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Graduate Peers' Schedules

Summer 2014
(Email for availability)

Professional Development Peer:
Shawn Warner-Garcia

Diversity & Outreach Peer:
Hala Sun

Funding Peer:
Kyle Crocco

Writing Peer:
Ryan Dippre

The peers sometimes hold events or attend meetings during their regular office hours. To assure you connect with your Graduate Peer Advisor, we encourage you to contact them by email and make an appointment.

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Monday
Jun022014

The Next Miss California Might Be UCSB’s Kara Smoot, Master’s student in Music and Vocal Performance

Kara Smoot Miss CAKara Smoot performing at Miss California 2013. Credit: Kara SmootIf you don’t know Kara Smoot now, you probably will very soon. She’s a second year Master’s student in Music and Vocal Performance, Miss Ventura County for 2013, Miss Tarzana for 2014, and could be Miss California 2014. Oh, and did I also mention she can sing in eight different languages?

If there were just one phrase I could use to describe Kara, it would be hardworking. She’s been working hard ever since she was 14, when she got her first job at Chick-fil-A. She earned money to help her family and applied herself in school to earn scholarships for college. Her hard work paid off with a scholarship to Pepperdine University, where she earned a B.A. in Music. 

It was also at Pepperdine that Kara turned her love for music into a passion for singing opera. Her passion paid off in yet another fellowship; this time to study music at UCSB. Now she’s set to graduate this June with a Master’s in Music and Vocal Performance. But instead of kicking back and enjoying her accomplishments, she’ll be competing to be the next Miss California, between June 24-28. Talk about busy.

When I met Kara in the Graduate Students Association lounge for this interview, she had just finished working with her interview coach for her Miss California competition. Over the course of the next hour, she told me all about her love of opera, about competing in pageants, and her life as a grad student.

How did you become interested in opera?

I joined chorus as an elective in middle school. When it came time for college, I had to make a choice. There were only two choices for vocal performance at Pepperdine: musical theater or opera. Originally, I thought I wanted to teach music or maybe become a choir director. But my experience with choir had exposed me to classics, so I felt more inclined to classical based performance: opera.

How many different languages do you sing in?

Seven to eight, not including English. I sing the four standard: English, Italian, German, and French. And some less standard, such as Czech, Russian, Spanish, and Latin. 

Kara Smoot Die FledermausKara Smoot performing in Die Fledermaus. Credit: Kara Smoot

What are your musical goals?

I want to become an international opera singer and perform with major opera companies. However, it’s extremely competitive. Right now, I’m transitioning from performing and studying at the university to auditioning for Young Artists Programs at different opera companies. In the Young Artists Programs, you get more coaching and training for performance, and you can make connections so you can be invited to sing for opera companies.

You also compete in beauty pageants. Are there any parallels to opera?

The work ethic. You need one to be a musician and a [pageant] title holder. It takes a lot of hard work and sacrifice. You have to put the music or the organization above yourself. It [opera] has also given me the tools to be successful in pageantry. I’m able to work well under pressure.

You have to think on your feet. You can rehearse something forever and then something always goes wrong in performance and you need to be able to think on the spot. It’s the same for a title holder. Things go wrong and you have to bounce back in a split second.

How did you get started doing beauty pageants?

Chrisy AlcarazChrisy Alcaraz, Miss San Fernando Valley 2011 and Miss Sierra Nevada 2013. Credit: CG Photography. At Pepperdine, my best friend and sorority sister, Chrisy Alcaraz, competed in pageants. She enlightened me about what pageants were about. I got to see her process, her passion. It inspired me. 

You competed for Miss California in 2013, when you were Miss Ventura County. What did you learn from that and what advice would you give to those competing?

It was a great experience. I would say: know what you have to do to prepare, take every day one step at a time. It’s easy to get overwhelmed preparing for a pageant. Try to enjoy the process. Absorb everything.

Kara Smoot doing volunteer work. Credit: Kara Smoot.

I understand you are competing again for Miss California as Miss Tarzana. What is your platform?

It’s called Voices for the Arts. I’m raising awareness for Arts education in schools. I work with socially and economic disadvantaged children, serving as a mentor, and teaching music and voice lessons. I work primarily at El Camino Elementary.

Let’s talk about your life as a graduate student now. What is the one thing that most people are surprised to find out about you?

That I managed to survive two years of grad school without caffeine.

What one piece of advice would you give to an incoming graduate student?

I was surprised by how much free time there is in grad school. I would tell a student to be careful and use their time to study and get work done.

You’re so busy. What is the your most favorite thing you do to relax?

Health and fitness. I take workout classes. I love reading books about health and nutrition. It’s also important to unplug from devices and to enjoy the outdoors. I’ve done outdoor boot camps and work out with my personal trainer, or run the stairs at SBCC. Most of the time though, I work at the Santa Barbara Athletic Club and Fit Buddha, off of State Street.

What is your biggest accomplishment in life and why? 

Graduate Student Spotlight logo

Starting to work when I was 14. My parents were laid off in my teens and I had to apply myself in academics to be able to get a scholarship. I earned a scholarship to Pepperdine and was fully funded at UCSB.

Who was the biggest impact or influence on you and helped shape who you are today?

All of my music instructors from middle and high school who believed in me, fostered my music, and encouraged me. Also Louise Lofquist, who I worked with as an undergrad at Pepperdine, and my vocal coach here, Dr. Linda DiFiore.

What do you plan to do after graduate school?

Hopefully I’ll be Miss California 2014. If I win, I’ll prepare for the Miss America competition and to become Miss America 2015. Outside of pageants, I have engagements to sing with the Mediterranean Opera Studio in Sicily. Also, I’m training this summer at the Lyric Opera Studio Weimar, Germany. And I plan to keep working on learning new languages, learning new opera roles, and auditioning for Young Artists Programs.

To learn more about Kara's music career, visit her website. You can find her Miss California facebook page here.

Monday
Jun022014

History Grad Student, Other Volunteers Create Memorial Wall in The Arbor 

Student volunteers worked throughout the night to paint a memorial wall in honor of UCSB students lost in the Isla Vista tragedy. Credit: Melissa Barthelemy

Melissa BarthelemyA campus message wall has been repurposed into a memorial wall paying tribute to the UCSB students lost in the Isla Vista tragedy. Paying out of pocket to get this time-sensitive project going, History grad student Melissa Barthelemy says she and other volunteer artists “battled raccoons, skunks, and ferrel cats simultaneously (literally) until 1:30 a.m.” in The Arbor to finish the first phase of "We Remember Them: A Place of Healing at The Arbor."

“This project will continue to grow,” she said. “In the afternoon we will have copies of beautiful enlarged photos of the memorial events displayed at our station.” Melissa said “these two undergrads, in particular, were close to the victims and are proud to have pulled this art piece off.”

GSA is sponsoring a booth at the exhibit. It will be open today from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and depending on the number of volunteers, it plans to keep it open much longer. In a news release, the GSA said: "The motivation behind this is that we as graduate students want to reach out and support our undergraduates, as well as each other, during this difficult time. This is a place where we can come together to mourn and to help heal our community. It is also going to be focused on drawing attention to the actual victims of the Isla Vista tragedy, something that has paled in comparison to the media’s focus on the perpetrator."

"There is a large wooden exhibit that will feature chalk walls that can be written on, as well as art materials where the community can write cards to the families, thank you cards to the people and groups who got us through this difficult week, and view photographs, such as those from the Isla Vista Memorial Paddle Out," the news release stated. "What we need the most are volunteers to help staff this booth. Ideally two volunteers per one hour shift. If there are enough volunteers to support keeping the booth open for more days this week, that would be fantastic. If you are interested in dedicating an hour of your time to an important cause by staffing the booth or volunteering in some other way, please email Melissa Barthelemy at mjbarthelemy@gmail.com.

Melissa invites everyone to come out to The Arbor to view and pay your respects at the memorial wall.

Monday
Jun022014

UCSB and Division of Student Affairs Create Emergency Resources Websites

Counselors were on hand at the memorial service last Tuesday at Harder Stadium. Credit: Patricia MarroquinIn the wake of the Isla Vista tragedy, the UC Santa Barbara Office of Public Affairs and Communications (OPAC) has created a website titled “Isla Vista Tragedy Support Services.”

Departments across the campus, as well as University partners, are making resources and information available to support the campus community. OPAC has compiled these resources and listed them in a directory. The directory includes information and resources for students; for faculty and staff; and for alumni and the community.

Among those resources is a new website created by the Division of Student Affairs, titled “Student Emergency Resources.” The site contains up-to-date Academic Advising and Financial Aid information, as well as a list of easy-to-access Counseling resources.

OPAC requests that if you know of other resources to add, please send an email to ia-panews@ucsb.edu.

Friday
May302014

GSA President Invites All UCSB Grad Students to a Special Graduate Town Hall Meeting June 3

Dear UCSB Graduate Community,

GSA will be hosting a Graduate Town Hall Meeting on Tuesday, June 3, from 7 p.m. to whenever it winds down. There have been various memorials, meetings, and sessions to help all of us who are grieving move forward, but it seems there has yet to be a solely Graduate Student Forum to discuss anything and everything. As such, we believe this could be a very useful and cathartic organizing of our wonderful community. This event will ONLY be for graduate students – no faculty, no counselors, no admin, just us doing whatever is needed to continue the healing process.

We, as graduate students, interact with undergraduates in our labs, sections, as Associate Profs, and they have become our mentees, our friends and our family. It seems that most of us have been putting the needs of our undergrads first and have tried to maintain a strong front to support those most directly affected by this horrible tragedy. But WE need our time to heal, WE need our time to come together, and WE need to do this as a united community.

I hope that this message is not just seen as another one of the many emails that have gone out; rather, this is our attempt to utilize OUR community of graduate students, and work through the process of moving forward with our lives while remembering and using the recent events to create the positive change we all are hoping to see in the future.

Feel free to RSVP on our Facebook event page so we can have a good head count: https://www.facebook.com/#!/events/449091521902026/?ref_newsfeed_story_type=regular. OR just show up.

The meeting will take place following the GSA Assembly meeting from 6 to 7 p.m., which I encourage everyone to attend as we will be distributing the Excellence in Teaching Awards and the Dixon-Levy Award for service to the graduate community. Come celebrate those teachers and community members who have made such an amazing impact on the lives of the UCSB community at large!

Dinner will be served from Isla Vista Deli Mart at the beginning of the meeting, however we are buying extra to accommodate those who can only attend the townhall meeting.

So, please join us from 6 to 7 p.m. (Assembly) and 7 p.m. to whenever (the Town Hall Meeting). I really think that is something that will benefit everyone who comes.

Come as a group or by yourself. We want to further cement the bonds of our community and expand the support network that we present to each other.

Best wishes and don’t hesitate to send any questions or comments to me at this gary.haddow@gsa.ucsb.edu  or at garyhaddow@gmail.com.

Thank you,

President Gary Haddow on behalf of your GSA Officers

Friday
May302014

Message from UCSB Chancellor Yang About Steps Taken to Enhance Safety

"We will continue to draw strength and comfort from each other and we will become an even stronger university and community," UCSB Chancellor Henry T. Yang said at the memorial service Tuesday in Harder Stadium. Credit: Sonia Fernandez

May 30, 2014

Dear Community Members:

In the days since the tragic events in Isla Vista, I have been spending much of my time talking with and listening to our students and parents, as well as members of our dedicated faculty and staff. Dilling and I have also been walking through Isla Vista at night to be with our students. I want to update you now on steps the University has taken to enhance safety.

  • Our UC Police Department, with additional police officers from our sister UC campuses, has increased its presence on campus and extended saturation patrols in Isla Vista through Commencement. Such intense efforts will continue to be strengthened in in close collaboration with the increased efforts of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office and otthe fall quarter, her local law enforcement.
  • We have increased CSO patrols in Isla Vista, with extended hours; this is in addition to the 24/7 free CSO safety escort service.
  • The University is completing a comprehensive lighting and security assessment and has been installing additional lights across campus. Also, we have recently committed additional funds to Santa Barbara County for more lighting in Isla Vista.
  • We have implemented a new parking policy that limits weekend and after-hours access to our parking facilities to only UC Santa Barbara affiliates.

Finally, our UC Police Department wants to remind us all that we each play an important role in keeping our community safe. They are asking that if you “See Something, Say Something,” and report suspicious activity (911 for emergencies; 805-893-3446 for UC Police; 805-681-4100 for Isla Vista Foot Patrol). Students, faculty, and staff are encouraged to call the CSO service at 805-893-2000 for a free safety escort at any time.

I am extremely proud of the way our community has come together during these difficult days to support each other and to remember and honor all the victims of last week’s tragedy. We are showing the world what it means to be a Gaucho. United in our efforts, I am certain that we are building a stronger university.

Sincerely,

Henry T. Yang
Chancellor

Friday
May302014

Graduate Student in the Spotlight: Grad Slam Winner James Allen

Graduate Student Spotlight logoJames Allen, a first-year Ph.D. student in the Interdepartmental Graduate Program in Marine Science (IGPMS), is conducting research that has the potential to transform how ocean ecosystems are studied. James is using satellites rather than boats to collect data about phytoplankton in the ocean. He hopes to use his research to examine how the ocean is changing as a result of climate change.

James' passion for sharing his research with a wider audience is inspiring. Not only did he win the Grand Prize after competing in three grueling rounds of the 2014 Grad Slam, he also hopes to be the next Bill Nye or Neil deGrasse Tyson.

James has a Bachelor of Science degree in Geoscience - Meteorology from the University of Tennessee at Martin. Read on to learn more about his research and grad school experiences.

Tell us a little about your research and how you came to choose the topic.

James AllenJames AllenMy research involves using satellites to measure the optical properties of the ocean. By looking at how light scatters and gets absorbed in the surface of the ocean, I hope to be able to more accurately measure the relative abundance of differing sizes of phytoplankton. With this information, we can more effectively measure how entire marine ecosystems are changing over time, how the ocean’s ability to export carbon from the atmosphere to depth is changing, and, ultimately, the ocean’s role in climate change for the future.

I’ve always been interested in weather and climate, and becoming a meteorology major as an undergrad really sparked my interest in climate change science. The idea of using satellites and remote sensing to do science and measure global changes blew my mind! I knew that would be how I wanted to contribute to our understanding of Earth’s changing climate. An internship doing research at NASA’s Student Airborne Research Program convinced me that I wanted to be a part of the amazing science that was happening in oceanography. Now, instead of looking up at the sky to forecast the weather, I’m looking down at the water to measure the changing ocean, and I couldn’t be happier.

What was it like to participate in the Grad Slam?

James Allen grad slam winnerGraduate Division Dean Carol Genetti with the Grad Slam 2014 winners: James Allen, center, grand prize winner; and runners-up Damien Kudela and Deborah Barany. Credit: Patricia MarroquinThe Grad Slam was an amazing experience! One of my goals in life is to be able to educate the public about climate change while showing them just how awesome science can be, and the Grad Slam was the perfect opportunity to learn many outreach skills. Every step of the way, from the public speaking workshops beforehand, to each progressive round, many experienced people were there to guide me and help me become a better presenter.

Talking to the public is completely different from talking to a lab group, especially with a three-minute time limit. It involves a fine balance of getting your ideas out there, keeping them relevant and interesting, and all the while making sure everything is clear and concise. You learn a lot about yourself, too; we all have our strengths when it comes to presenting, and there are many paths we can take to play to these strengths to make an effective presentation. There were many amazing talks all throughout Grad Slam, and each person had their own style that showed that they had an idea, and they wanted to communicate it to as many people as possible.

What has graduate student life been like for you?

James Allen conducting researchJames collecting water samples in a Niskin bottle on the R/V Shearwater out in the Santa Barbara Channel.I feel like I’m really in my element here. There’s so much great work being done by people that are really passionate about what they do. It’s fun to be able to talk to other grad students across a wide variety of fields that are exploring and searching for answers to problems that you’ve never even thought about before.

I’m also surrounded by great mentors and friends! I’m lucky to have such a great advisor, Dr. David Siegel, who really pushes me to be the best scientist I can be. I’m very grateful for the fact that I’m housed in both Marine Science and Geography, so I’ve made a lot of friends in both areas that have made adjusting to grad life very easy.

What has been a source of motivation or drive for you in your graduate studies?

I’m hugely interested in doing outreach and getting the public more interested in science. I always say that I want to be the next James Hansen, Bill Nye, or Neil deGrasse Tyson, but maybe I can be cheesy and say that I want to be so good at what I do that someone in the future can say, “I want to be the next James Allen."

James showing off a lab coat.I have an insatiable curiosity to learn more about the world around me, and if I can spark that interest in more people, I feel like I can say I’ve done my job. There is so much out there that we haven’t even begun to think about, and everyone has the potential to become an explorer in their own right and bring new perspectives to the table. We just need more people to spark that curiosity and help people realize that science is a way to open doors to the world around them.

Name an accomplishment you are most proud of and describe why.

It might not seem very big here, but it would probably be the fact that I was able to TA for the first time. I’ve never been able to formally run my own sections before, and it was really exciting to be able to get up in front of a classroom and help teach really interesting topics in my field to students. I was so nervous at first, but by the end of the quarter, I was pretty comfortable with it. I spent a lot of time working getting my lectures set up, and it may have cut into my research time a bit (sorry, Dave!), but it was totally worth it, and I’m really happy that I was able to do it. I’m excited to be able to TA again soon!

What do you do to relax? Any hobbies, collections, pastimes, favorite places to go, favorite things to do? Along these same lines, what makes you happy?

James Allen and group on a hikeJames and some of his Geography cohort hiking in Santa Barbara.I love to explore new areas! I grew up in West Tennessee, so having mountains and ocean around me all the time is an entirely new experience. I really like hiking and backpacking, and there are a lot of great trails in this area that I look forward to exploring. I’m warming up to biking (here’s a secret: I just learned how to bike when I arrived here last summer!), and I can’t wait till I get good enough to try mountain biking, or at least try biking longer stretches on bike trails by the ocean. I also really love predicting the weather and forecasting for severe storms, but it’s pretty hard to do that for sunny Santa Barbara. Maybe the El Nino regime shift will change that later this year, and I can finally play around and dance in the rain again.

What do you hope to be doing five or 10 years out of graduate school?

James Allen at a waterfall in Big SurJames at a waterfall in Big Sur.I hope to still be doing some great research with some added public outreach. Will I be teaching at a big university? Presenting at national lectures or in Congress? Talking on TV or the radio about the next big topics in science? Who knows. But I’m excited for whatever the future will bring!

Do you have any advice for current grad students?

There’s so much great advice in previous Spotlights that it’s difficult to come up with something new! I would definitely say that interdisciplinary work really has the potential for amazing research. Different fields have their own ways of looking at problems, and while you might not necessarily use their methods, sometimes a new perspective is all you need to get through a difficult block that’s holding you back! Also, it’s a really good excuse to meet some amazing people outside of your field and make some new friends!

Thursday
May292014

‘We Do Not Walk Alone,’ UCSB Grad Alumna Capps Says In Leading Moment of Silence on House Floor

Rep. Lois Capps led a moment of silence on Wednesday in the U.S. House of Representatives.

On Wednesday, Congresswoman and UCSB alumna Lois Capps (MA, 1990) of the 24th District led a moment of silence on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington, D.C. “The nation stands with UCSB,” she said on her Facebook page.

“Together we have taken the first steps toward making sense of the senseless,” the congresswoman said on the House floor. “But it will be a long journey. We have many questions. And over the weeks and months ahead, perhaps more will be posed than we can answer. But we will work through it together. And while we all struggle to make sense of this tragedy, I want to thank you, my colleagues, and the communities across the nation for your prayers, your kind words, and your support. This act was fueled by hate. But in the wake of this tragedy, we as a nation have shown that in a dark time, we do not walk alone. We do not grieve alone. So we will not have to heal alone.”

View her speech and the moment of silence in the video below. View the congresswoman's news release here.

Thursday
May292014

1,500 Proud Gauchos Take to the Water for Memorial Paddle Out

About 1,500 people turned out for a Memorial Paddle Out in honor of the six UCSB students: George Chen (Computer Science); Katherine Cooper (Art History & Classics); James Hong (Computer Engineering); Christopher Ross Michaels-Martinez (Undeclared); David Wang (Computer Engineering); and Veronika Weiss (Financial Math and Statistics).

Enjoy this beautiful paddle out video and this second touching video as well.

 

IV Memorial Paddle Out from julia Olson on Vimeo.

 

 

Wednesday
May282014

20,000 Hearts Were United at Memorial Service to Honor Six UCSB Students

Richard Martinez, father of Christopher Michaels-Martinez, made an impassioned plea to the crowd to take action against gun violence. Credit: Patricia Marroquin

It was a touching and emotional afternoon on Tuesday at the Memorial Service, “Our Hearts Are United,” in Harder Stadium. About 20,000 people came to pay their respects and honor six students struck down in the Isla Vista tragedy: George Chen (Computer Science); Katherine Cooper (Art History & Classics); James Hong (Computer Engineering); Christopher Ross Michaels-Martinez (Undeclared); David Wang (Computer Engineering); and Veronika Weiss (Financial Math and Statistics). There were impassioned pleas, humorous recollections, tears, and laughter. Dignitaries, including UC President Janet Napolitano, UCSB Chancellor Henry T. Yang, and UC Board of Regents Chairman Bruce D. Varner, spoke eloquently. Soothing and beautiful music was heard from the UCSB Young Artist String Quartet; Vocal Motion; and BFOM. The crowd – of all ages, ethnicities, and walks of life – was united in its grief.

To read more about this moving service, see the UCSB Office of Public Affairs and Communications’ article, “We Remember Them.”

More than 20,000 people attended the Memorial Service on Tuesday. Photos by Patricia Marroquin

Scenes from the Memorial Service on Tuesday at Harder Stadium. Photos by Patricia Marroquin

Tuesday
May272014

A Recap of ‘Responding to the Isla Vista Tragedy: A Guidance Session for Teaching Assistants’

A message in chalk from concerned teaching assistants in front of the Alpha Phi sorority house in Isla Vista, where a makeshift memorial of flowers, candles, and messages was erected. Credit: Patricia MarroquinIn morning and afternoon sessions today at the Graduate Students Association Lounge, UCSB graduate student teaching assistants were presented with guidelines and advice on how to best support students affected by the tragedy in Isla Vista.

The guidelines included strategies for understanding, managing, and coping with grief; resources and services available on campus; and the importance of self-care. These guidelines can apply to any interactions with students, not only in the classroom.

The following are a few of the points made during the session, in addition to links to PDFs with more in-depth information and a YouTube audiocast recap by Counseling and Psychological Services’ Dr. Turi Honegger.

The session was hosted by the GSA; the Graduate Division; and the Division of Student Affairs.

SELF-CARE

  • Get adequate sleep, eat nourishing foods, and exercise regularly; maintain as normal a routine as possible.
  • Don’t isolate yourself from others. Spend time with family and friends who can provide you with emotional support.
  • Allow yourself to laugh; allow yourself to cry.
  • Accept caring and practical support from others and let others know what you need.
  • Avoid using drugs and alcohol to cope with emotions; they can conceal legitimate emotions and disturb the grieving process.
  • If you are religious, seek solace from your faith.
  • Avoid overexposure to media; take breaks from news sources as often as possible in order to avoid exacerbating acute stress symptoms.
  • Give yourself all the time you need to feel and understand the loss.

Four-legged therapists offer unconditional love, and are sure to lower stress levels. This pooch was among those therapy dogs at Dog Therapy Day on Tuesday outside the SRB. Credit: Patricia MarroquinWHAT YOU CAN DO FOR OTHERS

  • Be willing to talk about the loss, and encourage the griever to do so.
  • Be a good listener – accept, don’t judge, what you hear.
  • Reassure the griever that grief symptoms such as anger, guilt, and sadness are normal.
  • It may be helpful to say things like: “What help do you need right now?,” “The feelings you’re having are understandable,” and “I don’t know what to say, but I care.”

WHAT NOT TO DO FOR OTHERS

Don’t say things like:

  • Be strong
  • Take a trip
  • It will be better soon
  • Count your blessings
  • You’re better off than most people
  • Keep your chin up
  • You must put it behind you and get on with your life
  • Time will heal
  • If there’s anything I can do, just let me know.

These platitudes alienate and do not help the griever.

Signs offer free hugs and express support for Isla Vista outside the Student Resource Building today. Credit: Patricia Marroquin

Other resources and links:

Strategies for Managing Grief PDF

Understanding Grief PDF

Student Affairs Message to Faculty

Responding to a Campus Tragedy: Instructional Strategies for Instructors and TAs

Audio recap of the morning session by CAPS’ Dr. Turi Honegger: http://youtu.be/ctD9Bu4QI7U