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:

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 🙂

An Uneventful Couple of Weeks

I’m sure you’ve been wondering why I haven’t posted anything in a long while. Well, maybe you haven’t been wondering, but in any event, I haven’t updated you on my marginally exciting life because not much has happened. Just lots of work. I know I haven’t been keeping you updated on anything I’ve been doing in studio but we are learning GIS this year which is a program for creating and analyzing maps. It is not the sort of thing that lends itself to exciting blog posts the way the designing and model-building stuff does.

So what did happen in my life in the past couple of weeks?

Fun with Bricks

Our materials class journeyed down to Penn Technical College to learn about brick laying. We actually got to learn how to lay bricks and CMUs (concrete masonry units) which is much more difficult than one would think, but it was actually really fun!

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Cinder blocks as far as the eye can see

 

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We made an arch with bricks and mortar!

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Fall Festivities

My lovely friends and picked out pumpkins to carve at the arboretum! My pumpkin carving was a little lack luster but oh well.

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A Cat!

My friend introduced me to her tiny little kitten which actually isn’t hers it’s her roommates but it’s SO CUTE!

TINY KITTY!

TINY KITTY!

My Professor Owns a Forest

Not really, but kinda. He invited our class to visit his beautiful house and the land that he owned. He is one of our landscape architecture professors. Anyway, his property is beautiful! And on top of touring the place, we were treated to a delicious lunch of chicken and rice, bread and cheese, apples, hot apple cider, and fresh chocolate chip cookies! I love my major! haha. But seriously, it was a beautiful day and it was really interesting to learn about the different nooks and crannies of their property. (And you couldn’t ask for a blue-er sky!)

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Potato Party

Half way through the semester and we finally got around to actually planning a get-together with our friends in the form of eating loaded baked potatoes and watching “The Incredibles” on DVD.

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My friends are so strange I mean cool

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If you are wondering what a potato party is, it is where everyone brings a potato and one potato topping to share so we end up with the right amount of potatoes AND a spectacular array of toppings.

Free Birds

I took my birds out of their cage for the first time! I think it scared them but I got Parsley to sit on my hand!!! They are so cute. But I think they still hate me. Please forgive this awkward photo of me and just look at the bird, thanks.

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Street Uking

My mom asked me to get a picture of myself playing ukulele downtown and I told her that I couldn’t because I was alone. Consequently, I had to ask someone else to take a picture for me. I had some interesting encounters that day. One man came up to me and said “I bought my ex-girlfriend a ukulele and she never learned to play it,” then he threw a dollar in my case. Another guy asked if I was “any good at anything.” I told him “No, I wasn’t’ and he said, ” so people are giving you money for doing nothing?”

“yep.” This was said very sarcastically as it was clear that people were giving me money for looking extremely cold, sitting on the ground, and strumming a ukulele with striking mediocrity.

He later came back, said he felt kinda bad, and gave me a dollar.

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Enjoy the rest of your day!

What Not to do at Football Game

The following message is brought to you by the Beaver Stadium student cleanup crew.

Yes, if you haven’t guess already, I had the dreaded stadium clean up a few weekends ago. Luckily for us, they ordered the wrong colored streamers for the game so there were no streamers to clean up. Haha. Anyway. No rant today. Just a few lovely pictures of the worst things you could possibly leave behind for us poor college students to clean up.

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Here you can see the contents of a typical bleacher row. This may include, but is not limited to: Empty plastic soda cups, used napkins, unused napkins, bottles of water, ponchos, french fries, wax paper wrappers, bags of chips, and uneaten nacho cheese.

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Don’t leave your open cups of hot chocolate on the stadium floor. It will inevitably spill and the push brooms we are supplied with are not good at cleaning up spills.

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Open mustard packets are one of my LEAST favorite things to clean up. The smell is just so so pungent in the most horrifying, unpleasant way. Picking them up is awful and any attempt to sweep them up causes a streak of mustard across the ground. Please throw these away.

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And please, please, PLEASE do NOT leave your bottles full of gross chewing tobacco that you so graciously spit into a bottle and not on the ground. If you partake in such a habit, have the courtesy not leave it in the stadium. Also, please no spitting directly on the ground. That is also gross.

Finally, not pictured but just as unappreciated: Shelled peanuts on the ground, spilled popcorn, soggy chicken tenders, and of course, the dreaded streamers.

Thank you for listening.

Park(ing) Day and Other Ventures

Hello. It’s been a while. But I am finally getting around to another blog post after (mostly) recovering from a severe lack of sleep last Friday. You see, every year the Landscape Architecture Student Society — affectionately known as “LASS” — participates in this nation-wide event called “park(ing) day” to celebrate urban green spaces and to show that cities are a place for people, not just for cars! We do this by turning some parking spaces down town into a little park for people to sit in and enjoy. So why am I so tired? Well, to install our little park, we had to wake up a 4:30AM and start set up by 5:00 so our park would be ready for people to come. It’s really one of the only times I will happily wake up so early because setting up is always fun (you may remember my post from last year) and I think that little gestures like this are super important to promote awareness of green spaces and get people thinking. The park was named “Millenial Park” in celebration of our generation. There were lots of places to take selfies. We also had cornhole boards (made by one of our own LARCHies) and a chalkboard wall. Over all, the park was a great success!

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That evening, we had a nice little fire and roasted some marshmallows which was lovely after a long day!

The Shingletown Gap Excursion

So for our studio this year, we are doing lots of GIS (Geographic Information Systems) which is mapping things on the computer for analysis of whatever is being mapped. Bad explanation but that’s not the point of the story. Part of our project is analyzing the soils and geology of the Spring Creek Watershed (Which is where State College and Penn State are both located) and we needed example photos to show different observations we made about the soil and geology. So, we organized a group trip to Shingletown Gap. It was nice overall. A group of us decided to hike up the ridge, partially to get more photos for our project but mostly because we wanted to get to the top. Unfortunately, that did not happen. Besides being slipper, rocky, and steep, there was also a rattle snake. No one saw it, but someone got close enough that the snake rattled at us. Our screams could be heard across the valley. Immediately we decided to head back. No one rejected. But, all in all, a good trip.photo-sep-22-6-28-15-pm

Canning

This weekend, I will be going “Canning” with LASS. Canning is part of THON and involves standing outside asking people for money while holding gallon-sized tomato cans (hence, “canning). I am very excited and will post about it at some point in the future probably.

Anyway, per usual, I didn’t check spelling. Now I’m late for gymnastics practice. Have a nice day though!

Downtown Serenading

On Saturday, I decided to play my ukulele down town after the football game. I like to set up in front of PNC bank after it closes. It’s fun to watch the people go by. I’m not in it for the money… But of course that is a perk. It is NOT illegal, just so you know. At least as far as I know. Playing on game days is the best, at least in terms of people watching (and money giving). What I noticed is that people smile more and are more likely to give away a precious dollar or two for the ukulele, rather than for the guitar. I guess ukes are cuter haha! There’s also this cool community or mutual appreciation between people who walk around with instruments and play on the street. I met some interesting folk during my what turned in to three hour session. I was going to leave earlier but It’s so relaxing to be downtown and just playing music for people. Plus they were giving me money. If I am going to continue with this, I will need a little fold-up seat because my butt starts to hurt after a while. Anyway, have a nice week! The sky has been lovely!