2015 In Review

Gah I am so behind on posting this! Blame my dissertation (which is in full swing, by the way!), grad school, life in general- whatever the reason, I finally found a moment to post this! I think I may re-evaluate if/how I do this in future years, but it has been fascinating looking back on these recaps over the years! Here’s to 2016!

Jan – Got a new car; 25th Birthday celebration at the Board Room in DC + Jackie’s DC Visit!;

Feb – Virginia Opera’s “Salome” at the GMU Center for the Arts; George Takei at GMU Center for the Arts; Robert’s Bachelor Party in Tampa;

Mar – American Ballet Theatre’s “Rodeo & Variations” at the Kennedy Center; Referee at the 2015 FIRST Robotics Orlando Regional; Head Referee at the 2015 FIRST Robotics DC Regional; Mentor and colleague Dr. Raja Parasuraman passed away

Apr – Washington Ballet’s “Swan Lake” at the Kennedy Center (2x) – and got to meet Misty Copeland!!; 2015 Usabil-a-thon DC; Referee at the 2015 FIRST Robotics Championships in St. Louis, MI (including on Einstein field!); Medical Human Factors Conference in Baltimore MD; Arturo Sandoval in concert at Blues Alley jazz club;

May – Attended DC101 Kerfuffle Concert (Incubus, The Offspring, The Dirty Heads, Panic at the Disco; Big Data) with Laura;  Successfully passed my comprehensive exam!; Participated in the Advisory Board Company’s Hackathon as a UX Consultant; Robert & Kathy’s Wedding in El Paso, TX; Jess’ Bachelorette Weekend in Charlottesville (King family Vineyards ***; Veritas Vineyard & Winery; Afton Mountain; Pollack Vinyards; Bold Rock Cidery);

June – American Ballet Theatre’s “La Bayadere” at the Metropolitan Opera House at the Lincoln Performing Arts Center in NYC; Started Google UX internship in Mountain View, CA!; SF Pride Paradeafter the historic Supreme Court ruling!

July – Yosemite trip!; SF Symphony 4th of July concert at Shoreline Ampitheatre; Big Sur; GWE Conference; Presented at the Google PhD Intern Conference; attended a talk and got to meet Dr. Phil Zimbardo, of Stanford Prison Experiment fame; Austin business trip; SF Ballet at Stern Grove Park

August – Biked around SF with Becca & Jackie!; trip to Napa; Visit to Half Moon Bay & Pescadero Beach; Presidio Park’s Off the Grid; Youtube visit!; Phantom of the Opera at the Orpheum Theater; visited the gorgeous Montalvo Arts Center

[a compilation of photos from my summer in California]

September – Started PhD year 5;  Burlesque is Coming (GRRM-approved GoT burlesque show) with Simone!; Lauren & Thomas’ Wedding in Orlando, FL;

October – Jess & Kris’ Wedding in NC; International Conference on Social Robotics Conference in Paris (visited The Louvre, The Catacombs, Musee d’Orsay, Arc de Triomphe, Musee national de’l Orangerie, Centre Pompidou, Tour Eiffel, Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Paris, Sainte Chapelle, Shakespeare & Company Bookstore, a nighttime dinner on a Siene river boat – and so much more!); Nightmare on M Street (DC Halloween Street Party);

November – Head Referee at the Rumble in the Roads FIRST Robotics off-season event AND NekoCon anime convention in the same weekend

December – Successfully proposed my dissertation!; Kristy’s visit & visit to Mount Vernon; Judge at the Haymarket FIRST FTC robotics event;

–Read 52 books
–Visited 6 major cities (St. Louis, Charlottesville, San Francisco, Paris, El Paso, Austin)
–Attended 2 conferences (Medical Human Factors Conference in Baltimore; ICSR in Paris)
–1 con (Nekocon anime convention)
–Saw 5 ballets, 1 musical, 1 opera, 2 concerts


Books Read in 2015

Ah, what a year. Between the extensive reading for my comprehensive exams in the Spring and the laser focus I put into preparation for my dissertation proposal in Fall, this year’s reading list was a bit more fantastical than my usual fare, with me trying to escape into some fun, distracting readings when I got the chance! As I am currently in the middle of two excellent biographies, this trend seems to already be changing for 2016 – but I had a great year overall and still look forward to reading as much as I can.
Screen Shot 2015-12-31 at 11.32.57 AMMy two faves this year were “Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore” by Robin Sloan and “Me Before You” by Jojo Moyes. Both of them blindslided me: the former being far more in-depth, thought-out, and fun than I would have expected (plus, didn’t hurt that I gave plenty of love to San Francisco while I was there this summer!); the latter was a thought-provoking, beautifully sad book I never normally would have read, but am so happy I was able to experience. I highly recommend both and would love to hear thoughts about them!

As always, feel free to check out my past year’s faves and reading lists, and my up-to-date progress and reviews on Goodreads. On to 2016!

2015 Books | 52 Total, 20 Audiobooks
# denotes an audiobook, * denotes a favorite

1) The Glass Magician – Charlie N. Holmberg
2) Exquisite – Ella Frank #
3) Saga, Volume 4 – Brian K. Vaughan
4) Alex + Ada, Volume 1 – Jonathan Luna
5) Enchanted, Inc – Shanna Swendson #
6) Succubus Blues – Richelle Mead
7) We Were Liars – E. Lockhart #
8) Succubus on Top – Richelle Mead
9) Succubus Dreams – Richelle Mead
10) Succubus Heat – Richelle Mead
11) Succubus Shadows – Richelle Mead
12) Succubus Revealed – Richelle Mead
13) The Ruby Circle – Richelle Mead #
14) Off the Record – K.A. Linde #
15) Sex Criminals, Volume 2 – Matt Fraction
16) A Dance with Dragons – George R.R. Martin
17) East of West, Volume 1 – Jonathan Hickman
18) Self-Inflicted Wounds: Heartwarming Tales of Epic Humiliation – Aisha Tyler #
19) The Master Magician – Charlie N. Holmberg
20) The Name of the Wind – Patrick Rothfuss #
21) Death on the Nile – Agatha Christie #
22) Mysterious Affair at Styles – Agatha Christie #
23) Ready Player One – Ernest Cline
24) The Murder on the Links – Agatha Christie #
25) The Circle – Dave Eggers
26) About That Fling – Tawna Fenske
27) Sex, Drugs, & Cocoa Puffs – Chuck Klosterman
28) Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore – Robin Sloan # *
29) Bound – Lorelei James #
30) Uprooted – Namoi Novik
31) The Murder of Roger Ackroyd – Agatha Christie #
32) Common Sense – Thomas Paine #
33) At Any Price – Brenna Aubrey *
34) Willing Victim – Cara McKenna
35) The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins
36) Control – Charlotte Stein *
37) Saga, Volume 5 – Brian K. Vaughan
38) Dumplin’ – Julie Murphy
39) Genie – Kitty French *
40) The Windflower – Laura London #
41) Hazzard Blue – Tabitha A. Lane
42) By Private Invitation – Stephanie Julian
43) No Reservations – Stephanie Julian
44) Over Exposed – Stephanie Julian
45) Wool – Hugh Howey
46) Invasion of the Body Snatchers – Jack Finney #
47) Me Before You – Jojo Moyes # *
48) The Theory of Attraction – Delphine Dryden
49) The Invisible Man – H.G. Wells #
50) Do Not Disturb – Stephanie Julian
51) The Becoming – Jeanne C. Stein #
52) Love in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction – Judd Trichter #

I survived the 2015 FIRST Robotics Greater DC Regional!


After the last finals match – I survived!


Some of the great ref team!

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love FIRST Robotics. I talk about it almost always within my first time meeting someone and it has been a passion of mine since I stumbled into it (literally) in 6th grade. Since then, I have been an FLL student, FRC student, FLL judge, FLL referee, FRC field reset, and FRC referee. This year I was honored with the position of FRC Head Referee at the Greater DC Regional! I will admit, after the stressful experience that was refereeing last year’s game, I was very nervous. I wanted to be consistent and by-the-book, but also able to answer any questions and handle any notoriously aggressive coaches.


FRC Director Frank Merrick and I!

With the regional having wrapped up yesterday and waking up from a full 12-hours of sleep (no kidding),  I would like to say that I succeeded in my mission! My referee team was fantastic (which made my job much easier!), I was able to answer all questions from the students, and actually had no aggressive coach encounters! This year’s game being much more straightforward rules-wise was also a large contributing factor, so I am grateful to the FIRST Game Design Committee for listening to the feedback from previous years and keeping producing exciting and inventive games year after year. Also, gaining understanding of the game dynamics when I refereed the game at the Orlando Regional 2 weeks ago and observing the amazing head referee Jennifer Parsons was a great bolster to my confidence.

It’s not even been one day, but I already look forward to the next FIRST competition I will help out with. Not just for the fun (and exhaustion and excitement and exhaustion), but for the chance to give back to an organization that so greatly changed my life and influenced much of who I am (and who many of my friends are) today. Cheers to a great event and I look forward to refereeing at Championships in a few weeks!

The loss of a mentor.

IMG_8681There are no words. Your presence will be with us forever and we students hope to carry forth your legacy of good humor, great science, and excellent character. RIP Raja, you were truly one of a kind.

About Raja Parasuraman

Science is science.

A student asked me to answer the question: “Psychology is sometimes considered a social or “soft” science. There is often a line drawn between research within the field of psychology and research in the “hard” science fields, such as biology, chemistry, or physics. Why is this distinction drawn? Is it an appropriate division? Why or why not?”.

My answer: “I think the reason people try to make a distinction between “hard” sciences and “soft” sciences is because physics/biology/chemistry have distinct answers – as in, there is an exact answer to how many molecules are in a given formula or how one chemical reacts with another chemical.Within psychology, the answers vary depending on the person, the situation, the day – there are few distinct answers in psychology. I personally do not think this make psychology any less of a science than the others, as psychology still attempts to answer questions that are important to the human experience. Relatedly, science is science, and I believe arbitrary distinctions trying to belittle certain concentrations in the effort to make others seem more important are futile and irrelevant.”

Just my two cents 🙂

2014 in Review

Better late than never, I suppose! 2014 was…a year. But I’m looking forward to 2015 and hope it brings great things with it!
Jan – Winery tour with the ladies; 24th birthday!
Feb – started guest appearing on the HF “Design Critique” podcast; Suzanne Farrell Ballet Master Class at the Kennedy Center; GMU basketball game;
MarRefereed at the FIRST Robotics Competition Orlando and Greater DC Regionals; new robot in the lab at school!
Apr – Moscow Festival Ballet’s Romeo + Juliet at the GMU Center for the Arts; Moscow Festival Ballet’s Ballet Favorites at the GMU Center for the Arts; cherry blossoms, ftw!; volunteered at the USA Science and Engineering Festival
May – Won my department’s “most logged in” superlative, haha; NYC trip with my sister Jennifer; Sara’s Speed Trap Bachelorette; Jazz in the Garden with friends;
June – Sister Jennifer’s high school graduation!; Boston Ballet‘s Mixed Repertoire at the Kennedy Center; Phoenix in concert at the Echostage; Boston/Dartmouth visit;
July – July 4th at the National Archives; New phone lock screen!;  Guardians of the Galaxy released!; I wrote a lot;  (seriously, nothing else of interest happened in July apparently, haha)
Aug – Auditioned for Millionaire in NYC; Ocean City trip with friends; Sara & Kevin’s beautiful wedding!; Became president of the GMU CHI Student Chapter;
Sep – Attended Baltimore Comic-Con and met Fables author Bill Willingham!; Company Danzante’s “Here & Now” at the Kennedy Center;
Oct – Alonzo King Ballet’s Lines at the GMU Center for the Arts; Suzanne Farrell Ballet Master Class at the Kennedy Center; Attended New York Comic-Con (cosplayed as Gwendolyn from Saga!); Refereed at the Roboticon off-season robotics competition in Tampa; Visited Harry Potter World Diagon Alley; HFES 2014 Conference in Chicago
NovMommy; Miami City Ballet’s Romeo & Juliet at the Kravis Center; Suzanne Farrell Ballet’s Works of Balanchine at the Kennedy Center
Dec – 2nd Annual White elephant party; Chevelle in concert at Rams Head Live in Baltimore; Ballet West’s Nutcracker at the Kennedy Center; brother Karlyle graduated from UF!
–Read 82 books
–Visited 4 new cities
–Attended 1 conferences, 2 cons
–Saw 10 ballets, 2 concerts

A Post About My Mom

Mom & I

Veronica M. Smith (1958-2014)

I debated a long time whether to post about this or not, but here goes. My mother Veronica M. Smith passed away on November 9, 2014 after almost a decade of battling breast cancer. It’s been almost 3 months, but that time feels simultaneously infinitely long and infinitesimally small. I still often catch myself thinking of things I need to remember to tell her only to have everything hit me anew.

There’s so much I want to say and yet so much I cannot articulate even now. One day I hope I can convey how much this woman is responsible for the person I am. Having lost both her and my father so close together and so early in life is something I don’t think I will ever come to terms with, but I’m trying to, one day at a time.IMG_0863

As of now though, I, and my siblings Karlyle, Newton, & Jennifer, hope to become the people our parents believed we were worthy of being and carry on the message of hard work, pleasantness, and dedication our mother spent her life spreading. Love you, Mom.