Sunday, November 29, 2009

Mentally Stimulating Diversions

In another one of my infamous dinner parties that involve raucous laughter, fusion food, mismatched plates, and usually youtube escapades, we introduced my friend to a great time-waster. Now as a college student, typing that six page essay, you are guaranteed to be spending at least a third of your time not writing your essay. This time could be unevenly distributed among Facebook (the clear winner), Youtube, New York Times, Apple Store, or in my case, Blogger. However, a site with growing popularity is the Sporcle.Com.

Described as "mentally stimulating diversions," Sporcle is chock full of addictive trivia games. Let's break down the phrase. Is it mentally stimulating? Yes. My personal favorite is "Can you name the Countries of the World?" because that's how I get to know my geography and win raffle prizes at Southeast Asian Festival for labeling all the Southeast Asian countries properly. Yes, I am addicted, but YES I know my geography. There are funky ones like "World Turkey Population," which are a waste of time and I doubt are mentally stimulating. However, there are also throwbacks like "Can you name all the Pokémon Characters (Generation 1)?" and the "Can you complete The Fresh Prince of Bel Air?" that are definitely mentally stimulating. I think. Is it a diversion? Sporcle just sucked three hours of my life last night. You can make the judgment call.

All in all though, it was hilarious to complete these quizzes with friends and those three hours flew. While typing in Bizarro and finding out the spelling of "Liechtenstein," we laughed like no other. The cereal mascot on the left is called "Frankenberry" and I do not know if I would feed my child cereal with such a mascot. There are 7 countries that end with "-stan" and the party includes Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan (with TWO Y's), and Tajikistan.

I invite you to beat our record for the Countries of the World: 133/195.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Turkey Run and Google Wave

Thanksgiving has come and gone. In anticipation for the event, people have sent me texts with the generic "Happy Thanksgiving :)", an email with numerous pictures like this and a bumper sticker request on facebook. Would you laugh if I said I didn't see a single turkey this Thanksgiving? No, I am not vegetarian and I often had turkey in New York.

It must be something about Virginia and my luck, but in my two years here, I have not eaten turkey here. Last year on Thanksgiving, for some odd reason, our family decided to wake up at 8am to go hiking in Shenandoah Park. Ironically, the trail was called Turkey Run and it involved some serious paths with a huge incline that culminated in a peak and a waterfall. After trekking for four hours with large backpacks on, we were sore, breathless, and hungry. I don't want to say "typical Koreans," but yeah, we had a pot of ramen (instant noodles) on that summit. When we were driving away from the parking lot, we saw a herd (flock?) of turkeys. Irony to the max.

This year, we didn't have a ramen lunch on a mountain, but we did go hiking in another park. Ultimately, there was a dearth of turkeys in my life this year as well. Oh well.

On a totally different note, as an avant-garde blogger and a closet-techie, I want to spread the word about Google Wave. Essentially, email, social networking, documents, and IMs are merged together in this "personal communication and collaboration tool" (Google). Described as "what email would look like if it was invented today," Google Wave is in real-time and really focuses on collaborative features. A wave is a "collection of messages, ...where people can see each other typing live," (Google) and ultimately this will foster collaboration on event-planning, group projects and other cosponsored activities. Did I mention that it has automatic translating as you type? If the person you are collaborating with types in Arabic and you type in English, with the right tool, it will come out on your wave as English. There are a lot more features and they're working on improving the preview version, but I haven't fully explored it.

What does this mean for college kids? I smell potential for group projects, cosponsorship between CIOs, and BBQ events with friends. As one friend put it, Google Wave could encourage laziness in all of us, because it doesn't innovate but simply combines tools that we already have, but another way to think about it is an innovation in the way of approaching these tools. I'm not a fan yet, but I am eagerly waiting for Google's improvements on this preview version.

Want it? At the moment, it's only open by invitation, but you can place yourself on the guest list.

Monday, November 23, 2009

As Future CEO of the Sushi+Cupcakes Company...

On an entirely new note, I had an RA meeting last night and it was loads of fun. I think this meeting was different from previous ones, because a lot of us were very relaxed. I think everyone has gotten used to each other and different styles of humor. A lot of jokes went around, the pizza was hot, and business was short and sweet.

Yes, RAs are students too and we love to chill. For those of you who don't know, RAs meet once a week as a staff to discuss dorm-wide issues and events. Around this time of year, RAs are usually planning around Thanksgiving break and towards winter. We're very far-sighted people. Overall, we are excited for break to come and not-so-excited for the finals to come afterwards.

Earlier this year, these meetings have been business for the most part, with a little socializing before and after. Yesterday was the first time we decided to incorporate a dinner with our meeting and that definitely eased the mood of the meeting. If there is nothing else college has taught me, it has taught me that food brings people together and the casualness of it facilitates an easiness found only between friends. If I ever become a big time CEO or manager, I will make sure to always have snacks in my office and conduct my meetings with sushi and cupcakes. Welcome to my cubicle.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

SIS, oh SIS...

No, I am not talking about my female sibling or anything like that but our one and only, terribly user-repellent SIS! For those of you not familiar with this bane in my life, it is the new Student Information System, or the site where students
  • Drop and add classes
  • Find the name of your advisor
  • Determine whether you have holds on your enrollment
  • View financial information
  • View a list of your classes, an unofficial transcript, an Academic Requirements report, and a list of your transfer of credit
  • Browse the Schedule of Classes using the Class Search
Do I know a lot of people whose financial aid has been messed up because of SIS? Yes. Is it user-friendly? No. Does it make your life really hard when trying to drop and add classes? Yes.

Financial aid has been extremely backed up, because of transferring files to SIS and that means a lot of financial packages were given late or mishandled. I experienced this over the summer, and some people still experience it today. While I do appreciate the work that the people at Financial Aid do, I do not appreciate the confusing labels of SIS. In my financial aid package, what does it mean to have charges listed under the title of "item"? Why is the money charged for the 2008 fall term paid by "Summer 09 Financial Aid'? What is a "Do Not Place Financial Hold"?

Perhaps the underlying point is that SIS combines so many features that it is slowed down by them and altogether it is a confusing hodgepodge. Dan Heubert of UVa Today blog lauds the fact that "SIS does offer many of the same features as Collab" and then lists eight features that SIS can do, as if this was some baby contest and SIS was coming in second to some gorgeous half Turkish, half Chinese baby. Does faculty really need to view weekly teaching and exam schedules, build a course waitlist, search the course catalog and schedule of classes, create student e-mail lists, AND release advising holds? From what I hear, professors are so baffled by SIS that they barely use a lot of offered features, and the ones that they need to use are being "difficult." Another example of the pointlessness of so many features is the fact that we need to pick out of the three terms ('09 Fall, J-Term, '10 Spring) each time we want to look or edit classes. Therefore, each time I want to add, swap or drop a class, I must select which term I want to look at. Instead of adding, swapping or dropping classes within a term, I must reselect the term every time I click add, swap, or drop. This gets annoying really quickly.

I think the fact that I am on 8 waitlists attests to SIS's inefficiency. What Dan Heubert of UVa Today blog calls "the star of the March rollout [of SIS]" is the course enrollment feature, but that is exactly what I hear most students complain about. It is a pain to enroll, because SIS is so slow in processing requests. Also, because of the way the system is designed, a lot more students are on waitlists, because we do not have paper course action papers anymore. What students need are flexibility and a quick turnover rate. Instead, with SIS, we are all on as many waitlists as possible to hold onto as many classes, because we are uncertain whether or not we're going to get into a class.

On the right column, why are there links under the title of "U.Va." and what is the difference between those and the links under the title of "Other U.Va."? There's another UVA?

Even a physics professor understood this sad situation and felt enough pity to create his own version of SIS. This professor, Lou Bloomfield, says that "the goal of this website is to help student and faculty realize the best educational experience possible," and ends with "I hope that you will find this website useful." Oh yes, Mr. Bloomfield, sir, I do. Extremely user-friendly, it clearly lists all classes in a easy-to-read format. You can check out his version of SIS here: []. From what I heard, it cost him nothing to make this. Did I mention that we bought SIS for millions of dollars that racked up tuition and we need to shell out a couple hundreds of thousand a year to maintain it? Oh my.

Monday, November 16, 2009

112 words for you.

Someone once pointed out that my posts are very long... Well, my friends, either I must get to the crux of things, have less to say, or just make the blog layout wider so that it doesn't seem as long. I believe that the latter two are things that I cannot control (at the moment). Therefore, for this post, I'm going to really bring out the meaning of what I'm trying to convey.

Life Advice from Dean Sarah Wilcox Elliott (currently Darden's Assistant Director of Student Affairs):

1. Work smarter, not harder.
2. Negotiate your salary.
3. Feel comfortable to change in matters of the heart.

Concise? Important? Oh, definitely.

Peace out.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

sushi, hip-hop, friends, and late-night dancing

I went to a friend's apartment house party last night and it was awesome. Let me preface it though with a description of my lovely Saturday. Honestly, yesterday was one of the most satisfying days of my life. Yes, I am talking about hedonistic pleasures, which include sushi, hip-hop, friends, and late night dancing.

The morning started off quite disappointingly because I woke up early for two meetings, both of which I never got in touch with the person with whom I was supposed to have a meeting. However, I was thoroughly enjoying the gorgeous weather. For the past four days, Virginia has decided to pour her heart out in the form of biting wind, thundering or misty rain, wet leaves, flooded brick sidewalks, and inside-out umbrellas. Miraculously, on Saturday the sun was out, temperature highs were 19°C or 66°F, and girls were wearing strapless sun dresses (your prime indicator of the weather...). For those of you not familiar with Virginia weather, Virginia is a bipolar, maniac depressive maiden when it comes to matters of weather and love. While in New York, once it hits October, it's chilly and then cold and then freezing until March, in Virginia, it vacillates. Therefore I was pleasantly surprised by the gorgeous weather, and despite being dumped for two meetings I was actually in a great mood.

Oh, and despite the fact that it had been raining nonstop for four days and Professor Wilson says that the day of the week doesn't really affect your mood, I was so happy that it was Saturday. I mean, what Professor Wilson says is true... TGIF in America, or Thank God It's Friday, definitely did not apply in South Korea, where the week school used to continue to Saturday. (They're currently trying to phase it out so that on every alternating week, school ends on Friday.) I'm sure if classes continued to Saturday, Fridays would just become the next Thursday. However, I also might just transfer to another school that doesn't implement such heinous practices.

Fortunately, it was Saturday and at the University of Virginia, it means a day of no classes. I decided to go on a sushi lunch date with friends... Guess where we went? YES SUSHI LOVE [see two posts earlier]. Two of my friends actually never had sushi (or sashimi or rolls), so I was really excited. I won't get into too much details, but essentially we had an awesome lunch of the bento box at a reasonable price, and talked for two and a half hours. There was such a feeling of solidarity that it was remarkable. It really reminded me what the combination of good food and fantastic women can do for one's soul. I believe we talked about everything from an amazing novel called Things Fall Apart to African womanism to UVa Orientation to music. We all agreed that the chic decor and great tasting food added to the mood. Silly pictures ensued.

We got kicked out of the restaurant at 3:36pm. They needed to set up for dinner. Because of the great company, we decided to meet again for Ill-Literacy. Essentially the description was something like this:

[Spoken word and hip-hop favorites iLL-Literacy returns to UVA for a third time just days before the release of their first record, iB4the1.1! Creating an ever-expanding sonic universe piecemealed together by their ever-shrinking attention span, iLL-Literacy has invaded concert halls, off-Broadway stages, and college arenas throughout North America and Europe.]

Awesome? Oh yes. We were blasted with truth in the form of spoken word and beats. Why is the word fuck beeped from shows and movies that have murder scenes, sex scenes, and drug scenes? Why is our first black President talked about as if he is the last chapter in the race dialogue? Who does Glenn Beck think he is in coining the term "post-racial America" because of Obama? Not only were we the row who screamed encouragement the most, I believe we got a kick out of the fact that N.I.C. took a picture with me and my friend. Overall, a very fulfilling night.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

not hipster... zipster yo.

Oh.Em.Gee. I am not a fan of excessive use of this phrase, but sadly that is what is coming to mind. ZIPCAR IS COMING TO UVA.

For those of you who are not familiar with Zipcar, it's a carsharing company that charges hourly rates and covers your gas and insurance. They have one of the largest fleets: over 6,500 vehicles throughout North America and the UK. You reserve a car, pick it up at a reserved spot, do your thing, and then drop it off at the same spot. It's super easy to reserve a car, and you have a choice among Minis, pick up trucks, BMWs, hybrids and more! UVa is going to offer three hybrid Honda Insights and three Honda Civics starting November 17. The hourly weekday rate is $8 and weekend rate is $9, as well as an annual $35 fee to be a member.

Did I mention that Zipcar has its own slang and promotes a "lifestyle"? (Good. Clean. Fun. anyone?) You can also be a

zip•ster (zĭp′ster) n. slang


: One who uses Zipcar. A gender neutral term for a person (or people: Zipsters) who believe in cost-effective transportation solutions that are good for the planet and easy on the wallet.

That sounds extremely catchy and attractive. Wouldn't you want to be a zipster?

Introducing the big news two days ago, UVa Today Blog lauds Zipcar as a step towards "[decreasing] the number of vehicles on Grounds and help [reducing] parking demand and associated congestion." Well, I'm glad that they noticed the problem! There was ridiculous traffic during the U2 Concert and Saturday football games, where parking is nigh impossible.

I also mentioned that Zipcar promotes a greener lifestyle. They devote an entire page to Green Benefits and how the "idea is bigger than all us." Today, in American politics class, Professor Doneson talked about American moralism and how it is a unique take on virtue. Essentially, he argues that virtue in America was different from virtue in Europe. In Europe, virtue meant suffering, sacrifice and asceticism, while in America, virtue is a form of self-interest: we do well by being good to others. For example, doing community service is great for the community, but it also helps us get into college. In the same way, I was struck by the way Zipcar promoted a greener planet. It's good for the planet, but it's good for you too! By saving money (and the planet), you have an extra $500 a month, which could be "put back into [your] community by buying local and sustainable products" (Zipcar Website). According to Tocqueville (and not just any critical French commentator!), Americans are attracted to the easy and convenient way of doing things. Even on the UVa Today blog, Zipcar is described as a "convenient, economical, and environmentally responsible alternative to owning a car." Those are three adjectives about which no one can argue.

Therefore, I must congratulate Zipcar and UVa on recognizing this American tendency (albeit probably differently than I did in politics class) and encouraging a planet-and-wallet-friendly mode of transportation. I would argue that college students are the epitome of the American need for ease and convenience. Introducing the zipcar to UVA is probably one of the best decisions since [reusable] to-go boxes!

Monday, November 9, 2009

cravings for sushi?

The other day, I checked out a new restaurant on the Corner. It was near my favorite local coffee shop, so I decided to stop by on a whim. It's called Sushi Love and it's on Elliwood Ave.

Charlottesville's sushi places have trained me to expect high prices for average food and ok service. Sakura on the Corner is very so-so. It's been frequented not for the food, but for pure convenience. Repeated poor service has led me to avoid it if possible. It once took thirty minutes for the menu to be brought out and about fifteen minutes for us to get water after we got the menu. I'll admit that I haven't tried sushi at Flaming Wok Teppan Yaki & Sushi Bar, but in general, sushi in Charlottesville is pretty pricey. So I was on a limb here, entering a sushi place and hoping that it would be decent. I was pleasantly surprised.

I entered Sushi Love. I was greeted by the manager and shown the three different types of seating areas, each of which exuded its own unique atmosphere. Instead of the intimate private seating in the back or the stately wooden chairs in the middle, I opted for the tall chairs, bathed in sunlight. I opened the menu to find to my delight Korean food! The chef must be Korean, because the menu boasted not only bulgoki, which is marinated BBQ beef, but also bibimbab, or mixed rice with vegetables and a spicy pepper paste. Although I had come for sushi, I had already made up my mind to taste Korean food. Nevertheless, I decided to ask the manager, who was also my waiter, what he recommended. Instantly, he pointed to the bento box, which I saw was priced at a ridiculously cheap $8 and something. He casually pointed to my neighbors who were enjoying their food and I saw that these were not small, mean portions. I was really tempted to scrap my bibimbab choice and go with the bento box. However, the fact that the bibimbab was around $6 sort of sealed the deal.

Service? I'd give it a 7.5/10. I know that the manager-waiter was very attentive, because the restaurant is new and I was one of the few customers. I'd like to come back later to see if service is still on par.
Food? I only got one entree... (which calls for several repeats to see if the rest of the food was as authentic as my bibimbab). But it was also pretty high: 8/10.

Of course, although I am giving Sushi Love high marks, excellent food and service doesn't guarantee its success. The managers of Sushi Love need to be business savvy and learn to cater to the college community, because of its close proximity to the University. This requires flyering, getting its name out there with CIOs, and encouraging students to bring friends. Being active in the Charlottesville community in general also doesn't hurt. I know Para Coffee is particularly successful because the couple who owns Para Coffee networked through the local artist community and the Christian community.

I'm not going to lie... restaurants on the Corner usually have a lifespan of two years. The Biltmore recently changed hands, despite years of going strong. Three used to be a different restaurant, Boylan Heights is a new addition, and recently, Rita's Ice Cream turned into Trinity, a snazzy new bar. While there are a couple of names going strong, such as The Virginian and College Inn, the majority of eateries on the Corner come and go within a student's college lifespan. At best, we can wish Sushi Love good luck and see how it thrives.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

the pig flu over the moon...

I really wish I was an atypical UVa student when I say: I came down with the flu. It seems like everyone is getting sick these days, with the weather going down to 0 degrees Celsius (32F) in the night, but rising to 16 or 17 degrees (61~63F) during the day.

I actually knew who I got my bug from, which was lucky because my friend told me exactly what to prepare for and how long the illness took. Once I started getting a fever, I quarantined myself in my room, sent emails to my professors, and slept the entire day. I drank lots of water so that I wouldn't get dehydrated and had rice porridge. Fortunately, the fever broke the next day, but I still wasn't feeling good, so I spent the entire day in my room, watching movies and Korean dramas.

Being sick in college is not a fun experience. No one really looks after you and you need to take care of yourself. Food does not appear at will, schoolwork seems to be hovering over you, and no one dares to come near. I think when I was most feverish, I called my umma (mother in Korean). My umma wistfully said, "College students call their mothers when they're sick," hinting that I do not call enough. She recommended lots of bed rest and tea, which I followed without fail.

I went to Student Health 24 hours after my fever broke (because that's when the flu isn't contagious anymore). After a combined time of twenty five minutes of waiting time and 12 minutes of doctor time, I walked out of the building with a prescription for... AN INHALER. I went in to check that I didn't have swine flu or any other scary nonsense like that, and got diagnosed with asthma. Perhaps it was a practical joke, but I checked how much an inhaler was without medical insurance... and it's $150. I say it's a great business move.