Summer Reading? People Do That?

I wasn’t a give reader when I was in school. I read more in college than I’ve read during the rest of my life. Seriously.

I can think of one summer reading assignment I completed. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. It was assigned the summer before my freshman year in college. I thought it was a great book, but I’ve not gone back to read any of his other books.

What’s your take on summer reading?

A Letter to 21-year-old me

Four years ago today I walked across the stage in my graduation commencement ceremony. This letter is meant to describe what happens over the four years that follow.

Dear John,

Take in every moment of your graduation day. Every one. It’s something you’ll never forget. The seventh of 8 siblings and the FIRST to graduate from college. I’m still proud of that, though Adrianna quickly became the second. The following events take place over the next four years, which won’t play out how we’d have expected.

2013

You finished school and our plan is to write. And we do. We write an entire book over the coming months. The book may not be comparable to Lee Child or Michael Connelly, but our name is on the cover. Don’t forget the hours we devoted to accomplishing one of our goals.

The book is released in the October following graduation. Again, soak in every moment of this day. It’s unforgettable. You’ll immediately start on book 2, early the following year you’ll abandon it. Nearly 4 years later and that manuscript is no closer to completion. We’ll get back to it. we will.

2014

2014 is rather uneventful until the second half of the year. Then, oh boy does it get juicy. See, during this time we have a friend. She’s someone we met in 2010 just before graduating from high school. Over the course of the four years that followed we realize how utterly fantastic she is. I’m still not sure what it means to love someone, but I know we loved her. And you’ll make the agonizing decision to tell her. It didn’t turn out as we’d have liked. The feeling isn’t mutual. But don’t worry, remember who we’re talking about here. She doesn’t laugh at you. She doesn’t throw it back in your face. She thanks you for thinking so highly of her. Doesn’t mean the feeling you’ll experience doesn’t suck, but it’s something. The worst part of this event is we essentially lose her from our life. Rather than talking regularly about anything, we stop talking altogether. I guess that’s what happens when you confess something like that and it isn’t mutual. Unfortunately, it’s 2017 and we still don’t really talk.

Immediately after that decision you’ll finally apply to your first police departments. You’ll be rejected by both. The beginning of many rejections from departments to come. Keep your head up. We’ll figure it out.

2015

This entire year is rather forgettable. In August you finally quit working at HEB to begin working at Half Price Books. You’ll meet great people and you’ll be paid to be surrounded by books. What could be better, right? Well it turns out it isn’t as great as we’d expect. But that’s not until next year to discuss.

In December you’ll get your fourth tattoo. Still waiting to add to our collection of ink.

2016

The tale of two halves of the same year. In May we’ll go on our first vacation as an adult to Washington, DC! Boy, those four days flew by and before we knew it we’re back at Half Price Books. The trip was nothing short of magical. Cherish the memories from our first vacation. It’ll only grow more distant into the past with each passing day.

In July we quit working at Half Price Books. We refuse to continue working for such a low wage and only 35 hours rather than 40. Our plan: law enforcement. You’ll immediately begin applying to departments all over the state. I don’t have the list in front of me but my memory suggests it’s around 15 departments. You’ll take written tests, you’ll be polygraphed, you’ll participate in multiple review board interviews, and you’ll devote several months to the process. But you’ll fail. Not a single department is willing to give you a chance to become a police officer. Not one. You’ll even cry a bit. It’ll suck. You’ll vow to never go through the process of applying for jobs in criminal justice again. The process is time consuming and we’ve gotten nothing out of it.

Once the law enforcement applications are completed you decide to apply for jobs you feel more qualified for. You’ll submit somewhere in the ballpark of 30-40 applications. Different companies. Different positions. And you. Some will never call. Some will invite you for an interview. Then there’s Travelers. They call. They invite you for testing. They invite you for an interview. But after all of that you have three more weeks to learn of the hiring decision. We’re up to five months without full time employment. Can we afford to wait?

2017

We turn a corner as the calendar turns a new page. We decline two job offers that would have given us more pay and hours. We do so because we’re waiting on Travelers. That opportunity is too important just to pass up before a final decision is made. The second week of January we get the offer. Travelers wants to give us an opportunity. We accept immediately and even cry a bit. It was the longest seven months of our life. But we finally had what we wanted.

Just two months after starting the new job we’ll go on vacation to Boston for eight days. It’ll be absolutely incredible. Now we’re setting ourselves up to visit many new places in the years to come.

Look, the next four years aren’t going to play out like we’d have hoped. They will be rough. You’ll be deflated and nervous. But you’ll always remain confident in yourself. You’ll never back down from what you believe in. You’ll stay true to yourself even in times of great uncertainty.

I’m proud of our growth we’ve experienced over the last four years. And looking forward to what’s to come for us in the future.

Sincerely,

The only person who knows exactly what it’s like to be you,

John Guillen

College Kids, Look!

College textbooks are way overpriced. There’s no getting around that. Every person who has ever been inside a college classroom knows this.

But there’s a new app aiming to help. Book Cycle is essentially a marketplace for college textbooks much like eBay or Criagslist. You can find the books you need locally, and there’s a feature that tells you if you’re getting a good deal is not.

I have no idea how much the app actually helps, but anything that aims to lower the costs of college is good in my book.

Don’t Call it a Bookstore

Have you ever walked into a bookstore, saw something, and thought, “They sell THAT here?”.I have, though after actually working in one for a year I’m not as impressed with these types of things. But now Barnes and Noble is really trying to change the game.

I’m sure during your college days either recently or long ago you at some point found your way into your university bookstore. I did, though I only bought my books from mine my first semester and then turned to rentals (which you should too!). The bookstore at my school mostly reminded me of CVS. Lots of snacks. Notebooks. School supplies. University apparel. Just basic stuff. And then overpriced textbooks.

But the company behind most college bookstores is adding a new twist. Makeup. LOTS of makeup. I mean, I’ve walked into a Sephora once. It was madness. Imagine a mini Sephora type section of your college bookstore. Imagine all the teens and twenty-somethings in there. To me beauty is what you want it to be. If it’s wearing makeup, then great. If it’s not, then great. But I just read a little bit about sales numbers for makeup in the last year. Yikes. That’s a lot of money. Can’t blame BN for trying to stay relevant on college campuses.

Next up we’ll offer haircuts right next to the fruit snacks 

Makeup in college bookstores? What do you think? 

Three Years ago Today…

Three years ago today I graduated from the University of Houston Downtown with honors. I immediately started writing my first book. I self-published it in October of that year. I’ve read a lot less in recent years than years prior. And I’ve yet to decide on a career path.

I just spoke with an old friend of mine today who is now working as a nurse in a hospital making a good salary. And I know of others who had jobs before even finishing school. And I’m just here.

My current job search is the most advanced it’s ever been. I’m applying for jobs almost daily. And they’re wide-ranging.

BUT three years have passed since one of the great days of my life. And I’m still proud to have experienced it. I’ll have to figure out the job thing soon. But I still have a full-time job. So I’m okay.

New Turnitin Feature to Help Students Improve Writing

I imagine most of you are familiar with Turnitin. I know I am. Most of my professors required students to submit papers via Turnitin before handing it in in class. The service is used to see if papers are original or plagiarized.

Now they’ve added Revision Assistant. It gives students feedback on several different aspects of their papers and encourages multiple revisions. I remember most professors didn’t even allow students to see their own originality report, so this is a great step forward. But I’m not sure how it’ll work. I mean, it’s obviously automated in some way, which does make me a bit nervous about it. But even automated feedback (if it’s done properly) is better than no feedback. So long as everyone isn’t getting the same feedback on every paper.

Have you used Turnitin in the past? Do you think this new tool will help students improve their writing?

Read Before You Speak

I read a few articles written this week about some students in North Carolina protesting the books assigned for their college classes. But the funny thing is they had no idea what they were talking about. Students at the University of North Carolina and Duke University refused to read books assigned to their classes for different reasons.

I’ll just tell you the books in question. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, In the Shadow of no Towers by Art Spiegelman, and The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid.

The first was refused on moral grounds, the others were refused because the students claimed they were “sympathetic towards terrorism”. Now I haven’t read any of the books, but I have read articles from others who definitely have and it would appear the students have it all wrong.

Now you get my take. I have a real issue with what the students have done here. I’m not saying that they shouldn’t object to what’s being assigned, but I do think they should educate themselves (read the work) before making a huge deal about something. How can you criticize something that you’re not even informed about? Like all the people who criticize writers in general, but who have never read any of their work. I’ll say I won’t read this series or that one and maybe I’ll even joke around about the quality of the writing based on what many others have said, but you’ll never hear me reject a book or an author AND reject it on behalf of others if I’ve never read it.

Because I really feel like that’s what happened here. These students wanted to change the books assigned for everyone, even for people who had no objection at all. And that’s why they look stupid now.

What do you think? Are these college kids in the wrong? Or should they be able to object to assigned readings for any reason whatsoever, even if the reason has no real basis?


On this day in 2014 I published Let the Downward Spiral Known as my Blog Continue.