The Last 100 Days

Lake ErieYesterday I spent part of my last day in Havertown visiting Karakung Swim Club, my summer home for the last 5 years. It was a bittersweet reunion as I welcomed back my friends and said goodbye just as quickly. On the staff whiteboard, a note from my brother announced: "100 Days Till Labor Day". It's hard to believe a summer which has barely begun is only 100 days away from completion.

Today I am writing to you from Erie, PA, my home for 70 of those 100 days. I am here for a summer internship with a major industrial company (I will spare you the details to spare me the litigation). I am staying at a local university here and starting to get settled in. Erie is different than any place I've ever lived before, not just because its next to a body of water. Its a large and sprawling city-town, parts of which are run down. My brief tour suggests it is mostly waterfront industry and strip malls. Maybe there was more at one point in history, but this is all that seems to remain. It doesn't seem bad though.

We did drive out to Presque Isle, which is a state park that features most of the waterfront activities. There were lots of people out walking, biking, fishing, and swimming. We did get out and gaze across at a hazy horizon where Canada should be. The lake is pretty big and it looks very nice – I look forward to spending more time there. The drive up to Erie, by the way, clocked in at 6 1/2 hours. Not as bad as I expected, but I don't plan on making it again anytime soon.

That's all I have to report for now, I look forward to meeting more of my fellow interns tomorrow and further exploring the town. I'll try to keep posting throughout.


A Day in Her Shoes

I had a new appreciation of what my mother goes through on a daily basis this Mother's Day. That's because Friday I got another long-term babysitting assignment while my mom took my sister up to Penn State for scheduling. I spent just a little over 12 hours as "Mr. Mom" and it was exhausting. My to-do list included getting kids off to school, picking up at kindergarten, making lunch, straightening up the house, providing amusement for "bored" children, and getting dinner on the table. That was an easy day too. 

In general, the biggest challenge is keeping the younger ones happy without giving into them all the time. Jack, the kindergartner, has developed a tendency to eat and watch Cartoon Network whenever possible. I tried to institute a no-TV policy and succeeded for about 4 hours, but it ultimately meant more work for me. It's easy to complain about kids watching too much TV, its much harder to occupy them without it.

Another thing is kids seem to have a constant need for instant gratification and you can rarely satisfy them. For example, I played a video game with Jack for a half an hour and he cried when I left the game. He has continued to bug me about playing it again for the last 3 days. Kevin, a 3rd grader, is always begging people to play outside with him. I routinely got told I was "hated" and "being mean", which wouldn't bother me except that my mom is often met with the same remarks. 

Despite all that, it was a pretty successful day. When my mom returned, the children seemed to remember better the nice things I did for them than my shortcomings. Still, its one of the toughest jobs out there. So in sharing my experiences, I hope I've conveyed what a miracle-worker my mom is. Happy Mother's Day Mom!

Office Romance

John Krasinski and Jenna FischerI've been having trouble describing my excitement about the season finale of The Office Thursday night. This show quickly matured from a quirky comedy into a television masterpiece, matching and perhaps surpassing its British counterpart. Few shows have guys this excited about a kiss. The workplace humor works because its something everyone can relate to. Similarly, the Jim-Pam relationship encompasses a lot of universal feelings. Everyone has been one of these characters before and that's why we love them.

Another great thing about the show is that is truly an ensemble. Not only did the "Casino Night" finale include a number of great returning guest stars, nearly every cast member had their own story climax. Steve Carell didn't just act, he wrote this great episode that expertly blended humor and romance. John Krasinski and Jenna Fischer also deserve extra credit for their natural performances in the show's climax.

If you don't watch the show, none of this makes a lot of sense to you. I recommend you watch the show on rerun if you get a chance this summer. I think The Office is the best comedy since Arrested Development, with Seinfeld before that. It is that good. (On a side note, several of the cast members have MySpace accounts including Jenna Fischer, who blogs from time to time)

Lexicology of Stupid

I'm no English major, but this type of stuff interests me. Over the last couple years I have heard a lot of comments about the dumbing down of the English language. Many have blamed political spin masters, especially the Bush administration, for reducing important issues into catchphrases. Stephen Colbert and Neil Young have done a good job mocking this recently. They're not the only ones who sum things into simple language. Jason Kottke recently blogged about derivative news headlines. A quick sampling of Google News showed 11 "vows", 7 "urges", 6 "slams", 8 "smacks", and 7 "blasts". So apparently even the "liberal media" bows to the stupid.

On the other hand there is at least one organization that values language, although its pretty unnecessary. Jim Emerson examined the "poetry" of the MPAA's movie ratings in two posts this week. Mission: Impossible III was rated PG-13 for "intense sequences of frenetic violence & menace, disturbing images & some sensuality." It's tough to pick favorites but I like Schindler's List, rated R for "language, some sexuality and actuality violence." The funny part about this is that extra description probably only confuses the parents who are trying to make decisions about what their children watch.

Hiding With War?

About a week ago Neil Young streamed his new protest album Living With War on his website and I enjoyed the early preview enough to want to buy the album. I typically find political songs to be tiresome, but the music is really strong and the lyrics hit their target. Young wanted the album out as quickly as possible, releasing the downloadable version before the CD version. I didn't see it on iTunes till Monday though and not in their new releases till Tuesday. At that point I decided to wait for the CD.

That's where things seem fishy. First of all, has no record of this album on their site. It is on, but not featured at all. Living With War, by the way, is currently the No. 2 album on iTunes and No. 3 on – its not a niche thing. When I went to Circuit City to buy it today, I didn't find it on the new releases rack. I asked a salesperson if they had it and he said its not in new relases and directed me to the Neil Young section, hidden with the rest of the catalog. I wonder whether these big box stores were instructed not to feature the album because of its political content. It seems pretty unusual to me, perhaps that is because of the unusual nature of the release. Let me know if you bought the album and whether you had trouble finding it.

Phillympics 2016

Olympics 2016Today I helped my uncle with his new business and killed the downtime reading local newspapers. The big buzz in the Daily News (and I imagine others) is that Philadelphia officials are meeting with the folks from the US Olympic Committee about a bid for the 2016 Games. I've heard speculation about this for a while, but its the first real steps I've seen. I think its great. Philadelphia has been getting a lot of good buzz in recent years, for example National Geographic named us the "Next Great City" last year. We've also been hosting a lot of events: 2000 Republican National Convention, two X-Games, and Live 8. Plus we got a ton of sport facilities when you combine all the professional stadiums and college venues. The best part of the DN's feature is a map of potential venues. Anyway, I'm excited to hear this is no longer just speculation and hope – somebody is actually seriously considering this.

the rundown

i haven't posted in over a month, due to end of the semester schoolwork and laziness. i've tried to write a new post a couple times since i finished last week, but got sick of them. since i decided i wasn't going to be happy with anything, i've decided to cover a month of my life in one rambling list. the rambling is puncuated by the fact i am not capitalizing any words. so read up, enjoy, and hopefully i'll be posting on a regular schedule from now on.

4/5…hooked on my spike lee collection dvds…4/7 ist open house…gave my first ist building tours, hung out with friends, did not get a free t-shrit…met up with my sister caitie and my brother mike, gave them a tour of "my" state college, found out caitie got rejected by honors college again :(…4/12 feeling sick…worried i may have pneumonia again…two group meetings…4/13 go home for easter…drive logan home and follow his ridiculous directions to his house…4/14 diagnosed with bronchitis, not big deal…go to playgrounds with dad and little brothers during the passion…4/15 go to ridiculously long youth baseball game…see scary movie 4 (funny and stupid)…4/16 easter bunny brings me candy…dinner with family…ride bus back to state college, watch stealth (awful), take notes for 431 paper…return to dorm to find note that rob is at hospital with fever…rob discharged half hour later, just a virus…4/17 get collegian money…pbl focus group, only 2 people show up…work on 431 and EGEE papers…4/20 turn in 431 and EGEE papers…4/21 physical fitness assessment for jogging (better)…ist future forum, don't go to any panels, just get free stuff…friday night 331 meeting adjourned early…play wiffleball in the rain…4/22 raining, watch blue-white game on tv…see thank you for smoking (good)…go to movin' on and see talib kweli (very good)…4/23 final joepa run in jogging, take 5 mins off time over course of semester…begin history paper…attend amusing ist student government meeting…4/24 buy new video ipod (sweet)…do 331 presentation, no big deal…4/27 perform 431 presentation…complete and hand in history paper…watch singing in the rain…watch network…4/28 last day of jogging class, instructor acknowledges my improvement :)…go to sheilds to hand in financial aid information, annoyed…more wiffleball…find out my honors advisor is gone, will not be able to sign my proposal :(…get a scholarhsip :)…watch chinatown…4/29 watch rent (captivating)…watch the producers in the hub (amusing)…4/30 last sunday brunch…start lit review notes…write a bunch of e-mails…go to black eyed peas concert (so-so)…watch mifflin streak with hundreds of other students, including milton and two girls…5/1 final pbl meeting…work on lit review…hooked on music from rent…5/2…pbl interviews…rob's parents arrive, begin moving him out, generously take my bookcase and chair…5/3 get ice cream as thank you gift, using my brother's meal points…go to big collegian meeting, goes well…return in time to see rob off…carry a couch from simmons into atherton (including crossing shortlidge)…finish lit review at 12:30am…5/4 packed up and ready to go…go to mcdonalds for breakfast, buy dvds at mikes…load up my stuff, get lunch at mcdonalds with mom…pack up pat's stuff…go to creamery, leave penn state…exhausted…5/5 relax…into living with war…watch phillies with chris…go to m:i:iii (decent and entertaining)…5/6…watch penn state volleyball game on tv…5/7 babysitting…watch west wing…finish collegian insider article…5/8 3:00pm boredom sets in…write blog post…5/9 help uncle with new business, carrying packages…5/11-5/12 on call for babysitting duty

ok, i extrapolated out a bit. as you can see a lot happened. that's a tough memory exercise. anyway hope to be back to normal soon.