Strengthsfinder 2.0 Review

This is my first ever shutdown week with Amgen, and I’ve got to admit that it’s pretty sweet. Essentially, it’s a forced week long vacation in the middle of the year, and when I get back next week, I won’t have a billion emails to trudge through. However, this week really snuck up on me—I was bad about making plans ahead so just ended up buying some last minute plane tickets to NYC for Independence Day weekend.

I’ve used this extra time to primarily work on myself literally—in a self-portrait and more figuratively though the Strengthsfinder 2.0 book and online test. I am typically a bit skeptical of stuff like this because of the Forer/Barnum effect (vaguely worded predictions so anybody can read anything from it… think: horoscopes & fortune tellers), but I figured it might be an interesting exercise to complete and think about.

Soylent Experiment Day 2

Soylent Day 2

I am a bit surprised at how much skepticism I’ve gotten on facebook about Soylent… Today was my second day eating it, and my first full day consuming nothing but Soylent. I didn’t realize that I was under-eating yesterday until this morning, when I poured my breakfast. There was clearly much more than 1/3 leftover… which definitely helps to explain why I was getting so hungry in between meals yesterday. I was definitely better at partitioning out proper portions. I personally don’t mind the original flavor, but I actually enjoyed the taste after I added chocolate protein powder to the mix.

For those who still remain unconvinced, I have compiled a list of the best uses of Soylent:

Soylent Experiment Day 1

Soylent Day 1

I ordered a month’s supply of Soylent a long time ago, but have always had a lot of food in my fridge which prevented me from really trying to subsist solely on Soylent. For those who don’t know, Soylent is a powder which is meant to provide 100% of daily nutrition. Even though I’m not going to be able to eat only Soylent for this first week because I’ve got dinner plans with friends, I figured it is better to just start doing it.

Gone Girl

Ever since Gone Girl came out, I have heard from a ton of people that it was a great movie. I honestly have always had a soft spot for Ben Affleck’s movies, and usually am a fan of most movies I see, but this film went above and beyond my expectations. I really liked this movie even though it isn’t the type I usually enjoy watching—I’m a big action/comedy/Marvel kind of guy—this was dark and I left the theater feeling physically unsettled. I actually needed to get froyo afterwards to make myself feel better, ‘cause froyo fixes everything. I’m avoiding spoilers in this post, so feel free to read if you haven’t seen the film yet.

The first clue that the movie was going to be great was the fact that the theater was packed on a TUESDAY night two weeks after premiere. I went with a group of 3 other guys, and we were lucky to get seats together. We were also really lucky to have not brought any significant others with us, as this was literally the opposite of a date night movie.

The next set of clues for me, were in the opening credits. Gillian Flynn, the author of the book, also did the screenplay for the movie. I also noticed that Trent Reznor did the sound. Although I’m not really a fan of Nine Inch Nails, I recognize the intelligence and somewhat experimental nature of his music. While I knew beforehand that the Ben Affleck and Neil Patrick Harris were in the movie from the trailers, I was honestly a bit shocked to see Tyler Perry’s name in the opening credits and surprised to see that Reese Witherspoon was a producer. All of the producers did a great job getting the best possible people to adapt the novel and do the music.

I trusted in Batman and Barney to anchor the acting crew, but was wrong. They didn’t need to, as ENTIRE cast did an outstanding job from top to bottom. Rosamund Pike blew my mind. Her on-screen chemistry with Ben Affleck was palpable. I believe Tyler Perry may have saved the movie from being TOO dark and depressing. He provided just the right amount of smart comedic balance to keep the film grounded. In my opinion, this was easily the best acting he’s done to date.

Part of what made me feel so unsettled by the end of the film was how relatable the characters were. They all felt real because all of them had flaws. It is easy to project oneself (and exes) onto the characters at various points in the movie, or at least empathize with them.

The plot itself was a huge mindfuck (excuse my French). Although it was a bit crazy and nearly unbelievable at times, it was self-supporting, felt logical, and flowed really well. Its unpredictability kept me guessing at what was happening next and asking my friends next to me if what I thought I saw had really just happened.

I need to give another shout out to Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for the music. Their selection enhanced everything happening on screen and played a huge role in keeping me just a bit physically off balance. The sounds forced your ears to tell your gut that something just didn’t feel right.

Unfortunately, I can’t comment on the filmography much at all. I just couldn’t pay close attention because my mind was firing in too many directions all at once. If/when I watch the film a second time, I will be sure to concentrate a bit more on the shot selection, framing, color palette, etc. now that my mind won’t be turned to mush as much as before.

I felt that the film actually had some smart commentary and reflection on a huge range of topics pertinent to modern US society. It touched on the media, feminism, psychology, relationships, power dynamics, and abuse, both physical and emotional. It showed how twisted everything could be. Gillian Flynn really captured how relationships can shift over time and how both men and women can feel trapped trying to live up to expectations while everything on the surface looks calm and perfect. She illustrates how biased the media can be and show quickly and arbitrarily public opinion can shift.

This is definitely a movie that can make you stop, reflect, and think, which is really refreshing. This movie did not have a Hollywood feel at all and didn’t really rely on tired old tropes—it was more of an indie film with a big budget. I hope this film continues to do well at the box office so studios will take some more chances and take on edgier projects like this in the future.

Apurimac River Rafting Summary

My 3-day rafting trip to the Apurimac River was an awesome part of my travels, but definitely got off to a rough start. I returned from Machu Picchu to Cusco at about 10pm after leaving at 4pm because the train was delayed due to engine issues. I was feeling pretty sick at this point—I was exhausted from travel, my throat was sore, I was starting to get a fever, so I just wanted to get to sleep. When I found out one of my roommates was an Australian girl who had been bed-ridden from sickness all day, I knew I was in for a long night. I was further vindicated when I went to go take a shower, and there was a schwasted girl sitting down on the ground with her friends all around her trying to get her to drink water. Sigh… oh Loki Hostels. It was like undergrad all over again.

Machu Picchu Recap

I booked my 4-Day Incan Jungle Tour through Loki, who subcontracted to Conde Travel. Overall it was a fantastic experience, although a lot of it can be attributed to the awesome group I was with, and our guide. Although we ended up at Machu Picchu with 16 people, only eight of us completed the four-day trek together, so we had ample opportunity to become like a little family. Half of the group were doing the three-day version of the tour joined in with us at the end of our second day.

Peruvian Preview

Ach! I really wanted today to be a triple posting day to make up for the dearth of posts over the last few days. The three posts I had in mind were: 1) Summary of Belize with Travel Tips, photos, and videos; 2) Recap of Khang and Kathryn’s wedding in Indiana; and 3) The Peruvian Preview and my Packing List (this post). (more…)

The Travels Continue

After getting home at about 2am last night, Sophia and I made a 3 hour drive down to UIUC in the afternoon. I’m crashing w/ our cousins Adam and Abraham, while she is staying w/ some friends from school.

Sophia really wanted to come down to hang out with her friends, and the timing worked out really well because I have Khang and Kathryn’s wedding this weekend. Urbana is pretty much the halfway point between home and New Harmony (where the wedding is), but this way I get to split the 5-6 hour drive across 2 days instead of one. Plus I now I’m not in the car on my own either.

Lazy Sunday

Today is pretty much the definition of a lazy Sunday (photo cred above to Anne). We’re taking a well needed break while on vacation to rest up. We spent the morning and early afternoon just hanging out at the resort while waiting for Anne to arrive—Sophia did reading for her summer classes, while I wrote the bulk of this post (which is why the tense changes below). After Anne got here, she took some time to get settled in before we went out to dinner. Immediately after getting back from eating, we took a water taxi into town and picked up little souvenirs (mostly Sophia) for friends.