Daniel Wolfert Snapshot #15: Sophomore Farewell

In which all is revealed.

To my dear reader,

                  Here we are, at the end of this stretch of the road, and where should I be writing this but a Starbucks?  True, it is a Starbucks in Raleigh, North Carolina, and the air is thick and bright with the lazy Southern sun rather than the cool Northwestern one, but a Starbucks it is nonetheless.  This is, in truth, one of the things I love about Starbucks; although it is by no means my favorite coffee shop, I cannot help but feel at home there.  My mother has been going there with me for as long as I can remember.  The patterns on the walls are always the same, the green tea lattes always bittersweet, the music mild, and the view from the chairs by the window good enough.  It feels almost as if Starbucks has always existed, since before the beginning of the universe, simply waiting until the Big Bang to nestle itself beside supermarkets and along busy streets, and Starbucks will be here long after we are all gone.  When the universe is cold and empty, Starbucks will remain.

            So sit here I shall, with an iced, 12 ounce green tea latte to my left, and write my Sophomore Farewell.  As so much of my life revolves around music, I shall close my little career as a sophomore music major with three songs I have selected to describe it.  This is a tradition I began last year, with my best friend Spencer Orbegozo (Foothills Community College, ’16), wherein each year we select three songs to describe the school year.  We then proceed to explain our selections to one another as we drive along the California highway, and belt them out the windows to the chagrin of everyone nearby.

All three of my selections are by my favorite pop artist (alongside Ke$ha and Katy Perry), Sara Bareilles, and come from her most recent album The Blessed Unrest.  In another life, I would have chosen something profound and pretentious, such as a piece from my classical repertoire or a symphonic poem, but that is not this life.  Regardless, when this album first came out in the summer of 2013, I was rather disappointed.  I felt that it was overproduced, somewhat messy in its construction, and lacking in colorful variation.  But I downloaded it anyway, out of a sort of fan loyalty to my favorite singer-songwriter, and listened to it somewhat begrudgingly.  The year began, and despite my initial reaction to the album, it began to become bizarrely relevant to my life, acting as an unexpected musical narration to the unending struggles of a sophomore music major.  Please note that I am joking; in no way do I truly have any struggles.

The first song was “Parking Lot”, which initially caught my attention because of its sassy lyrics and use of repeated melodic ideas in the instruments alongside layered vocals in antiphony (call and response).  My freshman year had been, admittedly, somewhat unpleasant, primarily because I felt as if I had not found my home or niche within the school, and had not really been able to throw myself into my major or any activities.  Determined to take control over my life (silly me), I joined my a cappella group Underground Sound during the spring of 2013, joined my fraternity Beta Theta Pi in the fall, and secured both the position of Director of Sustainability for the Residential Student Association Executive Board and my current position as a Logger Blogger.  I was done, I told the universe, with apathy and disappointment; I would seize my sophomore year by the horns and make it my steed.  The universe laughed derisively and leaned back in its chair.

Sara Bareilles’ “Parking Lot”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hmDGv6pSxHE

            The second song was “December”, the closing track of the album and a throwback to Sara Bareilles’ earlier, more acoustic and introspective albums.  At first, it seemed to me a strange track to close such a full-voiced album that had opened with the anthemic “Brave”, but as the fall of 2013 trudged alone, bringing with it colder weather and the apathy of the sophomore slump, I began to see why.  Despite my gung-ho attitude, my determination and my furious drive to make sophomore year different from freshman year, I still was unhappy.  Classes were harder, my a cappella group was struggling, and my work with Residential Life was rather unfulfilling.  The semester drew to a close and I left the chilly grew of Tacoma behind for the cold, barren stillness of a North Carolina winter.  Like the pretentious, introspective loner that I am (again I joke, I am quite sociable to my knowledge), I would wander through the woods with my dog at my side, alternating between listening to The Blessed Unrest, the film score of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II, and the film score of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.  I felt, at the end of the winter break, that the album was rather like a meditation on change: after the initial burning desire to make the world around you different, the act of doing it becomes something more personal and purposeful, just as the album slowly unwound from anthemic to pensive.  I was unhappy because I was holding myself to the same standards and aspirations as I had held arriving in college, but I was becoming a different person and my standards and aspirations needed to change accordingly.  I walked in the woods and the universe watched, its head tilted to one side like a curious child.

Sara Bareilles’ “December”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P0ClL3MYaAs

            The third and final song is not, technically, on The Blessed Unrest, but I’ll just throw it in the mix anyway.  It is “I Just Want You”, and in truth, I have never heard a song that so precisely describes my life.  Life is long and difficult, and not really in the way that movies and books might have one believe – as I’m sure you know.  It is boring, often colorless, lacking in adventure and ripe with degradation, but more than anything, it is disappointing.  Society demands so much of each and every person in all sorts of cruel ways; outstanding GPAs of its students, manicured beauty of its women, insensitive hardness of its men, continuous success of its adults, and always a balance of being intelligent, hardworking, driven, socially conscious, magnanimous, infallible – the list goes on for all of eternity.  You can ask the universe for all those things, but at the end of the day, this song says, the most important things are doing something you love, being around people you love and holding an unwavering belief in a better future.  I became much happier when I stopped asking myself how much I was fulfilling the universe’s expectation of me and instead asking myself if I was happy with myself.  Here endeth the sermon; praise be unto Ron Thom and Segawa be with you.

Sara Bareilles’ “I Just Want You”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IXew0bEh0RY

            I only have a few more sips of my latte left now, and the afternoon is drawing to a close.  What an adventure it has been!  There were dinners with millionaires, some very poor dancing, a few injuries and a rather enormous amount of coffee.  I dreamt that geometric shapes were plotting my murder and had an emotional breakdown in a Lakewood parking lot, got my driver’s license, passed my sophomore music proficiency exam and found out that my spirit superhero is Spiderman.  And still, there are theaters to work for, music composition programs to attend, fraternity conferences to journey toward… the adventure never ends.

It is possible that I will be writing more posts over the summer, and hopefully I will be doing so next year, but either way, if you’ve read even just this one post, thank you.  I don’t know if ANYONE reads these!  Maybe I’m paid to meditate on my own life.  I’d be down.  In the meantime, if you truly miss my babbling rhetoric, then please peruse my new music blog, Dwolfmusic, at http://dwolfmusic.wordpress.com/, wherein I ramble about music composition a little everyday, share some of my own music and generally be silly.

Farewell from me and my coffee.

Farewell from me and my coffee.

It’s been real, it’s been fun, it’s been real fun.  Make good choices!  Eat your vegetables!  Look both ways before crossing the street!  And may Ron Thom’s promise of home be ever in your heart.

With all due respect,

Daniel Wolfert

Visiting Santiago: Art and Peace

This has been a month of Santiago.  I’ve already been three times and intend to go a fourth before we head into June (yes time flies, no I don’t want to put a number on the amount of time I have left).  Twice were airport trips, to pick up and then drop off my boyfriend Brandon who just finished his study abroad in India.  The other was a class field trip, on which Brandon got to come along.  It was for my CIEE class, which is a history, film and literature course about Valparaíso.  Since we have talked a bit about Pablo Neruda, the iconic poet with a great affinity for Valparaíso’s ocean and way of life, we went to visit La Chascona, a home he built for his lover and future wife, Matilde Urrutia.  In the afternoon we visited the Museum of Memory and Human Rights, devoted to the 1973 coup d’etat and subsequent dictatorship under General Pinochet.

There is a lot of background knowledge about Chilean history that I have picked up in my classes and just by living here, and so that combined with the language barrier made me into a sort of interpreter for Brandon.  We were visiting Neruda’s house because he was not just a poet, he was an activist and politician whose life was tied closely to the history of the country and whose death followed less than a month after the coup.  We learned that his funeral turned into the first protest against the new regime, and we learned more about the Winnipeg, a boat in which Neruda helped transport 2,200 Spanish refugees from France to Valparaíso.

Neruda was communist, but regardless of one’s political leaning, his outlook on poetry as an “act of peace” can inspire us all.  Poetry, and other forms of art, are dangerous to dictators and are frequently the first things to be suppressed, censored, and burned.  Especially during the first part of Pinochet’s dictatorship, the country saw the assassination, kidnapping, and exile of some of its most famous artists and musicians.  Discussions of art and politics are frequently inseparable.  To me, this is an expression of the importance of artists, whether or not their work is political.  We should never take our artists for granted, nor our own ability and freedom to create art.

The Ramona Parra Brigade is a group of Chilean muralists who were forced underground with the beginning of Pinochet’s rule.  As the began to paint once more, their slogan was “Contra la dictadura pintaremos hasta el cielo!” or, “We’ll paint against the dictatorship until we reach heaven!”  It’s a sentiment that makes me want to pick up a paintbrush.

Daniel Wolfert Snapshot #14: The Finals Days Upon Us

            In which Daniel recalls the last days of sophomore year in a kaleidoscope of moments.

           Perhaps the word “snapshot” is an inaccurate description of this blog post, because rather than describe a single moment or emotional state I’ve experienced, I will instead present a series of fractured feelings and actions that I recall.  It was, after all, in this way that I closed my second year of college: confused, panicked, and chaotic. It was pretty awesome.


            I am lying upon the floor in the lobby of Schneebeck Concert Hall, three of my classmates from Music 231: Classical to Romantic Eras sprawled in various places around me.  Music history textbooks are strewn across the floor, hindering the progress of young music students as they attempt to get into the music building through the lobby.  In preparation for the long night of studying for the incomprehensible monster that is our final, I have brought snacks.  Many snacks.  But it is not so much the number of snacks that I have brought that impresses my peers, so much as the quantity.  It is remarkable what 64 fluid ounces of Boathouse Chai Tea can get you through.


            With only minutes to spare, I glare angrily at my very last Music Theory final, wondering how on earth the atonal twelve-tone rows before me are related.  Surely they must be, and I am just not seeing the connection?  But aha!  I see now how the lines are inverses, and with only a minute to spare, I scribble down answers that were most likely (hopefully correct).  Inverse of 8!  Retrograde Inverse of 10!  Retrograde of 3!…?  Close enough!  And with that, I turn in my last music theory test of college.


            Three people remain in the last few minutes of the Music History final: Kelton Mock, Minna Stelzner, and me.  Yes!  I think to myself, I remain writing in my test alongside the two students that are most likely to ACTUALLY know what they’re saying!  And this time, I am not the last person writing in my test booklet because I am taking time making up answers, but instead the last person writing because I have so much to say.  Who knows their music history?  This kid.


            “Hold on, please”, Dr.Padula – head of the School of Music’s vocal department – calls as I preemptively attempt to leave the stage of Kilowrth Chapel after only the second song of my jury (the school’s singing final).  “We’d like to request a third song”.  What?  I panic as I smile and step back to into place in front of the piano.  “Donizetti’s Me Voglio Fa’na Casa, please”.  Somehow, I glide through the song in a vague daze of exhaustion and panic, and all is going well until I reach a line that I’ve forgotten.  Damn, I think, I was so close, and I rapidly begin synthesizing Italian from the verses I’ve already sung, until my pianist comes to an awkward halt in confusion.  There is a slight pause, and I leap right to the closing section of the song, barreling through rather inelegantly until I reach the end.  Whoops.


            A small group of the brothers of my fraternity, Beta Theta Pi, are throwing a Frisbee on a lawn by a beach at Point Defiance.  One of us grills homemade hamburgers, hot dogs and chicken-apple sausages, the scent of it ashy and savory. We talk about nothing in particular as we play, and while I liked them all before anyway, I am certain that I belong there because we are all very bad at Frisbee.


            I received an A- on my jury!  How did that happen?


            Despite all the boredom, pain and suffering that Aural Skills has necessitated, I cannot deny the perfect, precise beauty of my completed final as I analyze the final chord of my harmonic dictation and officially complete sophomore year.  It was a good thing, really, to have taken this class… even if it required three separate tests for each unit, and the completion of an ear training computer program named MacGamut that may or may not be evil incarnate.  How wonderful that I can hear music and understand its harmonic language; how useful all that piano practice was.  But then again, these sorts of things always look better in hindsight.


            Worn out from a strenuous evening of packing my room up, but determined to seize one last opportunity for socializing before I leave campus, I prepare to head over to a friend’s house at midnight.  “You better take the dessert food”, my only remaining housemate instructs.  “We’ve still got a third of an apple pie and that enormous container of vanilla ice cream”.  “Do we have paper plates and utensils?” I ask, and she opens her nearly empty cupboard in the kitchen to pull out a box of paper plates, forks and spoons.  “I looked at these about an hour ago and said, ‘I’m going to need these later for some reason’, and this must be the reason”.  With great delicacy, I stack the paper plates and utensils on top of the pie, and fit that pie into the ice cream container – which is so enormous, the pie fits.  “Oh my god, that is so perfect,” Rosa exclaims, “I need to instagram this right now”.  I grin as we both take a picture of this perfect little moment.  College is, in fact, the best.


            One blog post remains before I am, at last, finished blogging for this semester, but before I write that final farewell, let me say this: that apple pie was absolutely delicious.

The Making of Imbue for iOS and Android

The Puget Sound computer science capstone class is a relatively recent addition to Puget Sound’s curriculum. The capstone class involves completing a semester-long development or research project. I just finished taking the class, and my group released an app for iPhone and Android called, “Imbue,” available here:

1 2

Working on this project was hands down the best development experience I’ve had to date. I’ve developed my own software before and released a few apps, but working with this group was inspiring. It led to numerous new ideas, and working in a group made development extremely fast.

The basic premise of our app is that integrates Augmented Reality technology into existing mapping tools, like Google Maps and social media. Augmented reality basically involves augmenting one’s view of the world with additional data and information. It often takes the form of overlaying information on top of a camera’s view of the surroundings, like this:



We initially set out to design a similar app that would help facilitate campus tours for the University of Puget Sound. We provided these overlays for all the buildings, designed an interactive map to visualize campus, and also integrated the app with Facebook to find events happening on campus for visitors.

We realized a couple of months into the project that, in doing this, we had also built the framework for a much larger app. By simply adding data from points of interest databases and fine-tuning our Facebook integration, we were able to very quickly provide augmented reality views for any building or event in the world.

We also added features for identifying your current location on a map to Facebook friends. While testing the app, I was able to find out where a couple of my group members were working and go join them to work on the app.

Shortly after, a couple of our features got nabbed. Facebook rolled out the “nearby friends” feature, while Google released a similar interactive map view. But the core functionality – displaying augmented reality views of buildings and events anywhere in the world – remains unique to this app.

Plus, we designed our own lightweight augmented reality system in one semester that runs quickly and works anywhere. As far as I know, there are very few similar augmented reality systems available for smartphones.

So thank you to a great group – it was a pleasure to spend so many late nights working away in the computer lab. I was extremely lucky to work on a senior capstone project in my junior year. More than anything, this project’s rekindled my inspiration for development and software entrepreneurship.

So thanks, team Imbue!

Here is where I dance and run

In my “Conversational Spanish and Chilean Culture” class we just started a unit on contemporary Chilean music, which essentially means that going out to concerts counts as homework (at least according to me).  I went to two concerts in the past week – LaSmala, a band composed of members from Chile, Spain, Brazil, and other countries with a very lively and fun sound, and then a concert at the Municipal Theater in Valparaíso that was raising money for the rebuilding efforts for the fire.  I got there a little late and missed the first band’s set, but watched Dënver play from the upper balcony and then managed to get let in to the downstairs portion so that we could dance in front of the stage for Los Ases Falsos and Astro.  Five bucks for three good bands, an array of funky cartoons and videos they played between the sets, contributing to a good cause, and seeing some of the music that we discuss in class performed live.

Examples, if you want to hear what a couple Chilean songs sound like: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RGCwdhR_Wqk and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i9XuEOHuMu4.  Warning: that second one is liable to get stuck in your head.

Along with dancing, I’ve been trying to incorporate a bit more physical activity into my days.  There are many streets in my neighborhood that I have never had any particular reason to walk down, and so now I am exploring them on my runs.  These runs have taken me to rundown houses with broken car motors in the front yard and loud, territorial stray dogs to faded large houses with walled gardens and surprisingly small, yappy strays.  The hills around here can be brutal, but most of the streets have very little car traffic and the weather is perfect right now, with overcast days slowly taking over for sunny ones.  I love how with runs, the purpose is rarely to get to a destination the most direct way; it is to get there the longer and more interesting way.  So far I have never ended up getting to where I planned to go, and that’s been just fine.

Daniel Wolfert Snapshot #13: You’ll Never Get Back

In which delightfully wicked fun is found at the final Senior Thesis Festival play.

If I were to select one major achievement that I am proud that I’ve done this year, a prime candidate would most certainly be my musical contributions to the last play in the Senior Thesis Festival, entitled The Skriker.  Written in the 1990’s by Caryl Churchill, The Skriker is the tale of the eponymous, shape-shifting fairy that is intent on destroying the world of humans – and in particular, the lives of two teenage mothers named Lily and Josie – in revenge for the destruction that humanity has caused the natural world she rules.  Filled with fragmented fairy tongue and sinister wordplay, the show is a rollercoaster of mythological beasts and social commentary, and when Sarah McKinley, the senior directing this production, approached me about writing music for the show, I was immediately drawn to the script’s distinctive writing.  The incidental music – meaning the music that would play between scenes and would otherwise accompany the show without being the primary focus – and the single song that would occur in the Skriker’s Underworld would, therefore, need to be just as seemingly circuitous and illogical, yet purposefully atmospheric and structured on its own unorthodox terms.

This is where studying atonal music in Music Theory IV and Music History II: The Classical to the Romantic Periods came in unexpectedly handy.  Pioneered and brought into the public sphere in the late 19th century by Post-Romantic-era composers such as Arnold Schoenberg, atonal music has no pitch center that the music leads to, and thus, no musical goal of the sort that European audiences are so accustomed to.  As atonal composers of the 19th and 20th centuries toyed with this unpopular concept, a new form of structuring this music arose and was entitled “twelve-tone theory” due to its primary tenant: all twelve of the kinds of pitches in the Western chromatic scale must be used by a musical line before any can be repeated.  Through this system, new forms of clarity and purpose and arose in atonal music so as to create focus in the music’s creation, just as the many monologues that the Skriker has in the play are seemingly pointless but hold a unique sort of clarity.

Although I did not employ atonality or twelve-tone technique directly while writing for the Skriker, learning about this sort of order-from-chaos thinking became progressively clearer to me. Of particular use was the melodrama “Pierrot Lunaire”, a song cycle written by Schoenberg in 1912 and performed by the sole vocalist in the “Sprechstimme” style in vogue at the time of its genesis.  While often seen at first glance as exhaustingly chaotic, this song cycle’s construction is by no means frivolous.  Each poem is of the same type of poetic structure (a rondel), which entails lines of importance repeating themselves in each song, and despite the modern use of atonality, a great number of the songs are in a popular form from the Baroque period, such as a fugue or rondo.  The numbers three, seven and thirteen are repeatedly given importance, with the song cycle encompassing 21 songs (the product of seven and three), each poem containing 13 lines, and a great many songs using seven-note motifs, among other techniques used to give numbers significance.  A link to a full performance of this song cycle can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bd2cBUJmDr8

With all of this in mind, I wrote something that, to my ears that were still unaccustomed to this music, sounded awkward and uncertain, but as I continued, I could not help but begin to enjoy it.  There is something liberating about not needing to account for every aspect of a harmonic and melodic action, and instead making something that can twist in a snake-like manner through number and the mathematical structure of music composition.  But credit must be given where due: Sarah MicKinley, her cast and her crew – in particular, clarinetist Daniel Peterschmidt – brought my newborn quasi-atonal music to brilliant life.  I am most proud of my musical contributions to the Skriker not because I think that my music in and of itself was remarkable, but rather because I contributed to something remarkable alongside some very talented people.  You’d better watch out, Theater Department; I’ve gotten a taste, and there’s no stopping me now.

And just in case, dear reader, you too desire a taste, here’s a MIDI file of some of my incidental music to quench your thirst for The Skriker:

1) Into the Underworld MIDI

2) Into the Underworld PDF

This is the song sung by the Skriker’s monstrous minions when Josie, one of the protagonists, is stolen away to the Underworld to feed the Skriker’s power.  Written for solo Bb clarinet and unison voices, with voices played by cello in this MIDI file.

Until next time, dear reader, and perhaps you’d best check under the bed for monsters tonight.  Who knows what is lurking in the darkness…


crew n. a team rowing together in a racing shell

When I came to Puget Sound I thought I knew what “girl” I wanted to re-make myself into, since you know it’s college, but that vision I had is not who I am today and I’m glad. I didn’t think I would end up joining a varsity sport in college, I mean I barely even played sports in high school (Marching band is kinda technically a sport, okay?) I don’t know what I was thinking going to a Crew interest meeting, but if I had any doubts, their promotional video sold me (yay Etan!!). And then learning to row/cox with the rest of the girls was amazing (shoutout to Betsy!!), I quickly became amazing friends with Becky & McKenna! Because crew isn’t a common high school sport, there is a novice/JV level of competition that we participated in during the fall season.

Then spring came, and although I initially worked with the novice women still, an opportunity opened up and I got moved up to the men’s varsity team as their second coxswain. It was a huge shock, despite the men’s and women’s team practicing at the same boathouse, I didn’t actually know the guys well. They were all big, strong guys with set ways about their practices. But it was an amazing opportunity and as they say, from amazing opportunities coming amazing success. I took every practice day by day, learning their workout plans, working with the coach, Allison who was so patient, helping me get used to the team. Day by day I learned more, became more comfortable and got to know the guys outside of practices. Our very first regatta, a scrimmage, I panicked really badly, but the guys stuck with me, keeping me focused and part of that team atmosphere  on race days. Each subsequent regatta was so much more amazing, more laughs, more wins, more of our hard work being put to the test. It was always about being better than the day before, reaching for that height of teamwork, hard work and trust on the water.

I think I now know what crew is, it’s much more than that definition at the top, it’s indescribable. I haven’t met and I doubt I will many another group of hard-working, team, derpy, fun, strong people. It hasn’t even been a week and I’m having crew withdrawals. The intense fitness, early hours, long bus rides and music loving nature of crew has led us to many good times and many times where our team has been there to pick us up. Thanks 2014 Crew Season for being amazing, I can’t wait until next year!

Team Photo

Daniel Wolfert Snapshot #8: Another Day of Living the Dream

In which Daniel realizes that counting is hard, and explains a day in the life of a Logger.

I have often made the joke, whilst among peers commenting on the difficulty of my music major, that it can’t be so hard considering the fact that I am not forced to count past four.  Unbeknownst to me, however, seven was in fact my limit, as has been demonstrated by the way that I skipped over eight while numbering these posts.  And so I thought to myself, whatever shall I do to fill in this little gap in my number posts?  It then occurred to me that, at this time, plenty of anxious students have just accepted their offers to attend this school, and they alongside their parents may in fact be the ones reading this post.  So, to assure that you’ve made the right decision and that the school will not, in fact kill you, I will now present an average day in the life of a Logger – specifically, me.  There is, of course, no typical day with respect to the fact that every day of the week is different, but a general overview would be something of this nature:

1) Grab Snacks, Skip Breakfast – As irked as I am to say this, I have too fallen victim to the terrible college habit of going straight to class without eating breakfast.  Some days – particularly my Wednesdays, wherein I have class straight from 10 AM to 5 PM – I will have no real meal until dinner, and thus will fill my backpack with all manner of goodies.  Protein and carbohydrates are usually my priorities, so one can often find a combination of oats, strawberries, bread and cookies in my backpack, and a cup of green tea in my hand.  New students, I highly encourage you to make time to eat your breakfast somewhere in your morning – you deserve it.

2) All the Music – The morning and early afternoon are a sort of blurred rollercoaster of music classes, ranging from Music 231 (Historical Survey of the Classical Period to Late Romanticism) to Music 291 (Advanced Choral Conducting Rehearsal Techniques).  The interesting thing about taking so many classes deeply involved in a single department is that one begins to see how interconnected they are.  In particular, my choral conducting class connects on many levels to my other classes with respect to how those classes are taught.  Analysis of form and harmonic structure are used both before conducting a new piece and when studying theoretical developments in Music 204 (Music Theory IV) ; rules of teaching sight-singing are applied in coachings by the conducting professor and by the professor teaching ear training in Music 202 (Aural Skills).  I have Adelphians Concert Choir every day of the week, but depending on the day of the week, I may have a voice lesson with Dr. Michael Delos, or otherwise have a studio class wherein students practice the performances of personal repertoire in front of one another and give critique (as I did just yesterday in Vocal Performance Class, which you can watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LZNeDPXSUnU&feature=youtu.be)

3) Nibblies – Hopefully, a break in my schedule will allow me to sit down for a real meal in one of the school’s three eating facilities: the SUB (Student Union Building), which is the school’s cafeteria, Diversions, which is the student-run café next door, or Oppenheimer, which is a student run café in the middle of the science building courtyard.  It is also made entirely of glass.  It is very cool.  My favorite meal that the cafeteria serves is definitely the breaded salmon with veggies and mac-n’-cheese, closely followed by any of their scones, which are weirdly amazing.  The white-chocolate-raspberry changed my life a little.  My café drink of choice would definitely have to be the Duke of Celtic Breakfast (a Celtic Breakfast teabag submerged in a vanilla steamer), closely followed by the Mango-Peach Italian soda.  Yum.

4) LoggerRezLyfe – What more adventure can I ask for than being the Director of Sustainability for the Residential Student Association?  Whether it be debating the pros and cons of budget requests from the campus community during ResLife’s General Council Meetings to planning Casino Night with the rest of the executive board, the party never ends (until a new executive board is elected in April).

5) Fundatory Utimes – This refers to “fun-mandatory- Underground Sound” times, or “time in which the members of the a cappella ground Underground Sound are forced to have fun together”.  This entails our evening rehearsal on Sundays and Wednesdays, not to mention the endless hours of blood, sweat and tears from planning rehearsals with my co-director, Lisa Hawkins.  The group convenes in a classroom of the music building and, after some general chatter, cat jokes and warm-ups, the fun begins.  In many ways, I use Usound as my personal conducting lab, testing out all the tips and tricks that my conducting professor has taught the class over the year.  This is not only invaluable for my probable future career as a choral director, but is also extremely enjoyable, probably because I can go on a power trip.  It’s fine; I just need to control everything.  What?

6) Nose to the Grindstone – There comes a point somewhere in the late evening when one realizes the ridiculous amount of homework there is left to be done.  This is when the fact that Diversions is open until midnight becomes of crucial importance to my academic success, as I am strangely incapable of doing homework in my room, but I absolutely MUST be near a source of food to work continuously.  I will sit in the piano lounge just outside the café and will write/compose/weep profusely while slowly but steadily drinking my weight in any combination of delicious beverages.  Sometimes, to spice things up while writing my homework for Counterpoint, I eat a cookie.

7) Hit the Hay – At last, I arrive home to my beloved Rat Skin Thong (please consult my very first blog post if you are confused by this statement).  I shower, I stare absentmindedly out the window, I eat my weight in cereal (preferably Special K with Chocolate or Dark Chocolate Cheerios), and postpone sleep by talking endlessly with my wonderful housemates.  And what conversations we have!  Food, boys, general panic about the future… well, I’m sure that there are more things than that, although nothing comes to mind.  I assemble my bag for the next day, lie in bed, and fall asleep thinking of my dog’s large, fluffy head on my tummy.  Then it starts all over…

But let me emphasize this over everything: although I am exhausted, stressed, sometimes angry, sometimes sad, more than anything I am happy and I am learning – which is exactly what I’m here to do.  My major is, admittedly, harder than one might imagine, but I continually learn more fascinating and useful things about music, communication, leadership and all sorts of other buzzwords that I’m sure you’ve read in pamphlets.

But really, life here is good.  If you’re thinking of applying, do it, and if you are indeed coming, GET STOKED.  Jump into everything you can reasonably handle with both feet, and commit to what you’re passionate about.  And learn to count from one to eight without mishap ensuing.

South and further South

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I wrote a bit about the fire in my last post.  It ended up being huge, supposedly the largest in the city’s history, with fifteen people dead and between 2000 and 3000 homes destroyed.

When the fire happened, I already had bus tickets to go to the island of Chiloé with a couple of friends for Holy Week.  I left for a long weekend trip and after nearly two weeks, many changes of plans, and a beautiful adventure later I have made it home.

Chiloé was a quiet little place in its low season with some rain, some knock-your-socks-off cuisine, and a beautiful coastline dotted with little towns famous for their churches.  It was perfect soup weather, and so we slurped up broths with mussels, clams, eel, salmon, beef, chicken, and indiscernible other meats and seafood, garnished usually with lemon, cilantro, and a spicy pepper.  We also had the famed curanto, a preparation of seafood, meat, and potatoes that is cooked in the ground, and chupe de mariscos, a kind of cheesy seafood casserole that would have alone made the journey worth it.  Later, on one of the many bus rides I would take, I met some other travelers who had also eaten this dish, and we had the same speechless reaction, relating to one another through gestures the powerful experience that is this food.

After a few nights of town-hopping and one night camping in the National Park, we took the bus/ferry combination back to Puerto Montt, the big city of the area.  My friends had missed their bus and I had decided I didn’t want to go home yet, so we spent the night there in a funny little hostel where the owner gave us a discounted price saying it only included a bed, a towel, and a shower.  When we brought back some potato tortillas from a mini market nearby and asked to heat up some water for tea, she gave us a stern look and said “A bed, a towel, and a shower.  No cooking!”  Then softened a little, telling us we could microwave it if we liked.

We spent the day in Puerto Varas, a very touristy town close by on the gorgeous Lake Llanquihue, and then got back in time to part at the bus terminal.  We had spent so much money on lunch that I elected to eat carrots for dinner, which ended up making my gums bleed after a bit, but I was so absorbed in a book of mythology I’d found that the discomfort didn’t bother me.

The next morning I flew south to Puerto Natales, and met up with a different set of friends a day later.  We bought food, rented the gear we needed, made dinner, and spent the night in our hostel before waking up bright and early for the 7:30 bus to the Torres del Paine National Park.

This place was astonishing.


We only had two nights, not long enough to do the full W Circuit, but we cut off one of the legs of the W and had a grand old time, enjoying surprising amount of sunshine, more food than we could get through, some amazing fall foliage and glacier sightings, all capped off by waking up the second morning before dawn in a light snowfall to hike and see the Torres.IMG_5042We actually got off the path by accident due to the snow and early morning light, ending up on top of that ridge to the left rather than down by the lake, but no one was injured and we had quite the view of the sunrise, with a big old Andean Condor swooping around us no less.

Honestly I feel like things went almost too well that trip, and aside from some encounters with mice in our food and Australians in our campsite, all was free of those misfortunes that make up a story and instead we had a journey full of the most incredible beauty.

Oh, and I’m kidding about the Australians; Brad and Elise were lovely campground buddies.  My days were constantly brightened by people I met along the way, from the travelers I shared hostels with, to locals helping me out with the bus schedule, to the traveling businessman who came up to me as I was toweling off from a dip in the Strait of Magellan to tell me how impressed he was and with whom I ended up spending the rest of the day with, as he happened to be on my flight and like me wanted to see a bit more of Punta Arenas before leaving.  I spent the last 15 hours of my journey alone, entering Viña in a daze at around 11 am and hefting my backpack that last little ways up the hill to my house before showering, eating, and going to class.  It’s back to business as usual, with a bit of a sleep deficit and a few more fond memories to populate the grab bag of my mind.