Friday, July 20, 2012

Free Time Friday

Due to our morning class being cancelled, I was able to sleep in this morning. I could have slept for maybe an hour or two more, but the gym was waiting. After a lengthy workout I grabbed lunch then went back to my dorm room to prepare for class.
Today's afternoon class was very short. Our class is usually from 2 to 5 with a ten minute break, but today it was from 2 to 4:30 with a 15 minute break. The majority of the class was spent discussing a video that a couple of classmates made. In the video, five my of my classmates went around our home area asking people four questions related to social justice. The other topic we talked about briefly was the Colorado massacre that happened during the midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises. I hadn't actually heard about it until class, and I'm still not sure if it shocked me. Well, of course it frightened me to think that somebody was capable of carrying out something like that. It could have happened anywhere and to anybody. However this is the world we live in, and this isn't the first time something like this happens. I'm not saying that since because a similar event took place before, it makes what happened in Colorado insignificant, because it is. People were injured, and people did died. Life is precious, and nobody has the right to take it away.

After class, Chloe, David, Alysa, Mariko, Clara, and I went to dinner at Houston Market. We had to make it quick because we had to meet in the quad for movie night. It just so happened to be that we were watching The Dark Knight Rises! After the earlier talk in class about this movie, I was a bit paranoid. I had never watched a Batman movie before, and I don't watch action movies often, so I wasn't sure what to expect from. We did have the choice to watch a different movie, but I am so glad I stuck with that one! It is such a great movie! I was a bit confused, but that's probably because this is the third movie in the Batman trilogy, and I hadn't watched the first two.

It was a long week, and I am glad the weekend is here. I'm looking forward to spending the day with my lovely cohort and chaperone tomorrow at a baseball game!

A Museum And A Movie

"Is it raining?" I asked my roommate while we were awakening to the sound of our alarms. It felt weired putting on a sweater in the summer at Penn. I wore my lightest sweater, doubting that it was going to be cold, but I was wrong. So I went back to my dorm to change sweaters. Although the day had a weird beginning, it didn't halt neither the learning nor the fun.

He Waits For You To Visit
Our physics class met at 9:15AM, and departed a slightly later than expect because of tardy students. As we entered, the whole class walked over to the Foucalt's Pendulum. We patiently waited for twenty minutes for one of the pieces to be hit and fall over. After that, we split up into groups. I was in a group of eight, the same boys from the two groups at Hershey Park. Within the next few hours, we walked through the entire museum. My favorite would have been the Sports Challenge exhibit if it wasn't infested with tons of 6-year-olds, which restricted our ability to try the hands-on activities. So if that wasn't my favorite, then my favorite would have to the machine exhibit. There was no one in there, most likely because it was hidden behind the gift shop.

Waiting For The Pendulum To Strike
We ate lunch at the food court, which wasn't the best lunch ever, but filled us up. After lunch, we tried to buy tickets for the IMAX show, but couldn't because they were all sold out. We then decided to go to the planetarium, but then discovered that we needed wristbands to get in. Unfortunately, we didn't have wristbands, so we then decided to go the electricity exhibit. They had this really cool wall filled with LEDs that lit up if you were to make a call. As we enjoyed ourselves using the hands-on activities, there was this huge thunderous noise coming from the ceiling, which was another exhibit. We then had to leave the exhibit because Kim ran out at the start of the noise. We later found him in the machine exhibit, playing with a huge crane. While the group laughed at Kim and took over the crane, I decided to go to the gift shop. I want to get something related to physics related for my family back home. The gift shop had plenty of things, most of which were small, perfect for airline travel. If I were to say that the museum didn't disappoint, I would be lying because their observatory was just telescope focused on the construction outside.

It Can Tell Who You Are Calling...
 In the evening, we had our regular movie night. Today, we watched The Dark Knight Rises, which I have been waiting for ever since they told us that they rented out one whole screening. They movie was an excellent way to finish the week, and best of all, I got to sit with whole cohort. Tomorrow, we will be going to a Giants v. Phillies game, where I will be cheering for the Giants all the way.

A Chill Friday

This week has been jam packed with tons of learning. So much so that professor Lamas decided to give us the morning off. I gladly took this as an opportunity to sleep and rejuvenate my energy so that I would be ready for class later in the afternoon. In the mean time , A friend from class came knocking on my door, so I got dressed and met up with the rest of my friends and  headed to the dining hall. There was almost know one in the dining hall so I decided to get my first cheese-steak. As I waited for it to come my mouth was watering because everyone else got their food before me, But when I got mine, I basically devoured it. It was amazingly good. 

By the time we finished eating , it was time for class. Today's class was a little more laid back. The students that decided to skip the theater of the oppressed presented their video on the public's view on social justice.( We then had a conversation on the possible reason that people answered the way they did, which consequently led to other conversation were we all expressed our opinions. The last week of class is coming and I have truly learned a lot throughout the whole class.

After class it was time to see Dark night. Early this morning I heard about the massacre in Colorado and wondered what would lead a person to do such a thing. Despite that, we had a whole theater "room" to ourselves. I was in the front of the line so I got a good seat for the movie.The movie was one of the best Batman movies that I have ever seen .

The Franklin Institute

Today we took a field trip to the Franklin Institute. It was great to see all of the different exhibits there, and it was also very nice to have a field trip with a less busy schedule.

Alysa bikes herself across the atrium
I was expecting something along the lines of the Lawrence Hall of Science, but once we arrived I was surprised to find hordes of small children running around making tons of noise. They were all pretty cute, but they did make it a little difficult to see the exhibits. There was a really cool exhibit about health and the human body, featuring an enormous human heart walk-through. As you might expect, the Franklin Institute had a lot of trivia about Benjamin Franklin. There was a display in the atrium that commemorated his commitment to science and showed how his thoughts and advice were still relevant today.

Our first stop was the Foucault Pendulum, which demonstrates the Earth's movement
My favorite exhibit was Sir Isaac’s Loft, an exhibit that combined science and art. Bill had recommended it to all of us, so Clara, Alysa, Jessica, and I spent most of the morning trying to figure out where in the museum it was.  We finally found it after lunch on the third floor. My favorite part of the exhibit was the display where I sat in a chair and pulled myself up using a rope and pulley system. The whole museum experience was great, because we got to see a history of science technology that isn’t often on display. One of the more interesting displays was a simple set of data on temperatures in Philadelphia for the past 100 years. What made it special was that the museum didn’t interpret it for you; they put the data on display and let you draw your own conclusions.

Clara pulls herself off of the ground
Tonight was the night that we’d all been anticipating for the past two weeks–the showing of “The Dark Knight Rises.” Christine, my roommate, has been talking about this for the past few days and we were both so excited that we ran to the movie theater in an attempt to make sure we got good seats. The movie was amazing, and it was so popular with the Summer Discovery students that Ed rented a whole theater just for us, which was probably a courtesy to anyone else that would otherwise have been stuck watching with 200 screaming high-school students.

It’s hard to believe that this is my last weekend here, since it seems like only last week we were touring U of Chicago, meeting our roommates for the first time, having our first day of class. However, we’re scheduled to see the Giants vs. Phillies game on Saturday and there’s a trip to Ocean City on Sunday, so I know that it will be a great last weekend.

I Love These Rainy Days

This week of class has been jam packed with information from many different perspectives, so Prof. Lamas decided to give us the morning off today.  One of our T.As, Nantina, told us all about a protest in support of the tomato workers who supply tomatoes for Chipotle.  We were suppose to meet at 11:30 PM to leave for the protest, but due to the rainy weather it was postponed until next week.  Instead, I ended up going to Center City with three friends from class.

We spent the next two hours exploring the Center City area and since two of my friends, Alanna and Katy, are both from Philadelphia they knew their way around really well and also explained the history behind many of the buildings to me.  I didn't spend time inside the stores, because I didn't want to spend too much money, but we did plenty of window shopping, as stores lined the streets we walked along.  By around 1:30 PM, we all got on the subway and headed back to University City.

In the few hours of class we had today, a couple groups of students presented videos they had made during the time the rest of us were doing the Theater of the Oppressed workshops.  In one video, the group members interviewed people on the topic of social justice.  After watching this video, we discussed what the people's responses to the student's questions were and we analyzed how the questions were asked as well.  The conversation was really interesting and I had a great time reflecting on all of the concepts we learned today.  I can't believe that next week is our last week here!  I'm already sad to have to leave, but I have definitely taken a lot from this program and plan on fully enjoying and soaking up the information I learn next week in class!

Knight at the Museum

Field trip part three! Today we went to the Franklin Institute museum.  Our buses didn't leave until 9:30, so I got to sleep in a little longer, and I felt very rested when we boarded the bus.  It took about 10 minutes to get to the museum, and our buses joined a long line of school buses in front of the stairs.  Today was, apparently, a very popular day for every kid summer camp or school group in the greater Philadelphia area. It was crowded.

We started out as a big group at the Foucault Pendulum, which was used to prove that the Earth rotates.  From there, Bill set us free to roam around the 4 story museum.  I explored with Mariko, Alysa, and Jessica.  We attempted to start at the top and work our way down, but due to the confusing elevator system in the museum, we ended up going back and forth through all the floors.

At noon, we got lunch in the museum cafeteria, and then we had about 3 more hours to explore.  We had seen most of the museum before lunch, so we walked around a little more and then relaxed and talked until it was time to go. I really enjoyed the museum.  My favorite part was Isaac Newton's Loft, a hands-on room demonstrating many of the laws of physics.  Our class is built on hands-on experiences, so it was awesome to continue that on our field trip.

When we got back, I went straight to the office to sign up for laser tag, and I was very happy to see a package from Teddy and his family.  The cookies and drawing inside made my day.  We went for an early dinner and came back to check-in for movie night.  I, like most everyone else in the program, went to see The Dark Knight Rises, a movie I have anticipated since the end of The Dark Knight.  It was absolutely and completely awesome, especially because our cohort got seats together.  

So excited for Batman!!!
Tomorrow we get to sleep in, and then go to a Giants vs. Phillies game with Mr. Lawrence.  It should be a fun way to spend our last full weekend in Philadelphia.

A Day At The Museum

Even though today was only Friday, I got to indulge in the pleasure of sleeping in. Our physics class met at 9:15 AM in front of the quad to board the busses headed to the Franklin Institute of Science and Technology. When we arrived at the museum we were greeted by a sea of children. It seemed as if every single summer camp in the city of Philadelphia chose this day for their trip to the local museum. For the next couple of hours we had to fight and push through crowds of loud five-year-olds. 

Jessica, Mariko, Clara, and I decided to stick together to see the museum. Our initial plan was to start at the top of the museum and make our way down but when we had trouble actually figuring out how to get up to the fourth floor we decided to just goo see what seemed interesting to us. After we viewed Foucalt's Pendulum, an experiment designed to showcase the rotation of the Earth, we began our journey. Throughout the next few hours we went through many different exhibits. My favorite part was getting to walk through a huge heart that is just the right size for a two hundred and fifty foot giant. Before lunch I got the chance to bicycle across the atrium of the museum. It was very neat to be up above all of the guests. I felt as though the bike was losing balance and I was going to fall over a lot of the time. Good thing I'm not afraid of heights! 

We ate lunch with our meal voucher at the museum food court. For the remainder of our trip we kind of took it easily and walked around without care. We got a chance to see everything we wanted to so we visited the Sports Challenge and Isaac Newton's Loft which are areas that both feature a ton of hands-on activities.

Before leaving the museum I picked up a t-shirt from the gift store that I absolutely love. When we arrived at the museum I explained to my group how much I wanted a t-shirt with some type of science saying on it and I wasn't leaving the museum without one. The shirt I got from the store says "May the F=ma be with you." Yay for Star Wars and physics references!

At 6:00 the entire camp headed to the local theater to watch the new batman movie. I wasn't really excited at first but once I saw all the excitement my friends had I was just as eager to get to the theater as they were. The movie was great and totally worth us having to wait half an hour for. 

Tomorrow we are going to a baseball game with our chaperone. I love that you can partake in one of America's favorite past times no matter where you are in the country. I'm totally looking forward to yet another fun weekend with all of the wonderful people I've met here.

Happy Birthday Mariko!

This morning was the first time in a while that Michael has led our class. Unlike his normal discussion-based teaching style, he focused on presenting several concepts through a PowerPoint. The slides began with Rumsfeld's famous speech about the "Knowns" and "Unknowns" and then transitioned into the ideas that Wendell Berry presented about solving for pattern. Berry's three determined solutions to solving for pattern could be creating a ramifying set of new problems, entering Hellish Symbiosis which is the immediate worsening of problems, or ramifying series of solutions. Michael talked about how we need to recognize the problems within different communities and then figure out how we can find connections between them. The main question of this section was, how do we combine problems, or find their common fault, to make up one solution?

The next topic of discussion was about changing world views in complex adaptive systems. Michael said that major transformations are occurring in all aspects of our world. From science and politics to culture, we talked about how minorities are actually becoming majorities in the human species, while the historically dominant Caucasian male for example is slowly becoming a minority in our world. There is such wide diversity though that we as humans are not able to find common ground and therefore we cannot successfully break away from inequality and injustice. How do we form a pluralistic society where everyone has a voice in this country? We also discussed how reductionism's arrows only point in one direction: down; and how all complex adaptive systems have emergence which complicates maintaining a stable society.

The systems and networks of our own complex systems are all connected, which is something that we do not consider when creating our various laws and economic structures. When looking at capitalism for instance, the way in which we use this system is almost naive in the sense that, to the Capitol, everything is disposable. We only live in the now, and calculate probabilities for future gain rather than focus on how the entire system will need to change once we run our natural resources into ground. So how do we create real change and awareness for the "unknown unknowns" of climate change for example? This society was not created by the people that live in it now, but by the innovators of the past who believed in unlimited resources and an expendable earth. Even so, the youth of this age are the ones who will be taking over responsibility of our planet's future, and I believe we can make a significantly better future for ourselves if we are provided with the knowledge to do so. Society can empower youth to make their own decisions by informing them about the serious reality of our environmental situation. Without the effort of educators and other adults to help raise our awareness, we will not be prepared to face the events of our future. Despite how unpredictable our future is, I still strongly feel that we as youth can make a difference in the way the world has been running for thousands of years, because it is clear that a new system is vital for survival.

From there we jumped into the concepts of uncertainty and understanding. Again, Michael touched on the uncertainty of nature many times, and described the correlation between economic growth and the deterioration of our ecosystems. In short, the idea of sustaining economic growth and continuing to rely on natural resources does not work. Large corporations like Exon Mobile have such a wealth of power over the political and economic systems of the world that they are not interested in solving problems for the future, but rather figuring out ways to gain more profit. As a consequence of their greed, they are not willing to slow their rapid growth in order to save the plant, because it means that they may lose that power for even a brief moment. On the other hand though, I think this is ridiculous because once the world's resources are eliminated, I feel like their empires will crumble all at once. Therefore, these corporations should be paying their attention to these environmental issues or else their growth with ultimately be their destruction. Instead, they provide momentary relief to the world's economies or ecosystems so that the people continue to trust that the "people in charge" are actually trying, when really this only provides a great deal of false hope.

The afternoon session of class was focused in an entirely different topic, although I suppose there are many connections between the two lectures. While Michael spent time talking to us about reconstructing society and creating a common ground for everyone, our guest speaker, Toorjo TJ Ghose spent his three hours in the issue of sex workers in India. Originally from India, TJ came to the United States on a physics scholarship to study in Ohio, but he realized soon after that he was really interested in topics of social justice. His primary focus today was The Songachi Project (SP) or the Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (DMSC) in Durbar, India.

Initiated in 1992, DMSC started out as a peer-facilitated HIV education project among sex workers in Calcutta, India. Later, in response to community needs, several more community-based programs were added. These currently include HIV clinics, peer educators, a banking cooperation, support services for HIV, a dance-drama troupe, and services to CSW children. This union has grown to not only protect sex workers in India from abuse, but also to provide awareness about safe sex among these people. In fact, since the DMSC began, HIV rates have declined dramatically to less than 1% in these communities, and studies found that 90% of Songachi Project participants used condoms 100% of the time. In contrast to the common practice in the United States of punishing sex workers, the Songachi Projecct works to fight the stigma on these workers and provide them with safer options instead of eschewing the idea of sex as a legitimate world field. Personally, it is difficult to completely understand the fight for sex worker justice because I have grown up with this extremely negative connotation about this activity. However, I think that the work being done in the Songachi Project is important, as they work to turn something negative into a more positive situation.

Within this discussion TJ also talked about who social boundaries used by organizations can actually oppress some of the people that those facilities or groups were intended to help. He introduced us to Taylor and Whittier's Model of Collective Identity which shows a process from boundaries to consciousness and then finally recognition. In this model, "boundaries" are said to delineate out-group from in-group members; "consciousness" infuses identities with meaning; and "negotiation" is when identities are politicized through negotiation with the outside world. However, a complex problem within many movements is how to prioritize their arguments, because posing multiple arguments for negotiation can prevent others from emerging. In this way, stiff boundaries can actually hinder liberty.

By the end of class, we came back around to connect these ideas to the situations of sex workers, and TJ tried to summarize what the Songachi Project was really trying to do. He said that this union is making connections with the sex workers that are not judgmental (moralism), but instead realizing the reality if their situations and making those concrete realities safer. This is a method that I think should be focused on more in this country, because too often we try to abolish an entire system or establishment, without even thinking about ways in which we could work from the inside to actually improve the conditions of that situation; thus changing it's negative standing to a positive and productive one.