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How to win at Registration

(Sairam Nagulapalli) Permanent link

There's just a little under 2 weeks to go before I enter into nostalgia mode and forget about the mountains of readings, never ending list of papers, and walking around like a sleepless zombie (as opposed to a well-rested zombie - because we all know they're out there). This also means it's time to pick classes for next semester. So I decided I'd compile a little guide that helps the uninitiated to "win" at Course Registration. This is either further proof that I'm a total geek or just a sign of the lengths I'll go to avoid working on my papers (probably the former because I'm almost on top of things right now *knocks furiously on wood to avoid jinxing*).

 

  1. Camp out in front of your computer - Everyone knows all the good classes are filled in the first few hours of registration opening. So get your thermos out and camp in front of your computers. Of course, if you're reading this you've already lost because registration for Fall 2011 has been open since a week. Better luck next semester!
  2. Brush up on your spatial reasoning - Registering for classes is actually all about your spatial reasoning. You try to cram as many of your classes together to minimize those blocks of time that are too little to either socialize properly or too large to leave you completely distracted. Of course a true professional hits the right balance and has classes that fit together nicely while leaving in enough space between them so that he (or she) can crank a paper out for his next class. You can improve your spatial reasoning by listening perpetually to Mozart or by trapping yourself in a maze with your cell phone (but bring an iPod with nothing but Mozart on it just in case) and finding your way out - you'll get out eventually.
  3. Find days when you can have no class - This is every college student's biggest dream when it comes to registration (a close second is having no classes before noon). Yes college students do have dreams about registration - at least I do. Try to find weekdays when you have no class - bonus if that day is friday. To do this, you have to load up your other days with classes. Who cares if you're on campus for 12 hours a day when you have your friday's off!
  4. Take a class with a friend =)

Happy winning!

Registration: A Love Story

(Anne Schott) Permanent link

If you’re reading this blog, there’s a good chance you’re procrastinating. 

I know this because online registration for fall classes started this week.  You were probably headed there when you suddenly noticed the attention-grabbing “Read Student Sex Blogs!” icon on the MC homepage. 

Just kidding.  It doesn’t really say that—but it might as well. Because, as we all know, when you’re trying to postpone the torture of putting together a course schedule, even an uninteresting  Read Student Blogs!” icon can suddenly become impossible to resist.

Procrastination is a normal reaction when faced with the daunting task of finding classes that will fit seamlessly around your life.  It’s a lot like solving a Rubik’s cube: it’s impossible. Unless, of course, you’re one of those annoying kids featured regularly on Ellen who can solve a Rubik’s cube while simultaneously unicycling and juggling live hamsters. In which case I’m not sure what exactly it is that you’re doing at MC, even though you do appear to have embraced the school’s motto: Endless Possibilities.

I may not be juggling small rodents, but, like you, I am juggling a lot of other stuff: work, family, classes, and—call me lucky—a student blog.  Believe me, I know that scheduling isn’t easy. But I’ve been through this a couple of times now, and I’m more than happy to share some tips and techniques that have worked for me.

So, let’s get started! Find your list of courses, roll up your sleeves, hang up the Do Not Disturb sign, and take a deep breath.  First things first, which is why I suggest you start by logging on to Facebook to see if anything has changed in the 3 ½ minutes since you last visited. While you’re there, it’s probably a good time to update your hopelessly outdated profile picture--just to get that out of the way.

OK, now it’s really time to get to work. Tracking down the classes on your list and fitting them all together is both an art and a skill which requires razor-sharp attention to detail. With a little patience and hard work, you will eventually find what I’ve found every semester: there’s no way you will ever, ever be successful in registering for all of the classes on your list. It just doesn’t happen.

Oh, sure, the classes you need might be offered somewhere. They just won’t be offered on the days or at the times or on the campuses that will work for you. No matter how hard I try and how fast I drive, I still can’t get from Rockville to Germantown in ten minutes.  

Funnily enough, this may not be a bad thing.  Twice now I’ve ended up in excellent classes with great professors because the class I originally wanted didn’t work out schedule-wise.  Somehow, you just have to trust that the universe is unfolding as it should. 

At long last, when you’ve decided on your courses and typed in those tiresome CRN numbers, it’s time to squeeze your eyes shut and click on the “submit” button.  

Then, after your first credit card has been declined, re-enter another card’s info. Keep on going. Whatever you do, don’t give up now….you’re so close! (Does MC accept 7-year-old gift cards from L.L. Bean? Who knows….it’s worth a try.)

And, finally, success!

Now that you’re done, it’s time to get back to studying. In this flurry of excitement you may have forgotten that final exams are a little over a week away.

But first, take a minute to check out your Facebook page. Just in case.


Bonus Tip of the Day: For a great (cheap) date this Saturday night, April 30, take your main squeeze to The Macklin Tower Observatory for Public Night starting at 8:30 p.m! Check out the observatory web site (http://mcobservatory.wordpress.com/) or call 240-567-5415 for updates. 


I"m late, I'm late for a very important... post?

(Melissa Williamson) Permanent link

 Ack!  I'm not sure if I'm just being the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland or just as "mad as the March Hare".  Either way it feels like I'm some kind of hurrying hopper.  I don't think that my blog post has ever been this late before, but I'm trying to get it in before Midnight.  Thank goodness tonight's class let out a few minutes early so I was home before 10:30.  So here I am. 

It's been quite a week with the semester winding down which means another exam next Tuesday, working with three classmates on a group project that we'll be presenting in a week and a half on a Saturday morning, and I still have to finish last week's lab assignment. The group project is an interesting one: we have to design a small city from the bare earth up in an area somewhere in the Pacific Northwest.  Everything has to be planned from streets to buildings to where does the electricity and heating come from and we have to work with the principals of "Sustainability" that have been part of the dyad class lessons. 

 Along with that, my job has been busy with some extra time put in because of an upcoming meeting and there are always home things that that need to be taken care of, like the many details that need doing so that our oldest can graduate from high school in about six weeks.   I mailed off the form and check for his cap and gown today, for example.

 That made me wonder whether if in a year I'll be the one who needs a cap and gown.  I've been going to school for 6 years (one class at a time for the first few years) and I think that I'm getting close to having all the needed classes and credits.  Once the semester is over, I think I need to go over my transcript and see what I'm missing. 

Another thing that I had to do this week was to apply for a passport. I've never had one, so I needed to apply in person with various forms and documents.  Fortunately, I found out that this can be done at many places including a lot of Post Office branches.  Then I needed to get the proper documents out of the bank, in my case the form from the U.S. embassy in France that states that I was born to American parents nearly 55 years ago.  I also have a little paper, in French, from the "Mayor" of the area where the American military hospital was located stating that a "fille" was born and officially noted. 

Whoops!  Sorry about that, I just realized that I was starting to doze off at the computer.  Do you ever do that?  Mostly it gives me a crick in my neck and a row of nonsense letters.  I promise that I'll try hard to get this in on time next week. 

Hopping off now

 

Spring 2011 - Almost Accomplished

(Besith Pineda) Permanent link

The atmosphere is gloomy in the basement of this library. Windows show off palpably soggy skies, prophesize water amidst sunny rays. And I should probably attempt to get home soon.

Thus another week has gone by. I remember writing a blog last year about how the end of the fall semester approached with all of its last minute requirements, but time seemed to slow down and speed up simultaneously, and everybody around me seemed to wish it was over already. Not much has changed about this perspective; the warm weather feels like summer and lazy days, school is overrated, but I have learned a big lesson about what time does when it decides to burn seconds, hours, days. I can’t believe all of this is almost over.

But are we there yet? And what have I learned this semester? Am I smarter? Do I understand numbers better? Am I able to put words together more eloquently than I did three months ago? Did my future benefit? Was I able to earn a recommendation from one of my professors? Did pursuing my education benefit me truly, inspire me, enlighten me?

How many times do we stop to really think about these things?

And so. Changing tracks.

The MC Poetry Slam will be held tomorrow at the Rockville Campus, TA Bld. at 7:30 pm in room 148. I mustered a couple of words, or more, about a subject or two, some common themes, and bam, crafted a poem that kind of means a lot to me and I am excited to perform tomorrow. I have subconsciously loved slam poetry for a long time, but I have consciously grown into my love for it more recently, making tomorrow night kind of a big deal.

Additionally, the Slam will feature about 15 to 20 other talented poets, and I have been told that the energy in past years has been great.

Hoping to see a lot of “you” there.

Besith

Learning to Fly

(Sam Cameron) Permanent link

“You are the mayor of Jerusalem,” the woman in the long purple sweater informed me. My friends began to laugh and some whooped, “Yeah, Sam!” So there it is. I am mayor of one of the most controversial cities in the world.

            Shakespeare (a belated happy birthday to him) expatiated on the existence of great men, claiming that some were born great, others achieved greatness and some had it thrust upon them. I definitely fall into this third category – with a minor caveat since I am, in fact, a woman (but who reads the fine print?).  I did not choose to be mayor. I did not run for the office. No one voted for me. I was assigned the role. Why? Aha. Therein lies the crux.

            On Thursday, my classmates and I will participate in a simulation led by a guest professor. The object is to simulate peace negotiations among the Israeli government, Palestinian authority and Jerusalem residents. In preparation for the task, our guest professor in the long purple sweater – who had never met any of us – randomly assigned roles based on our vibes – which is why I am apparently a politician now. We will specifically be focused on the issue of dividing Jerusalem. The pseudo-citizens of Jerusalem (myself included) are especially important to the debate because the end result will impact our daily lives: how we eat, how we worship, how we get our kids to school.

            Should be interesting.

            And overwhelming.

            “We don’t expect you to solve the problem,” prefaced Dr. Furgol, my history professor. “If we did, we would patent you and sell you for loads of money.”

            We laughed, relieved to hear this.

            “But, if you do manage to solve the problem,” she said cheerily, “then we will patent you and sell you for loads of money.”

            And so for the past several weeks as we’ve done research on the “promised land” while attending Seders and midnight Easter masses, my friends and I have struggled with a question that has pervaded various human societies for centuries: how does one solve a seemingly unsolvable problem?

            My classmates and I will not solve this problem (not on Thursday anyway) if only because we are not Israelis, we are not Palestinians, and many of us don’t even belong to the three monotheistic faiths to which Jerusalem is holy. We can’t solve the problem because we don’t understand it. We don’t know the pain of the people who are impacted the most by it; we don’t know their hopes and dreams. We don’t know the mundane or the supreme moments of their lives.

            We won’t solve the problem on Thursday, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be solved. After all, if man were meant to fly, he would have been born with wings. Yet daily, hundreds of thousands of people fly all over the world. One of the most beautiful things about humanity is that we make our own wings. The wings don’t always work the first time – the tragedy of Icarus comes to mind – but when the wind is right, we can take flight. A trumpet brought down the walls of Jericho and a change in the wind was all it took to topple the walls of Berlin. We will labor, and toil and sweat and cry and then one day the wind will have mercy and with the winged goddess Nike, we will soar to victory.

 P.S. This song is more suited to the contents of this blog than it's namesake (also a Pink Floyd song that I highly recommend http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xb-Nacm-pKc).

 

Big Blue Marble

(Anne Schott) Permanent link

Whew! You may not be aware of how close we came to losing Mother Earth. No, not the planet, dummy. The other Big Blue Marble—the gigantic, two-million-gallon, water storage tank painted to resemble a colossal globe that sits right above the parking lot on the Germantown campus. She’s due for maintenance work, and some bonehead got the idea that we should spring for a new look and repaint her to resemble…..get ready for this one…..a GIANT BASEBALL.

A baseball? Really? 

In all fairness, I can see where they were going with this. In these days of cost-cutting, belt-tightening measures, it would have been a lot easier--and probably cheaper--to just slap on a couple of coats of white paint and fill in a few red, stitched lines. And there you go: a big baseball.

But our globe is special. Built in the late 1970’s to increase water pressure for Germantown, she is a perfect sphere, standing 100-feet-tall on top of an eight-foot pillar. It’s not just her size that makes her so special: it’s her mural. It was painted by artists to resemble a true-to-scale replica of the Earth as viewed from space, complete with wispy streaks of lovely, swirling clouds.  

When newly built and freshly painted in 1980, she was crowned winner of the prestigious "Steel Tank of the Year" award, an honor given by the Steel Plate Fabricators Association. In case you’re not familiar with this award, it’s a BIG DEAL. It's like a Nobel Prize for steel tanks.

As any fan of roadside attractions will tell you, our globe ranks pretty high on the list of see-worthy tourist attractions in the Germantown area. In fact, according to most tourist guides, it’s the ONLY see-worthy tourist attraction in Germantown, unless you’re counting the run-down Cider Barrel on Frederick Road. (And we’re not counting the run-down Cider Barrel on Frederick Road.)

The giant baseball makeover idea was, fortunately, voted down in March. So during the coming summer months, our globe will be sandblasted and repainted, both inside and out, and carefully restored to her original beauty.  And she will be there, on top of the hill at the edge of campus, to welcome us back when we return this fall, reminding us of the places where we've been in the world and of the places where we might someday go.

 


 


Are We Done Yet?

(Dennis Radomski) Permanent link

The semester is almost over. Crazy. The speed of each day and week has never gone by as fast as it has. Being my first semester in school since "back in the day", I've grown quite comfortable to the lifestyle of hecticness. Finding the time to do homework is a challenge due to full-time employment. Also, there's always something to do at home since my wife & I recently moved from a one bedroom apartment to a four bedroom townhouse. The basement has become an archeological dig of sorts. Boxes have clearly been marked with its destination in mind yet I find kitchen utensils mixed in with office items. I've always wanted to be Indiana Jones yet I never knew it would come in the form of finding my missing sock in a milk crate.

We have a patch of grass in the front yard that probably could be mowed within six and a half minutes. The back yard is all deck. This requires however the use of a cutting device. My research left me with the decision to buy the least expensive electric mower on the market. Upon returning from Walmart with my newly acquired purchase, I backed into my spot in front of my mini-lawn and noticed that my blades of grass were quite shorter than before.

Holy mackerel!

Upon further investigation, I found out my neighbor Karen went ahead and took care of our front patch for us. She insisted that it takes her under five minutes and has no problem cutting it every Sunday as she does hers. With a feeling of guilt, I offered to take turns using her mower and she still insisted that it's "no big deal". I later returned our mower for a credit back on my Visa. I shall return the favor in the near future as I possibly enroll Karen in the "cake of the month club". Actually, I'll most likely purchase her a lovely bouquet at Safeway and perhaps a dinner invite. I've wanted to use "cake of the month club" somewhere in the semester's worth of blogs and finally found my chosen paragraph.

I talked to a counselor this week to clarify some questions I had pertaining to my academic blueprint. Knowledgeable Dawn was extremely helpful, going above and beyond to please me. Thanks Dawn! I'll be taking Geography in Summer "A" and cannot wait to utilize it in the real world as in, "Hey honey, it's funny you mentioned Iceland. I was just discussing this hemisphere this morning in class and damn, is it cold out there or what!" I'll then be called an idiot as I stir my pot of savory sauce on the stove.
 
There are plenty of kind people in the world kids, from neighbors to counselors and everything in between. I believe in karma and so should you. Besides, there's a reason I got this blogging gig just as much as there's a reason you're reading it. For you, maybe you'll perform a random act of kindness and wait patiently for its return. And for me, hopefully my words will be read by someone who will bring me great fortune. Define great fortune? It's simply the opportunity to be successful in life.

All I'll need then is a fitted fedora and a whip. 

 

Just like a fleeting glimpse

(Sairam Nagulapalli) Permanent link

In my last blog post, I talked about increasingly realizing the first year is coming to an end. I'm not very perceptive of things like this usually. I took me several months after graduation to figure out I wasn't in high school anymore. Getting that IB Medallion didn't really make much of a difference in my erratic sleep patterns for weeks. And yes, it's called a "Medallion"...the last time I called it a "Medal", several angry IB kids pounced on me and demanded I call it by it's proper name.

So getting back to topic, I'm not really sure why I've been so self-aware lately. Maybe it's seeing the mad rush of students trying to finish all their end-of-the-semester papers. Maybe it was getting the Library of Congress Researcher card (which means I'm expected to research there for the Capstone project next year - something I'm actually looking forward to. Why? Read Sam's blog). Maybe it's talk about planning the picnic for next year's Scholars. It's probably a combination of all of them. There have been these nagging voices in my head lately telling me to treasure every little Scotland joke the professors in Core make - Scotland is a favorite subject to joke on because Prof. Furgol is Scottish. Voices asking me to soak in every every minute in Core. For those in the audience that are concerned, these aren't real voices - I'm not schizophrenic as far as I know (but I really wouldn't know...would I?).

It didn't really hit me on the head that I will soon be a second year student until Professors Furgol and Tobler announced the past Tuesday was their last lecture. Of course, all the professors continue to chime in with their insights into different works and ideas we discuss, so really it's not all that different. Plus, I'm also wrestling with the course catalog to figure out a way to take their classes yet again.

I really owe my classmates and the Scholars program a whole lot. I'm surprised at how much I've grown over the past year. If this were an "Extreme Makeover - College Edition", my "Before" picture would be that of a slightly cocky, jaded high schooler limiting himself to only the Social Sciences. "After" picture would likely be of the college student dabbling in virtually every discipline and eager to take on the world.

Even that summer between the final exams and the second year seems a little pesky because I won't see my classmates every Tuesday and Thursday. Luckily, these aren't the pre-Internet Dark Ages (Because before the Internet the whole world was dark. True Story). So lots of hangout sessions with my classmates will probably be planned over the summer through Facebook and mass text messages.

The past year has seemed mostly like a fleeting glimpse. I guess that's what happens when you're having fun. I don't want to believe the first year has to end. So massive denial will likely commence very soon.

The shadows!

(Sairam Nagulapalli) Permanent link

First of all, apologies for not blogging last week. I was swamped with either work or having too much fun. And yes, I increasingly believe both of those can happen in the same week...but more on that later.

Anyway, last Thursday we went to the Hirshhorn and the Library of Congress in D.C. Normally, you can't get me to a Modern Art Museum, much less enjoy. In fact, the last time I went on a class trip to an Art Museum was in Senior year of high school. We went to the Museum of Modern Art in NYC. Back then, rather than get excited that we were going to NYC, all I remember doing was complaining about modern art. Things didn't change significantly once we got there either. Sure, there were a couple of a pieces I thought were pretty interesting, but largely I came out of MoMA disillusioned with the whole idea of modern art. 

Last week's trip to Hirshhorn was a little different and I have my classmates and Professors to thank for that. I walked in scoffing at the blank canvases, critiquing modern artists with like-minded friends and wishing I was somewhere else. At some point, Sam and I were walking around the Museum and the exhibits slowly started making a little more sense. Part of it was the discussion we were having about the pieces but mostly it was just Sam understanding what the piece was about. But the best part was when we ran across Professors Furgol and Tobler (for History and Music respectively) who asked us what we thought about the shadows. I think my dumbstruck expression prompted them to expand. They were apparently talking about the shadows the paintings were making. Once we got back to exploring, all we could see were the shadows! The various kinds of shadows the paintings made were incredible! Never in my life did I think I'd enjoy going to a Modern Art Museum - much less geek out about the shadows the art made and having long philosophical conversations about it. I came out of Hirshhorn wishing to explore it again with my fellow Scholars.

Now this isn't to say the teachers and friends from the MoMA weren't amazing - they were. But I think part of the reason I enjoyed the Hirshhorn exhibit so much was because I've matured and broadened my horizons over the past year. As Sam astutely observed during lunch today, I'm reading poetry AND enjoying it. Anyone who has ever talked to me about Literature at any point in my life will understand what kind of an accomplishment that is for me. And I definitely have Core and my fellow Scholars to thank for that.

And on a semi-relevant note, the challenge for posting last week wasn't not having enough material, it was having too much. I didn't know what to focus on - the excitement over getting my Library of Congress Researcher card, the Hirshhorn exhibit, adventures on the Metro, having a picnic on the Library of Congress, or the increasing realization that the first year is fast coming to an end...

Mondays and tires and rain, oh my!

(Melissa Williamson) Permanent link

I hate being in a cliché. Particularly the one about Monday mornings and things being likely to go wrong. I had a Real Monday beginning this week. The children were home since it's Spring Break for the public schools and they didn't have be get up early. But my husband and I were going to work so we were up and about and things seemed to be mostly OK. He left. I started to drive to work and immediately thought, “This car isn't moving right.” Back into the drive way I go, and I find that the right front tire is as flat as can be. Sigh. Back it down to the level street. Get out the little jack and big four-way lug wrench, raise the car and, with only a bit of struggle on one nut remove the tire. At this point the car slips off the jack and I can't get it back under to lift things again. I had forgotten one of the rules of tire changing that I was taught long ago: put the wheel you just removed lying flat under the car to hold it up if needed.

<Imagine a slight pause on a sunny morning for muttered curses>

Luckily, I remembered that we have a AAA membership. We'd first joined a few years ago when we went to visit my parents in Montana by flying to Kansas City and then doing a driving tour. It was cheaper than flying to my home town since there are no direct flights. AAA is great for road service and help in emergencies and I realized that this situation was an emergency, at least in a minor way. So I called the 1-800 number and the operator was fast, courteous and efficient. She said that someone would be there within 45 minutes and it was more like 15. The man needed two jacks to lift the car and shortly thereafter he'd added some air to the spare and put it on. Off to Gaithersburg after the rush hour(which was quite easy, I'll admit). I was only a hour and a half late for work, and the lady I work for was very understanding.

It could have been a lot worse. It could have been raining...and cold...at 10 o'clock at night...on my way home from class at the Germantown campus...on a narrow twisty road... Not trying to be a PollyAnna here, but in the realm of problems, this wasn't really too bad. Just annoying.

Speaking of rain and cold, the class did NOT end up going onto Sugarloaf Mountain on Saturday morning. Between the gale warnings for wind and the rain that started by going sideways, not down, Dr. Sagasti and Dr. McDaniel had a lab session indoors. I am grateful. The way the wind was going at 11:30 I think we could have been blown all the way to Frederick.

So remember, it's true “It could have been worse..it might be raining.”

Finding Hidden Treasure

(Sam Cameron) Permanent link

The dim marble hallway felt forbidden; the endless corridor of fornices recalled the train station in Murder on the Orient Express. Our whispered proclamations resounded, filling the chamber with ecstatic cries of “It’s so beautiful!” and “I think I’m in love!”

            We trod softly as paupers who had stumbled into the royal quarters, our fingertips hovering above our pockets, ready at a moment’s notice to produce the laminated rectangles giving us permission to be here. We waited with bated breath for the guard to bellow “Halt!” and demand our IDs. But perhaps they were well-acquainted with star-struck expressions such as ours, for they let us pass without harassment.

            The five of us stepped into an antiquated-looking elevator that whooshed incongruously, like the bay doors on the Starship Enterprise. Feeling like Dorothy and her ragged band seeking audience with the Great and Powerful Oz, we walked hesitantly through the final security gate and gasped in amazement as our senses feasted on the spectacle.

            I, Sam Cameron, wacky novelist extraordinaire, stood in the main reading room of the Library of Congress: not on the observation deck looking down at the ant farm below – I was on the actual floor with the actual books.

            The librarians laughed at my friends and I, who felt like crows feathers in Queen Anne’s bonnet. Based on the number of times we’ve gotten in trouble in the MC library, we were pretty sure that we were on some librarian's "Ten Most Wanted" list or that every step we took here must have been against some rule. And yet, our new reader cards (which we obtained with little trouble) allowed us great privilege.

            We were allowed to wander all over the room. We were allowed to touch the books and take them off the shelves: yes, I held books in the Library of Congress in my own hands, some of which were over 100 years old!

            I am astounded by how much power my newly acquired, seemingly innocuous piece of plastic gives me. It opens up the worlds of 145 million sources that I may peruse at leisure. Imagine the Internet with all the unreliable sources taken out!

            I have MC to thank for leading me to this “Gateway to Knowledge”. In preparation for our culminating research project next year, our infinitely wise professors, led my pals and me to DC and walked us through the incrediblysimple process of obtaining access to one of the largest repositories of knowledge in the modern world. MC also offers internships at the LOC (through the Paul Peck Institute of the Humanities), which I’m seriously considering for next spring. (Being around that many books makes me all warm and fuzzy.)

            MC has the distinct advantage of being only a few metro stops from Washington, DC: the city of F-R-E-E museums and countless opportunities for careers in theatre, arts, humanities, sciences or government. Education is the business of swapping information - and DC is a very promiscuous locale for that. 

Some Early Thoughts

(Besith Pineda) Permanent link

 1:45 a.m., technically Wednesday. I am determined to post a blog on time this week.

Mumford and Sons melodies are currently being pumped into my ears, creating a sense of melancholic sentimentality, the cheery kind, in a good way, in the manner of music of profound poetic quality.

I took a three hour nap earlier today, which explains my utter inability to catch some fleeting sleep.

The semester is reaching an even plateau, though this might be a conclusion derived from faulty observations. I seem to have a habit of holding on to an unnecessary sense of calmness until the very last minute, when I realize that I have X number of important assignments to complete. So that classes seem stagnant and over at the moment, while there remains much to do. My work load was unexpectedly reduced to two classes this semester, so this should not be an issue.

Maybe.

A statistics exam next week and one redundant question: What exactly happens during hypothesis testing, anyway? A short business-related paper. Poem, poems, poems. I haven’t been turning in my words. Research paper; neo-formalism, and why Mary Karr’s books (her memoirs, specifically) have touched me so deeply.

I have class in less than 8 hours. It is time for some sleep, less naps and the work necessary to close two years at good ol’ MC.

Looking forward to it.

The Search for Inspirado

(Dennis Radomski) Permanent link

The title to this week's entry sounds like a western starring Viggo Mortensen. It's not. There is most definitely a search involved however. Where do we actually get our inspiration? From within? From others? From the news ticker at the bottom of your HD 1080p screen? In fact, these places are all suitable but the truth is it's everywhere around you. Just ask me.

John Lennon's inspiration for "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite" came from an old circus poster he owned. I wrote a tune inspired from a Mersey Beat newspaper cover with the Fab Four on the cover, pre-Ringo. Eric Stonestreet's character on Modern Family is inspired from his mother for her mannerisms. I made a black and white film once where I found my inner chaplin, smoking Marlboro Lights and sipping coffee. From people to paper, inspiration is everywhere.

It can be a word on the side of your medium sized beverage at any fast food joint. Perhaps while waiting in line at Safeway, something pops out at you on the cover of the new Lucky. (I'm married kids, hence my superior knowledge in fashion magazines.) You could even overhear a patron at your local Exxon, giving her kids directions on how to clean up the interior of their Mazda minivan as mommy pumps 87 octane. You could be like me and see a co-worker diligently go about his job and be inspired to follow in his hard working footsteps. If I had to write a book about such a co-worker, I would name it "Sam Estannis: Security Guard Extraordinaire."

There is one place though that you must begin your burn towards excellence. It is from within. It all starts with your desire to be great. A great son. A great daughter. A great mother. A great father. A great student. A great teacher. A great employee. A great boss. A great friend.

A great person.

Endless Possibilities

(Anne Schott) Permanent link

It happened, again, on Friday evening. For the second week in a row, the long-awaited Open Public Night at the Macklin Tower Observatory was canceled due to the weather: too cloudy.

Of course in a parallel universe, the event was a rousing success. In that universe, it was a crystal clear, spring evening, perfect for star-gazing. And those of us who climbed the final flight of stairs to the top of the tower observatory spent the evening gathered around the telescopes, cracking incredibly funny jokes involving string theory while we enjoyed spectacular views of the night sky: Saturn, a crescent moon, star clusters. Oh! And on the way out I found a $100 bill on the stairs and we all went out for beer and nachos. It was probably a blast!

But back in Rockville, no such luck. A thick blanket of clouds drifted in over the campus and planted itself stubbornly in the sky above, making star-gazing impossible.

The good news is that Astronomy Professor Carrie Fitzgerald, who organized the sky watching event, will try again next Friday, April 22. Further details can be found here:  http://mcobservatory.wordpress.com 

I‘ve never met Prof. Fitzgerald, but she sounds really nice on her website. She sounds smart, too. That’s why I was especially glad to read that she will be on hand next Friday to answer questions about the stars and the universe.

Because I have questions. Ever since reading a magazine article last month at my dentist’s office about parallel universes, I haven’t been sleeping very well. I really wish I could explain this theory to you. But unfortunately, I don’t understand it, and my head hurts just thinking about it.

What I have been able to grasp is this: according to this highly regarded theory, which is somehow mathematically valid--and, again, I’m probably not the one to ask how the hell they got that equation to add up, though I suspect an Excel spreadsheet might somehow be involved -- there are an INFINITE number of parallel universes out there. In other words, the universe stretches on forever.

F-O-R-E-V-E-R.

And what that means is that there are an infinite number of YOU’s out there. If you’re a visual learner, it might help to imagine that right now there are as many versions of YOU out there in the universe as there are grains of sand filling all of the earth’s beaches.

That’s a lot of YOU’s.

But what’s keeping me awake at night is knowing that in these never-ending parallel universes, every conceivable version of our own lives is playing itself out. For instance, at this very moment, there’s a parallel universe where one of YOU just got really bored and clicked back to Facebook to check on a friend’s relationship status. And there’s another universe where a version of ME just ripped open the bag of chocolate Easter eggs I’ve been saving and ate all of the watermelon-colored ones while telling myself that I’m only doing it to spare the kids from Red Food Dye #3.

Ok, so maybe that actually did just happen in this universe. But that’s just my point: in all of the other parallel universes, it didn’t happen because we chose something else.

Somewhere out there, there’s a me, and a you, that has never made any mistakes, has never made a bad choice, has never tasted failure.

Would we even like these people? 

I’m not sure if Prof. Fitzgerald will be able to answer this or any other pressing questions I might have next Friday, like “What is the meaning of Life?” and “Does God exist?” But at the very least, I’m hoping to catch a glimpse of Saturn and a few cool constellations. And maybe I’ll tell her my joke about The Big Crunch–it’s pretty funny. Although she’s probably already heard it.


Sleep with Alarm clocks and Virtual Choirs

(Melissa Williamson) Permanent link

Yay! I'm still working!

Now that I've written that it makes me sound like a used car or maybe an old alarm clock . Considering the way that my kids can be “wake-up resistant” they probably think that last one would be a good name for me. While I can still physically get the younger boy out of bed, he has amazing powers of gravitation when he's asleep; it's like trying to move a granite statue. The two teenagers are beyond that but they have adjustable ears or something. Just today the oldest said, “I didn't hear you say anything. You didn't tell me to get up.” Never mind that his father and I both had spoken to him and he'd replied with something like “OK. I'm awake.”

But swerving back to the original subject, the Federal Government didn't shut down so I went to work this week and that's one less bit of stress. On the other hand, tonight is the fourth exam in my dyad class and once I've finished this and gotten it posted I'm going to be doing some more reviewing and study for that. Speaking of the class, I heard that it's supposed to rain and possibly thunderstorm on Saturday. Oh joy. The lab that day is a field trip to Sugarloaf Mountain a few miles north/northwest of Germantown and the idea of drenching and possible lightning just thrills me right down the the ground. I'm really enjoying the class, but I think that I'll like not having to get up so early on Saturday mornings once the semester is over.

  Do you realize that the semester is on its downhill slide? It's nearly half-past April and I think that finals week is about a month away. Yikes!

  So what else is going on? The plague that showed up last Thursday has gone through all three kids but today they're in school. I hope that I don't get it and there's the old rule the “Mom's can't get sick”. But when do germs ever pay attention to rules?

  Next week is Spring Break for all of the K-12 schools while we had ours almost a month ago. I think that I'll still be able to go in to work as usual, but maybe there should be some things that need to be done each day by the Trio before they start relaxing/reading/playing games etc. One thing is that their rooms need cleaning, particularly the oldest's. If all goes well (crossing fingers) he'll be a college student in the Fall, too, and living in a dorm. This then leads to 1) he'll need to take care of house-keeping without reminders and 2) if he doesn't clean his room here at home his parents will!

  I have videos of a really cool technology use: A Virtual Choir of 2000 people from 58 countries singing their parts and sending the videos to the composer/conductor who put it all together.

 

 

 

How it happened 

Inhale

(Sam Cameron) Permanent link

I have no need to comb my hair: the wind does it for me. As I strode purposefully across campus, the air stirred like the warm breath of a slumbering beast, curled its tendrils around my bare ankles, and ran its fingers through my newly cropped hair. The lively breeze dislodged a flurry of pink cherry petals, carrying their sweet aroma to me: Mother Nature humbly offering her gifts.

            Take a breath.

            The sun has set here. It set hours ago in Italy for my mom and younger brother and probably still shines in Colorado Springs for my dad. Every few words, I recline pensively in the deck chair and listen to the spring peepers while the wind gently grazes my skin. As I stare up at the navy blue sky, a few bolts of lightning dance silently in the distance. I am reminded of how vast the sky is, the sky that all of humanity sleeps under and is inevitably fascinated by. I wonder who else is looking up at the sky right now, as I stare into its impenetrable mysteries searching for something to write about.

            Take a breath now.

            Life marches past in a bombastic parade of snapshots.

            Study calc, Torque is radius crossed into force. Study, stress, Sturm and Drang. Test. Elevated heart rate, Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte. A string of explicatives running a continuous circuit around my inner dialogue. Taking intentionally circuitous walks in the rain.

            Impulse. Momentum. Energy. Fall classes. Ragas, South Africa, baseball.

            Take a breath now. Gulp the life-sustaining oxygen and dive back down.

            Study, stress, procrastination. Physics test. High blood pressure: Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Remember to change the cat litter.

            Yelling swear words in the car with my friends because no one can hear us. Reading The Lorax and The Butter Battle. Staying up until three am: three girls and a cat snuggled close on my bed swapping philosophies in the dark.

            Take a breath.

            Take a breath.

            And let it out.

            There are moments of clarity in between the madness: things that seem so insignificant relative to everything else yet remain the most profound moments of my life.

            Watching a robin yanking worms from the mud. A morning of yoga. A warm breeze. Sitting around the breakfast table, oatmeal bowls scraped clean. Fed, warmed, and unwound, feeling no sense of urgency, no need to get up. Seeing a hawk roosting in a tree; pulling out binoculars for a closer look. Seeing that beauty exists and that it’s all around me. Literally stopping to take a deep gasp of cold morning air and smell the flowers.

            And taking the time to slowly let it all out. 

And we are only several miles from the sun.

(Besith Pineda) Permanent link

 

I’ve been fighting a losing battle against writer’s block for the past two months; last recorded date of the creation of a piece of writing I genuinely liked: Jan. 24, 2011. I don’t take myself too seriously (a paradoxically very serious and conscious life decision) and I typically avoid the addition of new stresses to an existence somewhat inherently riddled with the same (no worries, this will be great for the novel someday), but my writing I both take seriously and stress about.

The contradictions continue, because for someone who considers writing clean and smart pieces important, I have never thought of myself as an… actual writer. English is my second language, but I’ve always enjoyed a natural ability to string sentences together. This afforded me the benevolent smiles of most of my English teachers middle school through high school, means that I have edited the essays of most of my friends.

I was a news editor for Gaithersburg High School’s newspaper, The Blue and Gold. My title amused me at the time, as it reeked of quasi importance and stuffy content. I had really applied to be an opinion editor, had maybe even vouched for my own column, but the selection was made for me and I spent the following seven months learning how to lay out InDesign templates for the news section, desperately searching for photos to run with stories and generally indiscriminately marking the printed pages of fellow, ahem, “writers” with all of the authority vested upon me. I gained respect for journalists, and simultaneously decided that journalism was not for me.

The issue, you see, is that I’m not interested in writing about other people and foreign events. I am solidly interested in myself, and my story and how exactly I can share it so that it becomes yours. From the thrill of seeing my words printed in jet black ink, insights sprawled on teachers’ desks and stuffed into students’ backpacks, to the online exchange of ideas on here and my personal blog, there is a certain thrill in exposing marginal pieces of my intensity and writing so honestly that the reader, I hope, feels slightly uncomfortable.

Last summer, my EN101 English professor forwarded me a link to the application page for this program and strongly encouraged me to apply. Nineteen entries later have been marked by more information about myself than I ever thought I’d share, and an immense response, sometimes from unlikely places. I have sought to explore different themes in the Montgomery College community, and write about them in a chillingly honest manner.

Regardless of the context, I guess the point is that I have found recognition in an unlikely place, doing something I never had to work very hard to be modestly decent at. Recognition breeds pride. My pride, in my writing, allows me to only share the best attempts at coherence I can muster.

So it goes. The issue lately is that I’ve been struggling to grasp the ideas in my head, a task complicated by the self imposed prohibition set on writing about Superman boxers, effectively killing about three quarters of my material. The remaining quarter is a chaotic mix of ideas, the thoughts of an angry and grateful student, both frustrated and elated, disappointed and impressed, a smoker on a smoke free campus, dragging suburbia to the loud streets of Silver Spring, and yet sometimes barely, because I haven’t been really making it to class.

I’m working under the assumption that letters will arrange themselves in the order they are meant to be. Soon. As of now, much like Sairam, I have scattered thoughts to offer.

I’ve never looked forward to the end of school so much.
April is looking up, poetically wise, and I’ll be reading Sylvia Plath’s “Mad Girl’s Love Song” to some sort of audience tomorrow during my poetry class, which is pretty cool. 
My online philosophy class and I are no mo’. </3 
It’s sunny outside. My blog is late. The thoughts aren’t forming. And for all of you who have expressed concern, I guarantee you: things are alright.

Busy Bee "D" & his Great Philosophy

(Dennis Radomski) Permanent link

I have my coffee. I'm happy. What makes me even more content is the fact that I have a Mr. Coffee coaster warmer that keeps my caffeinated brew at just the right temperature. No rush to sip. Just grab your favorite mug's handle as you please and voila, the perfect cup of joe. My wife keeps on saying that I use too much sugar. I bought Splenda recently and it wasn't the same. Maybe there's a break-in period like when I learned to ride a bike. I'll find out one day.

This past week has been hell. I worked over fifty hours at my job while attempting to tackle my educational responsibilities. I had to miss class a couple of times due to my super late shifts. After arriving home at 4am from a fourteen hour shift, I was in no way capable of achieving anything except sleep. Not to mention after a twelve hour shift the next night, I so graciously gave a co-worker a ride home in the wee hours of the night. At 2:30am at a red light on our national mall, I peaked left at Washington's monument and glanced to the right at our US Capitol. This was my breaking point for the week. Exhausted, I traveled my familiar thirty minute route home to Maryland thinking to myself,"When will this crazy week end!?"

Things got better as the weekend approached. Work wasn't as busy. I successfully gave a powerpoint presentation on Iodine. And I actually got to see my better half. I had quite the steak dinner last night along with a homemade carrot cake. Yum. Thanks babe.

Today will be the start of busyness once again as I get ready to leave for work after this entry is completed. I shall get ahead in my classes as I balance reading and curtain hanging on my days off. The lawn needs to be mowed too but I need to buy a lawn mower. When will it end you ask? The answer is never. Ambition makes for a fruitful future, especially when you have direction. All I need now is to bump into Seth Rogen somewhere in DC while he's sightseeing with his family so we can hit it off as he realizes my uncanny facial expressions are to die for and they must be seen the world over on silver screens from here to China.

I'll never stop dreaming. 

 

Reflections over a mixed week

(Sairam Nagulapalli) Permanent link

I feel like I've learned a lot this week. For starters, I've learned how to tie a tie perfectly. I don't know what I did right, but I did it. The knot was a triangle at the top - not a square in the middle like it usually is! The wider end was longer than the narrow end - not the other way around.

The first time I wore a tie was at the Econ Challenge state finals at Towson U. I perused many YouTube videos to figure it out but I guess I failed as the tie resembled a noose. After much chiding from my Econ teacher, I learned that knowing the perfect (most efficient for us Econ nerds) way to tie a tie is one of the hallmarks of Econ majors. It's right up there with speaking through your nose and using overly technical language to intimidate everyone around you (And part of my mission as a student blogger is to use overly technical language). 

Anyway, I think the tie gods felt I had suffered enough humiliation at the hands of tie connoisseurs and decided to finally forgive me. I'll stop gloating, lest I offend them.

I also learned that my RideOn mojo has improved significantly this semester. Every time I miss a bus, I catch another in just a few minutes. If it's raining or snowing, this is especially the case. I guess the RideOn bus drivers want to improve their karma significantly. In that case, take some karma points RideOn drivers!

I went to my first Student Senate meeting. It was...passionate. When I told Sam about it, she asked me if the British Parliament would make for an apt comparison. Yes, yes it would. The Senate has many extremely passionate people, but I think passion and speaking over one another run together (I'm guilty as charged of this occasionally!).

---

Also, my body doesn't really ask me anything and makes decisions without any long-term vision. For example, when I decided to take a minor nap Tuesday, it decided to convert that nap into a normal sleep session, messing up my plans to video chat with my group members, get a haircut, and work on papers ahead of time. No love for you body.

I also learned that I can't string together a coherent blog post anymore...I can string together semi-relevant anecdotes into a post! On that note, South African history is very interesting!

    

It's Friday!

(Anne Schott) Permanent link

It’s Friday. I’m definitely going out and getting hammered tonight. Why? Because of Excel spreadsheets. I hate Excel spreadsheets. If it weren’t for the fact that I have the greatest computer teacher, I would have dropped this course weeks ago. I always breathe an inner sigh of relief when Prof. Coliton doesn’t turn me away at the classroom door, telling me I’m just too dumb to be in his class. Maybe that’s what he’s thinking, but at least he doesn’t say it out loud.

I’m no neurologist, but I’m guessing that the ability to create an Excel spreadsheet is probably lodged in the same part of the brain that can understand directions on a map or mentally calculate a tip when you’re dividing up a check at a restaurant.  It’s that same part of the brain that should be able to figure out how many calories are in a “single serving size” of three peanut butter cups and, therefore, steer you wisely away from springing for a second package at the vending machine. THAT part of the brain. A region of the brain that may be well-developed in some people’s brains-- just not in mine.   

Luckily, I’m good at other stuff. Like going out and getting hammered on a Friday night after a tough week of exasperating Excel spreadsheets. And creating collages—I’m good at that, too.  But type “collage” into the job search engine at Monster.com and see what you come up with.  Eleven job postings, nationwide, and only that many because someone got sloppy and misspelled “college” and wrote “collage” instead.

On Monster.com it’s all about the Excel spreadsheets.

For those of you placing bets, I do plan on seeing my CA 120 Computer Applications class through to the bitter end.  I’d like to say it’s because I’m not a quitter, but mostly it’s because I wasn’t paying attention and missed the last day to drop. Also, I wouldn’t want to disappoint Prof. Coliton. He has, after all, wasted an inordinate amount of time trying to teach me, ever so kindly and patiently, how to create a formula to calculate the sum of the values in cells C17:C25. Honestly, if he can’t do it, no one can.

But it's Friday! And you all know where I’m headed.

Wearing many hats: Student, employee and Mom

(Melissa Williamson) Permanent link

 The weather is schizophrenic: 80s then 40s and back again. Last Saturday it was cold and damp and our class lab was a field trip to the Red Wiggler farm to test a stream's health. It was very interesting, though the water was a cold 45 degrees. We got to go through the debris and bits that we caught in a fine-meshed net to look for larvae and insects and such. Some tiny fish and a salamander were very gently picked up and put in a bucket of water, too. The stream is fairly healthy, the lady who works at the farm told us, but she showed us signs of bad erosion due to lots of water washing down from where new houses have been built.

Getting to the stream and back was a bit rough and there were wet areas that tried to keep peoples' boots and I hadn't thought to bring a hiking staff. I wrote last November about spraining my knee; while it's improved, going over rough ground and undergrowth started some twinges of pain. I was lucky to find a downed branch that worked pretty well and people in class and the professor were very nice and helped me. Then the rain held off until we got back to the barn. Thank goodness!

My part-time job has been going well, but we're waiting to hear if the federal government is going to shut down. If it does, like a lot of people around here that have government contract work, I'll basically be furloughed, too. I hope that some agreement can be reached soon as not only do I like getting a paycheck after 18 years as a stay-at-home Mom, but I like the work, too, and people at the office say nice things about how I do it well.

Then there's the family. My husband and the oldest went on Saturday to visit a college that has accepted him for the Fall and it went well. Meanwhile there's a lot to do with his final quarter in high school. I have to mail a check to get his cap and gown for graduation, there are various things at his school like fees to pay and there's still class work and assignments and tests to study for.

The other two kids have mostly been OK, at least until 2 AM today when the youngest woke up with a tummy-bug. He was pretty miserable and didn't go to school, of course. Though he is 12 he needs to have someone around all the time as he has mild Down Syndrome and is at about a 6 year old level. He is learning to read and count and I taught him how to use a computer (which he loves). But when he's sick he needs Mom and Dad take care of him. He's a bit better now and drinking his tea, so I can go to class tonight while the others help.

And the week's not over yet.

Knights at the Roundtable

(Sam Cameron) Permanent link

On Thursday evening, Sairam and I stood on our Philosophy professor’s front porch, gazing pensively at an enormous tree – judging by the size of it, it was probably old enough to have given my great-great-great grandfather shade. Thursday was a long day for my fellow Scholars and I – although it felt much shorter. (Time flies when you’re having fun.)

            The day began in the best of ways: with Pink Floyd. I rocked out to The Division Bell while I finished some German homework. It was, to use the German word, a typisch morning. I proceeded to class to engage in a lively discussion about Hinduism and Rabindranath Tagore. If you ever have a few hours of spare time, I highly recommend (with Sairam’s endorsement) Broken Ties. It is one of the best short novels I've ever read.

            The weather had opted for miserable so our slightly soggy band of scholars trudged into the library to feign productivity for an hour and a half. German class featured an über sexy discussion on the accusative and nominative cases (you know, that grammar you forgot after sixth grade).

            Now to the main event: between 3 and 4 pm, 26 scholars packed into 6 cars and voyaged to the home of our gracious philosophy professor for a long-awaited Roundtable discussion.

            The speaker was Bjorn Krondorfer, professor of religious studies at St. Mary’s College of Maryland (where I hope to transfer in Fall 2012). Professor Krondorfer grew up in post-World War II Germany as a member of a generation struggling to come to terms with Germany’s (and consequently, their parents’) role in the Holocaust. He has dedicated his life to studying the Holocaust and genocides, as well as moderating peaceful inter-faith dialogue. 

            “The Holocaust,” he told us, “was the conflict central to my life. It was what I needed to focus on. But for you,” - he indicated the multi-ethnic, multi-religious conclave of glowing young eyes, fixed upon him – “for you, the conflict you choose to focus on may be something else.”

            And so, as I stood beneath the gloomy sky a few hours later, I surveyed my fellow scholars, my fellow Knights of the Roundtable, and I wondered to what just and noble cause we would dedicate our lives.


THE DRUMMER: Part II

(Dennis Radomski) Permanent link

Greetings fans.

The following is the conclusion to my mini-blog-series. And so I give you, Part Deux.

Things were looking up in the land of Dennis as I drove down to Florida in Molly, my Cherokee. I remember eating at IHOP in Georgia at the halfway point thinking to myself how grand life will become as I embark upon this momentous journey. The band was waiting for me in this ginormous house we rented just outside of Gainesville, Fl. Alachua became my home for two years and oh, what a two years it was. Things were great: new place, new town, new everything. All I needed was a new job to support myself while attempting to make a name for ourselves in a college town full of thousands. The gator nation became the city where the band broke up, as well as where I met my future wife. We'll get to that in a hot minute.

With only a high school diploma on hand and a great amount of customer service experience, I naturally lent myself to the world of retail. I sold furniture, pool supplies, and pianos. I did what I had to do in order to keep the dream alive. Now that my two band mates and I were also living together, the close quarters started to become an issue. Someone once told me to never live with your fellow band members because it's all downhill from there. That could not have been truer.

After we moved to Gainesville to be closer to the venues and action, the fighting began because of the silliest things. Of course it escalated out of control as my cohorts in crime were more concentrated on anything but the music and their girlfriends of the day. I continued seeking gigs while trying to maintain a clear mind. Inevitably, we broke up as I started working at the University of Florida theater as a sound man. It was then, at my lowest point in life that I met the woman who would help me regain my strength and integrity. Kryslaine helped me in ways that I never imagined. The potential that she saw in me was something I never knew existed.

After twelve years as a drummer, I never planned on going to college again. Since my musical prowess never paid off, I got a one year certificate in digital media technology as my gator girlfriend moved to San Diego for a postdoctoral position. Being apart from her was the hardest year of my life. We got married in California in 09' right before we moved to the DC metro area. Maryland became home base as Krys got a job at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda. Unfortunately, my limited schooling in videography & graphics hindered my job status as I devoured indeed.com every day. On one particular day of frustration the thought of the hotel business re-entered my mind from jobs past. I knew that this was the right direction to go. I love people. I love talking. I love talking to people!

Working at the Georgetown University Hotel & Conference Center has changed my life yet again. This job introduced me to Montgomery College where I'm pursuing a Hospitality Management degree and it's here that I was introduced to the world of blogging. This blogging gig that I applied for and received has truly been awesome fun. My two part mini-blog-series for the past two weeks has been quite on the serious side my friends. It was important to me to share my personal journey with you. Remember, no matter how difficult things get, the only way to go is up. It also helps if you meet a Brazilian doctor on the way too. 

Ethics Bowl (and extracurricular updates)

(Sairam Nagulapalli) Permanent link

As I mentioned in last week's blog post, I was invited to join the Ethics Bowl (and in the process found out we have an Ethics Bowl team). We had our first practice today. We went over some case studies describing real world problems, and analyzed them from an ethical perspective and brainstormed some potential solutions to the problems in the case studies. 

The case study that really stuck with me was something called "Real-Life Avatar". The title is a reference to the 2009 film directed by James Cameron (shout out to Sam Cameron - who is a much better writer). Anyway, the case study talked about how the Brazilian government is building a dam in the Xingu River called "Belo Monte dam"- the third largest hydroelectric dam in the world actually. The project would displace 20,000 - 40,000 (insane range, right?) indigenous people. We were looking at the ethical implications of either decision. During our Anthropology development project (another shout out to Sam Cameron, my partner on that project), one of the issues we came across was how indigenous groups were being pushed out of their traditional lands for economic reasons.

Obviously infrastructure development projects benefit a wide variety of people, but I don't think I would have seriously considered the rights of the indigenous people if it weren't for Anthropology. So here's another case of that liberal arts education coming in handy!

I think the best thing about today was applying the abstract ethical theories to real world problems. We haven't had a lot of discuss ethical issues in our Ethics class. So far, we've just covered the abstract theories in the class. But the Ethics Bowl practice presented an opportunity to apply the theories and discuss potential solutions.

In another extracurricular news, I am now a Student Senator. I've always thought Senator Nagulapalli had a nice ring to it ;)

I'm So Pumped!

(Anne Schott) Permanent link

I am so pumped about writing this blog! My fingers have been burning all evening, just waiting for the dinner dishes to be washed and the kids to go to bed so that I can start writing. Why? Because I’ve spent an hour today at the Takoma Park/Silver Spring campus listening to an inspiring lecture by Barbara Talley, motivational speaker par excellence.

If you didn’t make it to today’s lecture, titled “Superwoman Doesn’t Live Here Anymore!” you missed a good one. You missed a raffle, too. And free chocolate. Now you’re probably really sorry. Well, you’re in luck; I’m going to summarize Ms. Talley’s thought-provoking lecture for you.

For starters, the most intriguing thing about Ms. Talley is that she looks so good. The reason this is remarkable is that she is the mother of six children, and she is in her mid-to-late-fifties. I almost choked on the free chocolate when she let that slip because, honestly, she doesn’t look a day over 35. How could this gorgeous woman with such a lovely figure and luminous, wrinkle-free skin possibly be in her fifties?  

As soon as I heard about the six children I decided to listen extra closely in the hopes that Ms. Talley might share some of her secrets. Not so much her motivational secrets as much as her beauty secrets. What could it be?  Pilates? Yoga? A vegan diet? Mayonnaise facials? Colonic cleansings? How do you look that good after raising SIX KIDS?

Sadly, she didn’t go into her diet, exercise, or beauty routines. But I feel that I came away with something equally as valuable. Ms. Talley asked the audience to think about this question: Who is writing your story? Her point was that many of us are blindly following, without examining or questioning, the messages that have been pre-recorded from infancy into our internal self-talk. The tape that’s rolling in our heads will oftentimes define for us what we can or cannot do. And these are things that other people—such as our parents or caregivers or perhaps society as a whole— have defined for us. Ms. Talley said we should pause this internal tape and, if need be, reprogram the messages that tell us what we are capable of achieving. Or, as she put it: “Define or be defined.”

Ms. Talley also insisted that it is our responsibility to tell our own stories and to share our struggles, especially if we can show others how we succeeded in getting through a difficult time or event. For people looking to start their journeys as authors, she highly recommends the self-publishing website www.createspace.com

The female tendency to become a Superwoman, or to take care of everyone else’s needs while neglecting oneself,  is another subject Ms. Talley asked the audience to consider. Her best tip here was to learn how to say “No!” I kind of wished she’d elaborated a bit more on this one because, frankly, if I knew how to say “no,” I wouldn’t have a problem with this to start with.

 But what really got me pumped was Ms. Talley’s inspirational poem, “Finding the Jewels Within,” which I found in its entirety on Youtube.  So, maybe you missed the raffle and the free chocolate, but at least you can watch the clip and get a taste of Ms. Talley. BE INSPIRED! 


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