Showing posts from 2012

wrangling with Christmas trees

There's something beautiful about the scent of pine, all those terpines and phenols, as it fills the living room. It's a scent so distinctly Northwestern, fresh, rainy, and clean, that I think I'm going to miss it when I move for college, when I go and live someplace where these trees aren't ubiquitous.

Getting our Christmas tree into the house is always a bit more of a struggle for my family than most. My dad lops it down from our front yard, since we have an abundance of trees, and then tries to cut it down to size so it'll fit through the door without mimicking a medieval battering ram in function as well as form.

As I look at our bush-like tree, twinkling merrily in its garb of lights and ornaments, I realize I wouldn't have it any other way.

smells like school spirit

It's that time of year again, for school colors to come out, pompoms to wave, dress-up days, skits...a.k.a., the decadent pageantry during Homecoming Spirit Week. It occurred to me today that school spirit isn't all that different from patriotism. We have yells and chants, rousing music, we dress up in our school colors like people wear the flag on the 4th. And like patriotism, it's something almost everyone at least pretends to have. But I wonder if, like with patriotism, there's questioning underneath.

Because the thing is, at some point you realize that you ended up in your country not because of any awesome membership in the elect chosen to reside there, not because of some predestined fate, not because of anything that makes you uniquely American or Chinese or South African or what have you, but because of luck--because of accident of birth. And luck is something that is very difficult to be proud of.

To me, it makes little sense to have pride in such accidenta…

Remarks at the National Press Club for the Women's Media Center Girls' State of the Union

Today I had the awesome opportunity to speak at the National Press Club in Washington DC to deliver remarks around girls and feminism, due to winning the Women's Media Center "Girls' State of the Union" contest earlier this year. Feminist icon (and tremendous role model) Gloria Steinem introduced me, and I delivered the following remarks.

I’d like to thank the Women’s Media Center for the tremendous opportunity to speak here today, and Ms. Steinem for the introduction—I’m honored. I’ve looked up to Ms. Steinem ever since I knew what feminism was. It’s not every day that you get introduced by an icon, so I may have to, at some point, pinch myself. I’m grateful for the introduction because, to be quite honest, it’s very hard for me to choose how to introduce myself sometimes—I feel like I have to choose somehow, because of the wide range of things I do, causes I support, or roles I embody—student, writer, teacher, activist. So a defining moment for me was when we were a…

Music tastes and summer

The dog days are over
The dog days are done
The horses are coming
So you better run

- "Dog Days are Over," Florence + the Machine

What better way to start a post about my music tastes--and summer, or what's left of it--than with the refrain of "Dog Days are Over," from Florence + the Machine's first album, Lungs. You can probably already tell that I'm going through a serious fan phase right now. :) I personally prefer Ceremonials, though. Its haunting, ethereal quality has a way of surrounding you. I've had "No Light, No Light" stuck in my head more often than not, ever since I first heard it. ("No light, no light in your bright blue eyes / I never knew daylight could be so violent" and onwards.) "Never Let Me Go" is hands-down my favorite from Ceremonials ("Looking out from underneath, / Fractured moonlight on the sea / Reflections still look the same to me, / As before I went under"). These are lines that stick …

TEDxRedmond announcement

from TxR committee member Rosalyn Leban--

"So, if you’re under 20 and you live in Seattle, there’s this really cool conference called TEDxRedmond. And you can come even if you’re like 120 but your ticket is FREE if you’re under 20.
But that’s not the point of this post. The point is that we’re having a youth art gallery, and if you’re an artist, you should email for more information. But, if you don’t have finished works that you want to display, there’s another opportunity to get your name out there: puzzle pieces! On the set! Where everyone can see them!
We’re giving out 1sqft puzzle pieces to the first 72 people to contact us.
How to get your puzzle piece on the set (and your free ticket):
Sign up to attend the conference here.Email to request your puzzle pieceRecieve and design your puzzle pieceSend the piece back by September 10thCome to the conference on September 15th and see…

Blogs worth reading, my music tastes, and summer. And TEDxRedmond. And polysyndeton, apparently.

I'm not sure what it is with teenage girls in Washington State, but we have a thing for blog writing. So much so that I have three recommendations of thoughtful, lyrically-written, far-more-frequently-updated-than-mine blogs. guessed it. Girls in Washington State.

Is it the water here?

Delitescency, by Niyathi
The first is a new find: "Delitescency," with the not unambitious tagline of "A teenager's view on human nature," is quietly beautiful; its sentiments, those both grave and whimsical, remind me of myself at odd moments. A quote: "This blog sets me free." Liberation is one of my favorite words, so this blog speaks to a kindred spirit. I highly recommend the post "Doll Dilemmas." Oh, that's one more thing: Niyathi and I both beheaded our Barbies. I promise, less disturbing than it sounds. Indeed, reading the blog gives one a sense of deepness and remove (in its consideration of issues of human nature, for instance) and i…

The Worth of Ideas

I once heard a quote along the lines of, "An idea--just an idea--is worthless if you don't do something with it, if it doesn't translate to action." A more famous variant comes from Thomas Edison's "The value of an idea lies in the using of it."

What do you think? Is the sheer idea, independent of direct action, worthless?

In the moment, the statement didn't bother me that much, but it did a great deal upon my future reflection. I'm reminded of Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick's famous "Just Words" speech during his gubernatorial campaign, in which he said in response to his opponent, "Her dismissive point, and I hear it a lot from her staff, is all I have to offer is words," he said. "Just words. 
We holds these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal’ — just words. Just words. We have nothing to fear but fear itself. Just words. ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do fo…

the oppression of attention

Who doesn't love attention? We clamor for it as kids, throwing temper tantrums incessantly. We fight with our siblings. We conduct daring feats and do stupid things. Yet somewhere along the road this morphs into closing our doors, demanding our personal space, and yelling, "Just leave me alone!"

 I'll admit, I used to have little empathy for this mindset when I saw it evidenced by my older sister, Adrianna; to me, she was just distancing herself from the rest of the family for no reason. Now, however, I feel like I can relate a bit. These past couple of weeks have been highly unusual ones in my household. Adrianna's actually gone at music camp in Michigan, so I am for all intents and purposes an only child. You might think that I'd relish all the undivided attention from my parents now, but instead, I feel a certain oppression. This might sound ungrateful, so let me just say right now that I love my parents and value the time I spend with them. But I also fe…

some updates

I spoke at the Mashable Connect Conference in Orlando, Florida, recently--you can check out my speech, and the accompanying article (which has already gotten hundreds of tweets, amazingly!) here:

Also while in Florida, I had the chance to meet Dave Finnigan, the legendary juggler (author of several books on the topic, and founder of a non-profit, "Juggling for Success," which teaches young people important life skills through juggling). He taught me how to juggle, a first for me, and we also discussed his new program, "Climate Change is Elementary"! It's an awesome non-profit which brings compelling, interactive education on the issue of climate change to elementary school students. One of my favorite things is that it really empowers students--to learn about something in an active way (the program doesn't use slides and a lecture, but rather interactive movement and modeling), and to be…

on being overly apologetic

I never thought I had a problem with saying "Sorry" until I apologized to a chair.
"Sorry!" I gasped as I barreled past, almost knocking it to the floor. "I mean--nothing--chair--" and then I stopped talking, because I realized I looked like a big enough fool already.

But this issue of over-apologetic-ness has come to a point where even my biology teacher told me to "stop saying sorry!" Apparently, now that I'm aware of the word, I use it everywhere. I say, "Sorry" when I'm beginning to ask a question to a busy person, "Sorry" after a near-miss collision in the school hallway, "Sorry" to car drivers who patiently wait for me to run across the street (even though they probably can't hear me mumble)...all this despite the fact that, really, I've done nothing wrong.

With this unnecessary use of the word you might think that I'm an awesome apologizer (which, by the way, is not a word, though it tota…

Education: not ready to listen?

"The customer knows best." It's an adage seemingly old as time (for us young'uns, anyway). While it's not always the case (as anyone who has worked an intense over-the-phone customer service job before may know), it's certainly always valuable for businesses to listen to what clients are saying--whether surveys, market research, or feedback cards, many businesses have some structure in place to listen to their customers. And public feedback can have an important impact--Bank of America cancelled its $5-a-month debit card fee before it even began due to customer backlash.

In almost every area of the private and public sectors (think of representatives meeting with constituents or city hall meetings), there are ways for "customers"--those receiving the services or being represented--to make their voices heard. So why should education be any different?

Education? you might think. Surely there are those school board meetings or PTAs? But a crucial voice …

"One Expensive Chocolate Bar" - Story Written With Elementary School Students Over Video Conferencing

One Expensive Jumbo Chocolate Bar      It was quite a festive scene at the McHugh house on January 17th . There were bright red and gold streamers, colorful lights, and a very big chandelier.      It was all to celebrate Bob McHugh’s birthday. He was the baby of the family—he was just turning seven years old (and very proud of it). All day in school, he had been reminding his classmates how old he was.      “I’m turning seven!” he shouted in the middle of PE class.      “That’s very nice. Now go do five more pushups,” said the PE teacher gruffly.      Bob was super excited about the number of presents he received on his birthday from friends and family. Not only did he get a brand new toy train set and an iPod, Bob also received fifteen dollars in cash from his grandpa.      “That’s more than last year,” commented his brother David as Bob counted his money. “Wait—watch out, Bob—you’re throwing money all over the place—” David gaped helplessly as his little brother tossed money in the air a…