The Week Before Finals: My Laptop Died Edition

This year’s installment of “the week before finals is absolute the worst” is brought to you by: my laptop’s operating system gets corrupted in the middle of final project panic. Yes. In the week when I have the least amount of time to deal with things due to final projects, I have to go to best buy and sit and wait and cry a little on the inside while they tell me that my laptop (which I just bought a two or three months ago) has to be factory reset. Sigh. I do have my final project boards though if you want to see them:

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Our assignment, which I mentioned in the post You Can’t Spell “Gowanus” without “Us”, deals with a redevelopment concept around the Gowanus canal. I did a large community plaza space thing. I’m not gonna lie, I got a lot of negative feedback on this design but I’m still happy with what I did.

I also presented my final project for photography. My concept was taking pictures from the perspective of a shoe. Here is my final project:

PSUkulele has also been doing some fun things! We had our end-of-year showcase at Webster’s Bookstore downtown:

 

And we played for an event at the Elks Country Club!

 

Now, I am home and enjoying not doing anything at all! I bought a new camera (A Nikon D5300 if you were curious) and am taking up close pictures of my parents and pets with an expensive camera instead of phone so, yeah, I’m moving up in the world. Next week I start my internship with the landscape architect working for DCNR (Department of Conservation and Natural Resources). Very exciting!

 

Longwood Gardens in Bloom

On a sunny morning in late April, we headed down to Longwood Gardens to look at some plants. You probably don’t remember, but we had actually been to Longwood during Freshman year before all the leaves were on the trees because it was still winter. Anyway, this time, there were actual flowers and things blooming and it was so lovely! If you live in the area and have never been, I would definitely recommend it, even if you are not a plant fanatic because it is beautiful and the amount of maintenance required to keep this place perfect will blow your mind.

We were supposed to be taking notes on different spaces and plants for class but I mostly just looked at all the plants and wandered around.

One of the cool things we go to do was go behind the scenes of some of the plant growing operations. We walked through green houses with rows and rows of different plant species.

There was also this tree called a Mardarinquat (I think) which looked awesome but we weren’t allowed to pick any.

They also showed us these crazy flowers they were propagating that only bloom every 7 years and cost upwards of $600 dollars if I’m not mistaken! So I think this picture should be worth at least $50 haha.

Anyway. After getting a tour, we were able to walk around on our own! Yay! I definitely could’ve stayed longer but I still got to see plenty of foliage and flora.

First we took a stroll down the Flower Garden Walk which was planted with over 250,000 bulbs! That’s crazy! Here are some pics:

Pictures of columbine flowers (I think) planted around the fountain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These pictures don’t really do it justice but you can still see all the pretty flowers 🙂

The formal Italian Water Garden is lined with pollarded trees which I personally am not a fan of but they do look rather sculptural in this setting

The meadow. A perscribed burn had just been done to part of the meadow which was pretty cool. These burns are important and mimic natural meadow ecosystem processes that promote seed germination, ecological health, and the suppression of weeds among other things.

We also got to walk around the indoor greenhouses which are always blooming with beautiful flowers!

 

 

And no trip to Longwood would be complete without using the famous greenwall bathrooms!

Ohio Bound and Back Again: Nationals 2017

This year, nationals was held in Columbus, Ohio. We left for NAIGC Club Gymnastics Nationals on an unremarkable Wednesday last week. The drive was uneventful, arriving at the hotel around 11:00 PM after over five hours of driving and a quick pit stop at “Truck World.” Columbus seemed like a nice city, but it was hard to tell at first since the day I competed preliminaries was cold, windy, and wet. Preliminaries went well! Our level 9 session was on Thursday in the late afternoon. I qualified for bars, floor, and all around finals.

On my day off, I went to the Franklin Park Conservancy with my parents and uncle. So even though I wasn’t doing larch things, I was still looking at a bunch of plants haha. I’m so cool.

Finals rolls around and I will never not be amazed at how many gymnasts compete at nationals. It’s pretty cool when all the schools line up in the hall way and march in to the gym before finals starts. Here is a picture I took (and that’s only about a quarter of them):

Finals was very stressful because I was the only one from A team to qualify for finals so I was competing in a group with a few other individual competitors. This is stressful, mostly on bars and vault, because each gym typically has different settings for how far apart the bars are, how high the vault table is, how far the board is from the vault, and how many springs are in the springboard. Let me explain more why this is an issue. During a competition, each gymnast gets 2 minutes to warm up on an event. When a team is competing, that time gets combined so if there are 7 girls, we get 14 minutes total to warm up which is a decent amount of time and it is also shared. There is also no need to change bar settings because everyone goes on the same setting. In the scenario I was in, everyone had different settings which meant that if we combined all our time together, we’d have to change the bar settings every time someone else took a turn and that just isn’t very efficient. So instead, we all blocked our own time so I had two minutes by myself to warm up. It’s very tiring.

Anyway, it didn’t matter because guess what?!?!?! I got FIRST on bars!!!! Oh yeah. National champ right here! HAHA. I’m funny. I didn’t place on any of the other events but I still did pretty well and the fact that I got a first place makes up for everything.

So all in all, a good meet and an enjoyable time 🙂

You Can’t Spell “Gowanus” Without “Us”

On Friday the 17th, 33 sleepy LARCHies got on the red-eye bus to Brooklyn, New York to see the infamous Gowanus Canal. If you are unfamiliar with the canal, as many of us were before the trip, it is/was one of the most polluted waterways in North America. I mean, it’s seriously nasty. If you were wondering what sort of business we had being in Brooklyn, it is the site of the next project in our design studio. Here are some photos of lovely Gowanus. It was actually a very pleasant day.

Something interesting I learned during our analysis of the Canal: Besides being a superfund site full of gross chemicals, trash, and sludge, it is also stagnant so nothing ever washes out. There is also little to no dissolved oxygen, which aquatic life need to survive. To fix this problem, they installed a giant flushing tunnel which brings water from butter milk channel in the Hudson Bay to the head of the canal where it is forcefully pumped. It’s actually working, because dissolved oxygen content levels have increased. However, the force also stirs up all that grossness in the bottom and results in this weird foam:

And, here is a picture of garbage at the bottom of the canal as the tide was going out:

Mmmmm. Lovely.

Leaving was a lot worse than travelling up. We got stuck in downtown Manhattan for two hours before finally getting out of the city. Some of my friends fell asleep for those two hours and awoke to find we were still in NYC. We didn’t end up returning to campus until around 1:00. Unfortunately for me, I had a gymnastics meet the next day.

 

The Home Meet

The home meet went well! I did well enough to win the All Around so that’s good. I was definitely running entirely on adrenaline because the next day, I was so sore that I walked like a hunch back who’d just gotten off a horse! haha! It wasn’t actually that bad. My cool friends also made an appearance with their funny signs:

Snow Day!

Today was a crazy and magical day, because for the first time since my freshman year, classes were canceled due to inclement weather!!! Woo! And you know what my friends and I did? Not homework. We went sledding! The hot spot for sledding is behind the baseball stadium. Super fun! Here are some pictures:

Like typical college kids, we used the classic dumpster card board sled. We also used a “flexible flyer” sled borrowed from my grandparents. See we were all smiling because we are trying not to think about how cold it was outside.

 

And all that sledding, and especially the walking back up the hill tired us all out. 🙂

My Third Spring Break

Well I have really been quite terrible about keeping everyone updated on my happenings. But then again, everyone said that this year would be the most difficult and time consuming year of all and I have yet to disagree. A majority of my meals last weekend consisted of chicken tenders from the commons and breakfast sandwiches from Au Bon Pain. After a grueling couple of weeks, I have finally reached that beautiful checkpoint of spring break. YAY! So, here is what I have been so busy with that I didn’t have the time to let you all know:

Studio Stuff

Our latest studio project was a to design a mixed-use community with different housing types and a commercial district. I designed a community that gave creative and educational opportunities to lower-income people. I wanted to call it “the starving artist community” but felt like that was too on the nose. Haha. Anyway, here is a pdf of my project boards if you are so inclined to view them 🙂 [EDIT: Just kidding, it’s not a PDF anymore it’s a document viewer]

https://indd.adobe.com/embed/3b4cb7b3-eef8-403b-8e4b-e8b37a8d57fe?startpage=1&allowFullscreen=true

Our next project will be on the “scenic” Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, NY. If you are unaware (as I was) this canal is not scenic. It smells. And apparently has a dark sludge residing in its murky bottom which is affectionately called “black molasses”. We’re going on a site visit soon, so that should be interesting.

Photography

The last assignment we submitted for photography was a “narrative.” The goal was to create scenes that told some kind of story that the viewer didn’t understand. Think sci-fi fantasy kind of deal or The Twilight Zone but in color. Here are the two photos that I submitted:

My next assignment is to choose a photographer (famous) and imitate their style. I chose Ansel Adams who photographed beautiful landscapes of California and the South West in black and white. I almost feel bad trying to copy them because mine are no where near that caliber. Also, I need some mountains.

Apartment Life

So you may or may not know that my lovely little apartment is not equipped with a washer and dryer. I recently decided to start washing my clothes in the bathroom and hanging them on a clothesline. This has proved largely inefficient due to living in a basement that is always slightly humid so that nothing every really dries. So, my dear mother decided to purchase me a tiny electric dryer and a crank washer. I am very excited to be washing clothes in my apartment and will update you on how everything works out!

Have a nice day!

The THON Experience

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You can’t tell because I’m short but this line is very very long. These are all the groups waiting to go into the BJC and LASS was at the back of the line.

 

I know that I’m not as involved or excited about THON as most of the other people at this school. However, I decided that this year I was going to actually do the THON experience. I went with LASS (landscape architecture student society) and got passes to enter right at 4:00 when the BJC was open for business. Unfortunately, as many people involved in LASS THON (so many acronyms!) were also involved in THON ORGS (organizations that are exclusively for raising money and supporting THON families) there were only four of us available to wait in line with our giant foam letters. We waited in this line probably for a good hour and a half before being able to enter the BJC. Once inside, we pick a section of seats and sat down until everyone had to stand. If you are confused as to what THON is, this is my interpretation: THON is 46 hour dance marathon. The dancers, who represent the different THON organizations, student clubs and fraternities, must stay on their feet and awake for 46 hours. All the clubs and orgs and such stand in the audience supporting and watching the different entertainers that may perform throughout the weekend. It’s quite a spectacle. I personally don’t think its all that healthy to be awake and not able to sit down for two days but its all FTK (for the kids).

But back to my story which isn’t really all that exciting. So we put our giant foam letters in the seats. These are letters that the different groups in the stand hold up to identify their location and show the dancers on the floor that they are still there in the stands. Anyway, we didn’t actually hold up our letters because there were four of us and five letters. You may be wondering, “doesn’t ‘LASS’ only have 4 letters?” Yes but we didn’t want to be responsible for the word that would result if the person holding the “L” were to sit down. So we went with LARCH instead.

Some super exciting and cool things that I got to do/see:

  1. I learned the infamous “line dance” this year. It’s a choreographed dance that is taught to everyone and performed about every hour to make sure everyone keeps moving and stays wake and all that. It’s pretty difficult to pick up because it’s actually pretty long. It’s fun though! Here is a pic from the line dance:_dsc1402
  2. I was DNCE perform! I am not a huge fan of their music but they perform the song “Cake by the Ocean” which is very popular. Also, Joe Jonas who was a childhood Disney star is the lead singer in the band and it’s always cool to see famous people. They were great but it got a little strange when they started doing some questionable looking…’dance moves’ I guess you’d call it and it was definitely not something that small children should’ve witnessed. Other than that, great performance!_dsc1387 _dsc1371
  3. So the real reason I wanted to go to THON was to watch my amazing and talented friends from @PSUkulele perform! I wished I could’ve been on stage with them but I forgot to audition. (oops). Anyway, getting to perform on the THON stage is a pretty coveted position and I am so so proud of them! Our club has really come a long way in the few short years I’ve been in it! Here are the videos (ps you should subscribe):

    Also I took a million pictures of them but only a few cam out ok:_dsc1472_dsc1492 _dsc1497

In total, I stayed for about 9 hours which is nothing compared to most of the people I the stands, but I’m still glad I stayed for long enough to actually get a feel for what it means to be awake and standing for almost two full days.

 

A Whirlwind of Weather

What a roller coaster of weather! Wednesday night last week it snowed 8 inches! It was so magical that the university actually delayed classes until 10:00! Obviously we were hoping for a cancellation but whatever, I guess I can trek through the snow to get to class. (just kidding I took the bus). Then, two days later, it was a sweltering 60 degrees (or something ridiculous). Nearly all the snow has melted and now it’s raining. Of course, I was in beautiful sunny Virginia for a gymnastics meet.

 

jmu_02jmu_01Yes, finally competition season is in full swing. The Club Gymnastics team drove down to James Madison University for our first meet of the year! It was chaotic to say the least. But at least my lovely parents and my sister (who tagged along to surprise me despite being sick) were there :). We didn’t do too shabby! Girls A team placed 2nd and Men’s team placed 1st!!! Woo! I myself also did pretty well, having a no-fall meet and placing 1st on bars, 5th on beam (somehow?!) and 2nd in the all around!

This weekend is THON! And Penn State students are getting antsy to dance their pants off and stay awake and standing for much longer than any doctor would recommend. This year, PSUkulele gets to perform during the 46 hours of non-stop festivities! I am not performing because I forgot to audition but I am still very excited!!!

If you are curious as to why I haven’t talked much about studio this semester, it is because we have all been in a state of constant confusion since the beginning of the semester.

Also, in my photography class I took a very nice picture of Parsley.

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It’s Too Early to be This Busy

Hi friends who still read this blog even though my frequency of posting is dismal. Three weeks of the semester have already come and gone, and many things have happened since my last post. I haven’t even told you what classes I’m taking!

The most frightening thing about this semester is that all the professors have told us that third year is notorious for it’s difficulty and stress level. Not a great thing to hear right out of the gate. Luckily, I am only taking 14 credits. It was going to be 15 because I tried out for a private piano lesson class but messed up pretty bad at the audition and ended up getting the good ol’ boot. But don’t worry! Something even better happened which I will tell you about later. The classes that I’m actually taking are two LARCH studios that deal with community design and planting design which I mostly enjoy but have some gripes about which will be detailed in the next paragraph. I’m taking some writing/history of LARCH class which is very confusing and vague. And, finally, I’m taking an awesome photography course. It’s an intro for learning how to use a DSLR (Digital single lens reflex) camera. It really enjoy it so far, although I’m pretty terrible at taking pictures and having to manually adjust all the settings.

Here are a few of the pictures I have taken with the camera that are not super terrible:

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Anyway. So my gripe about Planting Design class. I spent my entire weekend in studio working on a project for the class. I had almost no time to do anything else for my other classes, which sucked. We have never had to stay in studio that long so early in the week! Sigh. At least my design looked pretty slick! Here is a PDF of it: roane-hopkins_z_mixedplantingbed I was pretty proud of my renderings. [EDIT: PDFs take up a TON of space that I can’t spare so it has been replaced with images]

Other good news. I got a new laptop! YAY! and it WORKS! Very exciting! It’s an Acer Aspire R and it is great! Not much else to day about that but I just wanted to let you know.

Last weekend, PSUkulele traveled to the Hershey Medical Center to play ukulele for people. What a wonderful experience! You may or may not recall that we also went last year and played in the lobby and the cafeteria. Well, this time was a little bit different in a very cool way. Instead of playing in the lobby, we were suggested to play outside in front of the pediatric wing, because it has this big wall of windows looking out on a sculpture garden. Although it was a little misty and cold outside, we stood by that sculpture and sang as loud as we could to the windows. I don’t know if any of the patients could actually hear us but we could see a few little head peeking out of the windows and waving to us and it was so cool. While we were playing, a mother walked by and told us were were cute and asked if we wanted to play up on one of the floors. The woman who coordinated our visit told us that we weren’t aloud but we convinced her otherwise. We weren’t allowed to play in the patients rooms but did get to play in one of the small lobbies on one of the floors. A few patients and visitors came over to listen. After we wrapped up our singing, we went to a local crepe place which was delicious!

In the way of club gymnastics stuff, we have an away meet coming up at JMU and I am no where near ready. haha.

That’s about it.

Oh, the reason I was fine about not getting into a piano lesson is because I got offered an opportunity to do paid research with the Stuckeman School! Yay! Ok I’m tired, goodnight.

 

Addressing the Unavoidable: The Presidential Election

Hello. I know you’ve read a lot of these types of posts. Too many? Sure. The last thing you want to read is another rant about this election and the state of our nation but, like everyone else in the US, I have something to say. I’ll try to keep this brief since I myself have a notoriously short attention span. (Note the word, try).

Before I tell you my opinion on everything, you’re gonna need to know where I’m coming from (something we often assume we understand about our counterparts in argument when we actually know very little). My name is Zoe and I’m a junior majoring in landscape architecture. I was adopted from China. I have two moms and a stunningly beautiful sister. Avoiding confrontation is one of my talents. I try really hard to stay “politically correct.” I think composting is cool and my dream house is covered in plants and solar panels and goats mow my lawn. Also, I’m a registered Democrat.

If anything I’ve said about myself so far has made you want to stop reading, that is understandable. However, it is also the reason that we are in this so-called-mess to begin with. We pick our friends, and we can generally decided what we want to see on social media. We surround ourselves with like-minded people because agreeable conversations are so much more manageable than dissonant ones. And I can’t blame anyone for this because I do it too. Every argument is a loosing battle, especially on the internet. The more you argue, the more both sides dig their heels in. No one ever changes their mind in an argument over those infamously controversial topics like gun rights, separating church and state, abortion, legalizing weed. All that happens is me and you getting angrier than we had been before. For a society that complains an awful lot about how broken we are, it seems like there are few people actively trying to fix it. Are you waiting for someone else to go first?

Remember when George Washington told us not to make political parties? Well here we are in 2016 with our divided nation and it doesn’t seem to be going super well for anyone. The sense of hate is so strong. Not just from “one side”, but from everyone. And it’s scary. I don’t support Trump, but me continuing to hate his guts and hate everyone who voted for him is not going to make a change. In fact, it just reinforces the satisfaction that those voters have for picking a candidate that opposes everything I stand for. It tells them that this stupid college yuppie claims to be “accepting” but here she is, a hypocrite denying and arguing over the fairness of this election. That perpetuates this constant cycle of assuming and misunderstanding and that is no good.

I don’t think it has to be this way. We don’t have to hug and dance in the sunshine together holding hands or any of that nonsense. But there needs to be a better understanding of each other. There needs to be a desire to understand why we believe what we do and not have to feel the need to shove our beliefs down the throats of dissenters. We immediately jump to hate when we don’t like something because being ignorant is so much easier trying to actually understand someone who has led such a drastically different existence than you. You can’t force someone to believe what you believe because their version of the truth is not yours. And that’s OK. But living to hate certain people with certain opinions is no way to live. If you are tired of all the hate, then make a change. Hate less and ask more questions. Appreciate that they are as entitled to an opinion as you are and accept it. Is it a naive hope that people will change? Or that people will learn that understanding and acceptance must reach far beyond like-minded peers? Probably. But without hope, then what are we doing here?

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
-Martin Luther King, Jr.

Oops. This ended up much longer than I thought. Anyway, thanks for listening and be nice to one another 🙂