Monday, July 9, 2012


My alarm rang at 6:15, and I had absolutely no problem getting out of bed. I was dressed and out the door by 6:30. Where was I going at 6:30 AM do you ask? I was headed to the gym with Mariko and Chloe for a quick early morning work out. We used the showers in the gym and I'm not saying our dorm showers aren't wonderful, but those showers were phenomenal! We managed to get back to campus with plenty of time for breakfast, and even some free time before we had to make our way over to class.

Today for our morning class we had a guest speaker, Filip Kovacevic. Prof. Kovacevic's main topics throughout the morning were liberation and elaborating on Herbert Marcuse's book: "An Essay on Liberation". He talked to us about the construction of an alternative. Everybody has different opinions on what a perfect society is, but I think most of us agreed that the one thing we'd definitely eliminate would be the global domination of corporate capitalism. Mercuse pointed out that if we pay attention to the things that seem powerful, we begin to realize they aren't so powerful. There are cracks. Another important subtopic that was covered was, individual liberation. Prof. Kovacevic stated, "Unless you are free in your own life, you cannot free others." Following that statement he posed the question, "Can liberation be sustained?" We covered many different areas of liberation and learned a lot about his home country, Montenegro. I wish I could just scan my notes from this morning so you could all know how interesting the lecture was! I enjoyed it so much, and I am so glad I was able to hear him speak. Below I will write a couple of quotes by him that I found to be interesting.

For our afternoon class we divided ourselves into three groups, my group stayed inside with Michael and we debriefed the morning's presentation. The other groups had their discussions outdoors. After about two hours of discussing liberation, consumerism, and an alternative society, Michael allowed us to leave early. I headed to dinner early today because a new camp arrived at Penn yesterday, and well, let's just say I didn't want to go through what happened during lunch again. It was a smart idea because dinner wasn't crowded at all, there was hardly anybody there. About an hour and a half after dinner, Chloe, Alysa, and I were going to the gym for round two of the day. After spending a total of about two and half hours in the gym today I am exhausted! My bed is calling my name and I just cannot refuse, so I will leave you now with the quotes I mentioned earlier. Enjoy!

"Knowledge is the key, not certificates. It's the experience." We were discussing American Universities and how it seems that people no longer remember their initial purpose. A lot of people now go to college only to get that piece of paper, their certificate. It's not just about that, it's about learning about what you love, what you're passionate about.

"Knowledge is like something sweet, like honey. Something that you wanna give to others." Prof. Kovacevic gives a free lecture every Thursday, and it's purpose is just to teach. He gets no money from it. He does it for him, because he wants to. If you possess a certain skill, why should you charge to teach it? Why can't you just teach it to others and expect nothing in return, is that impossible?

"The process is what you want, not the result." It's the journey that you will remember. It's just like success, success isn't a destination, but the path to that destination.

"Unless you are free in your own life, you cannot free other others." I mentioned this one earlier.

Protesting Through Theater

Today was the first day of a brand new week at UPenn and I was excited to begin the new Justice and Identity theme that we will be following from now through Friday.  We have a few international guests visiting this week, and today Filip Kovacevic introduced us to Political Street Theater and discussed youth activism with us.  I thoroughly enjoyed his discussion, although there were a bunch of controversial ideas that he presented.  Even so, I felt that I agreed with many of his ideals but I still think it will be hard for them to be implemented.  

He began with his lecture by reviewing the two books we read yesterday (Crack Capitalism and An Essay on Liberation).   From there he continued on with a brief description of his home country, Montenegro, and then explained how the youth there use theater to convey their political concerns.  I really enjoyed this topic because I think it is a really creative and effective way for the youth to peacefully express their ideas.  We were able to watch a few clips of these protests and they were definitely something to look up to.  I'm not sure if this activity is occurring in America, but if we were to do this I think the young people of this country would feel much more empowered. It's something to think about.

During the second portion of class we broke up into two groups, one went outside and the other stayed indoors with air conditioning!  I was in the group that decided to stay inside and I loved the small group discussion we had for the next two hours.  Michael was with us during this time, but he allowed and encouraged us to guide the conversation.  We discussed a number of topics from the rise of the human population to creating more localized economies throughout America. We also discussed how it would be possible to close the gap between the rich and the impoverished so was interesting to hear a foreign perspective from the Chinese students because they had first-hand knowledge of the class differences in China.  I wish the whole class could have been a part of this discussion, but it was even more engaging with a smaller amount of people in the room.  I had more opportunities to speak and I voiced my opinions more frequently.  This class is so wonderful; I cannot believe I am able to learn among such brilliant students and professors.  They have such a wealth of knowledge that I am thrilled to share and contribute to over the next three weeks.

Ryan the Jedi

This week of class covers second semester physics, so basically it’s our electricity and magnetism unit. This was the hardest unit for me to understand during high school physics, probably because it wasn’t easy for me to intuitively grasp the concepts behind the science, like I could for kinematics and forces. I did my high school physics project on RC circuits, so I think that definitely helped me gain a better understanding of the topic. I was pleasantly surprised today to find that I felt better about the E&M stuff than I had all last week, probably thanks to that physics project.

Ryan pushes a balloon with
PBC pipe–without touching it!
The morning lecture was interspersed with demos and mini labs. Ryan, one of our teachers, showed off his Jedi magic by moving balloons and paper without touching them. We were then invited to try some “magic” ourselves by doing a partner lab with Scotch tape, which can be charged by ripping apart two pieces of tape. In the afternoon, we did a lab with circuits, getting firsthand experience about Ohm’s Law. In our lab, we investigated the change on a graph of voltage vs. current when we adjusted the resistance in the circuit. We also investigated whether or not the shape of the resistor mattered, by using a hunk of Play-Doh as a resistor. It’s good to know that all those hours of playtime when I was six weren’t wasted. 
Clara tests the attraction between two pieces of tape

As it was a new week, we got new lab groups. I miss my old group, since we were just starting to know each other a bit better, but since everyone in this program is really smart I know that this lab group will be awesome too. We’ll learn more about E&M tomorrow, as well as listen to guest speaker Dr. Don Thomas, a former astronaut.

Bill charges a balloon by rubbing it with fur

 Our dining experiences were a little weird today, as there were a lot of new arrivals for other programs. The dining halls were much busier than usual, and I had to wait in a much longer line than I usually do in order to get lunch. Of course, then I started thinking about how long the lines must get when there are thousands of college students on campus, as opposed to 200+ high school kids. Maybe I’ll just stockpile lots of food in my room when I’m in college.

Magic In Physics

I sprang out of bed today at 6:45, rushing to get a shower because last night I got stuck playing foosball with about ten of my dorm mates. I grabbed me towel along with my other bathing essentials that I laid out the night before, hoping it will help me get a shower. As I walked out of my room, I could already hear the sound of water splashing. The first bathroom was filled, but luckily, the second had one open. By 7:15 I was outside ready for breakfast with my cohort. Now you might be thinking about my previous blogs when mentioned I would be waking a few minutes later, well that changed. As you may know, yesterday more students showed up other programs. Our cohort decided to meet earlier to get breakfast so that we don’t have to deal with a line. We managed to get fill up, and then head out to class.
Bill Showing Off His Toys
My professor is a wizard and it’s true, he was doing magic. He would rub a PVC pipe and then attract and repel objects. Then he gave us the secrets to his magic and gave even gave us a chance to try it out with two pieces of tape, where we stuck them together and then peeled them apart. Okay, he is not really a wizard and it wasn’t magic he was using, it was electricity, I just love the way Professor Bill always refers to it being magic. We were lectured on joules, coulombs, voltage, and current. Then we followed up the lecture with a lab on proved current and voltage is directly proportional.
The "Magic" In Action
Earlier today, we were able to escape the massive lines at breakfast. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the same at lunch. I stood in line for about 10 minutes just to get my order in, and then I had to wait about another 30 minutes just to get my food. It was going to be impossible for me to sit down and eat and get to class on time. I had to improvise, walk and eat. Luckily, I was able to eat most of my cheesesteak before class started.

The lab before we went to lunch was to help us get a full meaning of current and voltage because we came back to a lecture on Ohm’s Law. The lecture was very fun, as always, Professor Bill used the fight amount of analogies and humor to help the wonderful lecture sink in. We then moved on to a lab that involved resistance and Play-Doh.  It was very fun playing with the Play-Doh, molding it into different shapes to explore how the resistance changes.
After dinner, I went to go play volleyball with some students from my Physics class. At first, I was scared to play because the sand was filled with hornets, but I also didn’t want to be that kid sitting alone on the bench. It was weird, we were all diving in the sand, right where all the hornets were, yet none of us got stung. I really need the physical activity, especially since I can’t go to the gym.
Tomorrow is going to be so much fun. We are going to be able to speak with Donald Thomas, a former NASA astronaut. In the evening, we are going to play soccer, which is my favorite sport. Now I need to go take a shower to get all the sand out of my hair from playing volleyball. 

Beating the Planet

Sleeping in yesterday made getting up this morning so much more challenging.  After the typical breakfast at McClelland Dining Hall, I headed off to class.  Most of our class gets there well before the beginning, so I left early in an attempt to arrive with everyone else.  The weather today was considerably cooler, and I managed to survive the day in jeans.  I hope it stays this way.

Today was our first day talking about electricity.  Ryan, one of our other teachers, led the morning lecture that covered the basics of charge, attraction, and repulsion.  I remember electricity being a big challenge for me during the school year, so I was excited to review and understand better.  We spent our last morning hour in the lab studying the relationship between voltage and current.  Professor Bill Berner explained that for electricity to work, it has to be stronger than gravity. Essentially our mission in electricity is to beat the planet.  

Lunch went just as always, except we found the dining hall much more crowded than usual.  On our way back to class, we stopped at Insomnia Cookies, aka the best store in the campus area.  They sell warm, gooey cookies of all flavors and they will deliver anywhere, even a dorm room, until around 1 AM.  The two cookies I bought were exactly what I needed to power me through the afternoon of class.  

In our afternoon session, we expanded on the idea of resistance and practiced using the equipment we will have on Friday at Hershey Park.  In the lab, we studied the conductivity of Play-Doh. Yes, you read that right, Play-Doh.  We learned that both the diameter and length of a wire effect its resistance.  

After class, I worked on my summer assignment for school and my first assignment for Physics- a one page summary of what I learned last week.  With all this new knowledge swimming around in my head, it wasn't hard to write a page.  

After dinner, which we ate as a cohort minus Cameron, I hung out for a bit in Mariko's dorm.  I then got to Skype with Teddy, a four-year-old boy who I have been babysitting since he was 8-months-old, and his parents.  They are like my second family and it was great to see his smiling face and catch up with them.  Tomorrow we will have a guest speaker, astronaut Don Thomas.  I can't wait to hear about space travel and astrophysics. 

Yet Another Day In The Life

I woke up this morning at 6:30 without the help of an alarm. Going to bed early sure is nice. I laid in bed for a while and used the computer until I decided to get up at 7:00. I went through the normal morning routine and headed to the quad to meet the cohort for breakfast. This morning only Clara and I walked together, we were joined by the others later. Over the weekend we all noticed that there seemed to be a significantly larger amount of people on campus than usual. It turns out that a few more programs were getting started so we made sure to get to breakfast early.

Physics class today was intriguing. In addition to new material, we reviewed a few concepts that I was familiar with. I felt so empowered with knowledge when I learned from some of my peers that they hadn't learned this information in their more recent physics courses. Class proceeded as usual and then we broke for lunch. Houston Market was abnormally crowded due to all of the new students but all was well once we got our food. When Clara, Mariko, and I walked into the lecture hall we were greeted by a pleasant surprise. Mr. Lawrence, our chaperone, was going to sit in on the second half of class. Seeing our chaperone now that we're on our own is always nice.

The second lab, much like class that morning, made a lot of sense to me. I felt like I completely understood everything and wasn't just guessing. Maybe it was the Insomnia Cookies :)

The rest of the day proceeded as a normal day would. I headed to the gym with Ivette and Chloe after dinner and the workout was intense and oh so worth it. I feel energized at 10:00 at night! I'm using that energy to blog right now and then I'll be crawling into bed in a little bit to sleep like a baby and do it all again tomorrow.

Gotta go! Call time for morning workout is 6:30 AM!

Montenegro And Liberation

The second week of classes were beginning today. After two days of rest I was ready to get back in the class discussions about politics, religion, freedom, liberty, or even changing the world , as that was today's topic. We had a guess speaker who spoke on the fact that in order to change the world we first have to alter the mindsets of the people. Much of his speech was directly correlated to the "Essay On Liberation" which is book written by Marcuse, that argues that the traditional conceptions of human freedom have been rendered obsolete by the development of advanced industrial society. Marcuse also analyses major thinkers since the Enlightenment such as Kant, Freud, and Marx, Which reveal a depth of knowledge. Our speaker was from Montenegro , and he gave us a brief background of the the small country, such as the location and the years until it was an Independent state. He states that communism was in rule from 1945-1991 and as 1994-today the communist party still rules but under a different name. What can this possibly say?

Deciding what to discuss in class( what ever really interest us)
After this long but interesting discussion it was lunch time. As I walked down the steps to Houston dining hall and made a left , my eyes widened at the site of a human traffic jam. I instantly remembered that we got in a new batch of students for the engineering program. Well as I squeezed my way passed people I finally got what I was going to eat for lunch , which was a California roll, for the 3rd time:).After lunch we gathered once again , but split into three groups and discussed what had gone on that morning.We did this under the trees and than migrated into the nicely air conditioned dining court were we all enjoyed some ice cream. 

After all that conversation I went back to my dorm room and took a nap and promptly rose for dinner at 7 o'clock. Surprisingly as I was walking to the dining hall Ed Healy was also on his way to dinner. I caught up to him and we discussed how I liked the program thus far and other things revolving education. It was almost close to closing time for the cafeteria , so not many people were there , so after I choose what I was going to eat for that night, no one was sitting with Mr. Healy so I pulled up a chair and We eat and watched NBR. Today was a good day and I think I am settling in well.Looking forward to the things to come in my Social Justice acadamy.