Tuesday, January 31, 2012

You Want Photos of Me Now???

I woke up late this morning and didn't have time to take a shower. You know what that means . . . A boring, slicked-back ponytail with zero volume. AND a tired look on my face. AND nasal congestion. AND just a general lack of confidence.

Of course this is the day that I was asked to be photographed. :/

I was sitting on a colorful and winding bench in the biology building, working on my laptop, when a woman with an old-school (non-digital) SLR camera asked if she could take some pictures of me. She said I could just continue working, but that I would be the subject of her photos. I said it was fine, but really, I was cringing inside because I hadn't yet taken a shower.

It wasn't a big deal, but it did end up giving me a laugh. "Ohhh, Universe," I thought, "how could you be so tricky?"


Thing I'm thankful for: Christmas lights. They're still hanging up in my apartment, and I have no intention of taking them down.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Day's Worth of Music

Aldous Huxley is credited with saying, "After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music."

It's true, is it not? Today, I went through a range of emotions -- exhaustion, happiness, guilt, frustration, anxiety, joy, more frustration, sadness, regret, and worry. (Many of those feelings were associated with organizing a church activity . . .) You name it, I probably felt it. Well, I wasn't ever angry. So that's good. :)

I didn't quite know what to do with myself most of the time, so I did what I often do when that happens: I listened to music. It really has a way of helping me cope with life. These are the songs that got me through the day:
I mean, you can tell my emotions were all over the map today just by looking at that selection. Oy. :/


*Radiohead is coming to Austin this Spring. Tickets are sooo expensive, but I'm considering purchasing one, anyway, because Radiohead speaks to my soul. :)

**Bach is probably my favorite composer. I almost hate to say it because I love so many others, but c'mon -- you have to admit that he was pretty rockin' back in the 18th century. Check out Toccata and Fugue in D Minor.


Thing I'm thankful for: my roommate Desi. She helps me out a lot in high-stress situations. :)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Open Letter to UT Students

Dear fellow Longhorns,

You know the revolving door at the entrance to the library? Yeah, it's pretty great because it's really big; each section is big enough for two people, probably! It feels a bit luxurious, doesn't it?

If you don't mind, though, I'd like to enter those luxurious quadrants on my own. Unless I know you, I don't want to share them, and even then, you better be fairly certain that we're emotionally close enough to be so physically close. One quadrant -- however large -- is, under most circumstances, only big enough for one occupant. Besides, I need more room when I have my backpack on, which is all the time. You probably have a backpack on, too, and two people and two backpacks is a lot of of stuff!

So if you see me walk into that contraption and there's still time for you to jump in, don't. Resist the urge. It's sort of awkward and uncomfortable, and the nicer thing to do would be to wait for the next available space and help me push the door forward. Then there'll be plenty of space, and both of us will be benefit from the combined effort.


Thanks so much,
Sara

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Q&A with Yours Truly

I don't usually answer direct questions about myself on my blog, but I'll do it for my friend Kynslie, who asked so nicely.
  1. What's your dream job?
    I have too many. So I will list them all: User experience designer, bakery owner, surgeon, cognitive psychologist, and dialect coach.

  2. Where's your favorite place in the world?
    Home

  3. What do you think the definition of love really is?

    Love makes me quote movies and songs. I don't have a definition for it, though.

  4. If you could only listen to one album for the rest of your life, what would it be?
    Ooh. This is a tough one . . . Ummm . . . A compilation CD I make? What? That's cheating? Okay. I'll go with a Motown CD I own. It's a compilation, but it was produced by a record label, so I think it counts.

  5. What do you wish you were better at?
    Going to bed at a reasonable hour

  6. What's your favorite mode of transportation?
    Flying. For two reasons: 1) I love the feeling in the pit of my stomach during takeoff, and 2) I feel like it's the only place where doing nothing is totally acceptable.

  7. Finish this sentence: I hate when people . . .
    . . . embarrass other people in public.

  8. What's your bedtime? What time do you actually go to bed?
    I don't have a bedtime, but I shoot for midnight. It usually ends up being more like 2:00, except lately, because (minus tonight), I've actually been getting more sleep.

  9. What's your favorite way to get exercise?
    Walking and talking with a friend

  10. What book(s) are you reading/intending to read right now?
    I'm not going to count schoolbooks. So here's my current list:
    • The Three Musketeers
    • Of Mice and Men
    • Unbroken

  11. What's your favorite "As seen on TV" product/commercial?
    This was my favorite question on the whole list! I'm a sucker for infomercials. They are so mesmerizing! I've spent many a late night watching them, so I have a few favorites, but the Paint Mate Plus Roller is the best of all. It's a paint roller with paint in the handle, so you don't have to reload as often! The infomercial is mighty fun to watch, too; there's something so satisfying in watching a wall being painted from start to finish. It sort of reminds me of those old how-it's-made videos on "Reading Rainbow" or "Sesame Street." Like the one with the orange crayons.

Thing I'm thankful for: clean clothes

Friday, January 20, 2012

Holding Hands

I realize what I'm about to write will give some people the wrong idea about me. They'll laugh and say I should probably keep things like this to myself, just in case I drive potential suitors far, far away. But this here blog is about me and my life and my thoughts. And for some reason, I like to share them. So here goes . . .

As I was finishing up my grocery shopping tonight, I saw a very blonde toddler slowly walking in the middle of the aisle just a little too far away from anybody who looked like a parent. I'd put him at about a year and a half. He was holding two bags of candy in his left hand. (I remember at least one of them was gummy worms.) I looked around for any indication of a parent or guardian, but no one seemed to be taking an interest in him. I caught his attention and said, "Do you know where your mommy is?" He just looked at me blankly. I pointed to a couple nearby and said, "Is that your mommy and daddy?" He didn't seem to understand, so I crouched down beside him and noticed that he had a runny, dirty nose. He hadn't been crying, but it was clear he had a cold. I told him I'd take him to the front of the store, so we could find his mom, and he basically stayed close to me. He seemed to be struggling with the candy a bit, so I held the bags for him and grabbed his hand. Ohhh, that little hand. It was dirty and chubby, but small.

It was magical. Something magical happens to me when I am with kids. I feel like my best self when I am with them. They love me, and I love them. What I wanted to do in that moment was pick the little guy up, but I wasn't sure he'd be okay with that. Perhaps I was too much of a stranger. But as we walked, I knew he wouldn't have minded. Still, I settled for hand-holding and led him to a security officer, who made his announcement on the PA system. I hoped it would take the mom several minutes to get to the front of the store because I wanted to keep holding the boy's hand. She appeared in less than a minute, though, carrying a baby in her arm.

And that was that. Nothing too grandiose. But I wanted to remember it.

I am not baby crazy. I want to find a husband and be married for a bit before I have kids. When I have kids, though, I will be one of the best moms you've ever seen. I'm not confident about many things, but I know that.


Thing I'm thankful for: my mom's phone calls.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Happy One Year to Me!

Well, I've been in Austin for a year. I am happy to report that I'm glad I'm here. It took me a while to like this crazy place, but I do, in fact, like it now.

I was reading through my posts from January and February of last year, and boy, were they bleak. Just look at this one: In the Wee, Small Hours of the Morning, or Free Associations about Texas. In hindsight, I can see I wasn't happy, but I was trying to be -- at least, I was trying to sound positive. It's difficult to remember the pain now, but when I read those old posts, it's obvious I was sad. Sad and quiet and lonely.

In some ways, I would say this has been a long and difficult year, but then I ask myself, "Would I do it again?" The simple answer is yes. Yes, I would do it again, except I would've moved here a semester early. Why didn't I? Because I was scared of change, anxious to leave people behind, and worried I was making a wrong choice.

There really was only one wrong choice, though, and God let me know pretty clearly what that wrong choice was (going to the University of North Carolina, if you're wondering). Apart from that, He allowed me to do what I wanted. So here I am, in Texas, where the weather is too warm for this time of year, and I don't get to take advantage of my beloved winter clothes.

But as I said earlier, I like it here. I like it here for several little reasons and a few big ones. For now, I will keep the big reasons to myself, but you can read about the little ones in a similarly-themed post, Thing I'm Thankful for: Austin. :)


Thing I'm thankful for: Cuties. They really are delicious; they are a staple food item to me now.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Thoughts on MLK Day

Until the 5th grade, I grew up in Oklahoma. My family lived in a university town, so there were probably more ethnic minorities than one might expect in the middle of nowhere, USA. I had lots of Southeast Asian friends, several Middle-Eastern friends, and a few black friends. We all talked and laughed and played together. I was aware that those friends and I were outwardly different, but it wasn't a big deal.

When my family moved to Georgia, racial segregation was immediately apparent. Even as a 10-year-old, I could tell the Southeast was essentially formed from only two ethnic groups: whites and blacks. And those groups did not mix. There were more blacks than I had ever seen in one place. I remember going to a large mall that first week and later learning it was a "black mall." During lunch at school, there was a distinct separation of white kids and black kids. I learned that -- like so many other "different" people in the South-- blacks were inherently not as good as other people.

When rap and hip-hop became mainstream, things changed a bit. White teens became friends with black teens in school, but they probably wouldn't have done anything together outside of school. There might have been one or two blacks who were welcomed into a white social group, but for whites, those one or two black friends were exceptions and for blacks, those one or two black friends were traitors. It was the same the other way around, too. The handful of white girls who hung out with blacks were seen by other whites as trashy.

In the 15 years since then, I things have changed a lot. I think there is less racism and segregation in the Southeast, but then again, I lived the last 7 or 8 years of that time in Atlanta. In rural areas of Georgia, I would still expect to see a fair amount of segregation. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream that people wouldn't judge each other by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. It was a good dream, but I don't think America is there quite yet. Still, I'm amazed that one man had such influence. That the changes that are still happening started in large part because of him. It makes me wonder about my life. What am I changing in the world? How am I making it a better place?

I don't typically have such thoughts on MLK Day. For me, it's a relief from school and work and responsibility. But for some reason, I found myself listening to King's speeches on the radio today, and I was . . . Well, I was humbled. What a time for him to be alive! What a time to incite change in a nation! I would love to sit down and have a chat with him, and I wonder what he is busy doing in heaven . . .


Thing I am thankful for: time

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Book Review: A Christmas Carol

I spent the last hour adjusting the brightness and size of my Christmas photos, intending to create an album in Picasa for you. After all was said and done, though, I realized I didn't have enough photos to tell a story. So instead, I'll be the last one to end the Christmas blogging season by writing a book review for you. That's right; for the first time in my life this year, I read A Christmas Carol.

President Monson reads it every Christmas, so I thought I better read it, too. I started it on my flight to Atlanta and ended it just yesterday. It's not a thick book (only about 115 pages), so it shouldn't have taken me so long, but I put it down the whole time I was with my family. Don't let that fool you, though. It is an entertaining and quick read. It made me laugh, and yes, it even made me cry. It's not entirely different from its movie adaptations, but there are some scenes in the book that are wholly overlooked in the movies. It's a shame, too, because those scenes are particularly wonderful. And the writing . . . Ohhhh, the writing! Just look at these sentences!
  • Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! A squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. (10)
  • And now, without a word of warning from the Ghost, they stood upon a bleak and desert moor, where monstrous masses of rude stone were cast about, as though it were the burial-place of giants; and water spread itself wheresoever it listed; or would have done so, but for the frost that held it prisoner . . . (73)
  • The Phantom slowly, gravely, silently approached. When it came near him, Scrooge bent down upon his knee; for in the very air through which this Spirit moved it seemed to scatter gloom and mystery. (87)
  • Strike, Shadow, strike! And see his good deeds springing from the wound, to sow the world with life immortal! (96-97)
On the back of my copy, the publisher printed the review that critic Francis Jeffrey wrote directly to Dickens: "Blessings on your kind heart. You should be happy yourself, for you may be sure you have done more good by this little publication, fostered more kindly feelings, and prompted more positive acts of beneficence, than can be traced to all the pulpits and confessionals in Christendom since Christmas, 1842." (Dickens first published the book in 1843.) There's more. William Thackeray called it, "a national benefit, and to every man or woman who reads it a personal kindness."

Just read it, okay? If not now, next Christmas. I promise it will be the best spent time of your year. Top 10, anyway. :)

*Dickens, Charles. A Christmas Carol. Garden City, New York: Dolphin Books, Doubleday & Company.


Thing I'm thankful for: a warm and cozy bed.

Scrambled Eggs


Until this week, I had never scrambled eggs.

Oh, sure -- I order eggs at breakfast restaurants and eat them when other people make them, but I don't like cooking with them. I don't like looking at the chalaza; it totally grosses me out. (Tell me those little suckers don't gross you out, too. I bet anything they do.) Unfortunately, I can't escape using eggs for baking, but at least I don't have to look at the chalaza long enough to make me gag.

I made some resolutions for 2012, though, which require me to eat better. For me, part of eating better is to include more protein in my diet. I don't get enough. I also don't get enough iron, or I get just the bare minimum. It's because I'm sort of a flexitarian (semi-vegetarian). In other words, with the wonderful exception of turkey, I have an easy time saying no to animal muscle. Cooking with it grosses me out. I don't like the feeling of raw meat between my fingers, and I don't like worrying about whether I cut all the tendons out. Yuck.

But. In an effort to be healthy, I am trying to consume eggs. Meat may be a slower process, but eggs? Eggs I can handle. I've scrambled eggs every day this week and only started to gag a little this morning. Not too bad, eh?

And this brings me to the real reason for this post: Got any tips on how to cook eggs? Scrambled or otherwise? I don't know if I'm doing it right.


Thing I'm thankful for: pepper

Monday, January 09, 2012

Resolutions for 2012

Agh! There are so many posts I have swirling around in my head, but for now, I will only record one of them: my resolutions for the new year. I don't typically make them because I figure resolutions should be made every day, but for the first time, I truly see the value in New Year's resolutions. Maybe it's because I recently decided that this year was gonna be my year. It's gonna be the year I work the hardest to become the person I want to be. Sure, I'll have room for improvement for the rest of my life, but I don't want to look back on this year and think that I could've made better use of my time.

Anyway, here they are -- my resolutions for 2012:
  • Get more sleep. I'm shooting for 7 hours a night. It might not always happen, but I will try, try, try. I also am not giving myself a set bedtime. (I'm no fool; that never works.)
  • Exercise, exercise, exercise. I will walk/run, stretch and lift weights 5 times a week.
  • Eat healthy. I can eat about 2,000 calories a day, and I'm gonna make those calories count! No more skipping meals and eating so much junk, even if I am back in school.
  • Keep Sundays free. No more homework! Sunday will be my day of worship and rest.
Not bad, huh? Just four little things that I've already started doing. Feel free to ask me how I'm doing, and if I am going astray, make me feel bad for it. :)


Thing I'm thankful for: hugs

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Usability

Oh, so you wondered what usability was when I mentioned it in my last post? Here's an example of usability at work:

The Greatest Paper Map of the United States You'll Ever See


Thing I'm thankful for: Summo

Monday, January 02, 2012

New Year-ish Musings

There was a time when I wanted to be a doctor—a surgeon, to be exact. I wanted to cut people open and fix their insides—not from any altruistic standpoint; I just wanted to figure out the inner workings of the human body for curiosity's sake, which was a far cry from most of my fellow biology pre-med classmates. When I asked why they wanted to become doctors, they said, "Because I want to help people" or "Because no one in my family graduated from college, and I want to do something really smart."

I fretted over what I would say in my med school interviews because I knew my answer was different from everyone else's. After several years of changing my major and deciding not to become a doctor, I finally have an answer for my reason for becoming one. Here is what I would have said:

"I want to be a doctor because I love anatomy and physiology, and I have an excellent understanding of both. I love to learn about cells, tissues, organs, and systems and how each system works together to function properly. I'm not afraid to cut into people and discover why their systems aren't working. I can stay awake longer than anyone I know, and I am fully functional on an average of 6 hours of sleep a night."

I think that last sentence alone would've gotten me in.


It's interesting how our lives change—how the decisions we make have far-reaching consequences. Why did I decide, for example, after 3 years of biology courses, to pursue English instead? Why did I choose Web editing versus print publishing? Why did I not take the first professional job offered to me after college? And why am I about to fly on a plane back to Texas to study usability?

I can't quite put my finger on the reasons for my decisions. Some of them are clear; some of them are not. What interests me is that in 8 years, I went from wanting to be a surgeon to wanting to be a user experience researcher/designer. I went from wanting to attend Columbia University to wanting to secure an internship at Google.

What decisions will I make in 2012, I wonder. What will my life look like this time next year? Part of me feels like it will be different. Different from all the other years in a big way. I don't know why . . . Perhaps I am wrong. I hope not. Feel free to stick around for another year to see what happens. :)


Thing I'm thankful for: playing Apples to Apples by the fire with two silly little girls