It’s Okay to Walk In Silence

Hustle culture has programmed us to loathe — even fear — silence.

Commuting without blasting music, podcasts, or audiobooks in our ears just seems like a waste of precious time.

Creativity, however, doesn’t require constant learning. Our brains don’t need stimulation to dream.

About a week ago, I needed to head home across town. I was only about three miles out and didn’t feel like waiting 15 minutes for the bus. So, I walked.

I generally hate to waste time — commuting or otherwise — so, I called and caught up with a family member.

After we hung up, I found myself walking — in silence.

Street lights were sparse, and traffic was light. So, it was a rather dark silence with only my thoughts for company.

Continue reading

How The Monroe Doctrine Turned Into American Imperialism

When President James Monroe issued his Monroe Doctrine in 1823, he intended it to keep European colonial powers from dominating Latin America or interfering in its political affairs. President Theodore Roosevelt’s Corollary to the Doctrine, eight decades later, turned Monroe’s foreign policy legacy into a weapon of American colonialism—which still sours American relations with Latin America.

That lingering animosity has made coequal relationships and willing cooperation nearly impossible by creating diplomatic difficulties for the US government, which has rarely been able to draw concessions without strong-arming those countries. 

It has also created negative relations with immigrants in the US—of which Latin Americans make up a plurality. The atrocities that the American government has committed against these countries for over 12 decades give many a sense of entitlement. That has turned them into political pawns for American political forces and driven domestic division.

Why did James Monroe issue the Monroe Doctrine?

President Monroe, on December 2, 1823, laid out the Doctrine in his annual address to Congress. It comprised four principles:

Continue reading…

How This Country Became Popular With American Expats

The convergence of economic factors and viral journalism often drives migration trends.

The United States has always been one of the hottest destinations for immigrants searching for a better life. What’s not discussed as much is when Americans themselves move elsewhere in search of a better life.

When people think of emigration out of the United States, they probably think of middle-class or affluent Americans moving to Singapore, Australia, Canada, or the United Kingdom for business. Perhaps, EU countries also come to mind.

An Expat Insider survey found that 86 percent of immigrants in Ecuador were satisfied with their choice to live there.

It’s no wonder that Edward Snowden chose this country as his desired asylum destination.

Ecuador is still considered a developing country by the UN and World Bank. But it’s one of the better-off nations in that category, which makes its cost of living better than America’s while offering enough modern conveniences and safety to make it attractive.

Continue reading…

3 Wasteful Financial Flexes To Avoid

Like it or love it — hating it isn’t an option — flex culture is in. And it’s not going away for at least a generation.

So, rather than complain about the culture like a bunch of old fogies, a better approach is to embrace it. After all, we can agree that alcohol and marijuana prohibition didn’t work. Regulation is a much better option.

So, what is flex culture?

Flex culture is a social media-driven phenomenon “of deliberately showing yourself off about your personal belongings in the goal of giving yourself higher value in front of other people.”

For kids with wealthy parents, it can be fun. For middle-class college students and young professionals, it can become addicting and life-ruining.

However, most people will never become minimalists or engage in monkish self-denial. So, rather than encourage you to become counter-cultural, here are three things not to buy to flex on peers.

Continue reading…

Beware Of Too Much Positive Feedback

Good Vibes Only May Mean Your Friends And Family Don’t Care To Critique Your Work

One of the aspects of passive listening is constant agreement.

You know–endless nodding, smiling, lack of meaningful input.

That’s when you know it’s time to change the subject or–better yet–just stop talking. The person you’re talking to clearly isn’t hearing you.

This happens often whenever people present their work to friends and family–and makes presenting one’s work to friends and family a problem in itself.

In our culture of toxic positivity, no one wants to be the one to rain on your parade. Most people who love or respect you think it’s great you’re venturing out and doing work outside your 9–5 and are probably not going to tell you what they really think about that work.

The “everything is awesome” culture will win most of the time.

Some people will be honest and tell you if what you wrote stinks–people who respect your potential more than your feelings. But most people are so used to others’ wearing their feelings on their sleeves that they’re loath to provide negative feedback.

To be fair, this isn’t entirely their fault.

Continue reading

Here’s Why People Like Autumn So Much

Ever get the feeling you’re just happier during autumn?

You’re not alone.

According to a survey of 2,000 Americans, 56 percent said they were happier in autumn than any other time of year — and this was conducted in the middle of the pandemic.

At surface level, it seems counterintuitive. How does autumn compete with spring or summer?

It’s cold — often rainy — and it reminds us that winter is coming. We have to go back to boring school or our boring jobs after a much-needed vacation. Also, because of the holidays and traveling, money is often tight.

There are upsides, for sure.

The cool, crisp air; the food and drinks; in America and Canada, Thanksgiving — also in America and Canada, football and hockey seasons.

Traditional autumn fashion is also better than the stuff people wear at other times of the year.

Then, there are the leaves.

Growing up in Florida, that didn’t mean much. Leaves turned from bright green in September to a boring brown by November.

Continue reading

3 Things To Communicate Before Blogging With A Partner

Just as some entrepreneurs form partnerships, some bloggers like to combine their efforts.

Two is better than one, right? If friends want to blog about the same or a similar topic, why not join forces and reach their goals twice as fast?

They each bring their own friends and social media followers — potentially doubling initial readership. They both write posts, so they produce twice as much content and drive traffic twice as fast.

This sounds good. But two people working on a project doesn’t automatically translate to ‘twice as fast’.

If one has a steep learning curve, he can slow down his partner.

Maybe one has a strong ego that would help him succeed solo but prevents him from matching that success in a partnership.

Finally, some partners simply haven’t learned the Law of Comparative Advantage and mismatch each other’s skills.

These are serious conversations that blogging partners should have before discussing blog names, WordPress themes, or social media accounts.

Here are three specific things to keep in mind before buying that domain name with someone else.

Continue reading…

Why Did the Royal Family Change its Name to Windsor?

Queen Elizabeth II’s death renewed interest in the British royal family internationally. Outreigning Queen Victoria by seven years, she was the longest-reigning monarch in British history. She represented stability in the UK following the British Empire’s weakening after World War II.

Something I learned from my personal increased interest is that the British Royals aren’t originally Windsors. In fact, they aren’t even originally British.

So, why did this non-British British royal family take the name Windsor?

German Roots

The German Duke Ernst Anton of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld became the first duke of Saxe-Coburg—or Ernst I—in 1826. His sister—Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld—was the mother of Britain’s Queen Victoria. Ernst’s second son, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg, married his cousin Victoria in 1840. 

Victoria herself was of 100 percent German stock. Her father was Prince Edward—King George III’s fourth son—of the House of Hanover.

It was not uncommon for German royalty to marry into other royal families and rule over other countries. 

In fact, the three principal monarchs of World War I: Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, King George V of Great Britain, and Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, were cousins and descended from King George II of Britain.

Ethnic German monarchs in 1914 included Albert I (Belgium), Wilhelm of Wied (Albania), Ferdinand I (Bulgaria), Karl I (Romania).

Just as children take their father’s last name, monarchs took the name of the house of their father—which meant taking the name of the land their father’s family ruled.

King Edward VII, Victoria’s eldest son, thus, became the first monarch of the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gothe—a much more in-your-face German-sounding name than the House of Hanover.

Read more…

Urban Exploring at Carraway Hospital in Birmingham

Last week, my friends Steven and Wesley and I explored the abandoned Carroway Hospital in Birmingham. With limited “urbexing” experience, I was a bit hesitant to go, considering Steven wanted us to camp atop the roof.

The pictures he showed me of the view, however, made it seem worth it. I don’t mind exploring abandoned places—even alleged haunted ones—provided I’m with other people. Besides, I’ve always had a penchant for getting away with harmless mischief.

About Carraway Hospital

Dr. Charles Carraway started a 16-bed hospital in his town of Pratt City, AL, in 1908. In 1917, he bought the current location on the corner of 16th Ave and 25th St in Birmingham and relocated it. He named it Norwood Hospital after the neighborhood. The hospital later changed its name to Carraway Methodist Hospital.

Dr. Carraway suffered a stroke in 1957 and turned it over to his son Ben, who greatly expanded capacity. The iconic star atop the roof, which used to be blue, was added on Christmas Day, 1958.

Dr. Carraway died in 1963, but his legacy continued as one of the most state-of-the-art hospitals in Alabama. The neighborhood surrounding it, however, declined greatly in the 70s and 80s, even as the hospital put tens of millions of dollars into expansion.

By the early 2000s, finances caught up with it. In 2006, Carraway filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and a year later, it was auctioned to Physicians Medical, LLC. The new owners briefly turned it around. But by the fall of 2008, they couldn’t make payroll and closed it.

The women’s rehab charity The Lovelady Center bought it in 2011 for $6 million. However, local residents opposed a rehab center in their neighborhood. After a local zoning board failed to approve it, The Lovelady Center sold it to a development group in 2018. The new owners plan to turn it into a mixed-use development.

With the hospital’s imminent demolition and transformation in mind, we knew we had limited time to explore it. In fact, the new owners had told Steven over the phone early this year they would start tearing it down in May.

Exploring Carraway’s Ruins

I got to bed late the night before and ended up sleeping till the last minute. So, I didn’t have time to get any coffee. I figured there would be somewhere to stop, or at least a convenience store close to the hospital.

Steven—who was driving,—takes caffeine pills, however. So he pulled over at a Dollar General on the way to pop a couple. I went inside to get a Monster but found none of them were cold.

Much to my disappointment, the neighborhood surrounding Carraway is an urban wasteland as far as quick food or coffee goes. There is one Kentucky Fried Chicken about half a mile away, but otherwise, even crummy gas stations seem few and far between.

We stopped at the KFC, and I got a Mountain Dew. I hate soda, but I needed the caffeine.

We parked across the street from Carraway at a government-housing parking lot.

After all, if you’re going to trespass, go all out!

We left our gear in the car and entered through the front entrance.

“That’s where we’ll sleep,” Steven said, pointing to the building next door.

The complex is huge. I don’t know why I expected it to be any smaller than modern hospitals, considering it just closed down 14 years ago.

Entering Carraway felt like entering a set for The Walking Dead. Vandals had smashed every window in sight and stripped every wire.

Although our flashlights were strong, once we entered the main floor, it was like the darkness enveloped us. In some parts—in broad daylight—seeing six feet ahead would be impossible without a light.

Steven knew what each building used to be and acted as our tour guide. I wasn’t as interested in the history of the buildings and rooms as I was climbing to the top floors for the views.

The hall on the first floor led to an open courtyard. We went into what used to be an auditorium before climbing the stairs to the roof.

To get to the roof, we had to climb through a shattered window, then walk across about 20 feet of glass. Steven and I went across, but Wesley stayed behind. I thought he was afraid of the glass, but as I found out later, it was the height.

The view from the rooftop made the risk of glass going through my Nikes worth it. In the distance, I could see what looked like an EMS station with a few cars parked inside its carport. Nearby, I heard construction workers, probably the same ones we’d seen behind the complex when we drove around it earlier.

On my way back inside, I found wading across glass the second time a bit more stressful.

After leaving the courtyard, we made our way toward the back of the main building, stopping along the way to check out various rooms. The intact curtains and undisturbed ceilings made this section feel eery after seeing other sections gutted of nearly all but concrete.

We went to the back stairwell, passing the elevator shafts. Being a thriller fan, my mind went to different scenes these shafts could be used for. I admit I winced slightly every time I looked down, not knowing what I might see.

Continue reading

America Needs a New National Anthem

Pike’s Peak at Dusk by Tranquiligold Jin

The Star Spangled Banner is not representative of the totality of the American nation and should not be its national anthem.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s a great patriotic song, and it poeticizes a great feat in American military history. It would make for a great military anthem. National anthems, however, should reflect the nation’s identity — its natural beauty, culture, history, traditions, and hopes — not just its military exploits.

Take these lines from the Canadian national anthem, for instance:

O Canada! Where pines and maples grow,
Great prairies spread and lordly rivers flow,
How dear to us thy broad domain,
From East to Western sea!
Thou land of hope for all who toil!
Thou True North, strong and free!

Or the New Zealander national anthem.

God of Nations at Thy feet,
In the bonds of love we meet,
Hear our voices, we entreat,
God defend our free land.
Guard Pacific’s triple star
From the shafts of strife and war,
Make her praises heard afar,
God defend New Zealand.

Or this from the Australian national anthem:

We’ve golden soil and wealth for toil,
Our home is girt by sea;
Our land abounds in nature’s gifts
Of beauty rich and rare;
In history’s page, let every stage
Advance Australia fair.

Each of these — like many other anthems — touches on the geographic features of the nation. Mountains. Soil. Oceans. Geolocation. They often mention attributes or values of the people.

National anthems often mention past military sacrifice but stay grounded in the present — or at least the ideal of a harmonious present in an idyllic landscape. In other words, the battle and ensuing sacrifice for victory is not the end in itself. That would suggest a nation at perpetual war. Is that really the image people want to project of their country?

Besides the singular focus on wartime and the visual image of battle, The Star Spangled Banner is difficult to sing. The raucous applause artists receive after performing it at ballgames owes as much to their hitting the high notes as a display of patriotism.

Continue reading