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Hurricanes and Philosophy

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 Well, welcome back, one and all – how many people have power?

Actually, if you live in the urban areas of Maryland, you probably aren’t having much trouble at all.  For all of the hype of the hurricane, the Silver Spring-Rockville-Washington DC area didn’t get that badly hit.

For those not in the area… well, let’s just say that I guess that having the last two days off from school must have been a blessing to some.

There was a lot of flooding, even in the Silver Spring-Rockville-Washington DC area, but I think that further north got a darker side of the deal.

Apparently, some places (Eastern New York City) are so bad that it may take months, if not years, to recover.  I mean, in some places, there was honest-to-goodness evacuation!  It seems so foreign to me – maybe it’s because I was so small the last time a major hurricane hit.  (Yes, I’m a bit young.  My memories of the last major hurricane to hit Maryland are rather foggy.)

And well, since pictures tell a greater tale:


Look at that water!  This is “Foursquare's Dennis Crowley tweets: "Knee deep on 8th"

(Picture from


This one is a great deal sadder – a fire caused by Hurricane Sandy destroyed more than 50 homes in Queens, NY.  At least 34 people were killed.  This is a picture of the rubble.


(Picture from



This one is from our neck of the woods – DC!  I just can’t believe the size of that tree that got pulled up.  I mean, look at those roots!

(Picture from

For all of the horrible devastation, though, I think that it’s important to look at the positive side of it.

Natural disaster helps people band together.  In times of trouble, cheesy as it may sound, people tend to try harder to help each other out.  I have no doubt that volunteer groups have already begun springing up everywhere, and probably shall bloom all over the three MC campuses.

As for the non-human aspect, for all that it causes a lot of destruction, hurricanes are vital to the world.  I’m no scientist or anything, but the upheaval of a hurricane rebalances the temperatures and humidity, as well as simply doing a larger version of what ordinary rainstorms and tidal patterns do.  Hurricanes sweep through, rip things up, and make room for new growth.

Huh.  I just realized, in a way, that hurricanes do that to us, too.  They smash through, sometimes utterly devastating our lives, and yet, we flourish in their wake.  We rebuild, and we find common ground.

We do the same thing that plants and animals and everything else does.


It’s actually kind of beautiful, if a little tragic.

We push ourselves back up after a disaster –

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger

Stand a little taller!”  “What Doesn’t Kill You,” Stronger (2011), Kelly Clarkson

APTOPIX Superstorm Sandy

(Picture from

A Day With Sandy.

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I’m so glad the storm finally passed! I hope everyone stayed safe and didn’t loose power. My eleven-year-old sister was hoping the power would go out, so she wouldn’t have school today. It’s funny as you grow your outlooks on education change. Yes, I would love to have another day off, but realistically I have another group project due. In other words, the more days I have off the more I fall behind.

Anyhow it was hectic over here at the house. My sister ran throughout the house looking for all the candles, flashlights, and glow sticks. She would watch the news channel just to see if we didn’t have school Monday. To me it looked like she was praying to the TV. God. Hoping and whining to see the Montgomery county schools closed. The pricing scream I heard, it stuck me; there was no school.

My sister spent these past two days playing wii, watching TV, playing board games, and pestering me to play. However, I wasn’t so lucky I had plenty of things to do:

1. Read Three Chapters out of my Sociology book.

2. Practice Math online.

3.Read poetry for my English course.

4. Study terms from English/ Sociology.

It was only four things to do, but there is never enough time in the day to do all this. The most important key to studying is not OVER DOING IT! This can be difficult if time is against you as it is with me. 

Therefore, these past two days, I’ve buckled down to study and took an hour break in-between to catch up on Walking Dead and Dexter. These days off really worked out in my favor.  

Hope everyone stayed safe and stayed on top of their academics!


Welcome Sandy

(Shaswat Koirala) Permanent link

Good morning everyone,


It's 4 am and I'm writing a blog for you guys. I had a homework due at 10 am today (which is online). I thought I'd finish it up before writing a blog. So, what has everyone been up to these days ? We have a hurricane coming today, and I wonder if you would get a chance to read this message before Sandy strikes. I hope power won't be out for too long,and we can resume our normal life quickly.

The interesting news is that the schedule of classes for Winter 2012 and Spring 2013 is available for viewing. If you plan to attend the winter session, registration begins on Monday, November 5, 2012. The spring registration begins on Monday, November 12, 2012. Hurry up and start planning your schedule now so that you can register for classes on the very first day.

I had posted this last year, and I am updating this list again. Here are the names of a few amazing professors I really recommend at Montgomery College:

BI 107 - Dr. Margaret Birney
BI 203 - Dr. Gretchen De Silva
BI 204/205 - Dr. Abdulai T. Barrie
CH 101 - Prof. Susan Bontems 
CH 102 - Dr. James Aschom
EN 101/102 - Prof. Dawn C. Downey 
MA 116 - Dr. Charles Osborne
MA 181 - Prof. Jennifer Polm
PH 203/204 - Prof. Shoeila Bakhour
PL 201 - Dr. Timothy McWhirter
PY 102 - Prof. Thomas Colligan
SP 108 - Dr. Aaron D. Johnson
WS 101 - Prof. Kateema Lee

Also, always check before registering for a class. In some cases, you won't find reviews for a new professor under "Montgomery College." If that's the case, you can do a global search to read some reviews posted on the page of another institution previously taught by the professor. 

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

I hope you guys have safe days ahead. Take care and see you next week !



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Hello Everyone!

I hope midterm exams, papers, and projects are going well.  I’ve been going a little crazy myself, and writing this is a huge stress reliever because I do it for you.wink

This semester I’m not as involved in campus activities as I have been in the past because I’m in class all day from morning to evening. BUT I am partly involved in the Rockville Student Senate. I’m not an official senator this semester, but I hang around the office and I give advice to the new Chairwoman of Events, and to the senate at large.

I wanted to tell you about our upcoming event: OKTOBERFEST!

Last year, it was known as the “Fall Festival.”

Remember all that music, cotton candy, funnel cakes, games and raffle prizes in front of the theatre arts building last year? It came out of nowhere, right? No, it was organized by the Student Senate.

The main purpose for the event was to lighten the mood of the campus and to give students an opportunity to have fun around midterms. It was also meant to bring together the campus community, as it was a means for the senate to work with several campus clubs and organizations: Do Something Now!, Women’s Bible Study Club, Chartwells,The MC Bookstore, LARP, Latino Student Union, The Red Jacket, FYE, EWB, Book Club, and several others! (Note that some of these clubs are no longer existent) Each group brought something to the event and we’re very grateful for the help!

As the Senate we heard students complain about there not being enough life on campus or not enough community collaboration and this event attempted to address that need.

We’re trying a few new things this year and I hope you enjoy it!

Good luck with everything and have a great weekend!



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This week went by incredibly fast. Similar to how this semester is going by, incredibly fast. You guys still feeling unstoppable?

When it comes to time based tasks, I tend to break up blocks of time into segments. (Halves, thirds, etc.) And in this case, I look back on the half of the semester that's behind us and my mind is saying "okay, you've just gotta do all that one more time and you're done." 

Well...all that plus a final exam and you know how we all love those. 

In other news, this doesn't have much to do with MC, but I finished the Hunger Games trilogy today. The last book was Mockingjay. I hate to sound like a downer, but I didn't like the ending very much. I won't spoil it for anyone of course, but the story has a very different feel to it in the third book. And the conclusion is just...ugh. Now I've just gotta find a new book to occupy my mind while riding the train home from MC. (Ah ha! This tidbit does have something to do with MC. A little.)

Just a heads up though, next week I'll be updating you guys on my artwork from this semester. I've got quite a few pieces I'd like to show you, and hopefully you all can throw some feedback at me. Until then, you guys sit tight and have a great weekend.

Take care.

~ Jay


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Blog – 10/24/2012

Have you ever stopped one day and suddenly realized – oh my gosh, look how much time has passed?

I feel like I blinked, and the semester is already half over!  When did that happen?

I mean, it’s bad enough that I sometimes feel startled that I’m actually in college; half the semester apparently went by while I wasn’t looking!

It’s funny.  You get into a habit, whether it is the time you wake up, or the classes you go to, and it’s only after a while that you realize that – hey, it wasn’t always like that.

I feel so comfortable at MC now – it’s my school, and certainly a better one for me than high school had been – but sometimes I stop and realize that I’m not new anymore.  This is my third semester!  I’ve fallen into patterns, learned the best ways to get from here to there on campus.

My classes – they feel like they’ve been going on forever, but at the same time, like they’ve just started.  I feel like I’m going to blink, and the second half of the semester is just going to flash by. 

I can’t help but wonder.  Do I have enough time to do my work?  Do I have enough time to play piano when I get stressed out?  Do I have enough time to occasionally just watch a bit of TV for the fun of it?

I think I feel a bit drowned in all of the lost time.

But losing everything –

It’s like the sun going down on me.”  Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me, Caribou, Elton John (1974)


Open Up and Listen Up

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I am deeply thinking about participating in the poetry slam once again.

The experience is indeed scary, expressing yourself, opening up and letting people in and perhaps opening up to judgment. Then again, who doesn’t judge? 

I found it humbling that people actually showed up to the slam ready to listen. The clapping of hands may have been to show respect or maybe some clapped because they understood. Isn’t that something we all want? To be understood and to be accepted. When my voice shook and trembled, I spoke loudly and aggressively to the audience of course, but now that I look back in time, I think I was talking to myself to my inner pain. My point is the poetry slam is more than a club. It’s a release of stress and emotional pain. 

I’m thinking about it. The only thing holding me back is my busy schedule. I have until the end of this week to decide. What do you think? 

Education and money, a relationship that creates a hectic life style for a college student. However, is that really an excuse to hold me back? 

Other reason I took on this opportunity was to get over my fear of speaking in public. To be honest, it didn’t help me, but the environment and the welcoming audience made my nerves a little less on edge.  The bight light, the spotlight that rested on me was a nice blinder, so it was easy to avoid eye contact. The sound of my voice startled me. I sounded confidant and my voice more forceful than normal. (Normally, I have a high, squeaky voice, this time it was different.) 

That was it! This is what I enjoy the most about this experience! I was scared, but deep down I was ready to let people into my life, let them have a small glimpse of what it’s like in my shoes. That voice is something I need to release more. The confidence within me was something rare, I question many things about myself, but in that instance, I knew what I wanted. I wanted to be heard, I wanted to be seen, and for once I truly was. 

Maybe I should embrace that feeling again. 

Maybe you should embrace that feeling?

Any questions or concerns about the poetry slam let me know. 

Meeting with the BoT

(Keren Nathalie Urrutia) Permanent link

Hello everybody!

I had a very interesting and fun evening last night.

As a member of the Student Council, I was invited along with rest of the council to a dinner with the members of the Board of Trustees. It was my third time meeting with them, and as usual, they were very nice and treated us with great respect and were happy to hear what we had to say regarding our student experience and our roles as leaders in our respective campuses.

I had the honor to be in the table with Dr. Pollard, Mr. Priddy, Mr. Knapp, and Dr. Hoffman. During the meeting we discussed how the leadership roles will develop and change according to the new demographic population that the college is receiving every semester and what our role, as student leaders, will influence new students' college experience during their time at Montgomery College. We also talked MC Strategic Plan 2020 which will implement many policies and programs that will give students a better college experience and will great;y influence their academic and student life. We also talked about some issues that currently affect our campuses and that, as the voice of our fellow students, the Student Council and Student Senates at the three campuses are trying to address.

Not only the members of the board were very interested in our insight about these questions and issues, but they emphasized how important students opinions are for them and how they will take in account what we say during those meetings. 

As a student leader, I really appreciate that they take the time to sit with us and talk to us about the things that concerns us, and I really tried to tell them all of the things I've heard in the TP/SS campus that many students have concerns about and that come to the student senate's table because it was a great opportunity for the board to heard what is going on in the campuses.

It was a great experience as usual!

A Quick Meal Replacement Shake

(Shaswat Koirala) Permanent link

Hi everyone,

I hope you all are doing good. I've finally come up with a new video. We have busy lives, and we often ignore our body's nutritional needs. In this video, I show you guys how to make a quick and healthy meal-replacement shake. This protein shake is going to help manage your calorie intake, and help you build some lean muscles. Also, you can pick any protein powder you want. It doesn't have to be the one I use in this video. I hope you enjoy my short clip as much as I did making it.


Time Management, Procrastination, and Study Tips

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I always hear tips like: “Make a schedule,” “Make notecards,” “You should take notes like this…”  I mean, these things work for some people and that’s great, but they’ve never really done me any good. So I looked for other productivity techniques that have helped me get so many things done. So here I’ll try to give you something you might not have heard of. If you have, consider this a refresher.

Time Management:

You’d be surprised how many really cool time management tricks are out there:

  • Parkinson’s Law: A task expands to fill the time allotted. I actually read about this in an MIT blog. It’s not saying you can do a ten hour assignment in two hours, but rather, you shouldn’t make a ten hour assignment a week long project because it might end up taking that amount of time to accomplish it. The secret is to give a task the appropriate amount of time.  Try to write a paper in an entire day, from research to the final draft (but do it early!). Some of you have already applied this concept because of your own procrastination.
  • Schedules and planners don’t work for me. I have a calendar and a to-do list. And, I don’t always update my calendar. I generally just stick to to-do lists because it helps me to prioritize what needs to get done immediately. I’m too “go with the flow” with tasks so I fail every time I try a schedule.


I recently started going through a book on how to stop procrastinating. It really explained the psychology of it. I hope I don’t sound like a shrink:

  • Basically, start making things look positive. Instead of thinking “when do I have to finish?” Think, “when can I start?” This reduces the pressure of being like “OMG, I have to finish this thing.”
  • Break things down into parts.
  • The biggest time waster is worrying about how hard you think the project is. I often find that an assignment was much easier than I made it out to be and so I ended up regretting all the time I spent worrying about how hard I thought it was.
  • Allow yourself to do an assignment as messy and ugly as possible from start to finish. No perfection allowed. There. Now you have a lot done, and you can start focusing on the details. Being detailed in the beginning can get in the way of finishing a project.
  • Stressing, being overwhelmed and hyping things up are the biggest causes for my procrastination. Relax.


#1 tip of the week: EXPERIMENT. Try new things throughout the semester. Learn how you learn.

  • For some classes I take rigorous notes. For others, taking notes gets in the way of my learning so I stopped taking notes during lecture, and I take notes on the textbook at home.  
  • Sometimes I don’t take any notes whatsoever, and do all the homework problems, which are enough for me to learn the material.

These ideas are a little bit abstract and I hope I did well in explaining them.  I’m thinking there needs to be a Part II. Give me suggestions. Tell me if these were helpful or if I didn’t explain things clearly. I have tons more to share and I’m looking forward to it!

180 Degrees

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It's amazing how one thing, or a few things in my case, can turn your entire perspective around. Things you were worried about suddenly look up. Your potential failures turn into potential victories. And the dire quickly becomes the not so dire.

You all may remember my six paragraph long complaint about Astronomy 101. How I disliked it. How it was mentally exhausting. How it had become "that class." Well...this week, I got my first graded test back from "that class." 


I do believe a "B" is a passing grade, if I'm not mistaken.


Now couple that with the fact that I currently have the sixth highest grade in the class. 

(I'm barely holding on to an "A" at 90%, but it's an "A" nonethless.)

So, if my math is correct:

89% test grade + 90% class grade = 1 happy Jay

And to be honest, the class really isn't that bad anymore. Patience. Control. Focus.

In other news, you guys may also remember my blog post about joining the Advocate, or at least trying to. The anxiety that came with just filling out the application provoked me to blog about it. I'm sure I was being over dramatic when I wrote that, but I get that way sometimes. Makes for good writing at least. Nonetheless, I didn't hear back from them. For two weeks. I just naturally assumed my application was rejected, so I was licking my wounds behind that one.

But, merely 10 minutes ago, I checked my email and waiting for me was an email asking me to meet with the Editor so we could "discuss my involvement." Sounds like I'm being considered.

So needless to say, I feel good right now. I'm not jumping with excitement, but I've  got a little more pep in my step than I did a week ago. Also please realize that I don't mention any of these things to brag, but just to keep you guys up to date. Hopefully my humor doesn't come across as arrogant. And if it does...


I hope you're seeing some 180's in your life as well. Have a great day everyone! 

 ~ Jay

Time goes on by...

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Time goes on by…

I finished writing a paper for my English class. “The Birthmark” is the specific topic I had to write about. I must say the “hidden” meaning in Hawthorn’s writing is absolutely intriguing and brutally honest.  The imperfections of mankind are what inspired him to write this short story.  This is a must read! Even though it takes place in the eighteenth century there’s something about it that is still able to teach us and allow us to grow. At least for me personally, it has inspired me, but then again I’m a book worm and I over think and analyze every aspect of a good read.  Still, if you enjoy a good read, or if you're not much of a reader, a short story like“The Birthmark” would be perfect for you. You might find something about yourself or even view our society in a different light.     

Time seemed to catch up on me today because as you can see, I am writing this at midnight. Oh, were does the time go?

In addition, to writing this paper for English, I studied sociology. That took all day and practiced math. Let’s not forget the family dinner I had to host which was spot on! Too bad everyone enjoyed it because now I don’t have a midnight snack. Oh, the irony!

This week is going to pass back quickly I can already tell, I just hope it doesn’t pass by too quickly. I want to be able to enjoy this week as well.

Hope everyone is doing great with their studies! And costume shopping! (Yea…I’m still into Halloween) Luckily, I have little sisters to ‘blame.’ 



More Media, the Internet, and Books!

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Internet.  Internet, internet, internet…

Well, I’m using it right now, if that says anything.  


Right, well, the thing about internet is that it has become well-nigh indispensable and is frighteningly ethereal.  I mean, it isn’t like you can hold a music download in your hands, or carry your picture files in a notebook.  They’re all digital.  One wrong flick, and whoosh!  Everything down the drain.

For someone at college, here at MC or elsewhere, the internet is a godsend.  Hundreds and millions of sources, secondary and primary sources, at your fingertips!  No more dependencies on huge musty books in dusty libraries!  So many shortcuts!

Well, it seems that way.  But the internet is like anything else.  We use it as a form of communication, as a way to relax, to have fun, to work, and to do nearly everything else.  These days, even our phones are actually miniature computers, ready to bring us the internet wherever we are.  There’s less need to learn the painstaking handwriting styles of the past, with computer type.  Less need for letters with email, IM, Skype, and any number of other near-instant communications by-way of internet.

It seems like a blessing, right up until your computer crashes the day before your huge paper is due.  Right up until some virus steals all of your passwords.  Right up until some internet hacker robs you blind.

Okay, so maybe I’m over-dramatizing a little.  But really, I find it depressing that the hallmark of a library now is a computer database, and not a bookcase.

That isn’t to say that I don’t use the internet.  I do.  I watch movies, listen to music, read and write and get my information online just like everyone else does.  I just also value the things I can use without having to make sure that the little connected sign in the corner of my screen is blue.

Books.  Books, books, booksBooks that you can spread out over a table so that you can refer to five different books at once and scribble notes to tuck into the pages.  Books that you can use anywhere, no matter if there’s WiFi or signal or anything.  Books that sit on the shelf and look beautiful.  Speaking of books, I recommend Mercedes Lackey to fantasy fans, Anne McCaffrey to sci-fi fans, Pillars of the Earth to history fans, and The Abhorsen Trilogy by Garth Nix to anyone who hasn’t read it.

Music – on CD, on DVD, on just a music file double-saved to my computer and flashdrive.  Music that I can listen to and music videos that I can watch all the time, without pulling up Pandora or YouTube.

And then there is the staple of the disorganized student – the pencil and paper.  They tend to float and flutter about my bedroom like mad birds, really, pencils on the piano and papers stacked and scattered across stacks of books.  Scrawled notes tacked to the wall to remind me of things and dates and stuff like three assignments for French and start the darn assignment for English already!  Graphite-smudged pictures drawn during and between classes, poems carefully curled across lined pages.  Stuff that needs to be signed and stuff that needs to be copied and stuff that just needsPaper and pencil.  Really, the most important things in my life that aren’t books.

So, yeah, the internet.  We’re so much more dependent on it than we need to be.  We use it to do things that we’ve been doing for years, decades, without it – counting the zeros in one billion, looking up a person’s name, finding the exact definitions of parietal lobe and ethnic and pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanokoniosis.

Have you ever taken a no-internet day?  I’ve done quite a few.  It feels surprisingly good, to know that you can go for over 24 hours without the bright screen in your eyes.  There’s actually a week for it, I think…  I’ll have to dig through my brother’s back issues of magazines, I think I read that there.

So really, when it comes down to it, I think that we think we need the internet more than we really do. 

And because I’m feeling particularly daring right now, and in the mood to stand up to just about anything –

The Devil went down to Georgia. He was lookin' for a soul to steal.
He was in a bind 'cause he was way behind. He was willing to make a deal
When he came across this young man sawin' on a fiddle and playin' it hot.
And the Devil jumped upon a hickory stump and said ‘Boy, let me tell you what.’
‘I bet you didn't know it, but I'm a fiddle player, too.
And if you'd care to take a dare I'll make a bet with you.
Now you play a pretty good fiddle, boy, but give the Devil his due.
I'll bet a fiddle of gold against your soul 'cause I think I'm better than you.’
The boy said, ‘My name's Johnny, and it might be a sin,
But I'll take your bet; and you're gonna regret 'cause I'm the best there's ever been.’

 - The Devil Went Down to Georgia, Million Mile Reflections (1979), Charlie Daniels Band

Okay, it was just because it was in my head.  So sue me!  I’m resisting the siren call of the internet as I sign off and go to bed.


Politics 101

(Keren Nathalie Urrutia) Permanent link

Politics have always had a special place in my life. 

I grew up in a family with a political background that contributed to my passion for this area. And I've always thought that politics are very interesting because they are not stagnant which make them incredibly appealing to me.

That being said, changing my major to Political Sciences/International Studies was not an easy decision. Even though I enjoy reading politics and I usually check the newspaper and watch news channels every day, I never thought that politics would become something I would like to study. I always thought that my ideologies and strong opinions regarding some current issues would cause me not being able to see things from a different perspective than my own and that would negatively influence the way I see politics. I never really thought I could put aside my beliefs and be objective when it comes to see things from the other side or point of view. I never truly considered politics or anything related to it as a possible career until I became engaged with Journalism in this country.

After taking my Intro to Journalism class and write articles that were both objective and factual, I started to understand that I can put aside what I think is right and focus on things that can be backed up with facts. Then, I started getting involved in things like the Student Senate which basically gives you an idea of how government works at a small scale. My experiences working in the Student Senate basically helped me to decide on changing my major, which I officially did at the beginning of this semester. 

This is the first semester I'm taking classes related to  my major, and I love all of them. I've learn a lot about the way politics and government work and I'm looking forward to the rest of the classes and knowledge I will acquire next semester. It's been a long journey for me to actually realize that I want to be involved in politics in some way, but I'm happy with my decision and looking forward to the rest of my experience :)

21st Birthday Blog

(Shaswat Koirala) Permanent link

Hi everyone,

So many good things happened this week. I'm going to share some of them with you guys.

I got a new job this week. Prof. Bakhour, who teaches physics, and also runs the Physics Club, offered me a job at an engineering company. Basically, all I have to do is enter data into word and excel. Now is my time to work hard to help the organization meet its goals and objectives. 

I've been thinking about how getting this job has improved my perception on certain things. Prof. Bakhour has barely known me for a month, but I am grateful that she identified me as a suitable candidate for the job. I got this job simply because I didn't let the opportunity pass. The very day she offered me the job, I created a resume, and emailed my application. The interview went well, and I got hired. To tell you the truth, I have been accepted in every single interview so far, be it the job interviews or the blogger program interview. However, that is bound to change sooner or later. I will have pharmacy college interviews, and it is almost impossible for someone to get accepted into all the schools they applied. I will be more than happy if I get accepted into one. 

It was  my birthday yesterday. Wohoo ! I enjoyed some time with my family, but couldn't enjoy with friends because I have tests on Monday. However, my brain suggests, "Thou shalt party next weekend." 

Gotta Love Social Networking: I definitely received a lot of messages on facebook and a few emails from strangers, as well as people I haven't seen for years.  Overall, it was a good 21st birthday. I have hence created a video to thank you all for the birthday wishes. Check it out !


UMD greater than or equal to MC?

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I finished my first round of exams this week. Tuesday was a day from the Underworld. Wednesday night, I pulled an all-nighter at the University of Maryland for the first time. It’s really nice to have a place where I can be with my fellow engineers as we work through the night. Unfortunately, I was the only one who managed to stay the entire night. The last person left at 4:15 AM. embarrassed

This weekend I’m going to reward myself in some way. I’ll probably start with a mini-reward tonight.

The one thing I love about engineering is the satisfaction you get after spending hours on a problem and, at the very moment when you’re just about to give up, you figure out how to get the solution. What results is an incredible understanding of a concept or theory. Of course, the trade-offs to discovering the secrets of the universe are the great amount of time consuming work and the hair-pulling stress coupled with it.

I’ve often heard MC alumni say the classes at UMD are so much more difficult than the classes at MC. Well, I agree and disagree, mainly for three reasons:

  1. You’re going to have good and bad teachers wherever you go, so I don’t think UMD teachers are better or worse than those at MC.
  2. People who transfer are usually transferring as Juniors. This means they’re taking 300 level and 400 level courses. And those classes are HARD. You really can’t compare 300 level courses to 200 level courses. The biggest difference is that you can find almost everything taught in 200 and 100 level courses on the internet, and tutors are usually provided to you for free for these courses. When you get to 300 and up, the internet is hardly helpful and the university does not provide free tutoring. You’re on your own. You must learn the material at a level of understanding that you didn’t really have to meet beforehand.
  3. Classes are much larger at UMD (I have an average of about 35-40 students in my classes). As such, the Professors can’t really focus on you as much as they might in many of the smaller class sizes at MC. I’ve had to do a lot of self-teaching this semester.

So when your Junior and Senior undergraduate friends tell you UMD is much more difficult than MC, remember the factors that might be contributing to these opinions.

After attending both institutions simultaneously for about 7 weeks, my opinion is that, in my two years at MC, I got just about the same education as I would have received, had I started as a Freshman, at UMD. And what’s really great, is that I got it for about half the price!


On another note—who else is going to see “You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown” in Theatre Arts, MC Rockville this week? 

Here I sit

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Normally I have a topic prepared, or at least some idea of what I'd like to blog about, but this week I must apologize. There's no topic in particular on my mind at the moment, so I'll just speak on the various things going on in the peculiar life of Jay Alston right now.

And if you don't mind, I'll do it via bullet points. I like bullet points.

  • I met a professional illustrator/graphic designer yesterday. She had a gallery opening in the Technical Center, and most of my illustration class was encouraged to come. My Illustration professor, Ms. Vaughan, kinda blind sided me when she pulled me over to introduce me to the illustrator. Here I am munching on a cookie looking at a beautiful painting and suddenly I had to make conversation on the spot. I think I did quite good though. We had a nice little discussion. On one hand, it caught me by surprise but on the other hand I'm glad it happened. I feel that making conversation on the spot is a necessary tool for networking and meeting peers in your field.
  • I've gotten what I guess you could call my first graphic design gig. A friend of mine is starting a young women's health magazine and she asked me to create a logo for her. One thing I'm having trouble with is figuring out how much to charge. She's willing to pay, but mentioned that she's on a budget. And then there's the whole factor of her being a friend, so I don't know. How much is too much? How much is too less?
  • Thank you everyone who has read my blog, and a special thank you to those who take the time to comment. Miguel and Jane in particular always have insightful things to say and I appreciate that. Everyone else, don't be shy. I'm open to conversation, as my first bullet point demonstrates. ;-) 
  • I took my first Astronomy test this week. For those who've been reading, you may remember me complaining about that class a while back. Well things have gotten better, and I'm feeling fairly confident about my performance on that test. I'll have to wait a little while before I see my grade, but as I said. Very confident.

So that's my life right now. Pushing forward, step by step, one challenge at a time. Hopefully next week I'll have something more interesting to talk about. In meantime, you all enjoy your weekend. Take care.

 ~ Jay

Media, Media, Media (and not Medea!)

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Here I am, at some ridiculous hour of the night, writing my blog and hoping that I actually remember to post it.  Why?

Well, the Jewish Holidays are over until springtime, and thankfully, that means that I can dedicate my life to MC.

Right now, of course, it just means that I am counting down the minutes until lovely sleep, and wishing that I actually had time to watch something on Netflix before I go to sleep.

Speaking of Netflix, the media is an interesting subject.  I am a self-proclaimed bibliophile –


So, naturally, books have always been my favorite form of media.  Directly behind books in the race, as previous readers of my blog may have guessed, is music.  I have a wide range of music crammed onto my tiny mp3 player, and my family actually lives like we’re in a musical – we randomly burst out into song throughout the day.  So…




Equals One Happy Laina.

But music and books aren’t the only form of media, as I have been forcibly informed by my sports-addicted peers and family-members.

Many people like the newspaper.  I do admit a secret weakness for periodicals and magazines (especially fact-filled ones!).  Then there is the ever-present, ever-powerful television.

My sister is addicted to television shows on Netflix.  Another one of my sisters has been determinedly plugging away at New!Who.  (Doctor Who 2005-present, for those who aren’t Doctor Who geeks.)  One of my brothers was obsessed with Pokémon for a while, and my willpower against documentaries is nearly non-existent. 

Beyond the television is the full-length movie.  I am… odd, about movies.  I enjoy them.  I even grow quite fond of them.  I actually have a list of my top thirteen favorites –

  • Fame
  • WALL-E
  • Amazing Grace
  • The Lion King
  • E.T.
  • Origin: Spirits of the Past (subbed ONLY)
  • Escape to Witch Mountain (1975)
  • The Last Mimzy
  • Vitus
  • The Love Bug
  • Star Wars
  • Twelve Angry Men
  • To Kill a Mockingbird

 These are in no particular order.

The thing is, when it comes to movies – I tend to watch them once or twice, and then only pull them out again at times like Thanksgiving and Chanukah.  Or maybe a couple times during the summer.

I will admit that I have watched Vitus and Origin: Spirits of the Past more times than I can count.

But anyway, bringing myself back on-track, that leaves me with one HUGELY enormous form of media, which encompasses television, movies, books, newspapers, music, and anything else that anyone can think of –


And… that is where my brain gives out.  Um… a part two next week?  On the subject of Internet?  If anyone is interested, anyway.

And now, to both quote the magnificent Fame, and to send out a prayer for my sleeping brain cells –

I sing the body electric

I glory in the glow of rebirth

Creating my own tomorrow

When I shall embody the earth…Fame (1980)

I hope that rebirth comes soon, before I fall asleep!

Till next week!

Gateway Program: The life you've given me

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To be a College student…isn’t that something to proud of?

Every individual has different struggles. We juggle time for work, family, friends, schoolwork, and other activities in which we participate. Sometimes as a student, you risk not sleeping just to get projects, papers, and studying done just in time. We rush out in the mornings with a quick taste of breakfast. Although our eyes fight against us, we stay awake and prepare for our lectures or labs. Our cars maybe filled with wrappers from fast food joints, and our wallets might be bare, but besides all those facts, isn’t great to be apart of something more?

The facts that I had to face as a high dropout left me still in time. Everyone who passed by on the streets had somewhere to go, but where was I going? 

I am blessed and proud to say I had a second chance to redeem myself and mold myself into something more! I had a chance to become a college student and live this hectic, but very meaningful life because of the gateway program. 

This program did give me another chance to “find myself.” I met amazing people along the way that has fought for this experience.  I am humbled that the staff, professors, and even my peers saw something in me. This was more than a program to me, these wonderful people knew my flaws, yet they still pushed and their words of encouragement will never be forgotten. “Everyone has something to offer to the world. Go share that with someone and inspire them to be great, like you.” Ms, Jeri is an inspirational woman. She never let anyone doubt themselves or allow any of our past mistakes get in the way. 

The gateway program is the reason why I am able to type on this blog today. I am able to explore and go beyond what I have ever imagine for myself. As for Ms. Jeri, she’s that voice inside my head when I just want to give up. She keeps me motivated, witty, and confidant. For anyone who has experience this humbling program knows how effective it can impact one’s life dramatically.  That’s why it’s sad to say that this program is coming to an end.

I am one of the lucky ones who was able to embrace it and witness the students who participated grow into men and women that are able to have a beautiful and successful future. 

So again…isn’t great to be a college student?

Isn’t great to have a future ahead? 

Social media

(Keren Nathalie Urrutia) Permanent link

Hello everybody!

I hope that all enjoyed your weekend and are ready for a new week of classes :) 

This week, I decided that I would blog about something that all of us are familiar with, and that is social networking :)

As college students, we are constantly using the internet, and I think hat one of the reasons why social networks are so appealing is that they give us a way to relieve stress as well as help us to stay informed about what our friends are doing every day. 

Personally, I can say that most of my friends have joined at least one social network including Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr, and they are very active in those sites which makes communication among us very easy. 

But not only these sites allow me to keep in touch with friends and family, but they have become a very useful tool to keep my fellow students informed about things that are happening in the college and things they can get involved in, so I decided to make a list of useful pages you can follow on Facebook as they will help you to get informed about what is going on in the college :) 

Student Council Facebook

Student Senate Takoma Park/Silver Spring Facebook

Takoma Park/Silver Spring The Excalibur Newspaper

Takoma Park/Silver Spring Office of Service Learning

Takoma Park/Silver Spring Writing Club

The English Conversation Club

(Shaswat Koirala) Permanent link

Hello everyone,

I hope you are doing well. The semester is moving fast, and so is my life. A month has passed, and I don't have top grades in any of my classes I am taking this semester. This is quite a unique situation for me. But am I upset ? No. Every day, around 4000 people are diagnosed with cancer in the United States, and how can I be upset just for not having an A ? That's not me. Sometimes I fail to give my best, but it is how it is. Gotta stay positive and move on.

I just had a Physics test today, and it was OK. Pre-pharmacy students are required to take two semesters of calculus-based physics, and at least a semester of calculus. I don't complain about a semester of calculus, but it's *ridiculous* that pre-pharmacy students are expected to learn two semesters of physics. Do Engineering programs require biology ? Never heard of it. Pharmacy programs should instead require students to take courses like biochemistry and genetics. These courses are optional at several pharmacy schools. I think learning a semester of biochemical reactions would ultimately serve me better than memorizing (unwillingly) the motion of a rocket. 

I recently discovered a new group in our community. There is an "English Conversation Club" which meets at Montgomery County Public Libraries. This group provides a friendly environment for international students, au pairs, adults and anyone interested to practice English, meet new friends, and share their culture with others. This group can be very helpful for MC students taking ESL classes. You can find the group on facebook as well. Click here, and I'll take you there.

I was preparing a video for this week, but I couldn't complete it on time. I hope to complete it by this weekend, and *hopefully* it will be up next week.

Until then, take care and see you guys next week.

Listen to this music to make your day brighter:


In the Moment

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I’m halfway through my first round of exams and I’m mentally preparing for the second half, next week. I have no idea where September went. The last day I remember was September 8th, everything after that is a blur. This needs to change. …It will. wink

I find that I take myself too seriously. With me, everything must have a purpose. I spend my free time looking at art, reading or watching videos that critique art or that have something for me to learn. My justification for these activities is that I’m becoming more cultured and that I’m expanding my knowledge and perspective.

I abandoned video games when I was 13.

I can’t read fiction because I feel as though the information doesn’t benefit me in any way. I prefer non-fiction.

Of course I’m fully aware of the flaws in my logic. Regardless, my preferences remain where they are.

More recently, I’ve hated the fact that so much time is wasted driving in the car. I found a few audio books that I’m going to start listening to, so that I can reclaim that time wasted.

I set goals for everything. (One semester my goal was to get straight A’s, another semester’s goal was to make the best art I’ve ever made, another was to test my limits….)

And now you’re probably thinking something like, “JEEZ, this guy needs to chiiiiiillllll.

It’s odd that at the same time I can be very “TYPE B”. I never stress about things being perfect. I’m very relaxed when it comes to school and other commitments (with a few exceptions).

I’m the type to say “Oh, I didn’t do so great on that test….. It’s cool. I’ll do better on the next one.”

Things don’t really get to me.

I went into this blog post not wanting to have a purpose. I didn’t want to try to teach you something or to show you something that might change your perspective (there will be more of that in future posts). I just wanted to write for the sake of writing.

I guess one could argue that “writing for the sake of writing” is a purpose in itself. tongueout

As exams and midterms approach I wanted to remind you all to live. To be in the moment.  As cliché as it is: Your life is now, not in some distant point in the future. Enjoy what you’re learning. Enjoy your friends. Enjoy the challenge. Enjoy the journey.

And hopefully, I’ll take some of my own advice. Have a fantastic weekend!


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I'm sitting in the library, staring at my completed online application to join the Advocate newspaper team here at Montgomery College Rockville. All that's left to do is press submit.

It seems like such a simple task. Just press the button and see what happens. Press it. But as humans, our minds tend to create problems that haven't arrived yet, in which case we create doubt. We create fear. I don't fear being rejected. Rejection isn't all that bad when you think about, or at least when I think about it. What I do fear, and what does bother me, is the potential inability to live up to additional expectations, duties, and responsibilities in my life right now. 

A lot of this uncertainty comes from what I know to be fact. And the fact is, last semester was arguably the most stressful four months of my life. I pushed through, I did what I had to do, and I have the grades to show for it, but it was not easy. I remember all the sleepless nights and the not so pleasant changes in my own personality as a result of the stress that built up from course work alone. Being Mr. Perfectionist is a funny thing, really. Professors will notice your work ethic and remember you for it. They might even mention your work to their department colleagues on their break or in passing. But is a pat on the back and a little praise from them really worth putting yourself through things that other, less driven students, don't have to deal with? The headaches? The fatigue? The irritability? The frustration?

A more optimistic person than myself might think that's a silly question, with an obvious answer. "Why yes, Jay, it is definitely worth it. Why would you ask such a thing?"  But I am not that person, and these things come to mind as I stare at that submit button. Joining the paper would be one more responsibility to take on, on top of all the same factors that almost made me crumble last semester. 

I have my reasons for wanting to join the Advocate, which I won't go into because that's not what this post is about. But going into something I'm not 100% sure about is what some would call a risk. And risks aren't always rewarding.

Nonetheless, I've given myself this much time to over think myself to death on this decision, and that time is up. All that's left to do is close my eyes, clear my head, and either press it or don't.


~ Jay

Facing the People

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A general thank you to everyone who has either read or commented on my blog so far!

Apparently, last Thursday was National Show-Your-Appreciation Day.  Well, I appreciate all of you out there who have noticed my ramblings online!

I realized, the other day, that I am in a dangerous sort of position.  I am not the type of person who easily steps forward and introduces herself, but it is that exact type of bravery (if one can call it that,) that I need.

Why do I find it so hard to just find a random person and say “Hi, I’m Laina!”?  It isn’t like they’re going to jump out and attack me!

Is it?

No, really, I’m sort of introverted.  I mean, I walk around campus with sunglasses and headphones on all the time.  Well, except when I’m in the library.  But that’s different.  If I was a wild animal, then the library would be my natural habitat. 

If I were a math equation, or one of those Standardized Test Questions, it would look something like this:

worm:dirt; Laina:library

So ,yeah, when I’m anywhere that isn’t the library, I find myself curled up inside myself, hoping that I’ll just sort of blend in with the walls.  I put on one of those masks for classes, so that I can get the participation grade without actually endangering myself.  But really, ‘endangering myself!’  What danger is there?

So why am I ranting about this now, you might ask?

Well, as I mentioned last week, I am missing a nastily large number of classes due to the Jewish holidays.  Missing classes means that I must find the work that is needed to both make up the work, and to know what is ahead.

Getting the missed notes and handouts means talking to people.  And yes, the teachers are all about how one should interact with people just for this specific type of occasion, but really –

I can’t even remember the names of the people I talked with when my teachers encouraged us to ‘socialize’ and ‘interact.’

So here I am, awkwardly hoping that I don’t come off as some type of lazy idiot, emailing people I barely know, and praying that I don’t somehow miss something vital to my classes.


For the curious, here is what I was doing for the past two days, all the while worrying about my missed classes:

I was eating all of my meals in a Succah.

For those who don’t know much about Judaism, a Succah is basically a hut that is put up once a year for nine days.  The one drawback is that this ‘hut’ cannot have a permanent base or foundation, and the roof must be riddled with enough holes to see the stars through it.

Of course, with the fog and rain and cloudiness that we’ve had for the past few days…

I’m not hating on it or anything.  I really enjoy eating in the Succah; there is something beautiful about eating hot soup out in the cool night air of the autumn.  I just feel like it’s a period of forced relaxation that isn’t even that relaxing.

Plus, my siblings all have off from school for the next week or so.  Believe me, they love completely eradicating any chance I have of surviving to my twenties with my hearing intact.

So here’s a picture of a Succah, courtesy of


And a good description of what I’d be doing in a social situation:

“I’ll be dancing with myself

Dancing with myself

When there's nothing to lose

And there's nothing to prove

I'll be dancing with myself” Dancing With Myself, Nouvelle Vague (Originally Generation X)




And a final quote for last week, because I was in such a hurry that I forgot one:

(Also, a bolster for my own confidence!)

You've got to roll with the punches to get to what's real….

Oh can't you see what I mean?

Might as well jump. Jump!

Might as well jump.

Go ahead, jump. Jump!

Go ahead, jump!”1984 (MCMLXXXIV), Van Halen

School Blue's

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It’s only the beginning of the week and I’m already feeling over whelmed! (I’m sure I am not the only student who feels that way.)

I have been working on my English project, which is on “Sonny’s Blues.” Great, inspiring short story. My dedicated partners and I will elaborate about the story. Which I am very excited about it, but nervous as well, I have a difficult time speaking in front of people, especially while I’m making eye contact. I hope that I don’t stumble over words or blank out or worse trip and fall. Yes, I have a way of making my self overly paranoid. 

Anyways, I love being creative! For this project, I have chosen to make a piano (that represents Sonny playing the piano) as a stand for our poster. 

Note: If you’re anything, like me and do not like talking in front of the class I have a few tips that may help!

1. This is probably the most essential piece of advice. Always be PREPARED! Know the material, so when you present your project to the class you’ll know what you are saying. 

2. Not everyone does this, but this boosts my confidence. Dress nicely and I don’t mean formally. I mean wear something that makes you feel comfortable, whether it’s a nice dress or a fancy top. 

3. This is a trick my cousin taught me. When looking at your audience, if the glances of their attentive eyeballs make your insides shake, simply don’t make eye contact. What do I mean when I say this? I mean look right above their foreheads, this appears you’re looking at them, but in reality, you are looking above them. 

Try it!!! Give me feedback or if any more suggestions come your way let me know. (I might need more advice.) 

Balancing things

(Keren Nathalie Urrutia) Permanent link

Hello everybody!

I have had the most busiest weeks of the semester so far, and we are still at the beginning!

Usually, I don't have a problem balancing school, work, and all of the rest activities I'm involved in, but this past week was incredibly overwhelming!

I really enjoy my classes, so I don't have a problem finishing my homework on time or advancing on assignments that will take more time. I have always had the talent of managing time, so I can easily plan my week and have at least a couple of hours to have coffee with my best friend Effie, but some things out of my control happened last week and I completely lost control of my schedule.I spent the whole weekend trying to get back on track which wasn't easy as I also have family and a personal life that I can't just ignore.

I usually plan my semester as soon as I get my syllabus making sure that I can get things done without freaking out the night before an assignment is due. I have a calendar and a planner that help me keep track of everything I have to finish for my classes, and I use my gmail account calendar, which is synced to my Mac and phone, so I don't forget any assignment/quiz/exam for each class. I also plan my meetings accordingly, so they don't interfere with my classes, work, or times I'm supposed to be studying. It's not easy because sometimes things happen and I can't follow my schedule, but I've learned that planning things ahead of time do help with getting things done. It takes some time to put everything in a calendar/planner, but the results are great as these two things help you to be aware of the things that you need to finish and to prioritize if that Math exam you have to study for will take more than that Washington Post article you have to analyze. At least, they help me a lot.

I think that as a college student who works and does many other things besides academics, I have learned to balance things in a way that I don't get stressed as easily as many of my fellow classmates do. I can handle my emotions very well, so I don't get overwhelmed easily. At the same time, I don't like disappoint people and have a problem saying no when someone asks me to do something, which translates into extra work or things I'm supposed to do. It's one of the things I'm working on.

And even when I get stressed, I wouldn't change my experiences for the last year and a half. I have done many things that have helped me to become a better student and person, and I've developed more skills that I thought possible.

I'm sure my semester will get worse in the upcoming weeks, but I'm ready for the challenge.

Hopefully,  unexpected things won't get on my way again.

Enjoy October everybody!


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