Monday, October 20, 2014

Cooking in College.

Most people who go to Saint Mike's live on-campus, with the exception of people who choose to live at home or have asked Res-Life for an exception to live off-campus. For the people who do live on campus their entire academic career, it's usually the case that years 1, 2 & 3 are spent living in dorms and/or suites, while year 4 (sometimes 3) is spent living in an apartment or townhouse (here's a link to short descriptions of all the living situations). And with that transition to apartment/townhouse comes a kitchen, and the opportunity to cook one's own meals instead of the all-inclusive meal plan that's given to students in the first few years.

I've always loved to cook, so for me this change wasn't and adverse change. I actually have been on the '40-swipe' plan (as it's so-called) since the beginning of my junior year when I lived in an apartment on North Campus, and I lived in Burlington both this past summer and the summer previously. Given these circumstances, making my own food all the time wasn't much of a change. But it's also true that active students don't often have much time to spare, and cooking becomes an obstacle rather than an opportunity. I like to use cooking as a time to reflect or unwind, and that's due in large part to my 'kitchen toolbox', or the skills and knowledge I've gained that allow me to plan meals and prepare them efficiently. These take a long time to acquire, but there are still a few things that college students in-crisis can use to make cooking work better in their lives. I propose five:
The text to rule them all.

  1. Always have pasta. Or rice, or quinoa, or something that takes little oversight, not too much time, that you can put anything on. Eating pasta all the time isn't necessarily the best option, but the idea is to identify some versatile, filling staple to have in your cupboard that you like to eat. If you have this staple, then all you need in addition is a sauce, maybe some veggies and maybe some protein. You'd be surprised how many times I've enjoyed eating white rice covered in some mix of peanut butter, soy sauce, spices, and veggies.
  2. Cereal and milk. It works for breakfast if you're someone who doesn't have much time in the morning, or if you don't wanna turn on any appliances. It also works as a late-night snack, or a lunch/dinner in a pinch. I'll also add plain instant oatmeal to this bullet point (and to number 1), because not only is it something you can eat plain with milk, or with maple syrup/cinnamon&sugar in the morning, but oatmeal can also be the quickest versatile filling staple for any meal. I didn't used to eat much oatmeal because I thought of it as something only eaten sweet, but a trick I learned from one of my mentors on campus is to add black beans, cheese and Sriracha (if you'd like) for a 5-minute dinner on the go. You can pretty much treat it like rice, and it's instant.
  3. Apples, bananas, oranges. These snacks are healthy and pre-wrapped by nature. Better than junk snacks you buy at the store, and about the same price. Plus apples give you energy.
  4. Use a cookbook. I have two cookbooks that I keep next to my bed in case of an emergency and/or if I'd just like something to read. My parents got me the Ultimate Vegetarian cookbook last Christmas (pictured), and it's nearly on-par with Harry Potter given the number of times I've read it. My obsessions aside, cookbooks are nice because you might find a recipe to tie together whatever you have in the kitchen, or you might use a few recipes to plan a grocery list. The latter is nice if you're someone who needs direction in a grocery store because, not only do you know exactly what you're cooking later, but you can also save time wandering the clockless aisles of cereal boxes and soup cans.
  5. Framily dinners. Framily (friend + family) dinners are great 'cause they can be done potluck-style, or in such a way that everyone chips in a few bucks, or in such a way that a group of friends rotate dinners at one-another's houses every so often. This is great because it takes pressure off when someone else is cooking, and one can look forward to cooking for everyone else because it's not something one has to do all the time. Plus, this is a great way to ensure spending time with friends that are otherwise busy, and everyone gets a meal out of it.
Don't let cooking scare you, food is one of the best ways to get together and be merry with the ones we love. And if we don't have that time, food can also be a moment of reflection in an otherwise busy day, and a way to repay the body for all the hard work it's done for us.

Thanks for reading, and happy cooking!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Live Music: Dom Flemons at Higher Ground

If there's a theme to this semester, it's a healthy serving of live music. A few weeks back I saw Shovels and Rope in Montreal, Foster the People is playing at Saint Mike's next Thursday, and last night I saw Dom Flemons at Higher Ground (a concert venue in S. Burlington). I first saw Dom Flemons play when he was with Carolina Chocolate Drops at the Burlington waterfront two summers ago. Since then I've followed both CCD and Dom Flemons solo work since he's been pursuing that. 

When we first showed up to the venue it was just before show start time, 20 minutes or so after doors opened. But as I walk in Mr. Flemons himself is warming up on guitar, playing casual as can be before his opening band began their set. Grace and Tony, the opener, were also quite a good show. Also of a folky variety (drums, guitar, cello, banjo), their music choice was lyrically satirical and/or absurd. A great band to hear, for sure.

Grace and Tony played about 7-8 songs, then Dom Flemons came out again (this time on banjo). He played a few songs like that and then introduced his trio (the names of whom I can't recall, my apologies) on drums and stand up bass. He played a song or two that I'd also heard while he was with CCD, and quite a few folk songs that I hadn't heard him play before. Mr. Flemons and his trio have a stage presence that's engaging to the point of near hypnosis, and I enjoyed every strum.

I think it's worth it to go out for live music as regularly as one possibly can. If you're someone who likes live music and going to concert venues, seeing an artist live can be therapeutic and stress-relieving. Besides it's easy to see music around here. If you're not finding a show at Higher Ground or in downtown Burlington, you can always find one in Winooski and often on campus too. North Campus has a great music scene, and for many years has hosted the legendary Turtle Underground in the basement of Purtill Hall on the weekends.

Until the next show or sooner (neither of which can be too far off).

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Shovels and Rope in Montreal!

Juts about six days ago (sorry, it's been a busy week!) my friends Carlos, Bri and I drove over the border to see Shovels and Rope play a show at the Corona Theater in Montreal. I've been looking forward to this show since I found out they'd be playing in the area a few weeks ago, since they're not normally in in these parts. Needless to say it was a religious experience.

We rolled into the city in time for a quick (deep fried) meal at Frite Alors!, which was either a really cool Canadian chain, or sweet frite spot with a really cool sign. Veggie burgers, fries and poutine were enjoyed with earnest.

Following that we made our way to the venue, stood in line for a bit, and got inside in time for the opener. John Fullbright was on guitar and piano, I don't remember the name of the guy playing with him, but they were raddd. Check em out!

Then, obviously, was the piece de resistance. Shout out to Carlos Sian for the photos below, he gets full credit for their capture.

Some of the songs off their set list include: Hail Hail, Kembra, OBJ, Gasoline, and soooo many more. I couldn't stop dancing (ask Bri), and at the end of the show my voice was raw. The show was Sunday night, we got back around 1AM, and it was all worth it.

Lay Low.

Jammin (don't remember the song).

Pre-show noms.

Nights like these are a reminder that even though there's lots to do in Burlington, we're never too far from a big city.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

What to look for in a college.

Largely, my favorite experiences at Saint Mike's are outside the classroom. More often than sitting at a desk, I'm outside with Wilderness or planning an event or debating with peers about that reading last night. 

For example last week I attended the Onion River Review open reading, which happens periodically as a forum to share writing, art and music. People often read their own work, but it's common that attendees will share the works of other writers and artists as well. Not only are the stories, poems and songs incredible, but the atmosphere fostered in this environment is engaging and intoxicating. I watched a friend do slam poetry (which I'd never seen her do before) and for the rest of the night couldn't get her words out of my head. Connecting, not networking, but connecting with people on another level (insert: spiritual, intellectual, etc.) is something from which I've benefited invaluably at Saint Mike's, and this is also how I've learned the most alongside of and outside of my classes.

Saint Mike's is also beautiful in the snow.
I had no idea what I was looking for in a school as a high school student, but something about Saint Mike's caught my attention. I couldn't articulate it 5 years ago but now I think I can. At Saint Mike's, I found a school where I dig people not for what they do or who they are, but how those two things align. Part of being genuine is practicing what one preaches (I think), and by and large the people I like at Saint Mike's do just that. I think that at least one theme transcends academic discipline (at any school), and that's the problem of 'where is the world going?' We face a formidable set of very embedded, very global issues that are not easy to fix, and it is easy to fall into bleakness because of that. There is a word in Finnish for having guts in the face of adversity, and from what I understand many Finns like to identify strongly with this word, sisu. My intention is not to offend by borrowing it here, but sisu is a quality that I admire, and it's one that I find frequently in the people that I connect with intellectually at Saint Mike's. This is a virtue that I think will be part of the 'global solution,' to speak vaguely, and I believe I picked Saint Mikes (not necessarily cognizant of this at the time) because I was drawn to this quality in the people that come here (as faculty, staff and students).

Sisu, I imagine, takes many forms in day-to-day life. I think one of those forms is sharing slam poetry at an open reading and going rock climbing or whitewater paddling for the first time, When we graduate and the world is ours to solve (if it's not already), and the people I've connected with will connect with others and share their sisu, just as many people are already doing the world over. The future is challenging but that doesn't mean we have to submit to the intimidation of the unknown. The people I know at Saint Mike's are unwilling to submit, and thank god I knew enough to see that, even if I couldn't say it, four and a half years ago when I decided to attend.

If I can pass along any advice about what to look for in a college, I recommend you look for sisu. If you don't want to go all the way to Finland, then you might end up at Saint Mikes.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Rock Climbing in Vermont: Falls of Lana.

Saturday morning this past weekend Betsy and Lauren (fellow Wilderness Instructors) and I took a group of Saint Mike's students down to Falls of Lana for an intro to rock climbing day. Like most WP trips (hiking, paddling, biking, etc.) we met early in the morning around the fireplace in Alliot Hall, where we checked in, made sure gear was sorted, and then piled in the van for the drive down Route 7 (Falls of Lana is in the Middlebury area).

It was a bit of a cloudy day, but rain held off until the mid-to-late afternoon. We started the morning by setting a couple of routes to the right of the main wall (a short hike up from the state campground). After establishing belay and lowering techniques, everyone took turns climbing each route and belaying one another (don't ask me the names of these routes, not too sure about that).

We took a brief lunch at the top of the cliff (which had a great view of Lake Dunmore and the state park below), and then moved down the wall (climbers left) to set two more climbs for the afternoon. Since we were already at the top of the cliff, Betsy (our SPI-certified student instructor) set a releasable rappel and everyone took a turn descending back to the base of the climb (pictured). We climbed until it rained (and a little beyond that, actually) before taking down the climbs, coiling the rope, and trekking back to the van.

It was a solid group of participants that day, a memorable intro rock trip for sure! Some people are understandably shy their first few times out, but every participant on this excursion was engaged and excited to climb; we had a great time taking them out. If you'd like to sign up for a climbing program (or any program for that matter) visit the Wilderness program office on the second floor of Alliot Hall! It's right across the knight-card office.

Hopefully see you out in the field!

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

I'm a Senior: Lesson One as an Undergrad.

More strange than actually uttering the 'S' word is being in a state of accepting this fact. I got my 'Intent to Graduate' form in my mail box the other day (still haven't filled it out), and the first thought that occurred to me was 'I hope I didn't leave the stove on this morning'. I'm not looking forward to graduating by any means, but I'm dreading nothing.

These first two weeks I've spent most (too much) of my time sitting in front of the townhouse with neighbors, chatting over grilled food and some combination of moon and stars framing the steamy shadow of our long exhales. If it's getting chilly in Vermont, I won't be surprised when it takes a while for us to notice.

Since I've been at Saint Mike's I've visited two countries, done summer research, had a favorite prof every semester, moved seven times, seen dozens of concerts, and passed too many nights without sleep. Nights spent skipping out on that last bit of reading for an impromptu gypsy punk show downtown have taught me just as much as disciplined study time has. I took five semesters to declare a major, and even still I'd change it again if I had more time. If a single thing I've learned, it's that I'll never know as much as I'd like to.

As a way of acknowledging my culminating year here as a student, I'll devote a certain amount of my posts these coming semesters to lessons I've learned as an undergrad. Numero Uno: Being Okay with the Fact that I Can't Do, or Think, Everything.

My first year here, I claimed to want to study two majors with two minors, while also ski racing, while also participating in clubs and completing liberal arts requirements and sleeping and eating (seriously, I blogged about it). Senior year that is not the case, and I'm a happy person for it.

Having changed majors from social sciences to natural sciences back to social sciences and everything in-between, I feel I learned most by struggling to eventually find my path. Being open to taking classes that don't necessarily fill requirements (that might even make next semester harder) has broadened my base of inquiry, and part of that has been growing to accept that I don't have to be an expert in every field that I'm interested in. I probably won't be a  biologist or a philosopher, but having exposure to those fields has given me a breadth of experience that I can't attempt to articulate. I realize that if  at any moment I think I know something, that's probably because I'm not thinking.

Ideally I'll have some semblance of job prospects when I leave this campus, and my econ professor assured our Macro class today that this is true. But even if I end up in a cabin in the woods or a van down by the river, I doubt I'll ever be at a loss for things to think about (mostly, how I'll miss the french fries in Alliot).

Thanks for reading ;)

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Undergrad Research Opportunities: My Summer Learning About Prisons.

Happy August, undergrads, high-schoolers, and general public at-large. Soon school will be back in session, a few hundred incoming first-years will be joining us on campus, and in the mean time a few-dozen Saint Mike's undergraduates are wrapping up their summers of research.

Two organizations, the VPAA and SSRC, offer opportunities for undergraduates to pursue research on a topic of their choice during the summer months. These students receive a stipend, work one-on-one with a professor/adviser, and can present their findings at the symposium in the spring. Throughout the summer there are lunches that students can attend, a sort of forum for their experiences where they can exchange ideas and learning about others' projects.

Under the advising of professor Patrick Walsh in the econ department, this summer I set out to learn about how prison privatization interacts with other aspects of the justice system. Specifically, I asked how the growth of private prison populations have impacted the length of sentences served for certain crimes, and then I asked what variables predict both the level of private prison populations and the growth of those same populations.

At the moment, I'm working on analyzing the regressions of the data we collected, and finishing a first draft of the paper. In the next two weeks or so the paper should be done, and hopefully I'll present my findings at some point in the fall and maybe one other time (and I'll share my findings here, as well).

More than just learning about prisons, I've really enjoyed the pursuit of research, working one-on-one with a professor, and learning to appreciate the process of research in the field of economics. Based on this summer, my aspirations for the future have shifted more towards the pursuit of academia, because I've really found a passion for research and academic inquiry that I knew I had before, but hadn't necessarily considered could be my future (looks like I have to take the GRE's, after all).

Being on the brink of my final year as an undergrad, what I've learned this summer is both exciting and sobering. The world is a big place, and there are many students with lots of experience and many backgrounds competing to get into Masters and Ph.D. programs. I hope that I am able to pursue academia further, but I know that the future is plural and hard to predict; so, all I can say is lo que sera, sera, and cheers to the upcoming fall semester.

Thanks for reading!