Category Archives: Culture

Taj India: A Culinary Expedition (Gracie Eddins)

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Walking into a little Indian place hidden away in a strip mall, I was not sure what to expect. Nonetheless, we opened the door which welcomed us with the chime of a small bell. As we chose a table and sat down, I was pleasantly surprised by how nice the table setting was: vibrant yellow napkins and copper dipped silverware. The table cloth was white, and there were copper cups that kept the water so cold that it kind of hurt your teeth when you drank it. Our table setting seemed simple compared to the art and colorful tapestries that hung all over the walls and ceiling.

Almost immediately after sitting down, a woman brought out a large cup of chai that smelled strongly of spices. Very confused, we assumed that this must come with our meal: however, this was not the case. A small, sweet, elderly lady in a pink sweater leaned over and whispered, “Did you order that?” to which I answered no and carried the warm tea cup over to her table. The saucer and tea cup clinked together as I walked and my unsteady hand caused a little to spill over the edge, spoiling the pristine saucer. However, the sweet lady was not bothered by this. She conversed with us a couple more times throughout the meal.

As we sipped on our freezing water, we noticed that there were no menus and the waiter asked us if we were here for the buffet. “Um, I guess so,” we responded. He pointed us to a dimly lit hallway that swirled with the aroma of curries and spices. We ventured into the hallway, grabbed white ceramic plates, and am enthusiastic man in line with us exclaimed,  “Everything is delicious! Try it all!” Though we had not said anything, our faces gave away the fact that we were very new to this, despite our efforts to fit in. We began filling our plates with unfamiliar foods much different than the simple southern cuisine that we were used to. There were about three different curries, multiple rice pilafs, variations of lentil dishes, extremely spicy soups, and little falafel looking foods, which we later deemed “deliciously fancy tatter tots.”

Walking out of the dark hallway we joked that our food changed colors with the change in lighting. Our waitress then blessed us with a basket of freshly baked na’an straight from the oven. This quickly became our favorite part of the meal, and we promptly asked for more.
We were delighted with new tastes from new cultures we had longed to experience, but never had. Our rainy Sunday lunch was filled with lots of laughter, the discussion of old memories, and the admiration of all the different types of people that this little restaurant had brought in. As we guessed the life story of the fancily dressed man eating alone in the corner, I found myself grateful for friends and new cultural experiences in the middle of our oh-so-familiar city.

Maximizing Happiness through Minimalism (Ann Marie Godfrey)

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Perhaps you have seen the popular television show on HGTV “Mighty Tiny Houses” or pictures on social media of stark white rooms with little furniture. Whatever the case may be, we have all seen examples of what the world calls minimalism. Too often people perceive minimalism as some weird hippie movement of which they would never partake. However, a new type of minimalist movement has recently come into light, or perhaps we should say the correct definition of minimalism has finally been found.

Being a minimalist does not mean that you must give away all your belongings, quit your job, and travel in an R.V. for the rest of your life. Nor does it mean you cannot own a book collection or drawers of makeup. A minimalist does what gives him/her happiness while still enjoying a life of simplicity. The concept behind minimalism is that if you own and buy less, you will only have what you need and what makes you happy. To quote Emily Gilmore, “If it brings you joy, you keep it; and if it doesn’t, you throw it out.” While this may seem ruthless and even wasteful, it truly creates simplicity and freedom. We may not realize it, but the mounds of junk that pile up in drawers and closets do weigh on our mind. To own less and to own what you love is freeing mentally as well as physically. Though minimalism may still seem to you an absolutely absurd idea, consider trying it out. Start small. Minimize a closet, a room, or just a drawer. Trust me, it’s addicting.

Uganda’s Water Crisis (Jack Wilson)

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Potholes in the roads and filthy, unfiltered air attacked my senses as I looked out my van window. It was truly hard to juggle the continuous up and down rattling of the van while being bombarded by the unusual smells in the Kampala air. After a grueling twenty-eight hours of travel capped off with a nine hour car ride, I had finally arrived in Bundibugio, Uganda to minister the Gospel and support my missionary friends in their work.

Throughout the week I encountered one particular problem – the price of alcohol. In Uganda alcohol is cheap, and water is pricey and unclean. Since alcohol was in some places cheaper than water, alcoholism is a growing problem. In fact, I went with a friend to talk to a regional authority, who was clearly inebriated, which exposed the problem even more. Alcohol itself is not a bad thing, but the lack of an efficient way to secure water is. Rain filters and somewhat effective piping run in the more populated areas of Uganda. But nine hours away from the capital city Bundibugio, there are very few rain filtering devices and thus a heavy dependence on rivers from the Rwenzori mountains. Since it is easier to ship alcohol and overpriced water through the country, there needs to be a solution to the lack of water engineering ideas in Uganda.

The easiest way to solve Uganda’s dual problem of alcholism and water scarcity is not through eliminating alcohol, but through sending more inventive minds along and hard working hands to produce more helpful devices. There is some wisdom to raising the price of alcohol, but in reality the country needs cleaner water as a whole. (It still amazes me how the people of Bundibugio can stomach the parasitic river water that flows from the mountains).

Recently, I encountered a new program at Mercer University that reaches out to other countries called Mercer on Mission. If Mercer on Mission were to go to Uganda and find a solution to this problem, the nation would see a wonderful increase in public opinion toward the government.

To provide more means for filtering, Mercer on Mission could send students to build clean and efficient rain storages and filtering devices. Such devices gather water effectively and store it through the dry seasons. They are used throughout the nation, not just Bundibugio.

In the end, my personal experience in Uganda creates a longing in me to solve the problems there that could be so easily fixed anywhere else on this earth.

Fixed Point, Fixed Vision (Sara Hinton)

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Not long ago it became official that Robbie Hinton, former head of the Westminster School at Oak Mountain, would be leaving to take a job with an organization called the Fixed Point Foundation. Hinton had spent at least six years with the school, watching it grow, making it grow, and pouring his knowledge into students–whether they wanted it or not. Now that he is leaving, many of us may want to know what this Fixed Point Foundation really is.

The Fixed Point Foundation is an organization dedicated to the spread of the Gospel. Now this is not something unique. Every church should have this purpose, but Fixed Point spreads the Gospel in a unique way. The world believes that Christians should be pacifists, always on the defensive, but Fixed Point is on the march. Actively engaging in the secular community, fixed Point founder Larry Taunton has two books published, and multiple articles published on and other outlets. His most recent book The Faith of Christopher Hitchens is a great example of how Taunton and Fixed Point work.

Christopher Hitchens was one of the worlds most notorious atheists, actively fighting Christianity on many stages around the country; but off those stages he and Larry Taunton, who debated each other multiple times, were really good friends. Toward the end of his life, Hitchens and Taunton took two long road trips together, on which Hitchens, who knew he was about to die, seriously considered multiple religions. The book is about how Taunton and Hitchens became friends despite the great controversy between them. This is the mission of Fixed Point, to go into the secular community and engage it in a loving and life changing way.

The Most Wonderful Three Months of the Year (Ann Marie Godfrey)

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Christmas in the early to mid-1900s looked a lot different than it does now in the twenty-first century. Most households did not put up a tree or decorate the house until a few days or even the day before Christmas. The holiday season has since been extended because of the commercialization of Christmas. Decorations appear on store shelves as early as October, and Christmas music begins playing on the radio around the same time.

For some, this is a major annoyance. These people tend to feel strongly that Christmas music and decorations should not be heard or seen until after Thanksgiving or even later. They think that premature celebration of Christmas causes people to overlook Thanksgiving.

Others, including myself, enjoy the music and all aspects of the season so much that we have no problem starting the festivities a bit early. In fact, once November rolls around, I begin to compile a playlist on Spotify with my favorite artists’ Christmas albums.

While some might think it strange to do such things, I believe that starting the Christmas season a bit earlier allows people to feel a certain joy that can be hard to find as cooler weather and gloomy days become more frequent–unless of course you live in Alabama, in which case the joy would allow you to cope with abnormally warm weather and lack of rain.

I still am able to enjoy the month of November and Thanksgiving with my family even with Christmas decorations up around the house. Though many still may be against the idea, I will always love listening to Christmas music and beginning to decorate in early November.

Battle Royal: A Book Review (Katie Krulak)

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Fourty-two teenagers, lethal weapons, minimal supplies, one survivor. Hunger Games? No, Battle Royale. Before The Hunger Games skyrocketed to its place at the top of the best seller list, Battle Royale was released in 1999 in Japan. Portraying a dystopian Japan under a totalitarian government, author Koushun Takami sets a grim stage for his characters to walk upon.

What makes Battle Royale distinct from The Hunger Games?

Why should we bother reading both when a familiar one with easily pronounceable Western names would suffice?

To start, Battle Royale is a book that is geared towards a far more mature audience. While the plot of the book is generally the same, The Hunger Games’ depiction of the Capitol in all its whimsical corruption and the way friendships are so easily formed among the tributes, brings a certain levity to the story. Not so with its Japanese counterpart. In Battle Royale this is not a game to bring amusement so much as a calculated study. Forcing third year junior high students (eighth graders) to fight to the death is bad enough; bringing in students from the same class adds a new level of drama and tension. Minor characters receive nearly as much time in the spotlight as the central protagonists, allowing readers to grasp the complexity of the students’ relationships, which range from open animosity to romance. And speaking of romance, it played a major role in The Hunger Games, but Battle Royale focuses more on survival in the harshest of situations.

Koushun Takami paints vibrant characters against a gritty backdrop. The cover shuts on the conclusion of a bloody swath of devastation recounted in such a way that the most grotesque death is depicted in a vivid way that can only be described as beautiful. The story comes to life, characters breathe on the drawing readers into their world, a world ruled by fear, instinct, and desperate hope.

The Praise of Children (Jack Wilson)

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Nothing is more satisfying than the praise of children. Maybe it is their sincerity, or maybe it is their ability to exaggerate. Regardless, there is something that separates a child’s compliment from a friend’s compliment. On a personal level, I have learned that I hold a lot of weight with younger children. Every Thursday I help coach roughly forty eight-year-olds and teach them the basics of soccer. Even though I’m not an adult, they think I hung the moon. I’ve developed secret handshakes with each of these kids, all because I can show them a move or teach them where to go. In the end, this raw and unfiltered praise from young children truly means the most. Every time I take the field on Thursday, I always remember the gravity I hold because of my actions.

Tech Review: The iPad Pro (Heath Padgett)

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This December I purchased Apple’s brand new iPad Pro. The iPad Pro was the perfect addition to my Apple suite as it seamlessly communicates with both my iPhone and MacBook Pro. However, a serious question remains: is the iPad Pro a viable replacement for your computer?

The iPad Pro is very similar to the iPad Air except for two main differences: the screen is much larger, and it is compatible with the Apple Pencil. The screen on the iPad Pro spans 12.9 inches, which makes it nearly the size of my MacBook Pro’s 13 inch screen. This allows many of the applications to run more like a computer. For example, Safari can run full size webpages that look just like those in a Mac. There is no more need for the annoying mobile websites that limit the functionality of smaller devices. Also, the larger screen allows for a full size digital keyboard (or Apple’s Smart Keyboard attachment). I have enjoyed the digital keyboard and am able to type effectively on it even though it does not have the physical feel of an actual keyboard. If typing is important for you in purchasing such a device, I would recommend either an attachable keyboard or just going with a MacBook.

The biggest difference between the iPad Pro and a MacBook is the touch screen. The iPad Pro is complemented with the Apple Pencil which allows great creativity. The Apple Pencil is unlike most styli because it works together with the iPad to accurately sense force and tilt. This allows you to draw much more precisely and use many new techniques such as shading and proper calligraphy.

The bottom line is this: if you want a very portable, lightweight device that inspires creativity and allows for general use of typical applications, then the iPad Pro is a wonderful option. Although sometimes a real computer is necessary for more professional applications, I have consistently found myself using my iPad Pro more than my MacBook Pro. Weigh how you want to use your device, and your decision should be obvious.

Movie Review: The Martian (Pierce Moffett)

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The movie The Martian is a thrilling tale of one man’s survival on Mars. In this futuristic movie, mankind has already sent multiple teams of astronauts onto the surface of Mars. But when a powerful storm approaches, a group of astronauts are forced to quickly abandon the planet and accidently leave astronaut Mark Watney behind. Watney, played by actor Matt Damon, is the left to survive on the planet by himself. Will he make it back alive? You’ll have to watch to find out.

The Martian proved to be hit as soon as it came out in theaters, earning a total of about $55 million on opening weekend. And rightly so. The cast performed spectacularly, creating a very suspenseful and entertaining movie. Matt Damon performed exceptionally well, providing audiences with a relatable and surprisingly funny character.

Even though the movie is mainly focused on Matt Damon’s character, this film proves to still be entertaining. But one should note that this movie is rated PG-13. There is one short scene in the movie that can be difficult to watch for people who are not fond of blood, and there is also some adult content, including profanity. However, whether you are a science nerd or a movie connoisseur, this is a great movie, appropriate for anybody over thirteen.

What America Wants in Our Next President (Abigail Mathis)

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This past August I had the opportunity to go to the Alabama RedState event, which is a gathering of many Republican supporters in one of the southern or “red” states. What made this particular event especially exciting, though, was that many of the Republican presidential candidates gave a speech. As I sat through many of the speeches, I felt I learned much about what the people at this event felt were necessary qualities in our next president. Generally, everyone cheered when the candidate spoke on how much of a conservative, pro-life, Christian Republican they were. The cheers were louder when the candidate would claim that they were best equipped to balance the budget of our country. But what I found most effective in a speech was optimism.

When a candidate would stand up on the platform and passionately speak about how America can still be fixed, the crowd would go insane. Once the possibility of greatness was brought up, the effect on the crowd was more than just the regular excitement, the energy became electric. So based on the most applause and cheers from the audience, confidence in America is the most important quality in our future president. But confidence is not just something that conservatives want in the future president, it is something that all Americans crave. Americans need something to hold onto, and the next president should be someone who can invoke confidence into this country.