Lion King 2.5 The Sequel

She took me to some cool places for my birthday :)

Hello readers of my blog! (Mom and Dad)

I’m here, yes it’s me, I’m alive. First thing’s first, I’m sure the past few months without hearing anything from the Lion’s Den (definitely got to change that blog title) have been tragic. Honestly not sure how you guys have survived. Let me explain… This Spring my friend from home tragically passed away, it’s something that hit me quite hard, and I definitely didn’t feel like I was in the place to blog about my life/experiences here when  all I could think about was missing my friend. Now, back to start off my junior year, I feel like I’m in a much better place, and would love to keep you all updated on my life here at Hopkins. Before I go into all that however, I’ll tell you today all about the incredible summer I had.

As a philosophy major with designs for graduate school, I have less pressure during summers to find one specific internship or take any particular classes than someone interested in pre-med or finance (read: people who will have actual jobs). With that freedom, I decided to explore some of my non-philosophical passions, namely theater. After applying for various internships (and mostly with the help of my girlfriend… Thanks Vic), I found an incredible opportunity as the artistic intern/summer dramaturg at Puppet Showplace Theater, a well-known puppet theater in Brookline, MA. I’d done some work with puppets in high school, and was excited to take a step back into the world of theatre. You can check out more of what I did here

But to put it briefly, working at Puppet Showplace was an incredible experience. My colleagues were brilliant, absolutely brilliant, but also so caring and kind. I felt like part of a family. The work I was doing was challenging, but it kept me on my toes, I learned a lot about the nature of working in the arts, about the running of a theater and mostly about good arts programming.

Me and all my friends...

Me and all my friends…

My summer wasn’t all work though, I went on a family vacation to Iceland and Sweden, both of which were incredible. Sweden’s history and the beautiful architecture all over Stockholm made every day a treat. And the natural beauty of Iceland is incomparable; snow-mobiling to the edge of a glacier, hiking inside a volcano… There aren’t words to describe how small you feel when you compare yourself to these enormous, ancient structures. It’s a beauty without equal.

 

 

She took me to some cool places for my birthday :)

She took me to some cool places for my birthday 🙂

Most importantly, my incredible girlfriend was in Boston as well and we took advantage of the amazing city. We explored a number of astonishing museums, traveled down to the Cape for a weekend, and made Harvard Square our own. There’s nothing like exploring a new city with someone you care deeply about, and getting to feel comfortable in a foreign environment.
That’s all for now!

Academic Snapshot

Intellectual stimulation!

It’s easy to focus on the glamorous aspects of life at Hopkins. Exploring Baltimore, eating great food,  and Spring Fair are all fun topics to post about, but what about the reason I’m here? Academics?
Well don’t worry dedicated Hopkins Interactive readers, I still go to class and learn things… Not many, but a few. I thought I’d share some of the stuff I’m working on in some of my classes.

Intellectual stimulation!

Intellectual stimulation!

First and foremost, I’ve been working on a paper in my metaphysics class centered around the topic of parsimony. Parsimony ( or Occam’s razor) is generally defined as the theoretical virtue of simplicity. My project is to exam what justifications for supporting parsimony exist. Why is it exactly that we value simplicity. I examine a couple different routes for justifying parsimony, through aesthetic value, empirical success in our best models of nature, and an a priori, logical justification. The topic combines a couple of my philosophical interests, philosophy of science and metaphysics, so I’ve been really excited to work on that topic.

I’ve also been deciding on a topic to research for my philosophy and cognitive science seminar (suggestions appreciated). I met with my professor yesterday (Steven Gross amazing guy, highly recommended) and discussed a paper centered around a recent distinction between cognitive representations, and simply environmentally sensitive stimuli.

I know these topics don’t seem like much, but the best part of college (so far) has been engaging with challenging material in interesting fields. Philosophy doesn’t taste good, and you can’t really Instagram it, but its an incredible feeling to wake up everyday and be passionate about your education!

Activism at Hopkins

Maybe not quite what activism at Hopkins is like, but pretty close?

Hopkins has a reputation, deserved or not (I think not) as an apathetic school, where students are far more likely to be cramming for Orgo till the wee hours of the morning, than advocating for causes in which they believe. While campus climate certainly can’t be compared to that of a school like Berkeley, Hopkins students do have interests outside the library, and advocacy certainly has a role on campus. One advocacy group about which I know quite a bit -brace yourselves for some shameless self-promotion- is the Hopkins American Partnership for Israel (HAPI). HAPI is a non-partisan group dedicated to promoting and raising awareness about the US-Israel relationship. In the past HAPI has hosted student leadership receptions featuring members of Congress, held panels with notable academics and gone to lobby our elected officials.

Maybe not quite what activism at Hopkins is like, but pretty close?

Maybe not quite what activism at Hopkins is like, but pretty close?

While it may not seem like much, HAPI has provided a forum in which I can tangibly contribute to something about which I am very passionate. Luckily, HAPI isn’t the outlier at Hopkins, it’s the norm. From the direct opposite end of the political spectrum-Students for Justice in Palestine, to Hopkins Feminists, Hopkins Republicans, and even organizations fighting for a greener campus (among many other incredible organizations), there are many ways to pursue your non-academic passions at Hopkins. The myth that the Hopkins student spends 22 hours in class/the library, and the other two sleeping couldn’t be further from the truth. Perhaps what’s most inspiring, is that if you have a passion, something you really care about, you can start your own organization pretty easily. HAPI was founded only a couple of years ago by a group of students who felt passionate about US-Israel relations, and wanted to do something to promote that. Organizations like Students for Justice in Palestine were brought to Hopkins only 2/3 years ago, because people cared about the issues and decided to do something to channel their passion. The New Political Society, a group who’ve brought some incredible speakers to campus, were founded last year!

HAPI Logo

That’s the real benefit of going to a school where you’re surrounded by brilliant, passionate, minds. People here are driven, if they care about something, they pursue it. If they see a change needs to be made, they work for it. Hopkins students are go-getters, and bring far more to the table than good grades and a love of organic chemistry. Hopkins may not be a traditionally activist campus, but rest assured people care here, and that comes through most of all in our actions.

Hop(ing) For A Snow Day

Snow ball fight on the Beach from freshman year!

You can definitely feel the buzz around campus, when even the slightest possibility of a snow day exists. Snow days are rare enough that they bring a special type of excitement with them, the sort of excitement that comes out at lacrosse games and whenever free food is available on campus. College snow days are especially fun, not only are all your friends instantly free, but everyone is within a mile radius so there’s not a lot of risk in traveling to meet up. With lots of talk on campus about a potential snow day tomorrow, I’ll take you through what a typical snow day at Hopkins can be like.
6:03 AM- Wake up to check if school has sent out an e-mail
6:05 AM- Find phone on floor, woo snow-day!

6:06 AM- Go back to sleep

11:15 AM- Wake up 2.0, quickly text friends seeing who wants to get brunch
11:42 AM- Struggle to find appropriate winter clothing, realize you left the new gloves Mom bought for you at home, decide to brave the cold sans gloves
12:01PM- Step outside, quickly realize going glove-less was a bad idea
12:08 PM- Rush to meet friends either at Carmas or Tambers for a delicious brunch
1:22 PM- Requisite post brunch nap
3:04 PM- Wake up, quickly go watch TV with JHU_Hayley and our friend Julia. Need to relax, napping is hard work.
4:07 PM- Snowball Fight!

Snow ball fight on the Beach from freshman year!

Snow ball fight on the Beach from freshman year!

5:43 PM- Realize that snow is only fun from a distance, take a warm shower.
6:12 PM- Dinner, ideally some kind of soup, Donnas if possible.
8:00 PM- More TV with friends, either 30 Rock or Friends.
10:01 PM- Late night hang-out, potential dance party (Beyonce/Kanye exclusively)
1:32 AM- Go to bed very thankful that the city of Baltimore can’t properly deal with minimal amounts of snow

Snow in Baltimore!

Snow in Baltimore!

Home(wood) Cooking

My cookies almost looked like this.

Living in Homewood this semester has been awesome, living close to my friends, having my own space to decorate, all of it has been great. An added opportunity (challenge?) has been having my own kitchen. Having come into the year with minimal cooking experience, (grilled cheese counts right) I was a bit apprehensive to be cooking for myself. After many a prep course with my mom, and a few burnt attempts at chicken I felt confident coming into the semester as a chef ready for the challenges of college cooking.
Lo and behold, cooking without your mom watching every step of the process is fundamentally less stressful, and also a recipe for disaster. It turns out having some experience to help in the kitchen is a pretty valuable thing. So today is your lucky day dedicated Hopkins interactive readers, I’ll give you the rundown of three of my favorite meals that I’ve made since I’ve started cooking.

1. Fettucine Alfredo: http://www.williams-sonoma.com/recipe/fettuccine-alfredo.html
My go to dish for dates, fettuccine alfredo seems complicated enough to make you look like you know what you’re doing, while actually being pretty hard to mess up. It’s also really good! Make

sure to use cheese liberally, and drown it in heavy cream if you’re looking for an especially delicious, and fattening meal

2. Chicken Marsala: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/emeril-lagasse/chicken-marsala-recipe.html

One of my all-time favorite meals, chicken marsala is a bit unwieldy at first try. There are a ton of moving parts, making sure the mushrooms are ready, keeping the chicken from overcooking. When done right however, chicken marsala turns out to be a great meal.

3. Peanut Butter Cookies: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/peanut-butter-cookies-recipe.html
Some have said* that dinner is only as good as it is short, as it’s the gateway to dessert. On that note, what would this list of recipes be without a sweet way to end the night? I actually tried this recipe for the first time the other day with my friends Hayley and Julia and it turned out amazingly. The cookies are certainly rich, and putting chocolate chips in the middle didn’t help. Nevertheless, they were the perfect way to end the night.

My cookies almost looked like this.

My cookies almost looked like this.

I hope my brief guide to some of my favorite home cooked college meals has been helpful, I’ll be sure to continue experimenting with new cuisine!

Round 4. Sophomore Spring

No titans were harmed in the production of this journal... I think

As utterly impossible as it may seem, I’m about to embark on a semester, that when complete, will mean I’ve finished half of my college career. While that thought is in and of itself absolutely terrifying, I’m somehow excited to have gotten the semester started, probably due to the awesome classes I’m taking. This past semester I did some deep soul searching, and with the help of family, friends, and lots of stress eaten Oreos, I decided I wanted to pursue a career in academia. Philosophy graduate school is extraordinarily competitive, so to that end I’m taking a few more upper levels this semester to really get my feet wet, and learn from some of the best professors the department has to offer.

Oreo: The Answer For Any Existential Crisis

Oreo: The Answer For Any Existential Crisis

1. Introduction to Metaphysics- Yitzhak Melamed
Professor Melamed is one of the younger members in the department, and that comes across in his boundless enthusiasm. Hearing on the first day of class that “philosophers shouldn’t be scared to make radical claims” was music to my ears. A brilliant, brilliant man, this is the first time in a long time that a general metaphysics course is being offered on the undergraduate level, and Professor Melamed is a great choice to teach it. Metaphysics being an area of particular interest to me, I’m super excited for this class.

2. Philosophy and Cognitive Science- Steven Gross
Cognitive Science is an area I know very little about, but I’m still very pumped for this class. I’d met Professor Gross a number of times before the semester and he’s not only an incredibly intelligent individual but a nice, welcoming guy. I’m hoping to get to know him, and his work a little better and also to learn a good deal more about the philosophical implications of Bayesian modeling of cognitive functions.

How do you feel about Bayesian modeling little guy?

How do you feel about Bayesian modeling little guy?

3. Heidegger’s “Being and Time”, and “Rectify”- Rochelle Tobias
Having taken a class with Professor Tobias last semester (Panorama of German Thought), when I saw she was teaching a course on a philosopher I know very little about, I jumped at the opportunity to register. The design of the class is pretty cool, we’re reading Being and Time, and comparing some of Heidegger’s philosophy there, with a TV series called Rectify. I’d heard a few things about Rectify prior to the course and been intrigued, and now that I’ve binge watched the entire first season, I can highly recommend it. The class has only six students so it should be a fun semester.

4. Undergraduate Philosophy Seminar: Skepticism- Michael Williams
A requirement for every philosophy major, this year’s undergraduate seminar is particularly interesting. Professor Williams, is well known within the department, and from what I’m told, the larger philosophical community for being not only absolutely brilliant, but a clear and engaging lecturer as well. This course, on contemporary skeptical positions covers another area of interest of mine (epistemology) and will be great. Open only to Philosophy majors, it’s nice to have an opportunity to get to know some of the other undergrads in the department.

5. The Existential Drama: Philosophy of the Theatre of the Absurd- Joseph Martin
This class takes me back to my high school theater roots. Having never taken a theater class at Hopkins before, finding the Merrick barn (where most theater class are held) was at once an exciting yet frightening journey. The class itself is awesome, French Existentialism and Absurdism were what initially drew me to philosophy, and to explore these schools of thought in a medium I love is a rare opportunity. Professor Martin, is a noted playwright, novelist and generally awesome guy, so this class will essentially be amazing.

6. Prometheus Editorial Workshop- Kevin Powell
This one credit course focuses on reviewing and editing submissions to Prometheus- the Hopkins Undergraduate Philosophy Journal. This should be a good opportunity to expose myself to more and more philosophical writing which is always a good thing.

No titans were harmed in the production of this journal... I think

No titans were harmed in the production of this journal… I think

7. Kant’s Opus Postumum- Eckart Forster
I’m auditing (read sitting in on) this graduate seminar on one of Kant’s lesser known works taught by perhaps the world’s leading expert on this very text. Since day one, Professor Forster has been recommended to me as an instructor who is very clear, methodical and thorough. Having the opportunity to take a class on this book, with the man who wrote the introduction for, and translated the seminal edition is scary, as is sitting in a room full of graduate students. It’s also the kind of intellectual challenge I came to Hopkins for, so I’m excited and hope not to make a fool out of myself during discussion.

I’m really excited for all of my classes, and stay tuned for updates on how my semester is coming along!

Intersession 2.0

Nothing like a good cup of coffee and the deepest mysteries of the universe!

Hey there dedicated fans of my blog,
Long time no see. Sorry about that, this semester was a pretty crazy one for me so I decided to take a temporary hiatus from blogging to focus on school work and extracurriculars. Don’t worry though, I’m back for the foreseeable future to bring you overly sappy rundowns of my day to day here at Hopkins.

After a refreshing winter break, full of friends, family, food, and a trip to the opera, I’m back at Hopkins for my second Intersession. Intersession is a three week mini semester offered during winter break giving students the opportunity to take cool, funky, classes, and even go abroad. (Obligatory shout out to my friends Anne and Michelle currently in the Galapagos!) I blogged about my freshman Intersession exploits here..

This time around, things are a bit different. I have a lot more time to relax and explore Baltimore. Being a humanities major, I naturally took advantage of all that free time to go to a Hampden coffee shop with my friend Joe and spent a couple hours sipping on some cappuccinos and reading Kant. If a humanity major gets a coffee and doesn’t Instagram it, did it really happen? (The only thing more obnoxious than those previous two sentences is the picture to the right… Yes, it made my snap story.)

Nothing like a good cup of coffee and the deepest mysteries of the universe!

Nothing like a good cup of coffee and the deepest mysteries of the universe!

I’ve had a lot of time to hang out with friends. We’ve made a concerted effort to eat/dance together almost every night, and gone on a couple adventures, ranging from trivia nights to McDonald’s runs. Having the opportunity to spend time with everyone, without the normal workload that comes with being at a school like Hopkins is incredibly refreshing.

Don’t think for a second that we aren’t working. Both of my classes are incredibly interesting. My mythology class took us to the Walters Museum for an in-depth examination of amphorae, and has rekindled my love of Greek myth. Revisiting some of my favorite childhood stories through the lens of their depiction in art, and with the guidance of an expert in the field is really unbelievable. My Quantum Physics class focuses on contemporary issues in the philosophy of physics, an area of particular interest to me. The class is certainly difficult conceptually, but it’s what I plan on doing for the rest of my life so every minute of class, every reading, has been incredible.

Even more incredible in person

Even more incredible in person

Being able to balance all this fun with two genuinely intellectually stimulating courses is a rare opportunity, and I’m lucky not only that Hopkins offers Intersession courses, but that most of them are free.

That’s all from me for now, but be sure to check back soon, to hear how Intersession wrapped up, and my preparations for the start of next semester!

Road Trip!

I have my silly moments

One of the hardest parts of college is leaving your friends. You go to this new exciting place full of crazy experiences and new adventures, and it can seem hard to make time to keep up friends from home. How can you possibly begin to describe a day in which you discussed the categorical imperative, learned about telomeres, went to a lacrosse game, and made the perfect sundae at Late Night all over text? And obviously no one has time for phone calls. For better or for worse, lots of my friends have lost touch with their “home-friends”. I’ll admit it hasn’t always been easy, but I think I’ve been able to keep in touch well with my best friends from home. One of whom, my friend Rebekah, I got to visit this weekend in my first experience of non-Hopkins college life.

I have my silly moments

I have my silly moments

Rebekah’s been one of closest friends for almost 5 years now. We met at camp, and have spoken with one or two exceptions, literally every day since. Whether one of us is traveling, studying, or just extraordinarily busy, we’ve managed to text/Facebook/chat/skype/phone call almost every day. So it’s fitting that my first visit to another college would be to visit Rebekah in Binghamton!

This past weekend was our Fall Break, so taking advantage of an extra day off (thanks Hopkins) two friends and I made the 6 hour trek all the way up to Vestal, NY. I knew visiting a college with 13,000 undergrads would be quite the shock coming from Homewood, where a walk across campus takes ten minutes, but I was definitely not prepared for what I was about to experience.

After catching up, a brief tour, and an all too brief nap, Rebekah and I went to the Binghamton Chabad house for Friday night dinner. Free Shabbat dinner at Hopkins draws I’d estimate around 100 students. Chabad at Bing had over 400, and that was a slow night…
The huge school definitely wasn’t for me. Walking around campus, at a mixer, even at Chabad dinner it felt easy to get lost in the crowd. One of my favorite things about Hopkins I realized, is how personal it feels. It’s nice that anywhere I walk on campus I can find a friend to talk to, anywhere in the library I can sit down and work with someone I know. That sense of community appeals to me.

 

Bing has a campus culture much like Hopkins. Pasquale’s pizza serves up a late night slice for cheap, though I’d take a Uni Mini schwarma any day. The library has its own social scene and on campus dining halls have their own celebrities though none as sweet as Ms. Gladys.

The differences though are striking, a lot of people I met expressed frustration with academic flexibility, and difficulty finding research opportunities. Huge class sizes were also a turnoff for many, and while Hopkins certainly has its own issues, I’m lucky to feel academically satisfied here.

Aside from my visit reaffirming my love of Hopkins, I was so happy to get the chance to see Rebekah.
The beautiful thing about long distance friendships are that when you meet up, it’s like nothings missed a beat. Seeing Rebekah for the first time in a few months felt like I had just seen her a day ago.

We clean up nice

We clean up nice

We went to a local diner, relaxed, and there was no pressure to “catch up” because we had made the effort to keep in touch with one another.
I hope when you’re in that situation dedicated Hopkins Interactive readers, you too will make the effort to keep in touch with friends. Not only so you can go visit and experience a completely different kind of college experience, but so that you have some form of continuity before, during and after your own experiences.

Matzah Ball Soup: Feeling at Home

MatzahBalls (1)

The idea of religious life on campus can at first glance seem a bit incongruous. College is the place people come to experiment, to find themselves in what can often be a secular academic climate. People may come from religious places, but everyone is here to try new things, get new experiences, and often times that doesn’t jive with finding yourself religiously.
I have and often still do struggle with my faith. I’m not exactly sure what I believe in, let alone if I believe in anything at all (philosophy major problems), but having a community to turn to both on occasions of joy and times of difficulty is rewarding in and of itself. Sure, a community doesn’t have to inherently be religious to fill those criteria, but the communities I’ve found here for the most part have been.

I can only speak to one aspect of religious life on campus, the Jewish community (though I do know that a wide variety of groups exist on campus. From organizations for Catholic students to those practicing Wicca). Hopkins has a very active Hillel community (Hillel is an international organization for Jewish students on college campuses), a dedicated Jewish Students Association and a variety of religious options/ services for all denominations.

I come from a somewhat religious household, we go to services every Saturday morning, we keep a kosher household, so I certainly didn’t expect college to be the place where I feel most connected religiously. Maybe it’s that I’m constantly being exposed to so many new ways of thinking, experiencing new things every day, but it’s nice to have something comfortable to cling to.

I can go on a Friday night to Hillel, sing the same songs I sing at home, that my ancestors have been singing for thousands of years. I can eat the same meal, recite the same prayers, and essentially give myself some consistency in a place where change can sometimes be overwhelming.

 

MatzahBalls (1)I don’t know if I believe more or less, I don’t know how my theological views would fit into mainstream Jewish thought. I do know, that more and more I feel connected, to something, spiritually. And it’s nice to have an outlet for that, an opportunity on campus, to get away from the academics, and feel at home, as part of something larger than myself.

Hopkins is by no means an overly religious campus, but religious life was not something I gave much thought to when I was applying to schools. Looking back on it, I wish I could stress how nice it is, as I continue finding myself intellectually, emotionally, to continue to develop spiritually during my time here as well.

There and Back Again

Dinner with the boys

After an incredible summer, filled with vacations, research, and a lot of sleeping, I’m finally getting into the swing of things in my sophomore fall. Before I got back to school I was warned ad nauseam about the “sophomore slump”. Apparently, classes would be much harder, friend groups would shift, and the excitement that came with being a freshman would die away.

Almost four weeks into the semester, I can cautiously report that I’ve avoided the sophomore slump, at least initially. I have never been so engrossed with my classes, so excited to spend time with friends and just generally happy to be back.

A lot of this happiness has to do with my living situation. This year I’m living in an efficiency in Homewood. Essentially a studio style setup, I have my own kitchen, I can decorate my room how I want, and basically live like an adult. It also helps that all my closest friends (obligatory Wilson crew shout out) live right next to me.

Going to be spending a lot of time with him this semester

Going to be spending a lot of time with him this semester

Academically I’ve never been this engaged. The classes I’m taking (the subject matter of a future post) are exactly what I imagined college classes to be. My professors are brilliant. I’m doing all different kinds of work, problem sets, creative writing assignments, and close reading analytical assignments. Having to think/work in so many different ways is challenging to say the least, but it also keeps me on my toes and really gets me thinking about what I’m learning.

I’ve had a couple opportunities to continue exploring Baltimore, I took in my first Oriole’s game with my friends, I went to this incredible restaurant in the Hotel Belvedere, and just been spending more time in a city I’m more and more comfortable with.

Classic Baltimore selfie with JHU_Hayley and our friend Julia

Classic Baltimore selfie with JHU_Hayley and our friend Julia

In between cooking for myself and doing dishes, (the worst part of having your own kitchen) I’ve taken on a more active role as co-president of an Israel advocacy group and taken leadership roles in other groups on campus.

This semester will continue to be a lot of work, but after such an incredible start, I can’t wait to see how the rest of my sophomore year goes!