<![CDATA[The Johns Hopkins News-Letter]]> Wed, 12 Dec 2018 09:20:20 -0500 Wed, 12 Dec 2018 09:20:20 -0500 SNworks CEO 2018 The Johns Hopkins News-Letter <![CDATA[University mistakenly blocks 18 reports of sexual misconduct]]> The Office of Institutional Equity (OIE) announced on Wednesday that an issue with its website had mistakenly blocked it from receiving 18 reports of sexual misconduct, which took place between January 2016 and October 2018.

According to a University official, OIE was first alerted to this problem on Nov. 29. Two complainants had contacted the Office after failing to receive a message acknowledging that their online report had been received. The University official stated that OIE then discovered that a filter on the website was preventing some online reports from being forwarded to the Office and that the reports were placed in a quarantine folder. This folder is intended to hold bot-generated messages that are not relevant to OIE.

The University official clarified that OIE found 26 reports of sexual misconduct in the quarantine folder, but eight of those cases had been reported to OIE in other ways.

OIE apologized for the error on its website and wrote that it would work to fix the problem and update the crime logs and annual reports.

"On behalf of the university and the staff of OIE, we are sincerely sorry for this error and for the distress it may have caused," the website reads. "Anyone who takes the step to file a report deserves and should expect timely action and response, and we are taking immediate steps to support those whose reports were mistakenly blocked."

Sexual Assault Resource Unit (SARU) Co-Directors Mayuri Viswanathan and Bella Radant explained that though they were frustrated upon learning about this issue, SARU has been working with OIE to prevent similar issues in the future and repair some of the damage that may have been caused.

"It's completely unacceptable," Viswanathan said. "People are placing a lot of trust in the office by going out and reporting. It's such a difficult thing to do in the aftermath of trauma and assault. The fact that not only did they somehow lose 18 reports but also that for two years nobody noticed is kind of scary."

She added that investigating the reports now would likely be more difficult for the Office because complainants and witnesses may not remember specific details about an incident after such a significant amount of time has passed.

According to the University official, this error did not violate the Clery Act, which requires that college campuses report crime statistics. The official explained that this was because OIE and Campus Safety and Security determined that none of the 18 cases required a time-sensitive warning announcement to be sent to the University community.

Radant felt that though the incident was a mistake, it showed negligence on the part of the University.

"We are going in the exact opposite direction of interpreting Title IX that we need to be going. Cases like this where there's just gross negligence... show that we need to be strengthening Title IX protections and working a lot harder on a national level to empower schools to respond adequately to sexual violence," she said.

According to the University official, there were a total of 791 reports submitted to OIE from January 2016 through October 2018, which were reported either in-person, over the phone, via email or through the website. Out of the total number of reports submitted, the 18 blocked reports constituted 2.28 percent.

Out of the 18 reports that OIE failed to process, two were submitted in 2016, two in 2017 and the remaining 14 in 2018. The Office wrote that upon learning of the error, it immediately began addressing all the reports.

"OIE has contacted or attempted to contact all those who submitted these reports and will provide expedited support and services to address any of their concerns immediately," the website reads.

Viswanathan urged the University and OIE to take steps to ensure that the people who submitted the 18 reports were supported in any upcoming investigations.

"Engage other University services to make sure that the damage that has been done in not responding to these complaints is addressed," she said. "Provide more robust mental health resources, whatever they may look like in an individual case. Use the full force of the Office to make sure that people are safe."

The University official explained that in cases where the complainants had left the University or were unaffiliated, OIE will provide the complainant with resources and take action toward the respondent to the extent possible. The official also noted that in cases where the respondent is no longer affiliated with the University, the University could retroactively take action through methods including leaving a notation on the respondent's transcript; revoking their degree; banning them from campus; and limiting their access to Hopkins as an alumnus.


<![CDATA[A Place to Talk and SGA host inaugural speaker series about empathy]]> A Place to Talk (APTT), a student-run peer listening service, and the Student Government Association (SGA) hosted the "Dimensions of Connection" speaker event in Hodson Hall on Saturday. The event focused on the importance of empathy and human connection in everyday interactions.

Speakers at the event included Psychology Lecturer Jeff Bowen, Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Professor Dr. James Harris and Children's Center Child Life Specialist Caroline Potter.

Harris, who also serves as director of the Developmental Neuropsychiatry Clinic, focused on why people today seem less connected to each other. He discussed a case study during which an 11-year-old girl was hit by a car, and none of the cars passing by stopped to help except for a family with a girl of around the same age in their own car.

He explained that most of the people driving by displayed the bystander effect and were less likely to offer help when there were other people around who they thought would help. He specifically highlighted the differences between empathy and compassion.

"The family that stopped showed compassion, and compassion is what we need," Harris said. "Empathy is not always positive; we have people who are psychopaths who show empathy."

Questioning Darwin's theory of survival of the fittest, Harris introduced the idea of survival of the kindest instead. He emphasized the importance of prosocial behavior, a type of behavior through which humans work toward helping each other with the goal of eventually helping society as a whole.

"What we should think about when we think about connection is to think about compassion," he said.

Potter, the next speaker, drew from her own experiences working at the pediatric intensive care unit. Her remarks focused on empathy and connection in hospitals.

Elaborating on Harris' comparison of compassion and empathy, Potter explained that people often don't express their own emotions but instead reflect the compassion that they feel from external sources. Empathy, for her, is not only necessary for her job, but also enhances her work.

"In order to be effective, I really have to be accepted by patients and families as a supportive person through their hospital stay," she said, "Part of that is building rapport and connection - that social interaction that builds positive connections between people."

She explained that regardless of how long a patient was going to stay in the hospital and how intensive the procedure of which they were about to undergo, it was important to connect with them and provide a basic understanding of what was going to happen.

"We have to establish some kind of connection with them," she said. "Respect that this is happening to their body. By telling them the truth, you are increasing the predictability of what's going to happen, even if it might be hard. Focus on how they cope and give them tools to do so," she said.

Potter also elaborated on empathy from a professional standpoint and acknowledged that while a doctor can understand a patient's perspective, they cannot grasp the full experience of the patient's life.

"In order to maintain my professional role, there really are some limitations to how much I can be using empathy as my main mode of connecting with others," she said.

Potter ended by emphasizing the importance of practicing empathy and making human connections not only with patients but also with other colleagues. She explained that hardship and stress lead to different types of vulnerability, specifically citing the example of compassion fatigue - a type of secondary stress involving desensitization to other people's stress.

"It is an extremely high-stress environment, and there is a high risk of burnout and compassion fatigue," she said. "My strength in my job is the people that I work with."

The final speaker, Psychology Lecturer Jeff Bowen, focused on personal and relationship well-being. He discussed his own research and how it can help understand human relations.

Bowen explained social support is not a "one-size-fits-all" concept. Instead, he said, there are well-documented differences that determine how social support is provided to individual recipients and dictate how to match support to recipients' needs.

"Regardless of how those support transactions unfold, what tends to be more valuable is intimacy, feelings of trust and closeness - the interpersonal process model of intimacy," he said.

He emphasized the importance of being sensitive to what a person might be struggling with when engaging in dialogue and trying to help them alleviate such tension.

"Having some sort of access for sensitivity to the person in distress' mental state and using that somehow to support them and to show them that we're there for them - that will hopefully result in them feeling appropriately responded to," Bowen said.

Bowen simplified the process of empathy as that of getting on the same page as the opposite person. He explained that although expressing concern for the other and maintaining accuracy when discussing their experiences each may not be enough on their own, combining the two together can make an interaction more meaningful.

He introduced the idea of mimicry - that in a conversation, people may unintentionally copy each other's actions and gestures. On the surface, he explained, this concept indicates that reproducing someone's actions and gestures might be a signal that you are engaged in a conversation.

"Mimicry researchers often go a step further and say that actually it might signal that the two people are deriving or representing whatever it is that they are discussing in a similar manner. The mental structure that they're applying to understanding this interaction is similar, is aligned," he said.

Sophomore Benjamin Laurin, who attended the event, felt that although the general conversation around mental health isn't as widespread as it should be, an event like this helped take a step in the right direction.

APTT co-director Anna Koerner explained in an email to The News-Letter that though empathy and compassion are crucial topics in everyday life, they are often overlooked.

"By organizing a speaker event that is focused on these topics, we're hoping to add to the discussion surrounding mental health with a fresh perspective," she wrote. "We made it a point to invite speakers from different backgrounds to appeal to a larger audience - the speakers discussed this topic from social psychological, medicinal and neuroscientific perspectives."

Andrew Hellinger, the other co-director of APTT, added that this was APTT's first speaker series and explained the importance of starting more conversations around mental health at Hopkins.

"Making students aware of the importance of empathy is a crucial step in promoting better dialogues about mental health on campus," he wrote in an email to The News-Letter.

Correction: The original version of this article stated Caroline Potter is a clinical oncology social worker. She is a child life specialist in the pediatric intensive care unit.The News-Letter regrets this error.

<![CDATA[Students protest the University's mishandling of sexual violence cases]]> Around 100 students, faculty and community members gathered outside of the Milton S. Eisenhower Library (MSE) on Thursday to demand that the University reform how the Office of Institutional Equity (OIE) handles cases of sexual violence. Demonstrators also called on administrators to take action against Anthropology Professor Juan Obarrio, who has been accused of sexually assaulting a visiting graduate student in May.

On Friday, Nov. 30 a group of student activists called #JHToo released a petition and put up flyers around campus demanding that the University fire Obarrio. The petition has garnered over 1,400 signatures to date.

Obarrio has denied the allegations. In an email to The News-Letter, he wrote that his actions and words have been distorted.

"I take the allegations very seriously," he wrote. "I firmly reject the accusations. There is an ongoing investigation and there is no evidence for the claims included in the online petition that has been circulated."

Outside of MSE, students shared personal accounts of their experiences with OIE. Marios Falaris and Heba Islam, two graduate students in the Anthropology department who are witnesses to the alleged assault, criticized OIE for putting Hopkins students at risk by allowing Obarrio to remain on campus.

"We are here today as witnesses, as people who saw Juan Obarrio's assault with our own eyes," Islam said. "Today we want to focus not on the violence we witnessed, that we've had to repeat over and over to various administrators. Instead, we want to focus on what that violence set in motion. When we reported the assault to the Title IX Office at Hopkins, we placed an implicit trust in what we had understood to be due process. Over and over again, however, this very Office failed us."

Talia Katz, an Anthropology graduate student, read a written statement from the visiting graduate student who accused Obarrio of sexual assault.

"The worst part of being sexually assaulted and harassed by a faculty member from a prestigious university is not the nightmare that you will re-live every night, nor is it the misplaced shame that you will inevitably feel. Neither is it the nausea that swells inside of you when your trauma is not taken seriously by the educational system that you have dedicated your life to," the statement read. "The worst part is when you realize that your worth and value in academia is not based on your research or contributions, but as a sexualized object, something that can be grabbed, touched, and gazed upon for the pleasure of others."

The visiting graduate student continued, emphasizing that tenure protects those in positions of power to the extent that academia has become a haven for sexual predators.

"The blatant ambiguousness of JHU's definition of 'sexual assault,' and OIE's superficial interpretation of it, allows for figures of authority at JHU to pick and choose at their own discretion why and how only some body parts can be sexually violated," the statement read.

Junior Madelynn Wellons, who is a survivor of sexual assault, shared her experiences reporting to OIE. Wellons was sexually assaulted and stalked during the fall of her freshman year and said that going through the reporting process was full of "pain and trauma."

Wellons added that OIE changed the deadline by which they would send her the case report 14 different times. Each time a new deadline was announced, she would feel panicked and terrified in anticipation of what the report might reveal. When OIE finally released the report, which found the perpetrator responsible, he had already transferred to a new school.

"I believed in the University. I believed in the system that would protect me. And I was so wrong," she said. "My case lasted almost a year and a half at Hopkins. I'm a junior, and when this semester ends, it will be my first full semester without an OIE case hanging over my head. This messed up my academics because when you share a campus with someone who assaulted you, you can't possibly feel safe."

Reflecting on the statistics from OIE's first annual report, Student Government Association (SGA) Junior Class Senator Miranda Bannister emphasized that OIE is becoming increasingly unprepared to help survivors.

"The number of reports coming to OIE almost doubled in 2017, from 240 to 410. They are already failing to do their job, so imagine what it's going to look like as their caseload continues to grow," she said. "If every survivor on this campus felt empowered enough to come forward, their office would be completely unequipped to handle it."

Following the rally outside of the library, protesters marched to Garland Hall, where many administrative offices are located. They chanted "survivors united will never be divided" and "say it loud, say me too, JHU we're watching you." Inside, they presented the petition to administrators.

Physics & Astronomy graduate student Erini Lambrides described the ambiguity surrounding OIE and the University administration's process of coming to a final decision about Obarrio.

"In the end, we don't know who is going to be in the room to make the final decision. We don't know when or who we really need to be giving this petition to. And that is why when we march from here to Garland, we are going to shout, and we are going to make our voices heard, so that they carry to every office on this campus in hopes that the person or group of people that are in charge hear it and know that we are watching and that we are waiting for JHU to do the right thing," Lambrides said.

In her speech at Garland, visiting student Adela Chelminski mentioned a recent issue with the OIE website that blocked the Office from receiving and acting on 18 reports of sexual misconduct from January 2016 through October 2018.

"It is unacceptable that, as the OIE published yesterday, they can also not receive cases conveniently," Chelminski said. "What they are telling survivors is, 'Stay quiet; don't say anything; we don't care about you; we care about our reputation; and we would rather protect an abuser than you.'"

OIE announced this problem on its website on Wednesday, Dec. 5 and wrote that it would work to fix the problem and update the crime logs.

"On behalf of the university and the staff of OIE, we are sincerely sorry for this error and for the distress it may have caused," the website read. "Anyone who takes the step to file a report deserves and should expect timely action and response, and we are taking immediate steps to support those whose reports were mistakenly blocked."

Freshman Reshmi Patel attended the protest and also helped post flyers around campus in the days leading up to the event. She felt that there has been a significant amount of support on campus for the demonstrators but noted that in her short time here, she has observed that her peers don't view the OIE in a positive light.

"It's my first semester, but I've already heard so many stories of people being either afraid to report because they think nothing will be done about it, or they have reported and it's taken so many months or nothing's happened," she said.

Senior Tina Nguyen, who is a survivor of sexual harassment, said that her case took a year to resolve upon reporting to OIE.

"I'm here for everyone who has suffered from OIE. There's so much suffering that can be avoided by just having these cases finished faster," she said.

Vice Provost for Student Affairs Kevin Shollenberger was one of the administrators present at Thursday's protest. He declined to comment when approached by a News-Letter reporter.

In an email to The News-Letter, Vice Provost for Institutional Equity Kimberly Hewitt wrote that the University would refrain from commenting on this specific investigation regarding Obarrio in order to protect the privacy of those involved.

"Johns Hopkins University has an obligation to protect the privacy of both the respondents and the complainants in all cases," Hewitt wrote. "We take that obligation very seriously and do not comment on any specific report or investigation."

Hewitt acknowledged that there are ways in which OIE can improve the way it handles investigations.

"At the same time, we know we still have room for improvement as we make every effort to reduce the time it takes to conduct thorough and fair investigations, to build transparency, and to ensure Johns Hopkins students, faculty, and staff are safe, supported, and heard," she wrote.

On Monday, the Anthropology department posted a statement on its website, addressing the allegations against Obarrio.

"The Anthropology Department takes recent allegations against a member of its faculty very seriously. We support our students and share their distress with regard to this case. We also express our support for due process and look forward to the timely conclusion of this case by the university administration," the statement read.

Katy Wilner contributed reporting.

<![CDATA[Students Explore Identity Struggles at TEDxJHU]]> The student-run organization, TEDxJHU, held its annual fall salon event on Wednesday. The event, titled "Postscript" featured three student speakers.

A postscript is an afterthought, written after a letter is complete. Junior Cecilia Bao, a co-curator of the event, explained that similarity, the speakers shared parting thoughts as they finish the "letters" of their Hopkins undergraduate years.

"The idea is to have students who are about to graduate reflect on their journeys at Hopkins and share key takeaways," Bao said.

According to junior Ruchit Patel, who is also a co-curator of TEDxJHU, this year's salon event was directed toward the entire Hopkins community, whereas salon events in previous years were catered to freshman.

Students interested in speaking at this event first had to submit a video previewing their talk. Hopkins students voted on the submissions, and the final decision then came down to the executive board.

Sophomore Archita Goyal was drawn to the event after watching the video submissions.

"When I saw the videos, I knew that it was important to listen to what the speakers had to say, and I appreciated the messages that they were relaying to us," Goyal said.

Graduate student Tyler Pugeda spoke at the event. Pugeda, who is deaf, went on stage with his American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter. He explained that a video of him giving his talk would play on the projector while he signed his speech, making it accessible to the international deaf community.

"I am playing a video of me speaking, because I want to give you access to the emotions of my speech," Pugeda said.

Patel spoke to the unusual presentation of Pugeda's speech. It was the first time that TEDxJHU hosted a speaker who is deaf. According to Patel, it was a challenge to find a way to keep the audience engaged while being careful not to dilute the strength of Pugeda's message.

"We were questioning how we can keep the audience engaged while giving Tyler an opportunity that he hasn't been given in the past. The tech team did an amazing job putting it all together," Patel said.

Pugeda's family first discovered that he was deaf when he was two. Since then, he explained, he has been on a journey to grow into his own identity.

"Many people are under the false impression that deaf people cannot lead happy lives because of the barriers that we face. Therefore, I received cochlear implants when I was four so that I could be included in the world of sound," Pugeda said.

According to Pugeda, learning ASL led to a vast improvement in his learning and reasoning abilities. From a young age, he had the dream of becoming a doctor.

For Pugeda, the road to Hopkins was difficult because of instances where his needs as a deaf student were not accommodated. He explained how one of his teachers refused to wear a microphone so that his interpreter could hear the lecture. In high school, because of difficulties with his interpreter, he was not able to follow lectures in AP Biology.

"Because I lost confidence in my abilities, I made the very difficult decision to drop out of AP Biology in the middle of the year. I struggled with the feeling that I could never be intellectually equal to my hearing peers," Pugeda said.

His confidence was restored when he enrolled in California State University, Northridge which has a large deaf student population. Pugeda described this transition as a shock because he was able to make friends with people who were deaf and was able to express his frustrations in ASL, learning to find forgiveness for those who treated him badly in high school.

"They were simply misinformed about the deaf community. I find that education and kindness, when combined, is the best approach to correct wrong intentions in the hearing community," Pugeda said.

Pugeda's determination to become a doctor returned, and he applied to Hopkins. By shadowing doctors, he learned how to communicate with patients through different mediums. Pugeda explained that he refused to let the lack of deaf doctors deter him from his plans.

Senior Karissa Avignon was touched by Pugeda's speech. She explained that she has recently been reading and learning more about the deaf community and, for this reason, found Pugeda's talk particularly interesting.

"It was inspiring that he found the service at Hopkins to be accessible. His overall motivation to be a doctor is inspiring," Avignon said.

Next, junior Kendall Free spoke about her identity as a black woman during her talk.

"I'm from Arizona - a state with a black population that's somewhere around three percent, and compared to my hometown, Hopkins is very diverse," Free said.

Free pointed out, however, that her ethnic background as the daughter of a white father and black mother was different than that of her black peers, who were largely first- or second-generation immigrants. Free, excited by the new cultures surrounding her at Hopkins, decided to attend an African Students Association (ASA) meeting.

"The crowd started erupting into cheers whenever people from the same countries that were called out were able to recognize their home countries as well. It was such a special moment for me because I had never seen such an unbridled expression of joy for diversity in the black community," Free said. "Then it was my turn, I said, 'Hi my name is Kendall, and I'm from Arizona.' And there was some polite applause, but it was nowhere near the volume that was given to other students."

Free went on to reflect that she initially had conflicting feelings about joining the group.

"Why couldn't I just be happy to be in a room with so many black students?" Free asked. "I felt jealous of students who had a home country to think of and relate to other students through, and what's worse was I felt guilty for being jealous. I had no idea how to process these feelings."

Free added that getting involved with the Black Student Union (BSU) helped her understand why she felt jealous following the ASA meeting.

"I realized that there was a very immediate identity that I had completely overlooked - that we are all black students at the Johns Hopkins University, and that's pretty rare," Free said. "To a certain extent, we can all relate to not having a lot of people who look like us in class or not seeing people who look like us walk across campus."

Free, who is a member of the equestrian club, discussed an incident where she was told she wouldn't be allowed to compete because of her hair.

"That was a shock. I had a feeling that that wasn't right. At the time I had my hair styled in braids, and they really symbolized me stepping into my identity as a black woman," Free said. "I was unsure what to do, because in order to compete in this type of riding at the college level, your hair has to fit completely, without any of it showing, underneath a helmet. And with braids that went all the way down my back, that just wasn't going to happen."

Free stated that she eventually figured out on her own how to keep her hair up and went on to have a successful competition season.

"To this day I'm not sure why I was told that I couldn't compete because of my hair, when so many other people saw that that was wrong," Free said. "Despite this, I was able to develop very deep relationships with my teammates that remains to this day."

Free ended her talk by emphasizing how the stories she shared during her presentation might benefit others in similar situations down the line.

"Maybe there's an African-American student at a college that feels isolated the same way I did and can now feel less alone. Even though I'm not African, I can still feel welcome at club meetings for African students. Even though I have braids, I can still feel comfortable at horse shows," Free said.

Senior Collin English also gave a speech at the event and spoke about the importance of making connections with others during your time at college.

"Share yourself with others, and let them share themselves with you. Life is too short to live it alone," English said.

English also gave advice about how to find people to connect with while at Hopkins.

"Don't let chance decide your friends, but find people you love and bring them close," English said.

Sophomore Sarah Baghdadi was impressed by the speakers' varied stories and backgrounds.

"It's great to see that the Hopkins community has such a diverse range of talents and stories," Baghdadi said.

Patel appreciated the support that TEDxJHU had received from the Hopkins community and commented on the large turnout for the 2018 event.

He further emphasized that the organization is centered on the mission of "Ideas Worth Spreading" that the national TED organization represents.

"We are relatively new on campus; it has only been 5 years since our founding. We have grown exponentially," Patel said. "No matter what your ideas, background and beliefs are, we want to give you a voice if we feel or you feel that your ideas need to be heard by a broader audience."

<![CDATA[Artificial light can disrupt innate circadian rhythm]]> According to the American Sleep Association, approximately 50 to 70 million American adults experience some form of sleep disorder. The term insomnia is used to describe the inability to fall, and stay, asleep. About 30 percent of American adults report issues with insomnia, of which 10 percent report having been diagnosed with chronic insomnia. These numbers are gradually on the rise.

But what if the increase in numbers is not only attributed to diet, genetics and lifestyle but also something that may seem completely unrelated, like artificial light?

Researchers at the Salk Institute in San Diego have identified cells in the eye that are responsible not only for processing artificial light but also for communicating with the body's internal circadian rhythm, which helps us sleep.

Before electric light, life was synchronized to the cycles of day and night. Humans were exposed to little or no light at night. With exposure to only the natural light from the environment, the body's internal circadian rhythm became synchronized with the rise and fall of the sun.

However, with the invention of artificial light, the so-called "day" could be extended, and the body's natural circadian rhythm is disrupted. This leads to the onset of various health consequences.

Light is one of the major external cues the body uses to differentiate between day and night, and exposure to light at night not only leads to a desynchronized circadian rhythm, but also introduces health and mood disorders. In a more relatable case, a desynchronized circadian rhythm may lead to a lack of sleep, and sleep deprivation is associated with an increase in negative emotions.

In a study published in Nature in 2017, exposure to artificial light at night is linked to an increased risk of breast cancer, metabolic disorders, and psychiatric and behavioral disorders.

In a recent study, Salk scientists Ludovic Mure and Satchidananda Panda discovered cells in the eye that process ambient light to synchronize the body's internal clock.

In the back of the eye is a membrane known as the retina that contains photoreceptor cells - classes of cells that respond to light. One class of photoreceptors, called intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells (ipRGCs), react to light to activate a protein known as melanopsin to suppress melatonin - a hormone responsible for inducing sleep. Melanopsin has been shown to be most responsive to blue light, which is why blue light is known to boost attention and moods.

Mure explained how melanopsin interacts with circadian rhythm.

"Compared to other light-sensing cells in the eye, melanopsin cells respond as long as the light lasts, or even a few seconds longer," Mure said in a press release. "That's critical, because our circadian clocks are designed to respond only to prolonged illumination."

With their most recent work, Mure and Panda were surprised to discover that melanopsin required arrestin proteins in order to continue responding to light. Arrestin proteins, in other cases, are responsible for stopping certain receptors from working, but, for some reason, arrestin activated melanopsin.

Panda described this unusual function of arrestin.

"Our study suggests the two arrestins accomplish regeneration of melanopsin in a peculiar way," Panda said. "One arrestin does its conventional job of arresting the response, and the other helps the melanopsin protein reload its retina light-sensing co-factor. When these two steps are done in quick succession, the cell appears to respond continuously to light."

Through understanding melanopsin and its interaction with ambient light, Mure and Panda hope to determine the relationship between melanopsin and the internal circadian rhythm in order to help improve the quality of life for patients diagnosed with insomnia.


Insomnia is a process that can be triggered by exposure to artificial light.

<![CDATA[Climate change caused ancient mammal extinction]]> While it has been a long-standing belief that pre-modern hominins, the ancestors of modern-day humans, contributed to the extinctions of large mammals in ancient Africa, researchers at the University of Utah have recently uncovered evidence that this may not be the case. Instead, these researchers believe that changes to atmospheric conditions, mainly the decrease of carbon dioxide as a result of increasing grassland, led to the extinction of these mammals.

Previous hypotheses on the extinction of ancient African mammals have a top-down argument: Early hominin hunters contributed to a decrease in mammalian diversity in Africa long before modern homo sapiens. Other theories include that the hunting of some large mammalian species in the Pleistocene Era led to the extinction of other large carnivore species due to food chain imbalances, leading to other changes in the environmental conditions.

Both of these theories imply that the ancient hominins were the direct or indirect cause of mammalian extinctions, as well as other ecosystem and environmental changes.

While these hypotheses have been cited in literature for decades, there has been very little research to refute or confirm these long-standing claims.

Tyler Faith is a curator of archaeology at the Natural History Museum of Utah and an assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Utah. He and his team of researchers decided to test these claims.

In their study, the researchers gathered data on the diversity of mammalian herbivores in Africa over the last seven million years, focusing on megaherbivores, herbivores over 2,000 pounds. Today there are only five of these megaherbivores living in Africa, but there was a much greater diversity in ancient times.

Based on the current hypotheses, the scientists expected to see the decline in mammalian diversity beginning from between one and two million years ago; this would correlate with the time ancient hominins approximately began to consume meat.

To quantify the population changes of these megaherbivores, the team used a large assembly of African fossils from the last seven million years. In addition, they analyzed records of African climate and other environmental conditions including partial pressure of carbon dioxide, carbon biomass in soil carbonates and the percentage of carbon grazers in hoofed animals in the assembly of fossils.

After compiling this data, the researchers concluded that about 28 lineages of African megaherbivores became extinct over the last seven millions years.

After further analyzing the data, Faith stated his confidence that this compiled data directly contradicts with previous hypotheses.

"Our analyses show that there is a steady, long-term decline of megaherbivore diversity beginning around 4.6 million years ago," Faith said in a press release.

"This extinction process kicks in over a million years before the very earliest evidence for human ancestors making tools or butchering animal carcasses and well before the appearance of any hominin species realistically capable of hunting them, like Homo erectus."

Moreover, this rate of decline did not seem to increase with the introduction of the meat-eating human ancestors Homo erectus, further cementing the idea that early humans were not the culprit of extinction. Therefore the researchers are fairly confident that it was early climate change, not hunting, that led to most of the cases of extinction.

John Rowan, a postdoctoral scientist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a coauthor on this study, agrees with this conclusion.

"The key factor in the Plio-Pleistocene megaherbivore decline seems to be the expansion of grasslands, which is likely related to a global drop in atmospheric CO2 over the last five million years," Rowan said in a press release. "Low CO2 levels favor tropical grasses over trees, and as a consequence savannas became less woody and more open through time. We know that many of the extinct megaherbivores fed on woody vegetation, so they seem to disappear alongside their food source."

The researchers believe that the loss of these herbivores may have led to the other extinctions that had previously been blamed on ancient humans.


Researchers believe changes in climate led to the extinction of mammals.

<![CDATA[Bernoulli, Jurin and the math behind smallpox]]>

In December of 1694, Mary II of England fell ill. Physicians who attended the stricken queen, half of the pair known as William and Mary, argued over a diagnosis, but before long it became clear that she had contracted a severe form of smallpox. She died three days after Christmas, and the news was carried across London by tolling bells.

By the winter of Queen Mary's death, smallpox was a disease feared across Europe - and for good reason. Infecting indiscriminately, smallpox had gruesome symptoms, including characteristic fluid-filled sores, and killed about 30 percent of those it infected. The disease had been increasing in prevalence and virulence throughout the 1600s, and by the end of the century smallpox was a leading cause of death.

People naturally sought ways to protect against the disease. It had been observed that those who had had smallpox would never contract it again, and so one preventative method involved the deliberate infection of an individual, called inoculation.

Inoculation predates vaccination, and the principle is similar, though with an important distinction. While modern vaccines rely on agents, such as killed microbes or surface proteins that resemble the pathogen, to stimulate an immune response, inoculation used live smallpox. Materials such as scabs were taken from sick individuals and directly used to infect healthy ones, such as by inserting it into a wound.

Inoculation tended to result in milder infections. The procedure could be performed using material from a patient who had a mild case of smallpox and was generally done to those in good health. It involved introducing the virus through a small wound rather than through smallpox's natural respiratory route of transmission. Nevertheless, the inoculated patient was still given smallpox, and there remained a real risk of developing a serious case of the disease.

As a result, when the procedure was introduced into England from the East, primarily Constantinople, there was skepticism among the general populace and physicians alike. Major concerns included fears that smallpox contracted through inoculation would not protect against a natural infection and worries regarding how safe deliberately infecting people really was.

Proponents of inoculation, recognizing that they needed some empirical way to shed light on the procedure's uncertainties and demonstrate its benefits, turned to mathematics.

One study was conducted by English scientist James Jurin and was presented to the Royal Society in 1723. Jurin sought to determine two points - whether inoculation successfully protected individuals and whether it was less dangerous than contracting smallpox naturally - and to this end he included data from the United States, looked through the London bills of mortality and compiled information from other practicing physicians.

Jurin calculated that while the chance of dying from natural smallpox was between two in 17 and two in 11, the risk of dying from smallpox received through inoculation was one in 50.

Jurin's paper, eventually turned into a pamphlet, was so convincing that he published similar reports in four subsequent years. Each year it was shown that inoculation had a fatality rate eight to 10 times less than contracting smallpox naturally.

In continental Western Europe, where early skepticism of inoculation was more intense than in England, physicist and mathematician Daniel Bernoulli similarly sought to examine inoculation from a mathematical point of view.

Bernoulli, better known for his study of fluid dynamics and the resulting principle that bears his name, approached his analysis of inoculation from a different angle - seeking to determine how much life expectancy would increase if smallpox were no longer a cause of death. His work was first presented in 1760.

Bernoulli made use of differential equations, and in his model he considered populations to be divided into two groups: those susceptible to smallpox and those who had been previously infected and were thus immune. Comparing a hypothetical population in which smallpox was eradicated to real-world data, he determined that in a population without the disease, life expectancy would be increased by about three years.

He further calculated that as long as deaths due to inoculation remained less than approximately 1 in 10, the procedure would be a net benefit.

In the end, it is difficult to say just how much Jurin and Bernoulli's analyses contributed to popularizing inoculation, especially the latter's esoteric model. Furthermore, the issue of establishing the procedure's worth lost relevance within a century due to the development of the first vaccine. When, in 1796, Edward Jenner used cowpox to protect a young boy against smallpox (a procedure that conferred the same benefits as inoculation without the risks) he changed medical history by introducing the idea of a vaccine.

This does not, however, trivialize the mathematicians' work. Bernoulli's model, in particular, is likely the first compartmental epidemiological model and is considered to be one of the first attempts to use a mathematical model to influence public health policy. His contributions continue to have influence in the present day.

<![CDATA[Lab Spotlight: Professor Tal Linzen]]> Yes, the machines might take over one day - but that's (probably) still a long way away. In reality, human intelligence may be the key to developing artificial intelligence (AI).

Hopkin's own cognitive scientist, Tal Linzen, works at the cross section of human intelligence and AI, using AI to confirm beliefs about human intelligence and then using human intelligence to improve AI technologies.

Linzen was originally interested in traditional linguistics, drawn in by the quirks of individual languages. It was during his PhD that he became interested in the cognitive aspect of linguistics, and while in Paris he became involved in his current area of computational linguistics. Now at Hopkins, Linzen leads the Computational Psycholinguistics Lab.

One thread of research in the Lab is the acquisition of language. A large issue is understanding how we learn to form questions.

In English, questions are formed by moving a word to the beginning of a sentence. For example, the sentence "the dog is hungry" becomes "is the dog hungry?" by simply moving "is" to the beginning. However, there are more complex sentences that aren't so straight forward.

Linzen gave the example of "the dog that can jump is hungry," and mused how to form the question version.

"How do you know if you're supposed to move 'can' to the beginning of the sentence - 'can the dog that jump is hungry?' - or 'is' - 'is the dog that can jump hungry?'" Linzen said. "You know that it's the second question that's the correct one, but how do you know that?"

While growing up, children aren't often exposed to these types of complex questions, so it isn't clear how humans can so easily learn the rules. One theory is that children are exposed to other parts of language that can inform these questions, and another is that it is something innate that humans are born with, like sight.

Testing these hypotheses is where artificial intelligence comes in.

"We can write computer programs that have that assumption in them… and then we compare how well each of them can learn that phenomenon," Linzen said.

Besides understanding language acquisition, Linzen also studies how to improve language technologies. Current technologies are somewhat rudimentary - they can be given commands, but the commands have to be rather specific to be understood.

"I think one of the most exciting directions of language technologies is to figure out how to make your conversation with those systems more natural," Linzen said.

This process begins by studying human language comprehension, mainly the predictability of a word in a sentence. The Lab does this by tracking how quickly study participants read individual words in a sentence, either by eye tracking, which follows eye movement while reading, or through internet surveys, where a participant reads a sentence and presses the space bar every time they finish a word. The theory is that the longer it takes to read a word, the less predictable it is.

Linzen also uses made up languages to understand the predictability of words. "You construct a language that is extremely simple, has maybe 25 words and two grammar rules," Linzen said. "You have people learn it and see how difficult each of the rules are to learn or what makes it hard to learn."

Based on what is learned from these experiments about human language comprehension, the Lab can create artificial intelligence that can use human language better.

Linzen is also doing work on understanding the capacity of current artificial intelligence. One popular system, called a neural network, is a rather simple way to replicate human cognition based on addition and multiplication. Neural networks have come to be widely used in artificial intelligence, but they are much simpler than what is traditionally thought to be needed for language comprehension.

"It's been surprising to me how good [neural networks] are, and that calls in to question a lot of what we thought about the difficulty of learning certain things about language. It looks easier than we thought in some ways," Linzen said.

Outside of the Computational Psycholinguistics Lab, Linzen teaches the course Introduction to Computational Cognitive Science. Linzen says he enjoys teaching a class that is directly related to what he studies, and the chance to interact closely with students.

"I like hearing from people who don't know what the 'correct answer' is," Linzen said.

He emphasized that 'correct' merely means the currently accepted answer.

"Sometimes it's surprising. It's really fun to get a different, fresh perspective on something that you think you already know."

Linzen also believes that it is important for students to be introduced to the idea of human intelligence intersecting with artificial intelligence, since it is a huge part of cognitive science and computational science.

"Students who are interested in developing artificial intelligence should consider some classes here [in the Cognitive Sciences Department]. It will give you an interesting perspective," Linzen said.

The human brain still remains far superior to artificial intelligence, but work like in Linzen's Computational Psycholinguistics Lab consistently makes AI technologies smarter and smarter. Still, it can safely be said that we're a long way away from the machine uprising.


Tal Linzen, an assistant professor in the Cognitive Science Department, studies cognitive processes involved in AI.

<![CDATA[Educating the public on drug use and overdoses]]> The Baltimore Harm Reduction Coalition (BHRC), a public health organization, held a workshop on opioid overdoses and Naloxone on Friday. The event took place in the SPARC Women's Center in Baltimore and was lead by speaker Harriet Smith, the executive director of the BHRC.

Smith gave a presentation that covered a wide array of topics including what harm reduction is, stigmas surrounding opioid use and how to properly administer Naloxone. Naloxone is a medication designed to treat opioid overdose, which should be available from licensed pharmacists without a prescription under a standing order that exists in Maryland.

Ensuring that people who need Naloxone are able to access it is one of the main goals of BHRC. The coalition focuses on helping Baltimore residents, who have historically been ignored or targeted.

"We work to mobilize community members to advocate for the health, dignity, safety and respect for people targeted by the war on drugs and anti-sex-worker policies," Smith said.

The coalition's goals also include larger, more systemic changes to help such groups. Smith underlined the importance of being able to easily access Naloxone.

"We make it harder for people to take a slightly safer route with their drug use. We expect people who want to get methadone to have an ID and to have health insurance," she said. "That is not harm reduction at this larger level - we need to have easy access to all the things that people might need."

Smith explained that the BHRC focuses on ensuring the health of sex workers and people who use drugs because of how they have been ignored and mistreated by society as a whole.

"We focus specifically on [marginalized groups] because of the history of criminalization of sex trade and drug use," she said.

Smith elaborated on the effects of stigmatization, highlighting the impacts it can have on an entire community. She argued that negative attitudes toward and criminalization of these groups of people can make it difficult for them to get help.

"You are talking about even more marginalization, and when you have that isolation [and] marginalization, pushing to the side, pushing underground, it is riskier no matter [what] the behavior is," Smith said.

A large focus of BHRC relates to the stigmatization of opioids in a racial context. Smith noted that although statistically little has changed with regard to which groups use opioids, it is because of the growing publicity surrounding the issue in white communities that there has been a growing movement to prevent opioid overdoses.

"The numbers don't necessarily prove that this is more white than it was before or anything like that," Smith said. "This is really about how we perceive overdose and how we perceive who overdoses and who is worthy of assessments. Who is worthy of getting locked up forever and who is worthy of 'Oh, we need to talk about compassion.'"

Although the changing stigmatization that surrounds opioid overdose has lead to better care for those who suffer from drug addiction, there is still an issue surrounding usage in areas with many drug users. Rachel Gillett, a Hopkins School of Nursing student, explained how the existing stigma reduces the likelihood for people to help those who need it.

"A lot of people see stigmatized behavior such as drug use as something that is different or bad or wrong or other, and so people are less likely to want to help people who are for example suffering from overdose," she said.

BHRC also explores many of the misconceptions that exist within the stigma, including the growing belief that most opioid overdoses are caused by prescription drugs, such as Oxycontin.

"Prescription rise is relatively stable throughout 2007 and 2016," Smith said. "There are some estimations that it is because opioid prescriptions have remained stable - but as people get cut off from their pain medication, where are you going to go but buy unregulated substances? And that's where the fentanyl and heroin can come in."

Gillett added that because there are so many misconceptions and a general lack of knowledge surrounding drug-related issues, college students should be educated about this subject.

"In situations such as college campuses with a lot of youth coming together, the youth population is more likely to engage in risky behaviors. Harm reduction in and of itself is probably most beneficial to use for the youth population," Gillett said.

Smith also believes in increasing the accessibility of risk reducers such as condoms and Naloxone to the youth community.

"It is really important for universities, whole cities and whole institutions to embrace access to accurate information around sex, accurate information around drugs and really give people all the information they to be able to make informed decision about their behavior and have access to whatever they need to make them slightly safer," she said.

BHRC works towards increasing the education and availability of anything that would help reduce risk. This includes hosting public trainings, like the one on Friday, to explain how to administer the life-saving drug Naloxone. At the end of the training, attendees were provided with emergency intramuscular Naloxone medication.

Smith explained that BHRC hosts public trainings once a month around the city, in places of worship and neighborhood associations, aiming to reduce risk on a wide scale. She added that the group also attends talks on the Homewood campus to educate students about the benefits of easily accessible Naloxone.

<![CDATA[A Wonder in My Soul focuses on life in Baltimore]]> Marcus Gardley's A Wonder in My Soul, which is showing at Baltimore Center Stage from Nov. 29 to Dec. 23, is the story of the strength of two black women and their unbreakable friendship. The friendship has survived six decades of hardships and is now faced with the trial of surviving Baltimore's gentrification.

Set in 2008, the play follows the lives of Swann Park Sinclair (played by Harriett D. Foy) and Gwynn Oak Falls (played by Wandachristine), two childhood friends who have been running Gwynn and Swann's Beauty Palace of Cosmetology in Baltimore for the last 40 years.

After being the most influential beauty salon in the city for 30 years and styling some of the most powerful African-American women of the last few decades, the salon has unfortunately fallen onto hard times as the neighborhood around them has become run down by neglect and crime.

Their problems are amplified when Gwynn's son Andrew (Stanley Andrew Jackson III), who runs a nonprofit organization that helps to keep the neighborhood children off the streets by through sports and healthier forms of recreation, loses their loan of more than $100,000 and now faces embezzlement charges.

The inevitable gentrification of the neighborhood comes much to the excitement of the church pastor's wife Cedonia Mosher (played by Alexis J. Roston), self-ordained as the First Lady and a regular at the salon who now lives in a luxurious house in the county. It threatens the existence of the historic community safe space, as the women are unable to pay the mortgage on a building whose value has exponentially increased overnight.

Through the relationships between the characters and the struggle of keeping the business afloat, the audience experiences a multi-faceted view of African-American life and history.

It gives us vignettes of Swann and Gwynn in their youth (played by Anastacia McCleskey and Kalilah Black respectively) as they face segregation in North Carolina and move to Baltimore. They experience riots after the assassination of Dr. King, deal with the loss of loves and decide to open a beauty salon, constantly supporting each other through their hardships and finding joy in their never-ending banter.

The play also highlights two cornerstone institutions of the black community - the church and hair salons. The church's importance is reflected in the invocations of Jesus through dialogue and interludes of gospel-like songs throughout the play, as well as the influence garnered by the First Lady in the neighborhood.

Dressing hair becomes a ritual, a connection to the vast history of black people, from their roots in Nubian beauty to the reclamation of natural hair and the many forms it can take.

The hair salon becomes a safe space for everyone who enters it, a place where Cherry finds her voice and the courage to quit her job; where Pen Lucy gets a reprieve from her life as a pregnant single mother recently kicked out of her house due to gentrification; where the First Lady can freely speak her mind despite having unpopular opinions; and where Andrew finds redemption after the harrowing ordeal of trying to save the salon from being closed down.

"Since the days of slavery, the moments of getting one's hair done have been an important space for Black women: a space to vent, to rest, to gossip, to heal, to practice self-care. A space for what scholar bell hooks calls 'bonding through ritualized, shared experience,'" Sabine Decatur, the dramaturge of the play, writes in the playbill. The importance of this space in the African-American community is seen through the neighborhood's respect of the place: It remains untouched by crime even as the neighborhood becomes unsafe, and it is not bid on by any of the locals even as the building goes into foreclosure in a gentrifying neighborhood.

Most of all, the strongly female-driven play, where seven of the eight characters are women and the backdrop is lined with images of famous black women, emphasizes the strength of women. All of the women in the play are confident, unafraid to speak their minds and unapologetically black. Not only are the characters themselves strong, but it's their unconditional kinship with one another that also gives them power. The play highlights how these women gracefully overcome the hurdles of societal discrimination, centuries of degradation, single motherhood and financial struggles by constantly loving, supporting and helping their chosen family in the salon.

Director Daniel Bryant and Scenic Designer Wilson Chin did an amazing job of using the space to not only create the realistic setting of a hair salon, but also to travel between different timelines and places through the use of the entire theatre.

The cast, made up of a wide range of actors with quite impressive resumes, does a phenomenal job of driving the play forward with their energy. Harriett D. Foy and Wandachristine as Swann and Gwynn command the stage with their confident performances and powerful monologues. Foy gives a monologue at the beginning of the play, as a self-assured business owner and a woman of 64 who remains confident in her sexuality. Wandachristine then opened the second act of the play with a poetic monologue about the history and beauty of African hair. Each act of the play was punctuated with these strong moments.

A Wonder in My Soul is an inspirational story of love, friendship and struggle in the lives of black women. It at once criticizes and simultaneously celebrates the nature of African-American life in Baltimore. Through its portrayal of the many stages of the lives of its protagonists, the play tells the story not only of the characters, but also of the city itself.

It forces the audience to confront the realities of an issue that most of us who remain unaffected by it turn a blind eye to: the epidemic of gentrification that has been festering in Baltimore for last two decades.

<![CDATA[Hip-Hop artist J.I.D.'s new album Dicaprio 2 sounds effortless]]> When talking about the fastest rising stars in the hip-hop scene, most people go straight to trap artists in Atlanta, such as Playboi Carti and Lil Yachty, or the SoundCloud phenomenons of South Florida, like Lil Pump and Kodak Black. These figures have dominated hip hop recently, with mantras of prescription drug use, face tattoos and general teenage angst. New York Times music critic Jon Caramanica called it hip hop's punk movement - a sort of rebellion against traditional rap culture.

Then there is J.I.D., who, over the last few years, has quietly been making a splash in the Atlanta hip-hop scene. As a soft spoken, introspective rapper, critical of much of the drug use and excess that Lil Pump and others represent, he is the antithesis of the SoundCloud movement.

Originally written off as a Kendrick copy-cat, his first studio album, The Never Story, showed that he had the technical prowess to make his own name but was more raw experiment than refined product.

With his sophomore project, Dicaprio 2, J.I.D. expertly blends his technical flow with diverse sounds and some of the most clever lyricism I've heard in a long time, proving that he is far from a one trick pony.

Although J.I.D. distances himself from Atlanta trap with his lyrical maturity, he in no way tries to refute his hometown influences. This is apparent from the second track, "Slick Talk," which opens with the fast and bright hi-hats and heavy bass that typifies the style.

With the classically trap beat laid in the background, J.I.D. abandons the triplet bars that would make for just another trap song in favor of the rapid fire rhymes that only he is capable of. But just as quickly as this comes, it leaves, as the beat switches mid-track to a slower, heavier sound. J.I.D. proceeds to lay out his mission for this album - and he could not be more clear. He is challenging all of Atlanta, proclaiming, "When I'm done, please know that I was trying to diss y'all."

Just two tracks later, J.I.D. does what some previously thought was impossible. The track "Off Deez" features J. Cole, and yet it avoids disintegrating into a fireball of cringe. J. Cole's verse is pretty good, as far as J. Cole verses go - I'll leave what that means up to your opinion on J. Cole - but it is undeniably outshined by the man signed to J Cole's label, J.I.D.

In this track, J.I.D. really shows off the range of his flow. While he does flex the speed that originally drew attention to him, his verse starts off at a pace no faster than spoken word. However, through all of J.I.D.'s flow changes, the energetic track never loses momentum - a testament to how he has grown in the year since The Never Story.

The high point of the album comes almost halfway in with "Off da Zoinkys." I hesitate to call it an anti-drug anthem, as so many songs with this structure serve to make rap more palatable to half-woke white people.

If you'll allow me to take one more shot at J. Cole, just look at his song "Friends." He tackles the problems of drug use as a person separate from the community. He plays the role of someone who has risen above the struggles of drug use and looks back on his hometown with almost a sense of disdain as he sees everyone who failed because "they ain't got ambition."

While J.I.D. starts with a similar accusatory frame toward the community, he quickly shifts to an introspective angle. He doesn't simplify the issue of drug-use, switching his language from someone who uses drugs to someone who is quitting almost every bar. In the end, he claims, "I ain't trippin', I ain't sayin' that it's wrong / But, it's some other shit we can be on," further enforcing the message as an anthem of self-improvement rather than demonization of his community.

In the very next track, "Workin Out," J.I.D. presents something completely different. In a style reminiscent of his good friend 6lack, J.I.D. half sings, half raps his way through a somber piano-based beat. In the track, he expresses his dissatisfaction with life, despite the successes of wealth and fame he's attained.

For a man who, at the beginning of the album, claimed he was trying to diss every other rapper, the song is extremely vulnerable. In the chorus, he repeats, "I been working hella hard, shit ain't really working out," but he gives no indication to what that "shit" might be. The track is an unapologetic look into J.I.D.'s own mental state.

This album does so many things right, but I can't call it a masterpiece - it definitely has its flaws. It is undeniably top-heavy, with a second half that is good but not as great as the first seven tracks. Furthermore, while J.I.D.'s lyricism is as clever as it gets, it is almost too accessible. On the first listen, you can hear J.I.D.'s skill instantly. However, you aren't rewarded on the second, third or even 10th listen like you are with one of the greats such as To Pimp a Butterfly.

But most of all, it just seemed too easy for J.I.D. He made the album sound effortless. This isn't a masterpiece resulting from years of work - it's a message of what's to come. J.I.D. is only getting started, and he's almost guaranteed to get even better.

<![CDATA[Winner of Cannes Film Festival reaches Netflix]]> Happy as Lazzaro, translated from the Italian title, Lazzaro Felice, won Best Screenplay at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival. On Friday, Nov. 30, seven months after its European debut, the film, directed by Italian director Alice Rohrwacher, finally came to Netflix. The film was not only listed as a critic's pick in the New York Times but was also the topic of conversation for Vox's weekly Cinemastream column.

Set in Inviolata, a small, nondescript place in rural Italy, the opening scene of the film begins with a group of village men serenading a woman below her window in the middle of the night before the newlywed couple announces their plans to move to the city. Under the flickering, dim light of the intimate dining room, Lazzaro, a young man with curly hair and an impressionable gaze, appears.

The film grain effect, coupled with the village workers' rather outmoded attire, made me question how "modern" this so-called fairy tale actually was. To be frank, the lack of contemporary familiarity made me almost stop watching. I was reluctant to put myself in the same confounding generational gap that I experienced while accompanying my grandfather on one of his summer movie nights.

But finding myself too quick to judge what I perceived as unrelatable folklore, I carried on watching and saw the rest of the plot unfold into a marvelling story that has now made Happy as Lazzaro one of the best movies I have ever watched. While Lazzaro is a man of few words, his reserved complacency and almost inhuman stoicism and obedience becomes a major component of his character development. As he attends to the physical toil of picking bundles of long leaves in the fields, a man in a suit arrives at the village in a red truck, inspecting the progress the farmers have made.

Shortly after, a woman, referred to as the Marquis, also arrives from the city. Her son, Tancredi Bambino, displays a rebellious angst against his cold, ruthless mother, a characterization which designates him as a direct foil against the peaceful, calm and saint-like temperament of Lazzaro.

In the film, the Marquis, also known as Marchesa Alfonsina De Luna, pretentiously rotates her finger around a yellow music box lipstick cigarette carousel holder, and her son, Tancredi, prides himself on his smoker's cough. Through this it becomes clear that the Marquis and the man in the suit are not mere visitors but, rather, profiteers exploiting the village workers for tobacco. At the same time, images of Tancredi using a flip phone and wearing a fashionable, '80s-Milan-fashion-show outfit begin to distort the temporal reality of the story, a subtle trick that makes the plot twist all the more surprising.

As much as Lazzaro and Tancredi are complete opposites, they develop a friendship at Lazzaro's go-to enclave at the top of a barren hill overlooking the village. For both young men, their friendship is an escape that restores humanity to their individual ostracization.

While the developing friendship becomes a beautiful display of pure, innocent happiness, the film's cinematography is, in itself, also breathtakingly beautiful. It often reminded me of Call Me By Your Name, although it was much more authentic in its Italian aestheticism. Even as it captures the very essence of compassion and morality, it also tackles darker elements, incorporating heavier critiques about societal issues. By the end of the film, I was left overwhelmed, astounded and oddly emotional.

In the sense that Lazzaro represents the most untainted form of contentment, completely free from hate, I was able to better understand why so many critics deemed this story as a modern fairy tale - one that oscillates between the reality of human imperfections and the fantasies we hold toward attaining the highest form of internal happiness.

Just as the New York Times so fittingly described it, "[The film] has the urgency of a news bulletin and the authority of a classic." Indeed, this film will be one that I will continue to return to as I grow old and one that I hope to share with my grandpa this winter.

<![CDATA[Documentary Kiki highlights the ballroom scene in Baltimore]]> When Pose began airing earlier this year, it brought the ballroom culture - an underground pageant system for members of the LGBTQ community - into the mainstream consciousness like never before. For many, including myself, the show serves as an introduction to the history of the ballroom scene and the LGBTQ community that brought it to life.

The Peabody Library's decision to host the "Peabody Ballroom Experience" - an event series that explores the history of Baltimore's ballroom community - seemed like the natural extension of Pose's popularity and promised to be an excellent opportunity to learn about the city's LGBTQ heritage. The event kicked off on Friday, Nov. 30 with a screening of the documentary Kiki, which follows members of the New York City ballroom scene as they navigate both the competition and their lives off of the runway.

For the unaware, the ballroom scene is part fashion show and part dance battle, where participating teams (referred to as houses or families) must design outfits to match the event's various themes and impress the judges with their performance. Kiki is almost frustratingly coy when discussing the balls, teasing its audience with hints about the experience. One scene depicts a participant designing his costume (which ends up looking like something out of Mad Max); another focuses on an entire house practicing a group performance for an upcoming ball.

The actual performances, however, are only shown in disjointed snippets, teasing the audience and making them wish they knew more. The rules of the event are never truly explained and neither is any of the lingo that the participants toss back and forth. In a way, the lack of detail suits the ballroom scene, which developed underground and has spent most of its existence out of the public eye. Still, despite the disjointed narrative, the film clearly depicts the community's passion for the event and the camaraderie that exists even between competitors.

As a whole the documentary appears to be more interested in its subjects and their lives outside of the balls. It spends time getting to know its subjects, who discuss the impact of homelessness, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and harassment on their community. Notably it never shies away from depicting the harsh reality faced by LGBTQ people of color, and it wisely allows its subjects to direct the conversation based on their own experiences.

That being said, those difficulties faced by the characters are juxtaposed with the community's desire for a better future and, more importantly, their real efforts to create that future. The LGBTQ community is not framed as a passive player in its own narrative - for almost every scene exploring the harsh reality they face, there is another to show their attempts to improve it. One woman leads a group discussion raising awareness of the troubles faced by trans women, and another participant works with an organization that combats youth homelessness. The juxtaposition of the grim reality with the efforts to create a better future results in an exploration of the LGBTQ community that never veers into hyperbole or insincerity.

In the end, although a little light on the details, Kiki is a nuanced look at the ballroom community that served as an excellent opening to the Peabody series. The screening was followed by a panel discussion, in which members of the Baltimore ballroom scene - including Sandy Dior'e, the founder of the House of Dior'e, who has been active in the ballroom scene for over 30 years - discussed their experiences within the community.

Dior'e answered a question from an audience member who asked how Baltimore's community compares to that of New York's (which is more commonly associated with the scene).

"Our uniqueness is our togetherness," Dior'e said. "No matter what house you may be in... Baltimore is one unit."

The panel also touched on the increasing representation of LGBTQ people of color in television and highlighted the LGBTQ community's ongoing efforts to support and better the lives of its members.

"It's always been about the children," Dior'e said. "Because if you don't get them while they're young, they go out into this world and become the very people that we don't want them to become."

Overall the event was a strong start to the "Peabody Ballroom Experience." The event expertly combined an exploration of the general ballroom scene with information about the specific, unique history of Baltimore's LGBTQ community. Over the next few months, the Library will host other film screenings and oral histories of the ballroom scene, culminating in a Peabody-themed ball in April 2019. I would highly encourage anyone interested in learning more about the ballroom scene to check it out.

<![CDATA[Hopkins professors showcase their work]]> Dora Malech and Danielle Evans, two professors in the Writing Seminars department, read their new works to a packed audience in Gilman Hall on Tuesday, Nov. 27. Arriving at the starting time, every seat in the room was taken, so I squatted in the back, on the floor with other students who sat in the aisles and along the walls.

A new professor, Danielle Evans teaches fiction with the department and had accomplished multitudes before coming to Hopkins. She graduated from Columbia University and the Iowa Writers' Workshop, before embarking on a career as a short story writer. Her stories appeared in The Paris Review, A Public Space and were also anthologized in The Best American Short Stories 2010, The Best American Short Stories 2011 and The Best American Short Stories 2017. In 2011, Evans won the PEN/Robert Bingham Prize and became an honoree of the National Book Foundation as a "5 Under 35" fiction writer. It's quite an impressive resume.

Dora Malech teaches poetry with the department and graduated from Yale University with an art degree before deciding on a career as a different kind of artist: a poet. She authored four poetry books: Shore Ordered Ocean, Say So, Stet and the upcoming Flourish. Her poems appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry, The Best American Poetry, American Letters and Commentary, Tin House and Poetry London. She also received the Amy Clampitt Residency Award and a Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation, among a plethora of other awards.

Evans was the first reader, explaining that she normally likes to try out new material, but chose to read a section from her story "Richard of York Gave Battle in Vain" this time. The story follows Rena, a well-traveled photojournalist, at the wedding of her friend Dori. Dori has waited 10 years for her high school sweetheart JT to return and marry her, and their wedding day finally approaches. To complicate things, Rena and JT crossed paths several years before, sharing an intimate and difficult time as detainees. Rena arrives at the place of the wedding, navigates Dori's bachelorette party, and remembers the beginnings of her relationship with both Dori and JT.

Evans' story captivated the room. The backdrop of a wedding makes for natural drama, and the story is tense as the clock ticks closer to the special day. The characters in the story are uncertain and melancholic; Evans illuminates how the expectations of big events like this always fall short. Her writing is often very funny, honing in on the absurd occurrences in life, yet serious at the same time, showing the way these events carry weight and stick in the memory. In identifying these moments, Evans writes some deeply memorable passages such as, "All her adult life people have asked Rena why she goes to such dangerous places, and she has always wanted to ask them where the safe place is." I found myself rushing to jot down this quote. In the context of the story, it's clear that home is much harder for Rena to visit than her professional destinations.

After the story finished, Malech replaced Evans at the stand. Malech introduced her first pieces from her third book of poetry, Stet. She explained how she became obsessed with recombinant forms such as anagrams, where she rearranged the letters of another poet's original phrase to form different words. For example, some poems in the book are made up of an anagram of Sylvia Plath's poem "Metaphors." "Metaphors" lists off a bunch of things that the poem "is," such as a melon strolling on two tendrils, an elephant or a ponderous horse. Malech's poems end up sounding quite similar but each takes on very different meanings. This is a way, she said, of making and remaking ends. She mentioned that some of her poems dealt with the final months of her pregnancy, an "end" she wanted to thematically address.

Malech's poems were musical and rhythmic; she arranged words with similar sounds close to each other, making everything feel anagrammed. For example, the poem "Flourish" begins, "Clematis, sweet pea, sweet alyssum / sweet asylum." The similar words and sibilance create new meaning when placed together, and sound nearly like tongue-twisters. As Malech reads her poems, she enunciates the syllables clearly. Every single word down to the letter felt expertly calculated and precise.

The reading displayed the great creative talent in the department. It's one thing to hear the critiques from professors but another thing to hear how they craft their own artwork.

<![CDATA[The 1975's new album: emotionally honest and musically mature]]> The most fitting word that represents The 1975's new album, A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships, is one that the band explicitly uses in a song title: sincerity. Put simply, the record is sincerity in the form of a vast assortment of sounds that fit together peculiarly well. A Brief Inquiry distinctly shows The 1975's maturation: It is the band's first major release after frontman Matty Healy's stint in rehab for heroin addiction.

In "Sincerity Is Scary," The 1975 delivers a piece of social commentary that describes the very aspect that makes A Brief Inquiry a notable record. Healy, who serenades with smooth vocals that juxtapose his emotionally loaded lyrics, denounces his and the modern world's obsession with cynicism and their ridicule of sincerity. He quashes this self-criticism by writing candidly about various issues throughout the album.

Perhaps the most socially relevant track on the record, "Love It If We Made It" references multiple real-life incidents in recent history. Most notably, Healy directly quotes Trump's infamous "I moved on her like a bitch!" while lamenting "modernism" and the state of the world. Although these types of references are rare in pop music and should be commended, The 1975 do little more than point out that they happened.

But maybe it feels like they aren't saying enough because this alarming rhetoric has become normalized in the past two years. Maybe Healy decided to sing about these incidents in a different context to remind us that they shouldn't be accepted as is - that they should still cause outcry. The track does feel both objective and assertive at the same time, offering sincere rather than "fake" news in the form of exact quotes from the sitting president of the United States, as well as a sincere rebuttal of modern society.

Later on in the album, Healy dedicates the seemingly heartwarming "It's Not Living (If It's Not With You)" to his struggle with addiction. Without paying proper attention to its lyrics, the track could easily be mistaken for an affectionate love song. Upon closer inspection, however, you come to the realization that Healy is crooning about heroin, and this causes the title of the track alone to become haunting.

The song's sentiment transforms entirely into a hopeless despair that is only refuted by the reality of Healy's successful rehab. "It's Not Living (If It's Not With You)" is his attempt at honestly discussing addiction after finally grappling with it, and its dark content is disguised with a cheery beat - perhaps because he still wanted to cover up how he felt. Perhaps he was still reluctant to talk about it, but he does anyway, and that becomes one of the greatest strengths of the album.

Other tracks on A Brief Inquiry uphold the album's dedication to sincerity with similar tenacity. "Surrounded by Heads and Bodies," which directly succeeds Healy's depiction of heroin addiction, is an ode to a girl named Angela who was the only other patient in rehab with Healy. Although the track's lyrics are sparse, Healy concisely expresses the empathy he felt for Angela: "She wears [depression] like a dress / A post-traumatic mess / And don't sleep / It hurts to be awake."

Healy wrote the penultimate track "I Couldn't Be More In Love" not about a partner but about The 1975's fanbase. He revealed to Pitchfork that the vocals were recorded the day before he entered rehab, and he kept them in the final cut because they sounded "guttural." He was "really upset and scared" at that point, and "I Couldn't Be More In Love" reflects his genuine apprehension about The 1975 losing its fans after his visit to rehab.

Sonically, the tracks on A Brief Inquiry zigzag frantically from the uplifting pop of "Give Yourself A Try" to the acoustic vulnerability of "Be My Mistake" to the hard-hitting SoundCloud-rap-inspired "I Like America & America Likes Me," before settling down for the slow stretch that concludes the album. Interestingly enough, none of the experimentation sounds out of place.

The album feels sluggish as it comes to a close, and it thrives on the unpredictability of the earlier songs. This impression of the album is ironic, considering Healy's criticism of the modern world's volatility in "Love It If We Made It."

One of the standouts of the album is "How to Draw / Petrichor," which includes a reprise of the bonus track "How to Draw" from the band's sophomore album. The first half of "How to Draw / Petrichor" encourages introspection with an ambient instrumental backing. "How to Draw" is the emptiest part of the album, and there is no better way to describe it than as simply beautiful. The track evolves into a glitchy breakbeat in "Petrichor" that is perhaps the most spurring instrumentation on the record.

A Brief Inquiry concludes with a commentary on death that swells into a cinematic chorus of Healy passionately professing, "I always wanna die / I always wanna die, sometimes." Through this admission, we finally feel Healy's emotional fervor in its most dismantled, honest state. He pleads us, "If you can't survive; just try." And it's precisely this type of sensitive authenticity that helps The 1975 and their album flourish.

<![CDATA[OMA hosts first annual celebration of diversity]]> The Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) hosted its first annual Cultural Festival on Saturday. The event featured numerous student groups and offered food, games, music and a glimpse into diverse cultures.

By allowing students to explore cultural diversity at Hopkins, many of the groups at the event hoped to showcase the nuances of their identities and some of the unique experiences they have learned from their own culture.

Junior Meera Sooda, a representative for South Asian Students at Hopkins (SASH), saw the event as an opportunity to educate students about her heritage. At her organization's booth, which showed students Hindi translations of their names, Sooda described the importance of cultural exposure.

"We have a really rich culture here at Hopkins," Sooda said. "People love showing up to our religious and social events and interacting with people in the community."

Sooda stated that her organization attended the event to spread awareness about diversity within the South Asian community.

"There's a lot of visibility for Indian people on campus, but we also need to encompass people from countries like Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka," Sooda said. "We're all different, but we are one entity in the sense that we come together for certain events. That's why it's so important to increase the visibility of cultures from smaller South Asian countries."

Similarly, sophomore Coralie Mentor, a representative of the Caribbean Cultural Society, wanted to use her organization's presence at the festival to discuss the importance of solidarity among students of Caribbean heritage.

"We want to have open conversations about how to unite the different cultures that exist within [the Caribbean]," Mentor said. "We should be able to say that 'I am proud to be from Haiti, but I'm also proud to be from an area where peoples' values are similar to mine and where people are encouraging and inclusive.' And we need to open that mindset up to outsiders."

Many student groups present at the event shared Mentor's sentiment about the need to form broader cultural identities.

Junior Kendall Free, who manned the Black Student Union's (BSU) booth, came to the event to highlight her organization's commitment to increasing the visibility of black culture and black students at Hopkins. For Free, participating in the event served as a way to express both the BSU's history on campus and the sense of solidarity she feels in the University's black community.

"Rather than representing one culture, the BSU is an umbrella group for all black diaspora groups on campus. We've been around for over 50 years," Free stated. "The biggest thing that we're currently focusing on is not only trying to promote the Black Lives movement on campus but also getting a better experience for black students in terms of academic affairs."

While Free argued that black culture and the black student body is adequately represented in student government, she feels as though her organization still has a lot of work to do in regards to faculty and administrative representation, as well as creating more courses on black history.

Though Free took the opportunity to discuss political action with students, she also highlighted the importance of celebrating diversity in general at Hopkins.

"There's a lot to learn about tons of other minority students' experiences that aren't usually told," she said.

Students like Kimberly González, president of the Latina sorority Hermandad de Sigma Iota Alpha, agreed that celebrations of cultural diversity serve an important role in fostering empathy on campus.

While offering other students some Brazilian sweet bread, she talked about why she felt that the Cultural Festival did a great job of capturing the University's diverse cultural body.

"Your culture does affect the way you go through life and the opportunities you have or the things you get involved in," Gonzalez said. "For that reason, I just love learning about other countries and having that diversity. When I came to Hopkins, I really learned about so many different cultures and people here. That's what we're here for - to learn."

Overall, attendees and organizers alike said that they enjoyed the food and the festival's spotlight on cultural diversity. Many students like Sooda found the event both entertaining and educational, and look forward to having similar events in the future.

"If we don't have events like this, everyone will just clique up and be in their own groups," she said. "Even tonight, I met many people from different organizations and learned about their cultures. It's been fun and informative, and I think it's good for cross-cultural engagement."

<![CDATA[Why I'm vowing to support my female peers]]>

We've all watched Mean Girls, and while it's understandable that we would like to relate most to Cady Heron, even she did some pretty catty and immature things. In high school, for most of us girls, "gossip" was synonymous with "hanging out." Seemingly harmless yet vindictive and downright bitchy comments were ubiquitous.

When we came to college, we told ourselves that we would be adults, that we were past our high school immaturity and our middle school playground tendencies. We smiled and hugged our newfound friends, became privy to random yet intimate details of strangers' lives at parties and in classes, and simultaneously created a bank of faceless names and nameless faces that we occasionally reference when our friend comes back from a "wild night out" and gives us all the gory details.

And then months go by, and we whisper only to our closest friends. Somehow the "getting to know each other" conversations turn into "OMG, did you hear what she did last night?" The "Her makeup looks so good" conversation becomes 'Why is she trying so hard?"

We are all inevitably exhausted and consequently have a shorter fuse, but worst of all is the way that we women turn on each other.

Now I don't mean that anyone executes a full-on Blair Waldorf-style takedown. However, blatantly mean comments definitely fly around, and they're most often said behind each other's backs. Then someone's friend hears it from this guy they used to talk to who heard it from his girlfriend's best friend. Suddenly it seems like half the school is talking about the day you had a little run on your tights, that somehow through the chain of whispers turned into a rip right up your ass.

I know that I have been guilty of making such comments to my friends on numerous occasions, and there's something I've been wanting to say:

To all the girls I've loved before:

I'm sorry. To the girl who caught me eyeing her cargo pants last week with a strange look, I want to say your style is wonderful. On some level, I was jealous you could pull that off when I definitely couldn't.

I'm so sorry to the girl I called "too superficial" just because of her brief crush on the guy I was seeing. She is so unbelievably pretty it made me nervous.

I'm sorry to the girl I complain about for being "difficult"; I'm difficult all the time. How can we not be with the amount of stress we're under?

I'm so sorry to the girl that I let my guy friends call "ugly." What might actually be worse than saying any of these things is not stopping a group of men from doing so. You are truly beautiful.

I've probably had a hundred off-days, just this year, where I wear something that looks absurd or forget my homework or accidentally say something that sounds downright stupid, and I would hope that people wouldn't judge me every time I slip up.

I mean, come on ladies. We have it hard enough; between periods and relationships and that stupid glass ceiling to shatter, we, of all people, should not be tearing each other down. We're allies in this, and we're going to get nowhere unless we support each other.

I am personally beyond thankful for my rocks (Meg, Cass, Gabi) for being there 24 hours a day, seven days a week to save me from some bad decisions or provide the spoons for the ice cream pints when I make my worst ones. For the fifteenth time.

So, to anyone I have ever made a negative remark about, I am truly, deeply sorry. I wish I could take it back or promise that I won't ever do it again, but we're all human and we make mistakes. All I ask is that if you're reading this, you do the same.

Think about how that girl would feel if she heard you say her sweater makes her look fatter than she is. Think about how you would feel if you found out that someone thinks you're a bitch just because you were with the guy she liked. I've been there. It's not fun. We need each other.

With the new year coming and next semester with it, I'm making a public promise: the only comments you'll hear from me about the wonderful women that populate this campus will be positive. I'm going to do my best, but, if you ever hear me slip up, please call me out.

<![CDATA[Learning from the past: a guide on how to let go and finally get closure ]]>

It's still one of those things you don't talk about. Over three years since your break-up-versary, you still get the feeling of stumbling off of a high dive when your thoughts return to it: tennis, Seattle, Nike, the color blue.

These are all things that still remind you of him. They're like children pulling on your sleeves that you want to ignore but no matter how much you get used to the feeling you cannot. Maybe because you are still confused.

He did not show you the ropes. There was no how-to guide. Looking back, the ropes were all there. The issue wasn't that these things were absent from that period of your life. He just left each one dangling in mid-air.

Step 1) You are that chubby, brace-face, olive-wired-glasses-wearing eighth-grader. When you bend over to get books out of your backpack, you worry about how straight your legs are because you want to look flexible between class changes. Your locker is around the corner from his.

He with a capital "H" and "E" is in homeroom purple. You are blue. Him: the cool, new, American kid in your school, the athlete that's sponsored by Nike, the tennis player that travels the world and makes money, the guy that wears the puka shell necklace and walks like a rapper, the guy that always wears blue polo shirts and is surrounded by the prettiest girls and coolest boys in school.

2) Friend him on Facebook (this is back when Facebook was cool). Message him one day to ask how he's adjusting to the new school, the move, the change. He will ignite your loins and light your life with a ping on a screen. Start conversing.

3) Your best friend at the time, the new girl from China who for some reason finds you funny, will think your crush on this boy is a joke. She will call him "blue" for the shirts he wears. She will mimic his walk: hand holding crotch, other hand swaying, shoulders rocking like a boat. He will turn around and see her, and she will laugh like children laugh.

4) You are messaging him, bing, about your trip to Tanzania. You send him photos of cheetahs, and he says he's jealous. But when you tell him that you sadly didn't see any baby cheetahs, he will say you're my hero and laugh.

5) You move to Texas. He moves to Seattle. Don't worry though, you stay in touch. You are a persistent little f*****, like a fungus growing on the bottom of his foot, like a tsetse fly that just won't die.

Keep messaging. Keep trying to flirt. Come on, girl, you're in high school now. Spill your heart out. Complain to him because he is objective.

You can share your side of the story, and he will agree wholeheartedly. When you have a fight with your mom one night about a concert you don't want to attend, he will give you good advice and say, if you think that you are mean, you are lying to yourself and you are the kindest person he knows.

6) Soon you're seniors and planning for college. He has tennis scholarship offers to Stanford, Penn, Duke, you name it. You, on the other hand, are straggling behind. You tell him that you want to go to California, and he says that, if you go to Stanford, he'll consider it much more! He asks if he can call you "babe." Say yes. Send a kissy face. He will send one back.

7) This is where the story gets messy. There are moments that you don't even remember. You remember sitting in the parking lot of school one day, just sitting on the sidewalk in your high school plaid skirt, talking to him on the phone because he promised to call you after biology class and did.

His voice sounds deeper, and it's weird to think about how long it's been since you've heard it in person. He asks what you're doing and you say sitting here in the parking lot, talking to you. But you are so nervous, your heart pounding so loudly he can hear it from Seattle. Your tongue seems to stop working and you just say mm-hmm to whatever he says.

After he hints one way, you ask, "Oh, are we dating? So it's official? It's you and me?" He says "Yeah, we've been dating for weeks." This is probably the most awkward call you will ever have. At least you got it over with.

8) You will start planning trips to visit each other. He's slower than you at preparing. Yet he insists that, since you're the girl and he's the guy, he should be the one to fly out to see you first. Say OK.

Plan a Valentine's present for him, a drawing you made of him playing tennis, a hand-written card, a kissy-face pillow. Wrap it up in pretty ribbons. Ask him about his address so you can exchange gifts in the mail. He will be weird about it, say something about how he's always travelling, and how his brother steals his mail.

9) Text him to get a contact photo since his photo now is just a circle of initials. He sends you four photos of him making out with another girl. You'll go tingly all over and think, "What the f***?"

Since you're done now anyway, you'll text him (all in separate messages): "What. The. F***. What the f***. I think it's a good thing you and your "tennis" balls ain't in Texas right now or I may just rip 'em off."

He will not reply for a few days. Then you'll get an, "Of course I didn't send them. The girl in the photo is jealous of you and wants to be with me, so she sent them. But she showed me how you replied, and I'm scared."

You, being young and dumb, will forgive him. He cheated, but you forgive him anyway. In fact you even go so far as to apologize for being scary. But not until after you cheat on him, too. Not because you genuinely wanted to but because you thought he was gone. You ask yourself why you can't do the same. This is how broken you were.

10) Over Valentine's Day (gift still unsent), he is at a tennis tournament out of state. He told you it was in Florida. On Valentine's Day itself you want to know how his tournament is going. But since he doesn't like to lose focus, you check his scores online. He, right now, is in Texas.

The tournament is in Texas, not Florida. He is twenty minutes from your house, fifteen from your school. But he doesn't message you until he is back in Seattle. You, being young and dumb and broken, don't say anything. You ask him about Florida instead.

11) The first time you are intimate with him, he is strange about your "inexperience" and says out loud he finds it off-putting. The second and perhaps more revealing time, he dumps you twenty minutes later, saying, "I think we should take a break."

You will not remember what you reply, but you remember it being raw and long and sad. Your whole conversation is long and confusing and sad. This is the first time since you were a baby that you sob in your mother's arms. You sleep in her bed for two nights, and she tells you everything will be OK.

12) You, idiot, want to message him for closure. You do and all he does is disappoint again. He lied to you, so why would he tell you the truth now?

The best advice your mother ever gives you is, "You cannot get closure from anyone but yourself. If someone lies, they will lie again, and they will never give you what you need." It takes a long time, but you realize now how true that is.

13) Two weeks after the break-up, he texts you to see if you're alright. You think, "How can I be alright after only two weeks?" But you reply to him and say that you appreciate his reaching out and just need more time until you can be friends again.

You block his number the next day, and it is the best decision you'd made in a while.


A letter to my sixteen year-old self: "It'll get better babe, trust me."

<![CDATA[Finding gratitude and peace in familiar spaces]]>

There are certain places that offer tranquility and repose. I was reminded of one such location recently when my mom sent me a photo of Our Lady of Victory National Shrine & Basilica decorated for Christmas. This church, first opened in 1926, is stationed mere blocks away from the home my grandfather currently lives in, which also happens to be where he and his two sisters were raised.

Each time I have the opportunity to visit the basilica's hallowed halls, the scent of incense, the adorned ceiling, the gorgeous statues and the dimly lit candles provide a sense of peace, a feeling that things are going to be okay, that I haven't been able to find anywhere else.

This isn't to say that I consider myself especially religious - don't worry, this isn't going to turn into an article about the "War on Christmas." In fact, as I pondered what makes Our Lady of Victory so special, I realized that the serenity that comes over me while I'm there is separate from the church as an institution.

It's about acknowledging that I'm a part of something bigger than myself. When I walk down the aisle in search of a seat in one of the pews, I am reminded of how my mother walked down that same aisle in a white dress 22 years ago on an unusually beautiful day in December. When I look up at the altar, I recall the strong men and women that came before me, many of whom were laid to rest after masses said there. When I light a candle, I consciously step outside of my own anxieties to express gratitude and compassion for a family member or a close friend and wish them well.

Last week, while I was in Mount Vernon, I found a taste of what I love about Our Lady of Victory closer to campus in the form of the Baltimore Basilica, officially named The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Some history buffs might already know that in 1821, this became the first cathedral built in the United States and one of the first religious buildings constructed after the adoption of the U.S. Constitution.

While I don't possess the same personal ties to the Baltimore Basilica, in the midst of finals season, it was calming to bask in the beauty of the space as well as to be reminded of all those who came before me, paving the way for me to attend Hopkins, and those that I'm lucky to have in my life now.

As the semester comes to an end, I encourage you to choose a space where you feel at home, be it a house of worship or Brody Cafe, take a few deep breaths and reflect on this year. What are you most proud of? What are you going to remember this semester? Who was a part of your success? How can you show them your gratitude, even if only by making time for them despite the chaos of these last weeks?

If you're anything like me, you might be surprised by how much less stressed you feel after this relatively simple mental reset.


The alter at Our Lady of Victory Basilica in Buffalo decorated for Christmas.