Michael Hudak '12
Hey prospective students! My name is Michael Hudak, Mike for short, and I am in the class of 2012 here at Amherst College.
I recently declared my majors as Geology and Environmental Studies. I love the outdoors and between the two majors, I’m absolutely enthralled. I hail from Jacksonville, Florida down south where it's never cold and we don't have seasons. Needless to say, western Massachusetts is a little different than home! I love it here though. The academic year is well under way at this point and I’m fully immersed back into college life.
This year I have been given the opportunity to be a Residential Counselor for Residential Life in a mixed class dorm. It’s a pretty amazing job. Being an RC is not at all like being an RA. I’m not here to get my residents in trouble. I’m here to help build community in my dorm and to be a resource for my residents when they need some guidance. I organize social events for them and feed them excessive amounts of candy. Like I said, great job. So I came back to school in mid-August before anyone else to do RC training. I hardcore bonded with the other RC’s, 55 of the best people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. I honestly feel as though I grew as a human being just as much through that week and a half of training as I did all of last year. Pretty crazy, huh?
My job keeps me busy, but I still have time to be active on campus and maintain a social life. My biggest activity this semester has turned out to be Amherst Dance. I played Varsity Tennis all four years of high school, but I had some injuries that really set me back and in the mean time I discovered how much I love to dance, especially hip-hop and acrobatic stuff. (I can do back flips. I’m awesome, I know. (-; ) I break it down all the time and I’m sure I look ridiculous more often than not. But give me a good dance party and I am there! I’m taking on five pieces for the Fall Semester show. All the dances are choreographed by students and everyone who “auditions” is guaranteed a spot in a least one dance, two usually if you want to give tapping a try. Groups like this are one of the best things about Amherst because there are so many of them. You can give anything a try whether you have experience or not. I actually happen to be writing this completely exhausted after four hours of West African Dance class and rehersals this afternoon and evening.
I am also a TA for Geology 11, the introductory course, which is the classic Amherst College class. It literally changes the way in which you view the world. I’m really excited to be helping out this semester because I’ll get to watch just how much people learn in a matter of weeks and thus, how much I learned in a brief thirteen weeks. Plus it’s a good refresher for my Mineralogy class. And finally, I'm a tour guide, and now a blogger, for the Admissions Office. So keep following my blog as the semester goes on. I’ll have lots of exciting things to talk about. (I hope!) Feel free to email me with any questions that you may have. I’m at email@example.com. Good luck with the application process this year, seniors!
Mike's Blog Entries (listed chronologically, latest to earliest)
Wow... where did the year go?!?! This is my last blog, I guess. It's been a while since I've updated this because I've been so busy. The end of school is usually like that. The spring semester is just jammed with awesome events and there's always something going on.
Personally, I did Amherst Dance which was awesome. Watch the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lvwxw_K1xXE. I'm the one who tumbles. I didn't get to do a hip-hop piece this semester, which was a shame because that's usually a ton of fun. But I was busy enough already. And my mom was here which was great. I really like hanging out with her, she's pretty cool.
I also had a petrology field trip and we went to Vermont and saw some of the coolest rocks I've ever seen. There was a really nice tourmaline-biotite-chlorite-kyanite-staurolite-garnet-quartz-muscovite schist. Usually those minerals cannot all occur together for reasons that are too complicated if you haven't been in a mineralogy or petrology class. But that's a pretty rare (and beautiful rock). Here a picture of what this schist looks like in thin section:
Come to Amherst!!!
Fun Papers... What?
Right now I don't feel like cleaning my room so I decided to blog. My mom is coming to visit this weekend and my room is a mess. Oops...
Anyway, I've gotten really excited about two papers that I need to write. One I think would make an awesome thesis topic, but that's far too far away to think about.
My one paper for my environmental justice class is going to be 20 pages or more which is fine because the topic is not narrow at all. It's going to be about nuclear landscapes in the American southwest; more specifically it's about the process of mining uranium from the ground to the citing of nuclear waste dumps, all of which happen to be on Indian reservations or lands or immediately adjacent to them. The military also uses huge portions of Nevada and other states in the region for weapons testing or training runs (which involve bombing) further contributing to a toxic landscape. Nuclear power is simply not an alternative to fossil fuels.
There are all these really complex issues surrounding environmental racism, tribal sovereignty, what to do about nuclear wastes, states' rights, militarism, and on and on. Like I said, sounds like a thesis waiting to happen. It's really disturbing how the United States government is essentially taking advantage of the various tribal nations' poverty (which is a lingering byproduct of pioneer era colonialism) or just going ahead and proceeding to push their agenda in the name of science or national security at the expense of the native Indian population. It's arguably an indirect, passive form of genocide through geocide. But that's an argument I'm not sure how to make although I think it's really valid. If I sound radical, well, maybe I am, haha. But does it disturb you to know that in Albuquerque, New Mexico elevated rates of radioactive plutonium have been detected in the soil in zoos, parks, and school playgrounds?
My other paper is about biodiversity and conservation in war zones and areas of armed conflict. A possible solution may be the formation of international peace parks since most international boundaries are rivers, mountains, lake, etc already anyway which all tend to harbour great biodiversity. Uniting protected areas on either side of borders may help promote peace through common interests and cooperation. Africa is currently the testing ground for many transboundary peace parks. Also, a lot of the conflict I'm researching has occured in African countries (especially the DRC, Rwanda, and Uganda from the 1990's to the present) with massive expanses of tropical forests. It's super interesting to read about the various ways war both helps and harms biodiversity. This would also make a really cool thesis. But again it's too far away for me to want to think about.
But anyway, I'm loving the research I'm doing right now. But I'm taking the weekend off. I have my Amherst Dance performance Sunday which requires a dress rehearsal this weekend. And like I said, my mom will be here so I'll have to take her around and show her all my favorite places. It should be fun! I'm pumped.
This weekend was nuts. Period. Actually the whole week was nuts.
Teana's thesis is done. The performances went really well and we got lots of great feedback. So I have much more free time to get stuff done and to relax. This week was beautiful too. Wednesday was 90 degrees!
The only bad thing (which was heartbreaking actually) was that my puppy doggy, Cocoa, went to sleep. I spent the last 13 years of my life with that dog and it's so bizarre that I'm not at home and that nothing in my day to day life here is different. It's at moments like that where, by being away at college, you just feel so disconnected from your past life by virtue of the new and different space you currently occupy. She was pretty awesome. I'm going to really miss her. (And yes she's wearing an Amherst cap. This picture was sent to me courtesy of my mom this past fall via text message. I saved it and I'm glad I did.)
On a lighter note... haha. Oh man, I'm crying. My otherwise I had a great week, I promise!
...Anyway yesterday I was productive and I celebrated my productivity at Whiteout TAP. Amherst throws us parties once (sometimes twice) a month and whiteout is basically one big dance party (have I mentioned that I love dance parties?) where everyone wears white and there's blacklights so it's pretty sick. So that was awesome. They also provided yellow highlighters which glowed in the blacklights really well. So of course everyone got scribbled on all over. Pretty fun stuff, eh?
But I also went to Jamboree which is a big multi-cultural celebration with food and performers and a production of Swan Lake choreographed by Isreali choreographer, Idan Cohen. Both shows were brilliant. Cohen's work is violent, stunning, and so totally different than anything I've ever seen. Watch the first 2 minutes of this clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QXgHMosjqH0.
I went to bed late last night. I danced all night long. It was a ton of fun, but also kind of gross. Everyone was jammed into a basement and we were all sweating profusely. But that's what showers are for, I guess. Got up early this morning and went to Rao's for the fourth day in a row. I'm slightly begrudingly getting used to the new design. I still really like it though. I'm a pretty faithful consumer. They've got me hooked. Then I had rehearsal for Amherst Dance. I played tennis for the first time in forever (aka September). I was a bit rusty and the wind was awful so we called it a day early. Then a friend of mine decided that he felt like having a BBQ and about ten us got together and ate good food and hung out. Then another friend of mine decided spontaneously to go to 7/11 and get a slurpee so I volunteed to go driving with him. I don't think I've had a slurpee since I was about 9, but it was kind of fun to role down the windows and sunroof and blast music as the last bits of light faded away behind the mountains. I love this area so much. It's always so gorgeous in a simple sort of way. Then I concluded my (mostly) unproductive day by watching Life in Marsh and making s'mores with mis amigos on the porch.
All in all a good day, a good weekend. And now it's my bedtime.
Amherst Dance next weekend and my mom's coming to visit. So excited!!!
Look Who's Playing In The Playground
This has been a long week and it feels so much like the weekend, but I have class tomorrow unfortunately. I feel like I need a day off! This week has been go, Go, GO! Tonight was the opening night of my friend Teana's senior Theatre and Dance thesis, which I'm in. We've had so much rehearsal in the last couple of weeks, especially this week. And I was kind of deprived of a weekend this past weekend because of my all day petrology field trip on Sunday (which was a ton of fun, but long and exhausting too).
I got to see some pretty nifty rocks. I think the prettiest were definitely the giant blue quartz pegmatites at Andrews Point, Rockport, MA. Learned a bunch, which I suppose was the point. Meet some new cool people. We went on the field trip with a petrology class from Smith. Our van was a bit overcrowded and there's had an extra couple of seats, so my friend Max and I rode in the Smith van. We made friends; it was fun.
Then this week I've basically attended class and rehearsed and found bits of time to eat in between. Work? Who does work. Pshhh... school's not important. Oh my goodness, do I have to catch up now. Haha, it's cool though. I mostly just have to get cracking on final research papers. One is on conservation and biodiversity in areas or armed conflict, peace parks, and regions that have been completely depopulated due to conflict. It should be interesting. Then I have another on some topic involving indigenous people's rights, but I have to find a more narrow topic. Maybe tar sands in Alberta and the First Nation, or Seminoles in the Everglades, or who knows.
But Teana's thesis tonight, entitled Look Who's Playing In The Playground, was so much fun and it all came together beautifully. There were a couple minor screw ups, but nothing anyone who had never seen it before would have noticed. I would give a brief summary of it, but it's far to difficult to explain in a ten minute discussion, let alone on this blog. At this point you're probably bored. And so am, a little bit, but mostly tired. Class at 8:45 tomorrow and it's nearly midnight. I'm going to bed. G'nite everybody! Happy April!
More Geo Fabulousness
I am beginning to feel as though my blog is not a blog for perspective students looking to come to a small liberal arts college. Instead it's proving to be one gigantic ad for Amherst's Geology Department. So here's a little about my latest adventure...
Today I had lab for Surficial Earth Dynamics (which is exactly what it sounds like -- we study the dynamics that influence processes on the surface of the earth and explain the changes on the surface of the earth overtime including those relating to the biosphere.) Anyway, the lab was about physical and chemical weathering and soil science. So we took a "field trip" and walked down to the college's Bird Sanctuary to dig some holes.
My one professor, Anna, brought her dog along from home and Will, our other professor, stopped by his home (conveniently between the geology building and the woods) to pick up his dog. So education aside, dug in the dirt, hung out in the woods, and played with my professors' dogs for the afternoon. Anna took a picture on her phone of the hole me a couple other people dug. Hopefully she can send it to me and I can put it up. We hit ground water which was kind of cool. But it was a great day. Learned that soil science is intense! Too difficult for me to ever do, seriously.
But now I'm going to bed early for my petrology exam bright and early tomorrow morning. I also have an all day field trip to Cape Ann for petrology this Sunday so you might have more fun geology stories to look forward to in the very near future!
Oh No Rao's!
Yesterday I had a minor life crisis. Rao's, my favorite coffee place, reopened after being closed for a week due to a change in ownership. So I had to go see the damage that was done for myself. My friend Marissa went first thing in the morning and reported back to me that it was entirely different so I went in the evening. I went with a friend and he got worried because I was immediately distressed and freaking out. The only things that were the same were some of the employees and the drinks. But hot food like their awesome paninis were gone. The chalk bathroom is gone. The quirkiness is gone too. The vibe's just so totally different. If I wanted to go to Starbucks or Amherst Coffee, I would, so making it like those places was a dumb idea. It lost all its character, it used to feel very home-y. It looks like a chain coffee shop now and I dislike it tremendously.
In better news, today and yesterday I go to play with a couple more very cool (and very expensive) geology toys. Yesterday I used a SEM (scanning electron microscope) to figure out elemental compositions of minerals in a thin section I had. I had a pretty good idea of the different minerals from looking the slide under a normal microscope, but this was so much cooler! You just set it up to put the slide in, then you use a joy stick to move around and you can zoom in up to almost 1000x I think we figured out. It was insane. So then the machine shoots electrons at the spot you tell it to and it excites and removes electrons from that spot, about 9 microns in diameter. This also generate x-rays and the combination get detected and it tells you the relative proportion of elements. They use SEM's on CSI and Bones and a couple other tv shows so it's pretty legit stuff.
Today for my other class we got to play with a flume tank which mimics the effects of stream beds. So basically water runs through this long tank and you can watch the changes in the sediments at the bottom like the little dunes and ripples created. Also pretty neat, but I think I enjoyed the SEM more because I got to use it whereas Will, our professor, controlled everything in the flume. However, a joy stick and a computer are a lot more simple to operate than a tank moving 100's of gallons of water so I was totally fine just watching instead of messing around with the tank controls.
Now time for spring break!!!
Class on the Beach with Cheetahs
Speaking of beaches, I'll be home in just three days. I'll be able to sleep in my own bed and enjoy the warm sunshine. If it is in fact warm...
Anyway, today I had class on Merrill Beach for my Conservation Biology Seminar. It was so nice again that we all decided we'd much much rather have a three hour discussion outside instead of in a room with one window. I think I talked about Merrill Beach once before because some friends and I watch a meteor shower out there one night. But anyway, just in case, it's a patio-balcony of sorts. It's huge and covered in pebbles and it's on the back of the science building overlooking the playing fields and the Holyoke Range. It's a neat place.
Our discussion was also pretty cool. Our professor is a leading expert in the field of conservation biology. And he and some of his collegues are very vocal supporters of Pleistocene rewilding. What is that, you may ask. It's a bit of a story actually. There used to be a whole array of large mammals in North America, more than Africa currently has actually. Anyway the vast majority of those species went extinct 13,000 years ago. Which, incidentally, is about when humans showed up here. So the idea is to take African and Asian megafauna, such as elephants, lions, cheetahs, and camels to replace the American versions of elephants, lions, and cheetahs that disappeared. It basically takes into account the empty niches left over from the Pleistocene and preposes introducing these species into the mid-West and the Western United States to restore ecosystems to a more natural state.
I'm still a bit of a skeptic, but after today's discussion I'm a bit more in favor of it. I think it merits serious consideration. With the absence of such large mammals who play a huge role in their ecosystems, especially top predators, North American ecosystems are considerably out of balance. It might sound crazy to put cheetahs in Arizona, but they were once there and their African cousins might just be necessary for the future health of that environment. And, in addition, we'd probably be saving the African cheetah from extinction (if it succeed in the American West). It was at the very least an interesting conversation. And a fun one on a beautiful New England spring day outside.
Spring is on Its Way
It is getting warm outside. Some of my friends and I were actually sunbathing yesterday. Alright, so that's a bit of an exaggeration. But we were outside yesterday afternoon with our shirts off drinking lemonade and soaking up the sun. I went up to Marsh to spend the afternoon with my friend Todd and a bunch of folks ended up hanging out on the porch with us since it was so warm. The porch is dark slate and absorbs heat quite nicely. So the high yesterday was officially 47° but it felt so much warmer. At home all my friends would have been complaining about how cold that is, but it was so nice outside.
It's supposed to be in the low 50's or high 40's all week until I go home for spring break (where they've been having the fourth coldest winter on record despite record highs in December so it may not be too much warmer than it is here). Half the semester is over and it's unbelievable. It feels like it just started. Time flies when you're having fun I guess. Time also flies when you're blogging too apparently. I have to run and go give my 12 o'clock tour now!
Such a Fantastic Day!
Yesterday was Friday which is always good because that means it's the weekend. But yesterday was particularly wonderful for a whole good number of reasons. I had my first test of the year in one of my geology classes and it went better than I expected which was great, but then I did a slew of things that were so much fun. I went to the Salvation Army just for kicks with my friends Max, Elena, and Marissa. I had a rehersal for the Theatre and Dance thesis I'm in which was ridiculously fun. We rolled on the floor a lot, haha. I went to see the Harlem Gospel choir. They were PHENOMENAL. My boss, Dean Moore got to sing and he was actually quite impressive. Go Dean Moore! And speaking of the Dean of Residential Life, I found out yesterday that I'm going to be living in a first-year dorm next year. I'm pumped! Then the night culminated with a spectacular dance party at the Zü. Great day.
So at the Salvation Army, I got this awesome shirt for 99¢ that was clearly a little league shirt, but it fits my lanky 6ft frame. It says Amherst Orioles Baseball and the kid's name must have been Bindertex which is so badass. He was the number 17 and the shirt is bright orange. We also found this insane coat that our friend Forrest wears alot that no one else would ever wear, but it's cool because Forrest is cool. We all assumed that only one existed anywhere and we found one just like it.
The Harlem Gospel Choir was so so good, and so so fun and so so mindblowing, like I can't even decribe how awesome the experience was. I'm not religious, I wouldn't say that I'm tight with Jesus, but I love Gospel music and it rocked. Even the audience was singing and dancing. You couldn't not be into it, they were so joyous. Also, they made all the February birthdays come on stage and they sang to us, but it was prolongued and they sang "Celebrate Good Times" by Kool and the Gang too.
And on top of all of that, there was a dance party at our cooking co-op on campus, the Zü. I danced until about 1:30 and headed home. The Zü is a bit off the beaten track and the people complain about the walk to and from there, but I loved it yesterday. It was snowing, 33 degrees, no wind. So it was warm (okay, just not very cold) and the snow was falling straight down on the trees. They all were entirely white and looked like veins of ice crystals extending out into the sky. Even dead leafs hanging of the trees with no surface area for the snow to accumulate had an inch or two of snow pilled on top. It was one of the most beautiful sights I've ever seen. I totally wished I had had a long exposure film camera and a tripod, but then I'd have probably stayed out all night.
It was pretty much the perfect day. Now off to do petrology.