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About the UNT MA IXD Program

Learn more about my Master’s Program!

For those looking to develop their career and design leadership capacity, The University of North Texas’ MA in Design with a concentration in Interaction Design (IxD) can be the launch pad. The degree is designed to help individuals and organizations gain the skills, methods, and experiences needed to define meaningful, effective and successful human-centered products, services, and systems.

Learn More at: https://unt-ixd.com/learn/

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6 Life Lessons from Jordan Peterson

Life isn’t that complicated! It’s simple, become a better person and you can be good for things and solve problems. It’s psychologically meaningful and practical to pursue the highest of goals and the development of character to make the material world less terrible.

  1. Happiness should not be your life goal!
  2. There is plenty of suffering in this world, so be grateful for happiness. If something surprising happens that makes you happy enjoy it.
  3. You should be pursuing who you could be in this world!
  4. Life is short and troublesome so make sure to do the most worth whole thing. Work on your character and fix your bad characteristics.
  5. Be someone who can be relied upon in a crisis.
  6. Listen to your conscience and do the right thing! It is a discipline to listen to your internal self. Those who can listen to their conscience can avoid malevolence.
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Successful Social Media Takes More Time and Knowledge Than You Think

True social media marketing success should always be measurable and properly planned. Solely measuring the number of posts, likes, or followers your company page has is a waste of time and does nothing. These are great tactics but always ask yourself how can social media be utilized to achieve organizational goals, budget, and mission successfully?

By now this is obvious your probably thinking duh its 2017! But this simple question will help you continually implement proper social media tactics and goals.

Step one: Ask yourself these questions: What do you want to achieve out of this? What are your goals? Are there more than one? Why do you want to promote your organization on social media? What can I achieve out of this? How do I achieve this successfully? Is the ROI worth it?

Step two: Once you understand your goals, needs and budget find out how much it will cost to implement this. How much time it takes an employee to be successful at this? How much experience does your employee need to be successful at this? Knowing these two things can help you reach your goals effectively and efficiently without wasting employee time and marketing expenses.

Step three: Even if you are not social-savvy you should take the time to understand the essential elements of successful social media content, the skills needed to generate that content, the skills needed to measure that content, the time it takes per post, per ad, per campaign, per employee, and as a team.

So you’ve created a social media postion for your company. How should they spend their time? What should they be doing? What should they be producing?

What your social media coordinator and team should be doing to produce effective successful content: 

    • General content planning  (create campaigns that have specific goals, CTA, timeline, theme, budget, landing page, tactics, engagement, and system set in place to measure that goal
  • Creative content curation is Key 

Stay Tuned for more!

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My new love for Ted Talks Podcasts on Spotify

Recently, I finally started listening to podcasts regularly. This has been something I have been wanting to do for years now, for personal and self development reasons.

However, I would listen to a podcast one day and never do it again. I just never found the want or interest to do so. Then Spotify, my favorite app of all time, started streaming podcasts.

One night, I decided to see what they had to offer, and I have been hooked on the Ted Talks Daily and Ted Radio Hour! Here are my favorite 3 podcasts from this week.

If you have any podcasts to recommend please share!

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A little Self Reflection

After interviewing for a Digital Media Coordinator position today, I decided to reflect on the skills I have gained over the years. My experience at HSNT, as the Communication and Fundraising Coordinator, in 2016, was a great learning opportunity that has instilled the initiative driven and problem-solving mindset, I now have today.

I find it important to note that, I was required to wear multiple hats and work on various projects efficiently to meet deadlines. I was in charge of creative content curation among various digital platforms, which consumed the majority of my time. In addition, I was required to report the digital fundraising campaign results from our website, social platforms, direct mail, and weekly email newsletters to the Board Members each month in our monthly communication Budget report. This role challenged me to create impactful, meaningful messages to drive change that could be supported by data to define results and measure success. 

I compiled data from google analytics, WordPress insights, Mail chimp analytics, Facebook ads manager and Facebook insights to satisfy HSNT Board Members. Donations were tracked via Abilia fundraising software and social campaign success, in regards to giving, was measured by tracking link clicks through Abilia. 

I implemented a similar strategy during my time at Howell, Instruments, Inc, as the Marketing Assitant, which persuaded the Marketing Director to give me a monthly budget to run paid social ads on our Facebook page for the first time. She supported my interest in developing my social media skills and entrusted my social media marketing creativity. Thus inspiring me to strengthen my digital communication and design skills in the MA User Experience and Interaction design program, I attend today. 

I use both my left and right brain when working on projects. I am creative, think visually, and love design, analytical, and strategic. I understand that measurable data is essential to support design decisions and marketing campaigns. I was able to strengthen my analytical communication abilities in the data visualization and design class, I took last semester. The course taught me the importance of visually compelling quantitative information and how to turn qualitative information into quantitative and measurable visual presentations to support research campaigns, persuade audiences, influence users, and educate the masses.

I am a creative communications professional driven by meaningful messages. Working in an evolving creative agency would provide me with the company culture and mission in which I thrive.

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In Russia with love

Published by Fort Worth Weekly

My favorite thing about growing up and living in Fort Worth is seeing smiling faces every day. We’re a friendly town. Travel + Leisure says we’re the seventh friendliest in the country. On the personal friendly scale, I tip decidedly toward the bubbly type. I talk to anybody and everybody. So my nerves flared after learning I would be visiting Travel + Leisure’s least friendly city in the world.

Along with several fellow Texas Wesleyan University classmates, I recently embarked on a 10-day study tour that included a long stay in Moscow, Russia. I didn’t know how well my usually charming spunk would play in the land of vodka and scowls. During the first few days, I noticed mostly stern and serious looks. I felt like I was playing poker every time I made eye contact with someone. The natives walked quickly on rainy sidewalks and into cold underground tunnels like robots, where they stood around staring at cell phones or at each other in near silence.

I glimpsed only a few seemingly happy Russians at first. One afternoon, I somehow managed to get an older lady to smile back at me as she passed by, but then she was gone. I soon learned that Russians are taught early in life to not randomly smile in public. It shows foolishness. Allegedly. I started questioning my own affinity for smiling. Maybe I’ve been looking like a clueless idiot all my life. But I returned to my normal buoyant self after running into a Russian man who pointed to the Texas pin attached to his shirt. In broken English but with a smile he said he wanted to visit Texas one day despite the extremely hot climate. As I grew more confident in speaking to people, I learned that most Russians equate Texas with heat. One girl asked why my skin was so white since Texans lived next door to Mexico.

Turns out, Russians are much happier than they look. They smile all the time, just on the inside. One day, in search of a nearby bike rental shop, a few of my classmates and I found ourselves lost, as usual, amid the zombies in their concrete jungle. We asked for directions from a sporty couple dressed in North Face attire, walking their bikes down the sidewalk. To my surprise, they whipped out their phones without hesitation to help us find a bike shop within a 20-minute walk. My group of “Yanks” had no clue how to get there, though –– the instructions were in Russian. Our bewildered faces prompted the couple to help us one more time. They escorted us to the rental shop, which was in the opposite direction they were heading. Then they haggled for us in Russian to get the best deal on one-day bike rentals.

And this wasn’t the only time Russians went out of their way to help me navigate their city. I appreciated them whether they were smiling or not. I later met a group of people my age (early 20s) celebrating a birthday at a local coffee shop. After a long night of sipping lattes, sharing stories and laughs, and eating delicious sweet treats, the young Russians invited me back to their apartment. I hesitated until Katya, one of my new Russian friends, reassured me.

“Brianna,” she said, “I will make sure you are safe. If at any moment you feel uncomfortable, I will call you a cab home. It will be fun, and I will be by your side the whole time.”

As we made our way to the apartment, Katya filled me in on the group’s latest gossip and the dynamic of their friendships. We talked as if we were longtime friends. Once inside, I was greeted by an overly happy older couple who roomed with them. The woman grabbed eggs from the fridge and started making breakfast even though it was 3 a.m. They informed her no one was hungry, but she insisted we eat. Katya pulled me aside and said, “It is Russian tradition to feed your guests. Even if you’re not hungry, just eat and say thank you.” I laughed and started eating the meaty omelet by myself. It was delicious, and I actually was hungry. Katya came up to me again and said, “My grandmother does this to me every time I come see her. It’s so annoying. Older Russians feel like they have to feed you when you come over.” I thought to myself how familiar this was. I felt right at home.

Something else was familiar. The music pouring into the kitchen while I was eating was The Beach Boys. The old couple smiled as they grabbed my hands and pulled me up to dance. I felt like I was in a movie. We danced together in a circle until Katya pulled me away to join the younger group in another room. She explained to me what was happening.

“They are so excited to meet you, Brianna,” she said. “They didn’t know what kind of music you liked. They wanted to play something you would like.”

It wasn’t long until the couple found another way to show their hospitality, bringing me a shot of vodka and a little sandwich. The shot was strong, and the sandwich tasted like bologna topped with a weird mustard sauce. The gifts kept coming. The woman dumped out a bag of strange assorted pins. Some pins had funky cartoon characters on them. Others represented Russian historical periods. The pins were from the woman’s cherished collection, according to Katya’s translation. “She has been collecting these since she was 8 years old, and she is now 52,” Katya said. “She wants you to pick out whichever ones you want.”

I picked out a few in fear of being rude and began giving my thanks. However, she was not satisfied and filled my hands full of these Russian novelties. The couple reminded me of my parents when my friends used to come over. I found the same hospitality dear to my Texas heart in Russia. Newsflash: The Travel + Leisure survey that ranked Moscow the rudest cities in the world is wrong.

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Queen of the Table

By Brianna Kessler published by Fort Worth Weekly

Megan Morris

Megan Morris stands at the end of a long white table. Her opponent faces her at the other end. Eight feet separate these modern gladiators.Money, reputation, pride, and opportunity are on the line. Morris tunes out every distraction and lines up her next shot.

Inside this bustling suburban sports bar in south Arlington, a DJ spins rap, techno, alt-rock, and other music at brain-shaking volume. Wannabe Guidos bang their fists on a punching bag video game nearby. Bar games are everywhere, with their bright, flashing lights and curious bells, rings, and whistles. Girls twerk on the dance floor a few feet away, shaking their butts as if they were buffing an imaginary Buick with their backsides.

Pool sharks sink bank shots, card sharps shuffle cards at poker tables, and dart throwers let ’em fly toward the bull’s-eyes.

The noisy background might be enough to sidetrack even the most focused air-traffic controller. Not Morris. She is in the zone. She’s in training. She is figuring out the best way to bounce a pingpong ball with precision into a 16-ounce cup full of water.

A pastime once confined to frat houses, dorm rooms, and your parents’ basement is now almost as mainstream as Monopoly. Beer pong is being played all over the world in official tournaments with sanctioned hosts offering ever-growing payouts. Beer pong might never rival the NFL for TV ratings, but plenty of pongers think their tournaments could make for thrilling television –– at least as thrilling as bowling, poker, or golf.

Morris is practicing for the Texas Beer Pong Tour’s 2nd annual 3v3 (or three-on-three) championship Friday and Saturday in Austin, where 40 teams from all over Texas and Louisiana will gather to pong with the best of the best to win a place in the World Series of Beer Pong XI in Las Vegas in July, a four-night stay at The Westgate, and $300 in cash.

Past World Series events have attracted more than 1,000 pongers from all over the country and even around the world, offering the largest payout in beer pong history –– $65,000.

Previous World Series winners Kevin Kessler, who works in corporate finance, and Rob Dix, a golf professional, continue to compete in national beer pong games, even though they have full-time careers.

“It’s not just a dumb college drinking game,” Morris said. “It is a real sport that takes time and practice just like every other sport.”

It also requires something of a hollow leg. Contestants play with glasses of water in tournaments, but most players have a personal beverage in hand or nearby. No matter whether a pong ball hits its mark or not, beer will often be consumed shortly after. Lightweights have no long game.

******

Success at the pong table doesn’t require biceps or brawn, just a little hand-eye coordination. As easily as NBA superstar Lebron James can be the king of his sport, Morris –– a 5-foot-tall twentysomething waitress and preschool teacher who weighs no more than 100 pounds –– can be beer-pong champ.

Morris’ brother introduced her to the sport last summer. Before that, she had played only at house parties in high school. Now, she can’t wait to get off work every other Friday night and head to a pong tournament.

On a recent Friday night, she left her restaurant in West Fort Worth off Camp Bowie Boulevard at about 10:30 p.m. and changed into her pong attire of Vans, jeans, and a T-shirt in her car. Then she raced the half-hour drive east on I-30 to the weekly tournament at the The House Sports Bar & Grill in Arlington.

Weaving in and out of traffic, she was so pumped to pong that she had forgotten all about those long daily commutes to Jacksboro to help her dad with his construction business three days a week. She had forgotten about making all those lesson plans and wiping runny noses at the learning center. She had even forgotten about her aching feet from serving steaks and lobsters all evening on weekends. Pong provides a stabilizing balance in her life.

Some people don’t take the game as seriously as Morris and other players. She’s there to have fun, sure. But she wants to take home the gold.

“I practice every day or at least as much as I can,” she said. “Yes, I play for fun, but I want to be good, too,” she said.

Pong, like any hobby, can become addicting.

“I am a very competitive person,” she said. “I like the rush it gives me. I want to win. Plus, there is money at stake.”

Many women players, she said, are more focused on having fun, catching a buzz, and maybe meeting someone special.

“I have had some partners just throw the game because they got too drunk or they just did not care,” she said.

Her first pong partners were her older brother Wayne and various pals from Jacksboro. Wayne bought her a pong table for Christmas a couple of years ago and told her to start practicing. Morris’ first official tournament was in San Antonio with a 6v6 team.

“It is so different playing in an official beer pong tournament than at a house party or at some bar,” she said. “The rules are crazy extreme. I have seen the referee pull out the rule book in the middle of the game.”

Her primary partner these days is Kevin Kerry, her boyfriend and pong mentor. They met at a Texas Beer Pong Tour 6v6 tournament in Austin last July.

Back at the The House bar, Kerry shouted encouragement to Morris, whose palms were sweaty. Her heart was beating fast as she set down her cold can of Bud Light on the dirty bar table behind her to shake hands with her opponents. Competitors shake hands before and after every match.

Kerry, a 30-year-old oil field and construction worker, started playing at house parties for fun 12 years ago. He moved up to the big leagues five years ago.

“There is a lot of money in beer pong,” he said. “I have played at so many bars around the DFW area over the years and have won so much money.”

He estimates his winnings at around $10,000.

Kerry never reached the ultimate prize –– World Series champion –– and probably never will since he’s considering putting away his pong balls to focus more on work and his son from an earlier relationship. Morris, though, still has the eye of the tiger.

“She has a lot to learn,” Kerry said, “but she has become really good really fast. She is better than a lot of the girls, and I think she can win a bid to the World Series.”

Beer pong dates back to the 1950s or so, depending on which historian you want to believe. Beer pong chroniclers are rather scarce, however, so many tend to lean on the mother lode of important minutia –– Wikipedia. Dartmouth College alumni claim to have invented the game but with paddles. Students at Bucknell University argue that they invented the game. Bucknell bills itself as a private liberal arts college, which sounds like the perfect breeding ground for athletic alcoholism.

Either way, some college kids with way too much time (and beer) on their hands invented a game that is still being played. Heck, it’s even taking over Las Vegas. In 2013, former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman declared beer pong Sin City’s official sport.

The internationally recognized governing body of beer pong is BPONG, the standard bearer for both world-class organized competition and the manufacture of high-quality tables and equipment. College athlete-turned-engineer-and-lawyer Billy Gaines founded BPONG in 2001. The motto he still uses on his Twitter page: “Ripping beer pong out of college basements and taking it mainstream.”

Gaines claims to have hosted the first complete online source for the pong population, as well as creating the country’s top tournament, the World Series. The game was and still is rooted in the consumption of booze in a festive atmosphere. The difference is that now you can play in public relying on established rules and standardized cups, balls, and tables.

Almost everyone under the age of 50 has played a game of beer pong. Although some seem to stress the rules of the game, it’s not that complicated. You literally throw a ball into an opponent’s water-filled cup.

Pong is hardly a politically correct sport. Binge drinking among young people has been a growing problem for years. A multinational group whose members advise governments on economic growth released a study last year that shows binge drinking is increasing among young people. The 34-nation Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development characterized youthful binge drinking as a “major public health and social concern.” Earlier this month, 18-year-old Canadian resident Brady Grattan died of alcohol poisoning after playing beer pong using hard liquor.

TABC regulations discourage drinking alcohol out of the cups in official tournaments or at bars hosting games.

******

Official games include 10 cups filled with water, one 8-foot table, four pingpong balls, a referee, and a 20-page World Series of Beer Pong rulebook. Organizations and organizers around the nation must register with BPONG to host official World Series of Beer Pong tournaments, which must include a satellite game. A satellite game allows players to win entry fees to the World Series in Las Vegas and follows the nationally set rules and regulations of BPONG.

Pretty much anyone can become an organizer, but it does take some time to get a following of players to come to your events. Organizers must know the rules and know how to host a good event.

Morris and Kerry often participate in official tournaments to try to get their hands on free tickets to the World Series and win some big money. They frequently travel to tournaments hosted by Rob Bailey, the organizer of the North Texas Beer Pong Tour, because they know the games are legitimate and fun.

Official World Series of Beer Pong tournaments are generally one-day events that last about five to 10 minutes per game, depending on if you win or lose.

Players play in a series of about 15 games if they make it to the end.

The game allows for double elimination, meaning you can lose only twice in the tournament.

Pong gear includes two 40 millimeter 3-Star Tournament Grade BPONG Balls in addition to the cups.

Bailey has played in the World Series all 11 years. The thirtysomething LasVegas native turned Texan has been organizing weekly tournaments in Austin for the past nine years using primarily social media. He knows the sport well and believes Morris would make a great competitor at this year’s World Series.

“I think [Morris] has a great chance at winning,” he said. “Plus, I would love to see someone from Texas win.”

Bailey said he wants to spread the game across Texas and share the positive side of beer pong because he believes it is an excellent social sport, which is great for meeting new people.

There are very few tournaments in North Texas because of many reported swindles and frauds. Local players often travel to Austin, San Antonio, and Oklahoma to play. Bailey is in the process of expanding the tournaments into North Texas. He thinks if he can show that beer pong is a real sport and not just an excuse to binge drink then he can break the stereotype.

“One thing that I can not stress enough is that there is a big misconception about beer pong,” he said. “Too many people do not look at it as a sport. Too many people see it as just a college drinking game.”

All kinds of people from various occupations, ages, and backgrounds play in Bailey’s events, he said. There are some notable people in the beer pong world who are not just drunken frat boys and young girls looking to get wasted. Players involved in the North Texas Beer Tour include pharmacists and high-level executives from big companies like Apple.

Kevin Kessler, a 35-year-old executive from Philadelphia, has been ranked as high as fifth in the nation by BPONG and has won the World Series before. Kessler is not your typical player. He is something of a celebrity, a well-known ponger in the community, although he laughed when asked about his celebrity-like status. Kessler, who is married with a child, has been playing professionally since 2006 and has no plans of stopping anytime soon, he said.

“It is a lot of fun and a great conversation starter,” Kessler said. “A lot of people do not even know about this. But there are not enough people for it to become any bigger than it is and there is just no audience for it.”

Kessler said it is hard to promote the sport due to its negative image. (Don’t count on MADD as a sponsor.)

Morris, though, is a believer. She doesn’t care that some acquaintances tend to judge her for making a sport out of beer pong or that great pongers get no mainstream recognition. Morris has not felt this passionate, this engaged, and this pumped full of adrenaline since playing setter for the varsity volleyball team at Jacksboro High School more than six years ago.

As she stands at the table, Morris notices her partner standing in her peripheral so she makes sure to get her out of the way with a friendly nudge. As she raises her arm up high and looks her male opponent straight in the eyes, she carefully lofts the ball into the middle cup. The young guy across the table from her grumbles while he plucks her ball out of the cup. He then shoots and misses.

Morris cannot help but smile and laugh as she chases his missed ball across the bar. She knows he thought this would be an easy game and maybe even an easy score in the bedroom later because she is just another drunk girl playing beer pong in a bar. But little did he know she is one of the serious players.

Kerry gives Morris a high-five and reminds her to keep her head in the game as she approaches the table.

“Good job,” Kerry says. “Keep it up. Just two more games, and you’ll win that 150 dollars tonight.”

She smirks at her two male opponents as one of them pulls the second-to-last cup off the table. Her partner focuses as she shoots, but then she misses, causing her team to lose.

Morris and Kerry have won thousands of dollars, received free bar tabs at various bars, and have traveled to Oklahoma, Austin, San Antonio, Miami, and other places playing beer pong. The trips are generally inexpensive for Morris and Kerry because they usually win big money during the tournaments. They usually end up paying only for transportation. Not too shabby.

******

The House Bar is just a place to have fun, practice, and win some extra cash, Morris said. The real games are usually out of town, like the one this weekend in Austin, where Morris plans to meet up with Rob Dix, who placed 17th in the nation at last year’s World Series.

Morris wants to partner up with him in hopes of a better shot at winning the championship division in Austin. She said partners change often, and for women there is a better chance of winning if you have a guy partner. She said that guys are typically the ones who win the big events.

“I switch partners often,” she said. “If someone better comes along and asks me, then I’ll switch. It is no big deal. That’s how everyone does it.”

Morris and Dix have been friends for years. They met through Wayne Morris, her brother, when she first started playing professionally.

“She and her brother are great people and good players,” Dix said. “I enjoy playing with them.”

Morris said she loves that Dix has become a part of her beer pong family and that he is a great player with a completely new perspective on life and the game. She said she has learned a lot about the sport from him.

Dix, who used to play for a living, does not like the whole idea of people referring to him as a beer pong player because of the so-called misconception.

“As soon as you tell someone you are going to play beer pong, they think you are going to go get trashed in a basement, which is untrue,” he said. “It’s crazy that beer pong is not televised like pool and other sports. It amazes me how many people do not know about the World Series. There are no big tournaments in the DFW area. It’s one of the only metropolises without one.”

Dix has already won a few bids to Vegas for this year’s series but plans to compete for more because it is so profitable.

“I can sell the bids to other people or give them to my friends,” he said. “Both ways, it is a win. And I get to practice some more and have fun.”

Beer pong allows players the opportunity to travel, have fun, meet new people, make money, and find something they’re good at. Anything that involves drinking can lead to petty behavior and arguments. Some players tend to care only about winning. They can be disrespectful at times.

“I see this more when I travel to the East coast,” Dix said.

Beer pong players in the South, he continued, “are extremely different” and more chill.

The newfound sport of beer pong is attracting attention all around the globe. Along with the United States, Germany and Canada also have world series. Morris is just one of thousands of players on a journey to the American World Series and could not care less what others think about her for it.

“I am in it for the money, but I am also here to have fun and spend time with my friends and family, and that is all that matters to me,” she said. “I hope to win big in Austin this weekend so I can experience the World Series this summer. I really want to go, and I am going to keep playing in the North Texas Beer Pong Tour tournaments until I win.”

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Stoney LaRue new album Us Time

album cover

Stoney LaRue, a country singer-songwriter and native Texan, who has sold more than half a million albums and performed at the Grand Ole Opry last year, is a huge name in the country red dirt musical community and will be making many live appearances in Texas this year while touring the new album.

The new album, which released on Oct 16, is a dedication to his loyal fans and the connection they have made over his 18 years of touring.

“Many of my fans throughout the years have been asking me to record these songs at concerts in-between songs and via social media, and here we are US time. LaRue said. “The new album takes you through the beginning of my career and my first album to now.”

LaRue, who is popular for playing in college towns and small town bars, like Turkey Creek, in Texas and Oklahoma, is a huge draw in the college arena. Stoney 3

“I like to connect with people at any age, whatever it might be sonically or to the depth of what they are willing to think. I like to think, and I like people to think and that often generates a connection that can be nurtured,” said LaRue.

Larue got his big break at a bar one night when he was a student at Oklahoma State University in Still Water Oklahoma.

“It was my 21st birthday,” LaRue said. “And Cody Canada was on stage with Jason Bowen at the Wormy Dog saloon and they asked me if I wanted to start playing music. And that’s how it started.”

LaRue performed what he calls his, “fans favorite live songs” from his new album Us Time on Oct. 28, at Turkey Creek Bar and Grill in Alvarado, hosted by 95.9 The Ranch and 93.3 Hank FM.

The concert was no doubt a red dirt performance, the stage was set up outside the bar located in the middle of nowhere and people brought their own lawn chairs and blankets.

The grassy parking lot, which was actually a field, was full of pickup trucks and cars, it looked as if the whole town had shown up for the once in a lifetime performance.

He opened with his new song, Us Time, which made the crowd go crazy. He made sure not to let his fans down and played every song on the album during his 2-hour performance.

LaRue, took the crowed through time by playing some of his most popular songs such as, Feet don’t touch the ground, Box #10 and Train to Birmingham, from his older albums.

LaRue said he gets his musical inspiration from everybody and everything around him when he is in the creative process.

“Music is the life of the universe and I love bring a catalyst of that,” he said. “It’s something that grabs a hold of you and moves you.”

LaRue performed Van Morrison’s Into the Mystic, Gary Stewart’s Empty Glass and Wichita Lineman and put his own personal spin on it.

“These our timeless songs,” LaRue said. “And for me being a catalysis it’s an honor. It is personal. I like these songs because they really strike a chord with me and I really enjoy songs like that. Songs that maybe not everyone covers or does. I like to take good songs like that and do tasteful covers.”

Toward the end of the show, LaRue played his most popular song from one of his first albums, Oklahoma Breakdown, the familiar tune got the crowed screaming and dancing.

“I started playing most of the songs on the album at the beginning of my career 18 years ago,” he said.”

Several happy fans lined up near the tour bus to say hi to the artist after the show.

LaRue seemed to take pride in meeting his fans, taking photos and signing memorabilia at the merchandise table.

“This album is a tribute to my fans and I hope it gives them exactly what they are looking for,” he said. “We have developed a strong relationship and I appreciate all of them.”

LaRue’s concerts are always fun and exciting and he is a great artist to hear live. His voice was awesome and his songs are true Texas country.

LaRue said he landed his dream job.

It feels like I am living in a movie or a really good storybook,” he said.

Some of his nearby upcoming shows are Nov 12 at Rockin Rodeo in Denton, Nov 13 at Wild West in Lubbock, Nov 14 at House of Blues in Dallas, Nov 20 at Silver Saloon in Terrell, Nov 21 at Midnight Rodeo in San Angela. For additional shows and dates visit stoneylarue.com

LaRue will be in Fort Worth on March 19 at Billy Bobs Texas.

 

 

 

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Kin Kin offers Authentic Thai Food

Are you tired of eating the same old food all the time? Do you find yourself going to the same places and ordering the same thing?

kin-kin-urban-thai-620x411

Chinese, Mexican, Italian, seafood and American restaurants seem to be the go-to options when dining out.

Well, it’s time to branch out and explore something new and exotic. I found the best Thai food in town!

Deep in the heart of Fort Worth’s flourishing West 7th district is Kin Kin Urban Thai, which offers authentic Thai dishes with just the right amount of flavor and spice.

Executive chef and owner Eddy Thretipthuangsin has done an amazing job of presenting traditional family recipes from Thailand.

The unique and non-Westernized menu, alongside the restaurant’s atmosphere and aroma, made me feel like I was in Thailand again. I relished every bite.

On my trip to Thailand this summer, I drank a fresh coconut almost every day and tried coconut soup and ice cream for the first time. I was really looking forward to a fresh coconut and some homemade coconut ice cream to take me back, but Kin Kin does not serve either.

But I still got my coconut fix without those two items. And I got the chance to venture out from my usual dining choices.

My boyfriend and I decided to share everything since we wanted to try a variety of items. Luckily, it was more than enough and allowed us to stay within our college budget.

The food won my heart after starting my first course of tom kha chicken soup, which consisted of coconut broth, lemongrass, artichoke, galangal and kaffir lime.

It was delicious. I loved how the nice coconut flavor complemented the other ingre
dients in the soup.

It was a nice change to my familiar soup choices.

We also ordered handmade pork and shrimp dumplings as an appetizer, which came in an order of six.

Although something I might not typically order, I thoroughly enjoyed them. They reminded me of spring rolls because they had similar texture, but were excitingly different because of the meat inside.

For our main course, we ordered chicken pad thai, which consisted of stir-fried rice noodle, egg, bean sprout, scallion, roasted peanut, tamarind sauce and a side of sticky rice.

It was just like the pad thai I had in Thailand this summer. The noodles were amazing. It was like eating chicken lo mein, but ten times better.

The sticky rice, something fun and different, paired nicely with the noodles.

Surprisingly, we still had room for the best part of dinner, dessert, which is my favorite course.

We ordered grilled bananas with a coconut honey glaze. Yes, I ordered something else coconut flavored. I loved it. The bananas were very sweet and tropical.

The service and food were outstanding. Service always plays a big role in my dining experience, since I am a server myself. It often determines if I go back to a place.
The atmosphere was modern and the perfect fit for date night.

I highly recommend Kin Kin to everyone. You need to experience the unique flavors found in the dishes at the restaurant, which is located at 2801 West 7th Street. It’s a great place to try something new and actually like it.

What we ordered and our total bill:

Handmade dumplings (6) $6.95: choice of pork & shrimp, chive & mushroom or duck served with green cabbage, soy sauce
Tom kha chicken soup $5.25: coconutbroth, lemongrass, artichoke, galangal, kaffir lime
Chicken pad thai $10: stir-fried rice noodle, egg, bean sprout, scallion, roasted peanut, tamarind sauce
Side of sticky rice $2
Grilled banana $7.00: grilled banana, coconut honey glaze
Overall total for 2: $36.75 + $8 (tip)

Published by: The Rambler

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STUDYING ABROAD IS A GREAT ADVENTURE

Published by: The Rambler

College is all about new found freedom, independence, finding yourself, and learning professional skills. IMG_0402

But sometimes you must go the extra mile to make the most of these experiences.
You should study abroad if you are looking for the ultimate college experience. It is the most beneficial and unforgettable experience, especially if you have never been out of the country before.

If you have ever considered studying abroad, but haven’t due to your budget, work schedule, daily responsibilities, family life, insecurities or doubts, I can tell you from experience that there is a way around this: sacrifice. Consider the pros and cons before you disregard an opportunity of a lifetime.

Any sacrifices you must make to study abroad are well worth it. In the end, you will realize that your decision to study abroad was one of the best decisions of your academic career.

I learned so much about culture, government and religion than any book could ever teach me on my two week study abroad trip this summer to Quatar, Thailand, Cambodia and Singapore. I loved experiencing the culture and food and being part of the various religious rituals I encountered as I explored these countries.IMG_0259

I cannot wait to leave my little corner of the world again and experience a new country. In fact, I have decided to be a part of the spring 2016 Mother Russia study abroad trip.

I strongly believe everyone should experience other cultures. If you never try studying abroad, you will never get to experience the wonderful benefits the experience brings you.

It is the perfect opportunity to enhance your communication skills, gain key qualities needed to become a successful leader in today’s global world and make memories.

“Research shows that experience in other countries makes us more flexible, creative and complex thinkers—if we’re willing to adapt and learn from other cultures,” according to an online article at time.com.

Traveling abroad changes students’ perspectives toward foreign cultures and helps students adopt a new attitude, allowing them to make connection among different, and sometimes conflicting, ideas in the diverse work field. This shows future employers that you can thrive in a multicultural workforce, which can lead to more job offers after you graduate.

When you step outside of your comfort zone and enter into another culture, it improves your problem-solving skills by forcing you to adapt to new, diverse situations.

You will build memories and grow as an individual by participating in the daily life of another society, all while making new friends.

You will also have the opportunity to learn a second language, which is always a plus for your resume. When you surround yourself with people who speak another language, your retention rate and fluency in that language dramatically increases.

Not to mention, you will get to learn about foreign cultures, religion, government, communication and pretty much any other college subject first hand. You get to apply what you learned in class or from the textbook in real world situations.

It’s the perfect opportunity to go out and explore the unknown, be adventurous, and ultimately gain a new appreciation for your own culture, all while learning how to be more understanding of others. In addition, you get to try new food, listen to exotic music and see new places.

My study abroad experience changed my life and opened my eyes to the world. I thought traveling the world was something only people with money could do. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine leaving the country at 22 years old, let alone visiting four countries within two weeks.

I feel so blessed that I was able to experience all the wonderful things that we did throughout the trip. I met so many wonderful and friendly people throughout this journey that has forever changed my outlook on humanity.

Texas Wesleyan University offers several study abroad trips each semester, most of which are for two weeks. They are very affordable and drastically cheaper than at other universities. For more information visit txwes.edu/academics/study-abroad/, or email studyabroad@txwes.edu. There are many helpful resources listed and links to various financial aid and scholarship opportunities available.

Published by: The Rambler

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On the Fly

Five Must-Have Gadgets That Will Transform The Way You Work And Travel

The airport has become the new office for the majority of on-the-go businesspeople. Travel and work have become harmonious for the majority of today’s top executives. As if budgeting a typical workweek wasn’t stressful enough, many now have the task of calculating travel time into their work schedules. These five top-of-the-line gadgets will help create a more efficient and productive work environment that will allow you to turn just about any airport or plane into a hassle-free office space.

(A) BlueSmart Luggage The BlueSmart carry-on luggage line is the ideal business partner for today’s global market place. This modern and sleek suitcase is equipped with a built-in battery pack, digital scale and GPS. Charge all your essential items without wandering around looking for an outlet for hours. Innovative technology allows you to download the BlueSmart app on your phone to track your suitcase and automatically lock and unlock the bag from the palm of your hand. Easy accessible pockets allow you to pack and unpack your electronic devices quickly. Preorder your BlueSmart travel companion today for $339 at bluesmart.Com and become the envy of the office.

(B) CLEAR Travel Card Time is money, as we all know. Hours can be wasted standing in security lines at the airport. With the CLEAR travel card, you or your employees can skip the security checkpoints and make it to the gate in half the time. This leaves more time for business meetings or client interactions and less time and money wasted on missed flights and endless security lines. For as low as $15 a month or $179 annually, you can breeze through security and save valuable time. Predict the true value of the CLEAR card by using the calculator on clear.Com and make sure to enter your company’s information to get a corporate quote online.

(C) Goal Zero Flip 20 Portable Charger Stay charged up on the go with the Goal Zero Flip 20 portable recharger. This little device is equipped with a flip USB to ensure tangle-free charging and has the ability to produce up to 200 percent of backup power for your smart phone. This device is ready for wherever life may take you. Charge the Flip 20 by connecting the Nomad 7 solar panel to use solar energy or simply use a USB power outlet. So whether you’re off to the airport to tackle another out-of-town business trip or exploring the outdoors for a little relaxation, you can ease your peace of mind by knowing you will not miss another important phone call due to a dead battery. You can order the Flip 20 portable recharger for $50 at goalzero.com.

(D) Power Card Another option for staying charged on the go is the new power card by uncommongoods. This sleek and stylish portable charger is the size of a credit card. It’s a small and powerful leap in technology that can charge your iPhone up to 60 percent. For only $35 at uncommongoods.Com, this device will become one of the most powerful cards in your wallet.

(E) Kensington WordLock Portable Combination Laptop Lock Kensington WordLock portable combination laptop lock is a genius, yet simple product that will allow you to protect your laptop and safeguard important data anytime and anywhere. In today’s fast-paced office environment (the airport), it is easy to walk away from your “desk” and leave your Mac unattended. This stress reliever can easily be installed and uninstalled with one hand. Available at apple.com for $27.95.

Published by Fort Worth Magazine

Access your adaptability with these 4 questions!

  1. Ask yourself what if questions instead of asking about the past. This helps you foresee the future.
  2. How well can you overcome restraints to achieve a specific goal on deadline? Test various simulations to see how you manipulate information given a restraint.
  3. How do you learn? Are you an active learner? On-learners are always adaptable and willing to learn new techniques.

“I must reduce myself to 0,” Gandhi.

4. Are you adventurous? Be explorative, both in life and business.

7 Instagram Accounts to follow for Digital Marketers & Designers

It is important to cultivate a cohesive professional social media image for yourself before becoming a social media manager for a company. You are a brand, so make sure to represent yourself as one.  I studied marketing, PR, and Journalism at Texas Wesleyan University during my undergrad.  During this time, I freelanced for a few local newspapers and magazines. After, I worked as a communication coordinator for a non-profit animal shelter and a marketing assistant for an aerospace engineering company. The sites I chose to share are a mix of the various industries that I love. I follow these accounts for inspiration and digital media marketing development.

7 Instagram Accounts to follow for Digital Marketers & Designers

1. Interaction Design Foundation 
IG:@ interaction_design_foundation 
Industry: Non-profit design education 
Bio: Learn about UX Design through our open-source educational materials as well as our offering of online, self-paced UX Design courses!

2. Adobe Creative
IG: @adobecreativecloud 
Industry: Computer Creativity software company
Bio: “With the world moving fast, we’re focusing this month on all things 📹. Share your videography, animations, & more with #Adobe_InMotion.”

3. NPR, Journalism
IG: @NPR
Industry: Non-profit media 
Bio: “What We (Don’t) Talk About When We Talk About Porn n.pr/2S51cmz”

4. Spotify
IG: @Spotify 
Industry: Digital music service 
Bio: “Music for every moment. Play, discover and share for free. On Snapchat: Spotifyspoti.fi/AreAndBe”

5. National Geographic Travel 
IG: @ natgeotravel
Industry: Travel Magazine 
Bio: “It’s a big world. Explore it through the lens of our photographers. natgeo.com/wildlifetourism”

6. Poopouri 
IG: @poopourri
Industry: Home Goods 
Bio: “Poo~Pourri 💩 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 20,000+ 5-star reviews
A poop-positive brand taking the stink out of the thing we *all* do. #LetThat💩Go linkin.bio/poopourri”

7. SPCA 
IG: @spcatexas
Industry: Non-profit Animal Welfare 
Bio: The official Instagram account for the SPCA of Texas. Follow us for your daily dose of adorable! #spcatexas spcafindapet.com


How these companies present themselves on SM like a Boss! 
I chose these accounts to share due to their phenomenal social media presence. These accounts are extremely successful due to their consistent engagement with their followers and successful content curation. They all manage to represent their industry in every post and make their content relevant to current events and their industry. In addition, they keep all posts visually cohesive.

How they share and comment
All of the accounts listed above present themselves in a professional creative manner.

@Poopouri because this company gained brand recognition purely off social media! They always post fun and engaging content, that is relevant to their brand. In my opinion, Poop perfume can’t be the easiest thing to market and this company has successfully and tastefully used bathroom humor on social media to grow a $30 million-dollar business. 
@adobecreativecloud makes sure that each post has a high quality vibrant professional photograph that inspires creativity and design! In addition, they promote other accounts by sharing their photographs and tagging their accounts to credit their work. 
@ natgeotravel also posts high quality vibrant professional photographs each time. Although, they tell a story in their text to promote their magazine articles. 
I chose @Spotify because I am obsessed with their UX and IXD design! I use this app every day all day and appreciate and admire their work. Therefore, I like to research and observe how they interact with users outside of their app-based service. They seem to be just as successful with social media as they are app design.

What makes these accounts credible?
Each one of these accounts has Verified badges that help people more easily find them and validate their brand. In addition, almost all these accounts have reached a million followers or more. 

My Social Media Presence 
@Breezy_Around_The_World
I created a travel Instagram account a while back to promote my travel blog/digital portfolio. I used to share my published articles and design/communication work on my personal account, but I stopped after undergrad. I would like to focus on my travel Instagram for this course and drive traffic to my website and showcase my social media skills.

I chose to post 6 travel photos on Instagram, with a quote or fact, to help craft my professional social presence and promote my travel blog and digital portfolio. I chose Instagram for all my posts because Instagram is the best platform for posting photos.


The professional Identity of my @Breezy_Around_The_World This Instagram account was created to share the many benefits of traveling. I believe traveling is the greatest educational experience. I would like to show that when I travel, I can use my mass communication and design skills to share my experience with the world in a qualified manner. This activity can help promote my image as a journalist, designer, and social media manager as an example of cohesively planned content curation.

Post 1: Link (Links to an external site.)
Post 2: Link (Links to an external site.)
Post 3: Link (Links to an external site.)
Post 4: Link (Links to an external site.)
Post 5: Link (Links to an external site.)
Wednesday Post: Link (Links to an external site.)

Whatever your field of study may be, it is always important to keep a professional social media presence. Social media is a great way to stay connected with friends, family, and the world around you. It is also a powerful networking tool that can help you meet others in your professional industry and showcase your work! Your social media accounts can be used to create a brand for yourself. Conversely, they can also impact your professional career negatively if not managed properly.

Why I am taking a Strategic Social Media class as one of my M.A. IXD electives

I am a part of the M.A. UX cohort at UNT Frisco, which I will be wrapping up in May 2020. 

In 2016, I received a B.S. in Mass Communication from Texas Wesleyan University.  After working in the industry for a couple of years, I realized that I needed to strengthen my design skills. 

I chose the UNT M.A. IXD program to become a better communicator in our advancing digital world, which requires great written and visual communication skills. 

I was big on social media during my undergrad and while working in the non-profit sector.  Last year, I stopped using social media, almost completely, to focus on school and work. In spite of the fact that I am a huge Pinterest fan and would never give that up!

Another reason I quit social media was due to the algorithms on Facebook, which never displayed any interesting content. I grew bored of the same people’s gossip and “breaking news” posts.

And Instagram kept me too entertained! I followed several funny meme accounts, businesses, and media organizations that posted great content, which kept me scrolling for hours. I love managing companies social media pages just not my own these days.

In this course, I hope to gain a deeper understanding of what exactly drives users to a call-to-action on social media and how to successfully use social media to achieve profitable results. 

Veteran puts his spin on tornadoes

The clouds turned gray, creating a blanket of darkness in the sky.

The wind began to swirl, picking up little bits of dust and debris and lightning lit up the sky like the beginning of a Friday night football game in a small Texas town.IMG_0559

It began to drizzle and the air was warm and humid as the thunder roared across the plains.

It was May 15, 2013. A dangerous storm was coming, and George Blackwell, Texas Wesleyan’s IT service desk manager, was driving into it.

He had been traveling west on Route 377 for over an hour, trying to catch a glimpse of Mother Nature’s whirlwind.

Blackwell gripped the steering wheel of his 2006 Dodge Ram 1500 Pickup with one hand while, with his other, checking his GPS, two tablets and the radarscope app on his phone as he approached the dark clouds of the tornado that roared across Hood County.

“Of course I had to get the same brand truck in the movie Twister,” Blackwell said.

George-Blackwell---HorizontalThe Navy veteran, who served as a naval information technology specialist for 12 years, used his technical training to help him navigate through the destructive storm’s path all alone.

“During my time in the Navy, I would guide ships out at sea using a HAM radio,” he said. “Which is helpful now because a lot of storm chasers are HAM certified.”

Behind the wheel that day in 2013, he thought to himself that at least he had some training.

This tornado, which would include winds of up to 140 miles per hour and grew to be eight miles wide, hit several small Texas towns and, according to the National Weather Service, killed several people.IMG_0538

It was the first tornado that Blackwell saw after months of training.

“You have to know what you’re doing out there,” he said. “I feel very fortunate that nothing happened.”

Blackwell, 45 and a Washington, D.C. native, has been the IT service desk manager for the past five years. He said his knowledge of technology has really helped him chase storms for the past five years.

“I am always watching the news for severe storms,” he said. “I think technology helps people stay informed, especially with weather announcements.”

Blackwell said his brother William, who lives in Washington, D.C., also stays up to date with severe thunderstorms in Texas and is scared he might be out chasing one.

“William calls any time there is a tornado in Texas, even if I am nowhere near it,” Blackwell said.

Blackwell said he often tinkered with gadgets as a boy.IMG_0554

“When I was little, I remember taking apart my toy race car and messing with the battery to see how it worked,” he said. “I have always had a passion for technology.”

Blackwell graduated from Texas Wesleyan with a bachelor’s of business administration degree in computer information systems in 2009.

“I really enjoyed my experience at Wesleyan from the beginning,” he said. “They have a great personal touch and when I was offered a job I felt like it was an opportunity to give back to the Wesleyan community. I am always looking to try and help out.”

He has a lot of knowledge in his field and knows how to work with the team, said Maria Brown Spence, IT service desk coordinator.IMG_0277 - Copy

“He is a great supervisor and a veteran like myself,” she said. “Anytime I have questions he makes sure he is there for me. He has taught me to be patient and always keep learning. I think his storm chasing is brave and noble.”

When he is not chasing storms or fixing gadgets, Blackwell, who has two sons, George Blackwell IV, 17, and William Alfredo Blackwell, 12, enjoys driving his Honda V Star 1800 with other bikers through the foothills of Fredericksburg, Enchanted Rock, Three Sisters and Willow Loop.

James Ayala, a Wesleyan maintenance locksmith, has taken several biking trips with Blackwell.

“We have established a great relationship through our love of bikes,” said Ayala, who said he has been Blackwell’s friend for for years.

When Ayala first found out about Blackwell’s love for storm chasing he said there was one thing that struck him as odd.

“He doesn’t like to ride bikes when it is raining but he will go chasing storms in a truck,” he said. “I was like man, you’re crazy, but that’s what your interest is and it’s neat.”

Blackwell has always been fascinated with storms and loves the Discovery Channel, he said.IMG_0535 - Copy - Copy

“When I was 10 years old, I had a dream that I flew into a storm like I was superman or a character in a SYFY film or comic book,” he said. “The dream was so real. I was amazed by the lightning and wind.”

Blackwell said he lucked out by settling down in the Texas-Oklahoma area, also known as Tornado Alley, after he got out of the Navy in 2004.

Not only does he get to ride his motorcycle through the open and beautiful roads of Texas and give back to the Wesleyan community while working in a field he is passionate about, he is able to be close to the storms.

Blackwell loves the thrill of storms but if he could save lives that would be rewarding as well, he said.IMG_0788

“Just the sheer power of a storm, how fast they develop, and how they never look the same has always amazed me,” he said. “I’m fascinated by Mother Nature and tornadoes are by far the most interesting.

“How many people can actually say they have seen a tornado in their lifetime? It is so rare and you are lucky if you do. I am one of the lucky ones who can say, I got to see a tornado.”