.

The Dash earbuds originated from a German version of the product that was able to get its funding through Kickstarter. Nikolaj Hviid created the concept for The Dash after having been CEO of a design agency and Head of Design at Harman. Also on the team are Josef Scheider, Arne Loermann, and Toby Martin, who all have an impressive tech industry background. With this dream team, we hope The Dash live up to their hype!