Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Book Sale Poem

Today the UMBC library was having a book sale, and I ventured in.
The room was quiet, soundless,despite the fact that people were there.
But everyone in the room sort of knew, speaking would be like a sin.
The soft rustle of pages and musty old book smell filled the room's air.
Each one of us browsing respected the books and the material within.
The quiet respect was clear, each book we touched received great care.

The books were mostly academic, with some paperbacks about Berlin.
a quarter to two dollars, the prices for each book hardly seemed fair.
I skimmed the book spines, but on some, the spin was too thin.
One thin book I took off the shelf, a cookbook adorned with a pear.
Another book caught my eye, a graduation gift to make someone grin.
I lingered over the poetry, picked Evangeline by Longfellow as a dare.

As I walked out, I ran into another shopper leaving, his books in a bin.
He had a twelve book illustrated Civil War reference set, pretty rare.
Those are nice, I remarked, and he nodded, knowing it was a win.
He lifted his box and asked a friend for help, and they worked as a pair.
I purchased my small stack and put them in a bag, tied up with a spin.
And I walked out wanting to explain the feeling from inside that lair.

I recognize some of the rhyme is a stretch.
But it was fun to write and captures the feelings.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Gingerbread Houses

So, I am ashamed to admit but I spent almost an hour constructing and decorating this little house. It's super fun & relaxing. This house has a fence, and Santa, and a holly vine along the gutters, with a snow covered roof, and small orange candles in the windows. After making this house, I started wondering who decreed that gingerbread houses had to be sweet. Wouldn't it be interesting to make it salty? Like, out of Saltines and pretzels and cheese dip as glue instead of frosting? You could decorate with cheez-its for shingles, edemame for grass, etc. It would be a lot of fun. Or what if we used peanut butter instead of frosting as glue?

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Catching Christmas enthusiasm

Tonight I had the absolute pleasure of attending my school's Camerata Choir concert and Opera Workshops. The Camerata Choir has always amazed me with how great they are, so kudos to them, but today I want to focus on the Opera Workshops. Before the scenes began, the conductor (who is also the instructor of the Opera Workshops course) came onto the stage and described the course. He began by saying he was training his students to be comfortable on stage, which means they need to be willing to share intimate moments in front of a room full of strangers, and he had designed this Opera course to help them do that. Between each scene, he gave a short explanation of the plot and some details about the composer and their style. It was easy to follow, and it was clear to me that the instructor cared about what he was saying and had put that passion into a course for students, and was using the concert setting to share it with us.

Now think back to my post about Christmas spirit. Why do we have to get upset when someone wishes us Happy Holidays? Can we, instead, use it as a setting, a way to share what we care about? I know, it's a bit of a stretch to connect the concert to the Christmas theme I've got going, but I made the leap, and I hope you can see how I made the connection and think on it yourselves. Passion for something shows, and even if the other person doesn't necessarily understand the passion (I have no desire to study Opera) they will see it on you and catch your enthusiasm. Think of Christmas that way - a chance for everyone to catch our enthusiasm, instead of thinking of it as stealing our holiday season.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

More on Christmas

So, right after I posted about Christmas, a fellow blogger, Kati, whose been doing a blog series on hope, posted about Christmas. She also talked about the hope she sees in the Christmas season, so I'm sharing it here.

Read it and see what you think - how are you feeling brought together by hope this season?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

the "battle" for Christmas?

So, I took the month of November off from blogging, apparently. I like to have at least 3 blog posts per month, and by the time I realized it was November, the month was almost gone and I figured I'd just wait.

Anyways. Today I'm going to post about Christmas. I've been listening to Christmas radio on Pandora, and I've noticed a common theme in the lyrics. Here are some examples:
"Where are you Christmas, Why can't I find you, Why have you gone away" (Where are you Christmas)
"There is no peace on Earth, I said, for hate is strong and mocks the song" (I heard the Bells)
"Looks like another silent night as were sung to sleep by philosophies that save the trees and kill the children" (While You Were Sleeping)

Depressing, huh? The general theme seems to be something like this - "Oh, the world is hopeless and Christmas reminds us we're hopeless". I think a big part of this comes from the fact that so many Christians have taken to referring to this season as, "The battle for Christmas" (including my pastor in a recent email about upcoming events). I don't think we should think of it that way. Christmas shouldn't be a "battle". We shouldn't try to cure people of their holiday spirit. Now, I know that people talk about not liking the consumerism, but I really don't think that's what people who aren't Christians think about Christmas. Here's another lyrics example:

"Children laughing, people passing, Meeting smile after smile".
That's not a hymn. It's a Bing Crosby song (Silver Bells). But doesn't it show what everyone wants Christmas to be like? Everyone, not just Christians, want Christmas to be this way. Why do you think Santa is so popular?

My roommate loves the Christmas spirit. She gets excited for shopping, and decorating, and she likes that people are happy and she listens to Christmas music all the time. And you're telling me I'm supposed to tell her that the feelings she gets at Christmas are "not the true meaning"? How about this instead: "You know that feeling you get at Christmas? When people forgive one another and focus on hope for the new year and talk about being surrounded by love? What if I told you I knew a way you could feel that love and community all the time, and that it's called Jesus, and it's called the Church." Wouldn't that be better? Just a thought.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Thoughts of a Teaching Fellow

"Is anybody there?
Does anybody care?
Does anybody see what I see?"
from the 1776 musical

That's often how I feel about the class I am TAing. Now, I absolutely adore teaching. I was a teacher's aide my senior year of high school, and a student tutor after school, and I'm a teaching fellow now for an introductory level computer science course. And I really do enjoy it. I want to share the passion that I have and make sure that other people continue to pursue this absolutely amazing field. But, every once in a while, I hit this dull point where I wonder - do any of my students actually care? All of them have the 'just get it done' attitude. And I confess, I've had that attitude many times, in many classes. But as part of the teaching team, it's very, very hard to see that attitude. Some of my students have a sense of defeat about the projects. I hate seeing that.  I love when they come to me and I explain it and the light bulb appears and the realize they are in fact capable of understanding. But not every student comes to me.

As part of this job I've been asked to write assignments. It's actually really hard. I want to make them easy to understand but challenging so that you learn. I have to remember what things I know that my students may not already know. And I spend a lot of time working on the assignments. In fact I spent part of my hurricane day working on a lab for my class.

As such, it's very hard to not despair and think - none of them notice I want them to succeed, that I work hard to make their learning experience better, I should just give up. But this class has the potential to change the future of the curriculum (it's a pilot class testing some new things) and I can't just give up on it. But I'm losing some motivation, that's all.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

How Literature and Language are falling apart

Today, on Academic Row, there was a girl yelling "Support Breast Cancer! Only one dollar!"
I had to shake my head a little bit. I know that she really meant, "Support Breast Cancer research", or "Support the fight against Breast Cancer", but that is not what she was saying.

If you've ever read any classics - I'm thinking any Charles Dickens novels, The Federalist Papers - the language is "hard to understand". However, Charles Dickens and the authors of the Federalist Papers were both writing in the newspaper - they were for the common, everyday man to read.

Go back even further - in my Great Books course, we just read The Orestia (which, by the way, was really interesting, I'd never read it). The Orestia is a really long way to tell a short story, because the Chorus goes on and on and it's actually hard to follow. Now, in my class we learned that the Orestia was performed for the Athenian plebians. For some of them, it was the only education they received. Which means they were able to understand long speeches that some of my classmates (who are college educated Americans) could not follow.

Personally, I think it's little mistakes like the one about breast cancer above that led to this degeneration of language and understanding. If you cease to care about proper grammar because everyone knows what you mean, eventually, proper grammar will cease to exist.

And I'm sure, before anyone tears me apart, that this blog post is not as well composed as it should have been. I'm not on a soap box, I'm right there with everyone else who causes the degeneration of language.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

GHC Women in Computing Conference

So, this past weekend I had the excellent opportunity to attend the Grace Hopper Celebration for Women in Computing. It was absolutely fabulous. Thousands of women all passionate about computing. Tons of booths with potential employers, fascinating workshops about open source software and mentoring for diversity in academia and teaching students with robotics and so on. It was really cool. I don't have the time to go into a lot of detail now (I have to catch up on homework that I put off while attending the conference), but the posters from the last twelve conferences were on display. (see photos). I also got to see my beloved high school CS teacher, which was a pleasant surprise. Thanks to my school for funding my attendance!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

What makes someone "famous"?

Yesterday I went to a baseball game. We were talking about how the stats are posted on the board - "0 for 2" for the game, and then the overall batting average. Ryan remarked that "some baseball players must hate that...imagine if your CS stats were posted like, number of times failed to compile or hours spent debugging". We laughed, but at the same time baseball players are know for their stats. It's part of their sports player personality. They sign jerseys, and do promotions (think "Andino at the Movies", Orioles fans). They are, in a particular way, celebrities.

Of course, when you think of celebrity you think of Kiera Knightly, Johnny Depp, and the other people who get their faces plastered all over the "most beautiful people" covers (or sometimes the look-how-they-ruined-their-lives covers) of magazines in the grocery store. And they're celebrities too - the TV personalities from Glee, the Bachelor, etc. and the movie stars who have faces you can't mistake. Then there are the music icons - Taylor Swift, Tim McGraw, (can you tell I'm a country music gal), Rihanna. Also famous, but for the voices more than the faces.

Then there are politicians - Martin O'Malley has one of those faces you recognize. Bill Clinton, Ronald Regan - you wouldn't mistake them for anyone other than who they are. They're up there because of what they do for the country, or the state.

Then there's this new class of fame - the people who are internet famous. Rhett and Link, Sam Tsui, Will Wheaton - we all have our favorite web personalities. Then there are the famous bloggers - Julie Powell, who got her blog turned into a movie, for example. (You should read the back issues of the Julie/Julia project blog instead of relying on movie/book, blog is more foodie).

What do all of these people have in common, if anything? Why do we recognize and follow them?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Office Hours

I'm dying to know what my professors are doing during their office hours when there aren't talking to students. This was brought on by my own experience as a UTA (Undergraduate Teaching Assistant). It's actually my office hours right this minute. Obviously, I'm writing on my blog. In addition to writing on my blog here, I've used this office hour time to do my math homework, to watch videos on youtube, read my emails, do my compilers homework, check Facebook, people watch (since my office hours are in the library, it's the perfect place to creepily people watch), do my great books reading, and...oh yeah, I've helped all of one person.

Anyways, with this list of the things that I've done during my office hours, I'm really curious about what my professors do. I noticed that they all close their labtop screens when I come in for office hours - the TA's don't (I don't, and my TAs never did when I was in the classes where the TA's have office hours). I suppose I understand why a professor might hide their screen - I mean, if I was a professor watching youtube videos, I'd lose some street cred. with my students. Since I'm only a TA and I'm still a student, it's a little more socially acceptable.

I totally understand why are large number of my professors have office hours by appointment only. As much as it annoys me to be forced to email them, it's pretty boring to just wait here, and it's actually kind of hard to do anything else, because you do get interrupted. So, why do we require them from course staff if they're so under utilized? Fellow college students - do you think we should keep office hours?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Power of the masses

Today in my Operating Systems class we got a tiny bit off track for a while. The professor asked which of us  primarily coded in Java, and then was surprised because not many people raised their hands, because our university primarily teaches Java. To which my friend Alex replied, "Well, they taught it, but I don't really like it". Others seemed to agree. The professor found this interesting and said. "you know, you guys get the chance to respond to the department in regards to the curriculum, and you should offer your feedback!"

The discussion moved back to class from there, and then we started talking about vending machines as an example. The professor kept referring to a "Coca-Cola" machine, then remembered that UMBC had switched to a Pepsi campus. Alex again remarked "which stinks" and the professor (at this point, sounding a bit frustrated) said "guys, use your power as students to influence the campus!"

Most of the things we discussed in class today I have heard students discuss in private previously. Some of it has been very publicly discussed on the discussion forums that UMBC provides for its students. However, those maybe aren't the proper places to officially address concerns, as my professor was so keen to point out. So, where is the proper place to voice these concerns? For the most part, I think UMBC is pretty good at listening to student concerns - the ProveIt campaign is a perfect example (if you're not familiar with the ProveIt campaign, you can find articles about it in The Retriever Weekly online). However I don't believe that the general student population knows how to voice their concern, nor do they believe their concerns will actually be heard.

Do the masses have power? Obviously, in some cases, the violent ones do (you can read posts by CultureTwined or 300 and some Omanian Nights for a better perspective on that). But I wasn't referring to that. Do you think students should have the power to change things?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Secret to Good Cooking

One of the most exciting things about living in my own apartment is experimenting with food. During the week, I usually go with my normal school routine of eating somewhere on campus between classes. On the weekend, however, the kitchen is my uncharted west, my unexplored seas, my...well, you get the idea. So far I've cooked pretty simple things, but eventually i'd like to try more difficult dishes. My roommate Katrina tried making a version of fried rice, and I'd like to try that at some point.

I actually already have a surprising amount of cooking prowess. The only issue is that all the things I know how to cook rely on having a large family to consume leftovers. So far, almost everything I've tried has involved a large amount of leftovers, so I have to be willing to eat it over a couple of days.

I also try to eat vegetarian while at school.  No, I don't particularly care about animals - I just think it's healthier, and it's actually better for the  world economy, because it takes less to grow plants than to groom meat for eating. However, I don't really know how to cook vegetarian, so that's been another adventure. Fortunately, Pinterest has come to the rescue there.

A secret to good cooking: no recipe is perfect. Try it, and edit it to your own choices.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Superiority Complex

Today in one of my classes I was reminded of something that bothers me. And, unfortunately, reminded that sometimes I have this problem as well. The thing I was reminded of is something I'm going to call the "Superiority Complex" (S.C. for short). I don't know if that's a good name for it, or if that name has already been taken to describe something else, so sorry any psych. majors if I got it wrong.

When I say S.C., I mean like this example: "professor: now, since you're all computing majors, I can say this - the general computer user is an idiot. And there's no patch or update we can put out to cure plain stupidity. *class laughs*"

That kind of scene plays out all too often in my CS classes. A ton of STEM majors feel like their education is somehow superior to others, makes them smarter. NEWS FLASH: it doesn't.

Our educations are, admittedly, different. And yes, we are like to get a higher paying job. However, a friend of mine (who reads this blog - hope she doesn't mind my using her as an example) is a music scholar at the same university I attend. She's absolutely chock-full of knowledge about music.

For example, there's this thing called Alexander technique that she explained to me once, and it was very much over my head. She's dedicated to her flute and spends hours practicing every day - probably the same hours I spend coding. Is she any less smart than me? Absolutely not. She's just passionate about different things.

I think, with computers especially, we have a tendency to assume people are dumb for not protecting themselves, for having open-profile Facebook accounts, etc. They're not dumb. They are just lacking the education you have about computer security. Just like I lack the education about Alexander Technique. Don't ever assume you're superior just because you are better at computers.

Now, before some of my friends get all on me for being a hypocrite - I am well aware that I often spout the "I'll have a higher paying job than you" line. And if I've offended anyone by that, I'm sorry.

I do think that if you don't know what to do, you should go for something that is likely to pay well. There's a difference between being passionate about music and studying it simply because you didn't know what else to do. There's a difference between truly loving Spanish culture (another friend of mine, studying in Argentina, meets that description) and studying Spanish because it was easy in high school. If you truly have a passion for something, go for it, and more power to you. But if you don't know, don't spend a lot of money on a college education you won't use. Spend it on something that will get you a high paying job. Doesn't make STEM better, it's just a fact that STEM fields are the fastest growing in the world.

OK. There are a lot of thoughts in that post. I'll get off my incoherent soapbox now and let some other people chew on that - comment with your thoughts. I was just irritated by my classmates today assuming they're the brilliant ones and everyone else is beneath them. But there are probably those kids in every class.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Famous First Words

Everyone is always famous for their last words. However, here are some promising/intimidating one liners from my classes this semester:

"most of you are probably smart enough to do bad things. Don't."
"operating systems have to work hand in glove with hardware."
"in this class, early intuition will quickly turn to abstraction."
"Colorless green ideas sleep furiously - syntactically correct, but doesn't make semantic sense"
"re-reading is one of the greatest pleasures of reading"

It promises to be a good year!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

First Day of School

Today was the first day of my semester. I kept thinking today how cliche my day was turning out to be. This morning, I had my first Linear Algebra lecture. It was held in the kind of lecture hall with rotating blackboards, and on a slope so that the students look down on the professor, and it felt very typical of college classes.

There was a great post by David, the author of Co-Create UMBC, all about his first day of college. In all honesty, I don't remember my actual first day of classes here. I remember my Honors orientation, and remembered being at Convocation, but I don't remember the first day of classes. I remember my first day of high school though. I came home from my first day of high school convinced I was going to fail Geometry because I didn't know how to do FOIL. But it turned out to be fine, I had a great math teacher that year and Geometry remains my favorite kind of math to this day.

How was your first day of classes this year (if you're still a student, of any kind)? If you're not a student, what was your first day of school like?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


With the rise of the Olympics, the term "hero" has gotten thrown around a lot. I'm not sure I would call them heroes. So I looked it up on, and here are the definitions.
  1. A person, typically a man, who is admired for courage or noble qualities.
  2. The chief male character in a book, play, or movie, who is typically identified with good qualities.
So I don't know that I would call the Olympians heroes, per say, since I'm not sure athleticism is noble, or courageous. They're also not protagonists of books. Sure, they're dedicated, hardworking, and worthy of a lot of respect, but not heroes.

The other day I told my little brother he was one of my heroes. Because he is. But then I started thinking about my other heroes. How about you - who are your heroes?

Monday, August 6, 2012

House Keeping

While my sisters are away, my mom's been capitalizing on the slightly less populated household to clean. We rearranged a lot of our furniture and sorted through all of the...well, the junk that home school families seem to generate saving up for the home school review board. Total clean out: full recycle can after one night's work and six bags of trash at the curb this morning from the weekend's efforts. Of course, it also revealed some fun treasures, like a photo of my sister at age 8 reading out loud to my other sisters (at ages 6 and 4) from 2001. In addition to all this cleaning, we've been buying a few things to stock my new apartment. Looking forward to setting up my own housekeeping :)
Just keeping you all posted - we should be back to semi-regularly scheduled blogging one school kicks up - just now I am busy ending some things and beginning others.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

One Take

As a YouTube consumer, I tend to find YouTube producers fascinating. One of my favorites was introduced to me by my roommate Katrina, and I have talked about him frequently on this blog  - KurtHugoSchnieder.

Recently he posted a Bruno Mars Medley (which is great) and then revealed that it was a one take video. Now, I don't know much about film, so my friend Brandon may come scold me about this later, but I had never heard of the concept of one take until the infamous Old Spice guy. Now I feel like it's everywhere.

Artist friends, chime in - how do you make sure you're cutting edge, and not just cheap imitation? What defines "cutting edge" art? I think mostly of Jackson Polluck here - the cigarette butt in paint art that he created isn't particularly nice to look at, but it was new and different.

What about the idea that there's "nothing new under the sun"? How does that apply to art?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

For Karen, my dance teacher

I wrote this poem for my dance teacher at the end of our class this summer. It's structured where I alternate her quotes and my returning thoughts.

"Pick up your bones!"
in her ominous tones.
"Stay in dance position"
for smooth transition.
"arm goes up, lady goes under"
my dance teacher is quite a wonder.

"I teach you to dance, I don't teach you the move"
When I dance, I hope she will approve.
"a man has a corner, a lady has a center"
dancing is a magical world she's helped me enter.
"point your toes, or he'll step on your feet"
In her class I've learned to keep to the beat.

"Don't forget to practice! Go and make dancing."
I will try to practice before the fall. Thank you for teaching!

I hope you all enjoyed that! I seem to have poetry in the mind recently so expect a few more before the summer ends. :)

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Summer Poem

Hot, humid, and sunny, fans all around.
bugs and lawnmower grass litter the ground.
Counting down the weeks of a summer internship,
Planning some crazy one day or weekend trips.

Summer reading and berry picking.
Letters to camp and T-shirts turned damp.
Popsicle sticks and TV chick flicks.
Long days and outdoor plays.

Little sisters want to be playing with me.
My little brother climbs up a tree.
summer Bible study dinners full of fun.
Dancing because it's way to hot to run.

One day, I'll be grown up enough that summer doesn't change life.
Until then, enjoy my summer projects and poetry. :)

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Retelling Sleeping Beauty

It's a very popular thing recently to re-imagine old fairy tales. My sisters read these recreated tales all of the time. A few days ago I was thinking about a way to recreate a fairy tale, and this is the beginning I came up with:

Once upon a time in a kingdom far far away there lived a woman named Mary. She was a very good cook, and everyday she drove into the place to help cook for the king, the queen, and their daughter. She had never met the royal family - she simply rolled out pie crusts, peeled potatoes, and did other chores that no one else felt like doing. It wasn't great work, but she had been doing it for many years, since before the princess was born. Mary had a daughter, Elise, who was preparing for her wedding, and a son, Eddie, who was quite young and still got into mischief. Everyday she left Eddie in Elise's care while she worked at the palace. Mary knew that there was something odd about the princess - a story that involved a fairy, and pricking her finger - but she didn't have time for that magic nonsense, so she didn't pay much attention. She  was too busy working to make Elise's wedding dress, to find a good school where Eddie could be educated, and to keep her little garden in tip-top order. One day, as she was stirring a large pot of applesauce, Mary felt her eyes grow heavy, and noticed every other servant in the castle seemed to also be nodding off to sleep. Slightly alarmed, she managed to dump her pot of applesauce on the low fire to put it out before she and the rest of the kitchen staff fell into a stupor.

Well, as you can imagine, my poor Mary is from the story of Sleeping Beauty. As I was imagining a re-telling, I contemplated those people in the palace who were NOT a member of the royal family. Mary has two children who are outside the castle gates, children who will be long gone when she wakes up in 100 years. If I were to flesh this out into a longer, better story, I would have Mary go on a quest to discover the histories of her missing children. I have a hard time imagining how it would feel, to wake up not knowing where or who you were anymore, because the time was so different, but I feel like it would be quite startling. My Mary is a particularly practical person - notice how she put out the fire before she fell asleep - very wise, because otherwise what's to prevent them all from burning down? I sort of wonder if rats and other animals overran the castle while all the humans slept. That might be another interesting angle to take on the Sleeping Beauty tale. Anyways, I'm open as to suggestions on what to do with Mary - I'm considering (again) trying my hand at a NaNoWriMo novel with this story as the basic plot line. I'd have to flesh out the introduction so that you feel connected to her son and daughter more, but I think it would be a fun story. I'm also considering putting her into a steam-punk future. That would be super interesting. Let me know what works!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

My Summer Projects

The main one:
A few weeks ago, my sisters and I had a free Saturday where we got together many of our spare T-Shirts and turned them into cool new things - fringed shirts, bags, etc. Many of you know that for several years I served at a summer camp (Camp Wildflowers) that provides it's JCs with colored "Staff" shirts every year. I had enough Camp Wildflowers shirts to wear a different one each day of the week (7 different shirts). As much as I loved these shirts, there were some, like the orange ones, that I never wore, and I have several other T-shirts in my collection. So, on the day my sisters and I pulled out our T-shirts, I got the crazy idea to turn my Wildflowers shirts into a quilt.

I have this odd obsession with quilting. It seems like such a fantastic hobby (albeit a messy one) and I have helped to make quilts before, but never attempted one of my own. I've read a lot of books about quilting, from my first experience with it (the Addy american girl books) to my most recent chick-lit obsession (the Elm Creek Quilter series). Frequent readers of my blog will know that making a quilt was one of last year's new years resolutions, one that I didn't actually meet. I had actually sworn off handicrafts, saying my sisters could have them while I papercraft. Fear not, I am still folding flowers and animals and other origami gifts (I made my mother a flower for mother's day that involved a different piece for each petal). The quilt is definitely a practical thing, needing to find a use for these T-shirts and a project for my summer, so I'm experimenting.  In fact, I'm not even sure I'm doing it correctly, but I am enjoying it!

And the rest...
Another summer project of mine is experimenting with basic CS teaching tools (Scratch, Alice, Processing). My younger sister was just at Cyber Camp and has brought home a lot of cool toys to play with. I'm going to be TAing for an introductory CS/IS/CE course this fall with Alec, and so I'm learning about the various teaching tools for that (with particular attention to Processing since that's what we're using in class). It's a private dream of mine to not be a teacher, but to be one of those after school volunteers who raises interest in STEM fields, like so many of the people who worked in my life to get me to the place I am now. Speaking of camps, my other siblings are in Chinese language camp, so I'm getting the unexpected pleasure of learning a few Chinese words (like my numbers from 1-10) vicariously through their class, and some basic Chinese might just make it into next years resolutions. Obviously, if you read my last post, one of my summer projects is to continue to dance better. I have a fantastic partner and a great teacher, so there's no excuse for not improving my dancing! I'm not sure what caused me to put dancing on my list of new year's resolutions, but I did, and I am happy to have already fulfilled that resolution. My final summer project is, as always, to read! I've been enjoying two series so far this summer - Isaac Asimov's Robot Series and Jan Karon's Mitford Years. Very different genres, but I'm enjoying both. I hope your summers are as enjoyable as mine - for a bit of advertisement, my friend Liz is spending her summer in flute master classes, and is currently in Canada! You can read about her summer on "Adventures of a Flutist" at the right hand side of my blog.

PS - don't you love the layout change? it's bright outdoors, it should be bright on my blog :)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Rules of Dancing - Perfect Position

I'm taking another dance class over the summer - so it's time to add to my previous post on the Rules of Dance.

- Perfect Dance position is found when the lady's center meets the man's corner. To elaborate, my instructor always says that a man is like a two-by-four. If you imagine the corner of a two-by-four running from his right ear to his hip down to his right foot, you've got the man's corner on his point of perfect balance (right behind the first two toes). It's pretty clear where the lady's center is - right where the buttons of her blouse meet is how my instructor describes it. So, if you match her center to his corner, she'll be at a slight angle from him which will prevent her from being kicked.

- side note to perfect position - in Tango, the couple is supposed to imagine there's a china dinner plate between their hips. Too far apart and you get broken china everywhere. This is pretty specific to Tango, but it makes a big difference in dancing well.

- When you're dancing as the lady, always point your toes. you can try it to see the difference - step back normally and look at your foot. Then (if you're not already doing so) step back with your toes first. It adds about a foot to your stride and prevents you from being stepped on.

- For the individual, it's important to stand up straight while in dance position so you're not weighing down your partner. To do so, consider the three main parts of your body - the head, the rib cage, and the pelvic bone. If those three are in line. you will stand straight and dance well, if not, you fall over (think like a snowman).

- it is important that the lady never reach for the man. He controls where your dance position stands, and if you reach for him, you are out of balance, guaranteed. As an example, yesterday in class we practiced the proper way to get into tango dance position (though the principle is the same for all dances I think). Step 1 - the man steps forward on his left foot, extending his left hand to the lady. Step 2 - she steps into him with her right foot, placing her hand in his and staying poised on her right foot. Step 3 - he places his left arm on her back shoulder blade, at which she is prompted to place her hand on his deltoid. This should automatically cause a shift in weight to the other foot so that the couple stands in proper dance position and the man has his left foot (the lady the right foot) free to start the figure.

I'm sorry if that was boringly technical about dance - I'll try to remember to post more frequently with some other summer thoughts.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Kids and Strangers

Yesterday the pastor at my church used this example: he used to walk to and from elementary school. In the window of other houses, he'd see white handprints on green paper. It was a sign that if he ever needed help, he could go to that house. If he caused problems with other kids, a mom would come out of those houses and discipline him - always under the watchful eye of the 'white hand'.

I, as the oldest of nine, speak kid really really well. So when I'm on the playground or at the store and a stranger kid talks to me, I'll talk back. If they are bored, I smile at them. I have learned to be careful - you can't initiate it, and you always play with or talk to them in the sight of their mom, but kids generally realize it's OK to trust me. Today at Costco, the cutest little boy was talking to me, under the watchful eye of his big sister. When he left, the gentleman behind me and the woman across the aisle all smiled and said "bye, it was nice to meet you, have a good day bud", and other variations. For a brief second, several strangers were brought together for the protection of a child, all loving his bright little face and questions.

From the white hand elementary school parents back when my pastor was a kid to the young boy in Costco today, kids have a tendency to bring all of us together and to make us forget our differences. Maybe that's why we need to be like a little child to enter the kingdom of heaven - a child has no judgement, no fear - just a curious and loving trust.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Mad as a Hatter

I was talking to myself while waiting for my mom to pick me up from work yesterday, and I thought about how that is generally frowned upon in society. Which inspired the following poem:

They say that the first sign of madness is talking to yourself.
In that case, I've been mad as a hatter for years.
Is that the reason we invented the status, LiveJournal, and blogs?
With these, don't you feel like you have some one else's ears?

I write letters, and checklists and journals and...I write to myself.
When no one can hear, I argue both sides, and sometimes I talk with the moon.
I tell myself not to cry, not to get angry, that I am capable of passing that test.
Why does that have to make me a crazy loon?

It's not really as uncommon as you think:
Actors tell themselves to breathe before going on stage,
Kids play games and talk with imaginary friends,
why does this equal crazy when we age?

If talking to yourself is the first step toward going insane,
what's the second step? I'm driving down that lane!

If you're a member of my small faithful blog audience, I didn't post in May due to finals (and I thought you needed a break after a month of my blabbering) but hopefully I will be back to normal semi-weekly blogging through the summer.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Practicing Writing

Obviously, I missed another day in my BEDA (Blog Every Day in April) challenge. Having missed a day, I started thinking about why I'm bothering to blog everyday this month. Some of my blog posts are as short as two sentences and a link, more of a Tumblr than a blog. Yesterday I told my friend Bethanie that Tumblrs are blogs for people who are to lazy or busy to write a whole post, but then was ashamed of myself for saying that because sometimes my blog posts are little more than a few lines.

So, back to why I have tried BEDA two years running - the goal of BEDA, in my opinion, is to increase the ease of putting your thoughts on paper in a coherent, readable manner. Essentially, the goal of BEDA is to improve my writing and blogging. So now the question is, does BEDA actually improve my blogging? I'm honestly not entirely sure. I can say that at the beginning of the month, I do really enjoy the challenge of having a thoughtful post, and I make more of an effort to observe the world so that I'll have something to write about, which I think improves my writer's eye, but not necessarily my grammar, sentence structure, etc.

My roommate, Katrina, drafts almost everything she writes. She'll draft emails and blog posts, save them, and come back to them later, with a fresh eye. I tend not to do that - usually what you read here is what I wrote, with minimal edits. I think Katrina is an incredibly talented writer, perhaps because of her tendency to draft and revise (for a sample, see her blog post here:

Both Katrina and I use our blogs to share whatever thoughts come into our heads - there isn't a specific theme or point, it's just a place for us to talk and record the thoughts that we've had. However, my friend Megan is using her blog to talk about her stay in Ireland. My friend Bethanie uses her blog to explore the Psalms of David. Themed blogs are pretty popular - the whole premise of the movie Julie and Julia is a themed blog that rose to fame. A few weeks ago, a journalist from the Baltimore Sun came to speak with the staff of the Retriever Weekly, and she mentioned that blogs are a great way to get people to read your writing, so that they will want to pick up your articles, so the paper will get read. So, I think, regardless of the blog theme, or the length of the post, BEDA and blogging in general is about one very specific thing - practicing our writing.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Gender Profiling

So, I was just browsing LifeHacker, and it mentioned that Google builds an ad profile for you. So I checked out my ad profile, and learned that Google had assumed, based on my geeky browsing preferences, that I was a guy. Talk about gender profiling! You'd think it would realize how often I hit sites like Pinterest, and that would have tipped it off, but I guess not. I corrected it and opted out of ad profiling.

I won't deny that gender profiling makes some amount of sense. I do it myself sometimes. For example, yesterday, when my RC car robotics team met, my teammate Nathan had brought along a wire crimper/stripper, and was regretting not having brought some other tools. I remarked that I simply didn't have that kind of tool collection, and he said, "oh, you pick things up when you need them for projects". My other teammate, Andrew, had a soldering iron, a power screwdriver, and several other tools for us to work with. They were both regretting the lack of a voltmeter, and Nathan remarked that he was thinking of buying one, to which I replied, "So you can add it to your man collection of tools?"

Well, they got pretty defensive about that, so I dropped it, but see, gender profiling comes naturally to people. The question I guess I want to ask is, when is it appropriate, and when is it not? As a female CS person, I'd say both the examples above (geeky browsing sites and tool collections) are not appropriate gender profiling...but then I'm left wondering what is? I know that there are definitions of biblical masculinity, biblical femininity, and roles for different genders to fill - so when should we fit the profile?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


I had at least six different things I thought of today that I could have blogged about. And unfortunately, they've all disappeared tonight. Which reminds me of my class this morning. We were talking about what causes neurons to fire, and the nature of complexity in neurons firing. At some point today, some neurons in my brain fired and I thought, "I'd like to blog about that", but the connection wasn't strong enough to last to now, when I actually got to sitting down at my computer. Speaking of neurons firing, one of my classmates mentioned something totally crazy today in class. Did you know there's a neuron devoted to Jennifer Aniston in your brain? Check it out:

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


I really enjoy comics - although I've never been quite sure why they're called that, because most of them are not comedic, but actually quite serious. Like this one. Enjoy.

Monday, April 23, 2012


Drinking a cup of lemon tea right now. It's delicious. We have a club here at school devoted entirely to the drinking of tea. It's called Tea Empire, and it's quite fun, each week we drink a different themed set of teas. Reminded me of this poem, that I first read in a Laura Childs Tea Shop Mystery.

Tea Poem, by Annonymous

When the world is all at odds
And the mind is all at sea
Then cease the useless tedium
And brew a cup of tea.
There is magic in its fragrance,
There is solace in its taste;
And the laden moments vanish
Somehow into space.
The world becomes a lovely thing!
There’s beauty as you’ll see;
All because you briefly stopped
To brew a cup of tea.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Making Good Ramen

I'm eating Ramen out of a coffee pot like device right now, with a bag of pretzels and my Latin textbook on the desk next to me. I'm laughing at myself a little because I fulfill the stereotype image so much right now. But you know what? I don't really have a problem with that. Who decides stereotypes are derogatory, anyways? My Ramen is delicious - I mixed it with a package of instant Miso soup, so it has really great flavor. I think an interesting idea for a Food Network TV show would be to have a show about how to make pre-packaged food taste really good. Sometimes they make them use things like Rice Krispies cereal in their dishes, and they make it turn out good. Wouldn't that be a great show?

(There are only 8 more days in April, and then you'll stop having to read my one paragraph silly thoughts like this one).

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Love Songs

My good friend Adele just posted this song on YouTube. (No, not the famous Adele who has yet to become famous).

I thought it was interesting, her challenge to herself to write a non-romantic love song. So then I started thinking about the love songs I know (which are very few - and most of the one I do know are country love songs, like Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not). So then I started thinking about other songs that I know, and realized that most songs are about breaking up. Or the post broken-up, can't get over you feeling. That's...a sad and disappointing social commentary. So instead, songs like Adele's should become famous. Problem solved!

Another solution would be to treat dating, and sex, and all that stuff, less casually. If people weren't so quick to give that stuff up, they'd be less heartbroken if it doesn't work out. However, I feel like with movies and TV the way it is (think movies like Friends with Kids, Friends with Benefits) people are going to treat it casually. Something else that makes commentary on our society.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Robots and Oates

This post is prompted by the fact that my team won the Robotics class Championship:

Robots are a lot harder than you think they are. We had an assignment where we had to write how we would design a robot that would take orders from students in the ITE building and deliver them food from our Commons. It was really hard. I think of movies like Robots (with Robin Williams) and Pixar's Wall-E. The robots in those films are far too human like. They reach for a kind of technology that we don't yet have. However, it's a kind of technology that Dr. Oates (one of my favorite professors, and the robots instructor) thinks is achievable. Rather than recap it, I am just going to point you to some Oates resources. I really do want you to read the first link, with his thoughts about the future of robotics - I think there's some great food for thought there. I also think it's worth it to check out his appearance on Prog. Rock Block, because come on, a professor who's willing to do a radio show with one of his students is AMAZING.

Here's his profile on the CSEE website, where he talks about his robot dreams and has an amazing smile:

The class website for our robotics class, with details about SumoBots (the competition linked above):

And, to prove how awesome he truly is the time he and Alec hosted Alec's radio show together.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Writer's Notebooks

Several years ago, my mother gave me a book for my birthday called "A Writer's Notebook" by Ralph Fletcher, and a lovely little notebook. The book described the kinds of things found in a Writer's Notebook, how to choose a good notebook for yourself, and some exercises to get your own writer's notebook started. For example, one of the exercises is to make a list of your favorite words to say (my list includes the words harpsichord, assam, concerto, waltz, and piazza.)

Since that day, I have filled several little notebooks with my "Writer's Notes", and other things (like a list of blog post ideas). I now recognize that the trick of carrying a notebook is not unique to writers, but still do some of the exercises in my current notebook, which has been carefully chosen to meet my notebook criteria. Three of my favorite CS professors carry small  notebooks to keep track of their ideas and to-do lists - and each one's notebook reflects their personality. For example, Dr. desJardins carries a floral print journal. She doesn't feel the need to write on the pages in order, she just finds an empty page, dates it, and writes the to-do things for that day. Dr. Rheingans has a simple dark green composition book in which she writes notes from our meetings and which she uses to reference old notes she'd made. Dr. Oates has a running Notepad on his MacBook to track his to-do list, and a 3 by 5 spiral index notebook to write things down when he doesn't have his MacBook.

Personally, my notebook is a mini-composition book, stamped with Hello Kitty. I had initially bought it for Katrina, but I liked the size so much that I kept it. It's a perfect size for both my purses, but not so big that it draws too much attention to itself. One last story to demonstrate the importance of these notebooks: my friend Dave has a list of things he never leaves the house without, and on that list is his small black moleskin and a pen. Do yourself a favor, and go buy one.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Dr. Hrabowski

Have I ever told you the reason I write for the Retriever Weekly? Well, if you don't already know, I write for the Retriever because a fantastic person here encouraged me to do so. Last spring, a lot of us CWITs were talking about how Meyerhoff Scholars get recognition at this school that we simply do not get. We were encouraged to get that recognition for ourselves by writing for the school paper. We were told that when we honored and respected ourselves, other people would see and hear that and begin to recognize us. I, consequently, joined the paper journalist staff and will be on the editorial staff this coming fall.

The person who encouraged me to write for the paper was none other than the fantastic president of this university, Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, who has just been named one of Time Magazine's 100 most influential people. Which is fantastic publicity for our school. Check it out below:,28804,2111975_2111976_2112119,00.html

Alec and I don't talk about our great professors for nothing! We really are receiving our educations from some of the best people the world has to offer, and we both have the pleasure of personally knowing Dr. Hrabowski.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tricks of Consumerism

I have four Vera Bradley bags. A wrist-let that I carry everyday, a labtop case that I carry at least once a week, a little purse that I carry my Bible in to church on Sundays, and a big purse for other occasions. I've already replaced the wrist-let once, and the handle on my labtop case is getting worn. You'll notice that Vera Bradley comes out with new bag patterns every year, and a year is about the time it takes for the bags to "wear out". Which doesn't mean become unusable, it simply means gets worn and not-new looking. And then people get new ones. Tricks of consumerism!

Another consumerism thing that Katrina had been talking about in GWST is the difference in advertising for women and men, particularly when it comes to hygienic products. Think shampoo, hair products, deodorant. Which means a husband and wife could potentially be buying different shampoo and deodorant, for no other reason than that one is advertised for females and one for males. Again, tricky with consumerism.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Who wants to be an Engineer?

Have you ever noticed that the things on television don't highlight engineering? Shows like CSI and Castle highlight police detective work. Shows like How I Met Your Mother and Friends don't focus on jobs at all generally, but when the jobs do come up, it's jobs like teaching, or investment banking, etc. The only show I can think of that emphasizes science/tech jobs is the Big Bang Theory - and that show is designed to make fun of the people who do the physicist jobs. (I think Big Bang Theory is hilarious, by the way, and I am in no way saying it's a bad show). But I do want to know why there aren't any "glamorous" engineers on TV - preferably female characters, if possible. Granted, there aren't a lot of real female engineers, so it would be hard to make a TV show about them when they're already scarce, but I think if we were to make them more cool on TV, more kids would want to go into those fields. Who wants to be an engineer if they don't see how cool it is? Just a thought from the female advocate in me. :)

Sunday, April 15, 2012


This post is going to be a bit short, but I have a question for you all to consider. How do you sign your letters/emails? And what does the way you sign your letters/emails mean? For example, one of my favorite professors always signs his name "tim" on every email I've ever sent him. Is that giving me permission to call him by his first name? Sometimes I sign my emails with just my first initial - usually only to people I'm super close/casual with, like my father. My CWIT mentor signs her emails "plr", which are her initials. When I write to my friend Yna, I like to sign the letters in more flowery ways - "Very truly yours", for example. Not for any particular purpose, just because I write her often enough that I like to add that for a slightly different flavor. According to Dr. Shields, signing my letters that way is a sign of my Western training, the fact that I include language of love in my letters to a friend. You all know now that I have saved several letters over the years, and they usually end with "Write Soon", etc. How do you sign your name? Does it have any significance?

Saturday, April 14, 2012


Christina and I recently watched "Kate and Leopold", which is allegedly about the inventor of the elevator, so I've been thinking about elevators for an unusually large amount of time. Yesterday, I summoned the elevator to my floor, and then decided to run down the stairs to get my laundry, instead of waiting for the elevator.

When I got down to the basement (where the laundry room is), I called the elevator again, so that it would come back down to me when I was ready for it. Then I went and took my laundry out of the dryer - and came back to find that the elevator still hadn't come down yet (the light was still on). This turned out to be because there was someone else in the elevator with their laundry when it came down.

So, like the nerd I am, on the way back up I started thinking about how you might program an elevator. My guess, from Data Structures, is to use a Priority Queue. You'd have to have some way to differentiate between when you were headed up and when you were headed down. You need a tracker to follow which floor you're on. No one wants to get on an elevator to go up before they can go down, so that's another factor you'd have to consider when assigning priority to commands.

There's one last thing with an elevator. It's an embedded system, so you don't have the regular coding that you normally have. So maybe programming an elevator isn't really programming, but only circuit control, in which case I'll have to hit up one of my computer engineering friends for advice.

I'll bet you've never thought so much about elevators, have you? :)

Friday, April 13, 2012

Expectations of Friendship

Today was Dr. Shields' "Lunch in the Lounge", and she talked to us about the language of friendship from the Tang Dynasty. She told us that the language of love that we tend to use in Western cultures to define friendship is not used in Eastern culture. She gave us examples of monks writing letters to each other, saying how much they longed to see each other, etc. (Think like the letters of the apostle Paul, Ephesians 1:16 as an example). This language isn't present in Chinese literature - any discussion of friendship that does appear in these texts is an extremely polished, formal writing. She then told us four different words that are used for different kinds of friendship in Chinese, and how these words have evolved over time to the meanings that they have in contemporary China. For example, there's a whole new Chinese word that has evolved to mean internet friendships. Did you know that there are more people in China on social networks than the population of the United States? (by a tiny little bit). That's a LOT of people! Dr. Shields told us that this has changed Chinese young people's expectations of friendship, and even of dating. So after her talk, I asked her if there was a word to describe friendship between a husband and his wife (I mean, it is my parent's anniversary, after all), and she said no, there isn't, because the expectation of friendship in a marriage is a (relatively) new concept. Which I thought was interesting. Don't you? Friendship in a marriage is something I've always expected. Maybe it's because my parents are introverts, but they're pretty close to each other, and they're my obvious model for marriage. Well, whatever the reason for my expectations, happy anniversary to my parents!

Thursday, April 12, 2012


Yesterday, my friend Brandon posted this status - "did you guys know that "pixel" is short for "picture element"? Makes sense....."

I responded with:

"I did! I think it's one of those things they tell you in an intro level CS class, and when a photographer finds it, you feel a brief moment of soul matching, realize you're actually connecting as human beings and aren't two totally different species, and see how cool the world could be...before going back to your separate lives. :) Kind of like when we talked about pinhole cameras in relation to machine vision in my robotics course."

I really love the connection moments between disciplines. They're usually pretty rare, but it makes both parties really happy. Wouldn't you agree?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Dr. Osherow

Along the same lines as my post about Dr. Shields, here's a post about Dr. Michele Osherow, another one of the most fabulous professors here. I don't imagine that Dr. Osherow remembers this, but she was actually one of the first professors I ever had at UMBC. During honors orientation, they have the students attend artificial classes to get a feeling for what the campus is like, and what the professors are like. I attended the Shakespeare class with Dr. Osherow. She began the class with a short summary of the time period in which Shakespeare was writing, to give us some context about his plays, told us a little bit about the thought process behind staging a Shakespeare play (since, in addition to UMBC, she's the resident dramaturg at the Folger) and ended by asking us to break into teams and act our various scenes from Macbeth. I loved that first false class, not only because I love Shakespeare, but because I was completely amazed by someone as dedicated to literature and as intelligent as Dr. Osherow.

This past semester, I had the great pleasure of taking Dr. Osherow's course, The Bible as Literature (ENGL 349, if you're interested). She had some fascinating insights, and I adored taking a class with her. As an English Lit. minor, I think my new philosophy for taking English classes is going to be 'follow Dr. Osherow', because I know she's amazing. I also, happily, got to see a play she was helping with at the Folger. Because of Dr. Osherow (and being in the Honors College) I was able to attend the dress rehearsal for Othello last spring, and to meet the director of the production and hear some of his thoughts. It was an absolutely fantastic experience.

link to UMBC profile:
link to work at Folger:

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Dr. Anna

Today I was having lunch with Alec, and he remarked that he doesn't know anyone else at any other school who so consistently talks about the great people there. We were talking about one of our favorite subjects - the sheer number of phenomenal professors at our school. And, with our excellent rating as the 4th top school for undergraduate education, why wouldn't we talk about that?

In all seriousness, one of the main reasons I'm at this school is because of some fabulous professors who scored in my book immediately. One of these professors is Dr. Anna Shields, who at the time was the Director of the Honors College. Dr. Shields, with her bright, happy smile and commitment to an Honors education, persuaded me of the benefits of the UMBC Honors college and won my heart, in terms of professors, with her excellent presentation about the poetry of Chinese letter writing (see, more letters!) during Honors Forum my freshman semester. When a relatively small blonde woman starts a lecture by jabbering in Mandarin, you remember!

While my interaction with Dr. Shields has greatly decreased since her stepping back from the Honors College, she's still in my list of top professors at UMBC, and I hope that she teaches another Honors Seminar so that I can enjoy the pleasure of her instruction again. This Friday, she's going to be hosting Lunch in the Lounge, and I really look forward to getting to talk with her again!

(link to an abstract about Dr. Shields' work)

(PS - this might turn into a new mini-blog series about my favorite teachers. We'll see.)

Monday, April 9, 2012


I absolutely, positively, 100% love letters. I love getting them, I love writing them, I love the whole process. Part of it might be because my primary love language (according Dr. Chapman's Five Love Languages quiz) is Words of Affirmation (followed by a close second of Quality Time and then Acts of Service). Part if it might be because letter writing has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember - I wrote letters to my cousin Megan and to my friend Madeline starting at (I think) eight years old.

At camp, letters were always important. Receiving three or more resulted in the "torture" (which really meant fun and excitement) of running around the dining hall, and everyone waited with baited breath to hear if their name was going to be called in that round of mail call. As a Jr. staff, I tried to leave little notes for my campers who didn't get mail - on their bed, in their backpack - because I knew how desperately important it was to me, as a camper, to get mail, and figured they'd want some to.

When my sister went to Colorado for five weeks one summer, her letters were a treasure in our family. We'd pass them around and read them. I remember one particular letter she had addressed to me that began by saying "This letter contains all the private stuff". As a rule, when we're at camp, our family tries to write individual unique letters to our younger siblings still at home - it's so much more fun when you have your own unique message.

Regardless of why I like them, letters are really important to me. I keep most letters I receive - every college acceptance I got, even though I only attend one university, for example. So I was thrilled when I discovered this site, that publishes letters worth reading from famous people.

My favorite on this site so far is the letter from C.S. Lewis about writing. Writing to an author is always an exciting experience, but getting a letter in return is even more special. I've received letters from two authors in my life - Elie Wiesel, who wrote Night, and John Grogan, who wrote Marley and Me. Mr. Wiesel wrote my entire English class, because we had sent him poetry that we had written about his book.

Mr. Grogan's letter was much more personal. He thanked me for enjoying his books and then said, " I hope you keep writing. All I can advise is the more you do it, the better you get. And the more you read, the more you will know how to tell great writing from just OK writing."
Three lines, but a fantastically exciting letter for sixteen-year-old me.

In terms of letters now, I'm currently pen-pal-ing my friend from high school who goes to St. Mary's College. I collect postcards, so if you're in an exciting place (cough, Ireland, cough). I'd love to get one from you too! Even if you're not in an exciting place, send me a postcard. I promise, I do keep them. :)

Sunday, April 8, 2012

He is Risen indeed :)

He's Alive, by Don Francisco, is a pretty good summary of what we celebrate in church this morning, and a song that I really like. Check it out, and have an absolutely wonderful Resurrection Sunday! (aka Easter).
Link to lyrics:
Link to video:

PS - sorry for missing two BEDA days guys. Friday I was out and about most of the day, and forgot about blogging, and then Saturday I was mad at myself for missing a day and didn't post.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

German Games

I've played board games almost my whole life. I can't pinpoint the first time that I played Settlers of Catan, and ever since that day, I've been hooked. I wrote one of my college admissions essays about German strategy games - at that time, I had just been introduced to the game Goldbrau. By some magical fluke, I was really, really good at Goldbrau (which, embarrassingly, is a board game based on beer sales), and had beaten my Dad, sister, and lifelong friend of my parents three times. I've played many, many other games in my lifetime. My cousin Ben and I have played thousands of matches against each other - or, more frequently, in partnership with each other against our siblings.

Needless to say, when Felicia Day's youtube channel announced a board game show, I was super excited. The first episode is here - go watch and enjoy! :)

(PS - I need suggestions for blogging topics for BEDA (Blog Every Day in April). So far I've taken posts from school news and from conversations with a friend of mine, but I need more ideas!)

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Do you have regrets?

There's a really interesting post on the UMBC discussion boards this week. It's titled "Too Young to Have Regrets" and lists the (supposedly) five most common regrets in people aged 25-35. ( The author (who writes interesting posts quite frequently - David Hoffman with Co-Create UMBC) then goes on to list his personal five youthful regrets.

It asks us any regrets we have, ending with "Name them, learn from them, move on". So, here are my five:
1. Not knowing my grandparents better.
2. Losing a lot of my Spanish literacy skills post-high school
3. Losing my pattern of memorizing Bible verses post-high school
4. Not writing in my journals often enough
5. Not taking good care of my teeth

What about you?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Monday, April 2, 2012

My story of dance

So. BEDA day 2.
Once, there was a freshman in college who saw an advertisement for dance classes. And she signed up for the classes on Sunday night. And they were good classes. She learned how to do the tango, and the cha-cha, and the mambo. And then she forgot how to do them, because she didn't practice.

Two semesters went by, and she decided she wanted to take classes again. She signed up again, and started taking classes again. The second time was so much better than the first time, because she had actually learned the right way to stand, and the place to stand, and stuff. Her teacher was pretty good, and told the class to practice every week. Which wouldn't have happened for this student, except that one of her classmates asked her if she was going to go out dancing, and she said sure. So she went, and it was amazing. So then they started practicing every week, and going out dancing more and more.

That's my story of dance. :) If you're interested, this is where we go every week.
It's really, really fun. You should totally go. As my teacher says, "go and make dancing!"

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Two BEDA introductory thoughts

So, I was talking to a friend of mine, and we talked about my blog, and I was reminded that I hadn't written on here in a while. After that, I thought up some blog posts that I wanted to write.

1. Why I'd be a bad housewife
Today I left my laundry in the washer for 4 hours. And then, when I remembered to put it in the dryer, I left it in the dryer for another couple of hours. It was wrinkled, but I put it away anyways. Yeah. I hate laundry. Also, I'll tie off the trash, set it down to take it out when I leave, and not take it out. I do make my bed every morning! I do the dishes, because I can't handle dirty dishes stacked up in the sink. In general, I keep things neat, in a shallow clean kind of way, in that my desk is always organized, and I pick up the floor, etc. I scrub out the sink everyday. I'm good at keeping things neat, but not good at cleaning. I'd be a pretty bad housewife.

2. My School Bus experiences
I went to the ballet with the Honors College, and we rode a school bus to get there. On the way there, I thought about the number of times that I have ridden a school bus. The first time was the freshman high school orientation. The second was when we went bowling for a freshman reward for honor roll students. The third was when I attended the student learning conference, where the high school interns presented their projects to other students. The fourth was going to Rockburn elementary to teach elementary school art. The fifth was attending the MESA student conference my junior year. The sixth was teaching at Rockburn a second time. The seventh was attending the MESA student conference my senior year. The eighth was the CWIT summer retreat to a rock climbing thing at College Part. The ninth was attending my first honors college Shakespeare play. The tenth was attending the BSO with the honors college. The eleventh was attending the Othello dress rehearsal. The twelfth was attending the ballet tonight. Now, I might be missing some. Actually, I wouldn't be surprised if some people came on and started telling me some that I forgot. But the point is, I don't often ride a school bus. It feels weird.

OK everyone. See you tomorrow, as I am trying to do BEDA (Blog Every Day in April) for a second year in a row.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

"Big Sisters"

Now, to be fair, here are some of the "big sisters" in my life, since I just covered the big brothers.

- "the red-headed one"
This big sister and I have had a relationship for...oh, 8 years? I met her in homeschool study hour, and absolutely worshiped her - because at that point, I was a lowly middle school-er and she was a high school-er who talked to me. Our relationship grew, and she was less 'goddess-like' as I got older (of course, the bond of serving on camp staff together helped). I got Facebook when she was going to college, because I wanted to keep up with her life. Although we're following very different paths now (she's in Ireland, having all kinds of adventures), I really love this big sister. :)

- "the one who works for Google"
This big sister is actually officially assigned to be my peer mentor at UMBC. She's smart, and talented, and everyone adores her - me included. She's the Google campus ambassador, and in general carries herself with such confidence and grace that I can't wait to grow up and be like her. She's my CS big sister, offering me advice on professors and courses to take. We don't really interact outside of CWIT events, because of our different busy lives, but she's always got a happy smile for me when I see her.

- "the Asian one"
This big sister will probably not appreciate being referred to as a big sister - she would point out that the difference in our ages is not as great as I like to pretend that it is. I had heard a lot about her before I actually got to know her (one of my big brother figures is dating her and told me about her). When I actually started getting to know her, she proved to be exactly as awesome as he had claimed. :) We get to have lunch every week, and as a result, our relationship has become more equal, but she'll always be a 'big sister' in my mind. I get the pleasure of watching her graduate college and learn from her how best to prepare myself for graduation. She's (perhaps unknowingly) forced me to look deeper into how I represent myself as a Christian, and what parts of church government/doctorine/etc are important to me. We also talk a lot about marriage and dating. She's in a committed relationship while I am not, so I am learning things from her that wouldn't have occurred to me on my own. She claims I teach her things as well, which I would hope is true, but which I, in my own mind, highly doubt.

Like with the big brothers, there are countless more big sisters who I could write about, but the ones who are here are pretty diverse. I love that Christian community uses the terms 'brothers and sisters' (maybe because I come from a big family) because it allows anyone, from 8 to 80, to be part of these lists. :)

"Big Brothers"

As the oldest child, I don't know what it's like to have an older sibling. But I can certainly imagine. Today I'm going to wrote about some "big brothers" in my life, and hopefully later I'll get a chance to do my "big sisters". (Names are intentionally omitted - if you know them, you'll recognize them).

Today, I had the pleasure of having lunch with one of my on-campus "big brothers" after church.
It was really great, because it was just the two of us, and I hadn't had a chance to talk to him in several weeks. Also, he's one of the wise introverts I mentioned in my previous post, so we had some great DMC (Deep, Meaningful Conversation). He was the 'Woolie' on my floor my freshman year, which means he led us to orientation events and just generally introduced us to campus. He was/is one of the most devoted people I have ever met, and really focuses on strong relationships with people - which is one of the reasons I was so happy to get to talk to him today. Every single one of my floor mates (who are now sophomores) remember and miss his guitar playing, mafia organizing, and general social attitude. He just made all of us feel like someone really cared about us.

Another one of my on campus "big brothers" has since graduated - but the RA on my floor last year was my CS big brother. In addition to RAing my floor, he TA'd for the class I was in my first semester and helped all of us when we needed it. It's because of him that I want to become a UTA myself - because he inspired and assisted me as I needed it, because he really loved teaching his sections.

Another "brother" is a good friend and study buddy of mine. I don't know why he continues to be my friend - he offers me all kinds of guidance and assistance, and (from my perspective) I offer very little in return. For example, we met in STAT 355, and started studying together for the second exam. He explained countless examples to me, and I knew I wanted him to help me study for the rest of the semester. Just this afternoon, even though he had plenty of work of his own to do, he helped me debug my code for a class for over an hour. When I was dizzy and woozy from giving blood, he was genuinely concerned about me. We've had lots of great chats, and I really value his friendship. He's not that much older than me, but enough that I've assigned the "big brother" status in my mind.

My most prominent "big brother" figure is, of course, my cousin. He's almost two years older than me, and for as long as I can remember, I've loved him and wanted to play with him when we'd see each other over holidays. Thanks to technology, he and I can stay in touch even though we're miles apart at different universities, and he offers me perspective on my life, since he can actually see it from a removed stand point.

Those are just a few of the "big brothers" that came to mind, it's not an exhaustive list (and it's only the ones who are current - I've had some 'big brothers' from the past who are less involved in my life now, like my NavYouth leader, who I can't write about here because it would get way too long). I'm sure even if you have an actual big brother, you have these people in your life too - they're just so significant to some one who doesn't have one related to her by blood.


Ever since I was a little girl, I have classed myself as an extrovert. I can't even pinpoint the first time I heard the term - I know I was quite young at the time though. My father has, my entire life, pointed out to me how extroverted I am, mostly in contrast to him and my mother. I don't think two introverts quite knew what to do with their social little daughter - and my younger sisters, who are also introverted, widened the gap between me and introverts, since they all hid in shyness from most of my parents friends. In fact, just a few weeks ago, my father took me to a dinner event and introduced me as his extrovert. It's almost a pet name at this point - like he's proud of me for it, albeit a bit bewildered at how it makes us different.

I've taken the Meyers-Briggs' 3 times officially, and I do always fall on the extroverted side, but usually only very slightly. I was kind of shocked when my friend Christina pointed out that she actually thought of me as more introverted. She explained it was because I didn't mind comfortable silence, because I, when in a large group of people, probably won't introduce myself to strangers, and because I find comfort in curling up in quiet. I suppose she does have a valid point - when compared to her, I am an introverted person. Just more proof that the world isn't black and white, like Meyers-Briggs wants us to believe it is.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Social Justice

There are tons of campaigns. There are tons of causes. There are also tons of critics.

I'm guessing you've seen the Kony 2012 video that is going viral this week. And if you've seen the video, soon you'll be seeing the criticisms. Soon you'll be seeing the people saying it's a scam. Here's the deal. I DON'T KNOW if it's a scam or not, and frankly, neither do you.

Only God knows the heart and motivation of the Invisible Children organization. We live in a fallen world, with fallen people, who will use social justice as a way to scam people. There are also people who aren't trying to scam you, but social justice is harder than you think to get going and running and working. It takes money to do anything. It doesn't matter what the intent is, it takes some kind of administration and that administration costs. People are so cynical, and so critical. And perhaps they have a alternate solution.

The thing is, so many people accuse other people of being sheep, and just following the latest social justice trend because it's trendy. To those people, make sure you're not falling the other way, and following the critic trend simply because it's trendy. To other people - myself included - take a good look at your activism. See what it's rooted in, and what ways you can be active instead of just sending money. UMBC students, for you that might be going on one of the IV Urban Projects this summer, or working with Habitat for Humanity.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this, because I don't think I've made a conclusive decision on where my social activism lies - I'm just sick of reading the finger pointing criticisms.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

YouTube instead of TV

I don't know how many of you all are like this, but I have a YouTube channel, not to upload anything, but simply to subscribe to my favorite "internetainers". 

We are at the point where people can make their entire living off of creating free YouTube videos. Some of the best musicians I have heard are self-made artists off of YouTube. Lots of the coolest educational material I've experienced were a result of YouTube channels. In fact, I would say I watch youtube shows instead of watching TV shows. I subscribe to a total of 30 channels, and have created 12 playlists. Here's the top ten of the channels I subscribe to:
1. edwinstudio - this channel makes some adorable CGI animated videos.
To see his channel, I recommend: Robby
2. HISHEdotcom - How It Should Have Ended. Hilarious webseries. Takes movies and changes the end.
To see this channel, I recommend: How Toy Story 3 should have ended
3. juliansmith87 - Internet comedian. I think he's hilarious, but my mom doesn't get him.
He compiled his own list of top videos:

4. kemlye1 - David Sides is one of those self-made artists. He does piano covers of pop songs.
I'd recommend: Umbrella - Rhianna & Jay-Z Piano Arrangement
5. KurtHugoSchneider (and TheSamTsui) -  two self-made artists (from Yale!). They used to share Kurt's channel, but Sam has since branched off and allowed Kurt to work with other singers.
To see their channel, I recommend their original song: Don't Want and Ending
6. lindseystomp - a "rocking out violinist". She's seriously amazing - she dances while playing the violin.
To see this channel, especially for LOTR fans: Lord of the Rings Medley - Lindsey Stirling
7. minutephysics - weekly videos that are a little over a min to explain physics concepts in simple terms
I'd recommend: There is no pink light
8. rhettandlink2 - this pair coined the term "Internetainers" and host a daily show, Good Mythical Morning.
From their first channel, I'd recommend: 2 Guys 600 Pillows (Backwards Music Video)
9. ThePianoGuys - AMAZING musical covers here. Professionals, I think.
I'd recommend this one: Just The Way you are - Bruno Mars (Piano/Cello cover) - The Piano Guys
10. Vihart - videos about Mathematical concepts, made fun and cute through doodles and candy
I'd recommend: Doodling in Math Class: Squiggle Inception