Monday, February 20, 2012

To Be a Graceful Dancer...

This semester I have been taking Beginner American Ballroom Dance. I took Beginner International Ballroom the fall of my freshman year, and it's been a while but I wanted to do it again so I signed up. And I LOVE IT. I walk out of class and feel like I am the most graceful creature on the planet, and I almost float back to my dorm.

So, in order to give you a taste of the class, I'm going to tell you the "rules" for good dancing, from this semester.
1. Follow the Line of Dance - the line of dance will follow your natural walking gait. Don't feel pressured to stay along a tightrope - walk normally and you will naturally drift and turn. That natural turn is the line of dance.

2. No Cowboy Dancing - This refers to dancing with huge steps and large gaps between your legs. The natural, graceful way to walk, and therefore dance, is with your legs brushing together.

3. Stay in Dance Position - This is the lady's number one job. Dance position is between the gentleman's neck and right shoulder. Stand there, and you will not be kicked. In turn, the gentleman should give his lady a strong frame for her dance position - he should hold her so that her arms should be parallel to the floor, and his arm should have a strong grasp on her shoulder - his frame serves as a container to keep her in, so that when he moves, she moves.

4. The gentleman is the center of the universe, and the lady is a satellite, the most important thing in his universe
This rule is specific to swing for our class - it helps the ladies judge how big their steps should be, and helps with the natural rotation movement that comes from a swing step. My instructor says this rule applies to most rhythm dances, like swing and cha-cha.

And a bonus from my previous ballroom class:
5. There is not a penny on the floor! (this is what my instructor would say when I was looking down)
My previous instructor's pet peeve was when I looked down while dancing with him. When you look down, your body changes position, and you lose your dance frame. Also, too much focus on your feet will lead to not following the line of dance, because you are focusing too hard. Especially as a lady, if you keep your dance position, you will be lead to the right places to move and won't need to look at your feet.

Hopefully that wasn't to technical for you all! This weekend my class is going out dancing together, so I should have some interesting tales to tell about taking my dancing out in public...wish me luck!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Prezi Article

Here's the latest article I wrote for The Retriever Weekly! Enjoy.

Valentines Day

Honestly, I've never understood why single people hate Valentine's Day. I've never dated ever in my life, and I still absolutely love Valentine's Day - I have since I was little, as you can see from my memory catalog:

I have a memory from I don't know when (it was before I was 10 years old because we are still living in Baltimore during this memory) of making Valentines as a craft project with my mom for my best friend Liza  and for my parents' friends. My mom showed me the accordion paper cutting trick - fold a piece of paper up like an accordion, carefully cut out a shape (like a heart), leaving part of the edge uncut, unfold and voila! a string of paper hearts that instantly make a Valentine.

For several years (I don't remember when she started), my grandma would send us Valentines that she had picked up for free at the library, and each Valentine came with a fresh, crisp new dollar bill. When I was little, a dollar bill was a lot of money, and as I got older, it was simply the tradition of receiving a Valentine from Bestemor that made it special.

When I was in sixth (or seventh?) grade (it gets hard to keep track when you're home schooled), I actually had a secret pen pal over Valentine's day. It turned out to be one of my best friends sending me letters through our class mailing system, but it was still really fun.

When I was in sixth grade, a whole bunch of girls from my church had a Valentine's day baking party. We made really yummy cookies and each girl there had a brown paper bag labeled with their name on it. We crafted and delivered Valentine's all day long. Many of those Valentines are in my scrapbooks, and I love the memory of that day.

When I hit high school, Valentine's day lost some of its luster. Sure, they sold candy grams in the cafeteria, and we had some fun days, but I had gotten kind of busy at that point in my life. I still got Valentines from Bestemor, and, when my little sisters remembered, I got the occasional crayon drawing on Valentine's. Valentine's never felt lonely for me, because most of my friends weren't dating anyways, so it passed by with the occasional mention of St. Valentine in history class.

Last year, my freshmen year of college, Katrina surprised me with an adorable little box filled with candy for Valentine's day, and Christina and I created the chocolate and movie tradition. It was a blast, and we repeated it again this year. For cards this year, I crafted little origami Valentine's for my entire floor and a personalized one for Katrina. I was pleasantly surprised to receive a long stem rose from Alec - I love flowers of any kind and really enjoy receiving one.

Some of my favorite social media posts today have been from single people, like myself, who are able to enjoy the day. On a final note, to wish all of you Happy Valentine's day, this is the picture from Katrina's Pixar-a-Day calendar:

Friday, February 10, 2012

Pinterest article
My latest article for TRW - it's been out for a couple of days and I forgot to share it with you all. Whoops. Enjoy!


This morning for breakfast I had a grapefruit, and I was reminded of the first time I ate grapefruit.
My paternal grandparents had come to babysit while my parents went on a trip. At that time my grandma always brought tons of food with her, like scones, and frozen macaroni platters, and oatmeal, and, on this particular trip, grapefruit.
Now, you have to understand, as long as I can remember, my grandparents have eaten oatmeal for breakfast. But on this trip, my grandfather ate oatmeal while my grandmother ate grapefruit. I, being the innocent child, asked her if I could have one of her 'big oranges'. She laughed and explained to me what a grapefruit was, and then taught me how to eat one. First, cut it in half, second, carefully cut around the fruit, then scoop it out of the ready made bowl. Finally, after scooping all the fruit out, squeeze the skin and funnel the juice into your mouth. I don't remember exactly what we said, but the process of watching her cut it, and telling me to cut as close to the white as a could to not waste any fruit, and gently scooping out my first bite - those things will be burned in my memory forever.

(Side Note: Isn't it interesting how memories arise at completely random times? I wonder what part of the brain triggers that. What sentimentality arises for memories to spark?)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Why my semester is exciting

Since most of my audience knows me personally and has been asking about my courses (and even if you don't, I think you'll still find this post interesting), here are the classes I am taking this semester, why I'm excited about them, and my first impressions.

~ CMSC 491 - Computation, Complexity, and Emergence
This class, taught by Dr. DesJardins, is at it's most basic level about patterns in nature and what kinds of things we can observe from the patterns. At a more detailed level, we're going to simulate those patterns on the computer and determine how different levels of complexity develop, etc. I'm excited about it for a couple of reasons. First, it's an honors course, so the class is smaller, and it's discussion based, so it promises to be a lively class. Second, because I'm really excited about taking a class with Dr. DesJardins, because she is super cool  and smart, and a personal role model. Third, (but no less important) because I'm excited about building my nature model. If possible, I want to model how flowers know where to grow their next leaves and petals, which should make my Wildflower Camp friends smile. So far, we've ended every lecture for this class by playing a game, so it's a win in my book. I'm already involved in lively discussions with my classmates online, and it promises to be great (but a bit hard, definitely, as Dr. DesJardins will be assigning a lot of writing assignments).

~ CMSC 479 - Introduction to Robotics
This class, taught by Dr. Oates, is exactly what it sounds like. We're talking about the basics of autonomous mobile robots, which means robots that are not controlled by remote control, but can make their own "decisions" based on surroundings, and are able to move freely, instead of being bolted to a specific point. I'm excited for this class first because I haven't had robot experience, and it's a really interesting field, second because Tim Oates is one of the best professors I've ever had the pleasure of having, and I am really looking forward to taking another class with him, and thirdly because it gives me the opportunity to pretend I'm a computer engineer, instead of a computer scientist. The first two days of this class have been fabulous, watching videos and discussing recent robotic developments, and the readings promise for a bright future. Also, as a side note, having worked at NASA and heard a lot about the various robot/Mars rover project, it's cool to talk about them in class.

~ CMSC 313 - Assembly Language and Computer Organization
This class, taught by Dennis Frey, is a required CS course for majors. It's one of the harder classes CS majors take, because you learn assembly, which is basically a computer language that no one really uses. However, I am also learning C in this course, which I anticipate will be useful in my future as a programmer, and so far the professor seems very engaging and accessible. I also know a lot of my classmates, which makes for easy/more fun studying.

~ CMSC 345 - Software Design and Development
This class, taught by Susan Mitchell, only has ten students in it because I'm in a pilot program for having UMBC students work for a real corporation, which is super exciting! The material for this class so far has reflected my experience on a development team this past summer, so it seems very realistic and I look forward to developing a project from start to finish with my classmates

~ ANCS 150 - English Word Roots from Latin and Greek
This course, taught by Anna Peterson, is to fulfill my culture credit, and I wasn't super excited about it until I started the reading. Basically, we're studying the history of the English language and learning how to dissect words to discover their meaning. Having taken both Latin and Greek several years ago, I look forward to this course and improving my vocabulary. It's a nice change from the CMSC courses, and it promises to be really interesting, but not too difficult.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

TRW Google+ article

Hello Blog-o-sphere!
I realized partway through the month of January that I hadn't posted anything that month, and decided to take January off from my blog. However, I'm back now, and it looks like I'll be having things to post pretty frequently, since, drumroll please......
I am now a 'journalist' (of sorts). I'm writing for the Technology section of the school newspaper (The Retriever Weekly), so whenever I roll out an article for them I'll be sure to link it here for you all to read.

That being said, here's my first TRW article: (I'm the google+ article on pages 8 and 10)

please comment with criticisms and suggestions for future TRW tech articles.
Also, I will still use the blog for other, non-techy thoughts, so my non-techy friends need not worry.
I'm super excited for the way my writing has been taking off, both through my posts on CultureTwined and in TRW, but I am also scared, as publishing my writing elsewhere forces me to face the faults of my own ramblings.