27 December 2011

Onward

2011 is nearly over, and I'm reminded of a post I made back in June.  In it, I acknowledged that I had a rough start to the year while challenging myself to have a better second half.

As it stands, I was somewhat successful: I've made many positive changes since June.  For one, I have a job.  Being unemployed weighed very heavily on my mind all my last year of college and the first few months after.  So that's a big deal.  With my job came other unexpected perks-- I've always wanted to live somewhere warmer and near the water, which of course I now do.  (Note because I can't say it enough: when I left Biloxi it was in the 70s whereas it's currently snowing in Indiana.  Yeah.)  I'm getting good experiences both professionally and socially (and sometimes intellectually), so that's also good.  My biggest joy for the year was adopting Biloxi.  And she continues to bring me joy.  So yeah, definitely an improvement from where I was last June.

At the same time, I'd hoped I would do better in some areas.  For one, I'm still working on recovering from my illness last spring.  There was a part of me that thought I'd be better by now, but that was an ambitious goal.  I'm working on being ok with that.  I'm just tired of all this and the uncertainty it brings.  I'm ready to be healthy again.  I'm also disappointed in my current living situation.  I miss my apartment and living alone, even though I save tons of money and have a more active social life.  I generally think I can get along with anybody, but some of my roommates have been challenging that thought.  I've thought about moving back out, but if I'm patient my roommates will change in a month anyway as the old interns move on to new adventures.  So basically, I have to hold out just one more month.  I *can* do this.

What it comes down to is life is too long.  Point is, life is too long to spend it tolerating rudeness or cruelty or deceitfulness.  You end up spending years and years with people being rude, cruel, and deceitful towards you.  How can you enjoy life like that?

2011 still has one big show in store:  Ringfest!  Yep, it's actually happening this year.  This week, even.  Even though I have wonderful new friends in Mississippi, no one can top my childhood friends. I love them so much.  Seeing them all again might be enough to erase nearly every negative memory from 2011.

23 October 2011

Fall

It's autumn in Mississippi.  The weather is cool and sunny, some of the trees are changing color, and everyone is eagerly planning their Halloween costumes.

I'm moving into a new house next weekend; today I started taking some things over.  It should be a good move.  Lots of benefits.  For one, the yard is fenced-in, so Biloxi will have a place to play outside (at least as long as the chickens are in their coup).  It's closer to work, and I won't have to cross a bridge, so biking every day is much more feasible.  It's also on the peninsula, so I'll be within a 5-10 minute walk of both the sound and the back bay (currently I'm just close to the back bay).  I'm looking forward to taking morning rides/runs along the sound; it's really pretty and about the only place in Mississippi where the sidewalk is wide enough for a bicycle.  Of course, my cost of living will drop since I'll have roommates again.  Roommates are also nice just in terms of being social.  I happily have many friends in my current apartment complex, but I usually eat alone and I'm the only one available to let Biloxi out when she needs to go.  It'll be nice to have people around most of the time again.

So I'll be cleaning/packing/moving this week.  My parents are coming to visit this week, too, so that will be a nice change of pace.  Not the most exciting post, but it's what I have.  :P

18 September 2011

Humbled

I found out last week that there were over 100 applicants for the job I currently have.  I had no idea.  And I'm too dumbfounded to make any sense of the information.

I'd never imagined I could be competitive in the job market.  Ever.  I mean, I know I've had some opportunities that others haven't, but I don't necessarily connect those opportunities with being more competitive.  Especially in my current job.  I work with truly amazing people who inspire me; in no way am I on their level.  I kind of thought I was hired because I was easy and convenient.  It never crossed my mind that they might have actually wanted me.  I'm just a crazy kid barely keeping her shit together-- how did I end up being selected out of over 100 people for a job that tons of people in my profession wish they could have?

I partially know the answer: one of my friends told me some of the applicants were over qualified.  So that makes sense.  And others were perhaps under qualified or not a good fit.  *Maybe* that would narrow the applicant pool down to 50.  I also know one of my friends put in a good word for me when I applied.  I'm convinced that's what made the difference, though it's hard to believe I was chosen even with someone saying, "Hey, you should be sure to read my friend's application."  His words must be very powerful.  

And now I feel a bit of pressure, too.  I mean more pressure.  I want to do well.  I always have.  But now I also need to do well to prove I was a good choice out of those 50.  To uphold whatever kind things my friend said to convince my boss to read my resume.  To do justice to the other 49 or so people who really wanted to be here but aren't.

All of this makes me feel profoundly humbled.  This past year I've been learning some hard lessons about not getting what I want, so I was genuinely shocked when my friend told me I should apply for this internship, which seemed to be (and is) pretty much exactly what I wanted.  Nothing else had worked out, so why would this?  I was even more shocked when el Jefe offered me the job.  To think of the level of despair I was in before I knew about this job in comparison to now. . . . How could I have been chosen?

I've been going around so inwardly-focused and contrary I missed the opportunity to fully comprehend just how lucky I am to be here.  I remember something I posted a few years ago when I was in Egypt when I was kind of in an opposite state: I was completely happy and fully aware of my fortunes.  I'm so ashamed that here I am now, just as fortunate-- if not more fortunate-- and I haven't taken the time to fully appreciate my circumstances.  I've been taking everything for granted.  I'm ugly, spoiled.  How could so many truly wonderful people have gone out of their way to help me?  How can I ever repay you all?  I don't even know where to begin.

Maybe I should begin by asking your forgiveness.  You have all given me these opportunities, and I haven't been even remotely as appreciative as I ought to be.  I'm sorry.  Please forgive me.  I promise to try to do better in the future.  Because really, I am grateful to be here; and I'm constantly aware that I didn't get here alone.  You have made all the difference in the world to me, and I thank you for that.

05 September 2011

Images from the Coast

Some pictures to share from the Gulf Coast:

The path down the "canal" where I walk Biloxi
More of the same path
The "pond"-- it's even stocked with fish
My first loaves of bread in my new home
Dining room, pre-furniture
Living room
Kitchen
Fireplace and entry (left)
The bayou where I've been working on a restoration project
Bayou restoration

More bayou restoration
A bridge at a nearby arboretum
Bridge detail
After one of the heavy rains from Tropical Storm Lee
The water rose over the inlet pipe (it's usually about halfway up the pipe)
A family take a walk between downpours
Loxi liked watching the storm from the balcony

Here you can see how she has to sit funny because her body is long and her legs are short

31 August 2011

We're Not Doctors

People are funny creatures.  In some instances we're all too happy to pass responsibility to people we deem better able to manage our problems.  We readily take medicine doctors prescribe us, rarely understanding how or why the medicine works; we allow engineers to determine the specifics of our sewer pipes and electrical lines, again rarely understanding the work that goes into our infrastructure; and we rely on lawyers to prosecute and defend us to keep everyone accountable to the law.  We assign these people a certain power and are content to follow them (for the most part). 

We do this because we recognize that some people have the knowledge it takes to solve certain problems while others don't.  We value certain knowledge over others, and we evaluate who has that  knowledge based on accreditations, certifications, degrees, and job positions.  A doctor is only a doctor because he or she took many years to learn medicine and pass a slew of tests and training.  Same thing for an engineer or a lawyer.  Or an accountant.  Or any other profession that requires licensing. 

Any other profession, that is, except landscape architecture and perhaps architecture.  In the professional fields of design, people spend years on education, training, and licensing to learn the best ways to shape the physical environment.  Like medicine, design is complicated, intricate, and sometimes uncertain.  There are very technical aspects of design and some more subjective aspects.  It takes a certain skill to be able to successfully navigate the realm of design. 

And yet, few communities or developers rely on landscape architects in the way people tend to rely on doctors, engineers, or lawyers.  Even the best designers face community meetings stuffy with the residues of NIMBY attitudes.  Even that's an accomplishment: it's enough of a challenge to be invited to the meeting to begin with. 

So why is that?  Are people overly optimistic about their abilities to address the same community planning challenges as a skilled, trained, and licensed professional?  Is the profession overly simplified so that people have the perception that anyone can do it?  Should landscape architecture even be a profession, considering so little value is placed on the practice? 

Or maybe landscape architects should be more aggressive in the workplace?  Maybe landscape architects should push for more power in the design and construction world?  What if it were illegal to build a community without the assistance of a landscape architect?  What if it were illegal to perform any construction at all without a landscape architect's approval? 

It's not such a leap: medicine cannot be prescribed without a doctor's approval.  That's for everyone's safety.  I might argue the same could be said of landscape architecture.  Who else is in a better position to understand the full implications of construction and community development?  Who else is better qualified to weigh the economic, social, and environmental costs of building?  In the past we haven't had anyone monitoring human expansion, and look where that's gotten us? 

20 August 2011

Food!

Biloxi had a vet appointment today in Ocean Springs.  She's healthy and much loved by all who met her.  Since we were in the area, I decided to check out the Ocean Springs farmers' market-- many of my friends have been suggesting I go there.  Well, the trip was a HUGE success.

First, I finally found local, free-range meat!  There's a family farm about an hour inland that raises goats and sheep.  Looks like meat's back on the menu, boys!  The family also sells bones for dogs, goats milk products, and soaps.  It's the best thing in the world to say I wash my hands with soap that comes from the same animals I eat, get dairy product from, and feed my dog with.  It's even better when I add that the animals lived within a short drive of my house.  I can barely contain my glee.

I also found a local creamery.  I now have access to milk, cheeses, cream, sour cream, and cattle-based soap products.  The milk isn't homogenized, so I can even use it to make cheeses of my own!  Or I could make my own butter!  It would be amazing if they sold ice cream, too, but the gentleman I spoke with said they don't have a way to transport it yet.   Key word: yet

So basically, I'm living it up down here on the Coast.  My food is tasty, guilt-free, and better for the planet.  Come visit me and I'll treat you to the best local flavors the Gulf has to offer.  :)

11 August 2011

Today's Musings

My absolute favorite thing to do is to be in a room with people who think about the world differently than I do.  It affords me the occasion to evaluate what I think about various topics and exposes me to perspectives I haven't had the chance to entertain before.

For example, as part of my internship people from my studio gather once a week to discuss a reading or a presentation or some such thing.  Tonight we read about leadership.  The author makes a distinction between leadership with authority (such as that of the President Johnson) and leadership without authority (such as that of Martin Luther King, Jr.).  The author describes the importance and nuances of each type of leadership with examples from the Civil Rights movement.  Our group discussion about these readings has left some lingering thoughts, some of them more relevant than others.

I learned some things about the Civil Rights movement today.  Namely, the various layers of strategy employed by both Civil Rights activists and opponents impressed me.  I'd been unaware of many of the nuances of the movement.  For example, I was unaware that part of Dr. King's ideas of peaceful protest involved the hope that the opponents would react violently, thus giving his cause much-needed media attention.  Which brings me to my first musing: it bothers me that a type of protest that measures its success on whether or not the opponent reacts violently is called "peaceful."  Likewise, it bothers me that the intention of the Civil Rights marches were to provoke a violent response that would be captured on television.  I'm not saying all marches and sit-ins were like that, but the ones documented in our reading apparently fit that description.  So I voiced my surprise about the indirect use of violence to achieve a political end.  The group's response was that the indirect use of violence was different than the direct use of violence, and perhaps could even be considered "good."  There was little agreement with my observation that the indirect use of violence was shameful.  In my mind, there's an important difference between staging a protest with the intention of provoking a fight and staging one that intends to remain peaceful.  The author leaves little doubt about the intentions of the protestors in his example: after describing a horrific scene of police brutality and murder the author states, "At once.... King and the demonstrators had won" (Pg. 216). 

Now, there are many counter-arguments to my thoughts on this topic.  For example, one could point out that the demonstrators were attacking the violence more than anything.  It was as if they were saying to the rest of the world, "See?  This is what they do on national television--imagine what they do when the cameras aren't around.  You are witnessing what our people have been putting up with for more than a century.  Are you going to continue to allow this to happen in our country?"  In that sense, the demonstrators were less provoking their opponents than they were exposing their opponents (though the author uses the word "provoke").  And maybe that's why their "peaceful" protests were ultimately so successful.

Another point against my assessment could be that intentions don't amount to a hill of beans-- regardless of what the protestors wanted to occur, they did not initiate any violence nor respond to the violence with violence.  Their actions were peaceful, and ultimately actions are what define a person or movement.  We can only speculate on others'  intentions.

Which brings me to the bulk of my musings and a question I've puzzled over consciously since my freshman year at college:  Are actions more important than intentions?  "They" say the road to hell is paved with good intentions, which I suppose perpetuates the idea that intentions aside, your actions are what matters in the end.  And while I can absolutely see the merit with that thought, I also have trouble dismissing a person's intentions completely.  For example, suppose one woman accidentally gets pregnant and insists that the unwilling father help raise the child while another woman "accidentally" (read: "intentionally and against the man's desires") gets pregnant and insists that the unwilling father help raise the child.  While both situations are tragic in their own ways, certainly there's slightly less sympathy or acceptance for the second woman.  But again, how do you prove another person's intentions? 

As another and significantly less controversial example, I have some friends who were raised in deeply religious families.  Some of those friends have since decided to part with the church, much to their families' dismay.  In some instances, the families' actions are to proselytize all the more vigorously in hopes of "saving" their beloved family member from eternal damnation, often belittling or insulting the beloved family member in the process; however, their intentions are positive-- they want to share the security and joy they feel in their faith with someone they love.  Does that make up for the insults or belittling?  No.  But in my opinion it does help to take out the sting. 

Long story short, I haven't made much progress on answering my question.  There are numerous examples in my life where the only reason I've been able to forgive someone for something they did to me was because I could take comfort in "knowing" that person didn't intend to hurt me (again, can we ever really know?).  I'm sure I've hurt people in my life without intending to, and I hope they forgive me even though my actions did, in fact, hurt them.  After all, we all tend to be self-centered, and that makes it difficult for us to see how our actions affect people around us.  If I can ask for forgiveness on the basis of "I didn't mean to hurt you," then surely I can give forgiveness on similar grounds? 

Conversely, since it's difficult to assign legitimacy to what people "meant" to do, maybe it is wise to discount it.  Maybe it's better to examine only people's actions.  Someone close to me hurt me very deeply; he didn't mean to, but he did.  And because he did, I can be angry at him.  I don't have a reason to forgive him because he's no longer in my life, so why would I?  It takes much less effort to simply hold a grudge.

In some ways I can get behind that line of thinking, but personally, I doubt I'd ever forgive anyone because the act of forgiving would be so exhausting.  It's exhausting because I don't have the strength to "forgive and forget" without a reason.  I imagine I'm in good company on that point.  Most of us forgive because it's too inconvenient not to, not because of any virtue of our own-- if you fight with a sibling, it's typically (though not always) much easier to forgive her because you'll have to continue spending at least some time with her for the rest of your life.  And I'll bet none of us forgets an offense regardless of whether or not it's been forgiven (which then begs the question, did you really forgive?).

Some people have a talent for forgiveness, which I imagine takes great strength.  I also imagine people with that talent either see the world from a "well, she didn't mean to hurt me" perspective or else they think holding a grudge is too exhausting and have found a way to achieve forgiveness simply to relieve some of the burden of holding a grudge (as opposed to finding forgiveness too exhausting).  The first way of forgiving I find much easier; the second way I find nearly impossible, though I've read about people who seem to do it on a daily basis.  

Point being (as I ramble along), I haven't gotten anywhere on this question.  It seems my mind takes me in circles. 

07 August 2011

Miss Loxi Biloxi

I ADOPTED A PUPPY!!!! 

Really, I did.  And she's about as cute as a bow-legged little mutt can be.  And I mean that with all the love a new petowner can possibly have. I mean, just look at her:



She's just over 8 months old, so a lot of the destructive puppy phase is out of her, which suits me just fine.  She's been an angel.  I think I'm going to call her Miss Biloxi, or "Loxi" for short.  I'll be adding much more detail about our adventures together, so be looking forward to it!

30 July 2011

Payday!

I've finished two weeks a the GCCDS, which means I've received my first paycheck.  Go me!  I'm earning money now!  Too bad most of it's going to pay bills.....

The past two weeks have gone by quickly, but there have been a few distinct moments from Day One to Paycheck.  My first day was a rush:  I spent the morning with my new boss, let's call him "el Jefe," and various smaller groups of my co-workers talking about the various projects I'll be working on.  After that, el Jefe left on a two-week vacation, and I haven't seen him since that first day.  Kind of strange to start a job without a boss, but it's been nice in terms of getting used to the place without the added pressure of a direct supervisor. 

I spent that first afternoon working on a site plan for our Bayou Auguste project.  That's the project that's been taking up the majority of my time.  The first few days I was doing digital design work, so after a while the thought crossed my mind, "Wait a second, I'm doing exactly what I was doing in college, and I didn't really like doing it then.  Shit.  How did that happen?"  And to Ball State's credit, it really was just like college, or maybe college was just like work?  We work in a studio much like the ones at CAP, everyone works on their own projects, and we frequently assemble to discuss our progress.  It turns out my education did prepare me for the workplace.  Who knew?  Anyway, the more I thought about the similarities the more uncomfortable I got.  And then I had a wonderful realization:  No!  This is exactly different from college!  I'm getting paid to be here!  Not the other way around! 

After that my perception of working in the "real world" dramatically shifted.  And the next day so did the nature of my work.  It turns out I've spent around half of my working time outside or at least out of the office the past two weeks.  And I think that's how it's going to be. 

Remember the bayou project I mentioned?  Well, we don't have a contractor building the structures, which means I get to be onsite doing construction.  I'm thrilled.  I've been building gabions, hauling crushed concrete, and digging trenches for a wall structure we're putting in.  For the most part it's been me and two others doing the work, though this past week we had several volunteers come to help.  I couldn't be happier with this aspect of my job.  Seriously, it's great.

And I have to mention another great aspect of my job: the registered landscape architect, who will be called Ustaadh.  Ustaadh is a great teacher-- he's brought me to all of his project sites and he's started teaching me Mississippi's plant palette.  He even requested a detour on the way back from a meeting in New Orleans to take the interns and me to an arboretum.  When he introduces me to clients or partners, he refers to me as the studio's new landscape architect, which is technically not true.  You see, until I'm licensed I can't legally call myself a landscape architect; however, it can be a bit tricky to eloquently explain to people what it is that I do without using the words "landscape architect," though I do my best.  Some RLAs get really protective of their title, and while I can't blame them, I really appreciate that Ustaadh isn't like that.  It makes being around him and learning from him very relaxing. 

29 June 2011

First Day in Biloxi

Today was my first day in Biloxi.  To be honest, it got off to a horrible start.  I was incredibly nervous about meeting my new co-workers.  I woke up anxious and none of my clothes seemed to be appropriate for the daunting task of the day.  I made it to the studio though, and while I met the people I'll be working with (and learned there was nothing to be nervous about), my mom explored the coast and took these photos:




















I stayed at the studio most of the day.  My new boss took me to some of the sites the studio is working on, and the RLA took me to a small community meeting for a historic preservation project.  Everyone else was super friendly and included me in all their activities-- we went to lunch together, chatted together, and I even attended the weekly staff meeting with everyone else.  An overwhelming day?  Yes.  But a successful one nonetheless.

My mom picked me up for a late afternoon apartment search.  We made it to two apartments before they closed, then we decided to get dinner.  We ended up at a nice restaurant a gentleman from the visitor's center recommended, and it was GREAT!  Our waitress was really nice and gave us great recommendations.  Plus, she took time to teach us how to eat crab claws.  How fun is that?  I ended up getting local shrimp over grilled flounder.  Delicious!

video

06 June 2011

Huh

I was just looking through my blog, and while 2009 generally kicked butt, 2010 wasn't my favorite on record.  2011 got off to a shaky start, and it could continue to be stressful, but I wonder what I'll say about it after it's gone?  There are definitely elements I'm hoping to forget, but some really incredible things happened, too.  Which will stand out more vividly to me?  Luckily, I'm not the kind of person who dwells on unpleasant memories, so I imagine I'll retain only the positive.  Heck, even though 2010 wasn't what I'd hoped for, I still have mostly good memories.  My brain even turned some less happy memories into happy ones.  And 2011 is just halfway through.  I still have six months to rock my world for this year.  Maybe I'll have a gathering of friends and loved ones to have a half-year celebration to wash off the ugly karma from New Year's and the ensuing months.  I'll set myself up with good karma and love all around me as I head off on my next adventure.  It's a tempting thought.  I do love gatherings.  Not to mention, my best friends and I missed our annual Lord of the Rings Fest last winter.  Maybe that's why I've felt a bit off?  I'll give it some thought beyond my musings here.

05 June 2011

M-I-SS-I-SS-I-PP-I

Well, things are moving along.  I accepted the internship in Mississippi, and to be quite honest, I'm pretty excited.

I'll be working for the Gulf Coast Community Design Studio. It's a fairly good gig.  The studio is connected to Mississippi State University, and the internship includes a study component.  In addition to working at the studio, I'll be earning a Certificate in Public Design from MSU.  I'm not completely positive, but there could be a chance to apply some of the graduate credits I'll earn during this internship to my graduate degree I'll eventually earn in the next few years (depending on where I decide to do that).

So, I'm off to Biloxi, MS.  I've been looking online for a place to live, some climbing walls to frequent, and some parks to play in.  I'm very seriously considering getting a puppy, but that will depend on if I have roommates, if I can have a dog in my future residence, and if I'll have the flexibility in time to care for the puppy properly.  One of my goals is to become a "regular" somewhere.  We'll see how that goes.  I also want to find a nearby farmer's market where I can get good food-- I've heard the Gulf Coast has some delicious cuisines, and I hope to master as many as I can.

I think I'm going to like the Gulf.  It almost feels like I'm going back to my roots-- my family hailed from parts of Arkansas, and while I recognize that's a long way from Biloxi, it still seems that Mississippi and Arkansas have more in common than Arkansas and Indiana.

.... and two hours later I've started a family tree to try to find out where my great-grandmother grew up, gotten frustrated, and deleted said family tree.  Apparently I'm easily distracted today.

Anyway, I have this romantic ideal of the Southern US, one where good manors abound, food is flavorful, and people are friendly.  I imagine an easy-going, steady rhythm to life along the Gulf Coast.  It will be fun to see how wrong (or right?) I am.

29 May 2011

When it Rains, It Pours

This will be a big week.

First, I will finally be finished with all of my undergraduate coursework.  Since I missed the last month of school for medical reasons, I've been working to wrap up my classes before the grace period ends.  My thesis presentation is scheduled, and assuming I can get in touch with someone in the Communications Department on Tuesday, I'll be set to finish by the end of the week.  If things work out, I'll still have a May graduation date, and I'll be able to pretend my last month of school never happened. 

But finishing school, while stressful, isn't entirely enough to make this week a "big week."  Instead, I'll have to make some decisions about what kind of position I'll accept for the summer.  I'm already gardening and landscaping part time (and not much recently since I've been working on school), but I've learned I could start an AmeriCorps job as early as next week.  Likewise, I've been applying for jobs as far apart as Mississippi, San Francisco, and Seattle, and I expect to hear back from at least one of those opportunities this week as well.  What will I do?  What's most important to me?  Location?  Money?  Serving?  I don't have enough information right now about any of it, so I'm presently stumped.

It's also a big week because the lease on my darling Muncie house ends on Tuesday.  I still have some things-- ok, a LOT of things-- in the house that I need to move out today and tomorrow.  Moving out is bittersweet.  I already miss my house, but now that I might be accepting a job soon, I feel like it's appropriate to move on.

Wish me luck!  I'll see you on the other side.

23 May 2011

I Wonder if I can be Settled on the West Coast by Thanksgiving?

I just sent out another application, this time for a position in San Francisco.  I'm moving towards just going to the West Coast, with or without a job.  My preference is definitely for Seattle, but I'm thinking if this job falls through I'll start seriously considering Australia.  If only I had money.... 

Looking for jobs tires me.  I spend so much work creating the "perfect" resumé, portfolio, cover letter, and the rest of it.... and for what?  It's so hard to believe anyone actually sifts through my application, let alone the hundreds of other applications.  Maybe this time will be different.  Maybe something amazing will happen, and they'll call me for an interview.  Maybe someone will offer me a job doing something I can feel passionate about.  Maybe.

In the meantime, I'll enjoy summer.  It could be my final "free" summer (granted, I haven't had a truly free summer since 1998, but heck, why not dream big?).  I'm so tired.  I don't think I slept well last night.  I'm kind of hoping for a storm to come in this evening.  No real reason, I just like storms.  Maybe I'll work on my new website later?  We'll see....

18 May 2011

Omg, Seriously Adobe?

I just learned that if I'd bought my Adobe CS5 a mere six weeks later I could have been eligible for a free upgrade to Adobe CS5.5.  I'm more than a little ticked.  I put a LOT of money into getting that program, and that was at the student discounted rate!  I might be further irritated about all this because I just made an impulsive move that goes against years of personal technology theory: I just bought a Mac.  I'm fairly confident that my current (and now outdated) version of Adobe Creative Suite won't work on the Mac.  Honestly, if I can't figure out a way to put my software on the Mac, I'll have to take the computer back.  Which kind of ticks me off.  I guess on the plus side, if I do end up taking the machine back because of compatibility issues, I can be even more justified in my Mac loathing.  You know?  I'll be able to tell smug Mac owners, "Hey, I gave it a chance, and it failed." 

16 May 2011

Ok, World, It's On.

Ok, it's time.  Finally.  I'm going to take on the world.  I'm officially saying "Screw you!" to everything that has ever made me suspect I can't have my dream job, or my dream life for that matter.  Let's take a quick inventory of what I have going for me right now:
  1. I'm young.  At ripe young age of 23, the world is my oyster.  I have plenty of potential to learn, grow, and mold myself into whatever I want.
  2. I'm fairly intelligent and resourceful.  If I can learn to speak a new language in 2 months on three different occasions, I can do anything.
  3. For all practical purposes, I have my first degree.  Sure, I don't have it in hand yet, but once they mail that SOB, I have proof that I can do something most other people can't.
  4. I have some really suburb friends.  No, really.  If all else fails, I can rely on them to stand by my side and encourage me.
  5. I'm not pregnant, married, divorced, or afflicted with any other form of permanent attachment.  I currently stand mostly alone, and I have the freedom to do and go where I please.  
Sure, I have plenty working against me, too.  For example, the economy sucks, I don't actually have a clear vision of what I want for myself, and I'm dirt poor to boot, but hey! who really cares at this point?  I have a place to live, a modest income, and plenty of gumption to throw myself at anything I find interesting.  I also have the luxury of changing my mind about anything.  That's right: today I might like the idea of becoming a fabulously wealthy  accountant, but I give myself permission to change my mind whenever I want. Actually, I already have.  Because I can. 

So once again, I recite "Screw you!" to anything that tries to discourage me or get in my way.  Screw you.

13 May 2011

Now, Not Then

Now that I've moved my blog to Blogger and it's no longer connected to the Ball State website, I imagine few, if any, people will read my blog posts.  On the plus side, now that my blog isn't connected to the Ball State website, I can post about anything I want and worry less about promoting Ball State.  That's not to say I fabricated any positive feelings in my previous posts, but I tried to play down the negative stories in my life.  Maybe I'll continue to do that, and maybe I won't.  I have more freedom in the blogoshpere now, and I suppose with that comes more responsibility.

I imagine most of my posts in the near future will be about trip planning and making/saving money.  I might also talk about searching for a job-- possibly in Australia?  I'm thinking about moving abroad... permanently.  We'll see though.  I have a lot to work through before I'll be able to make those decisions.  At any rate, I am definitely working with my friend, "Nadia Lieben," to save the money for the trip of a lifetime.

03 May 2011

Game. Over.

This looks like it'll be my last post as a (current) Ball State student.  Five years and four continents later and I'm finally finishing up!  I've already posted my graduating senior musings, so instead I'll just give a more normal post and tell you what life looks like as a college student while I still am one.

I've had a bizarre final month.  For one thing, I left Muncie about a month ago to mange some personal things at home (hence few posts recently).  Some of my friends reminded me how lucky I am that I'm still in college for that-- my professors are being very understanding and are working with me to make sure I finish everything up.  I'm not sure the "real world" would be so understanding and accommodating.

I officially have my first degree-related job: I'll be working as a gardener for the summer.  I'm beyond excited for this position-- I actually get to spend my summer outside! I couldn't be more thankful for the chance to delay working in an office in front of a computer.  Plus, I'll get to spend large chunks of time doing one of my favorite things: pulling weeds!  I also learned today that I'm still a candidate for an AmeriCorps position that would start in early September.  If that works out I'll be building houses for the next year, again delaying the office life.  If I'm super savvy, maybe I can avoid office life altogether?  Wish me luck on that endeavor.

Along with the end of college comes moving out of my house.  I'm going to cry.  I love my house in Muncie and the people who live there with me.  I thankfully have until the end of May to pack and move, but still.  In so many ways I wish I could just freeze everyone in a perpetual state of young twenties living in a college house.  I'm going to miss them tremendously.  But, alas, I guess we all have to grow up and contribute to society sometime.  It just sucks that the time has come.

The campus is beautiful, the air is slowly warming up, and soon I'll be gardening.  Overall not a bad time.  It would be nice if there were more job opportunities (as far as I know most of my peers have no jobs lined up), but then again a high school friend and I came to an important, life-changing realization last weekend: no jobs, no commitment, and no family means we can literally do whatever we want.  In our case that means we're going to save money over the next year or so, then take off on a worldwide adventure that will last as long as we have cash.  We've been doing all kinds of research on this.  If we can find some jobs along the way (which we totally can!), we're thinking we'll be gone at least a year.  I'm hoping longer.  We want to hit all the continents and as many countries as we can.  Biking and CouchSurfing will save us tons of money, which we can then spend on delectable food and extreme experiences (my friend is SCUBA certified, so that's definitely going to happen).  The beautiful part is that since we have no commitments and nothing in particular to come back to, we can take our time and mosey around at our leisure.

So, that's how I'm finishing college, wrapping up one adventure and preparing for the next.  Life is as it should be.

08 April 2011

Songs of Experience

My freshman year I was part of a special integrated class.  We met for six hours a week, read on average a novel and a half a week, and spent hours discussing what we read and relating it to our lives.  It was by far my favorite class I've taken at Ball State.  Without question, I learned more from those readings and discussions than I've learned in all of my other classes combined.

I was remembering today that we read Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience by William Blake, who apparently looked like this:

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="225" caption="William Blake"]William Blake[/caption]

Poor guy.

Looks aside, he was evidently a pretty good poet.  I don't remember what all he talked about in his poems, but the titles have always stuck with me.  Looking back now, five years later, I can see freshman me singing my own Songs of Innocence (though I would have scoffed at you if you'd told me so).  I came to college from a small town, like most students here.  I had my troubles and triumphs growing up, but not a lot of exposure to the outside world.  I had ideals and grand visions for myself.  I very likely thought I knew just about everything.  I still thought the world was fair, that hard work and wishing would get me whatever I wanted, and that people generally have good intentions.

A lot happens in college beyond academics.  I've watched friends fall in love and get married.  Some are divorced, some have children, some are still building their lives.  I've fallen in love, had my heart broken, made lifelong friends, traveled the world, had my beliefs shaken, reinvented myself, grown, matured, lived, learned. . . .  And I wouldn't change a thing.

I came to college thinking I should feel like a grown up, but I didn't.  Now I'm supposed to be a grown up, but I know I'm not.  At the same time, I can feel a shift towards my own Songs of Experience.  I'm not a total pessimist: I still think the world should be fair, hard work and wishing will get me most things I want, and it turns out that people really do generally have good intentions.  I still have my Songs of Innocence that I cling to, but my Songs of Experience have much deeper meaning and have shaped who I am today.

I know many of you are trying to choose a university to go to.  Some of you already have.  Let me tell you that in most ways, the university you choose won't matter in the end.  What will matter are the people you're going to befriend and love, the adventures you allow yourself to have.  The sooner you learn that academics are secondary, the sooner you'll get to the real learning.

25 March 2011

Flowers and General Misery

I have good news: Daffodils are abloom all over campus.  And they're pretty.  Maybe even cheerful.

In the meantime, school grinds on.  I'm having a horrible time concentrating.  This week was positively grueling, albeit for otherwise good reasons.  I had three job interviews this week, plus I gave a presentation at the CAP Faulty and Student Symposium.  I had a test this week, and I'm in general preparing to submit my thesis for consideration for various awards.  Of course, that's contingent on me actually finishing my thesis, which is becoming a concern because I'm having a horrible time concentrating.  I am encouraged though.  My professors are really supportive, and really when it comes down to it, if I work diligently for the next week and a half or so I'll be set to finish the semester strongly.

I guess in that vein, I have more good news: I still really like my project, and when I can summon the energy to focus, it's really easy to write or design for my thesis.  And my other classes seem to be going smoothly.  Well, the key word is "seem."  I haven't seen grades for any of them, so technically, I have no idea how I'm doing in any of them.  It's a little frustrating that Ball State provides professors with the means to communicate with us about grades, assignments, and other course-related materials instantaneously via Blackboard, but few professors actually use the system to its full potential or even use it at all.  I've heard some complain that it's too complicated, but I've also been in classes where professors have really maximized the potential of the Blackboard website.  My guess is it's "complicated" because it's different, and if a professor actually sat down to learn the program he or she could do it.  I wish more would take that initiative.  Better yet, I wish it were required for professors to use Blackboard to communicate grades, share course documents, and submit assignments.  It would really simplify things, at least for students.

I think I'm getting a little complain-y, so I'll cut myself off here.  Honestly, I'll paint a bleak picture, but things aren't that bad.  Spring is coming, and there are many festivities in the making that will help the last few weeks go quickly.

17 March 2011

Ball State has Money for You

This is really neat.  I just read this article about Ball State's new scholarship opportunities that have resulted from the Bold Campaign.  Seriously, scholarships are the way to go if you can get them.  Especially for your undergraduate degree.  I have no idea what scholarship opportunities look like at other universities, but it seems that Ball State has many more opportunities than other nearby schools.  For example, all Honors College students get the Presidential Scholarship, which awards the student the equivalent of half of tuition for four years.  We also have these other in-house scholarship opportunities.  Not to mention the national and international scholarship opportunities that my office promotes.  Point being, Ball State is a good deal to begin with, but it's made even better because of the many opportunities to earn scholarship money.  Yay for the Bold Campaign!  And thanks to our many donors!  We appreciate you!

16 March 2011

Spring is in the Air

Today was lovely.  Or so I heard.  I was working on the computer for most of it.  But I had enjoyable bike rides to and from school.  I also noticed the flowers are beginning to peep through the soil all over campus.  Ball State is beautiful in the spring.  I can't wait to see everything in full bloom.   If predictions are accurate, I'll even be able to open my windows and enjoy the fresh air by the end of the week.  Won't that be charming?

Warm weather and sunshine definitely help take the sting off of still being in school.  Nearly everyone I know is ready to be finished.  It's been five years for most of my friends.  We're all looking for jobs or trying to get into grad school.  It would be nice if graduation were somehow staggered so that the job market isn't flooded every May.  I guess that's the nature of the beast though.  I'm feeling pretty good-- I have plans to visit some firms next week.  With the economy how it is, I'm not terribly confident that I'll find my dream job; nonetheless, I'm still focusing only on firms that could offer me my dream job or at least bring me a step closer to it.  I suppose if I'm still unemployed in October I'll broaden my search to include more variety.  We'll see though.

Anyway, I'm not really sure what this post was supposed to be about.  I guess I'm writing because I expect to be swamped the rest of the week.  The good news is that my classes are all coming together.  The bad news is I have significantly less time for the things I enjoy, especially climbing and biking.  Maybe if I tough it out and get ahead (dare I dream?) I'll be able to make some time for fun next week.

08 March 2011

School comes in Waves

Seriously, school comes in waves.  I just passed through the midterm wave, though the dregs of that will wrap up next week with a speech for COMM 210 and an engineering midterm about materials in the built environment.  Importantly though, I finished my thesis midterm presentation strongly.  As promised, I'm posting my presentation, though it makes a LOT more sense if you can hear me present it.  :)  Nonetheless, you'll be able to see some of my drawings and some of my research.

17 February 2011

Struggling, but the Weather Keeps Me Positive

Well, for all the hard work TechTime and I put into saving my computer's life, it seems that the problem is the motherboard.  The tech people tell me a new motherboard is about the same cost as a whole new computer.  So. . .  yeah.  For all my optimism, ultimately my computer is dead.  I'll be spending lots of time in the Ball State library until May.  R.I.P. dear computer.

Likewise, my thesis is getting me down.  I can see it's coming together, but I've been asked to do it differently than I would typically do it.  I guess I'm learning a new way to approach a design problem, but in the meantime I'm feeling the stress.  I have a midterm presentation in a little over a week.  I'll post it on my blog when it's ready so you can see a bit of what an LA thesis looks like.  Hopefully it makes sense to more people than just me.

In better news, the weather has been lovely the past few days, and it's a welcomed change.  I've noticed that I emotionally respond to the weather more and more as I get older.  So for example, on a day when I'm feeling really stressed about my school work, I can take a walk and refocus with fresh air in my nose and birdsong in my ear.  Soon I'll be riding my bike to school again, which will be *amazing*.  Before I know it, I'll be playing frisbee near the Duck Pond without a care in the world because I'll have finished my projects and my degree!

Still Struggling, but the Weather Keeps Me Positive

Well, for all the hard work TechTime and I put into saving my computer's life, it seems that the problem is the motherboard.  The tech people tell me a new motherboard is about the same cost as a whole new computer.  So. . .  yeah.  For all my optimism, ultimately my computer is dead.  I'll be spending lots of time in the Ball State library until May.  R.I.P. dear computer.

Likewise, my thesis is getting me down.  I can see it's coming together, but I've been asked to do it differently than I would typically do it.  I guess I'm learning a new way to approach a design problem, but in the meantime I'm feeling the stress.  I have a midterm presentation in a little over a week.  I'll post it on my blog when it's ready so you can see a bit of what an LA thesis looks like.  Hopefully it makes sense to more people than just me.

In better news, the weather has been lovely the past few days, and it's a welcomed change.  I've noticed that I emotionally respond to the weather more and more as I get older.  So for example, on a day when I'm feeling really stressed about

10 February 2011

The Perks of Being a Ball State Student

Wow, I have a lot to cover this week:  TechTime, Student Voluntary Services, the Career Center, and a thesis update.  When it rains, it pours!  Oh yeah, and I have some photos.  Whew!

So first, glory of glories!  My computer has been fixed!  It's been acting up (read: blue screening every few hours) since December.  The grand finale occurred last Sunday when it refused to turn on, instead favoring a black screen with the words "Operating System Not Found."  That's a BAD thing! The good news is that Ball State offers FREE computer repair services to its students.  So Wednesday I took my misbehaving computer to TechTime.  Two hours later my computer had a new operating system installed and was completely repaired!  On top of that, because I'm a student, I was able to buy the new OS at a discounted rate-- only $27.  Go me!  And a HUGE thanks to TechTime staff!  You guys are amazing!

While I wasn't battling the technology gods this week, I was searching for a job and trying to figure out my thesis.  I decided to look at the Career Center for job opportunities since the market for aspiring landscape architects is rather bleak at the moment.  I've used the resources at the Career Center before to practice interviewing, to learn "proper" etiquette at formal meals,  for my campus jobs, and I've attended a few career fairs.  I've just learned about another of their services: Cardinal Career Link.  This system allows me to upload my resume and CV to make it available to prospective employers.  It also contains a database of jobs, employers, and other career-related opportunities that I can search for new prospects for after graduation.  Perhaps the best part: Career Center staff review any documents I upload and offer feedback on how to improve.  I'm hoping this will be a valuable tool as I move forward in my job search.

As far as my thesis. . .  There were a few hang-ups last week.  They mostly involved miscommunication between my professors and me about certain elements of my project and a misunderstanding of the schedule I should be following.  Thankfully, we were all able to meet on Tuesday to figure things out.  I'm now spending nearly all my free time working to make up missed time.  Which has been a little stressful.

I'm the kind of person who uses volunteering as a stress-management technique, so I've started volunteering with Motivate Our Minds (MOMS).  I volunteer as a tutor for students in grades 5-8.  So far it's been challenging and fun-- exactly the kind of distraction I need during the week.  It's nice to get off campus, interact with people not affiliated with the university, and (hopefully) make a positive difference in the community that's been hosting me the past five years.  As a shameless plug:  MOMS needs more volunteers!!!  Contact SVS if you're interested.

Another distraction that started this week are dance classes.  I'm not a dancer.  At all.  BUT Ball State's Recreation Center offers instructional courses for a small fee.  My friend and I signed up for two of the classes, so hopefully by the end of the semester I'll be able to hold my own on the dance floor.  I've also bought a fitness pass, which gives me access to any of Ball State's fitness classes.  I'm particularly fond of zumba.  And of course, I'm still having a BLAST on the climbing wall.

And finally, here are some images from around campus:

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="336" caption="My friend scraping ice."]Ryan Scraping Ice[/caption]

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="336" caption="The ice was REALLY thick! "]The Ice was REALLY Thick!  [/caption]

Most people reading this will probably remember the ice/snow storm that covered the country last week.  Those photos were taken a few days later.  Many cars were literally frozen to the ground.  The campus staff are STILL working to clear all the sidewalks.  It's slowly getting better though.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="336" caption="First year projects brighten up the architecture building."]First year projects brighten up the architecture building.[/caption]

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="336" caption="More first year projects."]More first year projects.[/caption]

These projects are from the CAP First Year program.  They've been popping up all over the building.  Quite frankly, I think they're lovely!

03 February 2011

Cool Academic Opportunity

As promised, here's the explanation of why I was a week late to school:  I attended a two week academic seminar in Washington, DC, called Camp David III: Negotiating the Path to Israeli-Palestinian Peace. The program is coordinated by the Washington Center, which is an intern/educational organization separate from Ball State.

Overall, the program was super neat.  We spent the first week and a half covering the history of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and the last three days in a peace negotiation simulation.  For the simulation each of us represented a real person involved in the conflict.  I was Tzipi Livni, who is an Israeli political leader.  While the lectures and simulation were interesting, the real value in going to this conference, at least to me, was in hearing our guest lecturers.  We went to several embassies in DC including the Israeli, Egyptian, and French embassies, and we went to the home of the Ambassador from Syria.  We had speakers from the Israeli far left and far right, and speakers representing the Palestinian interests, even a speaker who studies Hamas.  As far as equal representation goes, this program offers a remarkably balanced perspective of the conflict.

All in all, it was a great start to my last semester.  The topic ties into my thesis, I met a bunch of really neat people, and I was able to get some travel time into my last year of college.  Good times.

Fun Academic Opportunities

As promised, here's the explanation of why I was a week late to school:  I attended a two week academic seminar in Washington, DC, called Camp David III: Negotiating the Path to Israeli-Palestinian Peace. The program is coordinated by the Washington Center, which is an intern/educational organization separate from Ball State.

Overall, the program was super neat.  We spent the first week and a half covering the history of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and the last three days in a peace negotiation simulation.  For the simulation each of us represented a real person involved in the conflict.  I was Tzipi Livni, who is an Israeli political leader.  While the lectures and simulation were interesting, the real value in going to this conference, at least to me, were

27 January 2011

Ugh. . . Computer Problems. . .

I know I promised an explanation about missing the first week of school, but my computer is completely freaking out.  I'll have to update you when I'm on campus with a reliable computer.  In the meantime, if anyone knows of good hard drive deals for HP laptops. . .  let me know.  : P

20 January 2011

The Beginnings of My Final Semester. . .

This is the first of many posts from my final semester!!!! I missed the first week of classes (I'll explain why in my next post), so this week was my first week of this semester.  Here are some of my initial thoughts:

1.  I have senioritis SOOOOO bad. Remember, I'm in a five year program, so I've been a senior for two years! It's just about killing me at this point.  I'm ready to see what's next.

2.  My schedule pretty much rocks.  I'm taking only 15 credit hours (I've always taken 17-18 in the past), so I have more free time than normal.  Tuesdays in particular are exciting:  I have only one class from 9:30-12:15, then I'm FREE!  I'm hoping to use my extra time to volunteer more this semester.  More on Student Voluntary Services later.

3.  Planning for my future is a little nerve-wracking.  Any seniors in high school out there can relate, I'm sure.  Fortunately, we live in a day and age where we can pretty much do whatever we want.  Unfortunately, that means we have significantly more options to sift through when making decisions.  Currently I'm wrestling with the seemingly huge dilemma of what to do next year:  grad school? travel? work?   Yeah. . .  I have no idea.

4.  Spring semesters are so much better than fall semesters.  I *love* spring semesters.  Granted, they start off snowy and icy and really cold, BUT it goes only uphill from there!  Days are getting longer, soon it will get warmer, and before you know it, you're playing Frisbee outside without a care in the world!  For some reason it's much, MUCH easier for me to be motivated and focused in the spring as opposed to the fall semester.

5.  Building off of my love for spring semester, I also love spring break.  Sure, we don't get any breaks between Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the second week of March, but it's so worth it! We get a whole week off of school!  In the fall we get only a day or two here and there, and most of those coincide with holidays, so your "free" time is usually pre-planned with lots of family stuff.  Spring break is the real student vacation time.  There are so many more opportunities for your break when you have an entire week without classes or obligations.  For example, this year I'm hoping to travel to Jordan.  Yeah, try doing that over a three day weekend.  That's right.  You can't.

6.  Working on a thesis makes my education seem worthwhile.  I'm finally learning exactly what I want to be learning.  It's so liberating to plan, direct, and complete your own project.  The cherries on top are the people I get to work with.  I have a thesis adviser and three studio professors.  My adviser is the chair of my department, and I respect her immensely.  Every time we talk I leave the conversation completely inspired and elated about whatever we'd been talking about. My professors are equally inspiring.  I've had two of them before, and I've loved the classes I've had with them.  I've been good friends with one of them ever since I went to Mexico-- we've worked on several of the same international projects, and he's helped me a lot with my global networking efforts.  The final professor is new from Istanbul.  I've spoken with her only once so far, but she's very impressive.  She's also offering a valuable perspective on my thesis, which is titled "Rebuilding After Conflict:  An Examination of Refugee Camp Design in Jordan."

Those are my initial thoughts.  I'll be sure to keep everyone updated on what my tenth semester looks like!!  Happy New Year everyone!

07 January 2011

Holiday Cheer

Happy New Year!!!!!!

I don't know about you, but this has been by far one of the best holiday breaks of my life.  Let me tell you why.  : )

The end of my semester was predictably hectic.  I had many, many pages to write for all of my classes