UVA Today Blog

Enter the Spring 2014 Instagram Photo Contest

Spring is finally here and with it comes the Spring 2014 Instagram Photo Contest! To enter, tag your Instagram photo with #UVaPhotoContest and email your username to socialmedia@virginia.edu.

Professor John Edwin Mason, who selected the winner for the Fall 2013 contest, will serve as judge once again and announce the winner on May 5. 

Visit the contest site for complete rules, to see the submissions and, of course, learn about the prizes. Good luck!

Semester at Sea: India

Editor’s Note: Lauren Jones, a third-year student majoring in English and Economics, is on Semester at Sea this spring and has agreed to blog about her experience. Catch up with her previous entries here.


When my SAS friend invited me to stay with some family friends she knew in Delhi, I jumped on the chance: a home stay + 70-degree weather + a visit to the Taj?! So though our ship ported at the southern tip of India, I spent most of my time 1,200 miles north, at India’s vast, bustling capital city and cultural headquarters.

At the risk of sounding like a tour guide, and although India is so much more than a monument, I can’t talk about my time in Delhi without talking about the Taj Mahal. After a three-hour drive up the highway from Delhi to Agra, you see this solitary, glowing white building jutting out of an empty plain, and before you’ve paid your entrance fee, you already understand why this giant gravestone is a world wonder.

Even up close, its gorgeousness doesn’t seem real. The walls contain all these intricate carvings of flowers and Arabic calligraphy, along with thousands of semi-precious stones arranged in patterns, and then you start to realize that everything about the building was created in perfect symmetry, centered around the underground tombs of Shah Jahan and his wife, Taj Mahal. Inside the mausoleum, visitors are stealing pictures with their smart phones (and trying to avoid the guards), while pigeons are flying in the dome above, their batting wings echoing against the marble walls. Even on a weekday, thousands of visitors stream through the doors of the Taj, here to get their weddings photos made, family reunions pictures, or just to be there, because there’s just nothing in India, or in the world, like it.

The Taj is an Islamic building, and because I’m taking a class on Islam, I had fun taking tons of pictures of all the Arabic writing inscribed in its walls and also in the architecture of other major monuments in the Agra and New Delhi area. The calligraphy contains verses of the Quran about death and the afterlife, so even though Shah Jahan built the Taj to commemorate his wife, he meant for the building serve as a warning to all visitors, to turn to God and the straight path of Islam before you die.


Clockwise from top left: a wall-hanging at a shop in Cochin, Arabic calligraphy outside the Taj, and more Arabic on the bricks outside the Qutab Minar in Delhi.

Though only 10 percent of India is Muslim, it’s still the second-largest Muslim country in the world because of its population – 1.4 billion people at the last census. Ninety percent practice Hinduism, but India is also a home of Sikhism and Jainism, as well as a small percentage of Jew and Christians. And yes, the McDonalds in India do not sell beef burgers.

Even outside the mall, you can find cows, goats, pigs, and monkeys roaming around Delhi. The locals had fun watching me take pictures.


Even outside the mall, you can find cows, goats, pigs, and monkeys roaming around Delhi. The locals had fun watching me take pictures.

Through my host family, I was surprised to learn that most middle-to-upper class homes keep servants (usually drivers and housemaids), and that India is exceptionally more patriarchal than I’d expected. My friend Dawn and I noticed that people in the airports, train stations or even walking the streets were predominantly men, and especially after eight or nine in the evening, you wouldn’t find a woman walking the streets alone. As two unescorted women, Dawn and I collected plenty of stares ourselves.

India is a huge, diverse country, and I know that during my days in the north and south in our port city of Cochin, I only caught a glimpse of it. Still, I came in with hardly a conception of what India would be like (aside from a few colorful scenes in Slumdog Millionaire), and I feel like I’ve learned so much about all the current issues facing the country, from gender relations and religion to commerce and environmental problems, through the conversations I had with local people in India and the discussions among friends and classmates back on the ship afterward. We students come back with different experiences. We’re excited about everything the country has and also genuinely concerned about its problems – how are they dealing with their shortages of clean water? Or universities? Do women feel oppressed, or valued for the different work expectations placed on them?

We mold our experiences into a dialogue and into a collective story. But by the time we’ve finished debriefing, it’s already time to pack, plan and mentally prepare for the next port! So now I’m here in my floating dorm room, finishing up an English paper and scanning WikiTravel for info on South Africa. Whether in-country or onboard, it’s hard to find a dull moment on SAS.

Nathan Kirby Breaks Down 99-Year-Old Pitching Photos for #TBT

Spring means baseball, and baseball has a lot of history. Records go back decades, or more, and die-hard fans recall players from bygone eras as if they just left the room.


Walter Johnson

One of those players from the past with a U.Va. connection is Walter Johnson, a Hall of Famer whose big league career stretched from 1907 to 1927. On March 19, 1915, his team – the Washington Senators – was in Charlottesville for spring training (a common practice for big league clubs at the time, as the University of Virginia Magazine reports in its current issue). While here, Johnson demonstrated several different pitch techniques for images taken by Charlottesville-based photographer Rufus W. Holsinger’s studio. Those photos are now kept at U.Va. in the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library with the rest of the Holsinger Collection.


Nathan Kirby

For this Throwback Thursday, we asked Nathan Kirby, a second-year pitcher on U.Va.’s baseball team, to look at the photos and tell us what each of Johnson’s pitches are and when they might be used in a game. Nathan’s a good person to ask - he just threw a no-hitter with 18 strike-outs. Here’s a look at the photos and what Nathan had to say about them:



Kirby: This goes more up and down – think like 12 to 6 on a clock. It’s generally used to get a third strike or a ground ball.


Change-up (Palm-ball)


Kirby: This is generally used after a fastball. It looks just like a fastball, but it’s slower. It’s one of the harder pitches to pick up out of the pitcher’s hand.




Kirby: This is the hardest pitch a pitcher will throw. It can be two seams, which moves more. Or it can be four seams, which is more straight and would be used more for accuracy.




Kirby: This is like a fastball version of a curve. It typically slides right to left or left to right, from 10 to 4 or 2 to 8, depending on whether you’re a right hander or left hander.



Photos: Renowned Composer Philip Glass Visits U.Va.


Philip Glass, one of the most prolific and influential composers of the late 20th century, was the 2014 artist-in-residence at the University of Virginia. He met with students, discussed creativity and collaboration, and gave a solo piano performance in Old Cabell Hall. Here’s a look:

An image of composer Philip Glass addressing Prof. Dan Shanahan's Music Cognition Class at U.Va.

An image of composer Philip Glass addressing Prof. Dan Shanahan's Music Cognition Class at U.Va.

An image of composer Philip Glass addressing Prof. Dan Shanahan's Music Cognition Class at U.Va.

An image of composer Philip Glass performing at U.Va.'s Old Cabell Hall.

An image of composer Philip Glass performing at U.Va.'s Old Cabell Hall.

An image of composer Philip Glass performing at U.Va.'s Old Cabell Hall.

An image of composer Philip Glass performing at U.Va.'s Old Cabell Hall.

What Jefferson Would Have Made If He Had Lego


This amazing Lego Rotunda is the work of fourth-year student Thomas Lockwood, a mechanical and aerospace engineering major in the School of Engineering and Applied Science. He worked on it on-and-off beginning in his first year and used about 6,500 pieces. Check it out:


00-lawn 01-rotunda

Thomas explained how the project came together:

 I’ve been building with Lego since I was four, which greatly influenced my decision to major in mechanical engineering. Normally I build airplanes or vehicles from sci-fi movies, but I was surprised to learn no one had built the Rotunda in Lego yet and felt obligated to try building my own model.

I first looked at Thomas Jefferson’s original plans, and used my own pictures of specific areas such as the columns and capitals, to make the model more accurate. In making the design, I have a computer program, which allows me to design everything in 3D without having to worry about losing or running out of parts.

Once the computer model is finished, the program automatically creates a list to help me to find all the parts for the physical model, and once I have all the parts, I can use the computer model like a set of instructions.

I started the model back in my first year, working on it when I went home for summer and winter breaks. I brought the model with me to Charlottesville this past semester to finish the remaining sections before graduation (which was made a lot easier thanks to all the snow).

The model is 30 inches long, 16 inches wide, and 17 inches tall. I normally count the number of pieces used, but I lost count at 6,200, though I think the final part count is in the ball park of 6,500.