Sunday, March 23, 2014

The State of Cycling at MDC Wolfson Campus

Pinecrest Bike Day 2014.

The modern bicycle is the most efficient human-powered vehicle available, yet it’s treated like a second-class mode of transportation on at least one college campus.

Cycling to Miami Dade College’s Wolfson Campus, located in the heart of Downtown Miami, is a ride that Earth Ethics Institute director Colleen Ahern-Hettich says one must be “very prepared” for. Following traffic signals, riding on the rightmost side of the street and wearing a helmet are musts. Riding on sidewalks, she says, which many people do as an incorrect perception of heightened safety, is actually “a recipe for

The second-class feeling, though, sets in when the parking facilities at the campus are evaluated. Currently, the only site for bicycle lockup that is on MDC Wolfson property and not the public sidewalk is an area sectioned off by metal gates and a door that anyone can open, located adjacent to Faculty Parking Lot 1. 


Earth Ethics Institute Program Assistant, Heidi Lellelid, has cited the lack of security of this area, namely due to the unmonitored access and egress the area provides.

The limited bicycle parking amenities at the Wolfson Campus appear unjust in the face of its largest vehicular parking amenity, a multi-story lot complete with elevator access and 24-hour security personnel.

Activist group Transportation Alternatives (founded in 1973) has published a “Major in Bicycling” booklet aimed at providing suggestions as to how to make a college campus bicycle friendly. One of their suggestions is forming student unions that will join together and create a louder voice in support of better cycling in their college campuses and beyond.

Both Lellelid and Transportation Alternatives are in agreement that increasing awareness of people cycling to and from their jobs and classes is a key part of obtaining better cycling amentities. Christian Casas, an MDC student, tried to start a bicycle awareness club along with Lellelid called Miami Mobilized, which met for at least one meeting during the Fall 2013 semester. The Earth Ethics Institute itself has approached the head of the security department at the campus regarding bicycle safety concerns; amongst the Institute’s ideas for increasing bicycle safety is having heavy-duty chains permanently affixed to the bicycle racks that can be locked by use of a cheap padlock, as well as re-designing the Lot 1 area in such a way that an MDCard is required to enter.

Transportation Alternatives, based in NYC, and Green Mobility Network, based here in Miami, also both recommend “complete streets”, a form of road design that includes street lamps, dedicated bus lanes and separated bike lanes in addition regular car lanes. These “complete streets” are designed for all commuters, not just those driving cars.

Dr. Edwin Gines-Candelaria, Associate Professor of Biology at the Wolfson Campus, adds that the key to safe bicycle parking at the Wolfson campus is the installation of bicycle racks in places where there is a large “transit” of people, so as to prevent a situation where a thief can take his time to work on removing a bicycle lock. Gines-Candelaria has had bicycle tampered with at least two times with “a couple of years” in between. One incident forced him to ride back to South Beach without a saddle.

There’s a chance, though, that the awareness might grow on its own. Both Lellelid and Ahern-Hettich note that the amount of bicycles parked in places like the Faculty Parking Lot 1 area has increased substantially since the lot’s renovation two years ago.

As Miami’s population and subsequent vehicular congestion continue to grow, the idea of commuting by bicycle will represent a viable transportation option in the minds of Miamian commuters. One can only hope that the infrastructure to support this will follow pace accordingly.
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Friday, February 28, 2014

Tabletop Gaming a Phenomenon at MDC Wolfson

“That dragon has to be a Normal monster, and it can be from Hand, Deck or Graveyard.” “Imagine if you
Isaachar Vinajeras, a proud owner of multiple Yu-Gi-Oh! decks
and a computer science student at Miami Dade College.
get Dark Knight!” “Defense!”

These are the kinds of exclamations you’ve probably heard if you’ve walked past the tables adjacent Teatro Prometeo on the first floor of Building 1, on almost any given day.

On a sunny Wednesday afternoon, Isaachar Vinajeras, an avid collector of Yu-Gi-Oh! trading cards, sits across from his opponent, a lean youth with black Skullcandy headphones and a short haircut. Both players have mats set out in front of them atop the table, made of a soft felt and decorated with bold illustrations of fictitious creatures. Both of them also have their trusty Deck-Boxes to their right.

As the game ensues, they shuffle shiny paper cards – each one inserted into plastic card protectors – and declare monster names, “what if” plays and attack and defense points with practiced yet modest bravado.

Vinajeras, a computer science student at Miami Dade College’s Wolfson Campus says that Yu-Gi-Oh! is his “hobby”. Inside his bookbag, he’s got three boxes of Yu-Gi-Oh! cards, worth hundreds.

He proudly arrays the cards in a crescent upon request.

Vinajeras and his opponents are but two participants of a recurring yet unregulated communion of people – not all of them necessarily MDC students – that join together at almost any time of the day to play card games such as Yu-Gi-Oh! and Magic.

Jesus Acosta, Vice President of Anime Unleashed, says that the table gaming produces a domino effect, wherein increasing amounts of bystanders are motivated to join by simple curiosity.

Although Yu-Gi-Oh! fanatic Vinajeras sits down to play in between classes, Acosta says that the earliest he’s seen players huddled up is 8 a.m.; the latest, 9 p.m.

Many of the attendees know each other through three campus clubs: TableTop Gaming, which focuses on “traditional tabletop games” such as Magic: The Gathering; Video Game Association, whose goal is to produce their own video game, and Anime Unleashed, which affords fans of the genre a chance to enjoy it together.

“Most of the people [that] go to Tabletop, Anime Unleashed, and VGA; we’re all the same group,” says Miguel Diaz, president of the campus’ Video Game Association. “We’re all the nerds.”

Diaz, whose VGA club was featured in Miami Dade College’s student newspaper, The Reporter in February of 2012, says that youth who would normally find themselves on the fringe of society due to their nerdy or geeky interests have jumped on an opportunity to come together.

“Whoouch!” and an accompanying gesture of two hands forcefully coming together is how Diaz describes the phenomenon.
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Thursday, January 9, 2014

Spring 2014 Semester So Far

My friend Ashley and I working on homework
in the Honors Lounge.
I've decided to write a quick blurb about the first few days of the Spring Semester because, as each semester ends, the first thing I'll alwaysbe looking to remember is what the first few days of it were like.

Hence, this article.

My classes this semester - besides Leadership, Pre-Cal+Trig and English 2 - are very interesting. One of them is Fundamental of Music Theory, with Professor Molinari. Walking into the class for the first time, I was excited to step into a room full of Yamaha Clavinovas. I was even more excited when I realized that each student gets a Clavinova to him-/herself! So far, we've practiced melodic dictation and shared our reasons for taking the class.

The next interesting one is Basic Reporting with Professor Lane, which I hope will rekindle my desire to practice journalism professionally.

The third and final one is C++ Programming, the most valuable lesson of which has been the idea that computers are actually really dumb creatures! To a robot, for example, an operation as simple as moving from Point A to Point B must be expressed as more than a hundred lines of code to its internal computer! My hope for the course is that it'll show me what it's like to be "in" the world of computing and programming, perhaps kindling a serious consideration of "computer technician" as a possible career.

Here's to a good semester!


Sunday, January 5, 2014

My Intentions for the Spring Semester

One of my intentions for the Spring semester is to approximate myself towards - but not necessarily

Getting distracted in class. 

Sunflower hats aren't particularly my
favorite type of headwear,
but they make a weird picture. Gotta
brush those teeth though.

Party, party, party!

An older shot, taken on an afternoon where I'd
proudly bought an office chair at a thrift store!

Messing around with the front-facing camera on my
newfangled iPhone 4.
pinpoint – the major that I want to pursue in the years after my stay at the Honors College. Although I am a journalism major (effective through next semester), I have signed myself up for classes that reflect my interests and not the pathway’s curriculum. 

Specifically, I have selected basic Reporting with Professor Lane (which fulfills my interest in journalism and newswriting, which has been one of my career aspirations since high school), Introduction to Music Theory with Professor Alan Ngim (which fulfills my interest in musical composition and learning how to play a musical instrument, both of which have stemmed from my fascination with jazz and my desire to involve myself in the arts in a form different than journalism) and C++ Programming with Professor Jack Lusby (which fulfills my growing interest in computer science and will introduce me to any work opportunities that may come from pursuing a computer science curriculum). 

My parents have criticized my choice of curriculum because they feel it deviates from my historically classic choice of interest (journalism) at the expense of money and time. While I sympathize with their arguments regarding the use of those two valuable resources, I would like for them to understand that I see college as an opportunity to find myself, to try everything that I want to try, to spend time learning about subjects and realms of life that I have a cursory interest in.

They might blossom into fascinations, infatuations, or even aspirations.

The second of my intentions is to be at peace with my social needs and aspirations. Throughout high school, I was a “popular kid”. Though it’s a term that’s difficult to define, it was a phrase that was used by acquaintances and close friends of mine alike to describe me in the context of our student body. People knew me, to the point that I often returned hellos to people I wasn’t even clear on whether I knew or not. Certainly the phrase had some veracity to it – else I wouldn’t even bother writing about it. 

High school is over now, though, and I am now surrounded by a group of people that, if my perception is correct, cherishes those who have resolve and wish to accomplish things greater than themselves. I relish the challenge, simultaneously because it would palliate my restless desire to belong, and also because it gives me an excuse to be recognized for things I would likely pursue anyway. I see other Honors College kids, most in their second year of study, creating and promoting big community projects like scholarships and food drives and … well, they make me smile. 

Whether their motivation is solely the recognition of other classmates and faculty or whether it’s also an earnest desire to do something is dependent on them … but they’re doing something regardless, and that’s noble enough. 

Therefore, to be at peace with my social needs and aspirations, I will do my best to find groups of people (Honors College kids, regular Miami-Dade kids or even Miami-Dade faculty) that share my interests, I will seek social and community ills that merit attention and I will publicize and promote all the work that I may engage in in the process of remediating those ills. It’ll really be a treat to be able to consider myself to be a person like this … the “popular” label from before will just be a cherry on top.
Finally, my third intention is to do well in all my classes in the next semester. This may sound like a cop-out intention, but I’ve decided to prioritize it because my credit load for next semester is relatively large (20 credits spread across seven or eight classes) and I’m aware that it will take a lot of concentration, focus, and simply put, hard work, to excel academically between all these subjects. My study habits so far have proven to be effective, so they will continue to be my main strategy for accomplishing this intention of mine. I want to succeed in the Honors College and in my college endeavors in general, and doing well academically is without a doubt one of the largest portions of achieving that success. Hence, I hope to pass!