Uncertainty is alright

This week has been on of those weeks, where everything seems to be convening on these few days with everyone in the world wanting to pitch in their two-sense and win the argument, trust, support or right to something. But guess what, sometimes the things that you want, aren’t entitled to you. Sometimes you need to think about if your actions are completely transparent and reflective of your intentions? We’re all humans and the need to be emotional, supportive and trusting are valuable traits to strong relationships and building ideas but sometimes the greater good may step on these values.

And think these are invaluable lessons to learn, we’re still in college so there is less pressure on making the right decisions but rather finding our way in the way we grow and prosper to become contributing members of society. However at the same time, college is moving so quickly I don’t often feel like I have a good grasp on what opportunities are available to me, how I may take advantage of them and allow me the peace to find my path. We’re supposed to look four, three, two or past our last semseter to be planning out each detail. We have only been on this Earth for 17-21 years, have we seen it all to know what we want? I definitely don’t think so, but everyone’s individual experiences shape their perspective on life, on what is feasible in life. I can only hope we can allow ourselves to be vulnerable to ask for the support and advice from our peers, professors, advisors, coaches and faculty, staff at the University of Puget Sound.


I guess you can say I’m not ready to grow up yet, and its rapidly approaching anyway.

Puget Plaid

I hate to break my pattern of blog post titles, but hopefully some alliteration makes up for it?

Anyway, we’ve had a solid spate of sunshine lately, but the next few days are scheduled to return to the usual Washington gloom.  And I’ve decided that this is prime time to do something I’ve been intending to do for ages: play Count the Plaid.  I usually forget about it until I’m sitting in class and realize that half of my classmates are wearing flannel.  But if I post it on the internet, then I can’t forget about it, right?

I’ll be spending as much time as possible in public places on campus today with a tally sheet in hand.  Stay tuned, Loggers.  Hack, hack; chop, chop.

Update 1, 8:50 am: Not a lot of plaid at morning land practice; unfortunately (hey, Puget Sound Athletics, you could change that!).  But it looks like Diversions is the place to be.  Stereotypes are holding strong.  Tally so far is 8.

Update 2, 1:45 pm: Data is now somewhat skewed (because my observations were previously definitely scientifically sound), because I spent two hours this morning at the trainers instead of somewhere with a more representative distribution of clothing styles.  That being said, the trainers are lovely people, and after some hasty counting in the SUB and in Wyatt, our total is now 21.

Update 3, 6:00 pm: I’m pretty sure I’ve gotten worse at remembering to count as the day has gone on.  But we can add at least six more people to the tally.  I think I should have spent more time in Thompson to capitalize on the “crunchy scientist” stereotype (looking at you, geo majors).

Update 4, 8:30 pm: About 34 people wearing plaid over the course of ten hours on campus.  I don’t have any conclusions to draw from this besides the fact that I’ve always wondered how popular that particular PNW trend is on any given day.  And now you have a blog post about it.  You’re welcome.

The Imperfect Intern

The man was dressed casually for the office in a white shirt and jeans. He had a bushy ginger beard and a paunch. “Hey New Face,” he said.

I stuck out my hand. “Hi, I’m Lorna. It’s nice to meet you.”

This was the third week of my internship at Harbor History Museum. So far, everything was moving along nicely—transportation reimbursement (check), grant edits (check), sunny day (check). My stammer was under control and I hadn’t told any bad jokes yet. It turned out that the man was a volunteer working to help restore the Shenandoah, a 1925 fishing vessel donated to the museum in 2000. When another intern asked how he could help, he said: “Grab a hammer.”

Not all my days at the office were like this. At the beginning I was nervous. I was, after all, a “new face.” There were times when my voice would go up an octave and I’d have to force the words out my throat like the last squeeze of toothpaste. I am slowly working to conquer this with a smile and my favorite pair of gray heeled boots. It works better some days than others.

This morning, I started my day at the office twenty-five minutes late. It turns out that I hadn’t turned the ignition far forward enough. At first, I thought it was the transmission stuck in reverse. I only found out it was the ignition after my second call to Zipcar customer service. In the meantime, I was stuck halfway out in the parking lot with my emergency flashers on. I got to practice my hand gesture for: “Yeah, you should go the other way.” If any of you are wondering, it’s a really awkward mix between a wave and a point. As long as you hold your hand out limply and look panicked enough, you’ll be fine. The best part was, when I finally got the office, I discovered my boss was late too.

My mistake didn’t matter because we both got there at the same time. In my English 497 class we read an article called “How to Be a Perfect Intern.” There’s no such thing. The new guy is never perfect. And as an intern, you’re not only new to the job; you’re new to the industry. You don’t know where the office pens are and you make way too much noise trying to close the filing cabinets. That’s the way it is.

I would, however, remember to check the ignition.

Water the Cherry Blossoms

On February 15, 2001, the Trail published a message written by former Asian Pacific American Student Union President Ngai Fang Chen, which called for a more-than-passing remembrance of the internment of thirty Japanese Puget Sound students. With eloquence, Chen contributed her voice to the chorus in condemnation of the internment and of ethnic persecution in general.

Six months later, two skyscrapers fell in New York, ushering in a period marked by, among other things, a heightened national sense—that is, a countrywide solidarity founded on a common American identity.

At the same time, ethnic discrimination persisted. Entire groups were targeted for the actions of a few, resulting in the ostracism and marginalization of ostensibly suspect peoples. This unified backlash against entire communities reflects a unique inability to attribute blame to individuals with individual motives; fault is found with peoples and not persons, in perversion of a proud democracy that generalizes persons as groups according to principles of equality/equation. This tendency manifests itself daily in the persecution of American ethnic minorities based upon historically informed suspicions, however uncharacteristic of a group they may be.

What troubles me is the co-presence of a strong national sense that fosters unity on the grounds of American-ness and an opposed ethnic sense that seeks to divide Americans on the basis of color. Herein lies a fundamental problem with the attitude America has adopted toward its multiethnic inhabitants. America will continue to undermine itself and its people if it cannot reconcile its sense of nationalism with its hostility to ethnic others.

The internment of 70,000 Japanese American citizens reflects the danger of a divisive ethnic mindset, in which prejudices culminate in the subordination of national identity. Chen writes of our responsibility as students and Americans to learn from the mistakes of the past. With fourteen years elapsed since her reminder and the anniversary of the signing of Executive Order 9066 recently past, it is important, more than ever, to heed the lessons of the past and to undo, if in-small, the tension between national and ethnic identities that troubles America today.

In doing so, we water the cherry blossoms.

Thoughts at a Passport Agency

So this week I went to Seattle to get my passport as I am going to Toronto for spring break. The whole process before arriving at the agency went smoothly. I thought I had gathered all the documents that I needed. Upon arriving and going through an airport like level of security I discovered that I had forgotten my passport photos. Luckily enough a kind security guard advised me to just run down the street to FedEx to get them done (took five minutes) and come back. So advice for you all; go to FedEx to get your passport photos done because that’s where the passport agency people actually recommend you go to since Walgreens doesn’t always nail down the requirements.

It was an interesting experience. I forgot that my queue number was 331 and NOT 333 which meant I had to get a new queuing number (371). While I waited, as you often do when dealing with any form of bureaucracy, I couldn’t help but overhear the conversations that each agent was having with the person at the window.

There was a programmer trying to fly into Tokyo for a new job, boyfriend trying to meet up with his girlfriend in the Middle East, a child gymnast who just won her way into an international competition, families taking vacations (usually to Canada), a wife trying to claim the body of her husband who had committed suicide, businessmen and businesswomen, and a lot of immigrants trying to go home.

The last group of people stood out to me the most. Many of them had previously talked to other agencies to help them navigate the complicated system in obtaining a permit and getting permission to cross the border among many other things. A woman that came here on a work permit was attempting to get a passport to go home to Mexico because there was an emergency (which is one of the circumstances that allows you to get your passport at an agency); a relative was dying. However she needed to be naturalized or a citizen to obtain a passport. She had already talked to Border Patrol who appeared to tell her this wasn’t a problem. A lot of stories were similar to this. And the whole time I was (let’s face it) eavesdropping, I couldn’t help but wonder how could you make this process better.

It turns out that failed group projects has not allowed people to realize communication is key when you hear the stories of inaccurate information being told to people at different agencies, leading to overall confusion. So, I thought what if you had some sort of process online that cleared up the issue.

The government website where you get information for your passport has a cost calculator where you enter your basic information and it spits out a number. What if you created a Situation Calculator (terrible name, I know). A person would start off entering their basic information, then enter the circumstances they are in, and then the program would tell them the process that they would need to go through required documents needed, who to contact, and what order to contact the agencies in.

It would help. Instead of individually calling each agency and searching for this information it would all be laid out clearly for someone. The program would create an outline/plan. Just a thought.

Wait, maybe I will create this for my computer science extra credit project. (cue TaySwift singing “it could be forever or go down in flames”)

Darling, We’re a Nightmare Dressed Like a Daydream

In which the Tay, in her ever-present wisdom, reveals the truth of Daniel’s relationship with his fraternity by means of chart-topping pop music.

To my dear reader,

Every year, for several sessions of four days scattered throughout the summer and winter, over one hundred members and friends of the fraternity of Beta Theta Pi from across North America gather at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. There among the endless stretch of fields, they participate in a leadership program entitled The Wooden Institute, named after the famous basketball coach and member of Beta John Wooden. The alumni of the fraternity and friends of Beta lead the undergraduate members in a series of programs, lectures and presentations on different leadership styles, tactics and applications.

On the campus of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

On the campus of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

Looking back on my time at this short program and the four days in January I spent there, what I remember most clearly is not the leadership lectures or the plans for personal development I wrote. It is the music – namely, Taylor Swift and film scores.

For those of you so foolish as to not have been following my blog posts before this one, it is imperative that you know this: two of the things that I hold most dear are the music of Tay Swizz (praise be unto Her) and movie soundtracks. They make me feel empowered and elegant in equal shares – two things that I am unlikely to feel strongly in my everyday life. That being said, I came to this fraternity leadership program with no anticipation of them being relevant, and although Greek Life at the University of Puget Sound has been a relatively positive experience for me, I was tentative to place trust in a gathering of college men to whom I would be a stranger.

Upon arriving, the eighty undergraduates of Beta from across the nation were gathered into six “chapters” of twelve members that did not know one another whatsoever. This was, needless to say, a somewhat stilted and awkward interaction, filled with the necessary combination of dead silence and short burst of nervous laughter. But when we arrived at the room where we were to debrief on our new chapter’s get-to-know you activities, we were greeted by “Harry In Winter” – one of the best tracks from the score to “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.”

“All right,” I thought tentatively. “Perhaps I may enjoy myself.”

Three days later, after learning of John Wooden’s life and the history of fraternal life and the many ways to trick people into working together, I sat in a chapter brother’s car as he drove us through the snow on the streets of Oxford on our way to one of the program’s last events. As his phone began to play a new song through his car’s stereo, he grinned and said “Oh man, let’s turn this up!” I had a moment of confusion as he turned up the volume of the speakers before I realized that the song was none other than Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space”. He rolled down the windows and we sang to the night – poorly, loudly and out of tune, but together.

Me and the other members of Chapter Five pose seductively before the fraternity's Hall of Chapters.

Me and the other members of Chapter Five pose seductively before the fraternity’s Hall of Chapters.

Friendship is a curious thing, and like many other curious things, such as meatballs and childbirth, may be best left uninvestigated. But despite my trepidation and inhibition, four days of unravelling our lives and finding new ways to change the world around us brought me and my little band of brothers closer than I thought possible. The words of Tswag’s “Blank Space” ring true: “Hey, let’s be friends; I’m dying to see how this one ends; grab your passport and my hand…” And, as the Wooden Institute Demonstrated, I can, in fact, make the bad guys good for a weekend.

With the recent induction of our newest members, the Delta Epsilon colony of Beta Theta Pi at the University of Puget Sound gave to me a sophomore named Zachary Miller as a “Little Brother” – a new member to whom I am to be a “Big Brother” and provide mentorship and guidance. Needless to say, this is a recipe for hilarity and disaster, because Lord knows that any advice from me would likely end in chaos and general discomfort for everyone involved. But a great deal of time has passed since last I felt this excited about anything, and as disastrously as it may end, I am thrilled to share what wisdom I gleaned from my time at Oxford University. Zachary Miller and all the other new members of Beta Theta Pi had best prepare themselves, because after seeing these boys…

Zachary Miller (left) and myself (right): a very big little and a very little big.

Zachary Miller (right) and myself (left): a very big little and a very little big.

…all I can think is “Oh my God, look at that face; you look like my next mistake.”

Love’s a game. Wanna play?

With all due respect,

Daniel Wolfert

(Some of the) Forms of Feminism

One thing that does not get talked about enough is the many ways one can be a feminist.

This has been on my mind recently for obvious reasons because when isn’t fighting the patriarchy on my mind because, over the past week, I have attended two very very different presentations/performances that dealt with the multiple sides of feminism.

Last Monday, I attended a lecture given by Sister Tahera Ahmad (the program calls her ‘Sister,’ so I am going with that, although I seem to recall her being surprised by the title) on Postmodern Muslim Feminism.

We weren't allowed to take photos during the lecture.  So I took one before.

We weren’t allowed to take photos during the lecture. So I took one before.  Diabolical.

Islam is often criticized for oppressing women—which, to be fair, is a valid criticism in oppressive Islamist states. It is not, however, valid for the majority of Muslim practitioners. Ahmad spent a lot of time discussing how Islam, in the Qur’an, does not actually subjugate women at all—in fact, the origins of the religion actually saved multiple female babies from being buried alive, a rather gruesome practice carried out by some of the regional tribes at the time of the Prophet. The talk did seem to be more about critical feminist perspectives being applied to the origins of Islam, but she did eventually talk about the role of women in the postmodern Muslim society. Ahamd spoke a lot about the balance young Muslim women have to work with, particularly in regard to the hijab. One of the most touching things she said was her recount of a conversation she had with a woman on a plane, which will know be paraphrased by me:

ELDERLY WOMEN (sadly): It’s such a shame.

AHMAD: What is?

ELDERLY WOMEN: We fought so you don’t have to wear the veil.


AHMAD: I think you fought so that I could.

I mean, that right there is a huge part of feminism. Validating the choices every woman makes.

Comparatively, I also went to the annual Gal/Valentine’s Day performance of The Vagina Monologue.

I don't have a picture from The Vagina Monologues, but i do have picture of half a Galentine's Day chocolate chip waffle.  Which is almost as good.

I don’t have a picture from The Vagina Monologues, but i do have picture of half a Galentine’s Day chocolate chip pancake. Which is almost as good.

If you have never been, bless your hearts, you should go because the performances run the gamut from hilarious to heart-breaking, they are performed by very attractive ladies in black leather and red, and the soundtrack is like 75% Beyoncé. The Vagina Monologues aim another side of feminism: primarily, the idea of sexual liberation.

(I remember going last year with a male friend, who spent the entire time looking amazingly uncomfortable. It is a good memory. I hope he learned things.)

The Vagina Monologues are less of a learning experience for me—mostly because I have seen them before, and I also already have accepted and digested all of its messages—they’re just fun. Of particular note is The Woman Who Loved to Make Vaginas Happy sketch, which has to be seen to be believed.

So you should go see it.

The most important thing about feminism is its definition: seeking equality of the genders. The second most important thing is intersectionality; is a multi-prong approach; is an understanding that there are many ways to be a feminist and to support feminism. This week highlighted multiple kinds of feminism—and it was awesome.

Out in Public

I think everyone at one time in their life was (or still is) afraid of doing things in public. Society has all these set standards on what we should be doing, how we should be doing it and where we should be doing it. Today’s Valentine’s Day and I didn’t have any special plans except to participate in my crew team’s ergathon fundraiser. Erg is a land rowing machine that simulates the pressure and stride of rowing with a monitor to measure stroke rate, speed, distance, time and our supporters can donate $10 for every 1K we row or $1 for a power 10 (10 fast strong strokes at 150% effort). Despite the number of students who didn’t know us, or lack of carrying real money around and that weird feeling you get knowing you want to support a good cause but you don’t have money and you’re a broke college student and hungry but you can actually see all the hard work your friends on the crew team are working. And I think while we may not have raised a huge amount of money at our ergathon there were a lot of friends, classmates and even prospective students and families on tour that got to see how hard all the rowers work and what crew is about.

We had hour erging shifts for everyone to get their daily Saturday workout and show our campus (at least those that were up and ventured to the Sub in the morning, although we kept going until 3pm) more about crew. We’re a more obscure sport, we don’t have an official DIII conference anymore and by nature of the sport, smaller teams, less knowledge about it (it’s a legs sport guys NOT an arms sport) that being out in public was good!


I was walking up the path from the S.U.B to my dorm, when, illuminated by the light of the lamps above, I saw the water-prints of a dog’s paws upon the pavement. Naturally, I followed the tracks, which took me past my dorm. Turning on my phone’s flashlight, for the light grew dim, I walked the path the dog had walked. Sometimes, its paw-prints would disappear into the grass, at which point I wouldn’t be able to see them anymore; but before long, they reappeared, as if the dog’s owner pulled the dog back onto the path, as if he didn’t want to get his feet wet.

The tracks eventually began to disappear, a result of, what I believe to be, the drying of the dog’s feet. I followed them to the Field House, at the edge of campus, where the paw-prints ceased. I looked around to see if I could track the dog any further. I couldn’t.

I’ve never had a dog. But my grandparents had some and so did an aunt and an uncle of mine. Whenever my family visited, my sister and I would always play with the dogs before we would enter the house. Some, if not all, of them have passed away by now, with nothing left of them but the memory of their wet paws on the sidewalk. And even those disappear.

I turned and walked to my dorm.

It’s all in the past, where it’s safe.