Oh, the People You’ll Meet: Poi Boy

My favorite thing about being back in school is meeting all varieties of spectacular people doing weird and wonderful things. Way back in October, I took my cat in my car up to the roof of a parking garage while my apartment was being fumigated for fleas.

It was overcast and windy. But luckily for me, I found perhaps the only other person who hangs out on top of parking garages as rainstorms roll in. He was just mulling around. Juggling. It’s normal. (It is not normal, but it is great.)

He had two tennis balls tied to strings and was doing some fancy things with them. The wind picked up and the clouds roared in and it was getting darker. He kept at it, battling the breeze. So I got out of my car with my camera and he kindly let me take a video of him.

“It’s called poi,” he said. “The best way I can describe it is ‘yoga for your mind.’ I just come up here and do it when I need a break and I’m feeling fried.”

His name is Evan Huff and he’s from the Louisville area.

UPDATE: Evan just told me about a weekly event  called Spundae Mondae, where he and other spinners, flow artists, hula hoopers (!), etc. get together once a week to do their thing. The group meets at Be Here Now in the Village most Mondays. Their Facebook page is pretty fun and funky.

Ball State also has some folks that juggle poi ON FIRE. You know. For all your prim and proper college soirees.

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Debacle: D-E-B-A-C-L-E. Debacle.

This is called foreshadowing.

Last week I got an e-mail announcing a spelling bee on campus for which all students were eligible. The grand prize was one hundred dollars. I’m a decent speller and a dictionary dilettante.
I signed up right away.

Twenty or 30 spellers showed up in a gold-painted amphitheatre classroom tonight, appropriate since the event was sponsored by Golden Key Honour Society. Several contestants told me the last time they entered a spelling bee was in middle school. Everyone was in high spirits and seemed as good humored as college students ought to be at an event generally reserved for ten-year-olds. We all wore numbers around our necks and the announcer called them out at random. We stood and spelled from our seats.

Towed? Tode? Tohd?

The first round was the easy level. Six or seven people were called before me.
TOAD! “An amphibian; a close relative of the frog,” the announcer defined it.

Some contestants were hesitating under the pressure. Oh, I’ve got this, I thought.

“Number four?” the announcer called. I stood up, and my friend Jingxia got excited and readied the camera. There was a long silence and the other contestants watched and waited.

Finally the announcer chose a word from the list. “Consommé.”

Now I can remember some fifth grade spelling tests, writing words like cellist and height.
Gold stars all around! But foreign culinary words definitely were not on the same menu.

People raised their eyebrows. I paused.


“I’m sorry, that’s incorrect,” he said. The students murmured and shook their heads

If you can spell "Toad," you can spell anything!

Jingxia hugged me. “I’ve never heard that word,” she said dismissively.

I wasn’t going to take it too seriously. This wasn’t Scripps, and it wasn’t like I’d been sleeping next to Webster’s or anything. But then we stayed to watch while other contestants spelled and misspelled honest and invincible and ghoul.

Twenty minutes after my premature demise, the girl beside me got rumor and the guy beside her got cymbal.

“By the way,” the announcer said. “Sometimes we see a word on here that neither of us know well, and we want you to know we’re skipping those words for you.”

I made a noise in my nose and throat that no one in the room could have spelled.

But the final straw was when the announcer gave one girl the word larynx.
“Larynx: L-A-R-N-Y-X. Larynx,” she said.

He conferred with his student associate and then said, “You know, I think I mispronounced that, so I’m going to give you another word.” I think he gave her the word mature next.

Smiling and sighing, I took off my number sign and put my jacket on. The Golden Key girls behind me were empathetic.
“I’m very angry on your behalf,” one of them said. “But I think your outfit is really cute.”

I walked to the parking lot with Jingxia and Sheldon, who tried to brush it off by telling me spelling bees were nonexistent in China.
“Nobody does that!” Sheldon said.
“You’ll do better next year,” Jingxia said.
I agreed; I would be back with a vengeance.

“V-E-N-G-E-A-N-C-E!” I cried out as we parted ways in the night.

Listen to "Miss Teen Word Power" by The New Pornographers
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CICS (does not stand for Center for Invisibility Cloak Science)

The cast of the CICS Virtual Tour in the green virtual studio. I may or may not be in the background. Impossible to tell.

Invisibility is a funny thing.

In the green studio over in Ball State’s expansive maze of bright, blinking or buzzing production rooms, you can’t wear neon green or you will literally disappear on camera. You also cannot dress in mirrors. Both of these things would present an extreme ensemble emergency for me since I wear neon green and mirrors every day, exclusively.

Fortunately, my job during the very recent virtual tour for the very great graduate program in the Center for Information and Communication Sciences (CICS) was off-camera, so wardrobe wasn’t a problem.

I got to do a lot of exciting behind-the-scenes work: interviewing alumni, editing some video and audio clips, and monitoring the chat feature during the live Q&A. I also got to do some behind-the-scenes play, such as using neon green masking tape to make part of my arm disappear in the virtual studio.

You can watch the CICS Virtual Tour here. The folks in front of and behind the cameras and in control rooms did a capital job, and it was fun to watch them and work with them for a couple months.

The CICS program puts grad students from all academic backgrounds on the fast-track to being business and management pros in many fields. You don’t need to know about technology or aspire to be an engineer, but you will graduate with more than a little tech-savvy and more than a lot of career-savvy and networking opportunities. Many students complete the program in 11 months (compared to most two-year grad programs), which gives them an edge in the job market and also means they’re a tight-knit and fun group of people. They’ve made some of their own videos if you want to check those out on their YouTube channel.

Here’s one:

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Cell phone pictures are the new Polaroids: Minnetrista

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I went for a rare run last weekend and wound up on a nature walk around Minnetrista‘s woodsy trails. It’s no doubt the tip of an iceberg. The only other times I’ve been to Minnetrista were visits to the Saturday morning farmers market for honeycrisp apples (the BEST apples!), but I know there is so much more to do and see at Muncie’s prime cultural and historical attraction. Happily, I’ve got a few more semesters to discover it.

Meanwhile, behold! The pictures I took with my clunky old cell phone. I often regret that it’s a hassle to run with my camera in tow, but I like to think low quality cell phone pictures are the new Polaroid pictures. (Actually Polaroid pictures are the new Polaroid pictures, thanks to these guys. But cell phone pictures are the Polaroids for the new generation.)

A song for a nature walk: Devendra Banhart’s “Onward the Indian.”

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they build buildings so tall these days

My first semester of graduate school is halfway over so this seems like a great time to blog about it! (Note: This is a terrible time to blog about it. I should be reading Jürgen Habermas and writing a ten-page paper about Theory and Practice, and I should have written my first blog post in August.)

Plus this was a peculiar day. Ordinarily I do not begin my days by vacuuming every inch of my apartment at 6 a.m. In fact, ordinarily I do not begin my days anywhere near 6 a.m., period. But the exterminators were coming to save my building from an itchy, creepy flea infestation this morning, so I would do whatever they told me. And today that meant vacuuming at 6 a.m. while occasionally checking in on the Chilean miner rescue (so exciting!) and dropping my cat off with a generous, flea-fearless friend before making a beeline for Ball State’s College of Architecture and Planning where I would spend the next eight and a half hours.

I don’t know much about architecture. I’m getting my master’s in journalism, but my assistantship with the Graduate School and Research Offices gets me into departments and offices I wouldn’t ordinarily wander into. Like the architecture and planning building, the slanted glass roof of which might make it my new go-to place during a rainstorm.

Today I was helping with a classy webcast and virtual tour of the Master of Architecture (MArch) program. Ball State University Master's of ArchitectureIn the end, I was the Cue Card Girl. More than 30 prospective students signed up for the virtual information session, and I also helped field the questions they sent in via instant message before and during the webcast. The webcast went off without a hitch, and by the end of it I was almost persuaded to apply to the architecture master’s program.

My cue card-queuing arms were jelly by 5:30, but it was such an exciting day and reminded me of why I love this job that lets me meet so many great folks and get a graduate degree almost for free.

Not that I was about to forget.

A song for today that really has almost nothing to do with architecture or today:

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