Monday, October 16, 2006

Traditional Families

The "Traditional Family", by a popular defintion, currently describes a meager 7% of American households. This definition states that a traditional family is one where the male head of household is the wage-earner, the female head is responsible for caring for the household and rearing the children, and at least one of these children is under the age of 18.

From where and when this definition stems is not the most pressing issue at hand. What brings greater concern are questions such as, "How do we define family," and "How does this effect us?"

The family, in many cases, is considered a safe haven of love and the fulfillment of one's pupose in life. But for many people, family is a source of turmoil, grief, stress, and frustration. How are these people's needs quenched in our society when the family is unable to do so?

Another drawback of the traditional family is in the rights granted to this classification. Our government and other socially supportive organizations often award financial aid and assistance to groups defined as families. What if a societal group provides for the needs of children, but does not meet the dying traditional definition of family? Where do grandparents, single parents, unmarried couples, same-sex parents, and other leaders of familial teams go when they need help raising children? Why does our society continue to glorify an ideal of family that hasn't been the norm for over 2 decades?

Since my mom went back to work, following a demanding life of raising 3 very active children, my family's classification has moved from Traditional to Dual Income. I never realized that this change meant that my family had migrated away from the percieved norm, but find comfort in the notion that we may have become more "normal". Even my parents, whose 1960s-1980s Catholic familes had 6 and 7 children, were from untraditional roots because both of their parents worked. The family is far too complex of an entity to have any single situation deemed as its ideal. Even American TV has caught on to this fact. "Seventh Heaven", "The Gilmore Girls", "American Dreams", "Desperate Housewives", and even "The Brady Bunch" can help us disassociate ourselves from the inaccurate "Leave it to Beaver" idealization.

A few other points to ponder:

  • the divorce rate in America has been steady since about 1980.
  • the average number of pregnancies per American female has stayed nearly constant at 3.5 since 1900
  • despite the fears that heterosexual marriage is an endangered institution in our country, almost 90% of Americans will marry in their lifetimes
  • Is your family a "Traditional" one?
  • If not, how has this affected your development as a person?
  • How would you define family?

(I was inspired to write this following a weekend where 2 sets of my college friends were married, thus starting new familes of their own. In addition, my girlfriend, who is majoring in sociology, is taking a course on familes this semester, and is at this hour slaving over 3 complex essays on the subject.)

Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Realizations of Average

I have recently come to think of myself as the perfectly average, middle class, middle of America posterchild. My childhood saw are circle around the Heartland, growing up in Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Kentucky. I'm 5' 8'', 160 lbs., and Caucasian. I drive a Ford (and would rather bike it, but don't due to route safety and suburban sprawl). I played sports throughout my childhood, but wasn't good enough for college. I'm a Catholic Christian. I like computers and cars and action movies. Almost every article of clothing I own came from 3 sources: the aforementioned sports' teams, Old Navy, or Kohl's. I think Outback is a fancy restaurant. I'm not a fan of abortion, but I don't think felonizing the practice will save any more babies. If two dudes want adopt one of those potentially aborted babies and start a family, I don't see how that is a bad thing. Doesn't mean it's going to be my life choice. I wouldn't mind if marijuana was legal, especially if it meant that Kentucky schools would get a nice tax kickback from the state's biggest cash crop. Doesn't mean I'm gonna start toking. I own a cell phone and a digital camera. So do half of our country's 8th graders. I don't have an iPod. My grandparents are registered Democrats. My parents are registered Republicans.

The first point I'm trying to make is, if there is some proverbial FENCE out there, I live my life trotting upon it. From this perspective, my outlook on life possesses at least one of two characteristics: I understand the Middle, and/or I don't get the Extremes.

Which brings me to my second point. Who out there in our country is really that extreme? If the last presidential election was a good indicator, then America is rather...average. If every ballot cast in America was decided by a coin flip (donkey or elephant), we would have had almost the exact same popular election results. Normal distribution? I wonder what Pete Williams would say...

In the words of a band ironically named 'War', "Why can't we be friends, Why can't we be friends?"

Saturday, September 30, 2006


In a society that still has trouble accepting the differences/similarities between Black and White, how have we allowed ourselves to be satisfied with "Democrat or Republican"?

Point for Pondering inspired by a recent Facebook debate by 3 of my highschool peers.

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Letter to my favorite middle school science teacher, Mr. Speer

Mr. Speer,

I'm not sure if you remember me, but you were my 8th grade science teacher at Peter Kiewit Middle School. I think that was the 1999-2000 school year. Anyway, you were probably one of the most influential teachers I've ever had, and I hadn't talked to you in a while. So, I checked to see if you were still teaching (that Google thing sure comes in handy), and found your e-mail address at Beadle Middle School.

I am 20 years old and currently finishing up my sophomore year of college. I have spent this semester in Budapest, Hungary as an exchange student at Budapesti Muszaki Egyetem (Budapest University of Technology and Economics, in English). It has been the experience of a lifetime. In the 5 short months that I have been here, I have visited all 5 countries that my ancestors hail from, in addition to about 8 other countries that were either close by or seemed interesting enough to visit. I had never even been to Mexico before February, so this has been a very novel thing for me. It was also kind of crazy for me to come over here and find out that my roommate was a guy from NE Wesleyan who graduated from Millard South! Small world.

My family moved from Omaha to a suburb of Louisville, KY following my Eighth Grade year. The area we live in reminds me a lot of Omaha. There was even a corn field across the street from us, but it has since succumbed to residential development. I attended South Oldham high school, played baseball and football for 4 years. I graduated 3rd in a class of 273, and maintained a 4.0 GPA. I think I decided somewhere between my 7th and 8th grade years that I wanted to study engineering. I remember doing one of those career aptitude tests, and I was quite pleased to see that "Aerospace Engineer" came up for me. I think your science class had a lot to do with it also. I remember you bringing us news clips of technological developments, introducing us to neodymium magnets, and of course our activities related to NASA. Throughout high school, I took courses that would prepare me for a future as an engineer. AP Calculus, Statistics, Physics, etc. I tried to counterbalance that overly technical load with more subjective courses and activities, also.

This brings me right up to college. I started off looking at schools like Notre Dame (too elitist), Purdue (too expensive out of state), Illinois (too gigantic), and Missouri-Rolla (too engineer-y). The university I chose was initially my fall back school, but I would consider it anything but that now. The two years I have spent at the University of Kentucky have been two of the best years of my life. I have had a chance to explore the natural beauty of the state of Kentucky. It's amazing how beautiful the landscape is in the Eastern part of the state is; too bad they got stuck with the Appalachia/Redneck stereotype. Looks just like Transylvania in Romania. I have made lots of new friends, and gotten to try many new things. I met my girlfriend at the Catholic Church (Newman Center) on our campus. She led the "Outdoor Adventures", and would take groups of students to hike and camp at KY's state parks. She had actually spent a semester in Linz, Austria before I came over here. We both come home in a couple weeks. Mechanical Engineering has so far proved to be everything that I hoped it would be. I joined the Solar Car team at the end of my Freshman year. We traveled to Austin, TX last summer to compete in the North American Solar Challenge. This cross-country "rayce" departs from Austin and goes 2500 miles to Calgary, Alberta, Canada. We passed all the inspections, and were on our final 1/3 of the day of qualifying laps when the "Gato del Sol II" decided to blow 4 capacitors and end our hopes of racing. We were kind of heart-broken, and are still trying to repair and improve the car.

This fall semester, I will be working at General Electric's Consumer and Industrial division in Louisville. Another great thing about studying engineering is the chance to do co-ops/internships. I get to do real engineering work, without yet having a degree, I get college credit for it, and they even pay me! I'm pretty excited about this opportunity.

So, that about sums up my life since I last saw you. I have actually had this letter as a point in my to-do list for about the past 3 years. When I got a Palm Pilot, it was one of the first things I wrote down. I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciated what you did for me. You were given the task shoving a necessary set of skills down the throats of a group of 8th graders. You, however, saw that there was a much better opportunity at hand. That was about the last time in our lives that we would be openly receptive to the influences of our teachers, and you seized the chance. You instilled me with a curiosity that still steers my thoughts today. You showed us that the world was far too interesting to ever be bored. But most of all, you helped us transition toward adulthood by treating us like young adults, not just a bunch of kids. You showed us that we could be anyone we wanted to, if we worked for it. The world needs more people like you.

All of this has so far been about me, now I'd like to find out how you've been for the past 6 years. I see that you are no longer at Kiewit, so how is Beadle? How is your family doing? Did I read correctly that you still take students to science competitions? How about the EarthKam?

It would be great to hear back from you, and thank you again for all you do.

Nick Such
University of Kentucky
Mechanical Engineering

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Live and learn, live to learn, learn about life

Time is winding down, and I've finally started to study for finals. I thought the following applies well to my life right now, too.

We should be taught not to wait for inspiration to start a thing. Action always generates inspiration. Inspiration seldom generates action.

- Frank Tibolt

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Quotes that relate

Don't try to solve serious matters in the middle of the night.

- Philip K. Dick

I definately applied this last night. I was tired, so I went to sleep, leaving a Hungarian Culture presentation to prepare for, Dynamics HW to do, a little bit of packing, and a an international Taco Fiesta to prepare for. Got through it with a little praying and a little sleep, it all worked out.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Quote of the Day

Among those whom I like or admire, I can find no common denominator, but among those whom I love, I can: all of them make me laugh.
- WH Auden

Monday, March 27, 2006

Country Hopping!

Hey all you Americans,

This is my first time writing to you guys as a 20-year-old. Yep, I'm no longer a teenager! In addition to closing out my second decade on this planet, I can also add visits to Barcelona, Spain and Linz, Austria to my life's list of accomplishments. I am sorry to all of you who I miss dearly, but it will be difficult to leave Europe.

Stephanie has now seen the 8th World Wonder, in the city of Budapest. She came to pay homage to the greatest city in Central Europe with a group of about 96 students from the lesser county of Austria. I met up with her once she arrived, and got to meet all of her foreign friends. Once they finished their tours of The City and visited Hungary's restoring baths, we got to check out some of Budapest's night life. We headed to the pubs for some Hungarian Unicum liquer, then off to the Diskos!

Hungary, after many border changes, has become a land-locked country. So we headed to Barcelona, Spain to enjoy the refreshing Mediterranean breeze. In Barcelona, Steph and I met up with Ryan McMahon (known simply as 'Nebraska' to many of you) and Stephanie's friend Stella who is from Zaragosa, Spain. We spent the first day seeing all the unique sights of Barcelona, such as the mall attached to our hotel. It did have some really good crepes. The next day, we headed out to do some of the more touristy things. We saw Las Ramblas, the main drag of Barcelona. It was filled with outrageous street performers, struggling artists, and a grande helping of Paella! I'm pretty sure I gained 10 pounds in the week we spent in Spain. Following the rice and seafood skillet that was Paella, we downed a little bit of homebrewed Sangria (a Spanish wine and fruit coctail), some Tapas (assorted appetizers) including Patatas Bravas (amazing fried potatoes with special sauces on top) and Callos (look that one only if you are really curious and aren't reading this over dinner), and more Crepes. Besides the food, Barcelona's Harbor, Placa de Colon (Christopher Columbus), Picasso Museum, and Gaudi Park were very fun sights to see.

For those of you who, like me, could not place Barcelona on a map of Spain, it is very important to know that it is on the Northeastern / Mediterranean corner nearest France. This resulted in two important parts of our trip: mild temperatures and the Catalan language. We did get to see the beach, but the 60 degree Fahrenheit weather made it a little too cold for swimming. As for the language, Barcelona officially speaks Catalan, a Spanish dialect that also has some similarities to French. Not to worry, however. If your Spanish skills are good enough, the locals will, although reluctantly, speak to you.

Following Spain, I took a one week hiatus in Hungary. It was great to eat soup and buy lunch at the cafeteria for about $0.60. Spain is on the Euro, and is rather expensive, while Hungary still clings to its Forint for 2 more years. Thanks to Stephanie, I was, however, hooked on the Crepes that we ate every day in Spain. Mmmmmm, sweet goodness. So I made some back here in Hungary, where they are called Palacsinta (Puh-luh-cheen-tuh). The Romanians (my Dad) call them Clatite (Cluh-tee-tay).

So you may be wondering what is so important about those darn Crepes. I'm getting to it. On Thursday, I hopped on a bus then later a train towards Linz, Austria. After more than 6 months of hearing about it, I finally got to visit Stephanie in her home away from the Bluegrass. Quaint might be the best word I can find to describe Linz. Everything looks as if it is straight from my Mom's porcelain Christmas village collection. The city is nestled between some hills in Northern Austria. It is home to Austria's largest church and Europe's steepest mountain railway. Although our schedule didn't allow for those this time around, I had a great time in Linz.

The first night there, I got to hang out with Steph and her international friends in the Raab Heim (which must mean Ginormous DormHotel in Deutsch). The next day, we went on a hike to a nearby lake and played some football (European style - no hands). Then we went out for Linz's best pizza. Even Stephanie's Italian friends approved. This brings us to Saturday, the reason for my visit. March 25 was two anniversaries in one for me. The most lenghty marked 20 years since I was born. Mom and Dad, I owe you one, it has been one exciting life so far. Although it was my first birthday away from you, it was also the first birthday where I was sung to in 4 different languages! The second occasion for celebration was the one year that I have been dating the most amazing woman on the planet: Stephanie Craig. What is crazy is that we get to see each other more now that we are both in Europe! For the first time in 20 years, I can truly say that I am in love. That day, we woke up, walked the streets of Linz, sat down for some Wienersnitzel and Sauerkraut, and searched for a new Speedo so I could look more European at the beach. I chickened out of that one, for now. Then we went back to Stephanie's dorm and made Crepes with the French and Italians, who know what they are doing when it comes to crepes. Once we could eat no more, we headed out for some dancing at "Cheeese" and "RememBar". It was one great birthday present.

So now I am back in Hungary. I spent last night with the Hungarian Transportation Engineering students who live in my dorm. They had a competition where they shut down one of Budapest's six bridges over the Danube at midnight and raced student-built pedal-carts on the tram rails. It was a pretty sweet night, hanging out with 2 Ádáms, 3 Zsolts, a John Deere replica complete with smokestack, and about 1000 other competitive engineers.

Sorry for the length of this e-mail, just had to get out the feelings I have for Europe and its people (ok, the food too). This trip has made me more proud of the country I came from, but even more proud of the land from which my ancestors hailed.


Nick the Hun

Tuesday, March 7, 2006

Busy guy!

I have been crazy busy lately, so sorry for the lack of updates. I have been keeping up with the pictures, so keep checking them out on Facebook. I have tried to add captions where appropriate. Budapest is an awesome city. It and Chicago are my favorite big cites, for sure.

Anyway, since I last updated you, I've been to Vienna, Bratislava, a ski town in Slovakia called Jasna, and all around Budapest. I've been to the Operahouse for a ballet, Heroes Square for ice skating, and finally checked out St. Stephan's Cathedral. Classes are going well so far. I have met a bunch of international students, and I am starting to meet some Hungarians, too. There are about 8 Americans in my building, which leaves close to 400 Hungarians to meet in my dorm alone. They are very nice people, and we engineers seem to speak the universal language of techno-geek. Stephanie is coming with her school to Budapest this weekend, then we are heading to Barcelona for a week. I met up today with Thomas and Agnes Szekely, some distant relatives through my great-grandmother. In two weeks, I'm heading with about 50 students to Krakow, Poland to see Auscwitz.

That's all for now, I'll try to keep you more up to date with details!



Thursday, February 16, 2006

Hungarian updates!

Writing the date in international format because I'm in Europe! Actually, in Hungary, we write it 2006-2-16. I have a couple updates for you. See the links on the left to check out the pictures I have uploaded to facebook and flickr. They should be up here soon. Hungary is awesome! I'll post my weekly e-mail updates here, so keep checking back. Sziastok!

Monday, February 13, 2006

Just another week in Budapest

Jó réggelt kívanok!

(That's Hungarian for "I wish you good morning")

I think I like this country. Every day has seemed like two days in one, I have been so busy. I am staying at Hotel Góliát, which is a collégium, or dormitory. Although by bus and train it is about 45 minutes from school, it is in a very good part of the city. I can walk to 3 elelmiszers (supermarkets), a Catholic church, a supermarket, and about 5 different bus/tram stops. The public transportation system is great. For most of the week, I didn't even pay for a ticket! However, if I was to get caught riding without one, it would be at least a $20 fine, so I forked over the $10 for the month. Heroes Square, which is bordered by 2 art museams is about 5 minutes from my dorm. Right next to it is the City Park, which includes the zoo, ice skating rink, and best of all: Szecheny Bath. If you ever visit Europe, and are anywhere close to Budapest, the baths alone are worth your visit. For $10, we got to explore over 15 different baths with temperatures from 104 F to 40 F. Some had bubbles and minerals, others had powerful jets that create a lazy river on steroids. There were almost a dozen different steam rooms and saunas. It was amazing! And if you leave in under 2 hours, you get almost half your money back.

I keep mentioning the cost of everything because the cost of living here is very affordable. 200 Hungarian forints is about 1 dollar. I can buy a freshly baked loaf of bread for 100 forints. A bottle of wine is 288. Cookies: 199. I've also noticed that there is less waste here. I haven't bought anything that came in a cardboard box yet. Also, there are very few overweight people. Even at the mall food court, where I had a gyro for lunch, it seemed like everyone was very healthy.

I have 2 roommates in a room with 4 beds. Chris Mohr is from Nebraska Weslyan University, and is studying History and Anthropology. He is a 20-year-old junior from Omaha, NE and lived less than 10 minutes from where I used to live. Andrew Cawrse is from the University of Idaho. He is a 22-year-old junior studying Environmental Engineering and is big into Snowboarding. There are also 3 American girls who live next door. They are studying via the International Student Exchange Program, also. There are a couple other guys named Aaron and Jin who live down the hall. They have already been here for a semester and have been very helpful to us. Aaron's girlfriend is from Transylvania, and speaks 5 different languages. There are other international students, staying at other locations, who are from Finland, Germany, Austria, Bulgaria, France, Spain, Italy, and Colorado.

Almost everyone I've met so far is in to outdoor stuff, so I feel like I fit right in. We took a hiking trip yesterday up north near the Danube Bend. Very pretty rolling hills. Reminded me a little of the Eastern Kentucky landscape, except that it was covered by almost a foot of snow. Next weekend we will probably take the same train and head to Esztergom, where we can cross the border to Slovakia.

We also took a bus trip around Budapest with the other 40 or so international students. Budapest is actually a merger of two cities: the hilly Buda on the west side of the Danube and the flat Pest to the east. The view from Buda Castle and Fisherman's Bastion is stunning. You can see the whole Pest half of the city spread alone the Danube. On the trip we passed a disco called LivingROOM where we had a party with all the exchange students. I sang 2 hours worth of Karaoke with my new Hungarian friend Adams, who is majoring in American Studies.

Probably the biggest challenge so far has been the language barrier. Although all my dealings with the university are in English, it is not so widespread around the city. Unlike Spanish or German, Hungarian has very few words in common with English. It is in the same family as Finnish, but my Finnish friends here find it just as foreign as I do. I am enrolled in a language course, and have already began picking up the language, and ways to get by until I learn it. 3 quick tips if you want to sound Hungarian:

  1. "S" makes an "SH" sound. So I am living in "Bood-uh-pest"
  2. Almost all words are spoken with an accent on the first syllable
  3. Igen (ee-gen) is yes and Nem is no.

That is all from me for now. I have to get ready for my first day of class. I'm signed up for 21 hours right now, but will probably drop a few once I find which ones I like the best. My pictures and videos, as well as this message, should soon be up on We don't have internet access at our dorm yet, but hopefully will sometime this week. For now, the only place I get it for free is at school, and it is very slow. I have been receiving, and enjoying, all your voicemails. Once we are up and running with net, you'll be getting some phone calls!


(A greeting, hi or bye, as said to more than one person. Szia is the singular form. Sounds like "See ya!")

Your Hungarian correspondent,

Nick Such
Kerekes u. 12-20.
H-1135 Budapest


Friday, February 10, 2006

Some pics from Budapest

Hey everybody,

Took a bus tour yesterday, so I have some pictures now. The links are
below. Fast internet and toilet paper are somewhat hard to find here,
but everything else is good. People and food are great. I'll send you
more when I have it! Take care, I miss you all.



Tuesday, February 7, 2006

Budapest is cold!

Hey everybody,

I'm in Budapest, Hungary. I landed at 9am local time (3am for you guys). I'm sitting in the airport waiting for a couple other Americans who land in the next 2 hours. The airport is really nice inside. The radar tower, however, reminds me that this country was under Communist rule not too long ago. It looks like an Imperial Walker (the 2-legged ones) from Star Wars. The flights were all great. I sat next to a guy who works for LG&E on the first one. He knows Shannon Hincker's dad. The second leg was kind of a blur. I slept the whole time, even turning down free food for sleep. Yeah, weird, I know. I sat next to a woman from Delhi, India whose husband lives in Chicago, but their adopted children couldn't get green cards because they are Christian and not Hindu. The flight from Frankfurt to Budapest was almost empty. I had a whole row to myself, and finally got a window seat (aisle's on the other ones). When we were landing, our pilot informed us (in German, Hungarian, and English) that the temperature outside was a -13 degrees. Sure enough, says that it is -13 celsius, or 8 Fahrenheit. Feels just like Texas. During the ice age.

As far as money goes, I'm feeling kinda rich right now. I gave them a $50 bill and got back almost 10,000 forints. Too bad vending machine flowers cost 2500.

Eleanor II survived the journey, unscathed as far as I can tell.

Laptop battery is going quick, so I'm gonna go now. Just wanted to let you guys know that I survived my first excursion to a country where the language seems to be gibberish, but everything is still in English! I can't wait to meet the other students so we can go explore. We're catching a train then a bus to our hotel, which I think is on the other side of the Danube river from here. I'll let you know more when I get there!

Jo reggelt!