Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Being your best self: Curation

I know that I seem to constantly come back to my goals and attempts to improve myself.
I hope that it's helpful to see how much of a task it is, something that must be constantly brought into awareness with purpose.

Part of being the best version of yourself is curation. I mean curation in two ways
  1. Exhibiting the best parts of yourself
  2. Silencing the worst parts of yourself
So here's a bit of part 2

Curation and Honesty

Geek x Girls has a comic about part two. The Three-A-Negroes has a whole section on their podcast for times people have failed at part two.
I think we're all familiar with this in professional environments.

Maybe we love to sit on our couch at home, sprawled out in our jammies as we stuff chocolate into our mouth. But we're not going to do that while in the middle of an interview or a conference at work. That's not dishonestly. That's simply comporting ourselves appropriately for our goals and the situation at hand.
I think most people have had at least one friend who uses honesty as a front to say hurtful things. As the comic points out, when this hurtful friend does have something meaningful or constructive to say, we've gotten so used to tuning them out. Of course, we don't want to be that person!
We can translate this to our daily life. For example, writing this blog, I have drafted ranting complaining posts and then deleted them. I've curated content here that helps both readers and myself to have a positive look towards life. We can't move forward if we're constantly using our energy to look back and complain about how hard the journey is.

Curation and History

The Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) had an exhibit that had a controversy around the curation. The exhibit, The West as America, gave an accurate if politically charged view of how America has represented itself and the westward expansion of white settlers into occupied Native lands. You can read more about the controversy at the SAAM here. 
While I wasn't at the SAAM while this happened, I did hear about the controversy. 
Whether the curator made the right choices about the exhibit, the institution has remembered the way the exhibit's honesty was perceived. The Smithsonian wisely has chosen to learn from the experience and controversy. Even when tackling politically charged issues such as the mistreatment of Indigenous people, the Smithsonian is careful to portray the issue honestly and leave room for guests to have a positive experience of the museum. 
Again, being your best self doesn't mean hiding your morals or ignoring the truth. In those situations, rare and difficult, that a hard truth must be vocalized, your best self will find a way to curate a positive message. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Millennial Entitlement: Meet Reality, Old People

I am so sick and tired of people calling my generation entitled.
You know what, I am entitled.
  • I don't think that people should be fired (or worse killed) because they aren't sufficiently subservient to power.
  • I do think that if you work hard, you should have enough money and stability to live comfortably.
Interviews with Border Patrol Agents - Chet Wilson and Jim Runyan
Interviews with Border Patrol Agents - Chet Wilson and Jim Runyan
These are not big things to feel entitled to: these are the foundations of the America that was preached to me for the 20 years I grew up. And who was preaching it to me? The same people who now what to call me entitled for believing their words about a meritocracy. These aren't new expectations:
For an America of vision that sees tomorrow's dreams in the learning and hard work we do today; (Reagan Presidential speach 1985)
I don't expect to be handed something for nothing. Like most young people, I simply think that hard work and honesty should be rewarded.
We can help teenagers, who have the highest unemployment rate, find summer jobs, so they can know the pride of work and have confidence in their futures. (Reagan Presidential speach 1985)
I did my unpaid summer internship, which even Reagan would have expected to be a paid job. I did this unpaid work after putting in the academic work+luck of getting into a premiere university. Even this  recognition was devalued as "affirmative action."
I've even given up the dream of home ownership after reading about the increasing price of homes in Cambridge, Boston, New York, Portland, D.C. and most major cities that could employ me. I mean, even Reagan thought that home ownership wasn't too far an opportunity to dream of, but I've taken the millennial hit and given it up.
It's time that all public housing residents have that opportunity of ownership. (Reagan Presidential speach 1985)
So what are the entitlements of my generation?
  1. Job
  2. Job
  3. Job that covers expenses
  4. Job
  5. Job stability???
IMG_2253Like, literally that it: Millennials want to be able to get a job after spending an average of $35,000 to get a college degree (WSJ blog). We'd like that job to pay for our basic expenses, an apartment shared with roommates, groceries with the occasional trip to a farmer's market, not even cable just Netflix.
Even adjusted for inflation, that’s still more than twice the amount borrowers had to pay back two decades earlier. [...] “It’s unfortunate that college costs are going up and the student aid, the grants, are not going up at the same rate on a per student basis,” Mr. Kantrowitz said. “College is becoming less and less affordable, though it’s still just as necessary.” (WSJ blog)
Here's the real kicker about being called entitled:
The person who is calling me entitled probably received their wealth, stability, and success because of the racist history of the building of suburbia and white wealth.
Wealth is not just about luxury. It plays a significant role in shaping a family's life chances and creating opportunities - in ways we often don't notice. [...]
Government housing programs and policies helped generate much of the wealth that so many white American families enjoy today. By lowering down payment requirements and extending the term of home loans from 5 to 30 years, revolutionary New Deal programs like the Federal Housing Administration made it possible for millions of average Americans to own a home for the first time.
But the government also set up a national neighborhood appraisal system that explicitly tied mortgage eligibility to race. Integrated and minority communities were ipso facto deemed a financial risk and made ineligible for low-cost home loans, a policy known today as "redlining." Between 1934 and 1962, the federal government backed $120 billion of home loans. More than 98% went to white homebuyers. (PBS - RACE the power of an illusion)
Conversely, the same person telling me, a foster care alumni and mulatto who has paid her own way through college, that I'm entitled since I expect a job once I graduate, is probably not voicing this same message to a white kid who's an Ivy league legacy with a stable family background that doesn't qualify for federal aid.
See, I know that every generation thinks that the next generation is full of deadbeats and utopianists.
Photo on 12-10-14 at 12.55 PM
But there's something particularly virulent about the discourse in the mainstream about Millennial entitlement.
I think that a lot of the bite of this discourse is that we are now talking about a large group of minority youth who feel emboldened to flex their due rights.
  • Black and Latin@ people expecting their slice of the American pie!
  • Young kids who speak languages, C++, Java, HTML, even chatspeak, along with the Spanish, Korean, Chinese, and more that older generations haven't bothered to learn!
  • Affluent white kids who have tattoos, gauges, piercings and who expect to be taken seriously despite having markers that older generations associate with poor minorities!
  • Black "entitlement" to life, due process, and a view of the American dream without the obscuring violence of the Confederate flag!
All of these entitlements challenge fundamental assumptions about who deserves what, who can claim an American identity and the rights that come with it.

Saturday, August 22, 2015


My biological mother passed away.

Although my relationship with her is complicated, I'm going to miss her. She was my link to my grand parents who loved me dearly.

My mother gave me a lot, a strong sense of justice and a desire to understand the complex patterns that make up the world.

Well, that and a love of cats!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Blogging Update

I've realized that there are a lot of blogging features that I don't use.
And that's stupid.
Really what I do is create good content that interests me. It's pretty narrowly focused; I think I do have something of an established type or style of post here. 
The content is good and I put a lot of work into this blog.
But somehow no one is reading it. 
I guess I've always known that there's more information on the internet than one person can really sort through. Finding good content is like finding a needle in a haystack. Harder still if the content is unpromoted. Maybe it's more like trying to find a needle in a haystack while someone keep suggesting you look in the manure pile. Unless you have adblock.
So I want to try to figure out a way tor really promote and earn from the content I put out. I've put in a lot of time, at this point, I've been blogging for several years with decent consistency. 

I'm also changing that brand of content a little bit. I'm trying to focus on showing my progress in more fields: I want to give specific examples of how I've improved academically and professionally. 
As always, I'm working to produce and display more of my art work. I've been making decent progress about taking more photographs. I'm really glad to say that I've made records of more happy memories since starting this blog. Also, I want to show the art work that I'm producing, including each step of the production process. I think that this is helpful to me because I'm reminded to be conscious of my choices. And it's helpful to you, dear reader, because you can literally see the progress I am making and use those techniques (or mistakes) to edify yourself. 

Friday, August 7, 2015

Colorful Sketch Dump

IMG_2427 IMG_2431 IMG_2433 IMG_2442
I've been trying to sketch more. These are from one of my larger sketch books. I also really want to work on capturing people's forms and liveliness more. I always wish I could capture the particular essence of a person. But I do find these bust sketches to be quite beautiful themselves.
Working from images, be they paintings or photographs, is a way that I've been honing my skills. I find that I'm starting to see the nuances of layered colors that can really make a painting seem better than my sketches. I've also worked to begin to stretch myself to layer colors, to take risks while coloring an image.
I've been working a lot with Copic markers. I want to do a few colored pencil drawings of skin tones. I find that creating a flat field of color can be quite difficult for me. That's both a technical skill and an issue of the media that I use (both paper and pencil). Still, I know that I need to really try new things.
I also think that I may try to paint one or more of these portraits. I've realized that preparatory work can make a real difference in the quality of the final piece. Practice makes perfect.
As you can see on the last sketch and the notes I made, I have been trying to work out those things that I need to work on and study.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Rhetorically Speaking

There are certain subjects where the facts don't rhetorically matter.
The rhetoric that we produce, our discourse within a specific culture, shapes the way that we perceive things to be. Discourse, especially normative and dominant, leads us to perceive the world as unchangeable. Discourse and the standards of normative behavior and relationships produces measurable effects.

The facts of the matter

A fact is simply one such measurable effect. A fact is a type of knowledge that we privilege because it engages with scientific or objective standards of measurement. A fact must be known, recognized and validated by particular institutions of power - such as a scientist, researcher, or census taker. 
In the early medieval period, it was a fact that flies came out of nothing. That was common knowledge, among both the educated and peasant classes. Natural philosophers were the institutional group of knowledge holders who verified this fact. Today, we readily accept that "spontaneous fly production" is not a fact, but we tend to ignore the historic reality that it once was. The material reality hasn't changed: flies still need to lay eggs in meat in order to have larva hatch and grow out of putrid meat. But our perception of that reality has changed significantly. In turn, the way that we store and cook meat has changed significantly.

Politically speaking

Coming to the practical effects: Some facts are loaded with political ramifications.  Flies aren't a major part of our society, but people are. The facts that we hold true about people, especially marginalized people, can have a large effect on how we organize our society and treat these people.
I feel that this example is pretty obvious. A clear ramification of the fact is that women shouldn't bike. After all, it's not safe for them! But this fact obscures a political purpose for the effect. Women were discouraged from biking because bikes gave women increased access to social and economic roles. Men did not want to have women infringing on their monopoly on these types of capital nor abandoning women's roles as providers of domestic labor. The popularly cited reason for discouragement was a "simple" fact not the implicit political goal of limiting women's capital.
The political ramifications of presumptions can be delimiting. Delimiting refers to limitations on what people can imagine as possibilities. Our culture constantly determines for us the ways that we imagine and act; these determinations can be helpful or hurtful. For example, if we believe that women will be harmed by biking in this way, we would might never imagine women inventing a new bike technology since this is an inaccessible form of technology harmful to women. We might be unable to imagine women working as mechanics or competing as athletes. We might instead imagine new bike technologies that are more specifically geared towards men: longer reaches to the pedals, seats designed for smaller hips, expectations of greater arm strength for handle bars. 
Other ramifications could be social control. Facts can be paired with labels, social identities, and roles.  Facts can be used to justify stigma or correction. For example, even if women wish to be bikers, they may be frightened of being labeled as a pervert or physically damaged. 
Let's return again to the simple facts of how flies get into meat.
In the medieval period a related fact was that most meat had flies in it. Meat wasn't stored in air tight sealed containers since what was the point if flies could spontaneously emerge?
Now that our facts have changed, we find far less maggots in our steak. We expend considerable effort to store our meat in sealed containers, cooking meat quickly after keeping it refrigerated. Many slaugher houses may even take precautions in the way the animals are slaughtered and packed on site to prevent flies from getting into their food. Further, our expectations about the number of acceptable flies in meat have changed drastically since the middle ages. We have FDA, which carefully regulates our food. Expiration dates make sure that moldy or bug infested meat doesn't end up on the consumer's table.
All of these are prescriptive effects of a changed factWe, human beings in a particular cultural setting, changed our behavior. (We store and prepare our meat differently) That changed behavior then affected norms. (It's no longer acceptable to have flies in meat.)
Most importantly, politically loaded facts can be used to produce and reify certain behaviors and outcomes. Stigmatized roles can become self producing. Normalized roles can become entrenched and reifying.

What's the point?

When rhetorically speaking, we don't have to limit ourselves to the facts handed to us by the current social structure. If we are trying to imagine a new world, we must also imagine the new rules and facts of that world rather than limiting ourselves to those of the old.
my arrogance
Politically, we must decry some facts. In order to create an internally consistent ideology, some facts cannot be accepted. And we must acknowledge that some facts have been created and perpetrated to support the existing power structure as part of the dominant ideology.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Institutions: Organizing the Known Universe

What is an institution? How do institutions pass down social, political, and economic capital? Why do we need language to describe institutions?
“David Lewis’ definition is helpful: a convention arises when all parties have a common interest in there being a rule to insure coordination, one has a conflicting interest, and none will deviate lest the desired coordination is lost (Lewis, 1968). Thus, by definition, a convention is to that extent self-policing. […] For a convention to turn into a legitimate social institution it needs a parallel cognitive convention to sustain it(How Institutions Think, Mary Douglas, 46).
MIT is one such institutionDouglas is describing an institution. Here are a few other definitions of an institution:
  • institutions - the patterns of living and social organizations that carry out the values and goals of a society. (oregon state)
  • Any pattern of behaviour which by repetition, traditional sanction and legal reinforcement acquires a degree of coercion could be described as a social institution. [...]the structural components of a society through which the main concerns and activities are organized, and social needs (Anthropology for beginners)
  • Institutions are ideas about how something should be done, look or be constituted in order to be viewed as legitimate. Institutions can be defined as a “stable collection of social practices consisting of easily recognized roles coupled with underlying norms and a set of rules or conventions defining appropriate behavior for, and governing relations among, occupants of these roles”. Institutions provide structure, guidelines for behavior and shape human interaction. (Weebly Anthropology)
The common interests are the passing of capital to the same group of people, whether between themselves or along to their future kin. Strongly established or legitimized institutions further relate themselves to the supposed natural order of the universe: as we organize our minds and societies from birth, so the universe is naturalized organized. Institutions perpetuate themselves by preserving and sharing information to their justifying principle; this creates a mutual feedback between the institution and the model of the universe. The individuals that populate these institutions then self regulate their thoughts and perceptions according the justified social organization.
“Institutions systematically direct individual memory and channel our perception into forms compatible with the relations they authorize”(How Institutions Think, Mary Douglas, 92).
More clearly: As  institutions of socialization have organized our minds, so we have been taught that the universe is organized. Our institutions of learning, science, and classification reinforce and legitimized the established belief in the organization of the universe, reproducing it in the technology and ideologies we use to produce culture. Interaction of class based hierarchical structures perpetuate themselves to support underlying interests. Why is it that way in our society? Because people are that way. Why are people that way? Because people have to be that way. Because all people are that way. Because people have never been different.   
"The institutions lock into the structure of an analogy from the body. The more primitive the division of labor, the more the same analogy can be deployed from one social context to another. In modern industrial society the analogical relation of head to hand was frequently used to justify the class structure"(How Institutions Think, Mary Douglas, 49).
beautyhurtsHow do you know all people have always been that way? Because of their body. As their body is, so is our society.  The secret held back is that our body is malleable. Our upbringing in society shapes our relationship with our body and the bodies of others. Douglas describes varies ways that institutions have been credited with storing and reproducing information. Of course, empowering institutions to control information also empowers them with the ability to choose or erase particular topics of discourse. Our minds can be organized; certain ideas we simply never encounter because the institutions we trust to store information and educate us have excluded that information.  
Types of institutions:
A very useful way of grouping social institutions is as follows:
(a) kinship institutions deal with marriage, the family and primary socialisation;
(b) political institutions regulate access to and the use of power;
(c) cultural institutions deal with religious, artistic and scientific activities;
(d) stratification institutions deal with the distribution of social positions and resources; and
(e) economic institutions produce and distribute goods and services.
The development of hierarchy and efficient division of labor allow institutions to more efficiently act on their power. This capacity reinforces and naturalizes the hierarchies implicit in the organization of the bureaucracy. Other minority ideas and subversive discourses cannot compete with the efficient labor nor the stored capital that institution.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Stretching myself to theory

IMG_1332Watching the video from the last post, I was going over my blog. Basically I did a lot of house keeping and redesign work. While fiddling with things, I realized that I hadn't posted any really heavy analysis in a little while.

I though it would be instructive to delve a little deeper into the reasons why I have stepped away from the really challenging work that I was doing on this blog around feminism and developing my own analysis.

Theory Production

Lots of reading, research, and revision goes into the heavy theory posts that I write. Usually my theory posts are a reaction to a new idea that I encountered, some type of writing or experience that really challenged my thinking process.

Constantly challenging the assumptions you have about the world and how the world works - this is difficult and draining work. Especially since much of the theory that I focus on is about how oppression acts, how political power is perpetuated. I think academic environments, we fail to address the emotional labor and drain that goes into good theory production. Often, part of our traditional (patriarchal) academic training is to ignore our instincts and emotions around abuse or the mishandling of power.

IMG_1416 (1)

Do you really think that the 3.022 lab professors would care that I came up with a great blog post about radical readings of Angela Davis?

If you ever read Mary Daly's work, you immediately become caught up in how much anger and passion she has infused into the writing. I was completely stunned and captivated to read an academic theory work, so very rich and heavy, that was also clever and burning. While I'm not nearly at that level of emotional development yet, I am constantly challenging myself to enact that labor, to engage passionately and fully with the world that I live in and the way people describe it.

Anthropological theory production, really good theory production, involves knowing and empathizing with people even when their circumstances may be remote. Requiring us, author and reader, to empathize with unknown joys and fears while mapping out the political realities : that's the type of theory that pushes me to write at my very best. Feminist theory production for womanists involved knowing yourself and empathizing with the experiences of women who had never been given the space or recognition for their pain or triumph. Following these fore mother and fore sister's lead is a necessity for me; I'd be lost without the light of their hearts.

I just haven't been able to sit down and really engage in these forms of labor, especially knowing that I wouldn't receive validation from most of the world.

Myself: Known

I have instead been sitting down with myself. I've taken some time to really look at the goals and experiences that have brought me to this moment. Silently mulling over my past isn't what I'm describing.

I'm attempting to describe an active conversation with myself. When you stretch a canvas, you have to really know every inch of that canvas before you begin to transform it. Feeling out structural integrity and preparing support in myself is the foundation of producing theory for me. After learning about reflexivity, I realized that my own position and experiences can be the beginning of theory. Particularly as I learned about consciousness raising in second wave feminism, I realized that my life is a wealth of knowledge that has been lost to me.

Now, at 21, I'm feeling out all of the cracks in the painting, relearning the fundamentals of the original canvas from the deformations and shifts that time has given my experience. These cracks trace back to my political identity, how I have been recognized by others and how these reactions have shifted my own image.

Again, this is an active process. Even how I have learned to begin this process has changed my sense of self.

Survival as praxis

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

Audre Lorde, A burst of light

Photo on 12-10-14 at 12.55 PMWith this background of learning myself all over again and recovering a passion and anger that so many women have had stymied, suddenly my tiredness makes sense.

Another reason I've taken a break from heavy theory is to simply take care of myself. Participating in emotional labor also means engaging in recovery, in self love, in love of others. I've been trying to really embrace a feeling of life, with my tiny kitty or my growing plants.

I've been enjoying the company of other women. I've been enjoying my own company. I've been enjoying how much I've already done and survived.

Taking this time means learning how to survive, looking back with a critical but proud eye to plan for the future.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Progress, Work, and Feedback


So I just want to really draw out a few of these points since it is such a long video. There's something in the video that really resonated, seemed kind of important.

  • Put in man hours

    • Sketch

    • Fundamentals

    • Broad & Deep

    • Beginning = Imitation

  • Make bad art

  • Progress is slow

  • Progress requires taking risk

    • Risk leads to failure x 1,000

    • Risk leads to success x1

    • Persevere

  • Consider audience

    • Connect with people

      • Beginning = fanart, pinup, etc. ready made audience

      • Must move to own new material

        • create audience

  • Share your unique voice

    • Document progress

    • Communication : Voice

  • Finale = Connection and Communication with Audience

    • Brand

Saturday, July 11, 2015

A Tale of Two Kitties

For just a little while I had two kitties.

One of my friends needed someone to cat sit for her while she went home to visit her family at the start of the summer. I volunteered and, after a cat-date, I was approved to be a temporary cat momma.


The kitty is called Mitten. She's a funny little cat because she doesn't know how to meow. I like the think that she's the cat version of Marilyn Monroe - she kind of moan-sighs out all of her vocalizations. Mitten is just so teeny tiny!

Mitten got her name from her one pale paw. My friend says that she likes to play patty cake, but Mitten and I didn't get that far in our relationship.

Mitten and Prilla avoided each other during their first cat date. Once Mitten was dropped off at my apartment for the longer term, she explored the highest locations she could reach - the top of the fridge, my loft bed, and the sink counter. She settled in to her perch to scope out the land.


Mitten loved to take her morning nap burrowed into my blankets. I'd like to take this time to thank her for depositing so much cat hair in my bed. thank you, mitten.


Prilla pretended that she didn't know that anything had changed. New cat? What cat? She choose to simply lay about and lick herself as though no other cat was around. However, she made sure to keep a sly eye on Mitten - somehow Prilla managed to meander her lay downs to follow Mitten's explorations.

There were a few frantic chases around the apartment. No kitty was scratched, but hissing competitions started by Mitten devolved into Mitten retreating to the top of the refrigerator. Prilla's tail fluffed up so much when she's upset!

[caption id="attachment_778" align="alignnone" width="300"]Why does that cat have a snack? I should have the snack - I rub my face on waaaaay more stuff Why does that cat have a snack? I should have the snack - I rub my face on waaaaay more stuff[/caption]


Another strange kitty thing was their battle over the litter box. One kitty would use the litter box and a few hours later, the other would need to 'update' their control of the litter container. Now I did have two litter boxes for them - my friend brought over Mitten's litter box. But the kitties weren't going to give up their poop fight; they chose to compete over just one.

Daily Make Up

Hanging out with another kitty is kind of refreshing. I realized what quirks are unique to Prilla. I also enjoyed the company of a more cuddle-friendly cat. Mitten loves to get her nose boop'd. I still love Prilla's long soft fur and tsundere ways. But I can see the appeal of a different type of kitty.

Although, I don't want to take a bath with either of them! Mitten, get down from there!


Monday, July 6, 2015

Spring Plant Growth

Look at all of the plants that I'm growing! I need to get a few more supports for my sunflower growings. I'm wondering how high these sunflowers will get.

The lavender plant has quite a lot of leaves coming off of it. I'm tempted to see if I can have some more clippings growing separately. Worrisome is that the woodiness is quite thick on most of the plant. I'm amazed by how sturdy the plant has become in the past year.

[caption id="attachment_745" align="alignnone" width="225"]IMG_2291 Sunflower, rosemary, sage with spider plant babies[/caption]

I have an infinite number of spider plants. Infinite. 


My basil plant got really large, so I did some clippings of it. The leaves were so thick in some areas of the plant that they were going yellow. For these clippings, I might give those basil plants to friends or other people in my apartment. Basil plant clippings are really easy to grow. You can see the roots that came out in a few days.

[caption id="attachment_746" align="alignnone" width="225"]IMG_2144 Basil clippings[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_748" align="alignnone" width="300"]IMG_2147 Basil clippings with some roots growing[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_747" align="alignnone" width="225"]IMG_2138 Basil[/caption]

I think that it's beautiful how thick and lovely these basil plants are now. The leaves are just delicious. I just take little chews of the plants to freshen my mouth. There's something spring like to the plants.

I also have sage plants. I really enjoy the smell and velvety feel of them. I've used them in savory dishes, like stews and roasts. They also smell great when being burned. I know some people find them to be quite medicinal, but I think they smell earthy.


So much of the earth is coming alive. I love walking around, grabbing honey suckle flowers or smelling gardens. Also, I'm trying to learn more about the plants local or common to the area. Many homes have these large orange flowers. I think that they're beautiful, very large and vibrant.

Hemerocallis fulva - Orange Day Lily (via go botany)

At the Go botany site you can read more about the plant, including the fact that you can eat the tepals!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Values and Alignments

So now that the semester has been done for quite a while, I've realized how much I got caught up in a kind of busy work and procrastination. And I'm trying to cut these activities out of my summer.

Daily work into Alignment

IMG_1530 The reality of college life is that a lot of the work you do is still busy work. For example, in 3.022 we write lab reports in under a week on experiments that we complete in about 4 hours. Those experiments are obviously not ground breaking or unique. Rather, this work is a diminutive of the real work done in research. Purposefully, professors have designed a situation where we are under a feeling of pressure even though the material that we produce has no value or meaning. To be clear, once you realize the purpose of the experiments and write ups then the whole experience is useful.

  • You can get a real sense of whether you enjoy or have a talent for lab work.

  • You are exposed to many technical terms and equipments.

Some students have realized which fields are more exciting to them. But also to be clear, feeling inordinate pressure can lead students to hyper focus on details that don't actually matter on a project that won't matter past the experience. For example, my group members once spent about 20 minutes arguing about which font to use on a presentation. This presentation will never be viewed outside of the 50 people taking and grading the class. That is a detail, a type of busy work, that did not advance any of our goals, immediate or otherwise. Is the font choice on one powerpoint going to help you get a job at Lincoln labs? The point that I'm getting at is that I am at MIT with a particular value and goal:

I want to work as an art conservator at a museum, doing either conservation or research.

IMG_1504A lot of what we do for course work is not directly advancing that goal. Some of it I might not be able to see the value of yet, but I trust my advisors and professors to guide me. Some of it is tangential, brushing up against my goal. Some of it makes me a better person. Some of it is the chores and reality of adulthood. Some of it is just busy work. Spending 4 years at college, I have gotten caught up in the feeling of doing doing doing something all the time. Even if the work is busy work, I feel compelled to be doing something. Many other students at MIT have experienced this. They remark

Oh, i feel so bored and restless on spring break. Nothing to do!

Agh, I feel like I should be doing something right now.

Haha, I always have something running in the background. I can't stand sitting doing nothing.

But how many of these activities that fill the restlessness  are actually useful? How many of the advance the student's goals? How many of them make my friends happily content rather than tired?

Values and Exercise

Let's use an analogy.

There are the people who work out in a gym. They run on a treadmill in an air conditioned room. They lift weights, carefully, on machines that guide their movements. Certainly, they get the endorphins and benefits of a work out. Their lean bodies can manage a mile without worry. But every day, they must go out of their way to go to the gym, to set aside time to run in place.

There are other people who work out by biking to work. They swerve amongst traffic, quickening their reflexes and strengthening their legs. Maybe they pick up their groceries, hauling them from the store to their home to work out their arms. These people also get the benefits of a work out, but they also have accomplished a task that needed to be done. Their work out has been consolidated into their routine.

The first is a type of busy work, inefficient and not related to the overall goals that person has for their life. The second is the best kind of work, streamlined and integrated into their goals and routine. I've realized that I spend a lot of my time jogging in place or taking part in the same procrastinating activities as I did during term. Instead, I want to spend my running time actually moving forward towards the goals I have. 

Beginning to align

I've already started on this in the past semester. I tried to incorporate my values into my work. I tried to tailor activities and assignments to advance my skills for conservation, whether incorporating knowledge of art or creating art myself. IMG_1456My home is now a safe comfortable place with nooks for me to work and paint. I also have my goals clearly displayed, constantly in sight, be it hanging my art or bulletin boards at my desk. That way I have always been reminded of what I'm aiming for.

Still i find myself on facebook, tumblr, watching hours of silly TV. I sometimes complete tasks mindlessly, just to finish them. But I really want to improve on this, to tailor all of my activities towards who I truly want to be. I hope to share with you how I manage to do this, how I rededicate myself to a life long quest. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Confidence in the Body

I want to build confidence in my body.

A few days ago, I tripped and fell while walking in Central. There's something dangerous about those loose bricks in Central Square. I was basically alright, just a skimmed knee. But I was totally shocked by how much it hurt; I almost never hurt myself due to clumsiness so the pain was a total surprise. Feeling this throughout my body but also having control over how I reacted - getting back up and walking: There was a certain confidence in that control.

There's confidence in seeing and feeling my body knit itself back together. Skin is just amazing - tough but also flexible. Scabs are pretty neat too: they manage to turn into healthy scar tissue or skin in just a few short days where there had been a terrible openness. Life struggles on! I don't even have to think about it, but my body designs a brand new part of me.

What am I getting at though?

I am confident in how my body appears, even how I can change my appearance. 

Daily Make Up

I'm even confident in how my body will labor to keep living. 

I want to build confidence in my strength.

I want to learn how to be strong, moving solidly and fearlessly. I like being able to carry the things I need to carry, walk however far I set my mind to. I can feel my feet shift when I stand on the moving train, shifting and responding to the vibrations.

Building the body

IMG_2632But I want to build confidence in my ability to lift things over my head, to run, to scream. I want to feel life in my whole body, bones and all. Some of that confidence is feeling my lungs fill up and stretch as my muscles fatigue. So too is the confidence of learning a routine of readiness. Already I love to etch out worlds with my fingers; I want to learn how to build three dimensional objects.

Part of the building of the body is recreating an idea of what the body can be. When reading about capoeira for class, I was surprised to learn how adaptable the strength of the body can be. While we view the neck as a weak vulnerable point, masters of capoeira view the body from the lens of a different culture. Carrying heavy loads on their heads, people can view the neck as another strong functional limb. With this view, capoeira techniques utilize the neck to support weight during defense and attack.

Therefore confidence in my body is about being able to envision and then enact an action, a relationship between a goal and my body making that happen.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

July Calendar

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I made personalized calendar for myself!

You can download it and print it at the link below for July!

ariapluscat personalized calendar

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For the whole calendar I wanted a very simple and clear look. So many calendars are gorgeous when printed but then become cluttered and irritating once you begin to use them. I wanted my calendar to be simple shapes.

I wanted just a few details, like the little clock.

The header detail serves a purpose. I often have large goals that I lose track of while caught up in doing all of the chores and daily assignments. By constantly writing these overarching goals each weak and directly addressing the "reason avoided," I am forced to make progress.

I think I want to add another detail to the Saturday-Sunday area, but I wasn't able to choose one! For now I just place a sticker there.

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One of my main goals for the summer is to save money. I've never had so many expenses to handle for myself since moving out. Only now am I really taking the time to sit down and really directly confront the task of managing my finances. I had a really cute cellphone app that I was using. I wanted to incorporate some of the elements of that, but make it simple enough that I could just track whether I was gaining or losing money. Basically, since my goal was to save money, I put a money tracker into my planner. 

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I wanted the whole color scheme to work well when printed on pastel paper. Although the colors seem quite bold, the colors mesh well together, muted a bit, when printed on colored paper.