{ Hello }

Hi! I'm a senior from western Washington (graduating in January). I love books, long walks, and meandering conversations. I am proud to declare myself a huge geek, especially about social science, interesting people, and great writing. An unabashed genre fiction fan — as you can see, I own a cloak and Lord of the Rings leaf pin — I am currently living on Sci-Fi Hall with similarly insane people. I'm also friends with people I've met through other groups and activities I'm involved with, such as OCircus!, Oberlin's entirely-student-run circus organization.

While I love books, my interest in understanding people's personalities, priorities, and decision-making in various social contexts has led me to declare a psychology major. I'm a "stats geek" — data-crunching research assistant — for one of my psych professors. I also work as a lifeguard, volunteer at Oberlin Community Services, and clean litterboxes/socialize foundling kittens at the Ginko Gallery!

I'd love to answer any questions you have about any of the above, so feel free to leave a comment on any blog post.

{ Entries }


Adorable Small Mammals of Oberlin

I was tempted to put in pictures of my shorter friends, but they don't sit still long enough--and one of them is taking Akido--so kittens, dogs, and squirrels will have to do.

How a Practicum in Sociology Helped Me Pick a Career

The reading part of the course served as an introduction to American social support systems, while volunteering at Oberlin Community Services gave me an idea of what it might be like to be in a social services profession.

Soundtrack for Finals Week

The blog post of inspiring study music, also known as the "please don't sue me" post. Includes Sci-Fi Hall singing a Squidmas carol.

Oberlin's Best Classes*

*of the ones I've taken and think would also be fun for non-psychology majors.

What I'm Thankful For Redux

My first semester here, I wrote/drew a blog post about Thanksgiving. I'm building on that for my final semester.

Interfaith Service: Success!

Pretty much the whole student body cares about community service, and we got good stuff done. We still need a deeper discussion about "interfaith," but that's next on the list . . . Many Oberlin students have a tendency to be dismissive of religion or openly religious classmates. I think they're responding more to the political end of religion (as we know it) than to any actual beliefs.

Stop Hunger Now

The Interfaith Day of Service is this Friday, 3:30 - 5:30. "Interfaith," in this case, means both among people of different religions and between people who are religious and those who aren't--an important factor to consider when dealing with Oberlin students.

Election 2012

I think I was happier this time than when Obama won in 2008; this year, I was more involved, I knew more, I canvassed, I voted--I was able to be a part of it. This win was my win, in a tiny, tiny way, and I had seen more of the other people whose win it was too.

Comment on this Post

This is a chance for you to talk to me, whether you are a prospie, prospie's parent, current student, or alum. Feel free to ask questions about Oberlin, tell me what you want to read about, or just say hi.

Learning and Labor: My Classes

My semesters usually end up organizing themselves around a few different themes or shared ideas. This semester, the themes seem to be bodies/physicality, communities, and, to a somewhat lesser degree, stories.

Morning Routine, aka Websites You Should Know

In trying to become a more informed individual, I have given myself rather a lot of work, and I need an hour and half of time just to absorb all the media. I honestly don't mind getting up at seven.

My To-Do List

I love to make lists. My room is covered in them. Now my blog is too--a giant list of things to do before I graduate!

I'm Leaving Oberlin Early

Like all the rest of the seniors, I have turned in my application to graduate. But, unlike most, I didn't check the box that says "May 2013." I'll be graduating in January.

Coming Home, or Somersaulting in the Passive Voice

Coming back to Oberlin and commencing senior year--it happened surprisingly fast.

Oberlin Accounting

I have made an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of what I spend my money on. 81% goes to Oberlin and other necessities (airfare, textbooks, snowboots) and 11% to personal indulgences (goofy t-shirts, eating out). Is this a decent balance? I welcome your thoughts!

Chalk Walk

Every summer, Oberlin has a citywide "Chalk Walk," a civic day of doodling on the sidewalk. Though most of the art is done by average citizens--including plenty of enthusiastic kids--the event also attracts stunningly good artists. Among this year's coolest pieces were a giant cupcake, the Beatles, and George Washington riding a walrus into space carrying broccoli.

ResearchStuck: The Oberlin Summer Adventure Game

Your name is TESS. You are a SUMMER RESEARCH ASSISTANT at OBERLIN COLLEGE. You are also a LIFEGUARD and a BLOGGER. Currently you are contemplating writing your next blog in the style of a TEXT-BASED GAME.

Oberlin Etiquette

Remember, the cardinal rule of politeness is to make the other person comfortable. In some situations, this calls for dressing up and shaking hands. In others, it consists of yelling and backslapping. Among Klingons, you say whatever's on your mind and be prepared to back up your words in battle if necessary. And so on.

The Big Parade

The Big Parade happened a month and a half ago. I finally got around to writing it up. Includes many pictures!

Meet Oliver. He Needs Your Help.

There's an irrepressibly affectionate kitten in Oberlin who needs some help. Oliver's paw will have to be amputated. Please donate to CATSS, the local organization that helps stray cats like him!

Roller Coaster Adventures

In which I go to an amusement park with a group of friends, figure out what to do with a pile of free stuff, get mistaken for Guy's younger brother, and move into summer housing.

Paying for College: Idealistic Alternatives

The point of all this idealistic, semi-ideological rambling is to say that there's something a little bit broken about the way that paying for college works right now. My would-never-work-but-what-if solutions to the problem include direct loans from colleges to students and a tithe system.

OCircus! Goes to the Circus

Through the magic of circus networks and the hard work of our administrators, OCircus! was able to offer heavily-discounted tickets and a free bus ride to Cleveland to Oberlin students who wanted to go see Cirque du Soleil. Of course everyone did.

How I Almost Didn't Go to Oberlin--Twice (And Why I'm Very Glad I Did)

Perhaps it is strange that an Oberlin blogger should write about almost not coming to Oberlin, especially in a month when prospective students are trying to make their decisions about which school to attend, but I think it's important that you know that Oberlin does not have an aura of inevitability for everyone.

Winter Wrap-Up

The time has come to welcome Spring! Oberlin's recent good weather has made the campus even more beautiful than usual. Green is on my mind in another way, too, as my ecopsychology research intersects with Ecolympics, Oberlin's resource-use reduction competition.

Oberlin Behind the Scenes

There's more to see than the architectural facades viewbooks usually show you, and I think that these back angles are, if not as aesthetically pleasing, more visually interesting than the fronts.

Semester in Review, 2.2: More Poets and Pictures

The only one of Blake's poems that I knew going into this class was "The Tyger." It was, in fact, the first "real" poem I ever learned. I remember standing on my bed, three or four years old, and asking Mom what "fearful symmetry" meant.

Semester in Review, II: Something Romantic

After much dithering, I settled on a course on Romantic literature. By the end of the semester, I'd learned a about the general political and social climate of the time, become acquainted with quirky intellectuals, read the works of the man my brother is named after, developed sympathy for Felicia Hemans, rolled my eyes at Byron and Shelley, and fallen a little bit in love with Keats.

Semester in Review, I: Politics

Why metacoverage makes The Daily Show an exceptional source of news. Also, student-made campaign ads!

Ashtabula Adventures

My friend Connor went home for a few days and invited me along. The result was five days of pleasant exploring, astonishing pictures of ice, and an intensive course in set-building.

Winter Term Routine

My winter term project this year is reading Les Miserables, Moby Dick, and Bleak House. I didn't think I was being ambitious, I swear.

Winter Raiders

Sci-Fi Hall decided to blow off some finals stress by dressing up as post-apocalyptic bikers, smearing fake blood on our faces, and raiding another theme hall. This happens from time to time.

Tidings of Kittens and Joy

My brother got a kitten for Christmas. It is adorable and funny. Many photos included.

On Study Breaks

The last few weeks of the semester are always incredibly full with people working on final projects, last ExCo or club performances, studying their brains out, and attending study breaks to cram their brains back into their skulls.

Ethics and E-readers

The dilemma I am attempting to resolve is whether or not I should buy an e-reader, and, if I get one, what kind I should get. This might seem like an oddly personal and peripheral topic, but it is not. I tell you now, without any exaggeration whatsoever, that my dithering represents the struggles of our society's collective conscience.

Chalkboard Blogging

Explanation: I showed up at a bloggers' meeting without my computer, but with my camera. I was going to chat for a bit and then go, but Ma'ayan pointed out that there was a chalkboard in the room and challenged me to tell a story in nothing but photos. This is the result.

Oberlin LUUV

Of Unitarian Universalism and silkscreened t-shirts.

Zombies on campus

Zombies, Nerf guns, and many pictures. What else could you want?

I've Been Back For . . .

A batch of chai cinnamon rolls, a pan of brownies, a Cat cookie, a night of playing with glow poi, a contra dance, three textbook sales, many books, many friends.

Summer Hobbies

Last week, I wrote about the work I'm doing this summer. However, summer is also about fun, and I've been having lots of that. PLUS: My brother is a genius.

Summer Jobs

As my mom recently pointed out to me, I've barely blogged at all this summer. It's not that I haven't been busy; rather, I have been too busy. For starters, I have my first-ever full-time job.

Like riding a bike

I am proof that not all liberal arts college students get everywhere by bike. Now I am finally learning how to ride one.

How to Save Money in College

Yes, college is expensive, but you have some control over how expensive.

How to Use Your Summer Vacation

This summer, I'm not just odd-jobbing: I'm also nannying, spinning poi, watching my brother play baseball, reading . . . And other people are doing other things!

Is College Hard?

What is "hard"? The pace is faster in college than in high school, but it's mostly notable in comparison. For example, in the first three weeks of Research Methods, we covered at least half of the material in my year-long A.P. Statistics course.

The Big Parade Blog

The tenth annual Big Parade: an afternoon of relaxation, ingenuity, and stilts.

Cake and Circuses

The Romans would offer bread and circuses to distract the public from real issues and keep them happy. Similarly, I am writing about pleasant things to avoid working on finals.

A Happy Insanity, or, What I Did Last Weekend (Mostly Improv-Related)

Friday was improv and Japanese chess. Saturday was an improv workshop. Sunday was an improvised steampunk dinner party. Yes, there are pictures.

Oberlin Comics: Silliness and Sickness

Having a sense of humor helps a lot when you're sick. So do cartoons and silly puzzle-solving video games.

Gloria Steinem, Activism, and Oberlin

Oberlin's second convocation of the semester took place last Wednesday. The speaker was Gloria Steinem. It wasn't the first time the famous feminist has been at Oberlin--she was here in 1972--and, listening to her talk, I wondered how the political and activist atmosphere here has changed since then.

Applications and Organization

Colleges are working very hard to recruit you and several thousand of your closest friends, and they will spare no detail in providing you all the information you may need to make your choice. Your challenge is to deal with all this information: to somehow assimilate it and keep it organized.

New Vistas and Tough Choices

Oberlin is an active, interesting place. For students, it is a great boon and a great tragedy: among all the wonderful opportunities we have, we must confront and accept the fact that we will never be able to explore them all.

At Long Last--A Very Belated Thanksgiving Post

The people in Emma's family tease each other affectionately but ceaselessly and her older brother kept trying to eat my brains. I felt right at home.

Winter Term Recap

Purple potatoes, more cinnamon rolls, and why D&D is a conceptual model.

Whimsy, an Oberlin Morning Tour, and Book Reviews

There's an advantage to working in the Science Center: while working in a library surrounds me with the supportive aura of thousands of books, it also distracts me with the subtle temptations of thousands of books.

Keep-ing it Real

Winter Term co-ops and cinnamon rolls! Includes lots and lots of process pictures, a la Ma'ayan.

Life in Narnia: Winter Term 2011

I'm going to be modeling the spread of information through social networks. Other people in the class are modeling swarms of locusts, a zombie infestation, and deformation of the magnetosphere by solar wind.

Why I haven't posted in four weeks

My excuse for not blogging regularly: I have been HELLA busy. What I've been up to, things my friends have introduced me to, and pictures of me fishing for college students with candy in the library.

Insanely busy(ier than usual)

In which Tess raves about her social science classes, challenges the use of images of women in advertising, goes to a panel discussion, and learns how to sing (kind of).

Miss Yanisch Goes to Washington

At long last, the thrilling conclusion to my Fall Break adventure: the Rally to Restore Sanity! Warning: contains a ludicrous number of pictures of protest/polite-dissension signs.

New York, New York: Tiger Cubs and Wooden Escalators

An inexcusable number of photographs and anecdotes about visiting the Empire State Building, the Museum of Natural History, the Bronx Zoo, and more.

New York: Birds, Buildings, and Bridges

Thanks to a rather complex sequence of events, I'm spending Fall Break in New York City, which means this blog is basically one long gush about how awesome my life is right now. Also, THE IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT is finally made.

Things that have blown my mind this fall

A blog about exciting things going on at Oberlin--mostly focusing on convocations--plus a Very Important Announcement at the end.

It's Friday Night

A day--or rather a night--in the life of an Obie.

Sci-Fi Hall!

Most colleges give their students a choice between traditional housing and fraternities or sororities. Oberlin, being Oberlin, has a different--and much wider--array of choices. Case in point: Sci-Fi Hall, where I now live.

Add/Dropping into a good situation

By Tuesday, I came to the realization that the combined courseload was, to use a technical Oberlinian term, a shit-ton of work. A shit-ton, by the way, is a highly accurate and precise unit measuring the overwhelmingness of a given task (roughly equivalent to 17.5 shitloads, or 0.86 metric shit-tonnes).


I did a lot of stuff in my first year of college, activities that people usually don't get into until their later years. But more relaxed involvement takes me longer--it is, in fact, my big goal for this year.

Welcome Back: A Comedy of Errors

In which our spunky heroine returns to Oberlin, catches a shuttle bus, forgets to retrieve her blankets, gets locked out of her room, and doesn't have any contact lens solution--but everything works out fine.

Final Words of Advice

During Orientation and the first few days of class, remember: relax. Awkwardness is diffused when neither person is more savvy than the other--and you will all be equally clueless, I assure you. (And you MUST bring some kind of academic planner!)

What (not) to bring

The photo-illustrated "do"s and "don't"s of packing for Oberlin. Hints: no cats, no grout, and no prom dresses.

"Dating" and other tricky words

"Is there such a thing as playing the field anymore? Is there a middle ground between a couple and a hookup? Because it sure doesn't look like it." I think that there should be.

Tales of a Summer Odd-Jobber

Adventures in babysitting, feeding live crickets to frogs, and the things people will tell you when you're walking a dog.

Home: Family and Landscape

I live in a beautiful part of the world. Outside, there are trees and Puget Sound; inside, there are approximately 4,000 books and a family of clever, quirky people.

Defining Oberlin (and more funny photos)

An explanation of various conceptual categories, mostly related to SF Hall, delivered with my trademark wit and witticism. Bonus: further photographic evidence that I was a very strange child!

Friends, Cleaning, and Memories

I could not spell to save my life until about fourth grade. This didn't stop me from trying to get across fairly complex ideas--but vowels, apparently, were optional. (Funny photos at the bottom!)

The $52,000 Question (not counting books and travel)

I'm proud to say that I've been able to roll over $1,500 in tuition and buy all my books for each of my first two semesters. Still, paying for an education is a group effort, encompassing students, parents, and colleges.

Cross-College Comparisons: Caltech

And now, news from our intrepid correspondent, who has left the comfortable craziness of a small liberal arts college to brave the rather different craziness of an even smaller technical school!

A Whirlwind Wrap-Up

The last week of my first year at college--sniff!--went by far too quickly in a blur of studying and packing. There were last hurrahs with friends and final exams. And then, quite suddenly, everything was over.

Semester Review, Part II

I love having conversations in which half-completed (because it is not necessary to repeat the entire line) allusions are made to Firefly and Narnia and Lord of the Rings and jokes about The Wheel of Time and Star Trek are tossed around as freely as . . . actually, I don't know any other group that references so many things so frequently and with such great delight. Maybe indie music fans.

Semester Review, Part I: With Doodles

I gave my first impressions of my classes at the beginning of the semester, but I never really came back and described them more fully. So now I'm going to give a more detailed view of what I've been up to.

Big Choices

Housing registration, class registration, and how I (probably) picked my major.

Oberlin Anecdotes

Often, I will see or participate in something and think that I should work it into a blog post. Sometimes I succeed, but, more often, I just can't think of a way to work whatever it is in. So I decided to write a post composed of almost nothing but these interesting, amusing, or just plain fun insights into life at Oberlin.

All Roads Go Ever On and On

One choice--to visit a college--can be the first step on that much-talked-of journey of a thousand miles. No, I'm not referring to the famous Confucius quote, actually--I'm thinking of The Lord of the Rings. Although Oberlin is a lot more fun than Mount Doom.

The Best of All Possible Worlds

Of Ohio weather, Candide, and the humor inherent in losing my voice.

Campus Visits: How to be a Prospie

This blog gives you a few pointers for getting the most out of your campus visit. I don't usually go in for grandiose, sweeping statements, but I think I can say without (much of) a doubt that this blog could be the most important thing you read during your college search. I can say this because I have learned from experience.

Interdisciplinary Extracurriculars

Oberlin is more than living up to my expectations about both interdisciplinary material and extracurricular opportunities. However, I must say that I never expected the two to combine as they have in my life. That is to say, I'm finding that skills I've learned working on improv are helping me with my genre fiction writing.

Showtime: Improv Saga, Part Two

Featuring the actual College Improv Tournament national competition, various hopefully-useful definitions, and the thrills and pitfalls of live webcasting. FREE BONUS ANALYSIS of what makes the Sunshine Scouts unique (hint: we're artsy liberal arts students).

4th in the Nation: An Improv Odyssey

--Except, you know, without the whole lasting-twenty-years thing. And no ships or witches or gods. And an indoor swing. (The place we stayed was possibly the best part, which is not an insult to the Chicago College Improv Tournament--the place was just awesome.)

Welcome back, get set, GO!

I've been back at Oberlin for about a week and a half and it already feels like I've been here a long time. That's because things get started fast around here.

American Graffiti

More about latrinalia, Winter Term, statistical analysis (and not doing it), and a whimsical, completely unrelated movie review for variety. Pictures included, of course.

"I think I look for meaning in the wrong places sometimes"

How to study bathroom graffiti seriously, with theories, transcriptions, and *photos*! LOTS of photos!

Glee comes to Oberlin!

Well, not really. But it might. (Finn's looking for scholarships, after all.)

Winter Term: The Saga Begins

My (many) little projects are intended to turn me into a well-rounded dilettante--while maintaining my priorities, of course. Unrelated but pretty pictures included.

Snow! Finals! Fun!

Plus a note on ObieTalk, which was written last and comes first, because it's most helpful to you prospies.

Baby, it's cold outside!

... but life at Oberlin continues at its usual pace.

What I'm Thankful For

. . . in a style reminiscent of XKCD!

Application time!

"You haven't written your application essays yet? Well get crackin'!" --A Pamphlet on applying to (not too many!) Colleges; Plus, a few modest Examples are included for the perusal of the curious Reader.

SUNSHINE SCOUTS!! (the improv group I keep mentioning.)

In which our protagonist goes to Chicago with eight other Obies and they do seriously amazing stuff. And we have videos.

Busy, Busy, Busy--Now with Working Pictures! :)

A list of the things I've been doing and thinking about this week, including Nazgul costumes, three lectures, and accidentally screwing up the basis of democracy.

Happy Halloween!

Greetings, children of the night! Today's entry is a series of snapshots of my triumphant return to Oberlin, including lectures, geeky joy, and local apple cider.

Sustainable Interest, Student Displacement, and Instant Oatmeal

The Green Referendum; I don't entirely live here anymore, but I don't entirely not live here either; and why Barnardians aren't allowed microwaves in their rooms.

SJI, part two (and my commentary thereon)

A nutshell of the rest of my Social Justice Institute experience, complete with gender-neutral pronouns and a definition of counternarratives.

Fall Break: Social Justice Institute

I first heard about the SJI in the admissions packet I got at the beginning of the summer. It wasn't terribly clear about what exactly the SJI was going to be, but I filled out the application anyway and sent it in, figuring it would be interesting if I got in. I did, and I attended the first session of it today. I still wasn't very clear about what it was until it started. . .

We are Gryffindor. fearless

Of school colors and Substance-Free Housing, neither of which is lame in the slightest.

Hello again, world!

I love the idea of ExCos--it's part of the reason I came here. I signed up for a bunch of them but only one really worked out with my schedule. (One of my sophomore friends told me that it's funny how first-years try to do everything, but the truth is, there's so much interesting stuff going on, it's impossible not to at least try it.)

Let's Begin With Why I'm Here

This is a stream-of-consciousness diary-type sampling. It's odd, writing sort of for an audience.

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