Thursday, January 19, 2012

Older'n Dirt

0. Get a girlfr-
Ha! kidding.

1. Attend a regular season Packer game
I didn't get to achieve my goal last year of going to an NFL game, but I still want to shoot a little higher. Though I'm not always terribly obvious about it, I follow the Packers as religiously as perhaps anyone I know. I just haven't gotten the chance to get to Lambeau to see a real game. I'm hoping that in 2012, with a somewhat favorable schedule of home games against non-marquee teams (Tennessee, Jacksonville, Arizona), I can finally try to network a ticket-holder connection that I've never had, or at least get to a lower-hype game via the resale market. This resolution doesn't preclude me from making it to an away game (road games against the miserable/nearby Rams and Colts are strong possibilities), though getting to the Frozen Tundra is preferred.

2. Drive in two more states in which I have not previously driven
Third straight year for this old resolution theme, but I like that it pushes me a bit more every year. The window of my life where I can freely travel (cheaply) by road without consequence is coming to a close at some point. Most of the states near Wisconsin have been driven in by me, although options with moderate proximity include Indiana, Michigan, Missouri and Nebraska. You know, the best states.

3. Visit Tampa again
I haven't been back for a while, and I just don't shut up about it either! My love for the city might just be due to some positive associations, but let me have it. Some people have "up north" or "Europe" or "Disneyland" (barf), but this is my idyllic escape. I don't know if I'll ever live there again, but after my years at UW I can't imaging flying back into TPA without my heart being warmed (and my rest of me, for that matter).

4. Go to a Tampa Bay Lightning game during the 2012-13 season
I didn't get to go to one this year because they didn't play in Chicago this season, and their one Minnesota game was on a Monday night during school. I'm at the mercy of the NHL schedulers, and I guess, looking back, I was just fortunate enough that they played in St. Paul on a Saturday last season. Hopefully they'll play the Wild on another weekend, or play at Chicago next year, or at least a more reasonably-timed Columbus or St. Louis game (both of them this year conflicted with exams). That having been said, if I achieve resolution #3, #4 is probably coming down with it. I also hope they aren't terrible again next season, but that should be their resolution, not mine. Also, if the NHL misses any games to lockout, I'm giving myself this one automatically, because screw that.

5. Go to MLC call day
I've always been intrigued by MLC's call day process. It seemed like the NFL draft (which I love), with all these young college graduates getting told where they will live for, you know, the start of their adult lives. I can imagine it would be exciting and a little nerve-wracking at the same time. With some of my friends graduating/getting calls in May, and with me no longer graduating the same weekend, this seems like a good year to do it.

Personal Improvement/Achievement
6. Get a worthwhile experiential internship
Now that I'm in a field in which I have a desire to strive toward being one of the best, I'm hoping that will show and I'll have more success when it comes to landing related work than I have in the past (related: I always laugh when I see people complaining online about having applied to 10 jobs and not hearing back...I used to apply for 10 jobs a week, at very least). Hopefully some combination of hard work, age, talent and connections will finally result in scoring some legitimate career-related work experience.

7. Run a little bit!
I've had this as a resolution, or at least something similar, here before. Now that I have a girlfriend who has a history of the dreaded "run for fun" it may be worth it to get a little better at the art of distance running. I've probably been over the fact that a large percentage of my friends always seem to be cross-country runners, and how I almost ran cross-country in high school, but maybe I can challenge myself to at least run a 10k or something.

8. Expand the range of my cooking abilities/go out to eat less
I think these could go hand in hand. I don't go out to eat ALL that often (a few times a week), but it's still more than I think I should be. I'd probably be less apt to go out to eat if I was capable of making a wider range of more satisfying food at home. Part of that has to do with having to share a kitchen with 6 other people and having limited ingredient storage, but I could be making more of an effort than I am. I'm beginning to look forward to having a place more to myself, but that can wait until I'm done with college. I'm fortunate enough just to have my own room at the moment.

9. Finish the year on track to graduate in one more semester
Hopefully I've finally nailed down what will be my final change of academic plans, as I think I'm really going to be ready to be done with college by May of 2013. However, better to have to sit and marinate in school for an extra year than to jump into the work world completely unprepared, armed with only a degree in hand. Hopefully by next year I'll be more confident in my ability to compete in the work force and I'll be looking forward to graduation rather than dreading it. There is much work to be done to get there, but I'm relishing the opportunity.

10. Accomplish at least half of my New Year's Resolutions
Not counting numbers 0 or 10.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Seward's Folly

Let's see, did I do better on my resolutions than I did on blogging this year (oof, happy 7 years on life-support, F109)?

1. Create some forward motion in my love life
Got 'em! It certainly wasn't unresolved for long, as I'm now closing in on a year in my current relationship, which is far and away a personal record. I won't have much else to say about it since I have a contract with Us Weekly concerning relationship details, but I'd check TMZ for leaks if you're interested.

2. Enjoy my first drink on my 21st birthday
Just after midnight on December 22nd, I had a Spotted Cow in the comfort of my bedroom. It had the essence of Cheerios, I thought. With a final exam looming that evening, I didn't get too buck wild until the next night, where I got taken to a classy bar to have a reasonable amount of drinks. Usually that sentence would be taken as tongue-and-cheek, but come on, it's me we're talking about here. I don't know if I'll ever get drunk.

3. Attend a regular season NFL game

Boooo. I had tentative plans set up to hit up the Dolphins at Chiefs game on November 6th, but school got in the way of the 6 dollar tickets (remember when both of those teams hadn't won yet? Only a sports addict like myself would want to watch such miserable football). Both teams ended up being exceedingly mediocre, which I guess is kind of the goal when you're hoping to score cheap tickets to see two teams you don't care about. So this dream is still on hold, but I've got plenty of life ahead of me. Someday maybe I'll finally make friends with someone who holds Packers tickets.

4. Drive in TWO states in which I have not driven before
In August, I think, I drove a good chunk of Oklahoma and in Kansas from the Oklahoma border to Kansas City in the family van while driving Evan back from Los Alamos. The drive through those states was about as interesting as it sounds.

5. Attend a hip-hop concert
The best! My lady-friend and I went to the Kanye West/Kid Cudi show at Summerfest with one of my roommates and his girlfriend. It was absolutely fantastic. I consider myself quite a Kanye fan (after being quite an ironic Kanye fan), so I'd enjoy it either way, but he's an impressive performer. I think the setlist was 30 songs or so. "Good Life" will probably always be one of my favorite songs.

Personal Improvement/Achievement
6. Fully pay off my sophomore and junior years of college
Nope, and what's more, I decided it might be fun to pay for another year of school on top of it! That decision will probably get detailed a bit more in another post sometime in January, and the machinations behind that decision are a big part of why I didn't have it in me to blog with any regularity. In short, I've totally been cheating on Flight 109. It makes me so sad to think of it that way, but it's for the best, hopefully. We'll see. To be continued.

7. Start playing some piano again
Nope, but at least I started playing bass again. That has to count for something, right?

8. Accomplish things on Fridays
I'm going to give myself this one. I did make an effort here, and my most important task of the semester (year? college career? life?) was accomplished on a Friday. Even more on that later as well.

9. Get professionally published
Not technically, but almost and kind of. And hopefully in the future. This one goes with the vagueness of resolutions 6 and 8. Stay tuned.

10. Accomplish at least six of my first nine New Year's Resolutions
Now what business did I have shooting for higher than 50 percent? That's what I hit every year! Nonetheless, despite a paltry showing in the third category, I hardly consider this to be a lost year on the self-improvement front. I'm getting there, and I find it nice to be able to end the year on an upward trend, just like I was so excited about last year. But like I said, stay tuned. This was a year of loose ends. We'll see what kind of knots they find their way into.

See ya on the other side of New Year's.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

To picture my life, boy you need a higher resolution

Another good resolution pun.

1. Create some forward motion in my love life
Last year I was able to take the big step of getting my head on straight again, but the fact remains that I’ve spent a long time single. Since last year I’ve met and grown closer to a lot of compelling individuals, so it seems like at some point I’ve got to at least step up and get a date or something. I’ve had this resolution in mind since summer of last year, and I’m hoping that it won’t be unresolved for long.

2. Enjoy my first drink on my 21st birthday
I don’t have to do all that much to achieve this resolution, other than stay the teetotaling course and have a drink on December 22nd. However it’s something I’ve been working at for quite some time, so now that I’m in the homestretch there’s no reason to stop challenging myself now.

3. Attend a regular season NFL game
Now that I’ve got tickets for my first NHL game, I’d like to consider the possibility of filling in another hole in my much-treasured sports experience spectrum. While I did get the chance to go to a Packers preseason game against the Broncos in like, seventh grade, I’d like to take the leap and go to a game that matters now. Given the difficulty of getting Packers tickets for a first-generation Wisconsinite like myself, I like the idea of traveling somewhere to watch my first regular season game. Possibilities include a Bucs game during another Tampa vacation, weekend trips for the Vikings, Lions or Bears, a road trip to a Chiefs or Rams game to culminate in even more delicious barbeque, or a Panthers game if Evan ends up in North Carolina for grad school. The possibilities are there, and with my flair for US travel, they honestly all sound appealing to me.

4. Drive in TWO states in which I have not driven before
Yes, building off of last year’s resolution, this one is obviously harder because it requires not one, but two more states, and also because by now I’ve driven in all the gimme states touching Wisconsin. Which states will this resolution force me to visit on my own time this year? Missouri? Indiana? Oklahoma (where I’m presently writing this)? Beats me, man!

5. Attend a hip-hop concert
Haha...I don’t even know what I’d do with myself once I got there, and I also am well aware that Wisconsin is pretty incapable of drawing decent acts. However, there usually ends up being a handful of mid-tier hip-hop artists who find their way to Madison for JAMZ events or whatever, so it would be fun to see what one is like for once. To this day I’m still kicking myself for not going to the T.I. show in Tampa when I had the chance, regardless of how out of place I would have been (very much so).

Personal Improvement/Achievement
6. Fully pay off my sophomore and junior years of college
I couldn’t quite get sophomore year paid off last year, but the free rent involved in the equation this year gives me the hope that I might have only my senior year left to pay for by 2012, or even that I could be (temporarily) debt-free by the start of fall semester. It’s exciting! And it means I’m so close to being done with college.

7. Start playing some piano again
I took a good 6-8 years of piano lessons (I don’t really remember, actually), but I haven’t played consistently since grade school. I don’t feel the need to get back to a regular level, but I should at least start plunking around again, relearning some of the songs I knew and maybe learning some new ones. It’s not quite natural for me anymore, but I feel like it’s a good skill to have.

8. Accomplish things on Fridays
It wouldn’t be a resolution list if there wasn’t an incredibly vague one, eh? Friday is far and away my least productive day of the week during the school year (as I suppose it is for a lot of people), in which I generally only have morning classes, come back, watch Community and The Office on Hulu, and then be a worthless heap for the rest of the day. I generally just find myself too mentally exhausted and unmotivated to do anything constructive on Fridays. Sure, I’d still like to be able to relax and watch TV and go to parties on Fridays, but surely it wouldn’t kill me to find a way to get some productive use out of the day.

9. Get professionally published
Despite the non-cohesive ramblings on this blog, I like to consider myself a decent writer from time to time. I even have one (minor) magazine credit to my name. Though my time is pretty limited, I'd like to be able to try to get back to that a little and hone those skills a bit more. Obviously I'm not referring to a scholarly journal here, but instead I could see the possibility of writing an article for Cracked or a soccer site or something else along those lines. I'd have to step it up a bit and it would definitely challenge me to improve the entertainment value of my writing, but it's always been kind of a goal of mine.

10. Accomplish at least six of my first nine New Year's Resolutions
No more counting this last one in the tally.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Oh you fancy, huh?

In which I judge how I did on this year's resolutions


1. Finish the year proud of the relationship decisions I've made.
I didn't get a girlfriend or a date or any of that, but that wasn't the goal this year. I had to sort out of a lot of other things in my life and not let other distractions get in the way of that. And I didn't, getting some confidence back and a better head on my shoulders in the process. Certainly something worth being proud of, and something to build off of for sure.

2. Take a new pineapple picture
If you insist.

3. Attend an NHL game
All right, I know it's sort of a cop out, but I'm going to give myself half-credit on this one. No, I did not make the trek outside of Wisconsin to catch a pro hockey game in 2010, but my parents did give me tickets to the Tampa Bay Lightning-Minnesota Wild game in St. Paul for my birthday. So I at least got tickets this year, even if I won't go until April of next year. Assuming I'll get to wrap it up into an MLC trip weekend, it might be near the top of the growing list of things I'm really looking forward to next year.

4. Watch the DVD of "Hotel Rwanda" that I own
Just watched it yesterday! It's been sitting on my desk literally all year, and I always put it off assuming I'd eventually find the time. It was a good film. It was quite moving at parts, definitely pretty heavy in a lot of ways. Don Cheadle had a very impressive performance. Also, it's probably like the first time I've ever watched a movie alone.

5. Drive in a state that I haven't driven in before.
I actually bagged two new states this year, running my total up to seven. I drove in Iowa for the first time, from Des Moines to Davenport during my summer road trip, and I drove in Colorado on the drive home as we picked up Evan from New Mexico at the end of summer. Colorado especially was kind of interesting, getting to drive in a mountainous region, and also navigating our big conversion van through Denver. I really liked this resolution, since it forced me to bat around ideas of road trips, so I may very well make it a part of 2011's.

6. Celebrate Stabby the Green Pepper Day
It's second nature now.

Personal Improvement/Achievement
7. Get a legitimate summer internship with a legitimate company.
No dice. I didn't put in nearly the effort to get an internship this year as I had the year before, but it's a different story when you have the safety net of a job. I worked full time all summer at Target and that worked out just fine, as I got good hours (8-4:30 all week) and flexibility on my days off, something that clearly came in handy for watching world cup games and other social events.

8. Play soccer competitively
Not surprisingly, this never went down, as I was just too busy for it. I got to play a few pickup games while the weather was still warm, so hopefully I'll be able to keep that up.

9. Do something creative on a large(r than usual) scale
I didn't really get a chance to do this in 2010. Well, my friends and I continued our series of nonsense Saw parodies that started in like...2004, and "Saw IV - Rise of the Vice-BROsident" most assuredly has potential, but it was more screwing around than something on a larger than usual scale. I just don't have the motivation or time to devote to it that I used to, and I'm not the type whose creativity simply bursts at the seams if I don't have an outlet. Maybe I just used it all up on Loaded Questions answers.

10. Serve the Chapel in a capacity that I have not yet served
Yep, I've been a housefellow for a few months now, which has led to all sorts of service capacities. It's been a good experience thus far.

11. Go Running
...Not enough to be able to count it as a successful resolution. If I would just run to class, but that presents its own problems.

12. Swear less
I would say so. Darn straight. (See??)

13. Pay off my sophomore year student loans
I was unable to do so. I came awfully close, and a few decisions like going on a summer road trip probably made the difference, but that's all right. I'm barely in debt, especially when compared to most college students, and it's better to make memories like that while I still can.

14. Accomplish at least half of my New Year's Resolutions (8.5 out of 14)
Yeah! And this year I didn't even need to use the loophole of the last resolution to do so!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Original Six

...a bygone era which produced gems like this. My dad loved that commercial.

Well, it's that time of year again. December 12th, the day that the otherwise infrequently-updated Flight 109 gets pulled off the high shelf in the garage, dusted off, and given one or two tweaks just in time for New Year's.

I recognize that it's a bit strange to celebrate the longevity of a blog that is, for all intents and purposes, barely breathing. However, every time I think back to the lifespan of this bad boy, I can't help but get a little nostalgic about the six(!) years chronicled on this orange and blue database of all things Blake. While I don't do a very good job with the upkeep of this place, I love it too much to just let it die now. I know that I often come off as mostly even-keel and unaffected (unless Michelle Branch is playing at a party), but I'm such a sentimental guy at the heart of it...therefore I'm so thankful I've been writing here as long as I have, so I can keep looking back at all the memories, good and bad, since freshman year of high school.

So forgive my inconsistency, but here's to the sixth year of Flight 109 - with a sincere hope that I'll be writing about year number seven a year from now.

I should probably write a few things about what's been going on in my life since my crushing Iron Ned defeat on July 15th of this year. Let's see if I can summarize a few of the points for the sake of history keeping.

-August brought a weekend road trip with 3 others to St. Louis and Kansas City, resulting in a lot of soccer watching and some of the best barbecue in the country. It was so much fun...I just like to travel for the sake of traveling, but the combination of great food, great friends and new exploration has us trying to plan out our next road trip. Such a blast.

-Soon after, I moved into the chapel and began my time as a resident house fellow. I get to live here for free in exchange for several hours a week of reception, maintenance, and various other odd jobs. It's been a really good experience all told. The digs are pretty nice and I mostly get along with the 7 other guys on the job.

-School has been way busy. My economics studies are going fine, and I'm perfectly okay with sticking to this major for the remainder of my time here. However, it doesn't change the fact that I can't wait to be done with college.

-That said, I've had more to get excited about this school year than in some years past, especially last year. One of the highlights of this school year has been going to my first two Badger home football games since 1999. I had the honor of getting to attend our victory over the then-#1 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes, as well as our clinching of a Rose Bowl berth. Two games in ten years, two field rushes. I like to get the bang for my buck.

I think that's pretty much it for filling things in. Obviously I glossed a whole lot of items, but what are ya gonna do, hey?

My favorite thing to do (blog-wise) around this time of year is to turn the clock back a year and compare my standing in life now to where it was back then, head-to-head.

I'm gonna go ahead and take 2010 in a landslide.

Last year's anniversary post was titled "Five Alive" and is one of the shortest posts I've ever had. I remember vividly the circumstances surrounding it. That semester was part of probably the hardest six months of my life, and it culminated in my emergency appendectomy right before finals. I managed to keep the mood fairly upbeat in that post, despite the fact that I still had fresh scars across my stomach and I hadn't eaten solid food in 2 days.

I followed up that post with a detailed recap of my appendicitis episode, which was in turn followed by a mention of the year's last sucker-punch - the passing of my grandma. But if you keep reading, you'll find that life gets better almost the moment the clock strikes midnight and 2010 begins.

2010 starts with a new set of resolutions, a trip to Tampa which qualified as my most refreshing vacation ever, some excitable posts about job searching, the Winter Olympics and an all-nighter, a spur-of-the-moment Bible study, my favorite post ever, a couple about the state of the summer, and a post talking about how much better 2010 already was than 2009.

All of that stuff, combined with the brief recap I've tossed at ya at the onset of this post, has made for a much, much better year than 2009. While I acknowledge that you had the easiest act to follow ever, ya did good, 2010. You didn't have the soaring highlights of, say, 2008, but your challenges were easier to handle than 2009's. Maybe it's because I'm a year older and wiser, maybe it's because I've learned how to temper my expectations, maybe it's because I'm listening to a really good song right now, but I think I'm always going to look back at 2010 as the year I got back on track.

That leads me to have high hopes for that I've got my down year and my comeback year behind me, here's where I can hopefully put it all together. I've met and grown closer to a lot of new people in 2010, some of whom I really hope will play bigger roles in my life from here to come.

I've always seen myself as a hopeful person. My worst moods can get me sounding cynical and fatalist, but deep down, I've always gotten by on the hope that things will get better. Maybe that's why I feel so good about this past year as it comes to a close. A lot of my goals remain unaccomplished - I never got that internship, I've been single for over 2 years - but I am in position for some of these things now! My confidence is on its way back. 2008 had me as cocky as could be, 2009 made sure I stopped being so full of myself and humbled me in so many ways, and 2010...well, 2010 may have just helped me strike a balance. So overall, my year wasn't perfect, but I sincerely believe that, years from now, I will look back at 2010 as the year that made 2011 great. As a transition from growing pains to adulthood.

And I know that 2010 isn't over yet either...I've got 5 finals in the next week, then my birthday, Christmas and my favorite holiday - New Year's. It's a chance to make a fresh start. It's a symbol of hope.

I like New Year's so much that I actually post around then every year. I obviously won't have time to update until then, but in a couple weeks I'll be back to take a look at whether I accomplished at least half of my 2010 resolutions (It's gonna be close!) and I'll pick a bunch of new resolutions for 2011. They're gonna be good ones. Good resolutions for a good year.

Here's hopin', at least.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Iron Ned: A Running Commentary

Recently, I helped engineer plans for a pasta-cooking competition between some friends. For some reason, we all thought it would be fun to bring home-made pasta dishes to a party at my friend's house, to be judged by his foodie father, whose name is Ned. Ned will name one dish the winner, and its chef will earn the vaunted "Golden Spatula" trophy, which I'm sure will be an old spatula spray-painted gold. We decided to call it "Iron Ned" (get it???) and, unlike most ideas concocted at 2 AM, we're actually going through with it.

Well, Iron Ned is tomorrow, so it's clearly time to prepare for it.

Aaaaaaand, I have basically no idea how to cook anything.

But I'm committed to doing this on my own. I am home alone, armed with nothing more than the internet, some cookbooks, and the means to go to Sentry and purchase ingredients. A year and a half ago, I made a New Year's resolution to learn how to cook passably. I obviously didn't accomplish that one, but tonight is a start. The Golden Spatula shall be mine.

Let's start this trainwreck.

--All right, time to look for recipes. I have the internet at my disposal, but I think I'll try the old-fashioned art of the cookbook to begin with. We've got a bunch in the kitchen, so let's give it a shot, huh!

--If you're in the market for a cookbook, don't purchase "Cooking for the Heart"

--This old Lakeside band cookbook has to have some gems, eh?

--Hmm, couldn't find a winner. You'll never fool me with your "moist bread stuffing," Dr. Gulczynski. Never.

--The internet offers slightly better results. Giada de Laurentiis is so flippin' cute. The fact that she is so cute makes her recipes slightly suspect, though. I mean you KNOW Paula Deen didn't get on TV for her high-school-crush good looks.

--The first Google auto-complete when you type in "Giada de Laurentiis" is "Giada de Laurentiis breast size." I hate the internet SO MUCH. A buncha creeps out there.

--All right, I've settled on "Penne with Sun-dried Tomato Pesto." Sounds doable, reasonably classy, and doesn't require a king's ransom of ingredients. I'm looking to keep the price down, ideally.

--A quick sweep of the cupboards suggests that I'm going to have to audible into "Rotini with Sun-dried Tomato Pesto." I doubt that it makes a huge difference. Welp, off to Sentry to supplement my recipe.

--I was mostly covered from our pantry, but I have returned from Sentry with sun-dried tomatoes (I would hope!) and fresh basil. Now we begin.

--Aw, shucks, the recipe called for fresh garlic, but I looked at the store and then decided that garlic powder would stand in well enough. Little did I know that our garlic powder has been expired for 2 years. I had assumed we used it more often than that. Well now what?

--In my search up and down the kitchen for a garlic replacement, I have instead located the remnants of a tub of strawberry frozen yogurt. Maybe like 5-7 teaspoons in there.

--In my sadness of being unable to find a suitable garlic replacement, I have succumbed to the temptation of frozen yogurt. Hair of the dog, it wasn't too bad.

--Dangit! MLS game of the week is on! What a distraction! Oh well, Seattle vs. DC isn't that good of a matchup anyway. Focus, Blake. Do it for Giada.

--All right, still trying to solve the garlic problem. I guess I'll check my pride and return to Sentry. I hope garlic doesn't cost too much. Ned had better love this dish.

--Zuccess! We have some minced garlic in the fridge! It'll have to do. Now let's rock.

--How about some cooking music? The new Kanye single, "Power" gets me pumped. I'll add it to the expected playlist of TI, Maino and Major Lazer. Rap cooking.

--This smells amazing. I'm distinctly Mario Batali. I could stand to gain some weight though, if that is what I aim for.

--Grating some Pecorino Romano. The recipe calls for Parmesan, but I'm not afraid to go above and beyond. My Italian roots are coming way in handy here, see. I might add that fresh basil makes a huge difference. Go big or go home, when it comes to basil.

--Of course, cooking takes way longer when you blog about it. There's a lot of waiting for the ol' water to boil though.

--Just blended my sauce. I'm pleasantly surprised. My parents are home now and I had them try a little bit. My half-Italian mother and my formerly-a-restaurant-head-chef father both liked it. On that note, if both my parents have good cooking pedigrees, why am I roughly as capable as a Sim in the kitchen? No comical fires yet though, fortunately.

--My whole grain rotini is cookin'. I'm still bumpin' some beats. Takin' the "g" off of words endin' in "ing" is SO DOPE. So is the word "dope."

--Pasta is drained, sauce is stirred in and I will finish my dish to the sound of "No Man's Land" by B.o.B. It's good pasta music.

--First taste: Oh man, this is good stuff. I wouldn't have expected it to turn out this nicely at all. The fresh basil, the Pecorino cheese and the special ingredient (hint: the special ingredient is obviously love) really made it. My parents enjoy it as well, and I'm really hoping they're not just humoring me. Trying to speak as objectively as possible, I have to say I'd eat it even if I hadn't made it.

--I'm feeling good about my chances of taking home Iron Ned's Golden Spatula. Even better, now I've got a signature pasta dish ready to go for one of those adorable guy-cooks-for-the-girl dates. Clearly that's the most important thing. Thanks, movies, for teaching me everything there is to know about relationships.

My pasta is all packed up and ready to go. Tomorrow night my potential and ability as a chef will be (casually) tested. I personally think the dish turned out well, but we'll see what it's like once someone outside of my family tries it. Either way, it was a lot of fun making it and I have to say I'd be curious to start cooking a little more. It's definitely rewarding.

I've been meaning to do a summer update post, but that'll have to wait until another day. With the World Cup over and my transition from working to housefellow-ing in sight, I'm sure I'll finally find some time to post soon. Til then, good night, readers. Good night, Giada. Good night, Moon.

UPDATE: Second place will have to do, as my dish, later titled "Romatini di Mazzoca" (One's a made up Italian word, the other a bygone Italian name in my ancestry), placed highest in the categories of lasting impression and description but fell just short. Next time...

Monday, May 31, 2010

Keep it goin' louder

I don't know what it is about college, but one school year these days feels like about three.

My first year as a student at UW-Madison is finally over, and it had a whole lot of adjectives. It was hands down the most stressful, difficult, uplifting, exhausting and educational 8 months of my life to date.

I guess I've written a fair amount here about the fall semester, my first at UW, and all of its pitfalls. To recap: Calculus, my 20-hour workweeks, bout of Swine Flu, and emergency appendectomy the week before finals all came together to obliterate any dream of free time and gave me far and away the worst GPA I've ever had for any semester of my life.

A 2.95 isn't unfathomably terrible (I mean, shoot, it's basically a B), but I've always been somewhat defined by my academic achievements. In the span of 2 years, I went from (legitimately) debating whether it was worth the 55 dollars to send in my Harvard application to lying in a hospital bed trying to determine if I was more worried about missing my calc quiz or relieved that I didn't have to go.

That fall semester caused me to come to terms with a few things.
1. Having a good SAT score doesn't guarantee automatic success.
2. Trying to pay for school can't be a higher priority than school itself.
3. The rest of your life isn't decided by four years of college.

I have had a very, very hard time convincing myself of the third thing. It took a disastrous semester and a lot of reevaluation and discussion to get there.

I got to start the spring semester with my head on a bit straighter thanks to a relaxing and enjoyable Christmas break, and made a few changes. I cut my weekly work hours down from 20 to 12, took a different/more qualitative load of courses, and made a point to spend that extra time from not working as much to study and socialize at the Chapel.

And I think those changes, along with whatever other intangibles (like the emergence of a Lakeshore Dorms Bible study this semester) all came together and clicked really well. There were still a lot of incredibly hard nights (or, more accurately, mornings) of cramming, including an all-nighter and an awful lot of day-of paper writing, but I felt able to roll with the punches better. I stayed mostly healthy, the stress seemed manageable, heck, I even got to go to BW3 on Thursdays with Lakeside chaps from time to time. UW-Madison seemed a little more doable.

And doable it was. Applying myself, not spending as much time in gainful employment, and not fretting over every little thing had an incredible impact.

One example that I think summed up the semester was on a Tuesday toward the end of the semester, a day that Jordan and I had 6 free Brewer tickets from our student org. A Tuesday night baseball game is kind of a tough sell toward the end of the school year, and my schedule wasn't exactly forgiving on that date.

None the less, we thought it would be a fun diversion from the last assignment flurry before finals, so I spent the better part of Tuesday morning trying to coordinate plans and travel partners.

However, I was feeling a little burnt out that day, coming off a week of three papers, and I had a paper due Tuesday, right before we were planning on leaving. A paper that was worth 25% of the grade for the semester.

So I wrote the darn thing while texting back and forth with whoever had responded to our offer of Brewer tickets, and we left for Milwaukee after I met with my TA to hand it in. I spent 3 distracted hours writing a paper that counted for a huge part of my grade.

How is that the sign of an improved outlook on school, then? It hardly seems noble to have tossed schoolwork to the back burner in favor of a frivolous weeknight road trip, right?

But here's the thing - I felt that I had to do something like that to change my mindset. I can't allow myself to go to pieces over every little thing that goes wrong in college. So I decided to be confident enough in my abilities that I could do a good job without sacrificing my social life, without always having to say no to things.

5 of us went to the Brewer game. I cheered for the Pirates because they left a Lastings impression on me. It was the most fun I've ever had at a Brewer game, and was one of the last big things I got to do with Caleb before he shipped off.

Oh, and I got a 97 on the paper. And an A for the class.

I didn't get an A for any of my classes last semester. I got A's in three of my four classes this time around.

When the dust had settled, I had a 3.8 for the semester. That's almost a full point swing between semesters, and the feeling was beyond incredible. Good grades aren't easy to come by at Madison, so this semester of 3.8 was far and away more rewarding than probably any other semester I've had.

And I can't help but think that a lot of it comes down to mindset. I allowed myself to take school less seriously this semester and, counter-intuitively, it kept me more focused. I never hit a point of desperation, I never felt crushed by the workload, and therefore I believed that I could tackle whatever was thrown at me. It never came to the point of throwing in the towel that I teetered on the edge of all last fall.

So I've concluded that the fall semester, with its stresses and infirmities, may have served an awesome and incredible purpose to help me learn to better deal with obstacles and to stay positive, even when buried. I hope that I can keep that attitude for the rest of my time at UW, and hopefully I can have similar success for the next two years.

Things look radically different going into Fall '10 than they did going into Fall '09. I've changed my major (hopefully for the last time...) to Economics, I'm one semester away from being completely through with gen eds, and I'm moving from the...silliness, I guess...of dorm life into what I hope will be an active and enriching time as a Chapel resident housefellow.

But a lot has yet to happen between now and then. Who knows what the summer has in store for me? At this point, all I know is that I'll be working 8-4:30, 5 days a week, until late August, and that I will watch as much of the World Cup as I am able. But I haven't had an uneventful summer in some time now, so I'll just wait and see. Surprise me, summer. I'm looking forward to ya.