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

Screen Shot 2015-06-25 at 4.55.55 PM

I made personalized calendar for myself!

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

ariapluscat personalized calendar

Screen Shot 2015-06-25 at 4.57.17 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2015-06-25 at 4.57.54 PM

Screen Shot 2015-06-25 at 4.57.34 PM

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. 

23504-img_0393 4e76c-img_0394

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.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Jealousy and Projecting

How Jealousy Happens

I had a conversation about jealousy with my friends. At MIT, like all places, there are jealous people. But what might be unique to MIT is that most students have previously been the sole holder of their talents, the very best in their town or school, perhaps even state. Once they come to MIT, young students find that they are no longer the apex of the community. The foundation of their personality or sense of self is undermined. Worse, this happens right as teenagers are far from home, trying to find and distinguish themselves from an incoming class of 1,000 people.

[caption id="attachment_777" align="alignnone" width="300"]IMG_2253 Look at all these talented focused young people! What if they're smarter than me? What if their job offers are better than mine? What if they smell better than I do???[/caption]

We talked about how a lot of students at MIT were awkward and how this awkwardness affects jealousy.

Jealous people are people who can't confront their own emotions: there's something inside themselves that they turn on to someone or something outside. Jealous people might be unable to express their feelings to others due to social awkwardness or meanness. People who have been harshly bullied in high school might have learned from receiving how harsh a truth wrapped up in meanness is.
When someone is projecting because it’s really about how they feel and/or what they’ve done, we get accused of stuff that’s often completely out of left field, or innocent stuff gets twisted around to suit the story that’s already in their head. They often don’t want to budge from the story! (Via Baggage Reclaim)

Jealousy happens because of a fear. Jealousy is about taking an internal truth and turning it against someone else. Instead, of addressing the root of the fear, jealous comments and actions allow the suffering person to get a hit of superiority.

As my friend said, "She wants what I have, my success or whatever. But no matter how bad she tries to make me feel, it's not like she's actually doing any better at her own stuff."

How Jealousy Feels

But here's the secret: Jealousy isn't a positive emotion. It doesn't feel good to be jealous of someone. Jealousy is about belittling yourself, your achievements, in order to prize those qualities in another person. Jealousy creates guilt in me; I feel bad for being jealous of my friends even if I don't take it out on them.

[caption id="attachment_745" align="alignnone" width="225"]IMG_2291 Sunflower with support from a stick Rosemary growing free standing[/caption]

My friend said she totally understood this: when we're jealous of our friends it's complicated. It feels complicated, irrational and guilty. We're glad that good things are happening for them but also wish those same events could have come for us. Good friends will recognize that good things can happen to both of us. More so, good friends will be sensitive to jealousy, not showing off a great job offer to a friend who is still job searching.

Growing plants is kind of like this:

Some of us are like sunflower babies. We need a little bit of support from something external while we grow. We're going to make it to a radiant yellow burst, but we can't make it without a bit of reassurance. Others are like rosemary, green growth turns to thick woody stems quickly. Rosemary doesn't need much external support to grow quickly up towards a sunny goal.

Looking over, we can be like, "Why aren't I like that? I wish I could be like the rosemary. What's rosemary doing differently that it's so stable? huh? Who even likes woody branches?" or "Why that's so unfair that sunflowers get all that extra support? I don't get that; what a loser to need a stick to stand up. Floopy green weed!"

But the reality is this: we're both growing. We're both going to make it up to our full growth if we keep doing what we specifically need. Being jealous putting down others doesn't get us there any faster. Our plant awesome-ness might be really different; we're not the only plant in the garden anymore, but we're still beautiful and lush.

[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]

And the really dark truth: Even the jealous people, the choking vines who attach themselves to successful striving people. You know what? When they finally manage to strangle the plant that's been holding them up - they don't have anything to support them and they never learned how to grow on their own!

How to deal with being Jealous

Jealousy is a natural emotion.

  • Just let jealous pass.

  • Learn what traits you wish you had. Cultivate them.

  • Take jealousy as a learning opportunity.

Jealous she went sky diving? Even though you said you didn't care? Then realize you did care and you did want to do that. Go sky diving yourself. Ask her to suggest a good sky diving location and instructor.

  • Remind yourself that a friend's good fortune can lead to good things for you too.

  • Remove jealous people from your circle.

Jealous people don't have anything positive to offer. It's not your responsibility to teach them how to be better or kinder people, nor is it your responsibility to deal with their projections while they learn.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Lab presentations: Development of schematic

Developing power points for lab presentations is a very unique type of design project. Presenters need to convey lots of complex data but maintain a clear flow to the information. It's easy to be overwhelmed or to under-develop the presentation of information.  I've found through group projects that many students and scientists don't have a good sense of design.

So I'd like to use this blog post to lead through the development of a useful, readable, and well-designed schematic from one of my lab presentations.

In this experiment, we had a temperature gradient that created a liquid solid interface. By pulling the material across the temperature gradient, we were able to observe dendritic growth as the material solidified. This particular slide is meant to convey the temperature gradient as well as the error due to variation in temperature and our readings of the temperature.

This is the first slide we had:

Screen Shot 2015-05-15 at 4.22.38 PM

This slide is functional: all the information is present on the slide. There's a typical graph of temperature gradient vs position cited from our lab hand out. The table lays out the temperatures we read as well as the error. The caption for the graph describes what occurs.

The problems:

  • The graph is not clearly labeled nor is it specific to our experiment.

  • The graph is alright but could be connected to a graph/ schematic.

  • The caption is long and wordy.

Screen Shot 2015-05-15 at 4.23.33 PM

This is the schematic that I first created. I wanted to convey the physical set up of our experiment as well as create an icon that would clearly display 'temperature gradient.' Many people (especially scientists) over look how important visual presentation is; clear diagrams will save you many explanatory headaches and impress your audience. A clear icon or graphic will really clarify the experimental set up or goals.

By including labels of the temperature and areas of the stage, I was able to condense the information and link the table to the physical set up of our experiment. Similarly, this icon is readable at a single glance with a clear bold design.

Screen Shot 2015-05-15 at 4.36.50 PM

This is the final slide: by adding a color gradient, we reinforced the idea that the temperature was a gradient going from hot to cold. Everything is in a large readable and consistent font. The slide is fairly clear and uncluttered; all of the relevant data is presented to be seen at a glance even from the back of the room. There's no extra information nor are there full sentences.

The table of numbers becomes linked to the schematic as the audience can link the precise numbers on the schematic closely to the numbers on the table.

The fixes:

  • Link the schematic to our specific experiment

  • Link the schematic to the table

  • Label all materials clearly

  • Decrease clutter on slides

Having a bit of time away from the slide, I can see a few minor improvements. I'm still satisfied with what we produced, but it's always good to continue to look for ways to convey information clearly and cohesively.

Additional changes:

  • Looking at the material now, I would probably redesign the table of data.

  • I would add an arrow below the schematic to show the direction the material was pulled.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Positionality and Rats

The point is that the packaging of an idea should not dismiss it, rather than that packaging alone might justify an idea.

You may be noticing that I enjoy using Disney movies to pepper my writing. It's because I totally love watching Disney. Also, illustrative examples with cute animals = yes.


Remy, the rat, prepares amazing cuisine in the movie Ratatoulle.  The moral of the movie as presented by third wave feminists would be that we should accept opinions and frameworks because of the disadvantaged position of those who speak them.

However, that's not actually the moral of the movie.

Remy is not allowed to present trash as cuisine simply because he is a rat. Nor is he allowed to skip basic hygiene in the kitchen. Remy's disadvantaged position doesn't gain him respect in the kitchen.

Linguini (the main human with a large nose and very red hair) doesn't have his cooking respected just because he's a lowly kitchen boy who has just lost his mother. In fact, Linguini is chastised for getting self important and believing that his opinion should be respected simply due to his reputation.

Rather the injustice is that Remy's passion and talent at preparing complex delicious food are not recognized because of who he is. Opinions, viewpoints, and - in this case - food, have to be held up to rigor and standards before being accepted and consumed. Remy's food needs to be judged by the harsh food critic, held up to a rigorous standard outside of Remy's disadvantaged status. The narrative arc isn't complete until the critic has both analyzed Remy's cooking and accepted him despite his rat-status.

I often find an insult buried in the third wave suggestion that disadvantaged people shouldn't be held up to this sort of heavy critique we expect of academics or other privileged people. Our work and our intellect are just as capable and honestly our work can stand up to honest and academic criticism. Suggesting that our ideas will flop over at the measliest criticism seems to underestimate the strength and integrity of marginalized people's minds and theory. In fact, I've found that the grounding of struggle leads to much better theory than ivory tower navel gazers.

We can all learn a little from rats that teach themselves to cook.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Art Commissions

I'm opening myself up to do art commissions!


If you'd like to see my general art style you can view multiple pieces at my tumblr art blog, ariapluscat.


I'm a college undergraduate taking an extra semester to graduate due to medical issues. Commissions would support my living costs as a student at MIT. I'm hoping to work as a conservator once I graduate, pursuing a secondary degree.

[caption id="attachment_623" align="alignnone" width="225"]IMG_1365 Oil Painting[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_784" align="alignnone" width="224"]IMG_1226 Full Color Illustration[/caption]

Aria Plus Cat
Art Commission Price ListSummer 2015
LabelTypeDescriptionFlat CostPrice per Hour
S1Pencil SketchSketch on sketch book paper sized 8 x 11 sheet, pencil$10$10.00
S2Inked SketchSketch on sketch book paper, sized 8 x 11, pencil with Micron archival ink$20$10.00
S3Colored SketchSketch colored on sketch book paper sized 8 x 11, pencil with colored pencil$20$10.00
F1Ink and Flat color

Illustration, on heavy paper sized 8 x 11 (or as requested), Micron archival ink with either Prisma color or colored pencil$30$15.00
F2Ink and Full color

Illustration, on heavy paper sized 8 x 11 (or as requested), Micron archival ink with either Prisma color or colored pencil$40$15.00
PAAcrylic PaintingAcrylic painting on flat canvas$50$15.00
POOil PaintinOil painting on mounted and stretched canvas$100$200.00

If you would like to order a commission over the summer, please let me know. Comment or email me at ariapluscat@gmail.com.

I would ask you a few questions, mainly if you had an idea for the composition, any references you wished to provide, your expectations for price and time for the project.

Once we had agreed on taking on the project, I would let you know how long to expect for the project to complete - most likely a week from when I begin with a queue in order of contact.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Dorm Advice: Summer Storage

Are you moving out for the summer? If it's your first year, it might be difficult to know what to do with your room full of stuff. Or you may want advice as a senior on how to get your things to your new home.

Read more for advice on summer storage!


First, sort you things into three piles: "Things you take with you," "Things to leave here," and "Things to get rid of."

"Things to take with you"

Make sure that you have all the clothes you need for the summer with you along with any things you use regularly. Sort out your expensive electronics along with their chargers.

These are the sorts of things that I start to pack into my luggage: expensive, irreplaceable items and items I will need immediately. I try to limit myself to one checked bag and one carry on. I place the expensive or irreplaceable things in the carry on.

The other run over items in this pile goes into large cardboard boxes which I mail to my home. You can either purchase large boxes or ask the post office for free ones.

"Things to get rid of"

Offer your "Things to get rid of" pile to friends. A good end of the year get together is clothes swap. You can also have an event like this for your floor.

If you're looking for some extra cash, see if you can sell any old things to a consignment shop. Consider holding on to old textbooks until the start of the next term since there's higher prices and more interest then.
Take the left over items from "Things to get rid of" to a Goodwill or other donation center.

"Things to leave here"

Ask your dorm or house manager if there's storage space in your dorm or on campus.

If you have friends or family in the area, see if they can store your things.

The final option is professional storage. Check with upperclass men to find out which storage centers are reputable. Also, see if there is a student discount or coupon available.

Monday, June 1, 2015


But the authoritarianism of this tradition is cloaked most effectively in the power of the marketplace to make it seem freely chosen. Choice is an American article of faith (as the vocabulary of the abortion debate shows; even antiabortion activists use the rhetoric of choice); and we exercise choice, or enjoy the illusion of it, primarily in the marketplace. We choose from myriad brands of toothpaste and paper towels in the belief that they differ and reflect our own desires. We choose personal development experts, absorbing their maxims and techniques and making them our own. (via)

The question here is how we can both a) believe in choice as an inherent good and additionally b) whether one can be fooled into believing that choice exists when it does not?

Let's tackle these questions separately.

Is choice an inherent good?

[caption id="attachment_741" align="alignnone" width="300"]asuka choice Asuka making a choice via[/caption]

Choice is not an inherent good. I think this seems most obvious when people are asked to choose between two negative outcomes. Commodification is encouraged when making these decisions.

The choice maker is asked to measure the value of one person's suffering against another person's.

Of course, such a measurement is impossible. To attempt to quantify suffering is an exercise that devalues the strength of the relationships between the person making the choice and the people who face the outcome of that choice. Emotions and harms cannot be balanced against each other, certainly not by fallible human agents.

Let's apply this to a feminist issue.

Sex selection during pregnancy

Societies value male babies over female babies, as they value males over females throughout all levels of society. Due to this, societies have allowed parents to utilize technology to peer into the womb to determine the sex of the fetus. Once the sex is determined, couples may choose to terminate female fetuses.

In determining the sex of the fetus, the ability to make a choice is not an inherent good. Determining the sex of the fetus propagates the commodification of the child as an object-commodity that the father-patriarch may exert control over. The choice is enabled by the father-patriarch's control over the female body and reproductive labor with the assistance of patriarchal medical institutions.

Even attempting to determine the sex of the child before birth allows the family to prepare greater lengths of socialization into the sex-ascribed role of masculine or feminine.
In the standard view, rational choice is defined to mean the process of determining what options are available and then choosing the most preferred one according to some consistent criterion. In a certain sense, this rational choice model is already an optimization-based approach. (Into to Choice Theory)

Choice is not an inherent good. Feminists need to move beyond neo-liberal choice ideology and the traditional rational-choice theory founded by Adam Smith. Choice is not an article of faith for feminists: our sisters and mothers realized the efforts campaigned against us to circumscribe and delimit our choices.

Can one be fooled into believing a choice exists when it does not?

Yes, of course.
Enjoy the illusion of [choice], primarily in the marketplace. We choose from myriad brands of toothpaste and paper towels in the belief that they differ and reflect our own desires. We choose personal development experts, absorbing their maxims and techniques and making them our own. (via)

First, we must consider how the marketplace comes to exist. Are we able to exist outside of the marketplace? Are countries coerced into entering capitalistic free-market exchanges? How does the history of colonialization affect the degree of choice nations have in the market place relationships?


Secondly, we must consider the individual choices. Colonialization, slavery, and economic disenfranchisement pull back the veneer of choice from economic relationships.

Even those who own enough economic capital to make choices will quickly find that the choice between brands is itself an illusion.

Brand: Illusion of Choice

Although there appear to be hundreds of brands in the supermarket aisle, the reality is that these are the many arms of a few large entities.

And finally, the absorption of these choices from preset options is a rejection of identity development.
The self-help tradition has always been covertly authoritarian and conformist, relying as it does on a mystique of expertise, encouraging people to look outside themselves for standardized instructions on how to be, teaching us that different people with different problems can easily be saved by the same techniques. It is anathema to independent thought. [...] We should worry about the willingness of so many to believe that the answers to existential questions can be encapsulated in the portentous pronouncements of bumper-sticker books.

A harsh reality is that these answers cannot be encapsulated. Even if the could, part of the value of these answers is found in the process of discovering the answer.