pumpkins, mist, and magic

Hello-Hello and Happy Halloween! For my first post I’ll give you a taste of what’s been going on at campus this fall:


Apparently our school is home to some master pumpkin carvers. Here are some of my favorites:



Puget Pumpkin ’88 (go loggers!)

puget pumpkin

and my personal favorite:

(*(Planet Pumpkin)*)—

(*(Planet Pumpkin)*)



It’s become a UPS tradition for the “Wizard” (famed Chemistry professor) to put on a chemistry magic show every year before Halloween. This year’s show, sadly, was his last as he is retiring next year and consequently the turn-out was ENORMOUS. I arrived 30 minutes before the show thinking I’d be one of the first in line but found myself walking to the back of a line that began at the door to Schneebeck concert hall, filled the courtyard, and snaked all the way around the science building. Somehow, miraculously, I just escaped the cut-off point (an usher clicked her tally counter after I walked in, shouted “460, that’s it!”, and shut the door behind me. I thank my lucky stars I got in. Here is a portion of the line in the courtyard:

neverending line for 2013 chemistry magic show

I have several video clips from the show I wanted post here, but this site keeps playing tricks on me. If you are interested in chemistry/witchcraft check out past shows on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL14C9CAADF8F4430A  Never before have I seen been in a room so bubbling over with nerdy science enthusiasm!



October in Tacoma means the air getting chilly and the gray setting in. At times it’s a little depressing (an entire week went by that I did not see the sun!) But truly- is there anything more beautiful than this morning mist?

morning mist- tower morning mist- trackmorning mist- fall


That’s all, folks.  Keep reading! or, as the Wicked Witch of the West would say,

Going so soon? I wouldn’t hear of it. Why my little party’s just beginning.

Happy Halloween, my pretties!!!

And the winner for best teacher goes to…

A few weekends ago Clearcut, the women’s ultimate frisbee team, had our first tournament.  I had mixed feelings going into it: at most of the previous practices I had been devoting most of my energy to catching our newer players up to speed, and had been neglecting my own improvement.  My monologue went something like this:

So here’s this pie plate, okay?  Well, it’s a plastic disc that has evolved from a pie plate.  And you can throw it by spinning it with your wrist, not your arm, holding it level like you’re spinning it off a table.  When you’re not holding it, just keep running up and down the field like mad, stopping only briefly as you plant your foot to turn around and cut in exactly the same direction as you came from.  Also, there are picks to think about, and tapping the disc on end zone line, and soft cap and hard cap and universe point and… and… have I shown you how to force forehand yet?

Most first year ultimate players join the sport with minimal background knowledge, not really aware of what the rules are, or how to throw properly, or what the basic strategy of the game is.  I’ve been trying to impart some of my great wisdom to these players, and I’ve realized that there is a heck of a lot for them to learn. It was difficult to imagine how it will all come together under the pressure of facing an opposing team for the first time.  Well, our first tournament (Beaver Brawl in Corvallis) was a testament to the power of learning from doing, and over the course of three games and a scrimmage I saw our rookie players improve by leaps and bounds.  Running around looking confused evolved into…Catching the disc!  Getting D’s!  Making assists!  Scoring points!  By the end of the tournament they were all presences on the field and threats to the other team.  We managed to field two teams, and our combined score at the end was 3 wins, 3 losses.

Despite my efforts to be a teacher, I’m no match for the learning curve of competitive play.

“Hi, my name’s Leah Shamlian and I haven’t showered in three days, do you mind if I ask you a few questions about your eating habits?”

Grace Bay is the center of tourism on Providenciales, which is in turn the center of tourism in the TCI.  Conveniently accessible by beach!

Grace Bay is the center of tourism on Providenciales, which is in turn the center of tourism in the TCI. Conveniently accessible by beach!  Photo courtesy of Patsy and Larry Stout.

Unfortunately for the olfaction of the swanky tourists on Providenciales, the SFS students administered seafood consumption surveys immediately after a three-day camping trip.  There is nothing like talking to a well-dressed and well-groomed couple to remind you that your clothes were washed in saltwater and your hair was last cut by a woman speaking an unidentifiable language wielding a thinning comb.  (At least we got showers and a night in a hotel before touring a $3.6 million penthouse.)  Surprisingly, the swanky tourists did not appear offended by our presence, and actually asked us quite a lot of questions about what exactly we’re doing here, attending school on a Caribbean island.

People on South don’t need to ask who you are – besides the fact that the island only has around 1,200 inhabitants so there aren’t too many  unfamiliar faces, it’s a pretty easy assumption that if you’re white and/or around 20 years old, you must be here doing research with the School for Field Studies.  It requires a bit more explanation for people on the other islands of TCI.  Tell tourists you’re studying abroad on South Caicos and they laugh at you for having such a lavish life.  Tell locals you’re studying abroad on South Caicos and they ask you why on earth you would choose to do that.  (Turns out that South is like the West Virginia of the TCI.)

The swanky tourists have only taken over a part of Providenciales, though.  I ventured outside of their sanitized area and spent my mid-semester break with an American couple who had moved to Provo two years ago.  I’ve never been thanked so profusely for an hour of sightreading on a semi-broken keyboard as I was after I played the piano for our church service.  And you know what?  Even though I wasn’t in the scrubbed and polished tourist zone, I had a fantastic time and I was able to meet some locals and help them out.  Despite my lack of sundresses, stylish floppy hats, and normal hygiene standards.  Take that, materialism.

Daniel Wolfert Snapshot #1: Midterm Madness

In which Daniel Wolfert is introduced to the reader, uses some choice vulgarity, and comes to a pleasing revelation about the university he attends.

Once upon a time, in a university that you or someone you know is likely to attend or have attended, there lived a sophomore music composition major named Daniel Jacob Flores Wolfert.  Daniel had two older sisters,two loving (and slightly intimidating) parents, an adorable, rather fat golden retriever named Cinnamon and a profound love for sitting in Starbucks and writing (as he was doing when this was written).  Daniel Wolfert, needless to say, is me, and on the morning of this short tale, Daniel Wolfert was also fast asleep.

I had spent the better part of the previous night (or very, very early morning, if you prefer) at the LiveGreen House studying with those house members that were in his Asian Languages and Cultures 310 class, “Death and Desire in Pre-Modern Japanese Literature”, for their midterm that afternoon.  Studying, in this case, was a word that primarily entailed rolling on the floor and eating ice cream while other students proposed potential answers to the open-ended, vaguely baffling questions concerning Buddhism, women, and Heian Japan.  I digress, however.

After such an intensive study session, lasting long into the wee hours of the morning, I was exhausted when I collapsed into my bed, thinking only of the Japanese Literature Midterm looming ahead and not of the Music Theory Test I had in only five hours.  When I awoke that morning seven hours later, I was therefore horrified to see the time on my bedside clock and leaped from my bed, employing some exceptional profanity that I shan’t repeat here.  I hurriedly opened my webmail so as to send an email to my music theory professor apologizing for missing the test and begging to take it with penalty.  I then dressed and went to my 11 o’clock class, my stomach churning as I awaited his response.

To my enormous relief, he replied an hour later, asking me to come to his office and take it with a 25% penalty,  I finished the short exam quickly and left his office, disappointed that, after having a somewhat less-than-satisfactory grade on a previous music theory test, I had missed this opportunity to ace this one.

I am not telling you this, however, to demonstrate my own ineptitude or inability to manage my time appropriately, and I certainly do not mean to represent the school as oversleeping poor test-takers.  On the contrary, I usually manage my time very well, and have never before slept through a class (let a alone a test).  What I want to bring your attention to is this: in a different school, and most of all in a larger one, I never would have had the opportunity to make up that missed test.  In a larger school, had I approached the professor about it, he might have genuinely asked “Do you go here?”  But I am fortunate enough to go to a smaller school, with a small music program where mistakes can be made without the world falling to pieces.

And so, after a somewhat terrifying week of midterms, I came to Starbucks with my laptop and wrote this post, drowning my sorrows in green tea and the Metropolitan Market’s delightful samosas as I introduced myself to you, dear reader.  Thus closes our tale of Midterm Madness, and begins the delightful, disastrous adventure of Daniel Wolfert as a LoggerBlogger…

“The town crier spoke my lines…”

Greetings to readers, faculty, fellow loggers, time lords, parasitic life forms, etc. etc. I am coming to you from the chaotic madness that is midterm season—probably the least opportune time for me to take a break from schoolwork for something like a writing a blog post, I know. But I just can’t fight the urge to spew a little love on the Internet about this year’s Town Crier Speaks Festival. 

For those unfamiliar with Town Crier, TCSF is an annual theatre festival of six short original plays, and is entirely student-run: all the plays are written, directed, and acted in by UPS students—not to mention the student techies and producers, who I thought were beyond brilliant! Okay, maybe I’m a little biased because this year’s producers were my roommates Robyn Helwig and Shelby Isham, but seriously, the amount of dedication and skill that goes into producing a project like this is just incredible. Shelby and Robyn have been working on organizing and producing this year’s Town Crier for the past five months. (Which just blows me away, personally. Seriously, five months? I get distracted focusing on one project for more than a couple of hours. In a related story, there is definitely a midterm paper I should be working on right now.)

This year’s festival took place over this past weekend, and had a fantastic lineup of plays: GO. by Casey Oakes, A Toy for Juliet by Lindsey Salazar, Pendulum by Jordan Moeller, Encore by Andrew Lutfala, Human Resources by Daniel C. Smith, and A Case Worth Taking by Darrin Schultz. Whether it was slapstick-esque comedy, film noir parody, twisted time travel, or zombie apocalypse, the actors performed with such a genuine and intense energy that the audience was often either holding their breaths in anxiety or roaring with laughter. Even in some of the darker plays, I found myself laughing frequently at the perverse humor and at times shocking physical comedy; always keeping the audience on their toes and never knowing quite what to expect, in the best possible way.

If I had to pick, my favorite play of the evening would probably be Encore, which was written by Andrew Lutfala and directed by Ellie Freeman. Austen Harrison starred as a janitor in this one-man show, speaking to the audience directly as though he was an actual janitor cleaning up the theater in the middle of the play. As his monologue went on, the mild-mannered janitor divulged more and more about his lifelong desire to be a performer and his desperate need for an audience to affirm his existence, escalating in emotional intensity until he was screaming at the audience to speak to him. The tension in the audience was palpable: we’ve been taught all our lives that it’s not appropriate to speak during a performance in a theater, especially not to the actors, but Austen’s performance was so believable that it was hard not to feel a certain level of discomfort—Wait, is he actually asking us to speak? Should we say something, just to put this poor guy out of his agony? Even though it was later revealed that the janitor had been putting on an act, the intensity of that moment was definitely something that stayed with the audience through to the end of the show.

Congrats on a great show to everyone who took part in TCSF, from the brilliant writers and actors to the tireless directors, producers, and techies who dedicated their time to put together the show as a whole—I’d honestly love to go on rambling about how much I enjoyed the plays, but unfortunately I really should be getting back to that paper…

I’m looking forward to reading more posts from my fellow (b)loggers, and I hope everyone has a fantastic fall break!

Fun fact: there’s a parking lot here with more spots than there are cars on this island.

My first view of South Caicos - fresh off the plane, coming into the dock via ferry.  The locals were waiting to greet us - on an island this small, the School for Field Studies is a pretty big deal.

My first view of South Caicos – fresh off the plane, coming into the dock via ferry. The locals were waiting to greet us – on an island this small, the School for Field Studies is a pretty big deal.


I was sitting at my computer, trying to think of how to turn the past six salty weeks into a decently readable blog post, looking out past low stone walls to the flat and sparkling turquoise Caribbean Sea… and I realized that my time here is halfway over.  Which is kind of a sad way to start my first blog post, so I’ll go back to the beginning of this adventure and start there.


I began looking into study abroad programs last fall and, me being me, didn’t want to do any of the obvious things and go to London or Rome or Paris.  At first, thanks to Bill Bryson’s In a Sunburned Country, I wanted to go to Australia (I already go to school on the other side of the country from home, why not study abroad on the other side of the world?).  And then I found a better way to be obnoxiously atypical: I was going to do an intensive field research program, spending three months at a remote field station in a foreign country – as an English major.  Several visits with Puget Sound’s helpful International Affairs Office staff, seven months, and lots of expenses later, I found myself getting off a delayed flight in the Charlotte airport with four minutes to change terminals and make my connecting international flight to the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI), British West Indies, Caribbean.


And now here I am on South Caicos, taking part in the School for Field Studies (SFS) Marine Resource Management program.  In the months leading up to my departure, my dad would tell people that when Columbus came across the Atlantic he saw the Turks and Caicos Islands, said “Nah, that doesn’t count as land,” and continued on to Hispaniola.  South Caicos, sometimes called The Big South, is a whopping eight square miles with about 1,200 residents.  The small airport’s runway is half of the island’s width.  There is one doctor here (which is one doctor more than some other islands have), an elementary school and high school, fourteen churches, a store called Tasha’s Ice Cream and Toiletries that sells ice cream for a dollar a scoop, and one functioning hotel that must survive off of SFS students going there for drinks and conch fritters because South is not exactly a tourist destination.


And what have I done with my time in this luxurious tropical paradise?  I’ve memorized the scientific names of one hundred and twenty-four marine organisms, gotten Advanced Open Water SCUBA certified, sniffed the glorious fragrance of the Salinas (as well as the magnificent perfume of the fish plants, which overtook the salt industry in 1960), helped local third-graders in their composition class, caught two sharks and zero turtles (in the name of science!), been stung by fire coral, seen the spectacular wall of coral at the nearby seven thousand foot drop-off from lagoon to open ocean, tried conch fritters, been chased by local “potcake” dogs, and taken a grand total of two freshwater showers.


Tomorrow, the SFS students and some faculty will leave South and travel to North Caicos, where we will be camping for two nights – let the record show that bug spray here is $9.25 a bottle and life is hard – before heading to Providenciales, or Provo, and splitting up for our mid-semester break.  I’ve been looking forward to this for months.  Not because of the break from classes or the new dining opportunities or the tourist attractions.  Not for the change of scenery.  Not because I set up a home-stay and get to volunteer at a church there – although I am excited about that.  Not even for the existence of showers and washing machines.  I’ve been looking forward to going to Provo so that I can post it on Facebook, elicit a reply from various friends and acquaintances in Provo, Utah, and then leave them with the triumphant response: “I’M IN THE CARIBBEAN – WRONG PROVO, SUCKERS!”