Saturday, November 23, 2013


I'm going to keep this brief because it's that time of year when everything is due in every grad class and my advisor is clambering for data from me. These were donated earlier in November with the penguin from the previous post, bringing my total to 513.

Items donated:

-1 hat
-3 earwarmers
-8 pairs of mittens
-5 pairs of slippers
-2 stuffed animals
-3 scarves

-3 cowls

Saturday, August 31, 2013

488 Items Donated!!

So it's Labor Day weekend and I'm preparing for the Auburn vs Washington game tonight (note: I am not an Auburn fan. Go Terps! But a fellow grad student is having a cook-out at his house. He is an Auburn alum). I just sent home the rest of the stuff that will be donated to ARC when it all arrives in Maryland. Combine the items in this post (minus the penguin because I couldn't fit it in the box. He'll be donated later) with those in the last post for one shipment of 41 items to Jee Jee at ARC.

Items in the second part of the shipment are:
-2 pairs of socks/slippers
-4 scarves
-6 pairs of mittens


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Year Number 2

So I figured I would post something before the semester started. I'm about to start my second (and hopefully final) year of my MS at UT Austin and I'm going to keep this post short since I have to get up in about 5 hours to get to BWI to fly back to Texas. I did get some data collected during the summer, but not enough, although that was outside of my control. In addition to collecting data, I also collected crocheted items. I thought I should post them now instead of when they are donated since there is already quite a few of them. 

To be donated (assume they were donated with the stuff in the next post about donated items):
-5 hats
-2 scarves
-7 pairs of mittens
-11 pairs of socks/slippers

-4 earwarmers

Sunday, June 30, 2013

My problem with Etsy....

Yes, every one of these seven designers had the same idea and decided to make it the exact same way and put it on etsy to sell as their original, handmade product.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A note on homesickness in a 20-something adult....

BBC News published a story today on severe homesickness in adults. It is a thing and not something that you can just tell someone to "get over it" and they will "man up" and get over it. ( At the bottom of the page, I decided to write to the BBC and give my own experience of homesickness. I've talked about this before, but I wanted to share it again in case someone amongst my readers is an adult (or really any age) and is homesick and thinks less of themselves for being so. I am a 20-something adult. I am homesick. No matter where I live, if it is outside of Maryland, I will always be homesick. I am not ashamed of that. Neither should you. Here is what I wrote:

I moved to Austin from Ellicott City, MD about a year ago for graduate school. The only people I knew in Austin were the other students I had met when I visited during the prospective student weekend. Although the homesickness wasn't too bad during the first few weeks, it got progressively worse as the stress of grad school started to build and as I got more and more frustrated with the stark differences between the two places.

I am very connected to my surroundings. In Maryland, I love the trees, the birds, the rolling hills and winding roads, the farm land, and the Chesapeake. In Austin, the trees aren't tall like they are on the east coast. The sky seems so much larger here in Austin and that isn't necessarily a good thing. There are no farms nearby, the birds are different, the closest thing to water is the Colorado River. Also, the people drive differently in Austin, and do so in an aggravating way. 

The homesickness started to become rather severe right when I was in the airport on my way back to Austin from my winter break at home. I was about to pass through security and I just started crying. I didn't want to go back. I wanted to stay in Maryland, my Maryland. A TSA agent gave me a hug and a tissue. That helped me at least get to my seat on the plane before I started crying again as we flew over the Appalachians. During the semester in Austin, I actually had to see a counselor from my university because the homesickness and stress was affecting my work.

I moved to Austin in August of 2012. It took me until the middle of March 2013, during my spring break, before I finally started being okay with living in Texas. I only feel that way because I took a simple walk downtown. One day, during the South by Southwest festival, I walked through downtown Austin, over to a convention center on the other side of the Colorado. I think being able to see the scenery of city and really take it in helped me overcome my homesickness. For me, skyscrapers may now be the new tall east coast tree. It is now June and I just got back in Austin after being away for a month. This time, no tears were shed at the airport or on the plane, although I can't say that there weren't any as I write this. 

I still love Maryland and I will always be a Marylander at heart, but I think even though I am still homesick for the east coast, it is not enough for me to not like the city of Austin, Texas.
I know it doesn't look like much, but this is a Fish Crow, one of my favorite birds, flying over my backyard in Maryland, with the 120-foot tall tulip poplar we had to cut down after the derecho last summer.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Good Deed....

Good deed of the day complete. I had just stepped out for a walk around my neighborhood in Maryland when a woman asked for help in moving some very heavy bins. She was a retired teacher who is friends with one of my neighbors a few houses down who is also a teacher. The retired teacher was picking up two blue bins of children's books my neighbor had set out for her. Unfortunately, the bins were too heavy for her to lift on her own. Although I have back problems that prevent me from lifting heavy things, I walked over and began helping her get those books into her car. Turns out, the retired teacher runs a nonprofit with her husband in Pennsylvania. The books my neighbor donated and I helped get into her car will soon be shipped to children in Belize.

On a random note, here's a picture of a northern green frog from my backyard pond.


Monday, May 20, 2013

Moore, Oklahoma Tornado

Roopa and me. And since Roopa doesn't look too happy in this photo....
...I'll give you another to prove that she is one of the most cheerful people I know.
I live in Maryland and Austin, TX. In Maryland, we get tornadoes (about 10 a year), but all of them are usually EF0 to EF1. These cause damage and a few injuries, but they are pretty minor tornadoes. That is not to say we don't take them seriously. People have died from tornadoes in Maryland, but they are nowhere near the scale of tornadoes in the Plains.

One of my best friends, Roopa, recently moved from Maryland to Moore, Oklahoma. I just received a text from her, after worrying for most of the evening. She and her family are okay. Their house is okay. The EF4/5 tornado came within half a mile of their house.

I am so grateful that Roopa and her family are okay. Unfortunately, as I write this, 51 people, almost half of them children, are confirmed dead. I'm not religious, but I do pray that survivors in the elementary school are found.

Not to make light of the situation, but I hope that someone some day invents a method that would make building basements and underground shelters in the Plains easy and cost effective, and in the process help save lives during tornadoes like this.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

447 and

So the semester has ended, except for a final I have to grade once I get back from Akron, OH, which means I get to send Jee Jee (ARC) all the items I've crocheted for her during the semester.

-5 pairs of socks
-1 hat
-2 earwarmers (one is very small)
-1 cowl
-13 scarves

Now my total is 447 items donated since 2009.

So now to some of my thoughts (if you aren't interested in my life as a grad student, you can skip down to the next section on

An update on the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship: I didn't get it :D. I didn't want it since I don't want a PhD at this time and getting the NSF GRFP would have forced me into one. I'm still uncertain what I want to do in life. Now that I'm actually moving on my master thesis research (the reason why I'm in Akron), I feel better about paleontology. However, even though I'm enjoying it, I still can't see a future in paleontology for me. I think I still want to get a masters in chemistry and work in industry for a bit and then decide if it is something I want to continue with. A non sequitur, but I like teaching. I really enjoyed TAing GEO 404C Plate Tectonics and Earth History. In fact, I liked teaching more than I liked doing work for my thesis this semester. Meh. I guess we shall just let time tell...

Now to

If you can't tell already (which actually you may not have been able to tell), I LOVE To date, I've made 32 loans to 28 countries. Kiva is a microfinancing charity, in which lenders can loan as little as $25 to people all over the world (specifically in 64 countries). Usually, the people are in developing countries, although Kiva does have loans in the US. This is how the process works:

  • The borrower requests a small loan (from as low as $150 to as high as $6,500, although the US loans can be up to $10,000) from a micofinancing institution (MFI) in their home country.
  • The MFI disperses funds to the borrower and sends the loan information to Kiva, which then places the loan online.
  • Lenders (ordinary people, like you and me) from around the world lend as little as $25 to any of the 300 to 3,000 loans listed at any given time (there are usually just a few hundred around the 17th of each month and usually a few thousand around the 14-15th of each month for reasons I will explain later).
  • Your and my money is used to backfill the loan that has already been distributed to the borrower. This takes the risk of the loan off the MFI and onto you, which helps the MFI continue to provide more loans to be people who are looking to improve their qualities of life.
  • The borrower repays the loan as set by the schedule of the MFI. The money first goes to the MFI and then to Kiva and then to you.
  • The money arrives back in your account on the 15th of each month (everyone relends the money to new loans then so that's why there are so many listed prior to this date and so few after). You can relend the money to your heart's content or withdraw it.
  • Kiva costs nothing to sign up or to use ever (of course not including the money you lend). If you follow this link, you (and me) can get a free $25 loan to a listed loan of your choosing (this money will be repaid to Kiva, not you or me).

Now I don't want to scare you with the "takes the risk of the loan off the MFI and onto you" part. I have never had a loan that ended with a loss. Although I have had a few loans that were delinquent (a late repayment), they always picked it up during the next month's repayment. Overall, lending on Kiva is very low risk and in the process, you are helping someone improve their life, help send their children to school, help expand their business so now they can hire additional employees and in turn improve their lives, and so on.

To help give you an idea of what your money can help do, here are some details about some of the loans that I have contributed to:

  • Countries: Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Chile, Ecuador, El Salvador, Georgia, Haiti, Honduras, Indonesia, Iraq, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Mali, Mexico, Mongolia, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Tajikistan, Uganda, Ukraine, United States, and Zambia (28 total)
  • I've donated to women, men, groups of one gender, groups of both genders, married people, single people, old, young, widows, widowers, mothers, fathers, a Palestinian refugee
  • Some are taxi drivers or wives of taxi drivers, some work in motorcycle or car repair shops, some are farmers, some sell food and other general supplies, some are artisans and make clothes and jewelry, some wish to make improvements to their home or even just build one
  • To see a full list of my loans:
  • Also if you are a Nerdfighter, the Kiva Nerdfighter team

Recently, I received an update from one of my loans (Made, Indonesia; jewelry artisan). Using the funds from the loan he requested, he has made the jewelry that has been listed on NOVICA and is available for purchase. Now, I'm not trying to promote him, but I am trying to give you the sense the the money that is lent to people through Kiva really does produce results and can true help their lives.


Saturday, February 9, 2013


Old Ellicott City
During winter break, I went home for a month. It felt so good to see Maryland, my Maryland again. Walking the hills of Old Ellicott City and Oella, it seemed that I had never left, their 300 years of life still soldiering on after a flood and a train derailment since my departure. Also, while I was home, I crocheted, having not had the chance to do so since arriving in Texas. Below are the items I donated to ARC in December and January, bringing my total to 425 items donated since 2009.

Items donated:
-2 hats
-7 earwarmers

-2 pairs of adult mittens
-1 pair of child mittens
-2 pairs of socks (pictured twice)
-13 scarves (includes 3 cowls)