Sunday, October 30, 2011

MIT Essays

We know you lead a busy life, full of activities, many of which are required of you. Tell us about something you do for the pleasure of it. (100 words or fewer)

I write stories. Creating new worlds and new beings, then watching them play or putting them in odd situations is fascinating and good mental exercise. Doing so also lets me get an outside perspective on my own life—I accidentally or purposefully put my characters in the same trouble(s) I have, and the answer becomes clear because I have a new angle on it. Writing is communicating and thinking, which are core to being. To myself, I am what I understand of myself, and to others, I am what I can communicate. Writing aids both sides.

Although you may not yet know what you want to major in, which department or program at MIT appeals to you and why? (100 words or fewer)

What fascinates me most about MIT is how well the departments mingle. Though several of the schools I have researched have diverse majors, many of them have two wholly separate colleges, and never the twain shall meet. Every MIT alumnae I have spoken to has some friends in entirely random majors. Since I am interested in primarily mathematics and music, and secondarily writing and theater, integration of various majors matters to me. I would be bored if I were limited to only one major, or to interacting only with students of one realm.

What attribute of your personality are you most proud of, and how has it impacted your life so far? This could be your creativity, effective leadership, sense of humor, integrity, or anything else you'd like to tell us about. (200-250 words)

I struggled with this question because I think of myself as a whole, so I researched ‘personality’.

The Oxford English Dictionary says that a personality is “that quality…which makes a person what he is, as distinct from other persons.” I can think of nothing more distinctly personal to my self than my singing.

In third grade, I opened my mouth to sing while walking across the blacktop, then came to a complete stop. I knew it was my voice, but it was so much richer, easier, better than I had ever heard it. As I stood stunned, a person turned to me.

“Was that you?”

I nodded.

“You have a lovely voice.”

I had a talent.

As I grew, I found other things I areas where I excelled, but few gave me the same feeling. I learn things and reflect them, like sunlight hitting the moon. Singing makes me a sun.

My obsessions revolve around that idea: I can create something, then radiate it. I can communicate. Writing, explaining, teaching, music, storytelling, mathematics—everything I do for fun came from the idea that started with singing.

I say singing, and not communication, because singing is my first love, and because singing is mine. I recognized singing as a talent long before I wrote for fun, and I remember being baffled at all these students who did not enjoy the school choir.

Even without any friend, singing would give me a home. If nothing else, I sing.

Describe the world you come from; for example, your family, clubs, school, community, city, or town. How has that world shaped your dreams and aspirations? (200-250 words)

My homes encourage sideways thinking. My parents and brother and I all pun and use sarcasm regularly, as well as having in-depth conversations about important issues. The same dinner might include a shoe/issue/eschew pun, a discussion on bisexual rights as they relate to queer rights as they relate to human rights, and an oddly worded sign my mother noticed at her work.

Other than my family, my homes are the gifted community and the arts community. The gifted community means oddly intelligent people, which leads to odd social conventions and conversations that fluctuate and finish randomly. Having fun means looking at how things work and communicating well.

Art is expression through odd media, as all communication is. Spoken language makes no sense to those who do not speak it; written word is a visual expression of that auditory medium. Even in the case of realistic painting or sculpture, one needs to break the subject into simpler shapes to learn to recreate it. And great art means making something new. Looking through standard angles makes that nearly impossible—looking at old paths in the old ways does not create new ideas.

These homes mean I love other perspectives. Each different way of seeing I find is another way to talk to one more person, which allows me to exist outside myself. This is why I want to be both a teacher and an artist—both, if successful, touch many lives, and both communicate.

Tell us about the most significant challenge you've faced or something important that didn't go according to plan. How did you manage the situation? (200-250 words)

The first time I came out as bisexual was in the middle of my seventh-grade homeroom. All classmates within hearing chorused, “Ew!” Having never created a plan that allowed for that outcome, I turned around in my seat and put my head into my book. I took nothing from the event at the time, and had that been my only chance to come out, I would have learned nothing I did not know before.

Luckily, coming out is not something one does once. I came out in seventh grade to near-strangers; I came out to most of my family a few years ago; I am coming out by writing this. I had more chances to find accepting groups—including my mother, who is bisexual herself. Though I found others who were in outright denial about the fact that a person could be attracted to masculine and feminine traits, I am confident enough in myself that I can accept these as marks of ignorance and lack of tact.

I continue to be open, even when I am scared, because I see that fear for what it is: ignorance. Every time I make a mark on others’ preconceptions, I make the journey that much easier for the next bisexual. I make communication that much easier. I do not pretend I change the whole world every time I say that I am what I am, but I leave my ripples, and they add up.


It was a bar, and anyone who bothered to walk over could see, but it was as private as we got. Any random person could walk in off the street and overhear us, but most of them didn't understand what we were saying, anyway. Relied too much on visuals you needed to know by heart, and if you didn't then the dark interspersed with sickly yellow lighting wouldn't help. Anyway, the people we really didn't want knowing wouldn't be caught dead here.

The plans were short, this time. It took me all of two seconds to realize why, but I wasn't about to say it aloud. "There's no exit strategy." That honor went to dear Jacobi.

Arlene nodded calmly. "Not enough information. We would need to improvise."

I nodded. "So it’s a suicide mission.”

Arlene shrugged. “I’m either dying or sitting here useless for the rest of my life.”

“So it’s a fun suicide mission.”

She shrugged, and gestured with her glass. “If I go down, I’d rather go down spectacularly.”

I clinked my glass with hers. “Cheers to that.”

"How are you two so calm about this?" Jacobi asked, in apparently honest bafflement.

Arlene and I exchanged a glance. "Well." I shrugged and tipped my drink down my throat. ”Tomorrow is going to suck. I'm gonna go find something fun for tonight.”


Jacobi's eyes swung to the sky, then closed. "All right. See you there."

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Love and Love

"Priorities and Sanity" 'verse.

Her first love is the obvious one, the one Emilia had since childhood. Love of helping, love of being helpful. This one could be two, if Emilia separated them, and she had. "But it's not terribly sensible," she mutters to herself as she scratches down the vague sentiments in her journal, as much to make sense of everything as to document. Helping people means another is in less pain, and being helpful means that she is a person--she writes, People are helpful, objects are useful., a phrase thought so often that she's unsure if she'd ever written it--but they both give her the same glowy feeling. Emilia knows herself well enough to separate the sources, but it's like separating love for two distant relatives. The love is because they are family. The love is because she helps.

The second is one she had certainly not had at the beginning of her apprenticeship, though she was aware of it and vaguely wanted after it. Some might call it "true love", though Emilia always felt that true love was agape, not eros.

She felt stirrings, of course, even before apprenticing. He's cute, or I really want to kiss her. But those were brief urges, and easily enough ignored, forgotten, or pushed aside until she could deal with them on her own terms. Though the mageling can do that with her feelings about Dale, they keep coming back. And after the first few times, she doesn't want to push the feelings away. It's like denying help to a person in need--she can do it, especially when the need is slight, but it hurts her just the same.

Emilia hates lying. It twists her gut and lungs in unpleasant ways, and sticks them that way for hours or days, depending on how big the lie. So when Dale asks, "Do you want to go to the dance with me?" she says, "Yes," because she does. It is irresponsible to go, but she does want to.

And now she shuts her journal and walks to Dr. Johnson's office, because that is the responsible thing to do. Or because she reached the point where she needs a person to focus her thoughts, and not just paper. Her teacher is good for that; he asks the right things.

"Professor?" He's working at the blackboard. "I told Dale I'd go with him to the dance."

"You are aware Dale lost his magic around your age." Professor doesn't look up. That's relaxing; she's never known him to offer any punishment without looking the person in the eye.

Her honesty nudges her. "I forgot, in the moment. But yes."

"You have more than enough hours this week," Dr. Johnson adds as he goes back to correct an equation, "even if it were standard practice for students to work in the libraries on their Friday evenings. I assume you are not here to apologize over that, though you may be trying to believe it so." He turns to her, eyes still a startling blue from some experiment-gone-odd. Or maybe right. She wasn't there. "Have you admitted the reason to yourself yet?" A little tic from his original language; the literal way to say figured out was admitted to yourself.

"Not until the present moment, no." She shakes her head: to emphasize the negative, to clear it. "I don't think I can be both."

Gently, "Finish the thought."

"I am not sure I can be a sexual being and a healer, concurrently, without sacrificing an important part of at least one."

"Tell the story."

Emilia's eyes focus on something not in his immaculate, airless office. "The young woman thinks she can't be both what she wants to be and what she thinks a woman is. She goes half-mad trying to choose one, but ultimately does. If she chooses to be a woman, she falls into a depression that someone close to the woman side of her--a lover, a family member, or a friend--pulls her partially out of, then she pulls herself all the way out. If she chooses what she wants to be, she discovers she wants to be a woman, too, while off on some adventure, and figures out on her own that she can be both. If the story needs added page-count, she overcompensates before settling down, and if it is a tragedy, she will never quite realize she can be both."

Her professor smiles. "Finish the thought."

Now that Emilia thinks of it, the story is a classical heroine's journey. The answer is obvious enough. "I don't want my life to be a tragedy," Emilia says dryly. "I'm going to the dance with Dale. Thanks, Professor."

"My pleasure." He turns back to the board. "Oh, and the protagonist in the tale need not be a woman." Which means, I empathize, and, Remember Dale may feel the same way, or both. Dr. Johnson is a male healing mage, and Dale had the crisis of confidence that losing something as important as one's magic brought.

She nods. "Thank you, Professor."

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Intermediate, Or: Translation

Pt II of "Priorities and Sanity", by a popular request of one.

The first weeks fall into no particular chronological order in Emilia's memories. The book is basic healing magic, sacrificing one's own energy to put into another. She takes to it well. She heals a dove, stitches up a dog's paw, and learns how to use the fire magic she has to cauterize wounds and sterilize surgical instruments--she's not performing major surgery yet, but she's well on her way to helping. It's the first few weeks; she hardly expected even that.

Somewhere in the middle of that, Dr. Johnson tells her to call him "Professor". She asks why, mostly out of surprise, which is how she learns he isn't a native speaker of her language.

"The vocabulary translates imperfectly, but it's the closest way to phrase it I've found."

Emilia's confused a moment before the obvious clicks into place. She assumed the oddly precise diction to be part of his persona in general, but it made just as much sense as a side-effect of a learned language. He had grown up with different vowels, probably; his diphthongs were always strangely pure. She almost asked him what he spoke first, but he was handing her another book, and this one taught healing humans.

And some point that must have been after that, Professor would tell her about that particular book, about the effect it had on nearly every student who would not be a healer. "Humans have a resonance to them," a similarity in wavelength that threw many mages-in-training. Even if you knew a spell quite well, even if you had used it before, even if you were only thinking of using it on a human, could be jarring. The book was the first test, because the feeling would distress, but not harm. "Usually, the sensation is akin to a papercut."

Professor eyes her closely and watches her cast the spells, asking a great many questions. So many distractions that they annoy her, but when her focus finally breaks, she just winces at the sting and says, "Sorry."

He nods. "Good. No resonance issues." And that must have been before she knew about the human-human resonance, because Emilia remembers not knowing. It strikes her as an odd thing to be such rare knowledge, but supposes that only healers have to worry about it.

She remembers asking, though she's not sure if it was immediate. "Healing something more like yourself has a greater chance of shifting injuries, rather than simply healing them. Casting such a spell on one's identical twin, for instance, is the most dangerous, as it has the issues of casting on someone your phenotype, genotype, age and gender. Healing a sibling or non-identical twin is roughly as dangerous in practice."

And then Emilia's first resonance. Not her first human--that was an octogenarian, of significantly different racial background. Not even, oddly enough, her fellow student, who could almost be her sister. Privately, Emilia believes she was more careful because of that, though admitting so means stating that she was not careful with the burned eight-year-old, which isn't quite right.
Suzy is bawling. Not the poorly suppressed sobs that Emilia had seen in her patients, nor the dead-eye look a few of them had, nor choosing to allow oneself to weep because of a lack of pride, just...bawling. No choice one way or the other. Pain meets lacking inhibitions; tears fall.

"H-Help me. Mama said you could help me!"

Emilia flinches. Professor's eyes are on her back, but he's done too much that day, or something, there's some reason that means she has to help this girl who's in pain and it doesn't matter that she's exhausted too, she just has to fix the burn that's running up the poor thing's arm all the way to her shoulder and so she just

Emilia forgets absolutely everything she's been taught, grabs the girl's arm, and jerks the pain straight back, snapping Suzy's skin to perfection.

Emilia jerks back and hisses a syllable she heard Professor say exactly once, when a mother mid-messed up labor came in. Suzy's burn had been on her left, and this burn is on Emilia's right arm--the one she'd grabbed at Suzy's hurt with--but beyond that, it's identical.

"Resonance," Professor said, softly.

Emilia nodded. She had enough control not to be outwardly distressed over the pain, but it took the whole of her focus. "Would you take Suzy to her father? I need to treat this."

Professor nodded and took Suzy's hand.

Resonance is difficult-nearing-impossible with a sibling. A twin is more difficult, but at that point the bell curve is already so low that people hardly notice. Which means...

Emilia ran the burn under cool water, then set something warm on it to keep the blood flowing.

It was as if whoever created the universe decided that healer's couldn't be selfish. No matter the training, a healer would always auto-resonate. No healing mage could self-heal.
In a little cooldown room, now, where doctors can go and not have to worry about patients or next of kin who insist they could have done more. Emilia sits at a table with apple juice in a sippy cup, because it's definitely one of those days.

"What happened today?" Professor says it in a gentle tone, which meant she screwed up badly enough to warrant eggshell treatment.

"I obsessed over the wrong detail and got resonance."

Professor nods and hands Emilia a jar of something. "For the burn. Finish the thought."

The last three words fall into a rhythm, and Emilia guesses this was another thing from his original language. "I...I think I don't fully understand what you mean by that."

"Answer what you think I asked, then."

Emilia adjusts the coat she'd hung over the back of her chair, pretending it bothered her. She unscrews the lid of the ointment jar and notices that it actually smells nice--vanilla? Her eyes dart to his with surprise, and then she has to answer. "I focused on an end result rather than what I should have done to achieve it. In doing so, I endangered both the child and myself more than I needed to."

"Finish the story." That same rhythm. Whatever it was, it turned the order polite, curious and gentle rather than demanding.

Emilia sips at her apple juice. "It is good to remember such things." She stares at the ointment a moment. "This is non-magical?"

"Correct." Brief, even for him, as if it were not his place to interrupt the story she was telling.

"I think..." Emilia looks at her arm. What she saw as a mirror of the scars is much milder. The resonance injured her, but not severely. She would scar, just a bit, but had she gotten this from pouring hot water on herself, she would treat it mundanely and carry on. "The main character keeps what scars she gained. For remembrance's sake. Not out of guilt, that would be childish. Just is good to remember such things."

Professor nods and the spell breaks. "As you wish."

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Steve Jobs

February 24, 1955 – October 5, 2011

He died. He was a visionary; he changed the world. The iPod and iTunes did not exist, now my computer's dictionary recognizes the words. He did not invent the computer, but he did help it become common. He did not invent the mouse, but he did popularize it.

He had 56 full years. I say this not because 56 years was enough, but to drive home how much he did in his time.

You know all this, if only vaguely. I cannot imagine someone who would find this blog and not know it, by now, and I can hardly imagine this blog, this post, outlasting the memory of the man. I do not need to tell you all this, but I say it anyway, in introduction and in memory.

What I do not say is that technology has been dealt a blow by his death.

I see this statement, in too many of his obituaries. As if Steve Jobs did not push technology forward, did not act as an accelerating force, but simply kept the system of enhancement from falling apart. It horrifies me. Steve Jobs was amazing, he was exceptional, and he sped the world with his ideas, his angle of attack, and his actions. This is fantastic. This is the mark of something lasting.

I believe he wanted it to continue without him. Did he not, he would have stayed head of the company to the last day, or given up on it when he saw death so near. He did not. He named a successor. The company will continue, if changed; technology will advance; the Earth will spin on its axis.

We have lost an orator. We have lost a visionary. We have lost someone who could see something, understand it, sell it. We lost a storyteller. We lost a man.

We did not lose our ability to adapt. Leonardo da Vinci died; Shakespeare died; Steve Jobs died. These are tragedies. These are beautiful things that passed. Yet we lived without them, we grew enough to have a society where they could have the effects they did--writing, printing press, microchips. We shall continue, and all the better for the fact that they were.

In honor of him...well, as I said, we lost a storyteller. He said it better than I would.
"Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on."

Languid Grace

Post written before this week's main news-consuming event.

How you would describe the walk depended on where you grew up. Those from places without highly visible nobles would never call it the walk of a noble--he was too confident. Nobles are, literally, self-conscious. Ever step could falter; any falter could bring disaster. Even the nobles who do not fear this are aware of it. Those who are not aware are too unaware of their surroundings to be this confident. One can be cocky or naive in one's ignorance, but confidence of this sort requires experience. This is one who has passed through I have seen the world and I am not impressed, and found in its place, I have seen the world. I can thrive anywhere.

One might compare it to a noble if one had seen the right nobles. Some have that, though it is rare for hereditary titles. One needs to pass through many walks of life to find this look, and those with hereditary titles are often locked into their path too soon. But the knight who started a blacksmith's child and grew to marry the king's daughter through skill of cunning...he might have it.

Those who knew tigers might compare the walk to a tiger's. Those who knew of, as well. That same grace and quiet, and the same feeling that wasn't in your head anymore, was just a thump in your chest that froze you or said run.

And, of course, that little tinge at the back of your head, the knowledge that you are still better for having this one in front of you than behind. A tiger snaps at your neck, after all, and one who walks with this languid grace could bring your world tumbling.

You can train yourself around either fear, to face the tiger and the languid grace. And as you walk those steps, as you sharpen spear, mind, tongue, your strides lengthen, your feet quiet, your eyes watch. It's a graceful turn to your body, and one you hardly think of anymore. Each movement planned, but merely from a set you planned years ago. So efficient as to look lazy, unless you've walked paths enough to see the mirror...

Monday, October 3, 2011

Second Anniversary

Indeed, it has occurred. I know because I set this to post on the second anniversary.

Yeah, it's kinda cheating.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Abby, Maggie and Sylan

Abby had mostly shed the feminine form, and Sylan had yet to truly adopt a human one. For the sake of brevity, Sylan shall be 'it', though it is more animate than that implies, and Abby shall be 'she'.

Sylan was smiling, or doing something we would best understand as a smile. "Ah, the lovely lady Abigail. Delighted." Sylan bowed over Abby's hand.

Abby sighed and muttered, "Again?"

Sylan straightened and tipped his head to the side. " 'Again'?"

"At the very least I can imagine an excuse for Margaret."

Sylan grinned at the confirmation of his guess. "You can't destroy something that encompasses you, darling."

Abby let out a huff, then realized she suddenly looked like someone's (overdone) idea of an adolescent daughter, make-up and all.

Mostly due to Maggie's influence, she deadpanned, "You're not even my real Dad."

Sylan laughed. "Oh, I can see why Maggie liked you. Where did she get off to, anyway?"

"Here," Maggie said, fading in draped over Abby's shoulders. "I die sometimes, though. It's vaguely unpleasant."

Abby gave the long-suffering sigh of old souls and the pretentious. "If you did not insist on touching me..."

"Aw, now what fun is that?" Maggie kissed Abby's cheek. "Wouldn't ever get to do anything, if I went around doing things like that." She glanced at Sylan. "You alright with this? It looks like she's thinking of herself as your child."

Sylan shrugged. "She isn't." It suddenly looked curious, itching to figure something out. "Any pattern to when you die?"

Maggie's eyes danced. "Midnight."

"And does it happen if you're not touching her at midnight?"

"No." But there was laughter in her eyes, and Abby had the barest hint of a smile on her lips. The not-quite-smiling woman breathed, "Three, two..."

"Then why not just refrain for a few moments?"

Maggie laughed outright. "My midnight, dear. Don't you know the stories? Midnight can last hours."

"Days," Abby added, eyes crinkling.

Sylan blinked. "That makes no sense."

"Magic," the girls said together. Maggie continued, "I'm not of your realm, Sy. Good on you for trying though; it'll work anywhere but here." Magic lifted one hand to gesture to the not-space that they had quasi-manifested in. "Wouldn't've, but then Abby convinced me to stick with her." Mag's nose buried itself in the hair behind Abby's neck.

"Some would believe it good for them," Abby said, dancing around a direct statement. " 'They can figure it out now.'"

"I could've given them the exact measurements on the first try, if I wanted to," Maggie sighed in the tone of an old argument.

Sylan shook his head. "Do you follow any rules?"

"I can't create," Abby said, at the same time Maggie said, "I can't destroy."

Sylan blinked. "You two together..."

"Would be a force to be reckoned with," Maggie said cheerfully. "Good thing I've decided not to do anything to the world anymore, or we'd probably be running the joint as non-benevolent dictators. It's just so hard to keep track of who's a person, you know?"

Sylan half-smiled. "I just try to be fair to everything."

Maggie shrugged, then began fading. "Oh. Midnight. Going to take a few minutes this time, I think."

"I'll leave you two your minutes, then. See you later."

"Eventually," Abby noted.

"Probably not me," Maggie said in a chipper tone. "I only come out when it's dramatically appropriate, and you've already met me once."

"What about Abby?"

The Cheshire Cat would envy Maggie's grin. "Well, I hardly need to follow all the rules."
© 2009-2013 Taylor Hobart