“High Culture”

A Small Place with Big Taste

Owings Mills restaurant serves exceptional sushi

Ashley Parks

Staff Writer


Summary: Sushi Ya, a small Japanese restaurant in Owings Mills, provides great ambience and even better sushi.

The small, two window restaurant tucked between a mattress and shoe store in Valley Centre shopping center on Reisterstown Road may not look like much at first glance. However, the food served at Sushi Ya Japanese Restaurant might leave a big enough impression to keep you coming back for more.

Customers that enter through their doors are met by a trickling pond of koi fish and a smiling waitress. Seating is plentiful and decorative. Several tables sit along a wall of paper frames. Behind those frames is a mysterious yet mesmerizing light source that changes color every few seconds. A curious shrine and bamboo also add to the room’s unique decor.

Once seated, a waitress brings warm, steaming towels to sanitize guests’ hands and asks if they would like something to drink. Options range from the typical Coke products to Japanese beer.

The menu is packed with countless options, organized by type: maki, nigiri, cooked rolls and special rolls. If diners want more options, a black chalkboard can be found to the right of the sushi bar, advertising the specials.

After the order is placed, men behind the bar begin rolling and dicing with practiced hands. It seems almost like a performance: the bar as their stage, paper lanterns are their spotlights and gurgling rock fountains are their backdrop. The chefs, in their green robes with Japanese characters, turn out a plate of eight rolls in a matter of minutes.

The presentation of sushi here is certainly worthy of appreciation. Neatly arranged and delivered to the table on a white plate or wooden board, each roll is identified by the waitress. They are perfectly compact and full of flavor. The fish is as fresh as if it was caught just moments before serving.

If one’s appetite survives the sampling of sushi, a selection of desserts is available. The green tea ice cream is an interesting, yet satisfying choice. It is smooth in consistency and light in flavor; a perfect finish to a delicious meal.

Sushi Ya has occupied the Valley Centre for about 20 years now. It sees a steady number of people throughout the year. There are some new faces and some veteran patrons, but no matter who is coming in, they will likely find themselves leaving with a full stomach and a smile of satisfaction.

At UMBC, the dog is in charge

A look behind the mask of True Grit

Allison Opitz

Contributing Writer


Summary: CJ, the person inside True Grit’s suit, provides an exclusive look at what life is like as UMBC’s top dog.

Has your dog ever knocked down former President William Howard Taft during the Presidents’ Race at a Washington Nationals game? Is a he close friend of a catamount from Vermont? Can he do the Harlem Shake, dance to “Gangnam Style” or perform stunts with cheerleaders? Better yet, is he over five feet tall and the official face of UMBC?

UMBC’s official mascot is a Chesapeake Bay Retriever named True Grit. He can be seen at school sporting events, promotional events and even the occasional major-league baseball game. According to the barely five-foot-three brunette that gives him life, he is more than a dog, he is “an ambassador outside of UMBC that promotes school spirit on and off campus.”

CJ, the human behind True Grit, refuses to give his real name for the sake of keeping the mascot’s personality sacred. He says his name in a voice barely above a whisper to keep True Grit’s identity separate from his while out in public, and he does everything in his power to be discreet about his mascotting role.

The costume itself fits into a large black canvas bag and is comprised of several parts. CJ effortlessly works his way into the body, which is essentially a furry jumpsuit that has some padding on the chest and stomach to give a more imposing look. A white XXL jersey (number one, of course) and black athletic shorts are added next, followed by the paws.

On special occasions, he can be seen in different clothing: on his birthday he wore a crown, and at Homecoming he wears a homecoming t-shirt. Before CJ puts on the head, True Grit’s yellow Under Armour basketball shoes complete his athletic outfit. As soon as the head goes on, all conversation ceases—he is completely transformed into True Grit.

“It’s not normal at all,” said CJ about mascotting while getting ready for a UMBC Athletics marketing event in the Commons breezeway. “I don’t live a normal life. But I’m not bragging!” Once he makes his transformation into his alter ego, his body language changes instantly, and it’s only waves and thumbs up from there. There is no more CJ—only his canine friend shines through. He makes sure to stop and rub the nose of the retriever statue outside of the RAC on his way to the breezeway.

CJ first started mascotting in the fall of 2012 at the homecoming bonfire. At that point, he was still getting used to having a tail, and relied heavily on dancing in place and lots of waves and high-fives. Now, though, he has this art form down to a science.

True Grit represents the spirit of UMBC, and CJ said, “the most important thing is to get fans excited.” He certainly has the personality for it, as evidenced by how excited he gets when he sees photos of True Grit around campus. He walks up to a poster with him on it and points with a huge grin, saying, “that’s me!”

A mascot requires more endurance than anything else. It’s especially challenging on warm summer days with multiple events in quick succession. Heatstroke is a real risk. Being peppy is important, but CJ has an exceptional ability to mime and convey thoughts and emotions without words. “Every event I do, I learn something more about myself. Even when I get sick from the heat after an event, it’s worth it.”

Despite seeing him everywhere, he has to remember that “the fans love True Grit, not me.” It’s strange to look in the mirror and not be able to see any semblance of himself, but that of a dog with a completely different identity. Some people try to guess who is inside the costume, and one prospective student asked if it was Freeman Hrabowski. True Grit’s response was a finger over his lips as he silently laughed.

Seeing True Grit walking down Academic Row on a sunny Thursday afternoon certainly puts a smile on nearly every face. Some just smile, others wave, and some even greet him by name. Through True Grit, CJ intends to share his contagious UMBC spirit with the entire campus and uncover the vitality he knows exists, one tail wag at a time.

Let EduPal be your pal

Nimasha Fernando


Staff Writer

Summary: EduPal is an online scheduling website that allows students to automatically access course syllabi and populate their personalized schedules with academic dates in addition to personal, employment, and other events.

Scores of commitments both academic and extracurricular barrage students striving to maintain organization against their hectic new semester schedules.

Markus Allen Proctor, a junior UMBC tech entrepreneurship and organizational management interdisciplinary studies major, was motivated by his own demanding schedule to develop the EduPal site to assist students with managing their precious time.

“I created EduPal because I noticed how disorganized I was as a student. I took Chemistry my sophomore year and noticed how Dr. Carpenter listed everything that we needed to do in advance on Blackboard. I found that to be extremely helpful” said Proctor.

Realizing that many courses did not offer students the advantage of having all assignment dates in one location, Proctor and his team endeavored to provide students with this organizational strategy.

Currently in beta phase, EduPal offers users a color coded schedule automatically populated with every date recorded in the student’s course syllabi which can be found on the site.

“Enrolling into a course [on the EduPal site] puts everything on your calendar in seconds and dropping a course removes everything just as quickly” said Proctor. Calendars further permit students to incorporate personal activities such as club meetings or work shifts to construct their comprehensive schedules.

“This looks really good,” said Vicky Le, a sophomore biology, health administration and public policy major, while examining EduPal’s site on her mobile device. “I still prefer something I can write in and flip through the pages of,” said Le noting that paper agendas can become burdensome to continually update, though helpful at times.

“EduPal is designed for the devices we seem to never be able to put down. Handwritten agendas are great until someone spills something on it or it gets lost,” said Proctor, adding that “Google Calendar is designed for general use where EduPal is designed for academia.”

Currently, the site contains over 200 courses hosting approximately 500 users only two weeks after their initial launch. For courses not already on the site, instructors or students can create their syllabus and share it with peers.

Eventually, EduPal hopes to serve courses utilizing online homework sites more effectively and pledges to work with instructors to resolve issues of these missing dates on syllabi.

Options for students to compare their schedules in order to better coordinate events are also being developed as EduPal aspires to have all UMBC courses available through the site and a mobile app.

“It could be really helpful for forming study groups since people don’t always use Blackboard” said Nancy Chen, a UMBC sophomore Psychology major, referring to online Blackboard course forums allowing students to post messages in attempts at coordinating study groups.

“My advice for startups and entrepreneurs is to not keep your idea a secret,” said Proctor, advising prospective innovators that successful ideas solve problems and are something people want and will pay for.

“Worst case scenario: You build the best product no one wants,” said Proctor.


Volleyball slumping after fast start

By Ryan B. Harrison

Sports Editor


The UMBC women’s volleyball team started the 2014 season with four straight victories, their best start since 2007. Twenty days later, the Retrievers are two games below .500 and have only taken two out of their past 25 sets.

UMBC has faced some tough opposition recently, including No. 20 Arizona State University, No. 12 Brigham Young University and No. 5 Washington University. The Retrievers were shutout in all three of those matches.

The Retrievers have shown promise in a few of their stronger sets against ranked opponents. In the third set versus Arizona State, the Retrievers jumped out to a 4-0 lead, and led by as many as five points before the Wildcats found their offense. The teams battled for a few points, but runs of four, three and three points gave Arizona the clinching set.

Service has been a high point for the Retrievers all season and they currently lead the America East conference in serving aces with an average of 1.71 per set. Freshman outside hitter Abbie Mirabella currently leads the America East with 21 aces over the season.

The Retrievers come in around the middle of the pack in just about every other statistical category when compared to their conference peers. They rank fourth in hitting percentage, opponent hitting percentage and blocks.

A huge area of concern for the Retrievers heading into conference play is the lack of defense the team has been able to muster. A paltry 10.48 digs per set puts them last in the conference by nearly six.

Despite poor standings statistically, UMBC currently sits third in the conference based on non-conference win percentage. Stony Brook University is second at an even .500, while Hartford University is in the top spot with a 9-6 record and a .600 win percentage.

The Retrievers have one final non-conference match before opening conference play at Stony Brook next Friday, Oct. 3. Prior to that, UMBC will travel to the nation’s capital to take on Howard University, who currently sit at 7-7 with a two game losing streak.