Sunday, February 26, 2017

Jahnvi's Laptop is Superior to Mine

I arrived first, and I was not surprised. We had a total of three different arrival times decided 5, 5:30, and 6. I chose the earliest, 5. After our interviews and selection on the 15th we exchanged phone numbers, and proceeded to begin a group chat. When Don asked us to work on our blog as a group, naturally we did most of the organization behind his back; informing him of our plans once they were relatively complete.

We met at East Bay Coffee Company which usually is quiet enough and has enough tables, but we didn't enter immediately. When I arrived only Don was there, so we began with casual photos for my Blogger profile. Don wanted a photo with some greenery in the background, but the only green on the block were knee high bushes which resulted in this:
I actually had to sit on the dirty ground for this.
Cecilia never looks at the camera
We then claimed tables inside, luckily finding seating instantly at two tables that already had five available seats. Raqeeb showed up soon after, which was interesting, as the two people who lived the furthest away were the earliest. When Jahnvi showed up we all began on our Blogger profiles trying to figure out what to say about ourselves, while waiting for Cecilia to arrive. When she did get to East Bay Coffee around 6, we got to getting drinks. While everyone generally knew what they were expecting to get in terms of drinks, Jahnvi did not, ordering a macchiato because it sounded cool. It arrived in a tiny cup with likeness to a cup from a child's kitchen playset, and reportedly a quite bitter taste from the espresso. Then we got to customizing.

Though we started by working individually on each of our laptops, we all only had a relative idea of what we were doing after Don showed us how to work on the blog, so it ended up being a good idea to work as a group on Jahnvi's laptop. Her laptop is far larger than my little baby school laptop, or Raqeeb's small laptop so we crowded around it and got down to business. We went back and forth between two templates and whether or not our we should have our main blog color be UChicago's maroon or just gray. After playing with settings for a while we set our blog in motion. Trying to be productive, we sat around laptops and fiddled with titles and sentences, until we ultimately departed.

Macchiato Sounds Like a Nice Name

Since we had to go down to East Bay Coffee today to work on blogs, I thought I might as well run there, and finally get some exercise. When I got there with windswept hair, I saw Don taking photos of Raqeeb so I waited outside to get mine taken and tried to fix my hair.  After a quick few pictures, I went inside, and we all started working on our profiles. 

We looked at the past ILCer's profiles because for some reason we had trouble writing about ourselves. After finishing that up, and when Don finished taking pictures of Cecilia, we got instructions on how to edit and decorate the blog. 

In between that, Don got us all coffee. This is when the disaster happened. I saw a board with a list of a few of the coffees they served, and one of them was a macchiato. I thought the name sounded nice and so I thought, why not just buy it?

My macchiato vs. Cecilia's hot chocolate
When our orders all came back, I finally figured out what a macchiato was. It was an extremely strong shot of espresso in a small cup...and it was extremely bitter. I had to accept it though, and finish it since it was actually pretty expensive for a small cup. 

We all got together in front of my laptop since it had the biggest screen, and started editing the blog design. We wanted to make it Chicago themed and used the same shade of maroon as the logo by looking up the hex code online. After having a huge food fight and bloodbath we finally agreed on the design that you currently see. 

Just kidding! We collaborated really well, and productively figured out the best design. We tried every single idea every one of us suggested and nicely agreed or disagreed. After a good half hour of trial and error, we were all finally satisfied with the design and background. This entire process had clearly brought us much closer than before as we were able to freely voice our opinions and get rid of any tension. 

We started working on our blogs for the night and one by one, everyone started leaving. Don gave me a ride back home, and so I'd like to thank him for that. As I began writing this at home, I realized that I had a great time with my cohort and couldn't wait until the next time we all got together. 
Chicago better be ready for this

Pictures Don't Like Me, or Perhaps I Don't Like Them

Today, I and the rest of my cohort gathered with Don at East Bay Coffee Co. in the evening with the goal to set up our blog. I was the last one to arrive, so everyone was already working on their blog profiles when I arrived. While they kept on working, Don led me outside so we could take photos for my profile image. I think that had to my least favorite part of our entire meeting. For some reason, I either kept blinking or forgot to smile while Don took pictures, and the whole time I just felt so awkward taking pictures in the middle of the streets, especially when we had to take pictures next to the tree, on the edge of the sidewalk, next to the road with cars driving past. I didn't like taking pictures at all. Thankfully, that ended soon enough, and we went back inside. 

My cup of hot chocolate is...oddly large.
Inside, Don and I worked on a couple more things, but after we finished, Don bought us drinks. While we waited, Don explained more things about our blog. Then, we got our drinks, and my cup of hot chocolate was a lot bigger and sweeter than I expected. Personally, I think it was a disappointing cup of hot chocolate. It was big, for sure, but other than that, it didn't really have much going for it. Its sweetness was not rich; it tasted so sweet it seemed rather...fake (if hot chocolates can be fake). But perhaps I'm being too hard on the poor hot chocolate. Nevertheless, thank you to Don for buying us our drinks.

Afterwards, Don took some awesome group pictures for us. Or rather, Don took some group pictures of us that would have been awesome if I had smiled, or if I hadn't blinked, or if I had looked into the camera. He took multiple shots, and I did something wrong in each of them. Honestly, at this point, I'm not sure what is wrong with me and pictures. Maybe I'm not used to taking them. Maybe I don't like them. Maybe I have a subconscious fear. There are a lot of possibilities. I don't know. I just know I should have looked into the camera and smiled because it was a nice group photo, and I could've made it nicer if I wasn't looking off to the side. Hopefully, we'll get a chance to take a better banner picture. 
I really have no excuse for not looking at the camera, but hey, everyone else looks great!
Then, we began to work on formatting our blog site. At first, we encountered a few problems, and it was rather confusing, trying to figure out where and how to change colors and backgrounds. In our endeavor to make the website look the best we can, we bore witness to a few interesting combinations of colors that I hope to never see again (some colors are never meant to be together). Additionally, we had some trouble with the layout and template of the blog. Very soon, though, we got the hang of it, and we had our template decided and our text colors sorted out.  

Unfortunately, I had to leave early, at around 8:30 p.m. Still, I had a great time today, and it was very nice to see everyone again. There was some great teamwork going on this evening, and this was just the beginning! Since I wasn't there for that long, I felt like I didn't get the chance to really talk with anyone, so I'll be looking forward to future opportunities to get to know my cohorts better. 

(Now that I am almost done with my post, I do feel compelled to admit here that I actually wasn't feeling that great today and that after I returned home, I discovered I had a sore throat. However, I would like to hereby deny all responsibilities should anyone get sick - especially Jahnvi or Don, who sat next to me.)

Cold Day and Drinks, but a Fire Blog

Today was the first time since the interviews that I saw the rest of the UChicago cohort.  We met at a café in Pinole, East Bay Coffee Co., to discuss and set up our blog.  When I got there, Don took me outside to take some pictures for my profile image.  He had me sit on the ground for a couple of shots, then moved me in front of a tree, and finally had me lean on a tree.  I actually like having pictures taken of me, so it was a pretty fun experience.    

After the photos were taken, I went inside, where Lindsay was sitting (she had arrived earlier and was already done with photos).  The café was cozy without being too small, and was tastefully decorated. There were various dark wood elements, and various shades of grey dominated the tiles and walls. Lighting was provided by small rustic overhead lamps and pale string lights.  There was a wall separating the tables and the counter, which kept noise pollution low.  The décor of the café gave it a sense of warmth despite the cold outside (the heating also probably helped).    

When Jahnvi was done with her photos, the three of us worked on our blog profiles.  It was a pretty smooth process, except for the part where we had to describe ourselves.  No one really knew what to write, so it ended up being a list of the activities each of us are involved in.  I think that the main problem with the profile descriptions was that we didn't quite know how formal or informal to be.  We ended up talking a lot about National Treasure (the movie) and what emojis Jahnvi should have used.  
The work situation.
After Cecilia showed up, Don bought us drinks and talked to us about the blog, showed us some examples, and explained to us his preferences/what the blog was supposed to look like.  After that lecture, which was at least half an hour, we got to work on the appearance of the blog. At first we had trouble agreeing upon a background image, but we eventually settled on an aerial image of Chicago during blue hour.  After that we tweaked the sidebar/blog size and chose our theme colors using hex code data we found on the UChicago website.  One area that caused a lot of difficulty was the background for all of the text on the page; it couldn't be changed from transparent white unless we switched templates, but after testing several different options, we just settled with what we had from the start.  I felt like the process, although not all of it was quick or easy, brought us closer together because we had to share our opinions and disagree with each other about certain things.   
49 Degrees?

Eventually, we settled on a satisfactory design and then started to work on our first posts.  Don had stressed the importance of pictures during his instruction, so we spent a lot of time trying (and failing) to take decent photos.  After I had around 3 satisfactory images, I started to outline this post. By this time it was around 8:15, and Lindsay and Cecilia left shortly after each other.  I didn't get very far on this post before my dad came to pick me up 15 minutes later, but I had enough to work off of at home.  

Overall, it was nice to see the other cohort members again and work together with them on the blog. Despite the occasional period of distraction, we got a lot of work done and managed to agree on the general appearance of our blog.  Working towards one goal as a group really forced us to make our opinions known, and loosened any tension there might have been between people.  I'm looking forward to the next time we all get to meet again. 
The 2017 UChicago squad.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Wednesday February 15th.  They came from near and far to interview to be a member of the Chicago cohort of the Ivy League Connection.  Dozens of applicants sent in their essays to join with their test scores and transcripts.  Eight were invited to be interviewed and four were selected.

It normally takes the interview panel about 15 minutes to review the applications and make their selection but on this night the process took nearly 50 minutes.  It wasn't that the panelists didn't know what they were doing or couldn't work together.  The problem was that the eight interviewees were so close that it was the subtlest of distinctions that separated them.

When all was said and done, the newest recipients of IvyLeague Connection scholarships are:
Jahnvi Doshi ~ 11 ~ Hercules HS
Lindsay Long ~ 11 ~ Middle College HS
Raqeeb Chang ~ 11 ~ El Cerrito HS
Cecilia Chak ~ 10 ~ Pinole Valley HS