A Very Good Hair Day

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Anastasia Whiteshall 

Anastasia ran off before we got to ask her the question that still gnaws: Who cuts your hair? Her long, lovely chestnut locks set against white Ray Bans make for an eye-catching look. You don’t need much else.

Where are you from?

I am from Hartford County. I am graduate student in clinical psychology.

What brings you to Baltimore?

I am meeting friends.

Can you tell us about your outfit?

I am not sure where I got the shirt and jeans. The shoes are from a thrift store.

 

Johns Hopkins Summer Interns Make an Impact in Baltimore

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When an anonymous donor approached the Johns Hopkins Center for Social Concern (CSC) with a proposal for a summer program that would fund students to work with local non-profits during summer months, no one was quite sure what to expect.

There is, after all, the (not entirely undeserved) Hopkins student stereotype:  chained to a library desk, happy in the Hopkins bubble, venturing off campus only once a year to have dinner in the Inner Harbor with their parents.  Bill Tiefenwerth, head of the CSC, had met students who were passionate about engaging in the community — but this program would be much more time-consuming and immersive than, say, the school’s annual day of service. Interns would be doing hands-on work measuring Inner Harbor pollution, building composting systems, and organizing after-school programs for disadvantaged youth. These were demanding jobs, often in parts of Baltimore unfamiliar to many students. Would a summer spent in the Baltimore trenches hold any appeal?

Quite a bit, it turns out. From the start, the Johns Hopkins Community Impact Internship program has struck a chord with both students and the wider community, challenging the way that Hopkins students see their city — and perhaps changing the way the university and the community interact.

The first sign of the program’s success came early — in the application phase. The donor set aside funds for 25 summer internship placements (students received $5,000 stipends to help cover the cost of summer housing and living expenses). No one knew whether this was a realistic expectation. “We were wondering how many [applicants] we’d get,” Tiefenwerth remembers.  The program’s intensity — and its emphasis on outside-the-classroom learning — would appeal to a particular type of student, ones who “have an intellectual curiosity about how things work, [and wonder] what is this place called Baltimore?” as Tiefenwerth puts it. Turns out, there were more of those at Hopkins than you might expect. Ultimately, 200 undergrads applied for the 25 slots. “When you send out a call for applications hoping to get 25 and you get 200, there’s a sleeping giant out there,” Tiefenwerth notes.  The response was so overwhelming that next year’s program will double in size, offering 50 funded summer internships to Hopkins students.

The program seemed almost perfectly tailored to a student like Sylvie McNamara. A rising sophomore majoring in history (“and probably Africana Studies”), McNamara works two jobs during the school year, in addition to her coursework. “I’m paying for school myself, so it wouldn’t be feasible to work for non-profits unless I could get paid,” McNamara says, and then points out that the grassroots social justice organizations she finds compelling tend to operate on shoestring budgets and rely on volunteer labor. But with a Community Impact Internship, McNamara was able to stay in the city for the summer, getting some seriously good work done. (Read the Baltimore Free Farm brag about her efforts here.) Program administrator Abby Neyenhouse matched McNamara with a trio of local groups that share a collaborative, collective ethos:  the Free School, the Free Farm, and the Free Store.

Thanks in part to McNamara’s work, the Free Farm launched Hampden’s first Community Composting Program. McNamara helped build the system (“I learned to use power tools!”); set up a series of Free School lectures during Artscape that touched on prison reform, independent media, and hiphop and politics; and helped out with the Free Store’s periodic give-away days. All three groups operate as horizontal collectives (meaning there’s no authority structure in place, and all participants are on an equal playing field) and, McNamara says, “it was interesting to see how that works — and most interesting to see that it worked very well.” Furthermore, her extended engagement with the projects allowed her to connect with the community in a way that, say, a morning spent planting flowers as a part of the school’s President’s Day of Service would not.

It’s no accident that McNamara’s interests and skills lined up nicely with her internship placements.  Internship coordinator Abby Neyenhouse interviewed each participant, and took pains to make intentional matches between students and agencies. That was just one aspect of the  service-learning model that the CSC adopted to make sure participants were taken care of throughout the program. “We’re not just sending out students and hoping for the best,” Tiefenwerth notes. To that end, all participants took part in an orientation program with representatives from local government and grassroots organizations to give them a broad overview of the city’s challenges and opportunities. During the program, the interns met for a weekly dinner to reflect together on how their understanding of the city (and themselves) was changing. The goal was to have the students “constantly engaged with the process,” Tiefenwerth says — in a way that generic internship programs rarely do.

Both the CSC and the anonymous donor seem to understand that supporting these student interns goes well beyond just giving them money.  Participants were guided through the often-befuddling world of Baltimore politics and non-profits, supported by the program (and by one another). When one of the partnering non-profits suddenly moved its headquarters, Neyenhouse helped the intern figure out a viable transportation option.  She also made sure that each of the participating organizations — which included the ACLU, the Baltimore City Health Department, Blue Water Baltimore, Parks & People, and the People’s Community Health Center, among others — had a specific project for the intern to tackle, so no one spent six weeks fetching coffee and filing.

Hopkins president Ronald Daniels recently touted the program as an example of the benefits of community engagement:  “Our students will get real work experience and an appreciation of the need to look beyond oneself. Often squeezed organizations will get Johns Hopkins talent on loan. And the city will get a few more advocates, maybe even a future mayor, working on its critical issues.” As the University attempts to remake its image in the wake of its floundering East Baltimore biotech project, the Community Impact Internships are one way of connecting the campus to the community on a micro level. Otherwise, you’ve got a situation in which, as McNamara describes it, “[Hopkins students’] brains and labor pretty much stay on campus for four years, and that’s too bad.”

One measure of the program’s success is whether (or if) it continues to make an impact now that the summer is over. Signs are encouraging — Tiefenwerth says that two organizations have offered to hire their interns come fall, and other students are figuring how to work their community involvement in with their academic responsibilities. For her part, McNamara is working with the Free School on a series of classes that would appeal directly to Greenmount West residents. It may be too soon to tell what the program’s impact on the students and the community will be, but as Tiefenwerth notes, “You can’t really develop a model program after one year, but this is as close as you can get.”

Martin Luther King, Jr Takes His Place Among Founding Fathers and Presidents

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The northwest shore of Washington, DC’s Tidal Basin is the site of the city’s newest monument: a thirty-foot memorial statue of Martin Luther King, Jr set among Japanese cherry trees.

The memorial employs visual metaphors lifted from his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech—visitors to the site enter between two rough hewn boulders representing the “Mountain of Despair,” while Dr. King’s likeness abuts the “Stone of Hope”—but the fourteen quotations engraved along the outer wall are culled from lesser known addresses and writings.

Recently, King’s name has been invoked in association with such politically divergent personalities as Barack Obama (mostly by his supporters) and Glenn Beck (mostly by himself). Ironically, travesties like these can be blamed on the wider acceptance of much of King’s message. In today’s mainstream, King is an almost universally beloved historical figure, and that kind of popular adoration begets politically convenient revisionism.

In his own day, King and the movement he represented were seen by many as dangerous to the status quo, even seditious. (Remember, he was assassinated!) In the decades since his death, King’s legacy has been by turns reduced to polite buzzwords like “peace” and “equality” or truncated to include only his part in the black civil rights struggle, ignoring both his uncompromising condemnation of the war in Vietnam and his efforts to mobilize the nation’s poor, a move which took the civil rights movement beyond issues of race.

The incorporation of literal quotations from a variety of speeches ought to help present an authentic picture of the man and his message, something that’s sorely needed amid all the opportunistic MLK-hijacking.

The dedication ceremony for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial will commence at 11 am August 28 on the National Mall in DC. For more information, visit mlkmemorial.org

Aftershock!

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The U.S. Geological Survey is reporting a 4.5 earthquake at 1:08 a.m. this morning!  The epicenter was in Virginia, but The Sun reports that 140 miles away in Baltimore, residents in Highlandtown, Federal Hill, Little Italy, among others, felt it.

Aftershocks following an earthquake are common. No damage has been reported from this morning’s mini-quake, but take those Faberge eggs off the shelf for now…

The List: Apply to at Least One Dream School

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My daughter has spent untold hours in her room over the last two weeks of summer.  She’s not hiding, or pouting, or avoiding the rest of the family.  She is working on “the list.”  Emily is a rising senior in high school, and the reality of the college application process has hit her like a pie in the face, kind of sweet, but certainly messy. 

High school has been great for Emily.  She’s done a lot of terrific growing up.  We think she’s pretty mature for her age, makes good decisions in social situations (something not all parents of 17-year-olds think), and has a star-bright future.  Her junior year grades, however, were not what she was hoping for.  This sad fact has an impact on “the list,” the colleges where she plans to apply.  

I have had to check myself in conversations with her about my emotional reaction to her list, but finally I couldn’t bear it.  I had to tell her–I think she is smarter than the schools she is planning to apply to!  I know she needs to be realistic, but it can’t all boil down to GPA, can it?  We are all transfixed by the computer screen when we look at Naviance–the software program that compares Emily’s GPA and SAT scores to those of other graduates from her high school, and charts how those kids fared in the application process at specific colleges and universities–accepted, rejected, deferred.  But, it cannot be this formulaic, can it?

Oh sure, there are some good choices on the list.  A few selective liberal arts schools–proper “reaches.”  But then it all falls apart.  I thought, somehow, that the list would flow something like:  three or four “reaches,” three or four “as-likely-as-nots,” two “safeties.”  Well, Emily has a couple reaches, and then whoosh.  She falls off the ledge!  I know this is not the time in her life for me to tell her what to do, but come on!  Ramp it up a little!  Speaking hypothetically, if she doesn’t get into the so-called reaches, then we must assumed she is going to end up at one of the others on the list–a less brilliant outcome than perhaps we had hoped for.

Our younger daughter, Grace, put it to me straight, though.  She said, “Mom, you just don’t want to tell your friends if she goes to one of those schools.”  Is that it?  I don’t think so.  I mean, I’m sure that’s true, but only a tiny, shameful little bit of the truth.  The bigger part of the truth is that I don’t see a fit for Emily on her list–a place where she will likely get in that deserves her, all that she is.  The list has to get better–it has to change so that it holds a picture we can smile at when we look in the middle.  Sure, we’d be happy if she got into her first choice, but there is a reason we call them “reaches.”  Her list has got to grow so that when we picture her at number 4 or 5 or 6 down the line, we can still feel good, she can still feel good.  I don’t know how to say this to her without sounding critical.  It may be impossible.  But I have to try.  Maybe she doesn’t see herself the way I do–better.          

Become an (Official) Master Naturalist; Impress Everyone

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Maybe you’re like me, and you walk around the woods and remark, “Look at all those pretty… plants!” but you couldn’t tell a white cedar from a poplar if your life depended on it. Or maybe you already know a lot, but your family is tired of your dinnertime speeches against invasive species.  Or maybe you just want more learning in your life.

In any case, you may want to consider becoming a Maryland Master Naturalist. It has a nice ring to it, right? Master Naturalists are specially trained volunteers who have gone through 48 hours of instruction and field training in the ecology, flora, and fauna of Maryland. The classes are taught by university professors and environmental specialists, so you’ll quickly become one of those cool people who walk through the forest and say things like, “Ah! A rare [whatever whatever],” and all your friends and family will be most impressed.

Of course, the intention of the program is not to allow you to lord it over everyone you know. The idea is to provide training to dedicated volunteers who can then organize their own volunteer groups and projects, lead tours, or do other helpful things. In fact, once you’ve been decreed a Master Naturalist, it’s up to you to provide 40 hours a year of volunteer service.  Previous projects have included a children’s book about bluebirds, a tree survey of Howard County parkland, among others.

The fall class in Chevy Chase is already full; registration for the Oct. 6-Nov. 12 course at Oregon Ridge Nature Center ends this week, so apply fast! Or you can hold out for spring classes in Columbia, Frederick County, and Irvine Nature Center in Owings Mills.

BALTIMORE QUAKE 2011!

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It’s been all anyone can talk about online, on the phone, in person. Earthquake 2011: 5.8 magnitude! Jokes aplenty have kept us texting, and laughing. Check out buzzfeed’s funny photos of “damage.” And Gawker’s deliriously detailed, Obama-centered earthquake meditation. Love the photo we re-posted from FamousDC.com of one plastic lawn chair…knocked down. (Go there to see/hear Carole King’s “I Feel the Earth Move.”) To calm your mildly rattled nerves the Windup Space recommends the Earthquake Cocktail:

1 oz gin
1 oz bourbon whiskey
3/4 oz absinthe

We even heard of one 20-percent-off earthquake sale. Crabplace.com’s coupon code? 20 shakes.

But the most entertaining quake conversation remains: Where were you when it hit, and what were you thinking? Baltimore Fishbowl writers weighed in. Please do the same below and be sure to see the videos on our video landing from Baltimore Quake 2011!

“Standing in Matava shoe store at Bellevedere Square–shoes were falling off the shelves and we ran outside because I refuse to be found dead in a shoe store!” –Cynthia McIntyre

“In the dining room cleaning up the Goldfish [crackers] bag that my dog chewed up. I first thought the rumble was my bad dog running around.” –Krista Smith

“I was at the office…with my dog. My dog is awesomely welcomed at my office–he had been sleeping on my desk before he was startled by the rumbling, and immediately barked his displeasure that the room was moving. My first instinct was to pick him up and stand, ready for action. But then I just stood there, staring at my swaying iMac silently. Then one of the engineers, who were all in the next room having a meeting, yelled over the partition, ‘Sara have you been jumping up and down again over there?’ To which I replied, ‘Hey! That’s SO not nice!’ And he said ‘I SO didn’t mean it that way!’ Most fun office ever, even during an earthquake.” –Sara Lynn Michener

“I was driving around Litchfield County in Connecticut when the earthquake happened. Surprisingly the radio said it actually reached Litchfield County all the way up from VA and DC. I only found out about it when my friend called from Baltimore right after it happened. I was shocked, but relieved when he said nothing got destroyed and no one was hurt.” –Kristin Hughes

“I was doing my piano practice. My first thought was, ‘Are the chandeliers going to fall?’” –Mikita Brottman

“Sitting by the Gunpowder River, eating home-made cookies, laughing. The group of moms I was with all looked around, and said ‘Did you feel that?’ We counted heads of children, and reached for cell phones. Verizon network totally failed me, and it took 20 minutes to find out the rest of the family was okay. We stayed in our seats for a couple more hours.” –Elizabeth Frederick

“I got calls from friends and family in New York, California and Spain asking if we were okay.  You could hear the disappointment in their silence when I told them we were not in Baltimore today and missed the earthquake.” –Susan Dunn

“Alas, I am in Cape Cod, so I heard about it through text message and was jealous that I missed all the fun!” –Rachel Monroe

“I was home editing copy when the house began to vibrate. First brilliant thought: ‘Those are some big squirrels running the roof!’” –Betsy Boyd

“I was at my computer on the second floor of my apartment, when the construction team that has been working on the neighboring row house began operating a monstrously heavy piece of machinery. It was in fact so large and powerful that my walls were beginning to shake. I was going to have to go over there and tell them that they better turn off that impossibly thunderous watchamacallit right now; I mean it’s just unbelievable. It’s like a damn earthquake. Wait a second…” –Bob O’Brien

Ripley’s Believe It or Not…Like It or Not

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Come one, come all to the Inner Harbor’s new center for “odd and amazing things!”…almost. Almost because the deal is still in the making to bring Baltimore a Ripley’s Believe It or Not to nestle among recent shiny additions like Bubba Gump Shrimp and H&M Clothing at the waterfront.

Call me a commercial cornball, but my fingers are actually crossed that Ripley’s will team up with General Growth Properties, the landlord of all Harbor attractions, and bring in a quirky/wacky new place to hang.

Aside from shopping and eating by the water, the only family-fun activity that comes to mind is touring the National Aquarium, which is cool, but one visit per year is plenty. Having a Ripley’s in the vicinity is a huge opportunity to keep people coming back. There will always be an endless supply of freaky things flowing in and out. Tim O’Brien, Ripley’s spokesman, told the Baltimore Business Journal they are hoping Ripley’s will pair well with the aquarium, allowing it to break into a market they have yet to conquer. Also to be added to their wishlist of 80 plus RBION locations worldwide are Chicago and Las Vegas, says O’Brien. The franchise is already successful in places like Hollywood, Mexico City, and of course New York.

Bring on the two-headed cows and the shrunken heads! Bring on the family-friendly funkiness; welcome the economic boost. What’s not to smile about here? General Growth Sr. Exec VP Alan Barocas recently said on WBAL-TV, “We’re taking a little bit of a different approach to our leasing effort. It is catering to families… We want to be able to adjust to every part of their lifestyle.” And Barocas is hoping Ripley’s will boost waterfront pavilion occupancy by 90 percent, and told WBAL that if the appearance of empty space in the pavilions makes you think there isn’t room for any more cool attractions, think again. The pavilion was originally designed to make room for future tenants.

Hopefully “i’s” will be dotted and “t’s” will soon be crossed so Ripley’s can join the sequin-clad street performers and sad, sunburned panhandlers among the harbor’s other “odd and amazing things.”

How would you feel about this addition? Believe in it, or not?

Online Dating Survival: 10 Messages I Ignored on OKCupid and Why

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1. That guy who didn’t use a single capital letter, yet lacked an ounce of ee. cummings’ charm, whose profile picture was himself, bare chested. Not at the beach, in swimwear (acceptable, if somewhat smarmy), but in a white towel sarong, à la Weiner (not acceptable). He had a nice chest, mind you, but why I’d want to see it at this stage is beyond me, particularly when accompanied by his lame exclusive use of the lower case.

2. That guy who created an entire dating profile as Captain Kirk, using pictures of Captain Kirk, and answering questions as Captain Kirk would answer them. If you really wanted to date me, dork, you would have at least masqueraded as Captain Picard. I’m obviously not a Kirk kind of girl.

3. That guy who is marked as a 29 percent enemy*, and old enough to be my dad–but not in a good way. Gentlemen, if you are Sean Connery or Robert Redford, you can get away with that and more. Otherwise, please remind yourself that you’re not a Silver Fox and stay within your own age margin. (*Enemy percentage = a measure of how many questions each party answered which differed from what the other person desired their match to answer.)

4. That guy whose one picture is of his bare chest, cropped at the neck, thus appearing headless. I am not only not interested, I am terrified. Why you think that anyone would get a positive first impression from a headless bare chest is beyond me.

5. That 20-year-old. I’m 12 years older than you, son. TWELVE. YEARS. I seem to be headed towards eventual Cougardom, but even then I’ll hopefully draw the line at Can’t Legally Drink.

6. That 54 percent enemy whose entire greeting was “are you a hard person to talk to?” Then two hours later, after rightly assuming I had ignored him, sent another one with “guess its a yes? sorry for offending you.” No sense of capitalization, no sense of the wisdom behind enemy percentages, comes off as hostile in less than 20 words, and for that matter, it’s and its aren’t the same. A real winner.

7. That guy in the full Halloween mask–with no other pictures. This isn’t 1997. Lots of people post pictures of their faces on the Internet. The Internet isn’t new and terrifying anymore, but you are.

8. That guy with a picture of a picnic table as his only picture. See above.

9. That married guy, also old enough to be my dad, also not in a good way. See #3

10. That guy with no profile picture whatsoever. Online dating with no picture is like trying to put a teething baby to sleep with a trombone. There are probably blind date websites out there somewhere designed to join together two people too terrified to post their own mugs. By the presence of MY photos, of which there are 10, you know this isn’t that website.

The #1 Social Media School in the U.S. is….

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It’s not the same as being the nation’s best school according to the US News & World Report, or the #1 ranked Division I lacrosse team, but hey! it’s something:  Johns Hopkins was named the nation’s top social media college, according to StudentAdvisor.com.

Yep, the Blue Jays stomped all over Harvard, the previous top school, now miserably demoted to #2. As the rankings noted, their school’s social media Twitter group hasn’t posted anything since April 15 — which is eons in internet time. Nice try, Harvard. Hopkins has a wealth of bloggy info out there, including (school-sanctioned) blogs by a bunch of different undergrads, and the supremely helpful Hopkins Insider site run by the admissions office, which does some excellent, virtual hand-holding as prospective students navigate the application process. As of today, the school’s been tweeting for 3 years, 4 months, and 6 days, and has 13,961 followers.

So, what does this mean? According to the site, “StudentAdvisor.com’s Top Social Media Colleges ranking compares more than 6,000 federally recognized colleges and universities and post-secondary schools in the United States in terms of their mastery of public social media methods, tools and websites.” You hear that, Harvard? Mastery!

Ahem, anyway. The rankings are a little weird — tech powerhouse MIT lingers at #68, for example. And no other Baltimore-area schools make the list, while less-well-known universities (Transylvania University? Wafford College?) are up there. Still, who’s going to nitpick a #1 victory?