Saturday, December 29, 2012

Feels

Fear sits near Love
While Loathing and Jealousy
Lounge on the couch together.
Faith stands in the corner with Doubt
Arguing as always.
Joy comes late, no surprise,
And grabs a chair next to Pride
Who is starring at Respect
Who is trying to get Wonder's attention.
Curiosity stands to the side, taking it all in,
Leaning on Friendship, who is trying not to fall asleep.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

He awoke with the sun and dashed downstairs. He rounded the corner, socks sliding across the floor, and saw the tree. Santa had come. Presents lay stacked beneath the branches and all of the stockings were stuffed to bursting. A smile broke out on his face and he raced down the hall. He poked his head in the first door and the second and the third, but all the occupants remained asleep. Slightly crestfallen he scampered back to the tree to await his family's rising.

Mom got up early and crept out the door to avoid waking Dad. He got back late last night, the shipping center had been working until the last minute shipping out presents. She changed in the hall and slipped past the door cracked at the end of the hall. She could hear snoring inside and knew the twins wouldn't be up for a few hours yet. Good. By the time she had the turkey in the oven and the presents under the tree the stars had started to disappear. She left a note on the oven with instructions. Hopefully Dad wouldn't burn it this year. She had agreed to cover only half a shift today, it left her just enough time to be home before the twins awoke.

Dad grinned ear to ear as he turned to the back of the church. The music began and everyone joined in "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing." As they finished the first verse he saw the cross rise and start to march down the center aisle. He knew below it walked his son and smiled again. The cross made its way down the length of the church, past the manger, and came to rest behind the altar. His son's shoes clicked on the marble as he returned to his seat. Their eyes meet and he thought he caught the smallest hint of a grin before his son turned his back again.

She opened the small green present last. Wrapped in gold ribbon it was solid, rectangular. It had to be a book. There was a card inside, but she wouldn't read that in front of her parents. She already knew what it said. The book was a compilation of poetry, typical of him. She flipped through the pages; a card fell on her lap. Turning it over she cracked the faintest smile. He had written her a poem.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Academia: L'Orfeo

'Tis the season to have finals. But through the magic that is the Internet I am able to post this from that beautiful time in the past when I wasn't studying all hours of the day. But in the academic spirit that is no doubt pervading campus at the moment I present to you a selection from my writing for class this semester.


            No single tradition more profoundly influenced European thought and culture than Christianity. Every artistic work since the fall of Rome has, in one way or another, engaged with its legacy. Every age has chosen to deal with Christ and the Church in a different way. The method of the Renaissance humanists deserves particular attention: they applied their faith to the writings of pre-Christian Greece and Rome. Especially evident in the arts, this Christianization of classical antiquity remained a potent intellectual force in the centuries following the Italian Renaissance.
            As a genre, the opera was no exception to this trend. It is especially evident in L’Orfeo, la favola in musica the most widely circulated and influential early opera. Although ostensibly about the classical myth of Orpheus, L’Orfeo is in fact deeply Christian and must be considered within a Christian context. Written by the esteemed poet Alessandro Striggio and composed by Monteverdi, it was commissioned by the Gonzaga family in Mantua, and premiered in 1607 in the Prince’s “Most Illustrious Academy of the Enlightened” (DelDonna).
            One of the major influences on Striggio’s work was the Renaissance humanism that pervaded Italy at this time. Dating back to Petrarch, who is often called “The Father of Modern Humanism,” this brand of humanism stressed a course of study that focused on classical texts (McCauley). The belief was that by studying the work of the ancients, an individual would become a more well-rounded human who better understood how to live. This appropriation of the classics was not entirely without precedent: the Catholic Church had been doing it for centuries. Early Church Fathers, steeped as they were in their own still-classical world, often turned to Aristotle to explain their faith. Aristotle fit so well within the Christian worldview that scholasticism, the method of thinking endorsed by the Church from the ninth century through the Reformation, was based almost entirely upon his work (Soltes). What was new about these Renaissance thinkers is that they did not apply classical thinking to Christianity; they applied Christian thinking to classical texts. And one did not just read the Church Fathers as the scholastics had. One also read Livy, Cicero, Homer, Seneca, Ovid, Catullus, and numerous other classical, pagan writers.
            This is not to suggest, however, that this humanism was not Christian. It was deeply informed by Christian tradition and all of its major proponents were still devoutly religious. This posed a problem for scholars, namely: How to reconcile the pagan, polytheistic writings of Rome and Greece with their own Christian monotheism. They solved this problem in a rather simple manner; men like Seneca and Ovid, who lived entirely pagan lives, suddenly found themselves baptized.
            And so the great works of the Greco-Roman world were reinterpreted through a Christian lens. Humanists found, or added, Christian messages to classical texts to make them fit better within their worldview. Seneca, to use just one example, reached near sainthood, especially in latter works like L'incoronazione di Poppea or Montaigne’s Essays. Other authors endured similar fates. This was all in the name of continuing the classical tradition. But by Christianizing these works, the humanists were creating a new tradition. It is within that tradition that L’Orfeo must be considered.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Words Stand Empty

All that is necessary for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing.
But what is there to do?

At moments like these
Questions abound
And our instinct to expound
Falls pitifully short of tragic reality
All that is left is to acknowledge
Anguish

How many times does this have to happen before we recognize a responsibility to act?

We make promises and stand defiant
We wait a hallowed moment
Then plunge into the politics
And their grief becomes our ammunition
Sometimes silence is the only proper response
While mothers sit weeping in darkness
Enveloped in sorrow

At moments like these
Words stand empty.
But love abounds

Muploads

Dude! That's so cool!
Quick take a picture!
Muploaded! (Yeah, that's a word...)

Rush home. Check.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5 likes
1 comment, 2!
20 likes. No, 30!
Pixels replace people
You check again
She liked it! Does that mean she likes me?
And did mom have to comment…?
Wow…I'm still friends with you?

Sitting alone
You count friends.
A number takes the place of a moment
Why? Is that 58 more important than last night?
What even happened last night?
And do I care who cares...

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Academia: Iranian Nuclear Program

'Tis the season to have finals. But through the magic that is the Internet I am able to post this from that beautiful time in the past when I wasn't studying all hours of the day. But in the academic spirit that is no doubt pervading campus at the moment I present to you a selection from my writing for class this semester.


              Constructivists argue that norms govern the international system, especially concerning the use of nuclear weapons. The most powerful of these norms is the nuclear taboo. The nuclear taboo states that nuclear weapons are so powerful that their power exceeds nations’ ability to fully conceive of their destructive impact. Instead, they think of nuclear weapons in terms of appropriateness and the nuclear taboo states that it is never appropriate to use nuclear weapons as an offensive weapon ("Constructivism"). This norm is incredibly effective; with the sole exception of the United States during World War II, no country has used nuclear weapons in anger. This holds true even when the state has been considered unstable or rogue, like Pakistan (Charnysh). With over 60 years of historical evidence, there is quite good cause to believe that, regardless of its rhetoric, Iran will conform to the nuclear taboo if it develops a nuclear weapon. The consequences of not doing so would be disastrous for the Iranian government and people.
            What the nuclear taboo has done is make atomic weaponry purely defensive. Since no nation would use nuclear weapons in anger, so it says, other nations don’t have to fear nuclear first strikes. Instead, nuclear weapons are purely second-strike weapons, only to be used, if at all, as retaliation for a nuclear strike on the home country. Therefore, they are in the unique position of being able to make one state more secure without lessening the security of any other state. Therefore, an Iranian nuclear weapon acts to increase Iranian security without lowering Israeli security. As long as Israel doesn’t plan on attacking Iran with its nuclear weapons, it need not fear an Iranian nuclear strike.
            The constructivist understanding is that nuclear weapons fundamentally alter the character of the state that possesses them. They are so destructive that they make states hyperaware of the actions they are taking. This argument is supported by the research of John Gaddis on the effect of nuclear weapons on war. Gaddis asserts that any weapon “which increases…optimism is a cause of war. Anything that dampens that optimism is a cause for peace” (Gaddis). Nuclear weapons, and the massive damage they can inflict, have permanently created a pessimistic view of war between nuclear states. This pessimism has the effect of tampering ideological differences between states. Although hateful rhetoric may exist between states, the realities of nuclear war force those states to engage each other in a more measured manner.
            Some would argue, however, history does not bear this out. They would point to the issues surrounding unstable and transitioning states: that these states tend to behave more aggressively than would normally be expected (Mansfield). It can be argued that the Iranian government is inherently unstable, and thus cannot be trusted to act reasonably. While some would argue that this invalidates the operation of constructivist norms, history backs up the nuclear taboo even in unstable nations. For example, Pakistan began developing nuclear weapons during a period of great unrest in the 1970s (Charnysh). The severe security environment in which it exists has provided numerous opportunities for the use of nuclear weapons since the programs completion in 1990. That Pakistan, even in its unstable condition, has not used its weapons strongly suggests that nuclear weapons are so destructive as to be above the realm of consideration even within unstable states.
            If Iran were to develop nuclear weapons, the dynamic between it and Israel would become very similar to that between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. during the Cold War. Both nations stood ideologically opposed to each other, and continually spouted incredibly hateful rhetoric, but both sides recognized that any action on their part could spiral out of control rapidly. And with nuclear weapons, that spiral led directly to the near-immediate destruction of both of their states. So, while their rhetoric remained vitriolic, their actual interactions were as restrained as possible (Gaddis). The same logic would apply to Iran and Israel. Although they could continue to fire words at one another, the ideological demands would have to be tempered by the nuclear reality. Any conflict between the two nations would result in state suicide. And that is something no state wants. This serves to counteract the long-standing animosity between the two nations that constructivism says would lead into conflict. Therefore, the odds of a violent conflict between the two nations would drop dramatically and both would more secure because of it.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Academia: Techies do it in the Dark

'Tis the season to have finals. But through the magic that is the Internet I am able to post this from that beautiful time in the past when I wasn't studying all hours of the day. But in the academic spirit that is no doubt pervading campus at the moment I present to you a selection from my writing for class this semester.


            Distinct shifts in style were taking place within the scenography of late seventeenth and early eighteenth-century opera (Bianconi). The shift that had the greatest affect on scenic design was the change in subject matter. The focus on classical subject matter, such as in Dido and Aeneas, allowed for the involvement of mythological creatures and gods, which meant numerous flying machines to take them to and from heaven. It also allowed for sets without specific place markers, since classical myths could take place in any wooded area. While this had the advantage of letting designers recycle sets from one show to the next, it limited the influence of the set to established iconography. Clouds were indicators of the supernatural and the divine. Woods symbolized mystery, while gardens were extensions of human-imposed order. The “mouth of hell” was a particularly potent image that’s metaphor is rather obvious (Bianconi). This iconography, while quite useful in a classical context, fell short of the needs of opera by the mid-seventeenth century.
            The move away from classical to contemporary subject matter placed greater demands on the scenic design and consequently the role it played in the production of opera increased. Being set in specific locations allowed for greater specificity in set design. The meeting of European and non-European cultures provided ample opportunity for creative costuming. By removing the mythological and divine presence in the libretto, librettists allowed stage designers to forgo traditional cloud machines in favor of more unique, specialized effects. Ironically, while the librettists of the time ceased focusing on classical subject matter, their attention to the classical style of theater increased. Following the method laid out in Aristotle’s Poetics, they emphasized the unity of time, place, and action. With those unities came a rejection of what was seen as the gaudiness of Baroque art. Simplicity and reason, not emotion and grandeur, were the order of the day. Together, these thematic and artistic shifts were crucial in scenic design’s movement from an ancillary consideration towards playing a central role in the production.
            Vivaldi’s Motezuma is a representative example of an opera making use of the scenic design to support the dramatic action. Written in 1733 by Giusti, it is one of the first operas grounded in contemporary issues. In this case the issue is Cortez’s conquest of the Aztec Empire and his defeat of Montezuma at Tenochtitlan. The opera opens upon a scene of devastation: bodies scattered about a raked wooden platform, with a large Aztec mask overlooking the stage (Motezuma). Immediately the set indicates two things. First, it would have made the audience aware that the story is taking place in an exotic, distant, yet real locale. This sets up one of the most important contrasts in the opera. This place is not Europe, it is somewhere new and foreign: the New World. The details of the location would have been unfamiliar to a European audience. This unfamiliarity was antithetical to the earlier operas, where the choice of classical stories assured that the educated members of the audience, at least, knew the basic story. Few, if any, of the audience members would have had prior knowledge of this opera’s subject matter.
            The other important piece of information the set initially conveys is that one side has just lost a bloody battle. In keeping with theatrical practice at this time the violence itself is not shown, but here its results are quite obvious. The bodies declare that this is going to be an opera of conflict, with more devastation to come. Moreover, that the bodies are from two distinct cultures indicates that that conflict will be intercultural (DelDonna). All of this information is available to the observant viewer, so the librettist is able to do away with most of the exposition and focus on the action; confident that the set will answer many of the questions that the first few scenes raise. It is this confidence in scenic design’s ability to convey information that is so important to its increasingly important role.Operas set in exotic locals, like Tenochtitlan, require far more contextualizing information than operas set in Europe. But that contextualization would have cluttered the libretto, so much of the exposition was shifted to the scenic design. That shift, a direct result of the shift in subject matter, gave the scenic design a far more important role in opera than it had previously been allotted.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Art

Suffering makes good art
Or so we've been led to believe
But what of it?
Is it not enough to simply be
Human



To wake up and live
And return to bed
To share a smile across a room
To fall asleep on your books
To see someone day after day
But never know their name


There is art to be found
Everywhere
But is it good?
Do people want to hear
Of homework undone
Dishes unwashed
Laughter shared over a joke unfunny

Art forces us to think
Challenges us
Lets us escape
But do we really want
To flee to a world no different than our own?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Storm Surge

A sound awakens him. Tap tap tap tap. It must be his roommate typing. He rolls over and sees a shape asleep in the bed across the room. Tap tap tap. Confused, he looks to the desks. No lights, no laptops. Tap tap tap. He finally looks to the window. Rain and window beat against the pane. The trees, bent over, wave across the parking lot. The storm has begun. Tap tap tap.

She lays, curled up with her blanket and book. The storm howls above her head. Without power, only a faint flashlight fights through the darkness. Mom and Dad are somewhere else, unseen. She reaches for her bear. Finds him. Holds him tight. He smiles up at her as the storm rages.

They race up the stairs, searching frantically for missing key. The battery had to die now! And they had bought a new one just yesterday. Only it wasn't in the car, it was in the garage. The locked garage with the missing key. Clothes and shoes and books are scattered in their path. A glint in a pile by the dresser. Is it? Yes! The longed-for key. They rush down the stairs. As they open the door, a glance up the street stops them in their tracks. Sea-water mixes with rain at the bottom of the hill. A second later the water surges up toward them. Too late.

The crack of the tree's branch sent her scurrying. She dodged it as it fell and slide into the storm drain. The water was higher than normal, but at least the rain couldn't reach her. Drawing up short, she spies a family of mice. Her usual quarry looks up at her, frightened by this second threat to their ever more fragile existence. But she only shakes her head. "Not tonight."

He sits, warm and dry, with his computer. She wraps herself in the blanket, bear drawn close. They watch their car fill up for a second time. She ducks her head as the branch slams into the grate. The crack makes her jump and the book falls to the floor. The water comes in under the door and begins to soak the floor. The door slams and he jumps.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Requiescat in pace


Death is cliche
Even that is cliche
It's all been said
Whispered in hushed tones
Grief and sorror mingle indiscriminately
With happy memories
It comes to us all
Life's great cliche
We all die in the end
 
Remember man that you are dust
And unto dust you shall return
To be blown about as joyous thoughts
And smiling memories
Through endless years and on countless tongues
Person to thought
Unending

Requiescat in pace
Uncle Norb

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Wet Word Play


Lying unseen in the clouds
Flowing in channels underground
Like flood waters, rising unexpectedly
Sometimes threatening to drown us
Second chances pour from the sky
Confused, you stumble
Searching for a source, a cause
A reason
Knee deep in forgiveness, you start to swim
Powerless, you are carried onward by the current
Minutes, hours, days later
You find your footing
Standing, you look around.
The hills glow, soaking in the beauty
Rained down upon them
Smile cracks, and you begin to laugh.
You run, you dive into the current
And let yourself be carried away

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Hoya: Election Season


For election day, along with voting for president, students who are registered to vote in the District are asked to vote for commissioners to represent them on the Advisory Neighborhood Commissions. These bodies serve as the most local form of governance in D.C. and as such are very important for student-community relations.

 

On ANC, Students Strive to Define Role

   As Peter Prindiville (SFS ’14) and Craig Cassey (COL ’15) prepare to become the likely student representatives on Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E, it is apparent that they will confront many of the same challenges faced by decades of student commissioners before them.
   Justin Kopa (COL ’03) served as commissioner from 2001 to 2003 alongside Justin Wagner (COL ’03), marking the last term during which there were two student representatives on the commission. This year, after a recent redistricting of ANC 2E’s jurisdiction, two single-member districts are allotted to areas almost entirely occupied by students.
   Both seats are likely to be occupied by students, as Cassey and Prindiville are each running uncontested.
   According to Kopa, the biggest challenge he and Wagner faced as new commissioners was trying to establish themselves on the committee. “We had to work hard to gain credibility,” he said. “It took a lot of time and work to do that.”
   Several past commissioners said that the most substantial ongoing challenge during their terms involved forging productive and friendly relationships with fellow commissioners while remaining focused on representing students.
   Brett Clements (COL ’07), who served as an ANC commissioner from 2005 until 2007, highlighted this dilemma. “It’s easy to get swept up in the relationships with the other commissioners, but it’s important not to forget that your goal is [to make] the university better,” he said.
   For Michael Glick (COL ’05), who served on the ANC from 2003 until 2005, it was his obligations to students that dominated his agenda. “I think that there is a tendency to make it students versus the community — and there was certainly some of that — but by and large [for] most of the issues we tackled, we were one big community working together,” Glick said. “But one of the bigger challenges was prioritizing and compromising and trying to work with my fellow commissioners to make sure the student voice and perspective [were] heard.”
   Outgoing student commissioner Jake Sticka (COL ’13) said that building strong relationships with fellow commissioners was particularly challenging during his term because he served amid the often-toxic negotiations related to the 2010 Campus Plan and area redistricting.
   “The personal relationships I was able to build [differ] from commissioner to commissioner, and some of them will tell you that given the constraints of the Campus Plan period, that was difficult,” Sticka said. “But I feel as though they respect me and I respect them. Our interactions have always been professional and some of them … have been very helpful as mentors [whom] I think I will be able to speak to for years to come.”
   Sticka added that his successors are set to join the commission amid a new era of cooperation — facilitated by the newly established Georgetown Community Partnership — and should therefore have a less difficult time forging relationships with fellow commissioners.
   Apart from this overarching challenge, past commissioners dealt with issues unique to their terms.
   Kopa recalled a fight over a district-wide moratorium on issuing new liquor licenses that took place during his time on the ANC. “To get [a license], you had to buy one from someone who already had one,” Kopa said. “In Georgetown, we leveraged that to limit local bars and the types of drink specials aimed at college students and young people.”
   Clements used his position on the commission to lobby the university about its proposal to ban kegs from campus. “I was able to get the other commissioners to support my opposition to the keg ban. Neighbors realized that banning kegs in on-campus housing would push parties off campus,” he said.
   And when Daniel Rigby (MSB ’05) perished in a townhouse fire in 2004, Clements joined with the other commissioners in calling for more housing inspections. “Basically, a lot of the off-campus housing was not up to code and was not properly inspected to rent to a large number of people. We tried to make a big effort to get those inspections done at all of the houses,” Clements said.
   Sticka added that while he made the most of his status as the lone student commissioner during his term, he is enthusiastic about the possibilities available to Prindiville and Cassey.
   “Throughout my term, I did my best to voice student opinion in a respectful manner. On the commission where there’s one student and six non-students, my ability to … win votes by myself was limited,” he said. “In terms of redistricting, we ultimately got a compromise plan where there’s going to be two students elected just about every year … and that’s certainly a better one than we’ve had in the past 10 years.”

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Traditio

Tradition is important. It binds us together. Gives a sense of greater purpose. College is full of important traditions. At Georgetown there are as many traditions as there are undergraduates. You don't step on the Healy seal. You try to steal a full set of Leo's silverware. Your room gets wet in hurricanes. You run the Exorcist steps and watch The Exorcist  on Halloween. We have had the luck to do two of those things in the past week. Usually The Exorcist is shown in Gaston Hall, but not this year. So, to continue tradition, we are watching it in the common room tonight. If you hear screams, that's probably us.

Q and A

Where do you put your faith?
Who do you think you are?
What is history?
How do you do that?
Why the fuck would you say that?
Did you hear a word I said?
What are you doing here?
Why now?
How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Daily Schedule

1:30 pm -- Wake up

2:00-2:30 pm -- Lunch

2:45-4 pm -- Ancient Greek Homework

4-5 pm -- Planning 2nd Semester classes

6:30-11 pm -- Crew for History Boys

11:30-??? --  


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Problem of God

An interesting aspect of the college experience that often isn't highlighted is the ridiculous intersection of classes and experiences you get to have while you're there. That International Relations class you're taking gives you a reading that you talked about the week before in Ancient Greek. The conversation you had at rehearsal last night with the set designer comes up discussing seventeenth-century opera in your seminar the next day. By living at school, never being away from your studies, has the amazing ability to bring the most wide-ranging aspects of your academic life together with your regular life. A few days ago, as we all spilled out of our Intro Theology course, I heard my professor mention that the biggest problem humans have when engaging with the divine is language. We are incapable of describing in words our experience. That thought kept twirling in head until Concert Choir rehearsal, when an idea (the confluence of two entirely unrelated classes), popped into my head:

Music brings us closer to the divine because it transcends language and human understanding in a way quite similar to the divine. It transcends linguistic boundaries and touches an inner part of ourselves that we cannot reach with words alone.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

College Essays - Revisited

Today, during the two-hour break we had from rehearsal, I met up with the friends from high school. One of them is still a senior, out here visiting schools. It may be a tad sadistic, but one of the most enjoyable experiences for college students is to watch other kids apply to college. That speaks volumes about the pain involved in the process; and who doesn't like little bit a schadenfreude once and again? But an interesting point came up in conversation. Namely, why do college essays suck so much.

One easy argument against college essays is that they are simply extra work that nobody wants. But I think they are hard because, if done well, they require you to put a lot more into them then you might realize. Not only are you asked to put down 250-500 words, you are asked to fit yourself within that short space. And that is of course predicated on the assumption that you know what this "self" is. It's a challenge for anyone to encapsulate themselves in 500 words, but for a 17-year old it is often overwhelming. And this is on top of senior year school work and choosing colleges and general teenage life (which is never allows as much time for self-reflection as you want).

Michael Winerip of The New York Times has a wonderful line about this in an article he wrote recently: "They’re thinking big and exotic, when they need to think small and meaningful. The single most important advice I give them is to write about something that happened to them that made them feel deeply."

So maybe, instead of focusing picking just the right life story, they should focus on the internal relevance of the story. Don't write what you think they want you to write. Write about what is important to you, what you think defines you. And if you do it well it will also allow you to think deeply about yourself. Correctly done, the college essay should be a defining experience, a line drawn, before and after. (And, done correctly also means done!)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

What if Life were more like Theater?

I'm currently working on my first college show, History Boys. My stage manager, Caitlin, is absolutely amazing and when I found this, I couldn't stop laughing and thinking about her. Eventually I'll have time to do actual work. Until then, enjoy theater jokes!

During tech week, everyone is like:

 But your stage manager is just:

Thanks to http://whatshouldtheatrecallme.tumblr.com

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Hoya: I Win Science


Science Professor Named Interdisciplinary Chair


            As recently named interdisciplinary chair in science, physics professor Jeff Urbach said he hopes to build bridges between academic disciplines, scientific and beyond.The honorary position recognizes interdisciplinary research and excellence in teaching and advising.
            “Professor Urbach’s work is a wonderful example of interdisciplinary research that crosses the boundaries of physics and biology in particular,” said Allison Whitmer, senior associate dean for strategic planning and faculty development.
            Urbach has worked in Georgetown’s physics department since 1996. He helped found the Program on Science in the Public Interest, which focuses on the intersection of science and society. “I like the interdisciplinarity of it, the fact that in brings in a lot of different types of science,” Urbach said.
            In addition, Urbach currently serves as director of the Institute for Soft Matter Synthesis and Metrology.
            Chemistry professor Paul Roepe, who has collaborated with Urbach for several years studying malaria, lauded Urbach’s research skills. “It can be a uniquely productive experience because his perspective is different than mine,” Roepe said. “It’s eye opening.”
            Urbach said that the recent opening of Regents Hall has been especially exciting because the building is designed to facilitate student collaboration across scientific disciplines. “A big part of the design was putting the disciplines in close proximity so we could interact more,” he said. “I think that’s going to be very important in the long run.”
            Urbach added that the undergraduate research opportunities promoted by the new building will teach students skills they cannot learn in lecture alone. “I want them to develop this independence and work out their own solutions to a problem,” he said.
            Brian Rost (COL ’13), a teaching assistant for Urbach’s intermediate mechanics class, praised the energy Urbach puts into developing his students’ abilities. “I worked for him all summer and am now doing my thesis this semester with him. He really knows his stuff and is … a great resource for me in my project,” he said.
            Helen Decelles-Zwerneman (COL ’14) also conducted research with Urbach. “Doing summer research with professor Urbach was one of the very best experiences I’ve had at Georgetown,” she said. “He was very eager to help me in the application process and clearly has an interest in seeing young scientists get the valuable research experience they need.”
            Urbach said that his favorite part of working at the university is having the opportunity to interact with students. “I really like the diversity of things we get to be involved in,” he said. “It’s a privilege to come to work every day and help students advance their knowledge and understanding.”

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Originality

What makes us special is not the novelty of our ideas, but the confluence of ideas that we generate as we go through life.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Hoya: Legal, Moral, and Practical


Here is my first article for the school paper, The Hoya. Published twice a week in print, and continuously online, it has been running sine 1920.  You can see the actual version of the article here. It was a eye-opening experience working on this as my first story; both the ethical questions involved and the shear ease of access I could get, as a freshman, to senior members of the administration.

GU Delays Decision on Adidas Violation

    Nearly five months after Adidas violated the Code of Conduct for Georgetown University Licensees, the university has yet to take formal action against the company.
    In an effort to renew awareness about the issue, the Georgetown Solidarity Committee submitted an open letter to University President John J. DeGioia on Friday demanding that the university enforce its code by dissolving its contract with Adidas.
    According to a report from the Worker Rights Consortium, a group that advocates for decent working conditions, Adidas failed to pay severance fees to workers after the PT Kizone plant in Indonesia — which manufactures Georgetown apparel — closed last year.

    At the time of submission, the letter had 172 signatures from graduate students, alumni and members of the Georgetown University Student Association — 40 from a petition posted online and 132 gathered by GSC members in Red Square.
    “Adidas … is in direct violation of the Georgetown University Code of Conduct for Licensees,” read the letter, which was posted on change.org last Monday. “Upon the closing of the factory … Adidas refused to pay the workers their severance, … violating the clause in the Code of Conduct stating that licensees are required to ‘[pay] all applicable back wages, or any portion of them, found due to workers who manufactured the licensed articles.’”
    According to United Students Against Sweatshops, a national student organization that organizes and runs student-labor solidarity campaigns to improve working conditions, Adidas owes $1.8 million in back wages to its workers at the plant.
    “Adidas is trying to avoid paying the money to avoid setting a precedent to pay back wages in the future,” GSC member Julia Hubbell (COL ’15) said.

    Although the university recognizes the validity of the Worker Rights Consortium’s claims, which first arose in January, the university has not taken action on the issue.
    Scheduling difficulties have delayed the university’s decision, according to Associate Vice President for Federal Relations Scott Fleming. The Licensing Oversight Committee, which oversees Georgetown’s contracts with apparel companies, including Adidas, and comprises students and administrators, has been unable to arrange a meeting with all of its members up to this point but plans to convene Oct. 10.
   “The PT Kizone item is already on the agenda,” Fleming said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if a recommendation comes out of the meeting.”
   The committee had complained to Adidas about the issue after the report was released, according to LOC member William Skolnik (MSB ’13), but the problem has not been solved.
    “We complained directly to this company and communicated with them,” Skolnik said. “Currently, the situation has not been resolved.”

    Students at other schools that work with Adidas, including Cornell University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, have also expressed concerns about the apparel company’s labor standards.
    Cornell terminated its contract with Adidas on Sept. 13 because of the company’s failure to pay its workers, according to an article published in Cornell’s in-house weekly newspaper, Cornell Chronicle, on Sept. 17.
    Meanwhile, the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents asked a court to determine whether Adidas met its contract, according to an article published on the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s website on July 13.

    Fleming, however, suggested that cutting all ties is not the only option for Georgetown. “We’re committed to ending sweatshops,” Fleming said. “The question is how best to do that. Is it better to cut our relationship with them or maintain contact and talk them into doing the right thing?”
    Hubbell said that the breach of contract also has moral as well as legal implications. “It’s more than a legal issue. It’s a justice one,” Hubbell said. “As a Jesuit university, we want our interactions with the world to exemplify how Christ would have lived.”
    Another member of GSC, Erin Riordian (COL ’15), echoed Hubbell’s sentiments. “It’s incredibly important for Georgetown University to live up to its Jesuit values, and Georgetown should stand up for the rights of the workers,” she said.

    According to Skolnik, however, how the LOC addresses the issue will depend on a variety of considerations. “As with most decisions, there are trade-offs, and the decision-maker must look at a multitude of factors, such as the economic, practical and ethical implications of policy decisions,” he said.

    But Hubbell said she believes that the moral implications should outweigh all others. “Georgetown can be a leader and take a moral stand and show the world that we have values and we will stand by them,” she said.


Monday, September 24, 2012

History, Not Histrionics

A need to understand
The long melancholy drone of the
Aircraft approaching, shadow racing quickly across the ground
No one looks up, passing miracles draw
no notice
A buzz and a ring
Hands go to pockets, one lucky winner
The rest curse the inconvenient magic black box
That opens infinite gateways
Meanwhile, polemic's pen replaced
Keys spit the hypocrite's fire

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Endless Education


If the world was like history class, it would be 90% male.

Nobody intends to be a teacher their whole life. But those teachers have the deepest, most profound influence on us; second only to our parents. There is some value to education beyond getting a job or a degree or set of letters behind your time.

I stand on the shoulders of giants.

A true education is immeasurable. It sinks to the deepest part of your soul and fundamentally augments who you are. A true teacher forms a bond with a student that transcends time. And while you might leave their class, move on to other rooms, other lessons, their is always the possessive. My teacher. She was my teacher.

You get this piece of knowledge, put a bit of your soul into it, and pass it on to someone else.

Education doesn't stop. Ever. But neither is it a continuous process. A effortless soaking in of life-altering information. It requires effort, concentration, conscious effort.

The purpose of history is to make you wise beyond your years.



The thing about history is that it isn't a science. We want science because science has answers that we can agree on, because there is math that backs it up. The answers that come in science don't say anything about us. But the way we look at history reveals to the world the most secret parts of ourselves. The bias we hid from everyone but ourselves, the true passion kept locked up for years, the desire for something beyond us. And that is scary. So we hide behind "dispassionate scholarship," so what is real is distanced from us.

The first time you realize that your parents aren't these guardians but actual people that you realize death is possible.

The best part about history is it connects you intimately with humanity. Gifted with glimpses into the souls of those who came before us. If we can appreciate that, history allows us to open up the wellspring of emotions that connects all people. It sounds sappy (and it is) but it's a wonderful way to conceive the study of history.

There is no barring accidents, history's just one fucking thing after another.

Aside: I'm not really sure where this came from. It's entirely incoherent, my apologies for that. Some of the quotes make sense. Most don't. Again, sorry about that.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Pink Eye

Two hours at Student Health
Two rehearsals missed
Two drops every
Two hours for the next
Two days

Monday, September 17, 2012

Introduce Yourself

Every moment we make a stand
We define our selves
The choices we make in these few crucial weeks
These few, short, crucial weeks
Ripple down into a future, undeclared
An early lunch sparks a friendship
Eternal, a missed dinner calls for cookies
As you struggle to figure out
"Who you are"
"You" are being built, piece by piece
Choice by choice
The words that tumble out
When "Introduce yourself" is laid at your feet
Say more than you know
So please, introduce yourself.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

History and Art and History of Art


http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/8/81/The_History_Boys.jpg/200px-The_History_Boys.jpgI recently began working on a show, called History Boys, that deals with, well, history. More specifically, history being taught to high school boys in 1980s England as they prepare to take their college entrance examinations. Aside from the hilarious history jokes (yes, they do exist), the play asks countless questions about the teaching and understanding history. One question that was posed at last night's rehearsal and today in class as well (what a coincidence) is about the relationship between art and context. Can art be put in context, and from that explained, or can it only be examined as art and not put "in other words."

Is there an answer? Does it actually matter? Working on this show has prompted me to think a lot about the nature of history and education. I feel a series coming on...

Sunday, September 9, 2012

College Cliches Addressed

Being a good neighbor has slightly
different meanings in college.
As you can probably imagine, these first two weeks of college have been a tornado of events and classes and homework and sleeping. I've barely had time to get all of my work done, let alone sit down and write for fun. But I managed to complete (almost) all of my homework during two 3 hours marathons this weekend so I have an entire, uninterrupted, 20-minute span to fill with something. Not quite long enough for a nap, so writing is the next best thing. I would like to take a few minutes and discuss several aspects of the college experience:

1) The food is awful…?
This one is tough. You hear a lot from upperclassmen about how much Leo's (the dinning hall) has horrible food. And some items (the eggs, for example) definitely fit the bill. But most of the food is of decent quality, at least. The real issue with college food is it's monotonous. With only one dinning hall on campus, food options are very limited. And after a week and a half or so the meals start to get boring. A special effort is required to keep lunch and dinner (one is never awake for breakfast) interesting.

2) Campus is really pretty.
Yes, the parts that the tours see are incredibly beautiful. The Neo-Gothic stonework and finely manicured lawns compliment each other masterfully. But the walk from your dorm to the dinning hall (made four times a day, at least) is dominated by the construction going on at several locations throughout campus. The wide-eyed prospective students see Healy Hall, you see 4 dumpsters. It's not all gloom; when the weather is nice (like today) you can go sit out on the front lawn with your friends and your homework and have a wonderful time.

The front of campus.
Not the front of campus.




3) You make friends with everyone on your floor.
Most definitely. Two suggestions to make it easier: keep your door open whenever possible and visit the common room often.

4) Do your homework.
This one is obvious, but comes with a warning you don't really think you'll need before you arrive: find somewhere where you can actually do your work. If you need people around, the busy common room is a great place. If you need peace, don't study there no matter how social you want to be. If you need to leave your dorm, the library is a great place to go. If there's a business school on campus, odds are its building has great study spaces. If you aren't in the business school, pretend you are anywhere. It's totally worth it.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Newman Center helps college students share Catholic faith

See the full article at CatholicPhilly.com

College is a time of change and transformation. It is also a time when many students rediscover and deepen their faith. Pam Putnam came to the University of Pennsylvania from Crescent City, Nevada. She found herself stressed and at times overwhelmed by the pressures of college life.

“I had a pretty difficult semester. It felt like things were out of whack for me,” Putnam said.

Then, during the fall of her junior year, she made a retreat with the Penn Newman Center. That retreat marked a turning point for Putnam, “That retreat made a huge difference. It brought that spirituality back into my life that I’d been missing. It transformed my college experience.”

For students dealing with the trials of the university experience, the Newman Center can be a safe harbor. The Penn Newman Center, directed by Fr. James McGuinn and Jeff Klein, offers weekly events to bring a community together.

Putnam remembers, “We’d have weekly ‘Dollar Dinners’ and just come together with people in the same place. To be able to meet with other students who have that faith in common with you was a really valuable experience.”

During her senior year, Putnam sought out something that could act as an extension of her time at the Newman Center. Since high school she had wanted to take a year off to do service and Jeff Klein pointed her to the Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC).

The Jesuit Volunteer Corps is an organization of lay volunteers who live in small communities across the country and internationally. The Jesuit Volunteers, JVs as they’re called, work with the poor and marginalized in their community.

Putnam was accepted into the JVC and placed with the St. Joseph the Worker program in Phoenix, Arizona. There she works with the homeless to disadvantaged, helping them find work. “We provide access to computers with internet, mock interviews, transportation assistance, and clothing. A lot of our clients are homeless so they have no way to present themselves to employers.”

Her work has made her more aware of God’s presence in everyday life, Putnam says. “Our clients are very faith filled people. They turn to God everyday. They rely on God to get by.”

A hallmark of Jesuit teaching is seeing God in all things. Putnam relates how an experience at St. Joseph the Worker brought that idea into her life: “We have a sign in sheet at the front desk. One day I was working at the desk and I noticed a client had signed in simply as Jesús. And I’m looking at this and I realize, well really, Jesus is in all of these clients.”

“My job challenges me to treat everyone who walks through the door as Jesus. To try to see God in everyone.”

The JVC experience has been incredibly rewarding for Putnam and the political science major is considering coming back to Philadelphia to do social work. She encourages every college student to do service, “You should see what the world is like. I’ve met people who I never would have met if I hadn’t taken that leap of faith.”

Monday, August 27, 2012

Packed Away

-->
Thanks to Blogger’s auto-post function, even though I’m busy at New Student Orientation, this post is popping up here. Isn’t technology crazy?!

Imagine that your life is made
Of do-dads and thingies and baubles
That tells a story of you
You cannot add any footnotes
Nor insert extra meaning
Only objects that stand alone
Now take those things, pack them up
The big things on the bottom
Heavy, weighed down by memories,
They create a foundation
Tuck the small things where they fit
Close the boxes up, stack them by the door
A lifetime packed away in cardboard

Saturday, August 25, 2012

College Prep: Leaving Friends

This is the part of the summer I've really not been looking forward to: the leaving. I've known some of my friends for over a decade now. A few for longer than that. I have spent countless hours a day with these people, day in, day out. We have shared our lives forever it seems. And now it all changes.

We head off to different schools in different cities. And our daily sharing will turn into occasional meetings during break. It's going to be a transition. Possibly a painful one, but one that is unavoidable. But it comes with a warning.

For some people, the change to college is a welcome break from high school. They want to get away from the place and the people they've been stuck with the past four years. A few choice friends will remain, but they want to break to be as clean as possible.

On the other side of the spectrum are the people who can't bear to leave. They've built countless lasting friendships that have sustained them throughout the years. The thought of losing that and having to rebuild those friendships is overwhelming.

The truth of how it actually goes down (according to veterans) is somewhere in the middle. You come from school occasionally. You hang out with the people you want to see, you ignore the ones you don't. You spend more time at home then you think you will, and you see more of your friends than you think you will. That being said, you will make new friends at college who see more of you than you might want. It's all a balance of what you want to get out of it, as with everything.

Today I leave for college. So begins the next phase of my life; fours years that promise to be the most interesting and challenging of my life. It will be a period shared with new friends and old.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Back to School Supplement

Catholic Philly's Back to School Supplement came out today. The culmination of my summer's work, it actually looks professional and everything! Check it out here.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

College Prep: Can I Have the Keys? (Dealing with Parents)

Teenagers don't often get along with their parents, so the media tells us. And often, it's true. Being a teenager is an awkward period. You are assuming greater responsibilities and gaining more independence, but at the same time are still utterly dependent on your parents for some things. And that dynamic leads to some friction between parent and child.

As you prepare for college, there needs to be some sort of conversation about new boundaries and the amount of parental control you're okay with. This is especially important if you're living at home for college. You are more of an adult now and there is a new set of expectations for you. College is something your parents can't really help you with and shouldn't be the ones pushing you. You should be pushing yourself. With that needs to come an understanding from the parents: We will treat you like more of an adult because we expect you to act like one.

It's a delicate balance to maintain. Your parents will probably be helping you pay for college. Or letting you live at home. Or just playing the "we gave you life" card. Anyway you play it, you can't be completely on your own and you have to recognize that. If you and your parents can come to a consensus about the changes in your relationship, life will be better.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Wait...Philosophy Matters?

    The joke about philosophy majors (and sometimes English majors too) is that they spend four years getting some really expensive toilet paper. While I don't think a philosophy degree makes good toilet paper, way too rough for my tastes, I've occasionally been known to poke fun at them with everyone else. It's usually because I don't think they're actually going to do any good with their degree, but here is not the place to discuss that.
    Instead of quoting dead guys at you (as fun as that is) I wanted to bring up a question that Christopher Hayes' new book Twilight of the Elites has made consider: how do we know what we know? This is an age-old quandary, addressed by the branch of philosophy called epistemology that deals with exactly that question. He argues that there is no way that we can be adequately informed on all every issue we must consider as voters. So we outsource the job of knowing to experts, like analysts and pundits and professors, because we don't have the time. Much like we do when we go to the doctor, we trust these experts because we believe that their status and degree confers on them authority that should be trusted.
Institutions like News Corp. serve us with information, its
up to us to decide if we are going to utilize it.

    It makes you consider how much you actually know and how much you trust experts to know things. There is no way for a single person to have the experience to know everything, so we trust how doctors to know medicine and our chemists to know chemistry and our bankers to know finance. And for the most part we trust these people. But when our faith in the institution they belong to fails, how do we continue to deal with the knowledge they used to present us with? We can go to the Internet, but what makes someone with a blog any more qualified than the discredited pediatrician to tell me if a vaccine causes autism? Nothing. It's all a matter of who we trust.
    I trust my mom to be correct when she tells me something about science less because she has a PhD in chemistry and more because she is my mother. That makes very little sense, but it works pretty well for me. I don't bother to double check her because of our personal relationship. A small fact about diet soda doesn't have too great an effect on my decisions. But what if we apply this model to politics, for example. Instead of trusting the media to inform us about candidates, because honestly they haven't had the best track record the past few years, we trust the people we know, regardless of their actual qualifications, to keep us properly informed about the presidential election. We don't bother to check their sources or seek confirmation elsewhere because we trust them. And they turn out to be wrong and we vote for someone whose positions do not line up with our own. Oops. And imagine a few million people do this. And suddenly we have a president who the majority of the country don't support. Double oops.
    So perhaps it's best we take a moment to consider our epistemology. If we don't trust the institutions charged with educating us, where do we place our trust? Why? And if we can't come up with a good answer, what do we do about it? Do we abandon the institution all together? Or do we try to fix it?

College Prep: Shopping for Stuff

Shopping for Stuff

There are some things you just need to get when you go off to college. Okay, it's not definitive or even a good idea necessarily to get everything on this list, but here is my take on a topic done to death:

College Shopping List


1) Laptop - While this isn't a necessity, it will definitely make life easier. The real question is if you'll get a Mac or a PC. I went with a MacBook Pro because I've been using Mac all my life and it's what I'm comfortable with. Others will get a Mac because it's the "thing to do" when you go to college. Don't be that guy.

2) Cool Posters - A need-to-have for any dorm room. Posters will let you express yourself and let others know where you stand on the Star Wars/Star Trek debate. Plus, it lets you cover up that awkward stain on the wall.

3) Footlocker - A good security measure that lets you lock up your valuables. Theft happens at school regardless of where you are going to, so don't let it happen to you.

4) Moose Head - Inflatable if you can't get your hands on a real one. That way, you're that guy with a moose head in his dorm. Yeah.

5) Sound-Canceling Headphones - For those nights when your neighbor can't stop crying or your roommate is playing that rap you don't like. Dorms are crowded and this way you can have quiet when you want it.

6) Flip-flops - Don't go to the bathroom without these. Seriously, don't!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Statue Commands




Sails snap
Winches grind and scream
Lines tighten, commands bellowed
Cut across the rolling sea
From afar the sailors appear
As specks of sand
Blown about by the whims of the
Statue of a man astern
Some know where to stand
Others continue to bounce aimlessly
He orders again, and the bow cuts
Across the gusting wind
The boom swings across the crowded hull
Heads duck for dear life
She slices through one wave, two
The statue smiles, knowing victory lies near.

Monday, August 13, 2012

College Prep: Shopping for Classes

The most challenging part of college preparation so far has been picking classes. It's really the first taste you get of just how different college is from high school. Before, where there were maybe 50 class choices between all the departments, there are now at least 50 choices per department. And there is no one telling you what classes you should take to get into a good college. You're in college.

The first step is to imagine where you want to go with your life. Yep, big picture stuff right off the bat. You need to do this because some of your freshman courses will be pre-requisites for your major classes later on. Once you've done that, look at the general education requirements you need to fill. Some of those can be covered by AP exams (check this carefully with your school), the rest you will need to fulfill sometime in the next four years.

After you have a general idea of what courses you want to take, it's time to look at the schedule. This is where things get confusing: you jump head-first into your college's computer system, with little or no prep. It'll take a while to navigate your way through the system, but no worries, you'll figure it out soon enough. Find some classes that look good. Note what requirements they fulfill and where they fit in the schedule.

Once you think you know what classes you want to take, map them out. How early on a Monday morning is your Intro Spanish class? (Never have a class before 8:30 if you can help it.) Make sure none of your classes overlap and all that good stuff. By the end of the process you should have a decent schedule (and quite a headache, too).