Friday, December 8, 2017

En Garde! The Niche Sport of Fencing

By Bridget Marturano
Fall 2017 Intern


When I was younger, I always dreamed of being a pirate or a knight. When I discovered the sport of fencing at age 8, that dream came true.

There are three different types of fencing: foil, epee and sabre.

In foil, the target area is only the torso, and you must hit with the point of the weapon (there’s a little button that gets pressed in, it’s not sharp!). There are also special rules called “right of way” to determine who gets the point if both people hit.

In epee, the target area is the whole body, and you must hit with the point, but there is no right of way—if both people hit, they both get a point!

In sabre—the weapon that I fence—the target area is anywhere waist up, including the head! Like foil, the right of way rules apply, but unlike either of the other two weapons, you don’t have to hit with the point of the weapon. You can hit with the side of the blade, which makes it seem more like the fencing you might see in Pirates of the Caribbean.

After fencing for 13 years, I’ve had the opportunity to travel across the country for national tournaments, compete for an NCAA team, and meet Olympians. Fencing is a thrilling and unique sport that you can start at any age. Try it!

Science and Sweets: Why Some of Us Like Candy and Others Don’t

By Christine H. Chen
Fall 2017 Intern

 
With the holiday season upon us, many of us will indulge in sweet treats at the office and at home, unless you are someone who does not care much for sweets, a concept that may surprise some of us candy lovers!

It turns out our sweet tooth has to do with two genetic variants of a hormone known as FGF21. Published research from the University of Copenhagen showed that individuals with the genetic variants rs838133 and rs838145 were 20 percent more likely to eat sweets than individuals lacking these variants. These two genetic variations of the FGF21 hormone are amazingly specific to the craving of candies like lollipops, but do not seem to have any effect on the fattier sweets like cupcakes and other pastries.

A separate study asked participants whether they liked sweets or not, and found that those who did had 50 percent less FGF21 hormone in their blood, suggesting that the hormone regulates sugar cravings. In other words, having lower levels of FGF21 or having a mutated version will cause you to eat more sugar.

The good news is FGF21 levels do not necessarily correlate with weight gain, so don’t let that hold you back from enjoying some holiday treats this season!


PSG Favorites: Video Games

by Bridget Marturano
Fall 2017 Intern 


One of my favorite ways to unwind after work or on the weekend is by playing video games. Here are some of our staff’s favorite games to play!

  •             Don jokes that Adobe InDesign is his favorite “game” because he’s so good at it. But as far as console games go, he prefers to stick to Forza and Rock Band—racing and rocking!
  •             Melina enjoys scary games such as the Silent Hill and Resident Evil franchises. Even though they’re very creepy (she always keeps the lights on while playing), she has a lot of fun solving the puzzles they contain. She also loves the music from the Silent Hill games.
  •             Lori used to play Ms. Pac-Man after school every day in junior high and also loves Tetris. Years ago a friend told her, “Your brain operates like Tetris. Not everyone’s does, so use it well!”
  •             Sarah is a fan of older games that she grew up with. She still regularly plays her Nintendo 64 and PlayStation 2 as well as her Game Boy Advance SP. She also loves World of Warcraft.

As for me, my favorite series will always be The Legend of Zelda, but I’ve recently gotten into the Final Fantasy series. In my opinion, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Final Fantasy VI are two of the best role-playing games (RPGs) ever. I love games that have a good balance between fighting and puzzle solving, as well as a good story!

Monday, November 27, 2017

dOGUMENTA: an Art Exhibit for Dogs!


By Bridget Marturano
Fall 2017 Intern

This past August, an art exhibit took place in New York City. This doesn’t seem too unusual, considering that NYC is a great place for art. What made this exhibit so special was that it wasn’t for humans—it was for dogs.

This unique idea formed when art critic and dog owner Jessica Dawson took her dog, Rocky, for walks through art galleries. Dawson believed that dogs view and interact with art differently than people do, and that they could teach us something new about art and ourselves.

The name of the exhibit, dOGUMENTA, took its name from a contemporary art exhibition in Germany called Documenta, and featured a variety of media that incorporated color, sound, scent and touch into the pieces. This was the first art exhibit for dogs in the United States, but hopefully there will be more events like it in the future!

When Is the Movie Better Than the Book?

 



by Melina Leon
Fall 2017 Intern

I think one of the surest ways to find yourself in a disagreement with someone is by telling them a film adaptation is better than the original book. Of course, it is all a matter of personal opinion, but what films make that unpopular opinion true?

Here are some films I feel succeeded the books.
  • Girl, Interrupted: The book lacked so much detail that the movie included, especially about the characters.
  • The Witches of Eastwick: The women are much more likeable in the film and are supportive of each other, unlike in the book when they always use magic against other women.
  • The Rules of Attraction: The book is great, but lost me toward the end because it included a lot of unnecessary detail, and the main character, although always shallow, became unbearably self-righteous. On screen however, he had qualities that made me understand why he was the way he was.
  • Pyscho: The character of Norman Bates is so much more charming on the screen than he is on the page.


Whether or not you always believe the original format is best, it’s always fun to see the words come to life on the screen!

PSG Picks: Our Favorite Mystery & Crime Books!



by Christine Chen
Fall 2017 Intern 

Halloween is over, and with it, the sense of mystery and spookiness, but that doesn’t mean we can’t submerge ourselves in a good mystery or crime book! Here are what some of us at PSG have to say about our favorite books and authors when we’re seeking suspense.
  • Nora loves reading mystery novels from classic authors Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, as well as young adult mystery writers like Brittany Cavallaro, who wrote a series based on Sherlock Holmes with a modern female detective as the protagonist. Nora is currently wrapped up in The Mystery of Hollow Places by Rebecca Podos, whom she heard speak at a book festival.
  •  Kate doesn’t turn to mystery and crime novels often, but a few have caught her attention. When she found out J K Rowling had written a detective novel under a pseudonym (Robert Galbraith), she bought The Cuckoo’s Calling, and really enjoyed the plot twists throughout the novel before the final reveal. Rowling/Galbraith has since released two other novels about the same detective, and Kate is looking forward to reading those next! The BBC even made a television series (Strike) based on the novels, which Kate hopes will be available on American TV soon.
  • Tess doesn’t usually read mysteries, but, a few summers ago, she read Stephen King’s 11/22/63 and loved the thriller aspect of the sci-fi novel. Tess generally enjoys reading stories with a twist at the end, so she is considering reading more mystery and crime books, especially by classic female authors, such as Nora’s favorite, Christie.
  • As for me, I have a fascination for Scandinavian mystery and crime writers of the likes of Jo Nesbø (his novel The Snowman has been recently made into a movie of the same title) and Stieg Larsson (author of the Millennium trilogy). I’ve also recently finished binge-reading the Inspector Wallander series by Swedish crime writer Henning Mankell. I look forward to watching the adaptation of Mankell’s characters in the Swedish TV series Wallander and comparing it to the novels.
With winter on its way, what better way to make use of the cold, dark days than getting wrapped up in a great mystery or crime book? Consider these suggestions from our staff!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Glossophobia: Better Not Eat Before a Speech

By Melina Leon
Fall 2017 Intern

Just kidding . . . it’s probably not best to make a speech on an empty stomach. But don’t worry, if you’re one of many people with glossophobia, the fear of public speaking, there are some tips and tricks to calm the feeling of nervousness—and, in some cases, nausea—before publicly speaking.

This Harper’s Bazaar article gives some great advice to get over the fear. Some good tips are to know your audience and their expectations; find your natural voice and what you’re comfortable with; write down notes for reference if allowed and familiarize yourself with them; and, most importantly, breathe!

The best way to conquer nerves is to focus on breathing, says Patsy Rodenburg, a Shakespearean voice coach who has worked with many famous actors. Rodenburg also recommends practicing out loud. In an article with the Guardian, Rodenburg says, “The body houses the voice, and the breath energizes it.” A physical warm-up is just as necessary as a vocal one because it is all connected.

However, warm-ups are often overlooked, which can hinder the quality of the speech. There is more to preparing than just memorization. A simple stretching warm-up, paired with breathing exercises, can make a big improvement in the presentation.

Not only will these exercises make you feel more prepared, they will help ease away the nerves so you can feel confident in how you are speaking! So long, glossophobia!

Meeting One of My Heroes: An Evening with Patrick Rothfuss

by Bridget Marturano
Fall 2017 Intern

A few weeks ago, I got to meet my favorite author—Patrick Rothfuss. He was doing a book tour to celebrate the release of the tenth anniversary edition of his fantasy novel The Name of the Wind, and made a stop at Brookline Booksmith to do a Q&A session in the store’s basement and a signing upstairs afterwards.

I wasn’t able to secure a ticket for a seat at the Q&A, but because I arrived almost two hours early, I was able to go downstairs and stand in the back for the Q&A. Everyone who hadn’t arrived so eagerly early was still able to listen to the session over a loudspeaker upstairs.

After the session, I waited for about an hour to get my book signed. There were hundreds of people crammed into this small bookstore, but he happily talked with each person as he signed their books. When it was my turn, he greeted me with a smile and asked how I was doing in a way that wasn’t just a greeting, but a genuine question. We talked briefly and then I said goodbye so the next person could have their book signed.

Getting to meet the person behind the writing I’ve admired for years was amazing and definitely worth the wait!

Pok-A-Tok: A Mayan Ball Game

by Christine Chen
Fall 2017 Intern

In my recently found passion for pre-Colombian cultures, I went to visit Chichén Itzá, a world famous site of Mayan ruins in Yucatán, Mexico. The site hosts one of the largest surviving stone courts where the Maya once competed in a ball game sport called Pok-A-Tok, derived from the Yucatec Mayan word pokolpok.

The court at Chichén Itzá measures 551 feet long and 230 feet wide—about twice the size of an American football field— with surrounding walls that are 26 feet high. Teams of two to three players competed by using their padded elbows, arms, knees, thighs and shoulders—but no hands—to bounce a solid rubber ball through an inverted stone hoop in the center of the wall. The ball, ranging from the size of a softball to a soccer ball, could weigh up to 20 pounds.

Can you imagine how challenging it must have been to throw a 20-pound rubber ball through a 20-foot-high hoop without using your hands? According to my guide in Chichén Itzá, the feat proved so difficult that modern men were unable to replicate the game in the stone court!

The Text With No Meaning: Lorem Ipsum

by Melina Leon
2017 Fall Intern

Imagine randomly hitting the keys on your computer, creating nonsense words as you type. I like to imagine that is how Lorem Ipsum—the filler text that often comes standard with many digital publishing programs—started. However, it actually started with a printer from the 1500s who scrambled up one of Cicero's works, which may be why it’s often mistaken for Latin.

To my surprise, though, Lorem Ipsum isn’t readable Latin. The text doesn’t mean anything at all. It does consist of some Latin words, but the words go through “Greeking,” a process that makes the text unreadable.

Lorem Ipsum is the dummy text of the design world. The purpose of it is to make it easier for designers to get an idea of how their work will look until they have the final text to insert. Another purpose of this filler text is to avoid any distractions that readable text could cause during the layout process.

It’s a shame I can’t write my college papers using Lorem Ipsum!


PSG Reads: Our Favorite Nonfiction

by Bridget Marturano
Fall 2017 Intern 

Fall is a great time to curl up with a good book, and it’s no surprise that we love to read at PSG! This week we asked our staff about nonfiction. Here are some of our favorite titles:

  •            Nora loves In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. The first nonfiction book that she read and loved, Nora says that the story was enveloping and chilling to read. She also loves Stephen King’s memoir On Writing for its humor and advice to writers.
  •           Melina agrees with Nora and also loves Stephen King’s On Writing, which she describes as “a refreshing read with a lot of useful tips on becoming a better writer.” She also enjoys how King shares a lot about his life, making the read both informative and entertaining!
  •            Don enjoyed Alone by Richard E. Byrd, who spent five months alone in a shack in Antarctica in 1934. The autobiography is based on the author’s diary entries, which become more and more incomprehensible as he slowly succumbs to carbon monoxide poisoning from his malfunctioning heater. (Spoiler alert: He lives to publish the book!)
  •            Annette’s favorite nonfiction book is Me Talk Pretty One Day, which is a collection of hilarious essays by David Sedaris.
  •           Tess usually prefers fiction, but has a wide range of interests when it comes to nonfiction. She enjoyed Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer when she had to read it in high school. She also loves reading biographies about classical Hollywood actresses like Audrey Hepburn and memoirs written about people’s experiences during WWII.

As for me, I read fiction almost exclusively but I’ve been having a lot of fun reading the textbook for my Intro to Linguistics class—learning about language is a reader’s dream!



In Sync: How Our Brain Waves Affect Each Other

by Christine Chen
Fall 2017 Intern

Most of us have, at some point, felt in sync with a friend or a family member because of a shared experience or shared perspectives. Not only can this “feeling” be measured in oscillation patterns of electrical signals—brain waves— that occur when brain cells communicate with each other, but brain-scanning studies revealed that human brain wave patterns do synchronize in an interactive group of people.

In one such study, researchers had a group of students wear portable electroencephalogram (EEG) headsets to measure changes in their brain wave patterns for the duration of a biology course at a New York high school. Brain waves known as beta bands started synchronizing among the subjects as they were learning. When the students’ brain waves were in sync with one another, the students became more engaged with the class and gave positive feedback about the course and the teacher.
What this study suggests is the mutual benefit of interacting with one another one-on-one or as a team: syncing our brain waves can help improve collaboration and advance a mutual goal. So let’s sync!