There’s a storm acomin’!

On this gloomy Sunday evening, the University of Maryland, College Park campus anxiously awaits the impending arrival of mega-storm Hurricane Sandy as she makes her torrential approach to the DC metropolitan area.  We’ve been hearing about it her for days, absent-mindedly watching her progress north.  Just another Caribbean storm, thought we.  How foolish we were.  Now, much of the East Coast is in a tizzy over potentially 50-75+ mph winds and nearly 2 inches of rain.  New York City is being evacuated; its subway system wholly shut down.  Needless to say, Sandy’s going to leave quite a mark.

About an two hours ago, I (along with the rest of the UMD community) received some eagerly-welcomed news.

Our very own President Loh tweeted this:

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President Loh’s announcement was tweeted nearly 20 minutes before an official announcement came from the University.  Oh the wonders of modern technology, keeping us informed like never before.  (And encouraging us to procrastinate doing assignments even sooner.)

Not that we don’t love going to class each day (we really do), but a little break is nice every now and again. I am personally ecstatic because my probability midterm and English 101H research paper have both been pushed back to later in the week.  Yay, Sandy!  I suppose the fact that the University’s decision to close for the day is keeping us safe as well.  Walking along McKeldin Mall and suddenly getting wiped out by an airborne tree limb is less than desirable.

On a more serious note, though, I am astonished by the frenzy President Loh’s initial tweet caused.  For starters, I don’t own a Twitter account, nor did I know President Loh had one.  I found out about his wonderful announcement when my Facebook newsfeed exploded with posts such as, “EYYYY no classes tomorrow!” and “Wallace Loh: You’re doing it right.”  Evidently I’m not the only one excited.

As a Freshman living on campus with no television, throughout this storm I am going to be completely reliant on a) word of mouth, and b) the Facebook and Weather Channel apps on my iPhone to keep informed.  God forbid, if the power is knocked out, we (the residents of UMCP) might be in a bit of a rut.  The horror of no WiFi, no Facebook, no MySpace (just kidding), is almost unfathomable.

Over the course of tomorrow and Tuesday, social media will be our eyes and ears regarding the status of the storm.  UMD Alerts, a messaging service that keeps faculty, students, and their families aware of campus emergencies, will inform us of how to get food and how to seek shelter if necessary.

I think this a great way to wrap up this blog series.  For the past seven weeks, I’ve talked about the wonders of technology and how it allows us to connect with people based on our interests, ideals, etc.  Now, I’ve been able to describe social media in action.  This is social media having a critical use in our society.  Facebook and Twitter are keeping us safe and informed.

Now I’m going to hunker down and pray that Hurricane Sandy doesn’t blow me away.  If it does, I’ll be sure to Facebook it.  Stay safe, everyone.

FOLLOW President Loh on Twitter.

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Where do you want to go?

Let’s face it: having a great vacation is an intimidating feat.  Trying to smartly budget a fabulous trip is like herding cats.  There’s just so much that goes into planning a holiday–airfare, accommodations, attractions, etc.  As a seasoned traveler, something that strikes fear into my heart is a rodent infested hotel room.  (Take a look at this video of a revolting Comfort Inn in Atlanta, GA to catch my drift.)  A hotel room that is so decrepit and appalling that its reminiscent of the London pigsty Clark Griswold and his family vacated in National Lampoon’s European Vacation sends me running for the reception desk.

The National Lampoon series may have been a little less eventful had Clark taken advantage of sites like TravellersPoint.  It’s always a good idea to know what you’re getting yourself into when traveling abroad.  Let’s keep in mind the Griswolds inadvertently knocked over the rock pillars of Stonehenge and drove the wrong way for hours on London’s Lambeth Bridge roundabout.  A little prior research could have helped out, Mr. Griswold.

Arguably, a goal in traveling the world is to experience other cultures and make connections with other people.  TravellersPoint brings travelers from all across the globe together.  Why?  For a myriad of reasons from sharing love for our wonderful to tips on getting airline upgrades.  It promotes discussion among members to encourage worldliness.  Members can share photos of some of the amazing sites they have taken in, and they can recommend where to get your morning caffeine fix.

TravellersPoint is a great resource if you are looking to take a trip but have no one to go with.  As creepy as it may sound, there are strangers out there who will gladly travel the world with you.  Take a look at this recent post asking for companions for a ten month European/Southeast Asian backpacking trip:

To sum TravellersPoint up, it really just asks you: where do you want to go?  A simple search from the home page for a city will return blogs from other travelers about their journeys, hotel accommodations, and attractions.  With over 50,000 booking accommodations readily available and over 30,000 published blogs, there is a wealth of knowledge to be shared by this site.

No one wants to wake up in the morning with a rat on their pillow.  Next time you’re traveling abroad, consider consulting your fellow travelers to get the scoop on what’s really deserving of four stars.

Rainbows for All

Don’t you just love those days when you find a website that just forces you to smile.  I had one of those instances this afternoon when I started doing research on LGBT social media.  Talking about the It Gets Better Project seemed too “been there, done that.”  (This thinking probably stems from the fact I’ve already blogged about it.  Check out #areweinfluenced if you feel so inclined to read about it.)  I grew frustrated and disillusioned as I could only come across gay dating sites.  I kept seeing the same banner ads saying “Looking for Gay Singles in Your Area?” and I couldn’t help thinking, Is this what the Internet has come to for gay youth?  There’s the Trevor Project and Grindr…and that’s it??  

And then I found the site.  That glorious site that made the clouds part and…well…rainbows appear: JustLefttheCloset.com.  “Sprinkling Rainbows On Your Everything,” this site makes me giddy with glee.

According to JustLefttheCloset‘s website:

WWW.JUSTLEFTTHECLOSET.COM is a new social network for LGBT youth and their friends. A place where members can meet, chat, offer support and tell their stories whilst only revealing their true identities if they want to. Whether they’re still in, shyly emerging or proudly out, this can be a starting point for their journey. A ‘room’ they can enter where everyone else is just like them. And it looks pretty cool too…

Upon finding this site, I was skeptical of its content.  I feared it might be hunting grounds for pedophiles.  I was instead astonished by its moving concept.  Basically–it’s a safe space for LGBT youth.  A place for them to communicate with each other about what it’s like coming out gay/lesbian/transgender/questioning/whatever in today’s society.  When you first get to the website, you stumble upon the “scrapbook”–a place where users can post whatever they want (inspirational quotes, cute memes, etc.)

The true beauty of this site is the “Coming Out Stories” section.  Registered members have the ability to read random coming out stories that other members have posted like this one:

“Mom I’m gay,” I said.

“I know,” she replied.

“Ugh, everyone else was surprised,” I said surprised.

“One, I’m you mother.  Two, You haven’t had a girlfriend in like, four years.”

“Oh.”

Or this one:

In high school during a biology field trip, me and my best friend were stuck in this boring biology lecture for the whole day. It was awful. So we started playing hang man. I decided I should tell her that I was thinking I might be gay (but at the time, I thought I was bisexual). So I made a hangman for her that spelled out: I Think There is The Possibility That I Might Be Bisexual. It actually turned out to be a pretty quick hangman (she understood what was going on pretty quick), and afterwards she gave me an awkward but comforting side hug and drew me a smile.

JustLefttheCloset provides the kind of forum I wish everyone had.  It lets kids out there know they are not alone, even though they may feel like it sometimes.  Feeling like you have no one to talk to or express your emotions with is one of the worst feelings.  LGBT youth pre-social media were essentially helpless.  Those living in rural, intolerant communities had virtually no outlet for discussion.  Now they have hope.

Growing up is hard enough.  If spreading rainbows can make it easier, then spread I shall.

Check out this moving video on marriage equality I found while snooping around the Scrapbook.

Looking for goodbooks?

Books make me happy.

Honestly.  A good book can put a smile on my face in a way nothing else can.  Getting lost in foreign settings (e.g. a geisha district in early-20th century Japan; a mystical wizarding world in the UK) is a fantastic stress reliever.  In the off chance you were wondering: yes, I am referring to Memoirs of a Geisha and the Harry Potter series. Continue reading

Jesus “Likes” You

Did you know that you can “like” God?  

It’s true.  The deity has over 7 million likes on Facebook alone.  Or how about getting your daily scripture fix?  Twitter users can follow @BibleSummary to get their Bible intake for the day.  If only there was a Facebook app that allowed people to simulate starting their own Church and bringing the good news of Jesus.  Well, there was: Facebook users could once play the now defunct Holy Town (basically, Christian FarmVille) before it was taken off the site. Continue reading

#areweinfluenced

“Put that phone away.”  How often have we been told that technology is taking over our lives?  That it is diminishing our conversation skills?  I can vividly remember multiple occasions of my grandmother scolding me for checking Facebook on my … Continue reading