Friday, July 28, 2017

A Wild & Wonderful Discovery

The summer I graduated from high school, my family went on a Yellowstone road trip with our (dear and wonderful) longtime family friends.

More precisely, the eight of us flew to Colorado, piled in a massive, clunky white van dubbed the Cinderblock, and drove around in the wilderness for about a week.

Here's us kids at the back of the Cinderblock. For better or worse, my brother spent at least half of the road trip time singing the same song.

It was a fantastic vacation--the kind where you permanently switch your phone to Airplane Mode and forget, minus the Cinderblock sing-along song references, that civilization exists. In the cool, early mornings, we bundled up and hiked mountains or drove through valleys until we found wildlife; we exhaled at giant dandelions and inhaled the smell of hot springs (or at least I did, because I'm weird and like sulfur). ((We also almost ran directly into the path of a bison, but that's a story for another time.))

Anyway, after a couple of days of seeing bears and moose and boatloads of bison, we realized we were seeing something else.

License plates.

Apparently, people visit Yellowstone from everywhere. They drive from New Jersey and Georgia and Maine and Washington (both D.C. and the state) and even Hawaii, because we did in fact see a Hawaii license plate. (Also Alaska, and Ontario, and Manitoba and British Columbia and, well, you get the point--the list goes on and on.)

Some of the sightings were just glimpses--people from South Dakota pulling out of a parking lot just as we were coming in--so we didn't take pictures or anything (also because photographing people's license plates feels like a violation of privacy?). But we did have a list* and I know for a fact that we checked off state by state until there were no states left.

Except one.

West Virginia.

Try as we did, we were unable to spot a West Virginian license plate. And we tried. We kids scoured parking lots and scouted roads like detectives; I'm surprised we didn't turn into giraffes (or cranes?) from all the neck-craning. But alas, no West Virginia to be found.
The game is afoot!

Eventually we accepted the fact that people from West Virginia don't bring their cars to national parks and resolved to complete our checklist back home. Only it's been almost exactly two years since that Yellowstone trip, and even though I've kept a sharp lookout, and the Mid-Atlantic is way closer to West Virginia (slash Wikipedia tells me West Virginia is a Mid-Atlantic state!) than Wyoming is, I've still had zero luck.

Looking left
Looking right
No West Virginia in the spotlight

That is, up until now.

So I'm spending the summer in Pittsburgh, and the other day, everyone from the lab I'm working in went to a baseball game. It was pretty great: a loaded-bases-home-run ending complete with fireworks, and the view was fantastic and the weather wonderful and, well, you get the point.

Anyway, after the home run and fireworks pizzazz, we started driving home over the river**, and we stopped halfway across the bridge because of traffic. At first, I wasn't paying attention to said traffic. But then, magically, I tuned in and noticed the car in front of us and screamed
because after over seven hundred days of straining my eyes to read license plates, what did this one say? That's right. West Virginia.

To make this long story short, I have now seen all fifty-one U.S. license plates, and it's honestly the most exciting thing that's happened to me. I went home, raved about it to friends, danced around with happiness, translated part of The Aeneid, wrote some code, and generally just felt reinvigorated by life, the universe, and everything.

The end.

(Shoutout to everyone in the car with me for not having a heart attack when I freaked out and for being patient with my uncontainable exhilaration. It was a loud scream.)

* I'm terrible at geography, but I do know my states, mostly thanks to our fifth-grade music sub, who made us sing them in alphabetical order
** over the river, but not through the woods

Friday, September 30, 2016

Shopping & Sudden Showers

About two weeks ago, my suitemate Sumi and I went to Giant to restock the pantry/fridge in our ridiculously ginormous house (yes, it's a suite, but it's basically a house) ((sorry for all the obnoxious bragging in here and in the last post. I'm just very excited*)).

The "oop" is because Sumi, who's wearing the hat (I wore contacts), looks 234890 times more gorgeous in real life (I need to work on my doodling skills).

At first, it went pretty well. The sun was shining, the weather was warm but not too warm, and I didn't get hit by a car (I'm a terrible pedestrian). Plus, I was walking with Sumi, which made the trip a highlight by default because Sumi is a lovely person to talk to and really just a lovely person in general.

Because food is delicious and nutritious, we stocked up our cart with fruits, and vegetables, and milk and yogurt and string cheese, and spaghetti, and flour and sugar and vanilla extract for churros (yes, we decided to make churros) ((and yes, this is a grammatically terrible sentence)).

Food, glorious food! (Hot sausage and mustard?)

We basically swiped the equivalent of my first paycheck into the grocery cash register thing, I double-slash-triple bagged our stuff, and we wheeled over to the door and

turned around, because it was raining.

In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy**, there is a man who has recorded two hundred and thirty-one types of rain. For the record, I enjoy/don't mind most of them, including breezy droplets (#11), vertical light drizzle (#47), sharply slanting light to moderate drizzle freshening (#51), and even #87 and #88, which are two finely distinguished varieties of vertical torrential downpour.

You get the point. I'm generally on pretty good terms with rain, and I usually don't mind walking around in it. But let me tell you, this wasn't a #11 or a #51 or even a #88. This was in the range of #192 to #213, which are the seastorm types, the types too stormy for me to even attempt doodling. It was pouring like Life of Pi out there, and Sumi and I looked at the sky and were like,

nope nope nope nope nope.

So we waited for the rain to stop, and I doodled, and we did the twenty-first century equivalent of twiddling our thumbs, which is tapping them around on Snapchat to produce shaky videos with subtitles that you can't left-align. The rain finally slowed to a drizzle, and we headed out with bags covering our arms like pigeons and a gallon of milk plus other rather large items stuffed in my backpack.

But it turns out the drizzle was temporary, because the sky went all #213 on us less than forty-two paces after our departure. Sumi and I were not happy campers, but we trudged out past the gas station and down a couple blocks anyway.

And then we came to the corner.

Maybe this is a Baltimore thing, but for some reason, an inordinate amount of pipes happened to direct water out onto this corner, and the velocity at which the storm was racing out of those pipes and onto the street was actually kind of terrifying.

Repeat: I have no words (or doodles) to describe the magnitude of the currents gushing out of the pipes of that Baltimore street. I thought about walking sideways to avoid getting swept away, like you're supposed to do with riptides, but eventually Sumi and I found a less violent area of street and waded across, water to our ankles.

A car rolled by, creating a breaking wave that would've been great to surf on. We approached another crosswalk that had basically turned into a lake.

Throwback to when I thought our campus had bad flooding.

Okay, maybe it wasn't that bad. I was mostly worried about the flour, because no amount of extra bagging was going to shield it from the wrath of the rain, and I really wanted to make those churros. But still, Sumi and I were laughing, and not in a "this is amazing" sort of way--more of an extremely disheartened, soaking wet, "why us" sort of way.

Anyway, we eventually made it back, and it turned out the flour was actually okay (props to the art of triple-bagging and the underestimated durability of the reusable shopping bag I put the bagged flour in for extra protection), and we got to make those churros after all and they were actually pretty good. But it was definitely a wild adventure, which is why I decided to tell it. (Yay for wild adventures!)

And so, with laughter (at our soaked shoes) and love (for the power of triple-bagging), the flour and Sumi and I lived happily ever after.

*For good reason. This apartment-house-suite is basically the reason college costs $893204231 and it puts my future closet-sized dwellings (when I actually have to pay rent) to shame (too bad money doesn't grow on trees).
**The series, not the first book. Said man appears in the early pages of So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish, which is number four.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Vergil Was Right

So there are officially three days of class left for the year.

I know, right? Time flies.

Actually, the original saying is "fugit inreparabile tempus," which translates* to something like "irreparable time flees."

And this could just be me, but that extra word makes a huge difference. Because all of a sudden time is like one of those fish in that Wii Play fishing game—once it passes by, it's never going to swim back to give you a second chance (at least in my experience). You just have to keep fishing and fishing and hoping those awful brown -50 point fish don't bump into you as you aim for the next sparkly bonus rainbow fish heading your way.

Me fishing for time (or lake trout). The scribbles are meant to be grass, not graphs of my oscillating grades slash sleep levels.

Okay, maybe that was a poor analogy. In my defense, with school ending and all, I've been tying up a lot of ends in a lot of classes, and since I do not particularly excel in shoe-tying (or life-tying), I've been a little frazzled.

Of course school isn't ending ending in three days. There's still reading period and finals and the process of stowing my worldly possessions back aboard the Red Pearl. But all that is most certainly different from squinting at blackboards and fretting over problem sets and sprinting to class as the tower chimes whatever-o-clock. So classes being almost over is a big deal.

Hm... what else...

Well, lately I've been spending a lot of time suffering from a) allergies, because apparently Baltimore is the stamen of America (at least according to my choral director. But really, any place with the concept of spring is bad) and b) a mountain-sized load of end-of-term work, which turns out to be quite a heavy load. I wonder how turtles do it.

I've also been spending a lot of time thinking about how nearly one-fourth of my irreparable college experience has already fled. However, since there is still a little bit of that one-fourth to go, I'll save all that for the next post.

So until then, keep fishing. See you in a couple weeks.

*Alas, I am unable to translate the rest of Vergil's Georgics. My high school Latin teacher would not be happy.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Dear High School Friends,


So I hear there's this thing called College Decisions coming out soon. (Actually, I'm pretty sure a bunch of them already came out, so oops.) And because this thing is somewhat of a pretty big deal, I just wanted to say:

1) Good luck! I hope all the wonderful places you applied to made the right choice and said yes! And if you've already heard Yes from said wonderful places, then congratulations! You are wonderful, and I'm so, so happy for you.

2) I very dearly hope this doesn't apply to you, but if all does not go well, I have some attempted words of encouragement:

Okay, scratch that. I actually don't. I could be all,

which is true, but I'm guessing you've already heard that, and I'm guessing it's not exactly the first thing you want to hear after reading a letter you didn't want to read.

So instead I'm going to tell you a story.

It starts with a fun fact that maybe not all of you know about me: a year ago, when those end-of-March college decisions came out for me, I didn't get into a single college*.

Not a single one.

And unlike what people generally advise you to think, I was not thinking along the lines of, Oh, it's okay! Those schools don't know what they're missing, and I will be successful in life no matter where I end up!

Instead, I logged off of the computer, walked across the house, and proceeded to watch movies on Netflix for probably the next eight hours.

And by the way, I'm talking about a me who promised that I wouldn't care what happened when decisions came out, who told other people that the outcome had a lot to do with luck anyway, who said that where you go pales in comparison to what you do.

I knew all that. I also knew I had very, very ridiculously miniscule-ly low chances of getting Yes letters from the places I got No letters from, and I was still kind of like,


And that's okay.

Sometimes life just happens that way.

Sometimes you know how you're supposed to cope with unpleasant things and you ignore all that anyway (i.e. binge watching Crash Course U.S. History videos the night before an APUSH test instead of, you know, outlining like a good student). Because it's hard to cope well with disappointing things, especially when they're seemingly big, like in the case of college decisions.

See, your mind starts to mess with you.

You start to think, If only I hadn't fallen asleep in physics that one day**, or If only I hadn't spent so much time yelling at unintelligent newspaper computers these past few months, or If only I'd known that Thoreau spent $28.12 on his cabin in the woods, because the outcome of some random sophomore year Transcendentalism quiz totally has the potential to alter the outcome of your entire life. (That's sarcasm. Don't question it.)
Whatifs are meanies. Try to ignore them.

Or maybe you think,

But I did everything I was supposed to!

and this is probably very true as well. Because let's face it: you're a real person, which is better than any robot or superhero or Stormtrooper-turned-clone. Yes, sometimes you make mistakes, and sometimes you're not good at things. But real people tend to do that.

(Side note: I'm talking mostly about me because I don't want to start gossiping about other people, but it wasn't just falling-asleep-in-physics me. Because like me, there were tons of people who didn't get nice letters from half the schools they deserved--there were people who didn't get nice letters at all--and unlike me, they were far more hardworking and talented and deserving of those spots that I guess there just weren't enough of. Don't think that rejection means you're automatically lumped into the eating-food-slash-procrastinating-in-that-newspaper-office category. If that makes you feel better.)

And honestly, it doesn't matter who you are: rejection hurts. It doesn't matter if you have a four-point-gazillion GPA or if you've never really considered yourself good at anything or if you knew you didn't have a good shot at a certain college but were secretly hoping anyway. It still hurts, and that's okay.

It's going to be okay.

Back to the story: the next day, my mom took me to buy a book that I'd been dying to read, which is basically my equivalent of eating a tub of ice cream after a breakup (except I may have eaten ice cream, too. Oops). So I read, and watched another movie or two, and checked out Humans of New York, which always makes me feel stupidly selfish because people in the world suffer from much worse things than flimsy little letters... and slightly better, because people in the world are also hopeful and fantastic and kind, no matter where they come from.

And then I told myself, It's going to be okay, and I went on about my life.

Reading makes everything better. (Also food.)

Basically, high school friends, I'm no Dumbledore, but I do know that's okay to be more than a little disappointed, and it's important to know that things will work out in the end.

College decisions? Yes, they're a big deal. But if they don't go the way you want, don't be sad about it forever. Grieve like you would for that cheap $1 goldfish you won at Community Day (back when people used to go to that thing) that only lasted two weeks and then piece your slightly shifted world back together again. Spring is coming***. Summer is nearly here. The scar has not pained Harry for (almost) nineteen years.

Good luck. You totally got this.



PS: I'm too poor/postal fees are too high for me to send food to you all (and I'm too perpetually hungry for there to be any leftovers in my house from the cheesecake fundraiser), but message me if you want to talk/receive Pusheen stickers. That is all.

*Clarification: I did get into college, but not "prestigious" slash first/second/fourth/etc. choice college, which is what I know many of you guys are freaking out about right now and why I'm rambling on about this.
**If you were in my physics class, you know this was pretty much every day. Oops.
***Or, rather, winter is coming, if you're into Game of Thrones.

Monday, February 15, 2016

On Snow

One of the things I have discovered during my freshman college experience is that Baltimore is not friends with snow*.

Take today, for instance. When I got the "snow day" email, I expected there to be snowflakes piling over the entire city, burying everything and everyone in white fluff.

Instead, I looked out the window and saw this**.

Pictured: a path so lightly dusted with snow that you can't even see it in this doodle.
Also, those flurries are symbolic. There weren't even flurries.

At any rate, this snow day happens to be pretty good timing for me, because I have lots of (fun) (not really) work to do and I kind of needed a day during which no extra work is added to the pile.

The end.

(If this seems like kind of a filler post, that's because it is. Sorry not sorry.)

*Or maybe it's just because I'm used to my hometown. Because during that blizzard in January, my brother informed me that literally every town in the county cancelled school. Except ours.

**Although it actually is snowing now. So I suppose that counts for something.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

I Do Not Have a Green Thumb

In case you were wondering what happened to the African violet, well, it sort of turned brown during finals week. I brought it home in despair, upon which my dad casually watered it, and by morning, it was all happy and healthy and as green as the grass on the other side.

In other words, I am very bad at plants.

You think that this would be the last of my plant stories, given that the African violet is now safely at home and no longer under my watch. But then my friend decided to get me a cactus for Christmas.

Meet Barbossa the Cactus. I water him on Sundays.

In case you're plant-challenged like me: a cactus, in terms of plant care, is a step down from an African violet. Translation: I can't water plants unless they basically don't even require water.

But that's not all. My mother, who apparently has even less faith in me than that, also bought me a cactus.

But not just any cactus.

A fake cactus.

Let me repeat that one for you: My mother. Bought me. A fake cactus. Because I can't even take care of a dehydrated little bundle of desert leaves*.

Yup. I'm bad at plants.

Contrary to that, though, Barbossa the real cactus is doing very well in my dorm room! (And so is his fake little companion, Jack the undead cactus.) But I thought I'd share this latest turn of events in my plant life before anything goes wrong. The end.

*Not in a bad way, though. I actually thought the fake cactus was the funniest thing ever and my mom is awesome for purchasing and gifting said plant. Plus, Jack is super cute.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Return of the Classes

So here's the deal: I've been out of commission (er, school) for a long time. And now I'm back!

In case you've been living under a rock: it snowed in Baltimore. The storm started Friday afternoon (about an hour or two after my mom and the Red Pearl dropped me off), and then it kept going and going until it finally stopped Saturday night, leaving the entire city to panic all of Sunday and Monday and Tuesday (translation: we got snow days), which means that my first day of second semester is two days late.

But before I talk about school, let's talk briefly about no school.

Firstly, the snowflakes looked absolutely gorgeous Friday evening, especially because the Christmas lights were still up on campus. I'd draw a picture but I'd ruin the effect.

Secondly, because I am sometimes a hermit, I actually did not set foot outside at all on Saturday. (Don't worry, I ate food. I brought back a lifetime supply (including real food, not just Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans) from home.) Some of my friends trudged to the dining hall for meals, but let's be real: It was snowing.

Okay, yes, I know, snow is awesome. I love snow. But it was also cold and windy.

And the snow kept stopping the door to the dorms from shutting all the way, so this intruder-alert alarm (which happens when the door is not shut) kept going off. Even in the middle of the night.

So there.

At any rate, my friends did manage to coax me outside on Sunday! We went sledding (I fell) and had a snowball fight (I fell some more). It was pretty fun.

Thirdly, my vacation (yes, I counted) was supposed to be a total of forty days... until this snowstorm kind of swept through, bumping my winter break to forty-two days!

(In case you don't get it, the number 42 is particularly exciting to me because it is the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything. My high school class was the 42nd graduating class. It's a sign.)

Fourth-ly (is that a word?), call me crazy, but by Sunday afternoon I was actually (by actually I mean almost literally) itching to start learning again. So it was very exciting when today rolled around, especially since those snow days dragged on forever.

Here is me taking notes because learning is fun!

The first day (that is, the second first day) of school went well. I didn't get lost (a perk of second semester) and, unlike yesterday and the day before, I did not have to trudge through mountains of snow (props to the people who shoveled).

Climb every mountain, ford every stream?

I also discovered that stairs must be a computer science thing. Because guess where my computer science class is this semester? Third floor, again. Thumbs down.

And I suppose that's all for this (kind of boring, sorry) update. Just thought I should say something before my (second) first day is officially over. The end?