Blog, Terroir and Peace

Wine Blog! (The Beginning)

As we dive into this new semester I have had the pleasure of joining a class solely dedicated to wine! Those of you who know me will know that I am a huge wine enthusiast. The first major challenge I have encountered in this class is the creation of a Wine BlogTM for the class. After much consideration I have decided to call my blog Terroir and Peace. I’m just praying to the grapes that this name isn’t taken. Anyway, this will be the spot where I post all of my blogging related, Gen Z enhancing, posting assignments.

Ravenholm

Chapter I: A Letter of Recommendation

The surface of mud puddles rippled softly in the rain, peacefully distorting reflections until broken by the boot of a hurried pedestrian. The hood of his cloak obscured his face as he made his way through the muddy streets. Upon finally arriving at 370 Hind st. he ducked into the stairwell and opened his cloak

to release a ruffled owl onto the floor. The owl quickly shook out her feathers and looked up pleased. “I’m glad at least one of us is dry. Come on, lets get some food” he said, while scooping the owl onto his shoulder. Once inside he hung his cloak near the door and using a small amount of magic made the painting of his parents start to glow. With the room illuminated in the soft magical glow, he set about creating some food. Bread, beans, and a small amount of dried meat for him. For the owl, a mouse. He sat down at his table and produced a small coin pouch, proceeding to count out the days earnings. “Sometimes having slightly glowing eyes sucks, especially when people pick fights with you at bars for it. But it sure feels nice when guards pay for your housing… with a stipend no less. Fifteen silver for today, not bad Kashiel.” His owl stared back at him visibly uplifted. “It’s no fortune, I know, but its food for today and tomorrow at least.” He scooped it back into the pouch and reclined in his chair. “You know, I wish mom and dad could see us now. A boy and his owl, on the front lines in the fight against crime.” Kashiel rubbed her head against his arm, eventually coming to rest on his lap. “Big day huh? Come on, we need some sleep.” He rested the owl on her perch and quickly drifted off. 

    A scream, fire crackling from behind a door, swords clanging. The last words of his father haunting his sleep, “Kosta, Run!”. It hurt as much now as it did the first time he heard it. Lungs full of smoke, a chorus of gruff voices shouting, “Jewelry in the old lady’s room!… Look at these trinkets from the study!.. HEY! The Kid fled to the library! Memories whirling in his conscience at a dizzying speed until finally a memory of the bookshelf leaning forward, entombing him in arcane tomes made his vision go black.

II

Kosta jolted awake, noticing the early morning light filtering through the window and small cracks in the wall. The fluttering of wings at his window was the first indication he had that Kashiel hadn’t been in the room. His owl stood on the ledge of the window, a small scroll grasped in its beak. She eagerly hopped over to his bed depositing the note in his lap.

“Mr. Bromwood,

I would like to start by sincerely thanking you for yesterday’s exploits. Without your arcane vision we never would’ve thought to break open the statue. You are truly an invaluable asset to the force here in Crowly. However, I’m afraid I must make you aware of bad news. With tensions escalating between dwarves and elves, our budget for private consultations has been repurposed for hiring more soldiers. Not one to let a man like you suffer from forces outside your control, I would like you to use this letter to call in a favor from the Mercenaries of Ravenholm. They will be able to provide you with everything you need and help you grow far beyond what Crowley could offer. Come by the station for a parting gift of ten gold when you have the chance.

May Lathander bring you luck,

Captain Reynald”

“Mercenaries of Ravenholm? Kashiel, have you ever heard of them?” Kashiel just stared at him, her head cocked.

    “That’s right, you’re an owl. Well I guess we better go find Captain Reynald to see what this is all about.” 

    Arriving at the guards station, Kosta was met by the sight of a long line stretching out the door. Men of all ages stood in line, boasting of their might to any who would listen. Captain Reynald stood at the front of the line. “Kosta! Finally, I was worried my letter hadn’t made it to you. As I mentioned, here’s a parting gift. The other guards and I chipped in to show our gratitude. It’s not much, but it should make the transition to Fort Ravenholm much easier.” 

    “Your generosity fills me with gratitude, but I must ask, why Fort Ravenholm?” Captain Reynald pointed to a flyer hanging behind him on the notice board.

    “They’re recruiting. Looks like their trying to fill the void left when the elves retreating to Great Oak. Also they owe me a great debt. Since I can’t use it personally I figured I’d help you out. Talk to Dorrin, he usually works the gates. He’ll get you sorted. Anyway, I’ve got a lot of interviewing to get back to. I’ll make sure that your unit is the last one we put someone in, just in case we can get you back soon.” Kosta nodded then walked out past the long line of burly miners and other craftsmen eager to claim an enlistment bonus. 

    A short while later Kosta had finished packing his bag with all the supplies he figured he might need: His spellbook, rations, torches, writing implements, rope, tinderbox, and enough books to keep him busy on his journey. With that sorted, he dropped by the guard station one last time to say his goodbyes and drop of his key. He was out the front gate before noon, down the steep hills Crowly was built on, and on the main road south as the sun was perfectly overhead.

III

Travel on this side of the Lathander River would usually be a pleasant experience. Evergreen trees teemed with birds and mulberries were just beginning to bear fruit between their evergreen neighbors. However with growing tensions the patrols that would usually keep the roads safe were infrequent at best. Kosta spent most of the travel expecting trouble around every corner. Luckily, the road was clear of hazards and progress swift enough to make it to Fort Ravenholm by nightfall. 

Clearing the forest path he was taken aback by the sight that met him. A town of crudely constructed tents stretched around the fort with a crowd gathered at the gate. Nearing the front gates he could catch only snippets from those around him as he approached., “Bandits about…. It’s not our fault the elves and dwarves can’t get along…. Please! We have children!” He wove his way through the frantic crowd, prying his way through until he ran face first into a man in full plate armor. The man looked down at him, “If you’re looking to beg there are far better places.” “I-I’m not looking to beg. I actually looking for a man named Dorrin.” “Aye, that be me. Who’s askin?” “My name is Kosta Bromwood and I’ve been sent by Captain Reynald in Crowly. Here’s a letter that should clear things up.” He handed the letter to the man who slowly scanned the letter. Partially slow to scrutinize detail, partially due to difficulty reading. Finally the mans face relaxed, “Well you’re good then. Can’t say it be easy but that’s yer problem, not mine.” 

    The gates slammed behind him, and the roar of the crowd muffled. A small crowd of people in all sorts of armor with all sorts of weapons stood before him. A man in exquisite armor stood at the front addressing the crowd. 

“… and now that you know why we exist, it’s time for your to know the rules. Breaking these rules will either result in termination of your employment, or the termination of you. So listen closely.”

Clearing his throat he began:

“One, do not betray your battle brothers.”

“Two, fulfill all accepted contracts or forfeit your pay and derank.” 

“Three, do not kill without reason, we are not murderers.”

“Four, do not question the job, you don’t like it don’t accept it.”

“Five” His eyes narrowed and mouth hardened. “Listen good to this one. Do. Not. Harm. Children. Under. Any. Circumstances. Breaking this rule is the fastest way to have the full wrath of the mercenaries brought down upon you.”

“Six, theft is not allowed unless permitted by the contract. Just remember we are not petty thieves, if you are stealing it will be something very valuable. With that out of the way, I will break you into teams. These are you battle brothers, like it or not.” 

The man pulled out a list, “The groups will be assigned in order of skill demonstrated at tryouts. In C Tier…” He called out four names. A half elf woman with daggers at her waist, a goliath with a maul as big as Kosta, a human male in a robe with a beard to his belt, and a dwarf in heavy plate mail step forward. The elf and dwarf eyed each other through frowns as they approached. “I would like to take this moment to remind you of Rule One. Like it, or not.” The four moved aside. 

Teams are assigned in this fashion for the next ten minutes. Skipping letters here and there until five people are left. “And in Z tier: Gaunt,” A human man in green hempen clothes walks forward. Kosta’s arcane vision highlighted the singe marks at the tips of the man’s sleeves. What does he do to char his clothes like that? He thought to himself. “Malukarten,” a Goliath male walks forward, large hammer on his back, and only marginally shorter than the first goliath. Do all goliath’s wield mauls? Kosta’s arcane vision began highlighting tattoos on him that indicate an arcane connection. “Romenor,” A half-elf male strides forward in heavier armor than the last two with a symbol on his shield. Digging through his brain Kosta recalls seeing this symbol attached the the god of war, worshiped in remote regions of Valaeho. “And finally Blood.” Another human male strides forward. The look in his eyes made Kosta uneasy, but he smiled in a disarming way as he walked up. There was only a brief moment that Kosta noticed the man’s incredibly hairy hands before the man at the front addressed him directly. 

“Hey you, white hair. You’re not on the list, approach.” All eyes turned to the

newcomer in the back as he walked up to the box the man stood on. “What’s your story son?”

“Um.. I.. uh.. I’m Kosta Bromwood. I was sent by Captain Reynald in Crowly. He said this letter should clear things up.” Kosta handed a letter to the man who quickly scanned the document.

“Alright Kosta this checks out. My names Ortho. You probably didn’t get my speech with you’re… fashionably late arrival. Hop in with Z team. You’ll be…. Team morale? Yea, that’ll work.” Most of the others laughed under their breath, except the elves and dwarves who were busy whispering amongst themselves. “Alright, now that team are assigned I’ll show you to your bunks.” 

The crowd walked up the fortified hill to a series of small buildings at the top. Each was less luxurious than the last. Teams were sent into their bunks until only Z team remained. “Well Z team, welcome home.” Ortho motioned towards a building with boarded windows and in desperate need of new paint. Opening the door he lead them inside. “Each of you has a personal chest for items you have now or will gain during your employment. The chest and lock are rather weak, so consider upgrading them after you get some coin. Anyway, dinner is in half an hour. Don’t be late.” With that Ortho strode out of the room. 

    A moment of silence passed while all dropped their bags onto their beds. Finally the goliath spoke, “So… Finally mercenaries huh? Feels pretty good after all that happened yesterday.” “Couldn’t agree more! Could’ve dealt with less knowledge tests and debate.” chimed the elf. The other two humans nodded in agreement. After a moment the goliath continued, “By the way, call me Korogath. ‘Malukarten’ just sounds too preppy for me. Also, what’s your story white hair?” The group turned their eyes to Kosta. “Well, I do, or did, freelance detective work in Crowly. Since the funding for such things dried up with war brewing I was sent here. Oh, and you can call me Kosta.” The group responded with greetings, then began to make their way to the dining hall. 

    Dinner at Fort Ravenholm was luxurious compared to what those in Z team had experienced previously. Pigs over fire, barrels of ale, and roasted potatoes in surplus. While not luxurious compared to the finest cuisines that Vallaeho had to offer, it was the best that could be reasonably expected when feeding a crowd of 50 or more warriors. Kosta couldn’t help but notice the frequent sidelong glares the dwarves and elves. He was especially disturbed when those glares were pointed at his new squad mate Romenor. Romenor seemed not to notice or at least didn’t care. 

    After dinner Kosta went out to the practice range to clear his mind. His breath steamed in front of him as he sized up the target. With stone in sling he invoked the name of his patron Skadi and began spinning the sling. Radiant sparks began to fly as his stone burned an O shape in the air. Just as he was about to release a voice called out, “whatcha doin there?” The rock went wide and made a resounding thunk as it contacted the wall behind the target. Standing there was his squadmate Blood, tankard in hand. “I’m just practicing with my sling. What are you doing?” “Oh, I was just out takin’ a nightly stroll when I saw the new guy doin’ somethin’ interestin’ with a sling. How do you make it glow and all?”

Kosta thought for a moment, uncertain of how much he should tell this basically stranger. Finally he relented. “Well, Blood, I’m a chosen of Skadi. As part of the eldritch deal I get access to a some combat magic while using the sling. Basically I can imbue my sling attacks with radiant fire. I try to stay away from combat as a detective, but sometimes lethal force is necessary.” 

Blood drained his tankard then stared down at the target. Finally he stated, “Magic is cool ‘n all, but it don’t compare to good ole’ fashion steel.” He whipped out his bow and fired an arrow that hit center mass on the target. “Can’t do THAT with magic.” He smiled for a second at his handiwork. “Come on, let’s rest. Our first contract starts tomorrow.”  

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Daniel Pearl World Music Day 2019

I really had such a good night at the celebration of Daniel Pearl World Music Day at The Lyric Theater in Blacksburg! But before I begin….

What is Daniel Pearl World Music Day?

DanielPearlMusicDays.org

Daniel Pearl World Music Days was created in response to the 2002 kidnapping and murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl at the hands of extremists in Karachi, Pakistan. Danny’s family and friends came together to work towards a more humane world, forming the Daniel Pearl Foundation. The mission of the Foundation is to promote cross-cultural understanding through journalism, music, and innovative communications.

Danny was a talented musician who joined musical groups in every community in which he lived, leaving behind a long trail of musician-friends spanning the entire world. Commemorating Danny’s October 10th birthday, World Music Days uses the universal language of music to encourage fellowship across cultures and build a platform for “Harmony for Humanity.” The Daniel Pearl Foundation invites you to join us by dedicating your music performance this October as part of the 12th Annual Daniel Pearl World Music Days

The Event

In the town of Blacksburg that I call home the organization Hillel organized a concert to celebrate the day. The headliner was a musician by the name of Sammy Adams, known for his hits “All Night Longer” and “I hate college”. He was opened by a joint act between Jahn Rome and Fabrizio Music, which was one of the best opening acts I’ve ever seen. Their energy and stage control was electric and they made a genius move bringing the crowd to the stage. After their act came the FiveFiftyFive.

Doing a wonderful mix of original songs and a covers they kept the moving the energy higher and higher, eventually bringing back on Jahn and Fabrizio for a cover of “Thanks for the Memories” and “Sugar, we’re going down”.

Finally they reached the climax of their show with a mix of “Havana” (Camila Cabello) and “Seven Nation Army” that had the audience roaring.

Finally the headliner Sammy Adams came on, building the energy song after song. At one point a fan joined him on stage to rap “I hate college”.

His continued on with original after original, even giving the crowd a taste of some of his unreleased music. When the audience was maxed out he unleashed his secret (or not so) weapon, “All Night Longer”. The audience went into a frenzy giving a memorable ending to an unforgettable night.

My Involvement

I was volunteering at the event through my organization and co-sponsor of the event The Low-Techs. I had the privilege of working green room where I got to meet and personally get to know Jahn, Fabrizio, and Kyle, Ryan, Max, Collin of the Five Fifty Five. My other volunteer role was as photographer during the show (if you couldn’t tell from all my photos) and after the show at the meet and greet. Overall I had a wonderful night and got to meet some of the coolest musicians yet! Hope I get to reunite with these guys soon!

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Identity Theft is No Joke, Jim.

How I woke up to my website being hijacked, and tips to make sure it never happens to you.

WOW! It has been one hell of a morning for me. While I woke up early this morning excited for studying I was instead woke up to a cute email from WordPress telling me my verification email had been changed. So naturally I tried to do what I always do if something is up and change my password. Well not only was my verification email changed, but my account email was changed. Oh, and my password was changed. Oh, and my website (joshuaglaab.com) now only featured articles written by one, Aditya Sarkar. Well, that’s interesting. So I spent most of the morning with the fine people at word press and they sorted me right out so that I could get my website back.

How Did This Happen?

I have a few theories about how our good friend Mr. Sarkar got a hold of my information. Consulting with Firefox it appears my data had been breached not once, but FOUR TIMES! All regarding websites I had used in the past. Not a bad culprit, but there could be other possibilities as well. My frequent use of public open wifi left me at a high risk for a long time. All that needed to happen was one enterprising individual to open a wifi sniffer at a starbucks and just wait for me to input an email/password combo.

How Can I Prevent This?

I will describe the steps I now take to protect my information.

  1. Randomly generate strong passwords for all websites
    • This makes it much harder for a person to get into any account, and by randomly generating all passwords, if one gets lost in a breach the others will be safe.
  2. Organize Passwords in a secure location
    • Since the passwords are WAY to big to memorize I have organized all of mine in a secure account, which is also protected by a monster password and two factor authentication.
  3. Two Factor Authentication
    • This might be the most important point on this list. By requiring your phone to log into accounts it makes it impossible for someone to break in without access to your phone. Even if they get the password they wont gain access to your account, giving you time to lock them out again. Almost every website has an option for you to enable this. I personally set up texting and an authentication app for many of my accounts.
  4. Install a VPN
    • This is your armor for sketchy wifi. Even if someone sniffs your data on the public wifi the VPN encrypts everything you send so the would be hacker only gets a string of gibberish.

Anyway

This has been my story of getting my website hijacked. Make sure you take steps to protect yourself on the internet! Its a mad mad mad mad world out there, so do yourself a favor and put up some defenses.

Godspeed

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Don’t block the buses, you’re not that important

Walking around campus yields a menagerie of sights, sounds, and experiences. One of the more mundane experiences for walkers, and more infuriating experiences for anyone in a motor vehicle is pedestrians strolling through a crosswalk. This behavior isn’t bad, in fact its very necessary to allow for a walk-able campus. However the pedestrians often find it easy to ignore people in cars as they are legally required to yield. That combined with the popular mantra of, “Please pay my tuition”. This leads to pattern lack of empathy from those pedestrians. I would like to put forward a few reasons that you should consider taking five seconds to let a bus or car go.

            The first of my reasons deals specifically with buses. On a bus could be anywhere from 10 to 40 people. With each one of them trying to get somewhere. The cost to let a bus go is maybe five seconds for a pedestrian. We will consider the oversimplified scenario where a bus would only be inconvenienced by five seconds if you walked in front of it. This is almost never the case as it will usually take up to a minute for the bus to get another window as other pedestrians follow your example and walk too. In the given scenario a five second delay for a bus becomes a societal delay of 10 x 5 = 50 seconds if the bus only has 10 people in it or 40 x 5 = 200 seconds if the bus is closer to capacity. Your 5 seconds is not worth inconveniencing 200 seconds from society.

            The second of my reasons is the subjective value of time. The average walking speed for a pedestrian is 1.4 meters per second or 3.1 miles per hour. In five seconds a pedestrian can get 5 x 1.4 = 7 meters or 23 feet. Almost the length of a semi-truck or small bus. In five seconds of travel at the campus speed limit (25 mph) a bus can get 132 meters or 436 feet. A single second for a bus is worth 7.8 times what your time is worth in distance terms. Not only are you inconveniencing society in time, but you are physically blocking forward progress.

            This was a bit of a rant but as a pedestrian myself I get frustrated at my fellow Americans lack of empathy and situational awareness. This week, just consider those vehicles waiting at crosswalks. Take five seconds and allow society to progress, don’t be a burden to it.

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Microcosm, Macro Focus

If you spend enough time in a theater you’re bound to hear the word microcosm thrown about. The idea is to pretend what is happening on stage isn’t really on stage, instead its happening in its own separate world that the audience just happens to be watching.  As an actor we would have to suspend our disbelief. The more we could better we could fool ourselves, the more convincing we would look to the audience. For example, its much easier to be an evil king if you’re wearing a crown. It gets even easier when you’re wearing the robes and holding an evil scepter.  The effect just gets magnified as you change how the stage is set, the music, and accents of the other actors. All these factors work together symbiotically to make the audience forget they are in a theater. 

We can apply a lot of these ideas to improve productivity as well. In the same way that it becomes easier to be an evil king with the right environment, so too can we be more productive if we set up our stage correctly. Today we’ll look at 4 Tips to Create Your Own Studying Microcosm. 

1. Clean your desk

Occasionally you will here people talk about productive friction. The idea is everything that you have to do before you can be productive can slow you down much more than you think. For example something as small as bowl of food on your desk that you have to slide around in the course of your work could cause major setbacks. Every time you move the bowl you break your productive flow. This is what we in human factors engineering call an “Interrupting Task”. Even though the task doesn’t take long, your brain requires a fixed period to get back to the mode it was in. The messier your work space, the more frequent your interrupting tasks will be. By cleaning your desk you remove all of the little friction points that could stop you from being productive. Your desk can be digital as well. Take a minute when you can to clean the mess that is your computer desktop. Take all the miscellaneous pictures and shove them in a pictures folder, uninstall that game you haven’t touched since third grade, and consider making a folder the house all the shortcuts you don’t use too often. By removing all the clutter it will take much less time for you to get started on your work and will make it much easier to remain focused.

 

2. Study Music

Perhaps this topic is a little misleading. The important part is having an atmosphere that is right for you. Different people react differently to different genres. In my time I’ve seen people study to all kinds of music such as k-pop, rap, country, heavy metal, and (my favorite) Lo-Fi hip hop. The important part of finding the right music is to find something that doesn’t distract you. If your music is distracting you then it probably needs to be changed. Are you singing along while you work? You may be getting distracted. Low energy ambient music is always a great choice since it frequently lacks words for you to process. If you want to find playlists built for studying Spotify, YouTube, and Apple Music all have playlists built for just that. 

Now it is important to point out that the genre that could maximize your productivity may change based on your mood, the weather, weeks since your last workout, etc. One option that you should always remember is that no music is also an option. Under optimal conditions music can help a lot, but if you need the extra bandwidth then don’t hesitate to hit pause. Your songs will still be there when you’re done.

3. Close your door

Closing the door to your room can be a huge help. A massive source for distraction in college especially is roommates or friends walking in and tempting you away from your productive flow with quite literally anything else. We’ve already discussed how disruptive small interruptions can be, just image how rough it can be when Julia asks you to come watch a movie, or Kevin wants to play the newest video game (as of writing this article its Red Dead Redemption 2). 

In the same way that we close our physical door, you also need to control your cellphone. Turn your ringer/buzzer to silent, and flip your phone screen down. Your messages will still be there when you’re done and you can finish so much faster without a text or notification knocking you off your game every 3-5 minutes. Finish your math then go crazy during your break. Which leads into my next point:

13 Tips for the Best Nap Ever

4. Take a break

“Wait wouldn’t this be the opposite of productivity?! Josh you must be crazy!” You would be justified for thinking this, but studies have shown that our brains can’t stay perfectly focused for an incredibly long time. In economics we discuss the concept of marginal cost/benefit. Not all hours of studying are equal. Your first hour or two will be much more productive than your eight or ninth hour straight. Every additional hour becomes less productive than the previous hours. Schedule a break every so often to give your brain time to rest so you can reset the marginal benefit of your next hour. While only you can pick the best times for breaks, you should be able to get a good chunk of work done between breaks. If your assignments aren’t too long you could slide in a natural 15 minute break between each assignment. 

Remember that focus is a muscle you have to train. At first you may only be able to lift 20 minutes of studying at a time, but as you train your brain you will be able to build up to longer and longer periods of continuous productivity. Don’t get discouraged if you can’t stick your nose in a math book and only come up for air every two hours. Everyone has their own studying pace. Its a marathon not a sprint, don’t burn yourself out. 

Putting it all together

Much like the props and costumes mentioned earlier these four tips won’t force you to be productive, but they make it so much easier. Clean that desk, put on your favorite playlist, lock your phone, and make sure you take breaks when needed. Show your work who’s really the boss.