Author Archives: angusmack101

Finals & Finality

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By angusmack101

This’ll be my last blog for the semester. Thanks to everyone who’s been reading them; it’s a small piece of validation, but I get a kick out of it—and it’s definitely influenced me to do interesting things since I got to GW. That said, this hasn’t been the most outlandish week.

It’s more-or-less the same no matter what university you’re at: finals are a pain, nobody likes them, and you either rise to the occasion and knock them out effectively or you get swallowed up by the system and crash & burn. So far I’ve handed in two major assignments without a hitch and I’m leaning heavily on the last two. However, there has been a small problem.

image1 - error

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!

For those not familiar with the world of file recovery software, that screengrab represents the loss of my entire final video project. An automatic Windows ‘drive repair’ killed the entire thing, presumably because it doesn’t like files formatted for use on Macs. Not a happy day for me, but thankfully I should be able to salvage a passing grade out of the class after some talking to my professor. I’m not actually that devastated, my grades here aren’t going on my GPA, so the loss is more isolated to the project itself than anything else. I can go home satisfied that I did learn something valuable from the class as well as receive a lesson in the importance of file backups at a time where I can afford to get it. If I believed in fate, this would be an example of it at work.

Just be grateful it wasn’t you, kids. Learn from my mistake.

Aside from that it’s been mostly business as usual. Some alternating low-&-highkey social evenings — including one final party with some friends at American — and a lot of writing. My other creative final turned out pretty well; I managed to build an interactive website documenting the film Inglorious Basterds. I’d host it to show it off for anyone interested, but that costs money I can’t afford to spend. Enjoy this nice jpg instead.

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There’s more to it than this, I promise.

I highly recommend the course for anyone interested. Interactive Web Design, it says a lot that despite taking 4.5 hours from 8 a.m. every Friday morning, it was still one of my favorites. If you’re looking for a creative and problem-solving outlet, web design is a fun skill to pick up. It’s also fun to learn how the internet actually works, and you can leave with a marketable skill with unlimited potential to develop it for whatever purpose you so desire.

Once again thank you to everyone who’s been reading my content these last four months. I’ll be touring the country til mid-January before I have to head home and start another year in Melbourne, and I’ll definitely look back fondly on everything I’ve experienced at GW. If the economy doesn’t kill me first I’ll probably get a buzz out of rereading all these rants in a few decades — hopefully as a much better writer and having done many more things like it.

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Scuba Santa & Finals

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By angusmack101

The final week of classes is upon us. There’s no more need to guess about when assignments are due or what they’ll involve—it’s all on the table. In a week and a half my semester here will be complete, and I’ll have to actually start planning my end-of-year travel plans. It’s not gonna be cheap.

This week was fun, though. The Bernie Sanders talk I’ve been waiting a month for was excellent. It was definitely more of what we’ve come to expect from him after a few years of relatively high exposure. He did go into a bit more depth about the 2016 campaign, which was a welcome change. It wasn’t hard to imagine why he didn’t leave his house the day after the election.

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You can google a better picture of Bernie than I could ever take. Here’s one of the crowd.

I also went on what will likely be my final TRAiLS trip this semester. We drove to an indoor pool in Maryland for a charity ‘Scuba Santa’ event where we got to swim around in scuba gear and take a picture with the big guy. It was a good time, as I’ve come to expect with TRAiLS, but the actual scuba stuff was mostly overshadowed by the comedy of watching people flail off a 5 meter diving board. We had a good couple of hours in before the pool manager kicked us off the board and out of the hot tub, and we were happy to wrap it all up at a local Italian joint and get back by late afternoon.

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Props to this guy for spending four hours underwater in a fake beard

Aside from that it’s been mostly study and preparation for finals. Not as glamorous as I’d like, but definitely a necessary evil. Hopefully I can squeeze a few more memorable moments into my last few weeks.

TurkeyDay

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By angusmack101

Thanksgiving doesn’t exist outside the US. That isn’t too much of a revelation for most of us, but I’ve got to’ve had a half-dozen Americans ask me about it this week. Black Friday does exist—kinda. You could probably get up at noon in Australia and still make it to the sale for your OLED TV or cut-price shoes. Here ends my PSA.

All that said, Thanksgiving in the US was a great time. I shipped off to New Jersey for the holiday to spend it with my friend Fraser and his family, and I was more than happy to experience it for all it’s worth. We joined another American family and did the whole dinner with them; It was a wholesome night of giving thanks, eating turkey & pumpkin pie, and dodging political conversations. There was one close call when someone brought up Brexit, but it was swiftly dismissed and a merry evening was had by all.

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Wholesome family fun… No further questions.

The rest of the weekend was just as good. New Jersey isn’t drastically different from the rest of the North East, so Fraser and I were initially at a loss for what to do in my limited time there. He suggested we take a half-hour drive to a nearby beach in the hopes it’d be empty for the holiday. We were quickly proven right, and after a bit of confusion walking through the cold and the wind it became apparent what we were really there for; an abandoned military base on the southern tip of the New York harbor.

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Please don’t jump this waist-high fence. Please.

Despite it being obviously deserted, we clearly weren’t the first ones to have wandered through the old complex. The pitifully-short fence had been trampled down in multiple places and the bolts on the doors had long-since been busted open. We steered clear of the buildings that warned of prosecution for trespassing, but what remained gave us plenty of opportunity to explore and escape the cold. The signage and the design seemed to indicate it was an old gun battery and fort for guarding the harbor, and the sturdy construction had kept it structurally sound in spite of intermittent hurricanes and a half-century of salt and rain. Stalactites of salt had formed in most of the cavernous rooms, and thankfully the litter and graffiti hadn’t ruined the experience of scoping it all out.

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Grave Encounters hmu

The remainder of the weekend was spent hanging out with Fraser’s friends, playing old Playstation games, and generally avoiding the multiple assignments I’ve been given in the last week. We’re coming up on the end of semester, but I’m confident I’ll get through the finals unscathed and can make the most of what I’ve got left to experience at GW. That Bernie ticket I waited two hours for is finally going to come in useful this week. Stay tuned.

Yacht Dreams

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By angusmack101

It’s become a recurring theme of my time in DC; plan for one experience and stumble into another. It happened last week with Catharsis on the Mall, and it happened this week outside the Anthem.

A friend and I had bought tickets to the Young The Giant gig on Friday night and decided to roll in to the wharf early to take advantage of a local happy hour. I’m not sure if it was the happy hour or the quality of the bar, but the place was packed when we arrived at around 6:45. After fighting our way to the front of the mass we’d bought drinks and my friend had struck up a conversation with a guy seated at the bar. I went over and joined the convo, where we quickly found out he was the president of the local yacht club on the wharf. Turns out he lives full-time on his boat, presumably splitting his time between the water and the club.

After a solid half-hour conversation the happy hour had ended and he offered to show us the club. Since it was outside the Anthem and the gig didn’t start for another hour, we agreed. I also sensed the possibility of free drinks, so I didn’t need much convincing. It was a bizarre turn-of-events for sure, and we were genuinely impressed with the setup this guy had going. He said his was one of the only yacht clubs in the country with an average age trending down, and it wasn’t hard to see why when we saw the place and met the people. I spoke to one guy for 15 minutes about Australian politics before he revealed he was a congressman from Oregon. If the president is to be believed they have a bunch of members with high-profile jobs on Capitol Hill. By the time we left for the gig my friend was already trying to network her way into a membership. Is this one of the #onlyatGW experiences I keep hearing about?

Young The Giant was another highlight, and by the evenings-end we were exhausted. I managed to spend a couple hours at a party in E street, but eventually called it in to try and get a few hours before Saturday. I’d booked another hike with TRAiLS, and I wasn’t looking forward to the 8 a.m. wakeup.

YTG - picture 1

One of those openers that’s good enough to remember but not enough to look for more of their stuff

The wakeup on Saturday was definitely rough, but not enough to ruin the day. I’d loaned out another DSLR for the trip; I needed more footage for my next video production assignment. This ended up being a great decision as the town we went to had some of the best scenery I’ve ever seen. Historic Harpers Ferry indeed. We were lucky to catch it at the brief intersection of Fall & Winter.

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$15 well spent

I did end up getting a lot of great footage and pictures from the trip. At this point I’m seriously considering shelling out for a decent camera of my own, it might incentivize me to go out and do more of this kind of thing back in Aus.

The rest of my week wasn’t eventful as those couple of days. I did go to another gig at The Black Cat on Thursday to see Alex G, which was great, but aside from that it was mostly receiving and submitting assignments. Finals are getting dangerously close—I suppose I’d better ramp up my efforts to do everything this city has to offer.

A good week for walking

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By angusmack101

It’s been another good week for walking around.

The media department at GW allows students in set film classes to rent out equipment for free, which you might remember I took advantage of a few weeks ago to film my roommate Javier buying and eating the first bagel of his life.

Honestly hours of editing for this.

While it was definitely a good time, the film camera I used for that video was impractically large for my purposes this week, so I went for a more compact Nikon DSLR —a D3300 for any camera-nerd readers. After an hour-or-so of YouTube tutorials I was ready to take it out to test, and opted to do so on one of my late-night monument walks. I’ve been in the habit of walking around the mall at night once or twice a week, usually when I can’t justify spending money, and I got a kick out of learning the tricks of the camera on the quiet streets of DC.

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Game for the more observant readers: spot the rat.

I enjoyed it so much, in fact, that I decided to go out and do it again on Saturday night. This was the surprising one for me, because I’d unknowingly walked right into the middle of a hippie festival camped out beside the Washington Monument. Literally camped out; they’d set up tents, art installations, a couple of dance floors, and a whole bunch of weed and LGBT flags. This was exactly the kind of weird stuff I enjoy finding, and a great opportunity to test my ability to snap pics in a bizarre low/high light environment. I even took the camera settings off auto for some of them.

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If 8th-grade English taught me anything, it’s that juxtaposition is the name of the game.

Of course after leaving my hippie comrades at about 3 a.m. I had to try and sleep, because I’d naively signed myself up for rock climbing with TRAiLS on Sunday—It was actually the reason I loaned the camera in the first place. I managed to get up on time to make the trip, and the climbing itself was a bunch of fun. After the trips I’ve taken with those guys this semester I’ve got to say that TRAiLS deserves every bit of funding they get; they never disappoint.

I’ve also got to conclude that, for a student, there’s no need to use a bulky film camera when the college has the Nikons available. My one was easier to use, less than half the size and weight, and it could take decent photos as well as video. My professor never even mentioned it was an option, but I’d be willing to bet he won’t be able to tell the difference from the footage. If you’re at GW now or you’re heading over for exchange, do yourself a favor and take a film class. The workload is manageable and you get access to a bunch of cool stuff for free. What’s not to love about that?

Rocky Appalachian Spooks

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By angusmack101

Halloween 2.0 was a strange week for sure; it proved to me how valuable it can be to improvise and make an effort to seek out new experiences. Halloween on Wednesday went more-or-less as expected. The costumes and the partying were great fun, but it wasn’t til a late decision to go to the Rocky Horror showing on Thursday that things became genuinely memorable.

People that’ve been doing Rocky for years know what it’s all about, but I was going off hearsay and vague recollections of the movie when I asked some friends to go to the show. The $5 investment was low enough for us not to mind the ambiguity, and it’s a good thing we didn’t—It really is as weird as people say. My roommate Javier thought he was going into some run-of-the-mill amateur theater production, so he was even more surprised than I was when 20 students ran out in lingerie to dance on random members of the audience. I was unlucky enough to get picked out at the start. It’s definitely something worth seeing for yourself: $5 well spent.

Friday was a second Halloween party, relatively similar to the first. I also managed to squeeze in a visit to the National Archives that afternoon, which was more memorable for the number of middle-schoolers wearing MAGA hats than it was for the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence. Of the 30-ish students in the museum, about 10 had some sort of Trump-brand headwear. One kid had gone the extra mile with a matching MAGA hoodie. If it weren’t for the ban on photography in the Archives or the creepiness of photographing 12-year-olds I’d have snapped a pic to prove it.

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Little did I realize I’d be more offended by the gift shop

Before arriving at the the Archives we were held up getting past the White House. The entire north wing of the Mall was closed off and a crowd had formed at the south end. When we asked what was happening we were shown a huge helicopter parked on the lawn outside the White House. Turns out it was Marine One; Trump was flying out that afternoon to rallies in some midterm battleground states. We hung around long enough to see him step inside and fly off from a distance. That’s probably the closest I’ll get to the president while I’m in the US—excluding that time his convoy held up my Uber for 5 minutes.

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$10 says he brought golf clubs for the trip

The final big event for the week, and the one that exceeded my expectations the most, has to be the Sunday TRAiLS trip I took to go caving in West Virginia. I’d snagged the last spot in the van when I applied on Tuesday and was hesitant on whether it’d be worth the $45 and the 3-hour drive. It absolutely was.

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Wholesome GW activities

We were told to pack clothes we didn’t mind losing in the mud, but I had no idea the sheer quantities of it we’d be exposed to. It makes sense when you think about it; caves are formed from water flow, but the way the rocks transitioned from damp to slick to grimey to pure mud was a lot more than I was expecting. Thankfully I’d chosen to go with a Walmart flannel and $15 jeans, anything else would’ve been painful to lose. By the time we got out 3 hours later we were all caked in it. The tiny gaps in the rocks you have to get through down there don’t allow for being precious with your clothes. You either slide along your stomach and brace your ass against muddy walls for support, or you don’t get to go deeper. 

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Not the tightest gap we squeezed through, but the best facial expression

Halloweekend

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By angusmack101

Bernie Sanders’ book tour is coming through GW next month, and the news of free tickets brought students out in droves. The box office was set to open at 12:00 on Thursday last week, but when my roommate and I arrived at 10:40 there were already over 100 people there. By noon there were closer to 1000. It’s not hard to see why people are so enthusiastic about it here, my media classes are understandably packed with political discussions and the I’ve met several people involved with explicitly or tangentially political associations.

In my first blog post this semester I said that I was looking for exciting and unique experiences from DC, and after two months I’m confident in saying that GW has delivered. While I still think Hasan Minhaj underperformed as a comedian, I can’t fault his drive to send a message. He filled a basketball arena with close to 1000 students and kept them engaged through what was essentially an hour-long anti-Trump pro-refugee lecture. A free ticket to Bernie was well worth the two hour wait for me, I look forward to writing about it.

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Damn socialists at it again

This week has also been my first real experience of Halloween. Most Americans don’t know this, but Halloween basically doesn’t exist for most of the world. At home in Australia there might be a handful of parties and a few kids trick-or-treating each year, but we’re talking tiny numbers. It’s not a national holiday by any stretch; seeing a carved pumpkin would be a bizarre novelty to most Aussies.

A handful of exchange leaders took charge and organised some stuff at 1959 last weekend. It was my first taste of a Halloween being taken seriously, and I have to say it was a lot of fun. Most of the exchange students there hadn’t ever experienced it before either, so it did take a while for us to work out what the deal was. The smell of freshly-carved pumpkin is a strange thing to the uninitiated.

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Solid first attempt

I’m looking forward to more Halloween fun this week. I’ve still got a bunch of assignments to soldier through, but I’m confident that they won’t stop me getting the cultural experience I came here for. Still have to wait almost a month for Bernie though.