Wikipedia

Wikipedia is a marvelous tool. It allows quick and easy access to knowledge spanning the breadth of the world and the murky depths of history. There are versions of Wikipedia in scores of languages, even dead languages such as Latin and Old English. While the results given by the “Random Article” button can give the impression that a large proportion of articles are on obscure athletes or villages, the far more important value of Wikipedia comes in its broader articles. Taken together, they can provide an introductory source for most topics of interest – just don’t forget to find deeper sources when you need them!

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Rokerthon

On the morning of Monday, March 27th, I participated in breaking the world record for the largest human cloud and lightning bolt. The event was hosted by Al Roker, as part of the Today Show’s “Rokerthon 3” series of world records. I arrived at the advertised time, 4:45am, wearing a crimson and cream t-shirt. This was a mistake, as it was quite cold. For several hours we sat in the stands while the crew prepared us for the live filming (for example, those involved in the human weather map practiced getting into position and holding their clouds and other symbols). Afterwards, the live broadcast started (we cheered on cue when Mr. Roker rode into the stadium) and we were ushered into lines to receive ponchos and enter our weather symbols. I was given a white poncho, which was warmer than a t-shirt, and sent to the cloud. This is a clear lesson: it may be appropriate to ignore the e-mail saying to “[w]ear your favorite crimson and cream attire” if the only such attire you have is a t-shirt, and it is cold out.

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Duolingo

I have taken three semesters of Portuguese at the University of Oklahoma, but due to my course schedule I was not able to take a fourth semester this Spring. Nonetheless, I did not want to forget what of the language I had learned, so I had to find some way to practice. For this purpose, I turned to the language learning website Duolingo. The website teaches languages through a collection of interactive lessons and, while I did not make as full use of it as possible, it was a valuable resource for maintaining familiarity with Portuguese. Portuguese is far from the only language offered: Duolingo also offers courses in Spanish, German, Dutch, and many other languages. I understand that they are even implementing a course in Klingon!

duolingosnip

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Midnight in Paris & Vienna

On the last day of 2016, my family and I attended a performance by the Houston Symphony to commemorate New Year’s Eve. Christopher James Lees conducted the event, subtitled Midnight in Paris & Vienna!, which was precisely as advertised: an exhilarating tour through classic pieces from and about France and Austria. One highlight of the evening occurred when Mr. Lees, turning to face the audience, conducted us in clapping at various speeds and intensities to transform the audience into part of the orchestra, which was a splendidly executed and greatly entertaining feat. This was certainly a memorable musical experience.

New Orleans

Over Christmas break, I and seven other members of the OU Chess Club represented the University of Oklahoma at the Pan-American Intercollegiate Team Chess Championship in New Orleans. From the title of the event, I had expected teams from a variety of countries. Therefore, I was surprised by the lack of international teams; the only one I know of represented Toronto, Canada. My team did not play against any teams from outside the United States. There were, however, several international students of whom I knew, including the team captain of our better team and now recently graduated president of the OU Chess club, Florian Helff. As this was my first time in New Orleans, I found time to sample some of the local cuisine. Specifically, I tried beignets at a branch location of the renowned Café du Monde. As you might expect from the spelling, the delicious pastries, buried under a layer of powdered sugar, have a French ancestry. Whatever your adventures this winter vacation, have a Happy New Year, and remember that the OU chess club is always willing to accept new members.

Learning Portuguese

Over the past few semesters, I have been learning Portuguese. I think it is an interesting facet of learning a language that different portions of the language can be easier or harder to learn. In my case, translating written Portuguese to English has become the easiest while oral communication remains difficult. I think that this is because it is easier for me to recognize cognates (similar words which have the same function, like three and três both refer to 3) in written form than in spoken form, and because the immediacy of oral communication does not allow sufficient time to consult dictionaries and conjugation tables. This is obviously the sort of difficulty which is reduced by practice, as native Portuguese speakers seem to have no such trouble.

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Toys

The history of toys helps to demonstrate the complicated interactions among different parts of the world. Take the yo-yo, for instance: it originated in ancient Greece before the invention spread, eventually being made popular in the United States by a company founded by a Filipino immigrant to the United States.

Other examples include the jigsaw puzzle, which was devised by an English cartographer as a method to teach geography; Rubik’s Cube, invented by Hungarian professor Ernõ Rubik; and, of course, the boomerang, which originated as a hunting weapon of the Australian Aborigines.

This demonstrates some of the complexity of history, that something as simple as a toy can have far-flung roots.

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Policy Changes

American foreign policy often changes following elections. One interesting case of this occurred with respect to Hawaii. Shortly after the Kingdom of Hawai’i was overthrown, the provisional government offered the annexation of Hawaii to the United States. Benjamin Harrison, then president, reacted favorably. Grover Cleveland, who succeeded Harrison shortly afterward, did not, and tried to effect the reinstatement of the Kingdom. This resulted in the formation of the Republic of Hawai’i, which was annexed by way of the controversial Newlands Resolution (named after then Representative, and later Senator, Francis G. Newlands, and not the prospect of New Lands) following another change of administration, from Cleveland to William McKinley. This just goes to show what dramatic shifts in foreign policy can result from changes in administration. Therefore I hope you will all join me in planting tongue firmly in cheek, and petitioning the comments section to annex New Zealand, and make Australia pay for it.

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Packing Lightly

When I studied abroad for two weeks in Italy at the beginning of last summer, I found that my experience was greatly enhanced by traveling light. Both in boarding the trains and in carrying my luggage to and from the train station, I found myself glad that I had only to carry my backpack.

So, how can you pack lightly? One important idea is to minimize the amount of clothing that you bring. From my experience, a good way to do this is to bring fast drying clothing. This allowed me to wash my clothes in the sink in the morning, and wear them again the next day, when they were mostly dry. Another minimization that I found valuable was to take a lighter laptop and power brick than I normally use. In general, I found it useful to heed the advice “only take what you need, and leave everything else at home!”

On a related note, I almost got into trouble with security as I was leaving Italy, because I was carrying so little baggage that they found it hard to believe I had been there for a full two weeks!

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Estive em Lisboa e Lembrei de Você

On the 27th of October, I attended the showing of “Estive em Lisboa e Lembrei de Você,” [I was in Lisbon and I remembered you] a film inspired by the book of the same name, written by the recognized Brazilian author Luiz Ruffato. The showing was part of a program of events anchored by Luiz Ruffato’s visit to the University of Oklahoma. The movie depicted the experiences of a Brazilian emigrant who went to Portugal to seek his fortune. Luiz Ruffato’s visit was organized by the head of OU’s Portuguese program, Professor Paulo Moreira.

The Official Poster for the OU Screening of the Film
The Official Poster for the OU Screening of the Film

No 27 do outubro, compareci o filme “Estive em Lisboa e Lembrei de Você”, um filme que estava inspirado por o livro com o mesmo nome, escreveu por o autor Brasileiro Luiz Ruffato. O filme era um parte duma programma de uns eventos assegurado com o visito do Luiz Ruffato à Universidade da Oklahoma. O filme retratou as experiençías dum emigrante Brasileiro, que fui ao Portugal para achar sua fortuna. O visito do Luiz Ruffato era organizado por o diretor da programma do Portuguese da Universidade da Oklahoma, o Profesor Paulo Moreira.

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