Friday, November 7, 2014

Transmedia Webseries - specifically, Green Gables Fables

Last March, I wrote this blog post regarding the end of the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, a wildly popular, Emmy award winning transmedia webseries on YouTube (the first of it's kind), explaining the effect it had on me: /

What's a transmedia webseries? Essentially, it's a YouTube show where the characters "live in the real world with us". That is, they have Twitter/Facebook/Instagram/Tumblr accounts and will respond to your comments on their YouTube videos. You, as the audience, can live "In-world" and "out-of-world" - i.e. you can interact with the characters AND with the actors on social media (though an audience member who tries to break the barriers between them will be ignored and is kind of missing the point).

Imagine actually being friends with a character from your favorite TV show. That's what transmedia webseries do for the modern day fan. Mostly, they're based on classic literature, because that's what started the trend (although Classic Alice is branching out and being extremely meta by making Alice (the character) be a real person pretending to live her life by books. So, unlike other webseries characters, she's aware of the books her show is based on).

Since LBD (as it is affectionately called), a lot of transmedia shows have been produced, including:
- The New Adventures of Peter and Wendy
- Emma Approved
- Frankenstein, MD
- A Tell-Tale Vlog
- Classic Alice
- Green Gables Fables

(These are the ones I actively watched. I know there are many more that have been produced!)

I want to specifically applaud Green Gables Fables because they are a super low budget group of students who are producing a show that's REALLY accurate to what I believe Anne would be like (and she's one of my absolute favorite characters in literature). They are taking the minute details of the book and moving the plot along just as slowly as I believe Anne would live in real life.

Also, Gilbert Blythe, one of literature's greatest, most attractive men, just tweeted at me. Green Gables Fables has gotten me hooked on my relationship with their characters, and brought characters I never really liked (we're looking at you, Jane Andrews) into vivid, lovable color.

And that's one reason I'm obsessed with YouTube.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Lessons from Cancer

Postscript before the post: this is completely unedited and was written between 12am and 1am.

I'm pretty sure anyone who reads this blog (when it is randomly updated) will already know that my dad has a cancerous tumor in his leg. He had one last December and got it removed and has another one on the other side now and is getting chemo (if you don't know and need more details, you won't find them here).

It's been, interesting is a nothing word. It's been...illuminating. Yeah, illuminating. It's been illuminating to see my parents through this process. And the other people who care about me. Anyways, I figured some of the things I've learned are worth remembering, so they're recorded here, for whoever feels like they should read them (hi, future me!).

1. Dad knows how to put a bright face on
One of the big problems I had with this whole cancer thing was how much my Dad posted about it on Facebook. I know, crazy, right? Of all the things that could bother me, Facebook drove me bonkers. Part of this was that I didn't like being reminded of it (and thanks to algorithms, Dad's hugely popular updates were always at the top of my news feed). Part of it was that I didn't like seeing the comments on the updates (more on that later). Anyways, I approached Dad about it, and he was a little surprised, I think, but he explained to me that a large part of why he was updating was to keep other people's spirits up. At our church, it seems like a lot of cancer has been going around, and Dad is working on keeping people positive. His updates are always about putting an upside to chemo - heading to the Orioles game with my siblings with a bald head, or watching Ravens games in a hospital room, or still trucking along at what I'm learning really is his number one job - being our dad (i.e. taking my sister on college visits, showing up for family video chats, making it to the dinner table even when he's tired). Most recently (which partly inspired this post), he used the hashtag, #living_with_chemo, and #still_living (PS Dad - cool kids use camel case, like this: #livingWithChemo #stillLiving).

2. Dad lives the "everywhere is a mission field" idea
This past summer, when my Dad's second cancer tumor was discovered and the whole chemo process started, I was interning at the same place where my Dad works. As a result, I got to see how his employees and co-workers took the news, and how Dad presented it. I don't have the exact words that he used when emailing them with updates, but I do recall driving home in the car with him and getting all the details on how carefully he crafted his emails. Dad's former boss (who has retired) wasn't at all religious, but my dad wasn't afraid to admit that we are Christians. He acknowledged the people at work who were praying for him while being careful to not alienate those who don't follow Christ. I'm not saying it was easy for Dad to do all of this, but he was really thinking about it - something that I'm not convinced I would do in the same situation. I know people always say that anywhere is a place to be a missionary, and they will "know you by your actions" but this summer with cancer was the clearest picture I've had of that.

3. Mom never loses her head
This may not be exactly true - I know that my mom has had her share of dealing with this and figuring out what it means and being worried. But seriously, Mom can call me and say "hey, took Dad to urgent care, can you watch the kids?" without batting an eyelash. And then while I am going crazy (because I tend to fall apart) she's just calmly setting things up, driving from Columbia to Baltimore whenever Dad's at JHH (Johns Hopkins Hospital). She's matter of fact about it too - she remarked to me the other day that "Dad and I don't stick our heads in the sand and just pretend something's not happening, but we also don't imagine him with one foot in the grave - we just take the news as we get it and go on grace" (or something along those lines, it's a paraphrase). Does that come with growing up? Being a mom? or is it a unique thing to my mom? Because whatever it is I don't have it and I don't imagine I'll ever get it.

4. Mom and Dad both are trying to treat me like a grown-up
Mom always asks, not tells, me to come watch the kids. Dad always thanks me for watching them afterwards. It's kind of weird. And of course at the same time they're both still trying to protect me some (see below - I tend to freak out), but it's been interesting to see that and realize that yeah, I am a grown-up, so it's time to start acting like one.

5. Ryan is pretty good at dealing with me when I fall apart
I don't want to talk a lot about how I've been doing - people always ask and for the most part at this point, I'm good - it's become the normal and I'm making this HUGE effort to be better than I was the first time around. But even when I'm trying to be better, I still have a very over-active imagination and can let things freak me out (not like my nursing student sister who probably has a way better grasp on this whole thing). And Ryan (my boyfriend, if you don't know, but if you're reading this you probably know) is always OK with taking my calls at that point. When I first heard my Dad had a second cancer, I flipped, and he was there. Every time I've gone to the hospital to visit Dad, Ryan's been there with me (because I hate hospitals, and I always have, even when I was visiting new younger siblings). I'm sure if I didn't have Ryan, I would have gotten through some other way, but I'm sure glad I have him to put back together the pieces when I fall apart.

6. Friends can actually be trusted
This relates to the part about Facebook. Most of the comments on my Dad's post consist of "praying for you" comments, and I have a big problem with this. Because I really don't believe them. And it makes me angry. It feels like it's easy for people to say stuff they don't mean online and that bugs me. But then people prove to me that they actually remember and care. Like my friend Christina asks whenever I see her and texts me occasionally for updates - not annoyingly because she knows it's annoying but just cause she always wants to make sure I'm OK. My friend Julie took me to dinner and helped point me towards God in all of this, and to stop trying so hard to "juggle all the balls in the air". My friend Beverly Twitter messaged me and asked how I was doing, really, and she made dinner for my family (while having two kids of her own) to help us out. My friend Lindsey always answers my texts and brings lightness and normalcy to my updates (i.e. she suggested podcasts for Dad to listen to in the hospital). I don't know all of Dad's friends, but if they're like mine, then they aren't lying about praying, and I'm the one with trust issues.

So yep. Those are some of the things I've been seeing around me while we "live with cancer". If you want to know how I'm doing, this is the post that talks about it. Probably not what you wanted, but it's the real answer. I'm not home day-to-day, so I can't tell you what it's like for Dad. Ask him. What it's like for me is seeing my Dad and Mom rise to the challenge and having God send all kind of people to show me that he's still around and somehow this is part of the plan. I realize this was sappy, and I know I didn't talk about my sisters and brother, but that's because I'm me. I'm not my sisters so I can't tell you how they are. And ask any of my sisters, I've always been kind of sappy.

PS - as mentioned in #6, I kind of have problems trusting people's comments that say "we love you" and "praying for you" so if you're gonna leave a comment, leave a "real" one. ;)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

RE: Sept. 11th, 2001

It would seem, now that I've remembered I have a blog, I keep having thoughts that I want to put out there, and this is the perfect platform to do that, and since I keep seeing 9/11 thoughts on Facebook, etc, I thought I'd add myself to the mix. So here we go:

Today, in Sondheim Hall between classes, I heard one girl saying, "Why don't we have off from school today? It's like a national day of mourning. We were like, in third grade and we remember being scared and s**t".

While I agree that 9/11/01 was a terrible, horrible day, and I also remember (as a 4th grader) watching the news that whole day, powerless to tear my eyes away (and as a homeschooler, allowed to watch!), I don't think that we should get off from school, and I think it's a specific kind of self-centered attitude that leads someone to say that (not calling that girl out, I completely understand how she feels regarding how she remembers the day).

However, if you go with the idea that we should get off of school to remember national tragedies, then you'd be off of school pretty much every single day. Imagine it - there would be "Lexington and Concord Day" to mourn those lost in the Revolutionary War, "Gettysburg Day" and "Antietam Day" for the thousands of men brutally killed in the Civil War, "Lusitania Day", "Titanic Day" and so on. Tragedies and wars define history, and while the 9/11/01 attacks are still fresh in the mind of our generation, the past holds many tragedies and I'm sure the future will hold many more. I think Sept. 11th will always be a day we remember the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the Stony Creek PA crashes, but eventually, it will be like Pearl Harbor Day - something we (here "we" means the general American public) know was a tragedy but don't personally recall.

I have eight younger siblings. Of the nine of us, only the first four of us can recall 9/11/01. My sister Stephanie was born before 9/11/01 but I would say she lives in a post-attack generation, and the rest of them were born after the attacks. Each year, many of my friends say "I remember where I was when it happened, how I heard it had happened, etc". But for five of my younger siblings, there is no "pre-9/11" in their mind. Something else will define them and their generation. I remember in 7th grade science, my teacher talked about watching Neil Armstrong land on the moon (that is a moment I wish I could remember - a happier definition of a generation!). If my younger siblings got today off from school, they would be happy for the day off, but it wouldn't be giving them a chance to remember - it would become a day of late summer BBQs instead of a day of remembrance.

Should we have monuments and memorials for the attacks? Absolutely. The families of those who died deserve to know that their loved ones were important and that we're not ignoring them. I'm not suggesting that we ignore it, and since I didn't personally lose someone in those attacks, I know it's easier for me to say this than it might be for someone else. I'm simply suggesting that we not do this "selectionist history" where we only remember things we personally want to care about. We (here "we" means my generation) should consider ourselves lucky that we grow up in a world where only one tragedy defines our childhood, unlike some of our counterparts in other nations who's entire lives have been defined by genocides and other horrible daily occurrences, instead of once in a lifetime.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Soundtrack to College

Been meaning to do this blog post for a while now (read: since graduation in May). Here are the songs I associate with my undergrad years, not in any order, and a little note about what/who they are associated with and why. If you want to hear the songs, they are posted to a YouTube playlist here:

Chicken Fried - Stephen Moore
I had a major crush on this boy freshman year (Stephen, if you're reading this, surprise!). Anyways, I would go into his room with computer questions, and this song was frequently playing. My affinity for country music arose from my crush, and while that faded into a standard classmate friendship, the love for the song stayed.

Butterfly Kisses - Reese
Two good friends of mine (who were my high school youth leaders) had a baby this past year. I ALWAYS wanted them to have a girl, with much opposition from other friends (who wanted them to have a boy). I won, and I think this song applies for Dave & Reese now. It makes me think of them.

Sometimes he calms the storm - CWF
CWF = Camp Wildflowers. As a kid I attended this camp for years but I stopped at age 17. Summer 2013 I got the chance to go back for two weeks, and this was the theme song. It was wonderful to see my sisters as JC's and to have fun remembering with my friend 'Ginkgo' who went back with me.

Revelation Song (in Mandarin) - Debra
Debra is one of my good friends from school even though we were both so busy we hardly saw each other. We bonded over attending the Asian American IV conference, and singing this song together. I love her!

Te Alabare - Hannah Perskie
My first day at Intervarsity, I was greeted by a curly haired woman named Hannah, and we sang this song (which she translated). She and I never became friends, but I loved her welcoming attitude and tried (and failed) at replicating it through the years. This song = happy welcome for me.

Magic Flute Queen of the Night Aria - Elisabeth Cruz/Elizabeth Milligan
My junior year, two of my friends from high school were in UMBC's opera show. They sang/played for the Magic Flute. I picked the Aria because it's one of my favorite from the show.

Downton Abbey theme - TRW
When I worked for the student newspaper, the editorial staff hung out in the office on production days. I loved those co-workers, they helped me become a better writer and more open minded person (esp. the opinions editors, Sean and Sam). I would watch this show on the mornings in the office, so that's why it's here!

It's no good - Oates
Dr. Oates is one of my favorite faculty, and he's really fun-loving. One time, I dropped a $10 bill on his head in class (his favorite example was money falling from the ceiling) and he laughed instead of being mad. That's a good professor! He also went on my friend Alec's podcast ( and played this song.

Just Give me a Reason - Ryan
OK, so he HATES that this is the song I picked for him, but this is my boyfriend! We met spring of my sophomore year in ballroom dance, and started dating the following summer. We like to do things together, including sing duets - this is the first one we learned (even though the lyrics are not exactly romantic!)

I love it (Icona Pop)  - Christina
Christina is my BEST friend I gained at college. I love her to death. This is her favorite song from when we lived in the same apartment, and so I now only think of her when I hear it.

Moves like Jagger - Annette
Annette is a fellow CWIT scholar, and she and I also were in ballroom together. The first week of school, we went to a soccer game, and they played this song at half-time. Annette knew all the words and taught me dance moves to this song. That spring, when she organized CWIT Formal, we did the same dance, so I always think Annette when I hear this song.

Only the good die young - Matt
Matt is Annette's boyfriend-now-fiancee. He was a part of the school's acapella group, so we would go see him in concert. He was lead vocals when they sang this song. I love it, and I love Matt (in a platonic way! Not trying to steal him!) so this song has to be on there.

Crystallize  - Alec
I had a really hard time picking just one for Alec. I listened to his radio show/podcast because we're buds, and I learned a lot of new music from the show. I decided on Lindsey Sterling b/c it's something he didn't introduce me to, just someone we both adore.

I see the Light - Katrina
Katrina was my roommmate for 3 years and she is a sweetie. She loves Pixar, and taught herself this song on piano, as well as painting her own Tangled mural for her wall (on paper, not the wall!). So this one is for her

When Oceans Rise - Fadaka
This is another IV song. I didn't really like it all that much, but Fadaka told us what it meant for her, and I learned to like it based on how passionate she was about the words in the song.

Say So - Alan
Alan is one of my favorite UMBC classmates. He and I almost never agreed on anything, but we still were great friends. One thing we did agree on was loving New Song Community Church freshman year, where we could sing loud. This is one of the songs they sang a lot. I don't think Alan even likes it, but I associate it with him!

How he Loves - Bethanie
Bethanie is another one of my greatest UMBC friends. She walked down the aisle to marry Andrew (my freshman year bible study leader, Welcome Week Leader, and general hero) to this song. I don't know where I would be without her and our once a week three/four hour lunches (which are now once a month letters and twice a year visits, but are equally as powerful for me).

Yellow - Karen/Heidi
Karen and Heidi were my other suitemates freshman year. We were the BEST ROOMMATES EVER. This song was on our door because we each had our favorite songs on the door of our suites (you know, RA decoration stuff).

Cry Just a Little Bit - William/Ballroom
This song is kind of annoying to me because the dance teacher played it ALL THE TIME. It has a good beat that's easy to count for dancing, which is why she did that. William (the student who took over ballroom after me) also hates it, but the words are etched into our brains forever, so it's on this list. Ballroom was an amazing part of college for me, although stressful when I was president, and I'm really happy I decided to go with it after involvement fest!

Mahal Na Mahal - Kaylyn
My IV staff worker and I bonded over two things - men named "Brown" and Asian American Conference. We started dating roughly the same time and she, being older, helped me sort through all my anxiety about dating. I loved getting to know her finacee and talking about being bi-racial with her. This particular song is from last spring's AAIV conference (when Kaylyn and Vaughn came as an engaged couple and talked on the family panel!)

Pretty Women - Travis
Travis never fails to impress me. He was our class valedictorian, and in the honors college, and part of musical theater club, and on IV worship team, and mock trial, and studied abroad, and on and on - yet he still manages to be a genuinely nice and wonderful guy. This is the song he sang freshman year during MTC showcase, and my first memory of him was his getting murdered in this song. How funny. (PS - he's still being awesome in law school at UCLA).

Cruise - Morgan
Morgan is a fellow CWIT. Senior year, Morgan, Christina and I went to the Bahamas on a spring break cruise. It was so fun! Coconut cocktails, white beaches, hot tubs...and this song, which Morgan loves and now reminds me of that trip (even though it's the wrong kind of cruise).

Mnah Mnah - Will, Oliver, and Internships
This one is funny. My first college internship was at Booz Allen Hamilton. I worked with several other UMBC students, including Will and Oliver, two of my classmates. That summer our intern team got a lot of work done, but we also laughed a lot and talked about crazy things. One of our favorite silly things was to sing this song and the Potter Puppet Pals song. I remember most that Oliver had a scary good imitation of Dumbledore, and Will was the only one who could say "mnah mnah" without dying of laughter.

So Beautiful in White - Graduation/Melissa's Wedding
Melissa is a friend from high school, not college, but her wedding, to me, was a "sign" that I was old and graduated and now my friends got married and it wasn't weird. Melissa walked down the aisle to this song, and her wedding was lovely. I was so happy I got to be there for her, but sad because I probably won't see her often anymore (she and her husband live in ohio) or any of the other friends from high school, or college as we have all gone away to cool grown-up things. So this playlist is to help me remember the past four years.

Graduate Classes!

This is it. My last first day of school has passed (well, my last for now - I think I'm going to be getting more degrees though, we'll see. It's just the kind of person I am). This is technically the first semester I will be a full-time graduate student, but I'm transferring a crazy number of credits from the accelerated BS/MS program so I should graduate this December. Every semester (almost) I've blogged my classes, so here they are!

CMSC 641 - Graduate Algorithms
I'm glad I finally get Professor Chang. I've heard amazing things about him and in day 1 he already seems amazing. My favorite quote - he told us how he helped create the theory exams his second year of grad. school, which meant he couldn't help his girlfriend study for the exams because he knew the questions. The quote was, "We worked it out, cause now she's my wife, but be careful who you date!"

CMSC 611 - Graduate Architecture
I've known about Dr. Olano since freshman year of undergrad since I briefly worked with one of his grad students, but this is my first class with him. He's really easy-going and has a nice casual teaching style. I was shocked to find that I actually remembered stuff from undergrad architecture, and that I actually enjoy this class!

CMSC 626 - Computer Security
Dr. Marron is a new instructor to the CSEE department, but I was part of the student committee that interviewed him so I am definitely a fan of his teaching. Also this is what I find personally interesting so YAY SECURITY!

Friday, August 29, 2014


I've mused about this before, but I'm gonna go ahead and do it again. I'm pretty sure that archaeology in the future is going to involve wading through mountains of data to track a single person's data footprint.

As a personal example, if you skim through my Facebook profile photos, you would start during my sophomore year of high school, when I first got Facebook to stay in touch with a friend leaving for college. You'd see just a few photos from then, mostly at church/camp. You could watch me grow and make new friends who started commenting on those profile photos. NavYouth starts featuring prominently, and then I graduate high school (yay!). From there you can see me develop a whole new set of college friends, each year neatly split apart by the Halloween costumes and snowmen that my best friend and I built on the quad every winter. My siblings grow up in the photos too - the baby from my senior year of high school is a giggly five year old by my senior year of college, and you can see this in the photos. My friends start to get married, and I post photos with glowing brides. I get a boyfriend of my own (although he didn't appear in my profile photos until our relationship was almost two years old), and I graduate from college (double yay!). By December of this year, there will be another graduation photo where I'm sporting a two inch ribbon on my gown, showing that I have the coveted master's degree.

86 profile photos + 33 cover photos that chronicle the past six years of my life. And that's just the photos. Even I don't remember all the statuses I've ever written, or even the posts on this blog. One day, if I have a super ambitious grandchild, all of this will be at her fingertips, and she'll be able to know all kinds of intimate details about my life, down to the classes I took every semester in college (because I chronicled that on this blog!).

Data Science is awesome.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Transcendence Movie Review

Last Saturday I saw the movie Transcendence ( It's gotten mixed reviews on how good or not good it was as a movie, but two elements of the plot really intrigued me, and I think that alone makes it worth seeing (I'm not enough of an artist to say if it's a good movie from a filmography standpoint, or enough of a writer to say if the plot is predictable or not).

Some minor spoilers will appear below.

1. The RIFT Terrorists
One of the things I really loved about this movie was that there was no "one good guy" or "one bad guy". Everyone was just human, with understandable fears and motives. The RIFT group had a really great point - a really strong AI, while it would mean a lot of very exciting things for technology, would also be somewhat terrifying. Preventing that AI from getting online and from taking over the world is an understandable motive. Doing it by killing tons of people (note in the trailer he says, "they hit AI labs all over the world") is not so good, but terrorists use death and bombs to make points. For the first time EVER, I sort of understood the point they were trying to make. People weren't listening to them about the dangers of the AI, so they made their voices louder. In a terrible, violent way, but they were louder.

2. The Fear of Death
The main premise of the movie is that Will, a famous AI professor (played by Johnny Depp) is dying from radiation poisoning (from RIFT). His wife, Evelyn, comes up with the idea to combine two kinds of AI research to protect his consciousness. She scans his brain and loads it into PINN (Physically Independent Neural Network). You can see all this in the trailer - and my especially favorite part is when the AI imitates his face and she tears up touching him. She's so afraid of her husband dying, and wants to be together with him forever - so she does questionable things with technology to save him. I thought this was interesting. In our last Bible Study, we read about how, when King David's child died (in 2 Samuel 12:23) he said "I will go to him, but he will not return to me". For believers, this is the hope and comfort after death - that you will see that person again and they are rejoicing with Christ. But for this movie, it was the exact opposite - Evelyn needed Will to come back to her, instead of hoping that she could go to be with him. There was no hope of life after death for them, so she had to find a creepy way to resurrect her husband.

3. Nano-Technology
In the trailer, they show a small part of the nano-tech: a computer arm goes into a dead plant and it is revived. The solar panels are able to re-build themselves (also in the trailer), and ultimately, we're led to believe that Will and Evelyn are somehow together at the end through the power of nano-technology (although that's more like the Inception spinning top - it's up for debate). I thought the nano-tech was amazing, but then I thought about the implications of never dying, and (this part confused me) the nano tech was some how connected to the AI. This was the one part of the movie that I didn't understand, but would love to learn more about and think more about!

So, I would say I was pleasantly surprised by how much I actually enjoyed Transcendence.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Why I didn't like "Captain America: The Winter Soldier"

First of all, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a great movie. It was fun to watch. Don't take this as me saying it wasn't a good super hero movie, and, from what I hear, better than the first Captain America movie.

OK so now why I didn't like it (contains spoilers, FYI):
1. Throw any kind of science out the window when considering this movie
They have a bird-man. Falcon, as he is called, is a retired air force "flyer" who has mechanical bird wings. Biological research into birds and physics knowledge of gravity etc. have shown this to be impossible. Also, they have the brain of a dead German scientist stored on 1950s computer technology. We can't do that now, on today's technology (we do have Watson, but he doesn't have a personality/memories like this computer did). Also Captain America's shield can dent cars and cut into metal and break bullet proof glass, but doesn't hurt his hands when he catches it midair. I can totally understand some super hero things just happen, but no one, not even Captain America, is indestructible.

2. Throw any knowledge about how anything in the government works out the window
That bird man I mentioned? He has classified documents just sitting around in his apartment, and the government knows he has them and doesn't come after him. Also an armored car can make secure phone calls? Also directors can voice over-ride anything? (that's WAY unsafe, I just saw a presentation on how bad voice recognition actually is at securing things).

3. Death has no meaning
Nick Fury dies in front of our eyes. We watch the doctor declare his time of death and see Black Widow standing over his dead body. He gives Capt. America a final mission before his death - oh wait, no, just kidding. He's not dead. He's conveniently alive, having faked his own death with the help of Agent Hill (the lovely Colbie Smoulders!!) Also, we WATCH Agent Hill give the computer command to destroy the helipad that Capt. America is on - and yet he survives that to have a final showdown with the Winter Soldier. Who throws him in the ocean. Only for him to survive that and get dragged (bleeding) onto a beach, where he should have died but doesn't. Also Black Widow activates the armed bio-pin on her chest (that killed all other council members) and yet doesn't die. My good friend Bethanie pointed out that movies and TV shows are becoming like cartoon shows - her example is Tom and Jerry, the cat and mouse show. Tom and Jerry mutilate and kill each other over and over, only to pop up again and pull another funny prank. Death means nothing for them, and means nothing in this movie.

4. It's OK to torture mentally ill people to turn them into weapons
The Winter Soldier is a military prisoner from WWII who, like Capt. America, was frozen to keep him young. However, unlike Captain America, he has been genetically engineered to be a killing machine. His brain has been "wiped' multiple times through electro-shock therapy, which has made him slightly insane. At the end of the film, there's a teaser sequence for the future with two teenagers locked in cages. They have super powers (that they seem to have been born with) and are also being tortured and oppressed. Not OK. Even in a false universe where being mentally unstable might mean super powers, treating them like something less than human made my skin crawl.

5. Hail Hydra
I can't describe how creepy I found the whole Hydra thing to be. It was one thing when it was Nazi Germany, but to update it to modern day and have the governing secretary of defense be a part of it was too much for me. That was a terrible time in our global history, and to make light of it gives me the creeps. The memes going around the internet of various popular characters saying "Hail Hydra" scare me, because people seem to be de-sensitizing themselves to that part of history. I know none of the people joking about it would say they are de-sensitizing themselves, but they are. I drive by the Holocaust memorial all the time, and I just can't bring myself to find that saying at all funny.

So that's why I didn't like Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I needed to just dump all that feeling onto a page (I saw it late last night). It won't make sense if you didn't see the movie and still might not make sense if you have, but the negative emotions are there. I don't usually go for the "PluggedIn" reviews, but the conclusion to this one is good and sums up some of what  I am feeling, though not all of it:

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

My Least Favorite Question

If you didn't know, I'm a semi-grad student. What I mean by that is, while I haven't finished my undergraduate degree, I'm taking graduate level classes that will count towards a master's degree because my school offers a combined Bachelors/Masters (BS/MS) program for my degree (Computer Science) and some other degrees here. I do the same course work as a graduate student, and I'm a TA for a graduate level class, but on paper, I'm an undergraduate. It's a very awkward position to be in, as I never know how to introduce myself. I think of myself as a grad. student, so we'll go with that for this post.

One of the most common questions to ask a graduate student is, "What's your Research in?". First, you have to understand that as a BS/MS student, I'm not writing a thesis. I'm required to spend a number of credit hours in "independent research" and I have to produce a paper at the end, but it's not, strictly speaking, a "thesis" with an adviser and a defense committee and all that jazz. In fact, I'm hoping to do my "research" for that requirement in an IRAD (Internal Research and Development) project at my internship this summer. We'll see if I can pull that off.

However, I AM involved in research now, of a different kind, so when people ask me "What's your research?" I proudly tell them about my project. And usually, they have weird reactions which is why "What's your research" has become my least favorite question.

Here's how I answer it. "The NSF (National Science Foundation) has a pot of money set aside for Computing Education in the 21st Century (CE21 Marie desJardins (the faculty member I work for on this research project) is one of the Principle Investigators (PIs) for the CE21 in Maryland grant. There's a couple of projects under this that I've worked on. First, the TUES project, which is about "Transforming the Student Experience for Freshmen Computing Majors". On that, I served as a TA for two sections of the course, worked to develop curriculum materials, lead lecture sections, held outside of class tutorials and office hours, and led data collection chats with the students. Second, I've recently become involved with the CS10K project, which projects for ten thousand CS teachers, and is working to implement APCSP Curriculum (Advanced Placement Computer Science Principles) in Maryland schools. On that, I serve a more generic student researcher position, collecting data from teachers about their CS classroom experience, commenting on APCSP from my own AP CS experiences, and other administrative tasks."

Both these research projects have been absolutely transformative for me, and I wouldn't trade my experiences working on them for anything. However, I usually get confused looks when I describe them, sometimes followed by the question, "No, what's your real research?". I recognize that education is not what you'd generally expect a CS major to be passionate about or be studying, but to not consider it to be "real" research kind of offends me. (The University president thinks it's real research:,0,5843165.story). CS education in high school and in the early years of college is crucial to producing great CS graduates. Honestly, I'm also interested in getting CS education in schools even earlier than high school (Robot Turtles was a gift from me to my little sisters this past Christmas) but we can only cross one bridge at a time. No, my research may not be producing a new theorem, or new encryption algorithm, but it is producing curriculum that will peak the interest of young students and help them understand why the theorem or encryption algorithm is important, and to me, that's real research. Education has been something I've been interested in since my own phenomenal experience in high school with Mrs. OC (Who is on the CS10K project with me, a dream come true). I'm not interested in CS education because I'm "a girl, and of course CS girls do education" (something I have heard). I'm interested in it because that's what will make CS in the US sustainable, and because I want to pass the passion along.

Thanks for reading this far (if you have) and letting me vent about my research and why it's 'real'. With all this social stigma, do you understand why "What's your research" has become my least favorite question, despite how much I love the project I'm on? Fighting against social constructs is something I do everyday as a woman in a male-saturated, male-dominated field, but it's kind of exhausting.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine's Day

Have you seen the Google Doodle for today? It's got six different "love stories", and wishes you "Happy Valentine's Day from the Internet". It's kind of depressing. There's a story about a girl crushing on a guy, with no apparent resolution. A story about a blind date with a TV personality. A story about a middle school relationship that's only been going on for 20 minutes, a story about a first kiss that didn't happen, and two stories about post-wedding day blues. Is this the best love the Internet has to offer?

On ABC's "The Chew" last week, they had a a brief discussion about millennials looking for their soul mates. With the exception of Michael Simon, the hosts all pointed out that they don't really believe in soul mates, but rather that someone grows with you and becomes your soul mate (at which point even Michael admitted he and his wife had been friends for a while first).

I think this is a big part of what Google is doing with it's sad candy hearts. It's kind of a "truth-about-love" idea. Which is a little sad, honestly. We've taken love to the Cinderella immediacy extreme, so now we have to balance it with the "oh-it's-fleeting" side?

I don't really know quite why I don't like the Google Valentine Doodle, but I don't - what do you think?

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

New Years 2014

So I make new years resolutions every year. Here they are:

1. Read and watch Game of Thrones
2. Floss my teeth regularly, wear retainer and mouthwash
3. Get so exercise isn't horrible (aka twice a week regular something - probably biking?)
4. Read through the Bible (or be consistent with a daily reading plan if not finished)
5. Have $10,000 dollars in savings account after full Roth contributions and school payments

Last year I made twelve resolutions, and I only kept a few of them:
- I learned to dance quickstep
- I learned to make a pie crust
- I can solve the entire Monday NYT crossword (Friday was technically my resolution but I'm still happy)
- got "healthy" hair (no split ends, use volumized shampoo
- regularly attended small groups

OK, almost half. That's pretty good, actually.

Happy 2014 (8 days late).