Tuesday, May 26, 2009

London at Night

Check these out, especially if you've been to London:


Can you hear that? That's my reminiscent sigh.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Musings on a Year as an Alum

One year ago I graduated from Syracuse University, a year ahead of schedule. As the vast majority of my friends are graduating this year, I thought I'd offer you guys this: another list to add to the unsolicited advice you have no doubt been receiving over the past few months.

One week from TODAY you will be an alum. Some of you are freaking out too much. Some of you are not freaking out enough. If you are going to grad school, I really don't have a lot for you, as I have never been in that situation. If you already have a job, I'm sure everyone hates you. If you don't have a job, you're in the same boat I was a year ago

Either way, I can tell you when it is really going to hit you. After the ceremony, after your family leaves, when you are by yourself, maybe in your bedroom. Maybe you'll be starting to pack, or collapse on your bed because of the craziness of the weekend. That's when you'll realize, "I will never be a undergrad again." Some of you may realize, "I will never be a student again." There's no way to prepare for it. Just let the emotions hit you and try to remember that life will go on. You're not as lost as you think.

So is a small list of things to think about:

  • Maybe you're moving back home. Everyone's situation and relationship with their parents is obviously very different. But if you're dreading going from (almost) complete independence and crazy roommates to Mom & Pop, think of your positives. You can't beat the financial situation. With looming student loans, think of the hundreds (maybe thousands) your saving by staying home for a while. As far as your interactions with your parents, hopefully they'll treat you like a adult, but still remember to pick your battles. A little bit of compromise on your part will go a long way in ensuring you're not miserable for however long you're home.
  • Let's face it. The economy sucks. Or at least people think it does, so that's how the job market is reacting. I know the Career Services folks are screaming for you to network, and that's go to be a smart move. But don't forget to supplement that with the good old classified ads - that's where I found my job. DO RESEARCH on the companies you're applying to so you can customize your cover letters and resumes. I know my boss hates when people apply for jobs and the only thing they know about us is what was listed in the ad.
  • Budget Budget Budget. December will come quicker than you think, and that first student loan bill may come as a bit of a shock. The best thing I did was setting up another checking account. The only thing I use that account for is to pay my student loan and my car loan. Other than that I don't touch it. When you get a job, direct deposit a chunk of every paycheck there. Depending on your expenses, the amount you can put away will vary. But remember as your expenses and income change to adjust the amount you're putting toward your loan. Also, don't forget about the interest that is going to accrue on your loan. Any payments you make get applied to late fees and interest first, so don't be surprised when your principal is not going down as fast as you'd like.
I guess those are the main points. Cherish your last week of college - party it up, sit on the quad, take mental pictures of those places on campus you never want to forget.

This is kind of an end for me too. All my personal connections to SU will be gone. I'm going to miss you guys - although I know we'll Facebook and Twitter until we're 90. There's probably some of you I will never see again. Although, maybe we'll meet again in 10 0r 15 years - you know I'm much more likely to go to your reunion than to mine.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

UFC: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Hold on to your hats, folks. This is a long one.

A few weekends ago I attended a jiu-jitsu seminar run by Shihan Gene Dunn of World Jiu-Jitsu United. Grappling is a part of my karate training I have always enjoyed, but it has always been an ancillary part. We are now going to be given the chance to actually enroll in a jiu-jitsu program, and I will literally be starting over at white belt in that system.

Jiu-jitsu has been popularized recently by the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship). This, like anything, has had its pros and cons for the system.

In case you don't know, the UFC is a professional league for mixed martial arts (MMA) which, as apparent in the name, blends many different forms of martial arts into a competition. Athletes use skills from kickboxing, muay thai, jiu-jitsu, judo and many other forms to win their fight. Jiu-jitsu, a martial art that is made up of throws (taking your partner to the ground), ground work (what you may think of as wrestling) and submissions (getting your opponent to tap out before you break a limb/choke them), is associated a lot with the UFC, as many of the fights end up on the ground.

The Good
The UFC has evolved over time from a no-holds-barred brawl to a highly-organized, well-managed organization. There are of course rules for safety - no eye gouging or biting, for example - and the referees stay tight on the match to ensure everything is going properly. Some people say MMA is even safer than boxing because of the controls and pace of the sport.

From relative obscurity, the UFC has taken the sporting world by storm. It has surpassed boxing and the WWE in pay-per-view stats(either revenue or viewers or both - I can't remember). Each event may draw more than 1 million viewers from over 30 countries, not to mention the hundreds (or thousands) that watch it live. (Sidenote - MMA events are still banned in some states, including New York. Let's get with the times people - do you know the revenue you could bring in?).

Karate has always been that kind of weird "sport" that unless you are involved in it, you don't know what it's all about. This popularity has brought martial arts to the attention of many people who would otherwise associate it only with The Karate Kid. I don't have any stats on this, but I'm sure schools have seen a jump in enrollment, as people can see the physical and mental benefits - fitness, discipline, etc.

Most of the fighters in the UFC are at the peak of their physical and technical game. Having been in karate for over 12 years, I love to watch UFC events to watch the technical skills of the fighters - especially the jiu-jitsu aspect. I can relate. Not that I've ever been stuck in an octogon cage with a top-level athlete. But I can watch a fight and think, "Ooh! If he can just slip that arm out he'll have a perfect triangle choke!"

The Bad
When I was at the seminar, Shihan Dunn brought up several points that made me revisit some thoughts I had about the UFC in the past.

As with all sports, some of the athletes are ridiculously cocky. Before the fights they always have interviews with the fighters, during which at least one of them inevitably says something like, "My goal is to hurt him/kill him/make him bleed/break his arm." And while I understand that trash-talking is all part of the game, that's not what the martial arts are about. To me, the UFC should be about showcasing your martial arts skills - not about hurting your opponent.

While more people may now think they know about jiu-jitsu, they may be getting the wrong impression. The popular "Ground & Pound" technique - in which you get your opponent to the ground and pound on them until they either get away or you win - is not part of jiu-jitsu at all. In fact, jiu-jitsu doesn't really involve much striking. It's about positioning and submissions. Just like in boxing, some of these guys in the UFC really get rocked, and it can be scary to watch.

The Ugly
Two words. Cauliflower ear. This condition, common among wrestlers, mixed martial artists, and rugby players, is explained by Wikipedia as this: "If the external portion of the ear suffers a blow, a blood clot or other fluid may collect under the perichondrium. This separates the cartilage from the overlying perichondrium that is its source of nutrients, causing the cartilage to die. This leads to a formation of fibrous tissue in the overlying skin. When this happens, the outer ear becomes permanently swollen and deformed, resembling a cauliflower."

Remember those fun head straps the wrestlers in high school had to wear? It was for good reason. Once your ears start deforming, there isn't much you can do about it, and it can lead to serious problems. Plus it looks gross. Don't believe this shirt. It's just not true.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

This One's For The Girls...

Okay. So since I spend way too much time in front of the television watching sports-related programming, I've picked up a few noteworthy celeb crushes along the way. I feel it is now my womanly duty to pass along information about these athletic hunks that less sports-inclined girls may not know about.

Disclaimer: The pictures are not the best. All of these guys look MUCH better in live action.

Disclaimer #2: Yes, my boyfriend knows about these crushes and puts up with/condones them. Most of them anyway.

The Sportscaster
Tony "Stat Boy" Reali is the host of ESPN's Around the Horn. The show features four sportswriters debating current topics, with Tony arbitrarily giving them points. With his boyish good looks and witty charm, Tony calls me to the t.v. if I'm home at 5:00. Plus, he tweets!

The Ref
Being a sports fan, I generally don't like refs. Here is my exception. Ed Hochuli is the only NFL referee that looks like he could actually play the game. He is also almost three times my age. So what? Look at those arms! Ed got into a little bit of hot water this past season over a blown call that, due to NFL rules, could not be reversed. I blame the organization, not poor Ed. In real life, he's a lawyer, so he's gotta be smart too.

The Import
David Beckham may be some girls' British hunk o'choice, but I chose someone a little more...manly. Michael "The Count" Bisping (the one kicking, not the one with the flapping flab) is a UFC fighter with a record of 18 wins and only 1 loss. If watching two guys rolling around in a cage isn't your thing, just tune in for the pre- and post-fight interviews. That accent makes me swoon every time.

The Superstar
This category was a toughy. While I adore LeBron James, most people know who he is, even if they aren't sports fan. So I'm going to go with Dwight Howard, aka Superman. At 6'11", 265 lbs, this hunk o'man thrills the dunk contests and regular games with his sky-high athleticism.

So there you have it. A good round look at the world of sports and its hidden gems. Of course, there are many more pieces of eye candy - there has to be with that much muscle and spandex.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Am I a Sports Sell-Out?

I've followed sports for as long as I can remember. Pro football and college basketball are my favorite, and I've remained loyal to the Buffalo Bills and Syracuse Orange since I was a little kid. I'm also pretty passionate about my teams, and have been known to scream and the tv, either in joy or in pain (usually pain during football season...and seriously Buffalo - T.O.? Not happy, but that's another story).

These days, being a sports fan may also mean you participate in some kind of fantasy league. I have at least one fantasy football team per season and fill out at least two NCAA brackets each March. When choosing your players or teams, it's important to think with your head and not your heart. Thus, I don't have too many Buffalo players or Cinderella stories.

At this time of year I find myself questioning my fanhood integrity. For example. Today Siena, a nine-seed and only about two hours from my house, played Louisville, the number one overall seed and a Big East rival. It was a close game that Louisville eventually won. Normally, I would have cheered relentlessly for Siena, seeking an upset and a little retribution for SU's two losses to Louisville this season. But since I have Louisville going to the championship game in both of my brackets, I waited anxiously for the Cardinals to get it together and win.

Does this make me a bad person? Does it make me less of a fan of the sport, and more selfishly concerned about my own competitive edge and financial gain? If it does, I'm certainly not the only one - not that it makes it okay.

There are exceptions to this rule. In my brackets, I have Syracuse losing to North Carolina in the Elite Eight. Of course, I will not actually be rooting for UNC. Syracuse's victories trump any kind of competition I could personally be in.

Does anyone else go through this internal dilemma? I've considered not doing the brackets or fantasy leagues, but they're so much fun! I always think that this year could be the year I'll win it all. Think you can do better? Wanna put $5 on it?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

...The Non-Uma Thurman Type

That's right. I have poison ivy. In March.

You may be wondering how on earth that happened. So am I. It's me - I've barely been outside in the last 6 months.

Last Sunday I had one itchy dot on my elbow that I thought was a bug bite. It slowly turned into bigger and itchier patches on both arms. At that point I thought I was having an allergic reaction to something, perhaps the new brand of drier sheets we had started using. When the spots spread further still and were definitely clustering and looking really gross, I went to the doctor thinking I had some tropical disease. She simply gave me a funny look and said it was poison ivy and there was nothing I could do about it. She also suggested that the dog may have gotten into it somewhere and that's how I got it (Note: no one else in my family has it and my mom gets poison ivy at least once a year).

I've had it for over a week and it shows no signs of stopping. New spots are still appearing - I now have them on my arms, legs, stomach and back. To add to the oddity, I even have it on that one part of my back that I can't reach no matter how much I contort my arms and shoulders. It seriously looks like I found a patch of poison ivy and rolled around in it. The doctor did assure me that I'm not contagious, so don't worry.

I had poison ivy once before. I was in 4th or 5th grade and actually had a legitimate excuse - I had been in the woods at a friend's house. I am SOOOOO itchy now and there's no way it was this bad then. If there is one thing I remember in life and love to complain about, it is my personal ailments.

I've used so much calamine lotion in the past few days that I am never going to be able to look at the color pink again. Speaking of which, calamine lotion befuddles me. How is it ALWAYS cold? Wikipedia doesn't tell me, although it does tell me that in 1992 the FDA basically said, "Nothing will ever make you stop itching. SUCKS TO BE YOU!"

So now I wait. In an itchy hell. But then again, it could be worse. I could actually be allergic to a chemical, or worse, a food. That would be terrible.

Monday, March 2, 2009

I See Dead People

Okay actually I don't. But I read about them. A lot. One of the things I am in charge of at work is our huge database of donors and participants and family members and other random connections and such. Having over 10,000 people to keep track of is a lot. When I do mailings, obviously I want to save on postage as much as I can.

Therefore, every morning I scour the obituaries on syracuse.com and see if any of my constituents or their family members have died. It's actually one of the favorite parts of my day. Usually I go through the obits first thing in the morning, so I make myself a cup of tea and settle in at my desk. Scouring through the names, I usually find at least one person per day connected to us in some way.

Reading all of the obituaries is like going through all the genres of movies or literature. There are the notices of young kids that die in car crashes or stillborn babies that make me want to cry. Then there are the 97-year-old great-grandmas who died peacefully in their sleep after a long fulfilling life.

There are several important aspects to every obituary: the life story, the surviving relatives, services, and contributions. The life story is the most varied portion. Some people have one line that says when they died and where they were from and that's it. Others have novels about their childhood through adulthood and lists every club or organization they were involved with and every pet they ever had and every every job they ever held. My goal in life (or death, I suppose) is to have a nice middle-of-the-road obituary. Sorry Pongo - you probably won't make the cut.

The "In lieu of flowers" section is the other section I notice the most. It's kind of morbid, but I always hope I'll find our name listed. Memorial donations can raise a lot of money without having to do the solicitation. Now please don't get me wrong - I obviously don't want anyone connected to us to die.

Reading the obituaries every day makes you think a lot about...well, death. It's funny those few paragraphs are the way your loved ones choose to represent you to the world. But I guess it's not really important what I think when I read the obituaries about people I don't know. What matters is how the people they knew and influenced remember them.

Remember that whole getting ahead of myself thing? Here I am, thinking about my death and how I want to be remembered and all that nonsense. Probably not what I should be focused on right now - I got a long time before that comes (hopefully).

"There's two dates in time
That they'll carve on your stone
And everyone knows what they mean
What's more important
Is the time that is known
In that little dash there in between"
-Garth Brooks, "Pushing Up Daisies