“The ability to live authentically
comes from a profound sense
of self value and acknowledgement
of your own lovability...”
- Karen Bergh, Life Coach
In My Own Words...
This is just one of many steps I took to "rewrite" my life story.
Let me help you take your steps!
Hey, hey, we're the Monkees
My best friend in my early childhood was Liza, my across-the-street neighbor who was the oldest of three children. I was the youngest of three in our family. Liza was born in April, a few months older than me with my August birthday. Her brothers Russell and Paul came along two years apart. My sister, Vicki, was almost four years older than me, and my brother, Kevin, was just 11 months older.
I had my own record player by age 7, although all I had collected at that point were 45-speed vinyls, or “45s” as they were known. These were sold as hit singles, with the other side of the 45 usually being a song you didn’t like but that the record labels were trying to promote. The bigger albums, the “33s,” were more expensive, and I had to wait until I was older for my parents to consider justifying the cost.
My obsession was a portable record player that I could carry like a suitcase, but lightweight, even though it had its own built-in speaker. There were plastic adapters that I stuck into the circle of the records to adapt them to fit on the spindle. There was a volume knob, and a treble-bass knob, and the switch to adjust the speed from 33 1/3, to 45, to 78. Although we never owned a record that was made to play at the highest speed, sometimes it was fun to play one of our records at 78 rpm, to hear the “chipmunk-like” singing.
Up to that point, I would lug my record player—with my parents’ permission—over to Liza’s house when I slept over, or “spent the night” as we called it. What some kids called slumber parties in those days we called “bunking parties” in the South. But a bunking party was always more than two kids. If there were only two friends, you simply called it “spending the night.”
“Mom, Can I spend the night at Liza’s tonight?!”
That was a lot of freedom at that young age. Packing your nightgown and toothbrush into a pint-sized Samsonite suitcase (mine was pink), slogging your record player into the suitcase and lugging them both across the street to “spend the night,” giggling, singing, and dancing as late as you possibly could.
“I’m a believer, I couldn’t leave her if I tried,” we sang. Four more years would pass, and sixth grade would be launching us into junior high before I’d fall in love with Michael Jackson, lead singer for the Jackson 5, when his hit “I’ll Be There” made us melt. Those tween bunking parties would go well past midnight, with groups of five or more girls holding their fake microphones, lip syncing and swaying to the lyrics we had all memorized. He was my same age. I couldn’t get enough of Michael Jackson. I felt a special kinship with him then, and did, for the rest of my life until he died. I was sad when he left this world!
Hanging out at Liza's house, trying her mom's grilled cheese sandwiches instead of my mom's...formed some of my earliest memories. Playing in her front yard and her back yard were also favorite memories. In the front yard of thick St. Augustine grass, we played “dodge the car” by sliding to the grass when a car’s headlights would shine on us in the front yard. In Liza’s back yard, she had a jungle gym and slide, and we would flip and flip over the bars, doing somersaults that would pull the skin on the back of your knee if you didn’t fly over just right. Ouch! Liza was really good at it.
Killing me softly with her songs
Lakin Sacedo looks delicate, with an almost fairy-like beauty, as she strums her guitar, her eyes cast down as her soft mellifluous voice begins to fill the room. And yet, those of us gathered for the Reche Canyon house concert to hear her for the first time were not prepared for the impact her deeply personal lyrics and impossibly beautiful voice would have.
From the first word, I was spellbound by Lakin¾and vouched from that moment that she is destined to become one of the great mononymous singer-songwriter talents of our time, to become known by only her first name, and reaching into the lives of young and old¾across generations, genres, and races.
Lakin’s voice—the songs, and the feelings—will break your heart. And fill your soul.
On this special night, Lakin introduced the living room crowd to singles from her new album, “Silent Conversations.” Perhaps it was the intimacy of the setting, or the broken dreams of my own life, but it seemed that Lakin’s lyrics hit their key notes of love, family, redemption, acceptance, home, courage, and the planet with an honesty I wasn’t ready for. There were several times I felt moved to tears, pierced by the strength of her words and the gift of her talent.
The young artist comes from a musical family: her father a percussionist-singer, her mother, a pianist who also taught Lakin about poetry. At age 33, Lakin has found her voice and her musical style—it’s all hers.
“It’s hard to be honest, and say the things we need or want to say sometimes,” Lakin said, as she introduced her single that will be released on Monday, the title track of the new album. Her soulful alto voice streamed skillfully between her full voice and lilting falsetto, her effortless runs calling for full attention.
Lakin also shared a sweet story and the song she wrote about her wife while traveling home to California from the Pacific Northwest, wedged between the forest and the ocean on a trip she will always remember. Her lyrics remind us that “no one tells you this life will take you on a journey you don’t expect.” And, it’s a love song: “I could go with you for a lifetime,” her words confidently declare to her beloved.
“A mi lado,” by my side,” is a tribute to her Hispanic culture, with lyrics in both English and Spanish, and is a reminder that home is where the heart is. Her song, “Blindsided,” introduced the rejection her longtime community church levied upon realizing that Lakin was dating a woman—issuing an unexpected ultimatum.
The single, “Courageous,” depicts Lakin’s experiences of unrequited affection: “You can’t have your heart broken if you don’t put your whole heart in,” she sings. And then admits her own vulnerability, “at least you know mine was open, and I’d do it all again.”
The young singer-songwriter says her music is a blend of Neo-Soul and Indie Folk, and accompanied her precise acoustic guitar with a modest onboard amplification system and gentle effects using a few simple guitar pedals, standing through the entire hour-long performance.
One of the guests quipped after the show that Lakin was like a “female James Taylor.” Others have compared her to India Arie, she said. She considers both comparisons compliments, Lakin says, laughing.
“Songwriting isn’t something I like to do, it’s something I have to do. It’s how I come to terms with what’s happening in my life,” Lakin said.
Lakin will invite friends and fans into the studio at the end of the year, to sing with her on one track: “don’t forget to look around, and see the world.”
After a night of reminders of beauty, acceptance, love, and humanity through Lakin’s eyes, and voice, I won’t forget.
Josh Brake: lighting the way
Ever wonder why your hand glows red when you shine a flashlight through it? Or how that is connected to the fact it’s tough to see through fog? It turns out that the same physical phenomenon is behind both: optical scattering. To learn more, we turn to Josh Brake, assistant professor of engineering at Harvey Mudd College, who is teaching students about biophotonics, the study of the science at the intersection of optics and biology that is increasingly playing a role in biomedical diagnostics and therapies.
At Caltech where he earned his PhD in electrical engineering, Brake worked on developing new tools to see deep into scattering media, like biological tissue, and on applying these tools to biomedical challenges in the life sciences and neuroscience. This work can help generate more accurate, more complete and less-expensive optical images of tissue samples. The investigation of ways to extract information from scattered light in tissue coupled with work on computational microscopy make up the focus of his new lab, which will be equipped with lasers, cameras, microscopes, computers and spatial light modulators to enable Mudd students to get involved in the development of next-generation optical microscopes.
With student researchers, he’ll work on developing methods to noninvasively focus light deep inside tissue, thus creating new tools and measurement schemes to make sensitive measurements of key biological markers, such as blood flow. Such measurements can help determine which parts of the brain are being activated, how fast blood is traveling or when certain neurovascular events occur, for example. By using scattered light to “tease out information deep inside tissue,” he explains, we have the potential to make functional MRI-like imaging cheaper and more accessible.
Brake will introduce students to methods such as wavefront shaping (a class of techniques used to reclaim scattered light), optical phase conjugation, and Fourier ptychographic microscopy, a microscopy technique which enables wide field-of-view, high-resolution imaging that was developed in his PhD lab at Caltech.
Brake’s enthusiasm for research and the potential of biophotonics to improve people’s lives extends to his teaching. For his first class, he taught Microprocessor-based Systems: Design and Applications (E155 or MicroPs as it is affectionally called by students), an advanced technical elective where students get to apply their digital design skills using programmable logic and microcontrollers. The final assignment requires students to use a microcontroller and a field-programmable gate array along with a piece of new hardware they haven’t used before to build a device that is “fun or useful.”
“I love working one-on-one with students and am passionate about seeing each of my students thrive as individuals,” says Brake, who especially enjoys interacting with students as they build and debug hardware. “As someone who has gone through the struggle and experienced the joy of learning new and complex concepts many times myself, I want to help guide students as they pursue their own journeys of learning.”