Thursday, October 31, 2013

Just in Time for Halloween: Tour of the Secret Room and Library Archives.

Something really exciting has happened--and it's even cooler because this story goes back to my freshman year.
February 18, 2012, I decided to do a post about some of the things I liked about Saint Mike's that I thought made it unique. In it, I included the secret room of the Durick Library, into which I had never been, and the possibility of going inside of which filled my imagination with mystery and intrigue.
Well, earlier this semester, I got an email from John Payne in the library (nice guy with the long pony tail) inviting me on a tour of said secret room, as well as the archives in the basement. As one might expect, I agreed enthusiastically, and a few weeks later I met both John and Liz Scott from Archives in the secret room.
In the secret room there is a collection of a variety of rare books--mostly published in the last 200 years, and many of these are of a religious sort. John and Liz told me, though, that decades ago, before it was acceptable to talk about sex at all in classrooms at SMC, biology students sometimes had to use this room to gain access to books about anatomy and any sex-related processes. They don't make you do that anymore, he explained with a smile.
Sermones de Patientia in Job. Johannes Chrysostom.

Cologne. Ulrich Zel. 1474. 
Photo courtesy of Saint Michael's College Archives.
John and Liz had also found something cool before I arrived. In a white box on a shelf waist-high was an old 45 vinyl, on which Alfred Lord Tennyson had been recorded reading from his own poems, at some point before his death in 1892. This is pretty darn rare, according to Liz.
After browsing about that room for a while, we moved down to archives, where it became even more apparent how much we mere muggles have to learn about the mysteries of the library. On a table, Liz had assembled the most intriguing variety of archived materials I would have imagined. Amongst the artifacts was the skin of St. Edmund, a piece of his cloak, a book of religious sermons from 1474 (brought by the Edmundites from France), and an *alleged* piece of the cross (emphasis on the alleged). It's been said that all the fragments of the cross in Europe would amount to enough wood to build a ship, according to John.
Most students use the archives and secret room for research, theses and/or internships, and one needs permission to gain access to these resources. It was kind of John and Liz to show me around, and I thank them once again for their kindness. I can now cross "scooby doo-like adventure in the library" off my bucket list.
Thanks for reading!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Living On Your Own: Cooking.

A veggie stew my roommate Carlos and I made--
most of the ingredients came from our farmshare of local vegetables.
This year, I'm lucky to be living in an Ethan Allen apartment (on North Campus) with a couple buddies of mine from my first-year hall. Saint Mike's is a four-year residential school, so our apartment is technically on-campus housing; but, like the townhouses where seniors live, EA has full kitchens and living rooms, and you're not required to stay on the meal plan.
Thus, there is some element of independence in living in the apartments--most notably, you're responsible for cooking your own food. For some, this is daunting, and that's fair. A lot of thought goes into cooking food, and if you don't enjoy it, cooking becomes that much harder. But there are a few things you can do to make buying groceries and cooking meals less of a hassle, less expensive, and more enjoyable; or, at the very least, as minimally obtrusive as possible.
  1. Plan your shopping list. Going to the store without a list can be disastrous--45 minutes later, there's a good chance you'll emerge with nothing but Annie's mac and cheese, Oreos, and a few awkward vegetables. Such foods don't always make for the healthiest meals. If you plan out a couple possible dinners, and then figure out the ingredients you'll need, it'll be easier to anticipate and limit your grocery purchases, and avoid being forced into making 7 consecutive dinners out of ramen noodles and various sauces.
  2. Microwaved baked potatoes with cheese and
    sauteed green beans with salt and
    pepper (<15min).
    Buy ingredients you like. This definitely works in concert with number 1. Making meals is a lot easier if you can just dump a bunch of food you like in a pot for 15 minutes and munch. A couple of my staples are black beans, potatoes, frozen green beans, rice, cheese, and whatever vegetables are in our farmshare. Combining any 2-4 of these with some sort of sauce wouldn't take very long and is relatively healthy, not to mention light on the wallet.
  3. Do your dishes as you cook. Your roommates will hate you a lot less, and cooking will be less of a hassle if you do your dishes as you cook. After using a mixing bowl for eggs, wash the bowl as the eggs cook. That way, the sink isn't as scary at the end of your cook-venture, and the next chef on deck can get started in a clean environment. Plus, your kitchen is just about the last place you want to have flies, buzzing around dirty plates.
  4. Eat with friends. If you can coordinate to mix ingredients and cook a meal with a few friends, dinner becomes fun. Especially if you're someone who hates to cook, one of your friends can take charge of that while you DJ the iHome in their kitchen. Then, you have a good meal with friends, and all you had to do was bring an eggplant and good taste in music. Win-win.
  5. Always have a backup. There are times when you can't block out a half-hour for dinner, but you don't have the time/swipes to go to Alliot (the dining hall). In such a situation, it's good to have a back-up meal that you can take to go. When I can manage to set aside the time, I like to make black bean burgers and keep them frozen. That way, I can bring one down to main campus on days when I have to eat dinner at my work-study, or have one for a quick meal before going to a concert. The important thing with back-ups is to make sure they're foods that last a while (frozen or non-perishable), and avoid eating them until you really need to.
  6. If you're of age, have a beer. Even better with friends--if you like beer, go buy a good six pack and have one while you make dinner. You can even add a little to whatever you're cooking as you go; see how stir-fry tastes with a little IPA--why not?!
  7. Make your own coffee. Last but not least, if you're a coffee drinker, make your coffee at home. It's way cheaper, and then you can brew it however dark/light you want. As great as Cheray Cafe is, getting a coffee (or three) there every day will begin to add up and make your wallet sad. But on those days you do need to buy a cup, bring your own mug! Cheray Cafe will charge you less, and it's a waste to use paper cups every time you have a coffee.
Here's to good food and learning how to do it on your own!
Til next time, thanks for reading!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Aziz Abu Sarah Comes to Saint Mike's.

Saint Mike's frequently hosts speakers and presentations on campus during the academic year, typically on topics such as politics, social justice, the sciences, and the arts. These events are always open to the public, and lively debate engaging both the community and students is not uncommon.
Wednesday evening, the Peace and Justice speaker series hosted Aziz Abu Sarah, a Palestinian peace activist who splits his time between Jerusalem, the George Mason University, and touring around the world. In his lecture, he recounted stories from hsi childhood in both occupied Palestine and Jerusalem, and how his engagement in the conflict shifted from aggressive confrontation to peaceful dialogue.

This speaker was especially interesting at this point in my semester because two of my four classes are exploring the Palestine-Israel conflict right now. In my Political Science intro class, we're reading Once Upon a Country, in which a prominent Palestinian figure recounts his experiences and the experiences of his family both before the occupation, and throughout the last several decades of it. In my Anthropology class, we've just finished reading a report in Human Cargo on the asylum speakers displaced by this conflict, and the adversity they face in quasi-permanent settlements in bordering countries, such as Lebanon. It's truly one of the most challenging issues facing our global political system right now, and a tragedy besides that.
The talk he gave was was informal yet powerful, and the Q&A following was informative (although I had to cut out a lil early--sorry!!!). Below is a National Geographic special featuring Abu Sarah:
Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Blitzen Trapper at Higher Ground.

The ballroom.
Higher Ground, a favorite concert venue of students and locals alike, is a hub for music and concert events in the area. In general, shows cost in the range of 15 to 20 dollars, but there've been shows as cheap as a dollar per ticket for smaller bands and shows. Not to mention, the calendar is stacked, so it's easy to see a handful or so of great shows per semester for not too much money.
Blitzen Trapper on stage.
Last night some buddies and I stopped in for a Blitzen Trapper show in the smaller ballroom for 18 dollars a ticket. The show opened with a band called Fox, but we didn't make it until Blitzen opened. The environment is intimate enought to sit at a table and have something to drink for a coffee-house/mellow type of show, but it's also open enough to dance around and whip your hair for a more upbeat show. Blitzen's show was more in the flavor of the latter (jam-band music for sure), so needless to say there was much dancing and jumping around. We even got to hang out and have a convo with Marty, the band's guitarist/keyboardist/general musician. Very intimate, very cool show.
In my experience, shows at Higher Ground are never a let down. If nothing else, you tried something new, and got out for a night of music. It's a great way to blow off steam, and if your Tuesday is just a little less busy then you were expecting... then maybe that Soc reading can wait until tomorrow ;)
Thanks for reading!