Saturday, May 30, 2015

Summer Goals

[caption id="attachment_762" align="alignnone" width="352"]IMG_2250 Look at my happy summer time face with Prilla![/caption]

I can't believe that summer is actually here. Finally, the snow is gone and the sun is coming back up! I finished packing up all of my winter clothes. Very late in the year for the temperature shift, but here we are at last. My plants are growing faster, full leaves and thirsty roots.

With summer and good weather brightening my day, I feel refreshed and rejuvenated to do more. There's something about things growing for the first time in months that makes me want to grow as a person too. Not to mention that I have far more free time without semester work taking up my time. Homework somehow manages to take up an infinite number of hours - just expands to take as much time as you'll give it or spend procrastinating. Without the extreme stress and yo-yo of responsibility, I want to lay out a few goals for the next couple of sunny months. 



I want to work on some of my side projects. Throughout the semester I've been thinking and turning over ideas, ruminating really on what I want to do as creative outlets. Now is the time to take action on those goals! Planning means nothing if you don't put the ideas into action.

  1. Improve blogging

  2. Promote blogging

  3. Begin Youtube (again)

  4. Paint more

I don't want to put too much pressure on myself as far as creative projects. Often that ends up stymying me and putting me at a complete stand still. But also, I need to force myself to continue working on these aspects of my skills. Without external pressure or motivation, I struggle to complete projects. Learning to apply myself for my own sake is a really important skill.

As far as my summer work, I'm continuing the project from last summer on Japanese prints.

  1. Data Analysis

  2. Edit previous writing

  3. Complete thesis work

  4. Cultural Anthropology component

I hope that you too can have a lovely and productive summer! Especially in working on yourself and your creative impulses and projects! We can share our progress as the months go on.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Disease in Dorms: How to stay healthy


Dorms tend to be vectors of disease. MIT dorm Next house recently had to email out about several cases of food poisoning/stomach bugs. Mono is a common disease in colleges, not just because of kissing but also due to the sharing of unwashed (or insufficiently washed) eating utensils. Colds, flus, stomach bugs: these sorts of viruses love the life of a barely washed underfed overstressed college student. Most dorms will have mice. Many of the MIT frats have issues with bed bugs. I hope that you're beginning to get the idea:

  • It's easy to get sick in a dorm because things are dirty and gross

I've also written about dorm pests in the kitchen and how to store your food safely in a dorm.

Not only that but people don't take care of themselves:

  • stressed

  • under fed

  • few fruits and veggies

  • lots of junk food/ take out

  • sleep deprived

  • lots of travel

  • exposure to lots of people

i think we all know the trope of the student during finals week who hasn't showered and barely subsists on redbull and ramen.



I'm really going to encourage you to eat well and rest well while at college. All of those items in the list are risk factors for getting seriously sick. 

Trust me when I say that taking care of yourself will provide exponential returns.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Homework: Border Patrol Piece

So this is basically documentation on a homework assignment I had for an MIT class. I figure that some people are probably curious about what classes at MIT are like, espcially non-engineering classes since people don't talk about them as much.

21A.445/WGS.272  Slavery and Human Trafficking is a Women and Genders Studies class as well as an Anthropology class, making it a social sciences class.

[caption id="attachment_731" align="alignnone" width="365"]21A.445/WGS.272  Slavery and Human Trafficking 21A.445/WGS.272 Slavery and Human Trafficking[/caption]

The assignment description was as follows:
Weekly Memo Topic: What is border policing? In addition to your written response, produce a creative response: drawing, poem, music, Vine, Storify, photos, etc. The creative response should be something you can produce in under 15 minutes.

Basically I wanted to make our teacher have to 'enforce' a border. I really don't know what the experience of patrolling or enforcing a border would be like. So I wanted to make someone else have that experience, maybe the discomfort of it or even being desensitized from the violence inherent.

[caption id="attachment_726" align="alignnone" width="225"]Making of Making of[/caption]

So I took a piece of water color paper and made a kind of earth painting with water colors. I tried to use a little salt but I don't think it went very well. Then I cut the paper along a diagonal and sewed the piece back together with a green embroidery thread. This probably took 5 minutes.

I turned the piece it self into my teacher along with brining a pair of scissors. She had said that an image of the piece would've been sufficient which no.

the image of the object is not the object

[caption id="attachment_727" align="alignnone" width="225"]IMG_1595 What I turned in: Piece + Scissors. Instructions: "Cut the string."[/caption]

I gave this to her - piece and scissors - and told her to cut the string. The instructions were also on the back of the piece. She asked me a couple of questions and I kept repeating the instruction. I didn't want to give her any extra information or reassurance about enforcing the border.


Once she started cutting the string, she asked me fewer questions. She hesitated a couple times when she first started cutting the string, but she ended up cutting all of the string. At the end, there were the two pieces of paper separated with the cut string bits still in each piece.


And that's what I turned in! While she completed the piece I took photos of the process.

We met in small groups and discussed our creative pieces.


I feel pretty satisfied with what I made. I think that I gave her an experience. I also had the experience of sewing the piece together which made watching her cut the piece a little saddening.

[caption id="attachment_732" align="alignnone" width="273"]Interviews with Border Patrol Agents - Chet Wilson and Jim Runyan Interviews with Border Patrol Agents - Chet Wilson and Jim Runyan[/caption]

I think that it would've been more helpful if I'd framed the piece, took the framing apart in front of her, and then asked her to cut the string. The finished piece would be to turn in the whole de-assembled piece in her care.

Alternatively, including her comments about participating would've added something to the piece. This was while we were reading interviews with border patrol agents. Including an interview with her in a similar formatting seemed a bit excessive at the time, but I think that it would've been an illustrative capture of the moment to include with the piece.

As a performance piece, I don't think you could really replicate the piece. I do think that you could replicate the experience and the learning involved in being asked to enforce a border. More participants would've complicated the piece and opened more possibilities.

Daily Make Up

I'm including this as the class is ending since I didn't want to "spoil" anyone for it who might be in the class. Do people enjoy hearing about MIT classes or the work I do for them?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Spring has Sprung


[caption id="attachment_722" align="alignnone" width="225"]Spring has sprung! Spring has sprung![/caption]


[caption id="attachment_723" align="alignnone" width="225"]Here is a spring goose, part of a gander Here is a spring goose, part of a gander[/caption]



Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Today: Get Started

In one of my anthropology classes, a girl made a great comment about the rescue-savior complex and trafficking of children.
"I just really respect the people who try to do something even if it's not perfect if it helps someone.

And there's something so great about what she said. Because I think that the way we achieve perfection is by trying something imperfect.

Our imperfect attempts are learning experiences. Certainly we have a responsibility to think long and hard about the actions we take to make them as safe and helpful as possible at our first attempt. Never the less we never know how to do something perfectly on our first attempt.

No one can predict the sudden changes of a moment nor the ripples that come out of our small stones.

Similarly, we receive criticism and feedback after we do something.

[caption id="attachment_717" align="alignright" width="225"]What can you do Today? What can you do Today?[/caption]

We can only see the effects of the ripples after the stone has dropped. Listening to the complaints of the whole river can allow us to engineer responsive designs that better meet the needs of the people we're trying to help.

Really what I'm getting at is this:

You have to do something. Today.

So that you can improve something. Tomorrow.

Most people think that political and social change needs to come slow and steady, so it makes sense that starting a ball rolling would allow that slow steady progress to end up at it's destination sooner. I tend to think that social change movements need to be radical in order to move us in the correct direction.

No matter what, people have do something - something powerful and courageous - in order for lasting change to occur. I think one of the unique things about the internet is that we never know what small action will be amplified by social media. GoFundMe and other fundraising sites have allowed us to find completely new sources of funding, beyond grants or large donors. 

And part of the lasting change bit is that people have to really feel something in order for the change to remain. Feeling invested and helped by a change is what gets people, new people, engaged. Change and improvement in turn keeps them engaged and working on helping others (or even themselves)! Think of the difference between Stop Kony and Nerdfighter's ongoing work with KIva. 

So get started on changing something you've always thought was wrong.

Because who knows how far that change may eventually go once you get it rolling.

[caption id="attachment_719" align="alignnone" width="224"]Here is Prilla STOPPING a ball from rolling. SHE IS A CHANGE STOPPER. Here is Prilla STOPPING a ball from rolling.

Saturday, May 9, 2015


IMG_1504 I really love writing little lists.

There's something so fulfilling about the ability to cross out things as I achieve them.

I've also started to do decorative monthly planning. I basically made my own planner from free printables and my own edited pages. Taking the time at the start of the week grounds me.

I always try to sort my priorities based on the realm of my life that they fall into.

  • Social

  • School

  • Home

  • Chores

And there are so many lovely notebooks and inserts to ogle over. Certainly, I find it inspiring to source from all these different beautiful images and to dream of owning particular ones.

Screen Shot 2015-04-26 at 3.14.38 PM

(Mochi Things Kitty Art theme notebook)

I've really been enjoying watching Youtube videos of planners. I don't know what's so wonderfully calming about them, but it simply is. Also there's this sort of visual feast going on.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Black Batman LIFTS me in NYC

[caption id="attachment_714" align="alignnone" width="300"]Presented with no further context. Simply take in the glory that is this image. Presented with no further context. Simply take in the glory that is this image.[/caption]

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Depression at MIT: How we talk about it

I think we have to be very careful about how we talk about depression.

I will focus on my own experiences with depression. I will also focus on the experience of an undergraduate student at a competitive college, specifically MIT. I will include testimonies from other people, especially those of the dominant narrative that I wish to challenge.

What I have done is lay out a series of questions. I certainly hold my own answers to these questions. But I am not going to lay them out in this post because I want you to create your own narrative. Constantly having a narrative and explanation provided is not my goal here.

I would like to distinguish between talking about how we talk about depression and talking about depression itself. I am focusing on dominant narratives. 

Let's define what's meant by a dominant narrative:
Dominant narratives are the stories told by the dominant culture; they define our reality and guide our lives like an invisible hand. And when the dominant culture is oppressive, so, too, are its narratives. (one green)

Dominant discourse is a way of speaking or behaving on any given topic — it is the language and actions that appear most prevalently within a given society. These behaviors and patterns of speech and writing reflect the ideologies of those who have the most power in the society. (wise geek)

There are common ways that colleges tend to talk about depression. Let's work from an MIT specific exame: I'll take a popular MIT admissions blog post paragraph and break down some ideas about depression contained within it:
“Maybe you’re depressed,” Lauren said quietly.

She told me about her depression experience—how she crawled out of the cave little by little over the past two years, yet was still in love with the Institute.

“I felt like hot shit in high school, like everyone else here did. But MIT humbled me. It challenged me physically, mentally, and emotionally. It made me more confident. And oddly enough, more spiritual,” she told me. (IHTFParadise)

  • Depression as a response to something external

  • Depression as an experience with a start and end

  • Depression as something that makes you at better/spiritual/wise person at the end

  • Depression as a quest

  • Depression as an external thing that is forced on the individual

  • Depression as personal, private, taboo

These dominant narratives come across in a number of ways.

Why does Lauren speak quietly? Does she fear being overheard? Is this a sacred subject that deserves quiet? Is depression a taboo subject? Is she scared to even mention depression? Is Lauren qualified to make a statement about another person's mental or emotional health? Or to make such a diagnosis?

Why is depression like a cave? Is it a natural phenomena? Is it like Laurel Caverns? Is it like Plato's cave?

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="213"]laurel caverns Laurel Caverns: An isolated guided tour of spiritual transformation[/caption]

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="228"]Plato's Cave Plato's Cave: Layers of deception and truth interacting with an individual looking for truth[/caption]

Can depression end? How do we know depression begins? How do we measure the start and stop? Who is allowed to or qualified to measure depression time?

What is a depression experience? Is it an internal experience? Is it an external experience? Is it an objective experience? Can we call a depression experience a factual experience or true? Who can verify the experience? Do we learn from the experience? Who participates in the experience? What qualifies the experience?




  1. 1.

    practical contact with and observation of facts or events.

    "he had already learned his lesson by painful experience"

    synonyms:involvement in,participation in,contact with,acquaintance with,exposure to,observation of,awareness of,insight into

    "his first experience of business"

    (google define)

And here is really the crux of my problem with how we talk about depression at MIT:

How can we love something that has hurt us?

How can we love something that has hurt us? Should we love something that has hurt us? Can we blame the place where we were hurt?

yet was still in love with the Institute.

What is trauma bonding? Does such a term apply to student's relationship with the Institute? Can a term like 'trauma bonding' be used to describe the Institute? If so, who is responsible for causing trauma? Is the responsibility of the student to avoid bonding?

Is it ethical for the Institute to advertise a 'break and build 'em' approach to teaching?
Traumatic bonding occurs as the result of ongoing cycles of abuse in which the intermittent reinforcement of reward andpunishment creates powerful emotional bonds that are resistant to change.[1]  (Wikipedia)

Intense relationships also tend to hijack all of a survivor's relating capacity. It is like a state of being burnt out. First, while it is very easy to become attached to a very chaotic and inconsistent person, it is simply not possible to form a consistent internal object representation (feeling memory) about them. (abuse and relationships)

So many students talk about burn out, the chaos of constant deadlines, the ever changing expectations:

Get psyched, stay with it, do whatever it takes

Should we stay at a place that makes us feel depressed? Is "whatever it takes" a valid expectation to hold?

The Firehose

There’s a common MIT saying: Learning at MIT is like drinking out of a firehose. Classes are designed to throw too much at you. The hours given in course listings are too low for the reality of the class. Professors expect you to be able to more things than there are hours to do. Classes assume a basic knowledge that the prereqs don’t provide. Reading may not be posted until the night before they’re due. Even if the class doesn’t have a coding pre-req, basic coding skills are expected. Etc. Etc. I could go on. (MIT Culture)

Again, should we stay at a place that makes us feel depressed?

Is a firehose the only way to get wet? Would you use a firehose to water your garden? Would doing so damage the plants more than help them?

  • Should MIT be allowed to make an environment that triggers anxiety on purpose?

  • What if you are coming to the high anxiety set up from a traumatic or abusive background?

  • Can trauma, anxiety, failure make you a better/spiritual/wise person?

  • Does being SET UP for failure teach you something?

  • Is an impossible quest a quest worth attempting

  • Should we intend to force anxiety on an individual? Does anyone have a right to do so? What issues of consent is MIT confronting?

  • How do we integrate the public MIT teaching environment with the private experience of fear?

I never hear these questions posed in the main discussion about depression. Students take for granted that they have and can consent to an experience that makes them scared and hurt. I want us to be able to challenge this assumption by first putting it out explicitly and then asking why we have accepted it implicitly. So much the the danger in the dominant narrative around depression is that it is one of silence. I don't know how to fix this. I'm just one speaker. But I want to believe something: MIT students can take charge of our experiences and our campus culture. Simply by changing the terms of the conversation we can create completely new ways of relating to one another and solving a dangerous issue that affects many of our friends.

When and why is it acceptable to make someone feel bad? About themselves or their capacities?
It would be normal in this state to believe that something is horribly wrong with leaving (even if it seems equally true that something is horribly wrong with staying. (abuse and relationships)

Yet despite of all these different forms, they share one thing in common—they are all facing incredible challenges while trying to keep up with MIT’s fast pace. They are some of the strongest human beings I know. (IHTFParadise)

What then does it mean when a depressed person has to leave MIT, cannot keep up with the pace? How is that person defined by our community? Are they defined by how long they stayed? By the fact they left? Whether they return or not?

Nobody slips through the cracks here. (The first step)

Really, if you have a serious difficulty, no one notices.

it’s often a herculean task of it’s own to deal unsympathetic professors

Those few resources are aimed at crisis management, not sustained assistance. (MIT Culture)