Oberlin Blogs

The Answerer is in, Part I

March 29, 2012

Ma'ayan Plaut ’10

Once upon a time, when Ida was a young blogger, she began this new habit: when she was wondering about things about Oberlin, she would send me an email with a question, and I would find the answer. I don't even know when it started — perhaps when I received an email asking what sort of fun things one could do in Oberlin over fall break (that turned into an Oberlin blog post on fall breaks for me, and a fall-break-in-action post for Ida) — but after a while, I realized: my super hero alter ego is that of The Answerer. I actively punch question marks in the face on my quest for the truth.

All super heroes need a cool graphic, right? This one was made by Bridget VanBreeman '14, and it is quite possible the sweetest thing ever. Shirt: that's gonna happen.

With my super hero self now emblazoned on your mind... I'm going to try something new here on the Oberlin blogs: this is The Question and Answer Blog Post. How it works:

You have questions. I have a comment box and I have answers, or the ability to find them. Write a question in my comment box (you don't even have to put your name!) and there will be an answer. I highly encourage anyone who has visited the blogs before but never commented before to do so with this post!

To get the ball rolling — and so you don't think that your question is silly; the only silly questions are ones you don't ask — here are some sample questions I've received in the past few weeks alone, both online and in person.

Where is Albus from?

Albus lived at the Carlyle Shop in downtown Oberlin before he came into my life. Sometimes he has family visiting, and when they're in town, they're hanging out at Carlyle, too!

(Usually the follow-up question to this one is "Can I hug Albus?!" The answer is yes, but that's hard to demo over the internet.)

I was just wondering if you could tell me how Oberlin is in terms of LGBTQ friendly aspects, such as how accepting/tolerant are people? Are there any LGBTQ centers/clubs around campus?

The Multicultural Resource Center is an absolutely fabulous resource for LGBTQ students and allies on campus. In terms of LGBTQ clubs and organizations, we have the following chartered groups (this is as of this year; there are more groups popping in and out every year depending on interest and members):

  • Queer Jews and Allies (QJews)
  • Transgender Advocacy Group (TAG)

It is commonplace to be asked your preferred pronouns in most every student-run meeting or discussion, and I was in a number of classes that encourage it during introductions. Oberlin folks tend to be very accepting and supportive of whatever personal identity choices you make.

And if rankings and such are important to you, Oberlin has been given highest scores in the LGBT-Friendly Campus Climate Index for the past few years.

What is the font Oberlin uses in official flyers around campus and the Oberlin website?

Oberlin's official fonts are Trade Gothic and Minion Pro. We really like 'em too :D

If you want to talk more about Oberlin's style guide, I recommend getting in touch with Megan Harding, the brand manager, to talk more. She knows what's up!

Do you have any information on the marching band at Oberlin? I'm really interested in applying next year, and marching band is one thing that I would like to continue after high school.

At Oberlin, marching band is considered a student organization, an ExCo (Experimental College) class, and a club sport. The band performs at varsity and club sports games, in the Big Parade, and more.

The last time I saw the marching band in action was at a women's rugby game last fall. There were around a dozen people, and they did an awesome job of getting the fans pumped up. It's not at the level of the marching bands of my former high schools, but all members of the band have a blast playing and it's great to have them at our student events.

Their website hasn't been updated since the fall, but it has all the information I noted above, and more. They would probably welcome an email from you if you have any additional questions.

Theoretically, how does one ascend to the gloried position of being an Oberlin blogger? (Sidenote: this is my favoritest question EVER!)

A very not theoretical answer:

- Our blogging application is released in early September. (Last year's is here if you want to know what it might look like.)

- In the meantime, blog! Blog lots! We emphasize good writing, but we love it when folks incorporate other mediums (photo, video, art, audio, etc.), too.

- If you use Tumblr as your primary blog and want to submit it as a part of your blogging application, consider using a tag (#my writing, #oberblog, something like that) so we can easily find your original work when it comes time to review your blog.

- Be yourself. The whole point of the Oberlin blogs is to give our student writers a platform to share their lives with the world, and we like to see your personality, interests, and life. When it comes to your personal blog that you submit to us, we invite you to write about whatever you'd like, but continue to be yourself. (You know the old adage "write what you know"? That's a good mantra for what we'd like to see in your blog.)

Okay, GO! Ask me questions below in the comments, and I'm on it.

Responses to this Entry

Dear Answerer,
How do I become as supercalifragilisticawesome as you?

Posted by: Ida on March 29, 2012 3:34 PM

Ahh, Ma'ayan, you used my question!
That's so nice to say it was your favorite. What a warm fuzzy. :)
Thank you!

Posted by: Karalyn on March 29, 2012 3:45 PM

I feel weird asking a real question, but I really want to know. Do I need to send
in Federal Tax Returns for BOTH parents even if I did a Non-Custodial Parent form?
Hopefully that makes sense.

Posted by: Geno on March 29, 2012 8:17 PM

Can I do your Photography ExCo with a film camera? I feel like I haven't done as much shooting as I'd like and I would also just like to learn your mad skills.

Posted by: Ruby Saha on March 29, 2012 8:22 PM

What perfect timing to read this post! As of a minute ago I have a burning question: What are the 18 uses of Dr. Bronner's soap?

Posted by: Griff on March 29, 2012 8:24 PM

Of all the buildings on campus named after famous alumni (Charles Martin Hall), or siblings of famous alumni (Orville and Wilbur Wright Physics Lab being named for Katherine Wright's brothers even though they didn't go here)--why don't we have any buildings named after Lucy Stone?

Posted by: Tess on March 29, 2012 8:41 PM

Are the Crane toilets in Oberlin from the same company owned by the Crane of the King-Crane Commission?

Posted by: Ruby Saha on March 29, 2012 8:43 PM

@Ida - I don't know what you're talking about. You're already supercalifragilisticawesome because you go to Oberlin! And you blog! So I think you just answered your own question.

@Karalyn - You're welcome! I get a variation on that question every year, and it really is one of my favorites. I like it when people proactively wonder about how to get the best job in Oberlin.

@Geno - No, I'm glad you did ask a real question. This thread is for any and all questions! From what I gather from the financial aid website, yes, both parents will need to turn in tax forms.

@Ruby - Theoretically, yes. You could take my ExCo with a film camera, but I do require the images to be digitized for the class since we do critique all photos via Flickr. Unfortunately, I don't know if I'll be teaching it again this fall because I really want to teach a social media ExCo!

@Griff - Off the top of my head, I know that you can use it as shampoo, toothpaste, and a general cleaner. According to the internet, it can also be used as facial cleaner, liquid hand soap, bodywash, bubble bath, shaving cream, mouthwash, denture cleaner, mint deodorant, massage oil, baby oil, suntan oil, toilet cleaner, car cleaner, laundry soap, dishwashing soap, and as a pet cleaner. Also on the same site, it say that it could also be used as a doorstop, a paperweight, or a projectile...

Posted by: Ma'ayan on March 29, 2012 8:47 PM

@Tess - While there is no building named after Lucy Stone, we have three Stones in Tappan Square! They are ever-changing works of art and creative expression, so I think that Lucy would be very proud. (If I ever have the ability to name a building at Oberlin, I'd probably name it after her :D)

@Ruby - From my gatherings on Wikipedia, the Charles R. Crane of the King-Crane commission was, in fact, the son of a plumbing parts mogul. If you actually wanted to learn if the Crane toilets around campus are of the Crane dynasty, you could inquire with facilities to learn of the installation dates and purchasing invoices for all the toilets.

Amusingly, I also received a spam comment asking "Was always wondering... what is the last number?" Though I just deleted it, the answer is 42.

Posted by: Ma'ayan on March 29, 2012 9:00 PM

Hey, it's me again! How were the mountains in Puntarenas, Costa Rica, formed?

Posted by: Griff on March 29, 2012 9:40 PM

Firstly, how much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? (fun fact: that was very difficult to type)

Secondly, where/when did Campbell's soup win the blue ribbon that it displays on all its soup cans?

Thirdly, have American figure skaters ever swept the podium at an Olympic Games? If so, when?

Posted by: Patrick on March 29, 2012 9:47 PM

Oh, all you bloggers. You folks are so silly.

@Griff - Boy, that's hard. My guess is that it is volcanic, partially because volcanic soil encourages such rich rainforest growth. The internet is very unhelpful, but you know who would be helpful? A geology major :D

@Patrick - Oh, you're tricky. 1. 0, because woodchucks don't chuck wood. 2. SUPER TRICKY. You blogged about this, and I read it! The 1900 World's Fair, right? 3. Apparently yes, at least once; the men's team did in 1956.

Posted by: Ma'ayan on March 29, 2012 10:14 PM

Oh this looks fun!

Great answerer Ma'ayan, what exactly is dark matter and where can I get some?

Posted by: Ruby Turok-Squire '16 on March 30, 2012 3:03 PM

Ohohoho, Ruby, that is a mean question! But I definitely want to know the answer, too.

Posted by: Ida on March 30, 2012 3:32 PM

I have two questions. One is serious and one is not--feel free to decide which is which.

1. How does one get involved with designing posters on campus?
2. What's your maximum Ruby quota for the blogs?

Posted by: Ruby Saha on March 30, 2012 4:21 PM

Hi Ruby! This is Ruby. I have a very serious question for you, Ruby. Is your blogging login just 'Ruby'? Because mine is 'RubyTS' and this makes me feel like a bit of a second-rate Ruby.
But I definitely think the more Ruby's, the better! Two new ones a year, perhaps. Let's all just be collectively called RUBY.

Also, Ida - oh my god, the things I could do with some dark matter!! Ma'ayan, the anticipation is killing me.

Posted by: Ruby Turok-Squire '16 on March 30, 2012 4:39 PM

@Ruby Turok-Squire - Dark matter is an enigma, and yet it takes up more space than anything else in the universe. I'm sure the chemistry department + some physicists could hook you up with some.

@Ida - Your new job is to seek out chem and physics majors.

@Ruby Saha - 1. Great question! What kind of posters? If it's silkscreen, you first have to take John Pearson's silkscreen class, which is offered every fall. If you want to do design for theater shows, the publicity office handles all the mainstage and official productions, and OMTA and OSTA elect or source designers from around campus.

2. My maximum Ruby quota for the blogs is currently two. That may change if yet another beautifully accented AND awesome writer Ruby materializes on the premises of Oberlin next year.

@Ruby Turok-Squire again - Your login is RubyTS, which stands for Ruby The Superb.

Posted by: Ma'ayan on March 30, 2012 4:59 PM

Oh my god yes! Ma'ayan you are wonderful!!

Posted by: Ruby Turok-Squire '16 on March 30, 2012 5:50 PM

Should I ask Dorothy to make a cape for you? You could ride around town on your bike, cape flying in the wind. That was my question on this first day of April.

Posted by: Aviva Plaut on April 2, 2012 1:30 AM


Another question: How do I convince the CS department to teach me natural language processing two years from now when the current prof interested in NLP is leaving after this semester and they don't even know who they're hiring to replace him?

Posted by: Ida on April 2, 2012 9:01 AM

@Imma - But don't you know that capes are the downfalls of superheros? You should probably watch The Incredibles again sometime soon. (Look at me, answering a question with another question. You and Abba have taught me well!) Also, I think the cape might get in the way of my dragon wings.

@Ida - Cookies can solve many problems of convincing. This much I know.

But for real: I had a friend that ended up doing honors work with a professor who wasn't at Oberlin. Perhaps you can latch onto the NLP prof and do a summer internship or winter term project and see if that can weasel its way into your senior project?

Posted by: Ma'ayan on April 4, 2012 11:20 AM

Hi, I'm considering attending Oberlin next year, and I had a few questions. Hopefully the answers will make my college decision easier :)
What's the circus like? What kind of acts are there? I've done gymnastics for a long time, and was wondering what kind of related opportunities Oberlin had.
Also, what kind of music opportunities are there for musicians not in the conservatory? What if I want to learn a new instrument?
Thank you :)

Posted by: Molly on April 7, 2012 10:12 PM

Hi Molly! Thank you for your questions.

The circus is AWESOME. Perhaps I am biased because I was involved, or because OCircus sponsored a trip to see Cirque du Soliel in Cleveland yesterday and we got to do a meet and greet with some of the performers, but it really is great.

In the past few years, OCircus training has shifted from object manipulation focus (poi, staff, juggling, contact juggling) to a more physical focus: our ExCos and clubs are focused on partner acrobatics, clowning, tumbling, contortion, and aerials (read on before you get too excited just yet).

To participate in the aerials aspect of circus arts at Oberlin, you'll have to have 30 hours of training from a facility outside of Oberlin. Oberlin does do a winter term at SANCA (the School of Acrobatics and New Circus Arts) in Seattle, where 10 or so students do intensive circus training for a month and get aerial-certified. If you're a gymnast, you'll probably fall into the bendy-arts of tumbling, acro, and contortion while you're on campus, and you'll have the opportunity to explore more during winter term, too.

There's a bazillion posts about circus here on the blogs; I've written about six, Aries, Ida, and Tess have all written posts as well (Aries and Ida both went to SANCA, I encourage you to comment on Ida's blog so she can tell you more!). Cruise the archives and you'll find some good stuff :)

There are tons of opportunities for music even if you're not in the con. If you're already a performer, you'll be able to audition for any number of ensembles in the college and the con (or join the College of Arts and Science Orchestra, which is now an ExCo — Zoe and Patrick wrote some blog posts about this in the past). If you're interested in learning a new instrument, you'll be able to take lessons for a very reasonable rate (or perhaps take lessons for course credit if you've dabbled in playing in the past and want to continue) from students in the conservatory.

Yay! I'm so glad you asked me things. Hope these answers help!

Posted by: Ma'ayan on April 8, 2012 11:17 PM

Wow! Ma'ayan, thank you so much!! Ooh I bet the Cirque du Soleil trip was awesome :) I'm very jealous. The SANCA Winter Term sounds great, especially since I live right near Seattle.
About the music, that's mostly what I've heard, so it's encouraging to hear from another source that there are plenty of opportunities :) Do you know by chance if mostly con or non-con people get involved in pit orchestras?
Thanks so much for the information!!

Posted by: Molly on April 9, 2012 6:39 PM

Cirque was totally and completely fabulous. I'm still reeling and the show was on Saturday.

SANCA's a great place to explore; there are actually a ton of Oberlin graduates working there right now. If it's within your power to visit them, you should!

Pit orchestras are filled with musicians who have the time. Depending on the show, there's a minimal to more intensive time commitment (operas = more, Oberlin Musical Theater Association show or showcase = less).

Posted by: Ma'ayan on April 9, 2012 9:12 PM

Thanks for the answers! I'm excited about all the opportunities Oberlin has to offer :)

Posted by: Molly on April 10, 2012 2:00 AM

Hello, oh Great Answerer Ma'ayan! I hope you don't mind the plethora of eclectic questions I'm about to throw at you.

1. Can you elaborate more on how Winter Term works, particularly for freshmen? What if we want to go to another part of the States or the world for Winter Term-- how is that arranged?

2. How prevalent is substance abuse in Oberlin? Is there ever any pressure for students to use? Is it impossible to party without them?

3. Are there classes/extracurriculars/something that will help aid students who are filling out taxes/other financial documents for the first time and don't know what they're doing?

4. Relatedly, how easy is it, be it as part of a co-op or otherwise, to learn how to improve one's cooking/other homemaking skills?

5. If I wanted to pick up a completely new instrument, are the private lessons offered available to me, or is that only for people who have already been playing their selected instrument for a while?

6. What's the spoken word/poetry slam scene like in the Oberlin area?

7. Is there a math and/or science course that you would recommend for those who are math/science haters know that math and science aren't exactly their strongest points/want to have some fun with them?

8. If I'm bringing a bike to campus, what sort of storage is available to me? Are the bike racks outside dorms and class buildings, or only one or the other? Is it recommended I bring my own bike lock, or could I purchase one there if necessary?

9. Do they have martial arts/self-defense classes/extracurriculars available? I've recently started learning Krav Maga and I'd love to continue to train in college.

And the final (and most important!) question of all...

10. Are there Girl Scout troop(s) in the area? I'd really like to have access to Girl Scout cookies. ;)

Thanks for your help and sorry for the question overload!

Posted by: Alessandra on April 18, 2012 10:42 AM

Thing one (not to infringe on The Answerer's domain, but I can't not say this): Alessandra, I enthusiastically and emphatically recommend Dan Styer's classes on relativity and quantum mechanics! I gushed about them here, and I could probably gush quite a bit more if you emailed me further questions. Seriously. I have so much love and respect for Dan Styer.

Thing two: Ma'ayan, for how long is one contagious when one has the flu?

Posted by: Ida on April 18, 2012 1:17 PM

I know this may seem redundant, because there have been lots of questions about music opportunities for College students. But most of those discussions have been about instrumental musicians. Can I ask specifically about a capella? Do most of the spots in the a capella groups go to the (incredibly talented) Conservatory students, or do College students form a reasonable percentage of the a capella members? Thanks so much!

Posted by: A.M. on April 24, 2012 8:35 PM

Sorry - I have another one: how competitive is admission to the Oberlin-in-London program? I think I would *really* like to take part, but I want to be realistic about what my chances would be. I don't want to be the starry-eyed prospie who chooses Oberlin because of the London program and then finds out chances of actually getting in were slim. Thanks, again!

Posted by: A.M. on April 24, 2012 8:44 PM

OH YAY look at all the questions I had when I got back from Chicago! Greatest day ever!!

@Alessandra - You are rivaling Ida for number of questions asked at one time. Rock ON. I'll try and get all of them tackled here, but if I don't, ask me more :D

1. Winter term is great! So so great! In early November, you'll receive a form for registering your winter term project, which you'll be required to fill out and turn in by the first week in December. Regardless of your project, you need a title and a signature from someone on campus who will serve as your advisor. When it comes to projects, you really can do anything you can think of — though most students do something tangibly academic or personal growth related. There is a winter term fair following fall break, and the offices of winter term, career services, and study away are definitely excellent resources when it comes to learning about travel and internship possibilities. There are a few organized travel options every year, but if you wanted to, say, backpack for the month in Spanish-speaking countries, you'll probably end up with an winter term signature/advisor from Hispanic studies, coordinate with the office of study away for all the travel requirements, and purchase your tickets and plan your travel on your own.

There's much more I can say about winter term, but you'll have the opportunity to ask a million questions about this when you get to campus. The academic ambassadors love to talk about this topic.

2. My stock answer for this is that if you're looking for it, you'll find it. If you don't want to get involved, you don't have to, nor will you be pressured into doing anything you don't want to.

3. The office of student employment is here to help with anything regarding financial documents. I don't currently know of any ExCos about these sort of skills, but if you recommend such a session to career services or the deans, I'm sure they'll figure out a way to make this accessible to all.

4. Even if you're not a full-time OSCA person during your semesters on campus, you have the opportunity to cut your teeth cooking during winter term (if you're on campus, most students cook for themselves or join a winter term co-op). I'm not exactly sure what you mean by homemaking, but living and eating in OSCA for three years prepared me to cook for myself and others and know how to clean a house from top to bottom.

5. Yes, you can take private lessons for a nominal sum of money in any instrument of your choice, provided there is someone here to teach it. If you have played for a while, you can audition to do lessons for course credit.

6. It's pretty awesome. There are slams at least once a month, plus we get some epically cool spoken word folks visiting campus every semester. Carlos Andres Gomez was here a month ago, and did a poetry workshop in addition to a public performance. It rocked. There is currently a slam poetry ExCo, but the teacher is graduating this year (but hopefully will be handing off the reins to someone else in the future).

7. Yes! I thoroughly enjoyed Chemistry and Crime and Dots, Lines, and Coin Flips (probability and networks!) as math and science credits. I also loved Econ 101, which was half a math credit, too. I've heard fabulous things about the intro geo courses taught by Carla and Dennis Hubbard, too.

8. On campus storage during the school year includes bike racks in front of every single building (YAY!) with a few covered racks by Mudd Library and a rack by Kahn Hall. Over the summer, you can store your bike inside one of the bike storage areas (I think they're in Burton?) but you can not leave them out on campus or they will be taken by campus security. Do bring a bike lock or purchase one here. People aren't really out to steal bikes or parts, usually they're just "borrowed" then found somewhere else, but locking it is a huge deterrent.

9. There are some ExCo martial arts classes (aikido and judo come to mind, but I'm sure there are more that have been taught or will be futurely taught) and at least a self-defense for women class taught through the athletics department. I don't know of Krav Maga training here on campus, but if there's a critical mass or an expert around, there could definitely be an ExCo.

10. Even if they're aren't Girl Scout troops in Oberlin proper (though I think that there are) there have got to be faculty/staff/community members whose kids are selling. I know there's a troop in Lorain, so you'll be able to connect with someone selling delicious cookie things, I'm sure of it.

I LOVE QUESTIONS thanks for all of them.

@Ida - You're not infringing, you're helping. Thanks. When it comes to the flu, usually you're contagious whenever you're feverish, so probably a day or two after that should be okay... but it also depends on the kind of flu you have.

@A.M. - I fear that you asked the a capella question on our Tumblr, which I saw while I was traveling but didn't have the means by which to type out a long response. I apologize for that, but I do have an answer. Sorry for making you wait!

There are currently 6 a capella groups on campus, and they are predominantly filled with college students. Most of the voice students in the con have strict vocal regiments and requirements, so a capella isn't really going to be a part of their performing lives. There are a handful of conservatory musicians who join a capella groups, but for the most part, it's college students who are a part of these groups.

I don't actually know the statistics from the Oberlin-in-London program, but I know that they take around 20 or so students each year and depending on the offerings and professors teaching, they will probably get at least double that in applications each year.

I do recommend commenting on any of the blog posts by David Walker, who is currently in London teaching and knows everything about the program.

Posted by: Ma'ayan on April 24, 2012 9:40 PM

Thanks SO much, Ma'ayan, for both answers! No worries about the tumblr question - I just figured it might have been the wrong place to ask and brought it over here instead.

Posted by: A.M. on April 25, 2012 11:17 AM

Nah, Tumblr's a good place to ask things, too. We wouldn't have enabled the ask box if we didn't plan on using it to respond to queries :)

I just failed at keeping up with it while I was traveling last week, since internet was sort of an afterthought. I got to it this morning, though! And I even had a correction to my answer on there, we actually have 7 active a capella groups on campus... so even better! All the a capella all the time.

Posted by: Ma'ayan on April 25, 2012 11:21 AM

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