Archive for the 'Random' Category

Posted by: Serena | 13th Jul, 2008

Paris, Week Two

(P.S. All of my Paris Flickr photos are now public and can be found here.)

Posted by: Serena | 6th Jul, 2008

Paris, Week One

Posted by: Serena | 7th Jun, 2008

music box

I went downtown today in search of wooden things to paint, and returned with three kitchen implements, a music box, and a typewriter.

The music box didn’t play, so I dug out my screwdriver and pliers.

After an hour and a half, it was playing again. The melody is a little haunting:

Music Box

And after some fiddling in GarageBand:

Take Two

Can anyone identify this tune?

Next step: finding a ribbon for my new (old) typewriter.

Posted by: Serena | 4th Jun, 2008

Spindle, the sequel!

Spindle, a new online journal of the arts, is now accepting submissions for its Fall 2008 issue. Go to for more details and to explore the current (Spring 2008) issue.

Send in your work! Tell your creative friends!


Posted by: Serena | 14th May, 2008

Madcap Scheme (beta)

Faculty Academy is over but, unsurprisingly, I’m having a hard time just lying down and going to sleep after all of that. So I thought maybe I’d blog it out. Ha. Like that’ll help.

I could talk about the normal issues central to any academic conference; the battle professors face when trying to connect with students, what role technology plays in this, the evolving relationships between pupil and instructor. You know, the usual. But the things that really caught my mind all stemmed from slightly less formal exchanges. Steve Greenlaw and I (later joined by Vidya) had an interesting back channel conversation on Twitter today about the way students are viewed by much of academia. It all started with this observation from Steve:

“I think it’s part of the academic culture that undergraduates don’t do real world. It’s not true, but the mythology is a hurdle.”

I just sat and looked at that for a while. What did he mean? Of course professors take students seriously. Isn’t that a basic requirement of teaching? Apparently not. Soon we were discussing ways to dispel this myth. Who’s at fault here? Instructors who fail to showcase exceptional student work? Students who are afraid to share what they’ve done? Yes. (And thanks again, Gene Roche, for adding that vital dose of reality to the way I view academia.)

How can we change this? Steve thinks that faculty who are “supporting real undergraduate work” need to share that, and students should be able to look at their own work as academically significant. So far so good, but (as with most important things) it’s much harder to put this into practice. Do you think that–even if the supportive professors are showing their students’ best work to colleagues–the rest of academia is going to sit up and listen? Chances are, the ones paying attention are already in the choir. (Oh no, metaphor number one. The first thing that happens when you spend too much time listening to presentations and keynote speeches is that metaphors kind-of just build up around you until they soak into your skin, and then you’re stuck spouting awkward metaphors for the next week and a half.)

But I want to sing with that guy on the street. And the cashier in the grocery store. And mangy stray cats! Why can’t they be part of my choir? Why can’t we knock some sense into that stuffy geology professor who thinks that “serious undergraduate student” is an oxymoron? Forget about persuading this guy to adopt new technologies in his classroom. If he’s not viewing his students as scholars, then he’s not even going to be concerned about truly connecting with them.

Jim, UMW blogs is doing a fantastic job of showcasing student work, and I really hope that it’s managed to reach some of those professors. Patrick, your organizational system for the blogs is going to help students discover each other’s work. These are great, and probably reach even more people than we think they do. But what if a student doesn’t take the time to look? What if a professor just doesn’t care enough to find out what other instructors are doing? I have a proposal. Having just realized that I have a proposal, I’m afraid it’s not going to be very well developed at this stage, but here goes:

We already have an online environment in which to showcase student work. What we don’t have is a physical one. Now, I know that each department has their symposiums at the end of the academic year to show off what students have been doing. But there’s not much publicity for them, or even inter-departmental exchange. I want student work where I can see it, experience it, interact with it. I want to be able to go to UMW blogs on my computer and browse through different student blogs, but also to watch a student talk about the work that’s been done, and ask questions. I want to engage in every kind of conversation.

My theory is this: make student creation and inspiration inescapable.

We already have a great online space for this. Let’s create a real-life space and merge them. A campus-wide student symposium would be a perfect catalyst for this unification.


1) Every department should be involved. Every student and professor should know about it.

2) Week-long. Even a student with the craziest schedule will still be able to attend a few presentations.

3) Inside and outside of the classroom. Students choose their own spaces. Ball Circle? Sure. Combs 139? Absolutely. The steps of GW? Of course. (Gardner, we can all be neo-hippies!) The beauty of this is that wherever you go on campus, there will be something new to see and experience

4) Students can present whatever academic work they choose. However, a strong emphasis will be placed on selecting work that represents the most fun they’ve had in classes all semester. Because–let’s face it–a mashup about Jaws and the Russian Revolution is going to be more interesting than a PowerPoint summary of statistical variations in Antarctic annual rainfall. Bottom line: if students are visibly passionate about what they’ve done, then there’s a much greater chance that other students will also be interested.

As for professors, I’m sure there will be (at first) mixed feelings about student work that is less traditional in nature. But maybe if they give it a chance and watch a couple of student presentations, they’ll realize that everything students share–whether a musical composition, improv sketch, or academic paper–reflects a deep and enduring enthusiasm for learning. And maybe that’s the extra push that everyone needs.

5) Collaboration with other students is encouraged. Music majors and English majors combining a song with a short story.

6) Photos, podcasts, video streams, etc. allow students and faculty to easily bridge that gap between the virtual and physical.

7) Finally, I’d rather call this a ‘festival’ than a symposium. It’s a celebration, not a conference.

And the result? Physics majors reading poetry by creative writing students about Greek philosophers mentioned in a business major’s blog. Wouldn’t that be something? And who knows… maybe that old, grumpy geology professor will learn a little from his students.

Am I being naive? Maybe. Can we do this? Or maybe this is the more appropriate question: Are we ready to do this?

Posted by: Serena | 22nd Mar, 2008

I’m an inspiration junkie.

(The first step is admitting you have a problem.)

After a tiring evening of assorted geekery, I found myself engaged in conversation with a friend. The usual kind of late night conversation. Languid, wandering, tangential. And full of unexpected thoughts that eventually inspired this post on my film blog.

But what about this inspiration? Suddenly I found myself on fire. It took me completely off guard. Surprise! It’s four in the morning, and one minute I’m half awake, ready to collapse on the couch, and the next minute I’m up and engaged, captured by thoughts that are just too intriguing and inspiring to let pass by.

How does this happen?

I was struck by inspiration like this in high school, in childhood, of course I was. But nothing like it’s been while I’ve been here. The frequency, the intensity of everything that flies around in my head sometimes, whether I want it to or not. It’s overwhelming, it’s exciting, it’s frightening, it’s one of my favorite things about being alive. It’s the reason I do this. It’s an addiction. A yearning. A passion. Byatt’s kick galvanic, though intrapersonal rather than interpersonal.

I go to classes every day, hoping for my next fix. Waiting for the next bolt of lightning to strike. I want thoughts that will completely disarm me, engage me, infuriate me, so insistent that I feel strangled by my own ideas. Uncompromising insistence and complete irresistibility. (Is it possible for something to be incapacitating and energizing at the same time?)

Is this intellectual masochism? Is it healthy? Are the only people who recommend this way of living the ones who are already hopelessly entwined in it?

I don’t think I’d even believe that this kind of inspiration were possible, at least not in this frequency, if it weren’t for Gardner Campbell. I’ve called him many things, mostly complimentary: inspirational, naïve, hopeful, optimistic, disorganized. But he gets this, the most important thing. The way that you can wake up in the middle of the night with an idea that practically drags you to pen and paper. The look on a student’s face when seemingly ordinary class discussion has triggered an extraordinary thought or connection. How achingly painful it can be to have an idea that can’t be explored until other, more mundane tasks are done with. And maybe the fire will be out by then. The constant fear that lightning won’t hit again.

Correct me if I’m wrong, Dr. C, but I think you believe in all that. You believe that this brand of inspiration (not the usual over-the-counter, $5.99 a bottle kind, but the illicit, mind-altering kind only whispered about in even the most deviant circles) not only strikes, but strikes frequently, if given the proper environment. You don’t just believe this; you know it.

I think I do too.

Posted by: Serena | 17th Mar, 2008

love letter

Dear UMW,

I feel that our relationship is heading steadily downwards. Romance is declining. You consistently fail to deliver on promises, like faster internet, helpful administrators, and edible food. It took over five minutes for this page to load, OSACS is as frustrating as ever, and I just had chicken that tasted like cat. (Not–I might add–that I know what cat tastes like. But I have a more than adequate imagination.)

You never buy me flowers anymore. Or tune the residence hall pianos. You block campus foot-traffic with enormous tents for days, then block it again with enormous tent disassembly. Your chicken nuggets threaten to scrape off my throat lining. And you have enough money to throw an elaborate ball complete with chocolate fountains, but not to support your own student organizations.

After all we’ve been through together (drunken presidents, abuse of cleaning staff, near-elimination of rowing teams, this year’s freshman class, etc.), I think that I’m owed an explanation. I’d recommend calling me, because your network sometimes makes e-mail sluggish, torpid, or non-functional. Campus mail might also work, as long as you don’t include any apology bananas. My dad sent me a banana once. It was not the greatest plan.


P.S. The RAs would like to know when their timesheets are next scheduled to be lost by administrators. That way, they can plan ahead and start stockpiling food and begging on the streets for tuition money.


Posted by: Serena | 12th Mar, 2008

Kicking and Screaming

Over the course of my internet travels, I’ve seen many commercials. They show up on web pages, before online episodes of TV shows, and–of course–on YouTube. Some are funny, some are irritating, some are just stupid.

But none of the ads I’ve seen are as effective as one I ran across the other day.

[kml_flashembed movie="" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Do you think a commercial like this would go over well in the U.S.? And for you parents out there– amusing or upsetting?

Posted by: Serena | 10th Mar, 2008

Best error message. Ever.

Just got this error message on my computer.


Um, what?

Posted by: Serena | 15th Feb, 2008

Submit to Spindle!

Submit to Spindle, a new online arts journal run by five students from the University of Mary Washington. Spindle’s special adviser is Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Claudia Emerson.

We accept poetry, prose, art, photography, graphic design, music, film, video art, animation, dance, theatre, performance art, craft work, jewelry, fashion/costume design, and textile art.

Visit our website at for submission guidelines.