Today I woke up at five thirty to drive up to Seattle and take the GRE. I had to wake up this early because I tend to get lost and because there is a lot of traffic in going through Seattle. There was stop and go traffic on the freeway at six thirty. It was still dark out so all I could really see were streams of red and gold headlights. I pity the poor commuters who have to take that route every morning. It reminded me of what a modern take on Dante’s “neutral” level in hell might be like, bummer to bummer traffic going nowhere.

Luckily, I got to the test center in plenty of time and almost without incident. This was my first time driving in Seattle and I was borrowing my suitemate’s car, which was so big it felt more like driving a boat. Normally, I drive a Prius so I found this quite daunting. I had brought both a GPS and printed directions. It was a good thing I did because the GPS gave out on me about a quarter of the way through and I didn’t have the dexterity to get it going again while driving. So what I tried to do instead was hold the directions up so I could read them. This caused me to swerve dramatically in my lane and then overcorrect. It was at this point on the journey where I reflected that when I had thought to myself “I’ll be there to take the GRE if it kills me” that I hadn’t really meant this literally. A two hundred dollar test isn’t worth dying over. Aside from that, everything went fine and I actually arrived early.

The GRE itself was, in some ways, a lot less stressful than the drive up. It had helped that I had studied before and I knew what to expect. There was a GRE course at the writing center that I had been taking. It gave me a refresher on some of the math concepts, which were basically what I had done in middle school and early high school, only now I had forgotten them all. But because I took the course I was able to remember enough to get a passable score. I wasn’t applying for a math related program so it only had to be just that, passable. My verbal score turned out quite well. I did a few practice sets before so I knew what the questions looked like. In some ways, the GRE is an endurance test. You can’t bring food into the testing room and you only get one ten minute break during the four hours you are there. By the time I got back I was ready to start gnawing on whatever I could find.

But in the end, I did well. My GRE score, if not an asset, at least shouldn’t be an impediment to getting into graduate school. More importantly, however, I’ll never have to take the test again. No more multiple choice questions with more than one answer, no more trying to figure out which quantity is greater, and best of all, no waking up at five thirty to sit in traffic for two hours.

Rainy Days in Oppenheimer Café

Saying that the past few days have been a bit rainy is probably as big of an understatement that anyone could make. This sun-spoiled Southern California boy has just about drowned in Puget Sound’s most recent onslaught of blustering downpours. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely enjoy the rain, but having to be outside as the heavens open isn’t my favorite.

Bogged down with writing a draft of my thesis, I took a coffee break in Oppenheimer mid-morning on Friday. While I don’t normally do much work in either of our campus cafés, the urgency of my looming Monday due date for the draft necessitated that my coffee break included a bit of work.

Gray Skies in Oppenheimer

Gray Skies in Oppenheimer

With friends coming and going as I tried to get work done, I definitely wasn’t the most productive, but I was certainly reminded of what a beautiful campus we have. Just an hour before, I was fuming with disdain for the stormy weather, but watching the rain from inside of the glass dome gave me an entirely new perspective. There is something so relaxing about watching drops of rain stream down the full glass windows as you sip on a latte, even if it means you won’t get much work done. I think the lesson learned was that when I’m down about the weather, all I really need to do is grab a coffee Opp. Now if only they opened on the weekends….

Leverage: A Show That I am Thankful For

So, now that it’s almost Thanksgiving, I thought it might be best to recommend a TV show that I am not only truly thankful for but that everyone must see because, really– this is the best show ever and I am so upset it was cancelled after five seasons.*

“What is this show?”, you might ask. Well, friends and classmates, this is a show called Leverage. The main premise of the show is that a team of criminals– Nathan Ford, a former insurance agent and the team mastermind, Sophie Devaraux, star grifter, Alec Hardison, hacker extraordinaire, Eliot Spencer, their retrieval specialist, and Parker, the world’s best thief– must break the law in order to serve justice to those who were not able to secure it through legal means.

This show? Is literally the best show that has ever existed. It’s like a spy thriller and a comedy and drama had a baby all together. The characters are amazing and lovely, especially Parker, who is flawless** and wonderful and I love her, and the character development for all of them? is so good. While the episode structure does get a little formulaic at times, it actually helps for when big, status-quo shattering events happen, because the disruption of the general structure tells you, as the audience, “this is bad. Like, really bad.”

In short  (since I am trying to keep closer to 300 words in this post), this is an amazing show, I love it so much, and you all need to watch it because it is amazing and I need people to be as upset about its cancellation three years after the fact as I am.*** It’s on Netflix! So you should do the thing, if you have the time.

*I blame my friend Rachel who will see this post and laugh at me because she was trying to get me into this for SO LONG before I finally broke down and watched it.

** Parker is not actually flawless– she does have character flaws. But I love her, so I am using this figure of speech to showcase this diamond of a character. Because she’s flawless.

*** I didn’t even mention all of the side characters, or the amazing dialog, or like. A lot of the other stuff that makes Leverage great. But it is a fantastic show, and, in conclusion, I heartily recommend it

Paris: Thoughts


Temperature held low, right for November, with rain falling steady throughout the night. I woke up early, five AM, lay there in bed and listened to the rain. My legs ached, so I got up to stretch them, stepped outside to look around. Big puddles all over the place, lights on inside the church across the street.

Opened my computer to the news. Earlier death tolls now appearing a conservative estimate. Le Parisien: ‘Cette Fois, C’est La Guerre.’ This Time, It’s War.

Food all over the kitchen: leftovers from the night before, when friends gathered for an early Thanksgiving. Nine or ten of us coming together for a big potluck. Food was set on the table, buffet style, and we spread across the living room on couches and fold-out chairs, ferrying back and forth from our seats to the table. The whole evening abustle, so no opportune moment for a prayer or for silence. Plenty of time, though, over red wine, to swap opinions–each with the tinny ring, the thinness, of murder explained. What to make of it? What led to this? “France’s anti-assimilationist culture!” Another: “Like a pressure cooker of ethnic tensions, boom.” Another: “As if this many aren’t killed every day in the Middle East…” Another: “It’s the new normal, this sort of attack.”

Morning coming on fast now. Rain slowing down even as the sun rises. What’s the science behind that? The symbolism?

My uncle writes from Paris: “President Hollande has called for three days of mourning. No need to call for that, except for the formality of it, really; it’s already happening.”

If we’d somehow known, perhaps we’d’ve planned our gathering for another night. But to gather—to share company, food, laughter, to celebrate life and love, to give thanks for friends—was perhaps the best thing we could have done in any case.

Sun up, rain stopped but still dripping from the gutters. How to respond to tragedy when discourse seems so thin? One possibility: tears, rage for the lives lost, yes, but renewed and deepened love for the lives left.

Not In My Blood

In which Daniel misses his kitchen, and it has nothing to do with his ethnicity.


To my dear reader,

The first question posed at the Men of Color Club’s Adjusting to Life at Puget Sound Open Discussion was “What do you miss about home?” Although a seemingly unassuming question, the implication to the twenty-odd university students, of a multitude of ethnicities, was clear: “Did you miss your home culture when you arrived at a school so dominated by white students and faculty?” Most answers responded to this implication, expressing a yearning for students’ home languages and habits. My answer was “my kitchen’.

This inevitably made some people laugh and some people uncomfortable. The people that laughed probably thought that I was being cute or silly, while the people that became uncomfortable probably thought I was being disrespectful or rude. None of these things are true.

I miss my kitchen because that is where I might find my golden retriever laying on the floor, waiting for me to use her tummy as a pillow. That is where my mother and I once tried (and spectacularly failed) to make a German Black Forest Cake, and where one of my sisters and I took turns playing the video game Skyrim on her laptop. That is where I have sat to watch the wind through the treetops in the back yard, and where I have written some of my best fiction, and where I used to go first thing in the morning for a cup of Irish Breakfast Tea. This is the nature of my kitchen.

Of course these things are not irrelevant to my ethnicity – or more specifically, from that of my white father. He is an incredibly intelligent, extremely hard working biomedical research director that may have never achieved his place in his profession were he not white. So many of the wonderful memories I have of my kitchen at home would not be possible if my family was not reasonably well-off, and we would not be well-off if my father was not such an incredibly intelligent, extremely hard working man that society had rewarded, and society would not be nearly as willing to reward my father were he not the ethnicity he is. This is not his fault. This is the nature of our world.

Yet at the same time, what I miss from home has nothing to do with my ethnicity. I say this because none of things I mentioned have to do with Eastern European culture or Filipino culture. My parents were raised by their parents to be American, not to have the cultures of their ancestors. It is not a good thing or a bad thing, but as a real thing. My grandparents all thought, “If I raise my child to be a good American, then they will have a better chance at being a successful one too.”

My father’s forefathers came across the Atlantic from somewhere distant and cold where the soup was probably thick and the socks probably thicker. My mother’s forefathers came across the Pacific from somewhere where the sun was probably bright and the flowers probably brighter. But I am an American; I know Thanksgiving stuffing, and Tylor Swift’s 1989 album, and that New York is allegedly a place of great dreams and skyscrapers but also of great disappointment and overcrowded apartments. I have no more right to claim Eastern European or Filipino culture as mine than a Brazilian does Norwegian culture. It is not in my blood; it was in my ancestor’s lives, and is not in mine.

I am certain that those cultures are completely beautiful and fascinating in their own right. But they are not what has defined me. It is not a good thing or a bad thing, but a real thing. This is the nature of my identity.

I stand by my answer of “my kitchen,” because although I respect the Men of Color Club, I will not identify myself by the pigmentation of my epidermis or the daily practices of ancestors I will never know, even if others will. The lack of cultural and ethnic diversity at this university truly must be discussed, and the dialogue fostered by the open discussion is important and truly must happen. But I will participate as a student and an American and an empathetic human that cares with a heart as wide as a cosmos, and not as a “person of color.”

It matters not to me what my ancestors did or where they came from; it matters what I do and where I am going.


With all due respect,

Daniel Wolfert

Panther Creek Cave

There’s nothing quite as disconcerting as not being able to see. Think about it.

You’re a kid and you’re goofing around with your siblings on the family room floor. Your dauntless six-year-old-self is standing ground like a champ, wailing on the others with pillows that send them to the floor in a flurry of defeat. You’re invincible. Then, out of the corner of your eye, you notice a faint movement. It all happens so fast and there’s nothing you can do about it. Your older, bigger brother sneaks around your blindside and jumps on you from the couch with a big, black comforter in his hands. He knocks you over and covers you with the blanket, wrapping you up tight in it, cementing you to the ground by sitting on you in triumph. You have been bested.

Under the blanket however, things aren’t all fun and games. You open your eyes and the smile disappears from your face. It’s dark, you can’t see, you can’t move your hands, and worst of all, your brother will not get off. You’re terrified. You get hysterical. You start thrashing around like a hooked fish, but to no avail. Eventually after minutes of this, you are forced to give up and accept your fate. You’re going to die down there under the blanket, in the dark, alone, tormented by eternal carpet burn.

Ok, over dramatization, I know. But now maybe you understand my first point.


Columbia River via Highway 12

Not too long ago, I had the opportunity to go caving with Puget Sound Outdoors on a weekend trip to the Panther Creek Cave. This cave is near the Oregon border, not too far from the Columbia River Gorge, and according to the Internet, it’s the world’s 34th longest lava tube. Pretty legendary, I know. To put it simply; I was stoked.

But nothing could prepare me for the experience of actually being inside the cave. Up until that day, my knowledge of caves was rather scantily-based upon Indiana Jones movies, and let me tell you, those caves are not real. Now, I know that caves are cold, clammy, wet, dark, and often very difficult to traverse, but nevertheless, the whole experience was a blast.


Walter pondering the perils of the cave

If I were to look back on the trip, I’d be able to point out many moments as favorites, but there’s one that stands out in particular. After being underground for a few hours or so, we’d decided to take a snack break. We had come from a narrower portion into a very spacious, tall chamber that caused even our Pop Tart wrappers to echo off the walls and carry along the tunnel. The 4% of me that wanted to be a geologist was doing backflips in my mind.


Galen pensively considering the philosophy of lava tubes

The best moment was yet to come, however. Eventually the banter died down and the group became silent. Then, someone spoke up saying, “Let’s turn off our headlamps”, and the group unanimously agreed. The next couple minutes were some of the most interesting minutes I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing. I’ve never not been able to see my hand in front of my face before. The only contact I had with the cave, and with my group, were my feet touching the rocky floor. Truly indescribable, really.


Cave babes one and all

So, in case you were curious, I would highly, highly, highly recommend checking out a cave. Whether it be through PSO or not, caving makes for some great experiences, stories, and sights… or not.

Happy trails,

Colton Born


I grew up in the east side of my city. I grew up where 65 degrees is too damn cold. I grew up with bars on my windows. I grew up with 7 people in a single story, 4 bedroom house. I grew up in the same house for 18 and a half years. I grew up in a neighborhood of color. I grew up on a corner house next to one of the busiest streets in the area. I grew up looking for the best value in the food I bought, not its appearance or by how healthy it was. I grew up eating rice for dinner almost every night of my life. I grew up not wasting anything. I grew up wondering if I was hearing gunshots or fireworks on the 4th of July. I grew up not as a minority. I grew up hearing half a dozen languages a day. I grew up wishing for things, then wishing some more.

I grew up where I was the same as everyone else.

I live on campus, in the north end of my city. I live where 50 degrees is normal. I live on the third floor of my dorm. I live with a roommate, on a floor with 50 other people, in a building of nearly 200. I live in a place I call home, even though it’s only been 2 months since I moved in. I live where the color palette is lacking.  I live next to the stairs, the busiest part of the building. I live eating food from the Diner, paid for by loans. I live wondering when was the last time I ate rice. I live eating everything on my plate. I live wondering which room is blasting music. I live where I’m a minority. I live hearing two languages, only because I have to take a class for one. I live wishing for things, then getting it on Amazon.

I live where I am different than everyone else.

Note: I just want to make it clear that I don’t resent anyone. I wrote this because I noticed and increasing number of differences between myself and the people around me and wanted to share them. These differences aren’t bad things, just… things, I guess.

360 Trails

I love how this University is tremendously invested into the idea that students should be able to try whatever they want to try while attending UPS. Whether it’s in interdisciplinary courses, study abroad opportunities, or the zillions of clubs on campus, there’s honestly  not many things one can’t get their hands on here. The same goes for outdoors.

I call rural Minnesota home, and due to the lack of geographic and topographic variety that categorizes that part of the country, one could say that options for getting outside are rather limited in comparison to other areas (namely the Pacific Northwest). Back home, I really got my start in spending time ‘up north’ with my dad, fishing and taking time to walk through the woods. Nothing too extravagant. Later in life, I was introduced to the concept of backpacking and my world forever changed. Over the next few years, I hiked about 550 miles along the North Shore of Lake Superior as well as other parts of the country. I can now say firmly that backpacking is my favorite thing in this world to do.

Besides homework, obviously.

But then I showed up here and realized that backpacking is only a drop in the bucket in terms of outdoor opportunities in the PNW. Since starting here, I’ve met climbers, bikers, kayakers, canoers, fly-fishermen, spelunkers, canyoneers, snowshoers, and so many other kinds of outdoors-people that it’s a tad bewildering to see how many ways one could spend a Saturday.

The best part about all of this, though, is that because these options exist, and because my school is the way that it is, I can not only learn about all of these different activities, but I can enjoy them all the same.

So when my friend Tyler, an avid mountain biker and erudite mechanic, asked me if he could take me mountain biking some time, let’s just say I was into the idea.

He ended up taking me to 360 Trails in the greater Gig Harbor area, a mere 20 minutes from campus via car. Man, best Wednesday night I’ve had in a long time.

We arrived there after our classes got out on Wednesday (around four), and we got straight to it. Knowing that I had minimal experience, Tyler started us out on a trail that he knew as a ‘beginner trail’… I have never moved so fast on a bicycle in my life. Even though it may have felt at times like my bike was going to disassemble beneath my feet and leave me helplessly hurling over the hills, that never happened, and when that first run was over I just wanted more.

We ended up spending around two hours there. In the process, I may or may not have catapulted myself into a few thorn bushes, disengaged my chain four or five times, and learned that my bike’s brakes don’t really work. However, this new experience in the outdoors will stick with me as one of the most fun times I’ve ever had. So, in short, whether you’re a beginner and prone to falling into thorn bushes, or you’re an expert  who can take beginners along primarily for your own amusement, 360 Trails is a great, close-to-campus option for all of you interested in saddling up any day of the week.

Furthermore, wherever you are in life, I would also highly recommend trying something new, preferably something scary, every once in a while if only to keep the blood pumping. Who knows? Maybe it’ll end up being something you love so much that you’ll share your passion with others and get them hooked, all the same.

As always, happy trails,

Colton Born

selfie 1

PS: style is one of the keys to a rad outdoor endeavor; never forsake the swag.

Security & Safety

Earlier this past week at around 4am I was woken up by a flurry of text messages on my phone. And half asleep I just ignored it. When I woke up I saw a bunch of text messages and email notifications. They were both from campus security alerting me of an incident on 11th and Alder of a drunk individual (not a member of our campus community) making noise and exiting his car, to then shoot at the approaching campus security. Nobody was hurt and the Tacoma Police arrived to arrest the individual and take him into custody.  Despite the fact I slept through the whole altercation, I am grateful that security contacted all students (who’s contact information is in their myPugetSound profile) via text AND email at the beginning and conclusion of the altercation so if we were in the vicinity we would know what is happening, and for me who had no clue to at least know what was happening. It struck close to home that this incident could have been one of the many recently campus violence across the nation. I think its horrifying that this trend is even occurring or can occur anywhere.

I am thankful for the safety measures our campus security and administration has put in place to keep us students safe. As someone who lives off-campus and quite a few blocks away, as the nights get longer and darker soon-er I’ve been utlizing our security escorts to get home more frequently. Yes, I think Tacoma is a pretty safe community especially the residential area our campus is located in but when its dark and late at night you never know what could happen, such as the shooting incident. And upon getting to know our campus security better, they don’t do a lot of security escorts and that service is available for our students for our safety. These officers, some of which are students, others adults are willing to walk with members to their destination on or off campus (within a wide triangle around campus, see link below for exact streets) and via vehicle if like myself you live or are going somewhere more than 10 blocks away. This incident also spurred a discussion on campus safety hosted by Dean of Students Mike Segawa a few days after the event along with emails from our Head of Security and Assistant Dean of Students Marta Palmquist-Cady on the resources available to prevent campus violence or any nature, safety, and security for our campus. It makes me feel safe knowing our campus were prepared for such an incident, and kept students alerted of what was going on, held follow-up discussions and reminders of resources all in all keeping our campus community safe.

Four: Memories at Point Defiance

Despite its location so close to campus, I’ve only been to Point Defiance four times.

Time One: The Rose Garden

It was the Saturday of Fall Break, my freshman year, and it was the only time I’ve ever used the ever-handy Saturday Shuttle service campus has to offer. There were five of us, sitting comfortably in the van, and the two students driving gave us cookies as they drove us. We stayed in the front section of the park — wandering through the rose garden and taking pictures of the flowers, pictures of us together, blurry pictures, and pictures in crisp color.

We stayed in the section for over an hour, pacing back and forth between everything, trying to imprint it all in our brains. Eventually, though, we had our fill. We walked around the pond, took more photos (the ducks in the pond, the changing of the leaves from deep green to burnt orange), and avoided being in the wedding pictures that were being taken.

We ended the day with the ever-popular game of frisbee. A seemingly stereotypical choice, that probably wasn’t the best idea because none of us had played in years. I think we spent more time running in a desperate attempt to catch the disc then we actually spent playing the game. Nonetheless, we had a good time.

Kathryn and Talena, definitely posing, but letting out genuine laughs.

Kathryn and Talena, definitely posing, but letting out genuine laughs.

Time Two: With the (Friend’s) Parents (and Grandmother)

Spring, 2015. Parent’s weekend.

Claire’s parents had come up from L.A., bringing her grandmother in tow.

We all ended up going to breakfast together, four of us crammed into the back seat of their rent-a-car as we made our way to Proctor District. Claire and her mother talked to each other while splitting pancakes and eggs. Claire’s father bonded with Gaea over their shared love of jazz music. Claire’s grandmother told me I had nice hair and asked me what my major was and told me I had nice hair again. (Actual quote: “Has anyone ever asked you about buying your hair?”) Then, after discovering where in Northern California I was from, she asked me if I knew “that one restaurant. The famous one.” She seemed thrilled when I finally managed to guess where she was talking about. (The Samoa Cookhouse, okay eggs, overpriced dinner, good for large family functions.)

It was the type of day where the sun couldn’t decide whether or not it was going to peak through the clouds. The type of day where the rain flew sideways in the wind and you felt like you could fly. We piled back into the car. The heater was cranked on and the windows steamed while rain pattered the windows.

“Where are we going?” Claire’s dad asked, turning this way and that randomly down the winding streets. There was no immediate answer, no immediate desire to go back to campus, but no real solution as to where. I don’t know who came up with the suggestion of Point Defiance — maybe Claire? — but one way or another that became our destination.

“Where is this place?” Claire’s dad asked. “And what’s it called again? Point Conception?” Claire looked the type of annoyed where you are trying to hide your amusement while Gaea and I hid our smiles in pressed together lips.

We made it there (eventually) and ended up driving around the five mile loop. We stopped at Owen’s Beach, deciding that it would be a good idea to stretch our legs. We were out of the car for less than five minutes, still walking towards the Sound, when it started pouring. Understandably, we rushed back into the car, and continued on our way.

For someone battling the cold and the rain and the general confusion of being in a new place, it was understandable that Claire’s dad got confused. The exit signs come up quick and it is easy to pass them. We ended up driving around the loop at least three times, each time somehow missing the exit.

Claire’s dad: “We might actually be stuck here.”

Claire’s grandma: “At least we have each other.”

Dubbed by Gaea, "Awkward woods pic!"  From left to right: Claire, Talena, Gaea.

Dubbed by Gaea, “Awkward woods pic!”
From left to right: Claire, Talena, Gaea.

Time Three: With my Mother

One of the side-effects of living your whole life in a small, rural town, is that you aren’t used to driving in densely populated areas. The first time coming up here, my mom was nervous, to say the least. We didn’t do much wandering beyond campus, I think we only even went to Proctor District once. It was all very scheduled, she was on a time-crunch to get back home and I was only thinking about the fact that in a number of days I would be in college.

When she came back in May there was less of a rush. I was keen to show her parts of Tacoma and she was more than willing to see it all. We each got sandwiches from the Met, ginger ale, and one of The Cookie to share.

We went to Point Defiance, sat on a park bench, and had our first meal together in months.


My mom and I post-picnic dinner.

Time Four: To the Sound

It was something we had semi-seriously joked about doing for months. Let’s jump in the Sound! Do the Puget Plunge! I am honestly still surprised that it actually happened. Maggie sat on the shoreline of Owen’s Beach, I waded in to my knees, bouncing up on my toes as the swell from boats came near.

Claire, Maddy, and Gaea had more of an all-or-nothing attitude about the situation. Freezing in their bathing suits before getting in, I know for a fact that the water was less than enjoyable. It was more of a, “this is so stupid, but fun and these are the memories they were telling us about making” type of moment for them.

With the three of them shivering, Maggie and I mildly concerned and mildly amused, we went back to the car. Cranked up the heater. Drank hot chocolate. Laughed.

Maddy, freezing and looking absolutely adorable.

Maddy, freezing and looking absolutely adorable.