Monday, September 11, 2017

My "Mundane" Life in Maryland

Hi everyone - my friend Nancy is in the Peace Corps (https://nancysexperientiallearning.wordpress.com/) and she recently posted about her "mundane life", and said she'd be interested in her friend's stateside attempts at blogging about their life. So, Nancy, here is that blog post about my mundane life for you, going over just my last week.

Also, Happy Patriot’s Day? I have mixed feelings about the reaction to Sept. 11th every year. I understand wanting to memorialize it but it also seems that some of the memorials have become trite, and many of the people I've heard wanting to memorialize it are kids hoping for another day off of school, which seems disrespectful. In general, shouldn't we try to move on together as a country? I think remembering 9/11 with fear causes a fear of incoming refugees, and so I don't know how to truly feel for the families of the victims without promoting that feeling of fear (which we don't want). Anyways. Here's my week.

Last week was the kickoff for the all-girls robotics team I help coach. We had a parent meeting Wednesday night, and most of the parents were late because they were at Back-To-School nights. Whoops, I guess I should have thought more about scheduling. On Saturday the game was announced at a statewide kickoff. "The Game", for those not involved with FTC, is the challenge robots must complete this season. Video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Wc1LhG2FEs

Friday night Bojack Horseman season 4 was release on Netflix, and Ryan and I watched the first three episodes (we have since finished the season). Friday night we like to just veg out together.

Saturday night, my Dad and I went to a play, "The Christians", Baltimore Centerstage was giving out free tickets to opening weekend, which I learned about from the APL Drama Club. It was about a pastor of a mega-church who announces the church is debt-free, then preaches that he doesn’t believe in hell, and the various reactions from members of the congregation (an elder, his associate pastor, a choir member and his wife). It was cool and I think it wasn’t anti-Christian or overly “bible-banging”, just a legitimate look at some of the motivations of various characters and how they might react. The program had interviews with the author, where he said he started in seminary but then felt too much pressure from trying to interpret texts and learning the Bible is never really straightforward. That pressure of interpretation caused him to leave seminary and that comes up a lot in the play. I’d recommend it.

This summer I've been participating in the Innovation Challenge, a summer project for early career staff to show their skill/ability to solve problems. They announce the challenge in May, and teams have three months to work on it, then present their solution to APL program managers. Thursday was our team's final presentation, and I think it went OK. We had a more memorable demo than any of the other teams, because we let the judges be involved. One of the teams (out of six) is announced the winner. I don’t especially care about winning, but my one team mate really wants to win, and winners are announced this coming Wednesday.

Upcoming this next week socially I have a meeting with the program coordinator for HowGirlsCode, a non-profit creating classes for elementary school girls in programming skills. Why am I meeting with her? because I am officially on the HGC board as of August 1st! I'm excited to be doing STEM outreach to girls. I also have a happy hour with other Innovation Challenge participants to wrap up the program, and my group at work is having a picnic to celebrate the end of summer, so lots of work networking opportunities. Got to practice being more social with my co-workers, so this is a good experience for me. On Friday they have a church family board game night.

At work, I have a meeting for a new project kicking off, a C++ study group meeting, and a guest lecturer coming in to talk about robotics ethics, in addition to all my regular software developer tickets (a common term for software development requests is a "ticket" assigned to you to work on). I like my job but most people don't want to take the time to understand what I do. if you're interested, let me know. =)

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Why I love Twitter

I know Twitter isn't the most popular social media anymore. In fact, I've been told over and over that it's dying (and I didn't even get on it until 2009, the year it allegedly started to die: http://www.newstatesman.com/science-tech/social-media/2016/02/why-twitter-dying-ten-tweets)

However, I really love Twitter. I like it because it humanizes so many people that otherwise felt out of touch to me. And it does this in a way that Facebook cannot. Facebook has clear roles for businesses, regular people, and famous people. The line between being an account that can be friend requested and a page that can be followed by anyone is very clear. And while yes, Facebook retro-fitted a follow button, it was too little, too late. Twitter has never had that model. Twitter has always been short, sweet, from anyone, to anyone messages. And that's exactly why I love it.

I get a small thrill of excitement when I get tweets from people that previously felt inaccessible to me. Yes, some of those accounts are probably managed by PR staff, just like the Facebook accounts. But the ones I'm talking about aren't. The accounts for smaller, web series actors (like Kate Hackett, Christopher Sean, Ashley Clements, or Mary Kate Wiles). The accounts for authors of books I've read over the past few years (Laura Bradbury, Deborah Yaffe, John Scalzi, Andy Weir). Those accounts are me getting to interact with the people who create for my benefit. They're me getting to appreciate them and knowing they hear it. Sometimes I can get this on Instagram too, but it's not always easy to come up with a picture for what I want to say, and I feel more self-conscious about pictures, so my Instagram is set to private. 

The other side of Twitter I like is the real conversations I have with total strangers about things. Usually, these things are TV related, since I like to participate in TV live tweet sessions. I've talked about the Oscars on Twitter two years in a row now. This year, I got into an interesting discussion about the representation of Asian Americans at the Oscars. When it was still on the air, I tried to participate in the Castle live tweet sessions every night. It was a good marketing technique to get me watching the show the night it aired, instead of two or three days after. And I loved it because most of the Castle cast tried to participate. Sometimes it was humorous (like Jon Huertas tweeting from traffic for why he wasn't at home watching the episode), sometimes it was behind the scenes knowledge (like Nathan Fillon tweeting when he had a cold, and that's why Castle's voice was so husky that day). But it was always fun and interactive in a way that Facebook posts aren't. The Twitter reply model is different than the Facebook comment model. Easier to read, in my opinion. And that allows me to converse with other people who love the show I love.

Sometimes, I'll get into conversations about Twitter itself (I know, super meta). For example, what inspired this post: I was scrolling through my feed and say Gordon Ramsey being Gordon Ramsey (by which I mean, criticizing food people submitted to him for opinions). In the middle of all those Gordon tweets was a single tweet from Michael Symon, responding to someone who had made one of his pasta recipes, full of encouragement. So I tweeted that observation, and noted that I preferred Symon. and I put my phone down, and walked away. The next day, I came back and I had 10 replies - some defending Chef Ramsey, some agreeing with me that they would prefer to hear from Chef Symon, and one from Chef Symon himself, stating that he just loved seeing people cooking on their own. And I really don't think that conversation would have happened anywhere else. 

While Twitter may be the dying social media, it's the only place I feel comfortable being totally public. Part of that is because of the character limit, I think. It's hard to get into long political arguments in 140 characters (something I detest most about Facebook). It's also easy to tap out a quick, 140 character reply to a fan (see above about increased accessibility). I'm going to keep thinking on the reasons Twitter appeals to me so much - so there may be more social media analysis here in the future.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

My relationship with Shakespeare

Recently I've been reading a book called "Living with Shakespeare", a series of essays by writers/actors/directors who have worked with the works of the Bard for a long time. It's actually a fairly engaging book, despite it's boring academic sounding topic and title. As I read it, I find myself actually understanding and identifying with some of the points being made about Shakespeare.

Now, I know there's no way that everyone feels this way - in fact, most people have an irrational fear of Shakespeare. So what made me into a Shakespeare lover?  In high school, I used to read the "side by side" translations of Shakespeare. This helped me to get a grasp on the stories being told. High school is also when I saw my first Shakespeare plays - I even wrote about them on this blog in the very early days (wow, I've been on blogspot for almost 10 years!). I wouldn't say I loved Shakespeare in high school though. I was certainly curious, and I wanted to know the stories, but I didn't love it. I liked it, sure. I enjoyed being "academically minded" and knowing the stories from Shakespeare, but I didn't love it.

I think I really came to love it in college, when I took Dr. Hurley's class over winter break my sophomore year. We went to see Cymbeline, which is one of the rare stories in the Shakespeare library. It's like a fairy tale/Shakespeare combo, and I highly recommend it. That's the moment I knew that I had transitioned from a student to an aficionado.