Monday, December 2, 2013


So, as my sister so graciously pointed out over Thanksgiving break - I failed at blogging in November and I also didn't finish my NaNoWriMo Sleeping Beauty story. You'll have to pardon me for not feeling bad about that - I post on my blog when I feel it's relevant (i.e. the Romeo and Juliet review) and in the recent past, blog-relevant thoughts haven't been coming to me (although I could do an interesting one on the Hunger Games, if I get motivated enough).

Also, as the end of the year is coming up, I'm reflecting on the failure of some of my new year's resolutions (blogging being one of them) so I'm sure we'll be talking about it a lot here.

But failure, like many things, is how we learn. And figuring out why we fail, that's an important part of learning too. Here's an example - for several years now, I've made some kind of weight loss goal for new years, and not managed to meet it. Why? Well, for a few reasons, I think - one, I was trying to do it all on my own and it's super hard to motivate yourself, and two, because I don't think I was being realistic in my goals and how much I wanted to accomplish in what period of time.

Whoever ends up reading this (as I am always surprised when friends mention reading my blog) thanks for putting up with my failing on a "promise" to blog everyday last month. Hopefully I'll blog for you all again soon!

(oh, in the meantime, my assistant editor at the newspaper has a blog, and as I love reading her thoughts, I think you might as well, so here's a plug for

Thursday, November 21, 2013

My Experience with Romeo and Juliet

So last night, I went to see the Folger Theatre's production of Romeo and Juliet, the start of their 2013-2014 season (as a side not, I have actually seen their season opener show every year for the past three years, thanks to the marvelous UMBC Honors College!). Now, before, as Dr. Spitz would say "daily life presses in and the magic of the theater is gone", I thought I'd spit out my thoughts on the production, for whatever members of the public care to read it. This assumes you are familiar with Romeo and Juliet, but not with this production of it (Show details and spoilers contained below so look out). This is the third time I've seen Romeo and Juliet (I saw it in the summer, with the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company, during "Shakespeare in the Ruins" and I saw it as a high school production with Granite Classical Tutorials).

The Good:
Some scenes were absolutely amazing. I'd been told beforehand (by the lovely Michelle Osherow, an actress in this particular show, the Folger's resident dramaturg, and by far one of my favorite UMBC professors) to look for the scene with Juliet's stuffed animal, so I did, and I really liked how that played out. It's the traditional balcony scene, but in it, Juliet appears to be consulting with her stuffed bunny about her feelings for Romeo. When she realizes he has been listening, she throws away her bunny and runs to talk to him. That, as Dr. Osherow points out, lets us "say much about Juliet's coming of age in the story--the transition from child to adult and the vulnerability signified by the object".

Following this transition, Juliet changes into a much more womanly character - both figuratively and literally, in that she changes costumes. Note that she was the only character to completely change costume - which I found to be an extremely interesting choice. What started as a slightly scruffy little girl costume (short gray dress, hipster glasses) transitioned to a more sexy woman's costume (very sheer white lace dress, black fishnet stockings), and ultimately just a black bra and pajama pants (when she and Romeo are sharing their final farewells). There were some other costumes, but those where the most notable for me. Juliet was definitely the star in terms of character development, and the actress played that out well, demonstrating the innocence of the child up to the resolve of the woman who ultimately kills herself over her husband's dead body. My hat is off to the actress who played Juliet.

Connected to my affinity for Juliet, I found one scene, where Lord Capulet is abusing his wife and daughter, to be absolutely horrific. He is yelling at Juliet for not marrying Paris, and Lady Capulet gets in between him and her daughter and gets slapped. I know I audibly gasped when he 'slapped' Lady Capulet. There's a particular part of the show where he is pacing up and down the middle aisle while Juliet, Lady Capulet and her Nurse are all hugging each other in the corner, and I was filled with outrage at this scene. I remember thinking "He's being a drunk abusive father!" (Lord Capulet is seen holding a glass with some kind of alcohol in 90% of his scenes in the show if not more). It was such a contrast to the happy father that we'd seen before, so all in all a very powerful scene.

In fact, the entire Capulet family in this production was really admirable. Juliet and her father I have already discussed, so I'll touch briefly on the rest - Lady Capulet had what I feel like is the appropriate steely resolve for a woman who is stuck in an abusive marriage (and at that time had no way to get out), and she did actually look like the actress who played Juliet, so they had a believable chemistry as a mother-daughter pair. The woman who played Juliet's Nurse played it much as the Nurse is always played - a slightly comic character who sympathizes with Juliet - but she played it well, upping the comedic elements. I also really liked the actor who played Tybalt - I've never seen him as a sympathetic character, but always as a villain. In this production, his indignation at Romeo attending the Capulet's party seemed more justified, and his fighting more "for the honor of my family" than "I'm a hot blood who just likes fighting".

The Bad:
One choice the director of this show made was to have multiple scenes playing on stage at the same time. It's a bit tough to explain if you don't see it, but essentially, when things are happening at the same time but in different places, they are on stage at the same time, saying their lines alternately with each other. It makes some artistic sense, to express that these are concurrent events, but I found it hard to follow and improbable (i.e. when Juliet is standing in front of Romeo, even though I realize they're supposed to be in different scenes, it frustrates me that they don't talk and just resolve the problems).

The way they chose to do Friar Lawrence was not my favorite. I've seen very religious Friars, I've seen Vegas Friars (Leonardo DiCaprio movie, if you're wondering), but I've never seen one before where they focused on the drug-dealer kind of personality the Friar has with his non-poison for Juliet. This Friar opened his scene with a flower and some humorous comments about the power of plants, particularly weeds, which got a few chuckles. It's an interpretive choice, and the actor played it well, but I didn't like it all that much.

I also found this interpretation of Mercutio to be a bit too bawdy for my taste. The Mercutio I was expecting is usually a friend of Romeo's trying to bring him out of his funk - this interpretation had him, in my opinion, being more selfish, looking for his drinking buddy to return and mocking Romeo. I feel like the famous Queen Mab speech (which doesn't make much sense, I agree, but which can be very engaging) fell a little flat, and that, for a dying man, he was yelling awfully loud about a plague on both their houses. What I liked about the interpretation of Tybalt (i.e. rather than being a villain, her was provoked) came from what I didn't like about this Mercutio (rather than defending his friend, he was selfishly looking for some fun). Similar comments apply to Benvolio's character.

Now, in all the productions of Romeo and Juliet that I've seen, I have never really like Romeo - I mean, the guy is just a flake. "Oh I love Rosalind" "Oh forget Rosalind I've seen a new beauty" "Oh Tybalt, you're my cousin I won't kill you" "Oh Tybalt, you slew my friend, death to you" - he can't really make up his mind about anything. That being said, this particular Romeo actor didn't do a bad job, he just got stuck playing what I perceive to be an annoying character.

The Ugly: (or the miscellaneous, as I wouldn't say it's ugly, just things that didn't fit anywhere else)

The Montague parents didn't get a lot of stage time, which is probably good because, since Dr. Osherow was playing Lady Montague, and I had a hard time trying to separate out my beloved professor from Romeo's mother when I saw her on stage - although she was an excellent actress, especially in her chilling suicide scene. One thing I did observe was that Lady Capulet looks a lot younger than either of the Montague parents or of her husband, which was unusual.

Benvolio carries a flashlight lantern that got shined in my eyes several times based on my seat in the theatre. Annoying, but not the fault of the actor, as he's just holding a prop and trying to say his lines at the same time.

Final Note:
My favorite production so far of Romeo and Juliet is still the GCT high school one (even though this one was good). There's just something different about seeing Romeo and Juliet being acted out by actual teenagers, not adults pretending to be teenagers. Also, since the show at GCT included a range of actors from ages 13-18, the show had much more innocence and was really about teenage puppy love rather than about the sex, drugs, rebellion etc. that adult shows make it. However, I love the Folger and will keep seeing shows there and really do want to applaud the 13 cast members of Romeo and Juliet for their performance (and to thank Brian Dykstra, who plays Lord Capulet, for his interesting and insightful actor blog posts on the Folger's Production Blog!)

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

BLOGWriMo: My NaNoWriMo story

While browsing my old blog posts trying to discover what ideas I had already covered and weather or not I should keep going with my monthly blogging, I found this old post from last July.

In this post, I introduced a bunch of characters from a Sleeping Beauty retelling that I wrote. It's not a bad beginning, so perhaps I'll finish writing that story. Since I'm several words behind NaNoWriMo, I'm going to make it a short story instead of a full on novel, but I AM going to do it (and I'll post updates when I have them). One thing I need to figure out though is when do I think the original sleeping beauty story was set? Unless I change it to sleeping for 1000 years, my Mary is likely not going to be in the present day (which is why steam punk could be fun).

To get to the purpose of this blogging every day this month (live journal-ing, aka documenting my life) - today was Crystal's Birthday (she's a staff member in my scholars program) so Alec and I bought her a cake and sparking cider and surprised her which was SO MUCH FUN (Alec and I spent 45 minutes just wandering around Giant waiting for cake decoration and hanging out). And then I spent a good hour after class just hanging out with my best friend Christina (she was applying for jobs so I read her cover letter draft and we chatted about life in general). So I still have the big network security project hanging over my head (by the way, being a girl in CS, all my male classmates are more than willing to help out and it's awesome. I am gonna miss those guys when I graduate. We're not friends, exactly, but I see some of them everyday and we do have relationships built up) but overall today I picked friends over academics and it paid off. I might end up working late tonight, but that's OK by me.

Monday, November 4, 2013

BLOGWriMo: The Surface Pro commercial

Hopefully you've seen the commercial I'm about to discuss. Here's what happens in the commercial:
1. There's a scene on an airplane
2. There's a photo shoot scene
3. There's a camping sequence

I hope you recognize it. I can't seem to find it on YouTube. But I alternately love, hate, and get confused by this commercial, and I wanted to explain why.

So, the first scene is some kind of business woman on a flight, opening her tablet to get some work done. A cute little girl looks over the seat at the tablet, the lady looks up, smiles, and turns her tablet (with her work on it) so that the little girl can see.

Why I love it: first, it depicts a working woman who's successful. Not enough of those in the world. Second, it shows her sharing her knowledge with a littler girl, inspiring her. I absolutely am in favor of that.

Second scene is some kind of modeling shoot. They're talking photos of a stunning brunette, and a guy loads the photos on to his tablet and starts drawing on the model.

Why I hate it: We have a lot of beauty issues in this day and age. This guy feeling the need to draw on and edit the already stunning model? Not helping.

Third scene is a woman in the wilderness, camping in the dark. She uses the tablet to open a stargazing app.

Why I get confused: What's the point of going to the wilderness if you're taking technology with you? And while I'm all for women in the wilderness, I'm a little concerned about her safety, being all alone.

Overall, this commercial doesn't make me excited about the surface Pro.

BLOGWriMo - Failing at blogging

So. Today is the fourth. And that means I didn't blog yesterday. So I missed the goal of writing on my blog everyday this month. Which...I don't know, might mean I don't even try to keep going? I'm much less motivated now. I did write yesterday, but I wrote two articles for The Retriever Weekly, not blog-worthy stuff (it was 1000+ words though!). So maybe I won't discount myself just yet. We'll see. Maybe I just use blogging as an excuse to not do homework?

Now, what homework might I be avoiding? Well, we have a project in Network Security that is rather vague. I understand the purpose of the vagueness is to get us to explore, experiment, and ultimately learn, I think it's tough that this exploration has to occur in an out-of-class assignment. I'd much rather the exploration be in a lab, or some place that we can ask for assistance, rather than getting caught in frustrations working all alone. Especially as a teaching aide myself, I have lots of opinions about educational pedagogy and this is not something I find at all helpful. However, this is a graduate level course, and the open-ended nature is, I think, defined by my level of expertise and education. If only I were still a freshman.

Well anyways I am going to go do my assignment instead of ignoring it and I will definitely not be hitting 50K words this month so you may or may not hear from me tomorrow.

Saturday, November 2, 2013


Yikes. I didn't expect to have to write a post that was titled "I don't know" until much later in the month. Also, I am quite short of the required word count if I really want to get to 50 thousand words. But as this is not a novel, it's just my unfiltered thoughts, I'm not as concerned about hitting the word total. I'm just subbing in for the fact that I didn't do BEDA (Blog Every Day in April) this year. If I'm really ambitious, next year I'll get both BEDA and my NaNoWriMo substitute written - wouldn't that be an accomplishment! Anyways, so what shall I write about today...Podcasts?

Saturdays are my Podcast days. I listen to Rhett and Link's EarBiscuits interview show, Tom Merritt and Veronica Belmont's Sword and Laser book club, NPR's TED Radio Hour, the Adventures in Odyssey podcast, and The Skit Guys podcast. I really love podcasts, because it's like a radio show that I decide when it airs. I like podcasts because I can listen to them while I'm doing laundry/dishes or cooking or blogging (I'm listening to Sword and Laser right now. By the way, they have a Kickstarter going right now for their video show - you should check it out). I also listen to podcasts as white noise before I go to bed.

Back in...I think it was September? I tried to listen to "The Curse of Challion" on audiobook from Audible using my free book from the Sword and Laser podcast. It was a great book, read by an excellent reader, but my problem was that I would either fall asleep or somehow stop paying attention or...well, you get the idea. For the podcasts, I can fade out and then pop back in and listen and still know what the hosts are talking about, mostly. With a fiction book, I can't really do that because I miss super crucial plot points.

As I am still listening to a podcast while I write this, they are talking about NaNoWriMo and apparently there is a short story writing alternative to the full on there is something I would like to do! Perhaps I will need to think long and hard about what to write a short story on. The problem that I have almost always run into when I attempt to write fiction is that I don't actually enjoy dreaming up characters in a world of my own. I love reading about them, but why would I live in a fantasy world when the world that I actually live in demands so much of my time and attention? There are things out there that need capturing in the world. Unless I model my fiction after the lives of my friends (which I really think would be a dangerous activity - just look at what happens in "the Help" when they did that) I can't come up with anything original!

Speaking of novels, one of my fellow bloggers who I tend to mention a lot, Kati Woronka, has a great novel, "Dreams in the Medina" available for download. I promised her sometime ago that I would write a review, but never actually sat down to do it (to my shame). However, I did get it reviewed in my school newspaper and really enjoyed reading it. It tells the story of a female university student in Syria, and if you have time, I'd totally recommend it.

Well. I am falling well short of the requisite number of words. However, I have to write this week's staff editorial for the Retriever Weekly, so I'm gonna go do that now, and then do the project for Network Security that has been released for about a week and that I have hardly looked at (it's due in two weeks but it's a lot of work) and take a shower and do the other things that a 21-year-old who doesn't go out to bars and stuff on the weekend does with her life. However, just so you all don't think I'm a complete recluse, I did go see the new Ender's Game movie last night (very true to the book but managed to not leave out those who have not read the book, I really liked it) and I spent a good three hours hanging out with my friend Christina today. I promise, I'm not a hermit. And on that wonderful note I'm going to sign off for today.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

BLOGWriMo - Halloween

Hello out there, wide world! It is midnight on November 1st, and as I have resolved to attempted to write 50K words this month on my blog (see my previous post - I'm altering NaNoWriMo to fit my own purposes), which is about 1.6K words per day. Yep, I have essentially resolved to write a college length essay every day. What's wrong with me?! Well, it's not really an essay, it's more like me going on and on about whatever pops into my head, and it's not exactly fiction because it's based on my life and it won't exactly have a plot because my life is, well, boring.

At this point, my friends are probably laughing at me in their heads, trying to tell me my life is not boring, etc. Well, they are just plain wrong, because my life is flat out boring. It's the midnight after Halloween night, and what did I do? No candy. No parties. Just been chilling in my apartment, doing my grading. Now, I did wear a costume all day today, and participated in the IV costume contest, but really, Halloween doesn't get me all excited. Wil Wheaton on "not the flog" described Halloween as "Goth Christmas" which made me laugh but doesn't really describe me.

In my family, we never dressed up for Halloween. I've never been trick-or-treating, and the only time I remember dressing up was ten years ago for our church harvest festival, the very first time we ever went (my whole family went as the letters of our last name, but that was before my three youngest sisters were born, so we all fit). I don't think I dressed up much in high school either - I remember being Elasti-girl in high school, but I think that was for spirit week (which I participated in every single year - I love school spirit). I also remember going to a party my youth group put on, and I dressed in my Dad's Julius Caesar costume from my middle school History Feast (I also used that for senior toga day in high school). In college though, I've done something for Halloween every year. I was a bat my freshman year (which took a LOT of explaining because I had black fairy wings and just ended up looking like an evil pixie), Flo the Progressive Girl my sophomore year (which was by far my most successful costume), and "corrected" computer engineer Barbie my junior year (confession - I didn't really wear a costume my junior year, but my classmate remarked I could pretend to be computer engineer Barbie because I was wearing pink glasses, a white turtleneck and pink sweater, similar to Barbie, and I liked it so much that I used it, then explaining I was "corrected" because I don't have crazy body proportions).

This year I dressed as a Sky Blue crayon. I created the Crayola label from duct tape, wore a blue pajama top and matching sweatpants, and then created a little pointy hat out of an actual hat (just in the wrong color) and a tank top in the right shade of blue, tied in such a way as to create a point. Once people understood what I was, they thought I was original and creative, but explaining it took too long, so overall it was probably a B level costume. The other problem with it was that the duct tape label peeled away from the cloth when I walked - you have failed me, Duct Tape!

But today, we were talking during our staff meeting, and Mark pointed out that he doesn't actually like Halloween,. And when I think about it, neither do I all that much. I like costumes, but not usually on Halloween - my favorite costumes have been when I dress up for Murder Mysteries - I've participated in two. I like carving pumpkins, but not because I particularly like Jack-O-Lanterns (they get gross and moldy too quickly). I love the smell of pumpkins though, and toasting the seeds from inside carved pumpkins (something I didn't start doing until high school and have since absolutely loved). I also love apples. Apple cider, Apple butter, baked apples - they're so yummy. And this year I made an apple pie COMPLETELY from scratch, with some help from my good friend Christina. It was SO yummy.

OK well that is an hour I've been sitting here going on and on about Halloween and I have ~700 words. I did some personal journal-writing for today as well so I'll total up those words and let you know! My guess is that I'm going to need to write another post to get to the word total I need for today, so I'll see what I can come up with and write again. :)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

NaNoWriMo and actually keeping a blog

So, if you are not familiar with the concept of NaNoWriMo, it stands for National Novel Writing Month. In the month of November, a bunch of people challenge themselves to write a 50,000 word novel in a month. I've attempted it twice and not gotten beyond 1000 words either time, but I know friends of mine have successfully written some novels, so it is possible. Although, my friends generally try to accomplish as many writing challenges in a month as possible so it's a little bit of cheating when they finish because their novels don't always make sense.

Anyways. OK so what does that have to do with actually keeping a blog? Well, I have a lot of friends who have started blogging and have, for one reason or another, given up on their blogs, but I've managed to keep a semi-consistent blog for a little more than six years (my first post was 6/16/08). I'm sure there are more than 50,000 words on this blog, since my average words per post is 350. Each week for The Retriever Weekly, I manage to knock out 500 word articles in about an hour or two (with a little bit of research). If I break the NaNoWriMo words into TRW sized bits, it's 100 articles. OK, so that's kind of a lot. It's approximately three articles per day. So about 3 hours of writing. Which is a little tough.

But, if you take those three hours of writing each day and convert it to a week, you get 21 hours. I watch a fair bit of shows on television, so let's add up the time I spend watching TV (and Youtube):
- Castle: 1 hour
- Elementary: 1 hour
- The Chew: daily, one hour each = 7 hours
- Dancing with the Stars: 2 hours
- Good Mythical Morning - 10 min daily = 1 hour
- Geek and Sundry Tabletop/CoOptitude, 30 min each = 1 hour
- Various other YouTube shows: 1 hour
- MasterChef Junior: 1 hour
- Chopped/Chopped After Hours: ~1 hour
- Glee: 1 hour
- The Amazing Race: 1 hour

Total: 18 hours

Then I also listen to Adventures in Odyssey, EarBiscuits, Sword and Laser podcasts each week, which makes up for those remaining three hours. Now, granted, I usually turn on my television shows while making dinner/running laundry/doing other mundane chores, OR I watch the shows as a social activity with friends of mine, so I couldn't really be writing on my blog while doing that, but my point is, I could find that time each week if I wanted.

Also, one of my new years resolutions was to blog once a week and to keep a personal journal daily. The idea behind those resolutions was to keep myself writing and to keep my relationship with God strong (because that's what I use my journal for). Neither one of those resolutions has held up (and you can check back on the blog in January for my yearly review/list of new resolutions for the rest of my resolutions), but I'm trying to make sure I at least get the intent of the resolutions, which was writing and processing my life.

Recently, I was told that I should "savor every moment" of my senior year because I might not ever see some of the people from college after graduation, and part of that is why I'm trying to process and record memories more.

All that to say - my plan for NaNoWriMo this year is to blog, every day, with the goal of getting to 50,000 words of personal reflection by the end of the month. Some posts I might decide to make private, and if that happens I'll post here letting you all know I wrote privately. If I don't, please call me out! :)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

What's it mean to be an extrovert?

My Intervarsity staff worker (and good friend) posted the above on her blog a bit ago (and if you have time, her blog is a good one to subscribe to - her thoughts are more formalized than mine and she always succeeds in making me think).

Anyways. To add some of my own thoughts to what she wrote. I always describe myself as an extrovert raised by introverts (I wrote about it back in March 2012). I don't particularly enjoy parties or crowds, but as I've been dating, I've realized more and more how actually extroverted I really am. When we talk, I constantly ask, "OK, what do you wanna talk about next?" or "Tell me what you're thinking?" or "Ask me a question!" or "Tell me a story!". For my introverted boyfriend, that's a little tough. He asked me if it's because I'm uncomfortable with silence - no, I'm not uncomfortable with it, it's just that talking to you, for me, indicates how much I'm enjoying spending time with you.

Also, I find the implications that only introverts read and only introverts can be nerds to be a little disconcerting. I LOVE to read, and I am definitely nerdy. If only introverts read/are nerdy, why are their social groups like the "Nerdfighters"? And this is what frustrates me about the Meyers-Briggs test (or at least the version I've taken). It requires things be a binary value - either you are this or you are not this.

Recently I also took the Strengths Finders test, which was very interesting. My results were Learner, Input, Intellection, Discipline and Responsibility. So I'm a little one-sided in my strengths - but notice how none of the "traditionally extroverted" strengths are in my list? ("traditionally extroverted" strengths are WOO,  Competitiveness, Includer, etc.)

Like any stereotype, there's some truth to the I/E dichotomy. But like any other stereotype, they can also be hurtful and offensive to someone if you're not careful.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Civic Involvement

Hi blog readers - 
A friend from my high school posted this on his Facebook. I applaud his civic involvement and think he's polite and well-written, so I encourage you all to read it. I don't know what your political affiliation may be, and I don't want to argue about that here. Rather, I do hope you are aware of the situation he mentions, because I do really believe that people should have a civic opinion (See this week's staff editorial in the Retriever Weekly, I helped write it. But here's the letter, shared on behalf of a friend.

"To anyone who is against fighting in Syria, my letter to my Congressmen and women is below if you want to copy/alter it and send it to yours.

Senator Cardin:
I hope you had a restful August recess; thank you for returning to Washington early to hear the Obama Administration's arguments for an intervention in the Syrian civil war. It is a proposal I am adamantly against and wish to briefly explain this view to you and your office for your consideration.

Syria does not pose a threat to United States soil, and as such, attacking Syria without U.N. approval would be an act of aggression that violates the U.N. Charter. To put it bluntly, it would be a war crime.

To be sure, the use of chemical weapons on civilians is also a horrific crime. But firing cruise missiles into Syria as punishment to Assad is hardly humanitarian aid -- these are highly destructive modern weapons, and in modern warfare, collateral civilian casualties are inescapable. Our punishment for killing innocents will only kill more innocents, thereby increasing anti-American sentiment in the region and possibly convincing outraged Syrians to resort to terrorism.

Please consider these implications of intervening in the Syrian conflict carefully when making your decision.

Thank you for taking the time to read my e-mail. I hope you will weigh all your constituents' opinions carefully and come to a decision that best represents the state of Maryland.


(I removed his name for privacy)

My thoughts on "perfection"

So, tonight was my technical writing class. The professor seems like a nice professional lady, she's going to be a good enough teacher. We have some cool projects, like writing something for a non-profit (their choice) for experience with a "client" and some long ones (a 15 page research paper). But what I want to talk about today is the dreadful peer-review process.

Our first-day writing diagnostic was to draft a memo to our class introducing ourselves and peer-review it. Now, I am the Technology section editor of my school newspaper, so sometimes I'm a little annoying about editorial comments. However, I believe that peer reviews are supposed to help people improve their writing so I make an effort to be thorough and honest. Not mean, I try to do the "compliment sandwich" where I say what's good and what's bad, then say another positive thing. But I do always have comments. Sometimes they're the kind of comment that can be ignored (I realize that my writing style and other students writing styles are different) but I always have comments.

It annoys me when I get back peer reviews that say "Your writing is perfect!" and nothing else. And this has been happening to me since high school. Now, I know I am not a perfect writer. I've seen the edits that my fellow Retriever Weekly staff can apply to my writing, and I know that I need editing. I also know that not everyone has the training to see those errors. But the word "perfect" really, really annoys me. Writing assignments can always be improved. 100% is only accurate on math assignments and the like. I realize some people do receive all the credit on essays, but I really think that's because they're being weighted against their classmates and not because it's impossible to improve on their piece.

Of course, I realize that's my being picky. But I remember, as a child, the pastor at my church preaching a sermon on how the word "awesome" was over used, and that the things it was used for didn't REALLY draw awe from the person using it. I think "perfect" is the same way.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Senior Year

So, I'm in my senior year of college. Whoa. It's a little hard to wrap my mind around that fact. I started this blog my sophomore year of high school. It's a lot of fun seeing how I've changed since then. I think that's one of the reasons I write, is to keep track of myself, so I can see myself growing up. But I don't feel like I've grown up. When did it happen? The director of the summer camp I worked at made an interesting observation. She said "I remember who I was at 5, 12, 21, and 35. I'm the same person." (addressing each of the different age girls and moms at camp with us). And while yes, I am the same girl who started school at UMBC, I do feel like a woman will walk away from the school this May. Every time someone reminds me I'm a senior, I get surprised.

But anyways. I'm sure I'll be writing more posts about graduation and stuff in May. Right now, I want to write about my classes this semester, since it's something I've done almost every semester in college. So, without further ado, here's my fall:

1. Principles of Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Not only is this class with my favorite Dr. Oates (who's been featured on this blog a lot), I feel like it will really stretch me philosophically. Yeah, I know, not something you'd expect in a computer class. But the first day we were already talking about the idea that someday there will be computers indistinguishable from humans, and weather we believed it was possible or not. I am really excited about this AI class because I do truly believe AI can be used to simplify and improve human life. It's my "just-for-fun" CS class.

2. Introduction to Network Security (NetSec)
OK, this class I could tell right off the bat was going to be a tough one. Dr. Joshi is a great professor. I really love his lectures. But, having been in his Operating Systems class, I know he expects a lot from students, and I already feel a bit behind since I had one of the pre-requisites for this class waived for me. I am probably going to spend the most out-of-class time on this course, but I know it's super practical for today's security-centric age of computing.

3. Design and Analysis of Algorithms (Algorithms)
This is one of my last two required-to-graduate courses and I'm not excited about it. Algorithms is understood to be a really tough CS class. Funnily enough, the first day, the professor posed the question "So what is an algorithm" and I don't think anyone in my class answered it satisfactorily. I hope I can do well in this course. It's a new professor for me (Dr. Kalpakis) and a lot of good study-group friends in the class so I think I'll do fine.

4. Technical Communication (Tech. Writing)
I actually haven't been to this class yet. I'll let you all know how it goes when I attend it on Tuesday!

Monday, August 26, 2013

A story about a Woolie...

This week at school is Welcome Week, when the freshmen are invited to tons of events that encourage them to meet one another. There was an Instagram photo hunt list, and for fun I decided to participate. One of the photos we're supposed to find? "Post a photo of you and your Woolie".

A Woolie is a Welcome Week Leader (I've been one twice but not this year). My own Woolie my freshman year was this great guy. He was fun-loving, excited about the school, and gave us good tips, like bring a blanket to the outdoor movie, and attend CWIT meetings for free pizza. He was so inspiring that the following two years, I was a part of the Woolie team with him.

He and I continued to be friends throughout my freshman year (since he led my bible study) and my sophomore year (not the leader anymore but we were still in the same bible study) and my junior year (although we saw each other less because he got crazy busy with research).

His girlfriend-then-fiancee-now-wife and I became friends during my sophomore year. I had lunch with her weekly, and then she graduated and left me (just kidding). She and I shared so many elements of our lives and became fast friends. I could go on-and-on about her too but this post in particular is about the Woolie thing.

This past Saturday I attended their wedding. It was beautiful. I loved watching the groom's face while his gorgeous bride walked down the aisle, teared up hearing the confidence in their voices as they exchanged vows, cheered as I watched them kiss for the first time, and celebrated like crazy at their reception

So, UMBC (seb)? You want me to post a photo of me and my Woolie? How do I pick just one? I watched my Woolie change and grow as a person and I was inspired by his change and growth. I met his lovely bride and she touched my life by reminding me weekly to stick to the Scriptures, and remaining my fast friend after her graduation. There are a number of photos of us through the years, and a lot of memories we share that DIDN'T get photographed. So sure, I'll share a photo, and as I share I'll remember say "Thank you, God, for putting this couple in my life". Congratulations, you guys. I love you both.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Grandparents and marriage

So, my grandparents are visiting for the week. It's been quite interesting. My grandparents are in their eighties. My grandmother is very energetic, excited about keeping herself as active as possible in her old age. My grandfather is more inclined to sit quietly.

I am learning a lot from the brief time I'm spending with them. It's most interesting to see how my grandparents marriage plays a huge part in their aging. Multiple times today, my grandfather told my grandma he loved her, to hear her almost automatic reply "Love you too precious". They were walking around the lake today and my grandfather made a remark about "when a girl gets married...", basically detailing how a wife is supposed to take care of her husband. My grandmother has so much patience. I doubt my grandfather would survive without her.

A good friend of mine is getting married in a few weeks, and another just got engaged a few weeks ago. As they look forward to their new lives, I wish them all happiness, but I can't help but wonder what changes will come about in my friends if/when they hit the 50+ years of marriage mark my grandparents have reached.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Armchair traveling

I have never wanted to travel - something many of my friends think is absolutely crazy. But personally, flying makes me sick, driving is tedious, and being away from home for long periods of times makes me sad. 

However, I recently came across the phrase "armchair traveler" which I think describes me perfectly. I love reading my friends blogs. When Travis was in Chile, I loved his blog updates, and Hannah's Oman blog, while sporadic, is really cute and consistent with her personality. I also read travel books, which right now means "Bella Tuscany" by Frances Mayes. I enjoy reading about other people's adventures, but I'm not brave enough to have adventures of my own.

I know people say travel is how they can experience other cultures, but I respectfully think that you don't need to travel somewhere else to experience and respect other cultures.

Now, I know most of my readers are the traveling type, so here are some questions for you to comment on:
1. Where is the one place you think everyone should go?
2. Why are you drawn to travel?
3. How do you contribute towards "armchair travelers"?

Also, this month marks five years of my rambling thoughts bring written down on this blog. Momentous! I know I haven't been around much in 2013 so I'll try to keep posting over the summer. Stay cool :)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Blog Stats

I find my blog statistics fascinating. I have enabled my blog to be searchable on Google, which diversifies my stats a fair bit. Here's some of the data, from blogger:

1. By country: My primary viewership is from the US, followed by Russia, Germany, Canada, and the UK.
2. By post: my most popular posts are the ones that I have embedded photos. Generally, 20 views per post
3. By browser: fifty percent of my views are from Chrome (probably my own views of my own blog)

My posts have increased in number every year, but considering that I'm not doing BEDA (Blog Every Day in April) this year, I don't know that it will happen in 2013.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

Sometime later today, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, a one-hundred+ (counting Q&A and spinoff series) episode webseries that I have actively followed since episode 6 will post its final video. On twitter, there are a large number of posts with #GoodbyeLizzie and other fans remarking how sad they are that it's over.

Here's the thing. It's not over. Somethings, like the Facebook posts between me, my cousin Megan, and my little sister Abigail that read in all caps how exciting the new episode of LBD is, yes, those things will be over.  But those things are such a small, small part of what LBD represents. Here are some of the bigger, more important things that LBD has represented for me.

1. The modernization of one of my favorite books
As I mentioned above, I've been watching the LBD since episode 6, which is roughly 3 weeks into the project and a little less than one full year ago. I was immediately sucked in by the adorable red head who was not ashamed to present life as she saw it, and I began to share her diaries with all of my friends. One friend of mine has never read Pride and Prejudice, and had no desire too. I told her she should still give LBD a shot. She did, and she loves LBD even more than I do, because for her, the whole story was new and coming to life before her eyes. Now she's excited to read P&P in a way she never would have been before.

2. The chance for conversations
Examples of ways LBD has helped me stay connected with people: first, one of my best friends has been studying abroad in Argentina for a year (July 2012-July 2013). She and I have been able to share LBD, even miles apart, and chat about it while she's away. second, both my little sister and my cousin (mentioned above) started college this year. I've been able to share LBD with them as well. When she left, I gave my little sister the LBD poster, so that "other students could see that she watched awesome shows like LBD". I've been in a number of situations where I would mention LBD and someone else would remark that they loved the show. That will keep happening. Every time I carry my LBD journal or wear my LBD t-shirt, I have the opportunity to discover new friends in other Lizzie-loving people. Every time I watch my DVD collection, I'll be able to share those memories with my friends and family who watched LBD with me.

3. A new appreciation for web culture
I started watching LBD at the suggestion of Felicia Day, who is already a wildly popular web personality. However, as I watched LBD and experienced it via tweets (and yes, I'm one of the people who got twitter just to follow LBD characters) and other media, I gained a huge appreciation for the power of the web and social media in our lives. I was watching a story that I knew was fictional unfold infront of me. I could tweet to characters, and they just might tweet back (didn't often happen, but sometimes!). Most of the actors and actresses in LBD are involved in other web projects, and I've watched those to support the actors and actresses I came to love through LBD. I'll keep watching those web series. In the past year, my YouTube subscriptions have gone way up. And I'm not even one of the crazy fans - there are some people out there with mad skills who are drawing fan art, creating forums for discussion, etc. All because of the internet.

4. a distinct value for the power of sisters
A huge majority of LBD fans beg, plead, and scream for the men of the show to appear (namely Bing Lee, George Wickham, and William Darcy). While I love both the casting choices for those roles, I didn't fall in love with Darcy, the way so many other fans did (sorry, Daniel Vincent Gordh). Maybe it's because I watched for so long before Darcy was revealed, and had gotten used to the costume theater Darcy (I know a lot of fans came in much later than I did). Sure, Darcy was great, but I didn't fall in love with him. I fell head over heels in love with Jane, Lizzie, Lydia, and their pseudo-sister Charlotte. These women, and the way they related to one another, often reminded me of how I relate to my own sisters and friends. How they related to Bing, and Darcy, and Wickham made me think about my own dating relationship, and what makes it special. The LBD characters live real lives, and that is what makes them so believable.

5. a huge appreciation for actors
 Ashley Clements, the talented actress who plays Lizzie, recently said that she thinks Daniel Gordh, the actor who plays Darcy, might need a bodyguard if they go to VidCon. Oh no, Ashley. While Daniel is a talented actor, it's you that I want to autograph my LBD poster. I don't expect any of the LBD actors to read this, it's so long, but here's the thing - the LBD actors, unlike any other show I've seen, are extremely transparent about their experiences. They talk about what the show has meant to them, for their personal lives and their careers. They're REAL PEOPLE. Here's an example - Ashley Clements live tweeted the Oscars. She was witty and funny - and she wasn't being Lizzie. She was being Ashley. I complimented her on twitter - and she Favorited the tweet! Daniel Gordh has does a ton of fan interviews, answering real questions about how he does his job. Mary Kate Wiles (Lydia) and Ashley Clements host a blog talking about their clothes! I feel like these actors are my friends, and I'll be supporting their careers as long as I can.

I love the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, the same way I love Gilmore Girls. New episodes may stop airing, but the relevance and power will never go away. My friends and I are hoping to have an LBD slumber party when DVDs arrive - we have no intention of letting it "end". We'll share and reshare it over and over. :)

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Developing Mobile Apps, Blackjack Algorithms, and Baltimore Emotions

One semi-traditional blog post that I have written is the report on the courses that I'm taking and why I'm taking them. Since I get to pick my own courses (for the most part - I do have to fulfill requirements for graduation, after all) I'm always pretty excited about the content. So, without further ado, here are my courses:

First up is Introduction to Mobile Computing. Guys, I was really nervous about this one. Principles of Operating Systems is a pre-requesite, and I did not enjoy OS at all. But I needed at 600-level course, so I showed up the first day with trepidation, prepared to drop it if things were bad. However, I was nicely surprised. The lectures are all demo-based, rather than theoretical, which is excellent news. The assignments are all partner based, which is also great news. I'm partnered with a friend of mine so it promises to be fun, and I'll get app development experience out of it which is great.

Second is Introduction to Machine Learning with my favorite professor ever. The topic is really interesting. Our final project for that course is to apply Machine Learning to an interesting problem, and what I want to do is create a computer that can beat Blackjack (like the book/movie 21). So I'm researching the rules, etc.

Third, Race Gender and Poverty in Baltimore. This is my honors seminar, and it's really interesting. I'm taking it with the professor who taught me GWST 100 and the current assistant director of my school's honors college. I'm enjoying that it's interdisciplinary, and we get to volunteer with a non-profit which will be fun.

Fourth, Computer Architecture. Super boring, but required for the major. It doesn't seem that bad though, just not interesting.

Finally, Gender and Women Studies 352 - Women in Technology (or something like that. In my mind, it's just GWST). Required for CWIT, should be interesting so far I've enjoyed the readings.

Monday, February 4, 2013


I got a Twitter. This is the social network I resisted for the longest, and I finally crumbled. If you want me to follow you, put your Twitter handle in the comments, and if I follow you, return the favor?

Why was I resisting Twitter? Because I didn't understand it's use. I thought of it as a self centered status updater. I just didn't see the point of public text messages. However, I realized Twitter is more than that. It's a writer's artistic challenge. Summing up a thought in 140 characters or less takes talent. There are tons of "Twitter-sized gospel messages". There's a book of famous literature in tweet form (I really enjoyed that).

The Lizzie Bennett Diaries (#LBD) (one of my favorite web series of all time) first got me thinking about the use of social media to tell a story. This production team is dedicated - there's a YouTube account, Pinterest accounts, Tumblr accounts, Twitters, Facebook pages, and webpages for the companies (, @pemberlydigital). The timeless Jane Austen classic, told in a new way...but it needed Twitter to be told that way.

One of my friends who recently graduated has to tweet for her job (@bcgc). People get entire jobs for keeping a company's social media presence alive. And if Facebook is the place for friends, Twitter is the place for corporations. So I got one to follow that kind of media.

The cybersecurity world is largely fueled by user knowledge and security. Social Networking is the perfect way to share quick cyber security tips, so Twitter is full of Tech tip writers (like @tekdefense) that publish short and quick protection tips.

So far, my transition to Twitter has been pretty easy. I didn't have an account before, but that doesn't mean I don't understand the concept of tweeting. I know about RT and # and @ tags and all that. I've already had a whole text message conversation with my old suite mate, totally publicly on Twitter. So, as a friend of mine put it, it looks like I'm gonna stick around.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

2013 New Year's Resolutions

Every year, I post about new years resolutions, and I DID start a post this year, but I never finished. Whoops. Here's my update on resolutions:

2012 resolutions and how I did:
1. Finally complete the Bible Sort of. I am starting over on it because my attitude about it at the end was terrible.
2. get involved in Undergrad. Research Again, sort of. I was part of a teaching research team, that I LOVED, and will be part of again. Not what I was thinking of when I made this resolution, but it counts.
3. Learn a new programming language outside of class I messed around with javascript and perl. I wouldn't say I'm proficient in either, but I did learn a lot about new languages, and wrote one of my own (I called it daVinci, because it takes parameters in backwards order) in compilers class.
4. learn to Rollerblade on the street No. I always try to make a fun one and I so far can only skate in a rink (and even there, not well) but I didn't get this one.
5. Lose X amount of weight No. I hate this one. I make it every year, and sometimes do well, sometimes don't, but never quite make my goals. :P
6. Embroider/sew more Yes! I made a quilt out of old T-shirts
7. Learn a new ballroom dance Yes, and I'm keeping up with this one
8. Become Less Frustrated Sadly, no. There's a story behind this one that maybe I will share someday, but not today. I failed this one.
9. Write Creatively Yes, but only because I had to for Great Books class.
10. Finish reading Sherlock Holmes No, but I did learn a LOT about the character of Holmes. Not sure why he's re-arisen in popularity, but not complaining!

2013 resolutions:
This year, I did something new - I put my resolutions on a Pinterest board. I'm hoping that as I pin to it during the year, I remember to keep my resolutions. We'll see! You can find it at this link:

Health category:
- Get in the habit of flossing, and then whiten my teeth
- take better care of my hair (I have dry hair) and learn to french braid as a bonus
- exercise more regularly (taking a PE class at school should help here)

Hobbies category:
- learn to make a pie crust! (my roommate makes good pies, and I want to learn)
- improve my quickstep (it's a ballroom silver level dance)
- learn to tie a tie at least 2 different ways (basic and something fancy)

Head Knowledge:
- Work through the exercises in the C book to improve my C skills
- Blog weekly (obviously I'm failing this one, I'n hoping to get better though)
- Be able to complete the Friday NYT crossword without cheating (hardest one!)

Heart Knowledge:
- keep a giving journal (5 ways I gave to people, 5 people who gave to me, daily. Read it in a book)
- restart reading the Bible, with the right attitude, and finish it before 4 years (how long it took last time)
- commit to regularly attending small group and praying for other members (last semester was rough on this)

An interesting cab ride

This past weekend, I took a trip to Seattle. While there, when riding in a shuttle/taxi, my driver was listening to some Salsa music with a distinctly African flair. It was pretty catchy, but I didn't think all that much of it. Then he asked me if I minded it, or if I liked it. I said I didn't mind, at which point he told me that he'd recorded it himself. All the instrument tracks, all the vocals, he'd recorded and mixed on his own, and he was playing them in his shuttle to get feedback.

He told me he had two principles in life. First, to always be unique, and Second, to never try, but to always be a success the first time. So, in recording his CD, he played it for anyone in his car, to get their feedback so that when he publishes it, he'll be a success and not have to drive anymore.

He was from Congo, had been in the US for six years, and was super dedicated to his music. I was impressed by his confidence to ask total strangers to support his music, and so I'm writing about the experience here on my blog. I wish sometimes I had that kind of confidence.

Here's a photo of him from his facebook fan page (David Salsa):