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There's A Lot Going On at the Moment

This headline is perhaps the understatement of the year, and we're not even that far in.

There's a great many things I could have made this post about in earnest, but I don't really have it in me to go that in depth on any of them. Mask mandates at my university have been loosened to a degree that is frankly quite unnerving, Russia has invaded Ukraine, and my post-graduation plans are completely up in the air.

And that's just from the last week or so. We'll try not to take the Merriam-Webster word of the day as an omen. (Fester, verb: to become worse as time passes.)

So, in an attempt to counteract some of the awful and uncertainty, I'm going to talk about some of the good things that have happened in my life recently. We should obviously pay attention to the bad things going on, and I recommend referring to reliable news sources and verifying stories before you share them. It's just that positivity can also be useful.

I won awards for my writing

The student newspaper for which I write came home with six awards in early February from the Iowa College Media Association, as much as the phrase "came home" can be applied to a virtual ceremony.

My name is attached to two of those awards— First Place Staff Editorials and Second Place Blog or Vlog. (I was eventually persuaded to put that second one on the new landing page of this site, and I think it looks good there.)

Regarding the staff editorials, the judges were impressed by our coverage of the pandemic, something I have also been very proud of.

I participated in the Project for Awesome again

Last year was the first year I was able to donate to the Project for Awesome, the annual 48-hour charity livestream held by Hank and John Green that donates money to community-chosen causes. I was especially grateful to be able to do so again, since this year's P4A took place over the weekend that news about Ukraine had just started breaking.

During the first 24 hours, money gets split between Save the Children and Partners in Health. The former organization works to provide safe spaces for kids in times of war and is currently doing work in Ukraine. The latter organization provides healthcare in undersupported areas. The second 24 hours is where community voting for causes comes in.

I was glad to donate during both portions, and to see a bunch of people doing silly things in the name of charity. Every time P4A comes around, it's good to be reminded that people can come together to do good in the world— this year, over 3 million dollars of good— and get a stitch in my side from laughing.

If you'd like, here's a recap of this year's goings-on, and a short summary of the project overall.

I changed my perspective on space photos

This past Monday, I logged in to the end of the Zoom awards celebration for a high school science fair in another state. It was so I could hear Phil Plait speak. Plait worked on the Hubble Space Telescope in the 90s and hosted Crash Course Astronomy in 2015, which was my introduction to his science communication work.

He talked about telescopes and the technological advancements it's taken to get us to whee we are in regards to space photos and the knowledge that accompanies them.

Here is the part where I cringe at myself a little.

See, I didn't realize it until partway through this talk that I was a person who grew up surrounded by pictures of space, and that I somehow became desensitized to photos like those of the Hubble Deep Field, pictured below:

The Hubble Deep Field, a bunch of orangish and bluish stars and galaxies
The Hubble Deep Field. Credit: NASA

I was blase about that. The result of hurling a feat of engineering into space and pointing it at an empty-looking patch of space, then waiting to see what happened.

Apparently, it took someone with excellent science communication skills reminding me how much effort this all takes for me to properly appreciate it. Then again, that is an effect of good science communication, getting you to care about things you'd never given a second thought.

Let's all just sit and appreciate how cool that image is for a moment.


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