Don’t Be Alarmed

Somewhere in my dream I felt a brief warning, a premonition that something was happening. Five seconds later the jarring ringing of a fire alarm threw me out of my bed at 5 a.m.

In addition to having alarms in every hallway, the University has recently installed alarms in every room. The noise is so loud you cannot think, let alone sleep.

A flood of horrible images rush through your mind as you try to get yourself out of your room. I grab my wallet and keys of the desk. Two planes hit the twin towers. I throw my shoes on my feet. Millions infected with AIDS in Africa. I grab sweatpants and a sweatshirt. Justin Timberlake brings sexy back.

I can only imagine what other uses this alarm system could provide. Perhaps guards could use it for prison escapes or even a new form of torture in Guantanamo. Every time I hear that alarm, I really wonder why they couldn’t just let me die in my sleep.

I feel like a real veteran to have the wherewithal to grab my sweats before running out to the cold morning air. Many were not so lucky, coming out tired and underdressed. One girl wrapped her comforter around herself and a shirtless guy. I saw two guys do the same, which may be an even more extraordinary gesture.

One RA told me he tried to write up a fire alarm as a community program, since you get nearly everyone to participate. It is funny how neighbors go day in and day out ignoring each other, but will begin to converse with each other while shivering outside at 5 a.m.

A girl who appeared to be an authority figure, an RA perhaps, comes around and yells for people to back away from the building. “This is not a fire drill!” she said. Duh. If she announced it was just a drill, I think someone may have hit her.

For a second I grasp the potential seriousness of the situation as I imagine all of my belongings exploding out my window like in Fight Club. I think I left my CD collection in the car, but I doubt any insurance company would reimburse me for my giant DVD collection.

Fortunately while this wasn’t a drill, this wasn’t a real fire either. Most likely it was the act of a drunken student or a technical issue with the fire alarm. I remember a year ago a similar event was set off by a wiring error in the attic.

Atherton Hall is listed on some maps as “Centre Halls”, but it seems it is miles away from civilization whenever an alarm goes off. In the course of 45 minutes I never saw a fire truck or even a maintenance van pull up.

The alarm eventually stopped and people started to move towards the doors, but I waited. I’ve been burned by fire alarms before. Sure enough the alarm starts up again for a few more minutes, an aftershock I guess. We finally get the go ahead and return to our rooms.

Appropriately enough, fire prevention week will start next week. So if you don’t have the misfortune of a major university being liable for your fire safety, perhaps you can take the opportunity to get some smoke detectors and test their batteries. And don’t worry, smoke detectors have a much nicer ring to them.

Thon Live

As a Penn State student, I should share with the world that this weekend is Thon weekend. The Penn State Dance Marathon is a student run event where thousands of students dance for 48 hours straight for cancer. They raise millions of dollars to help support the families of kids with cancer and to research for a cure. I personally am not very involved in Thon, although everyone on campus typically ends up contributing in some way. In the past we’ve had Penny Wars in my hall to raise money. You can see previous years’ Thon coverage on the Collegian’s site.

Anyway I have been pretty interested in the ways they are sharing the experience with the world online. They have a webcast running throughout the event, with shout-outs from participants and video of all the festivities. They’re playing it on one of the local access channels here and I have been tuned in all day (Yet another blow to NBC’s Olympic coverage). They are also running a blog with regular posts from Rec Hall. I am kind of annoyed by that, because I wanted to do a Thon blog on the Collegian site. Maybe next year. In any case, check out their coverage and if you can donate, because its a nice cause. And check out the Collegian’s site Monday for their coverage – I’ll be helping produce that on the website.

Update: The Thon webcast was watched by 25,000 viewers in 30 countries over the weekend, and 1/3 of those viewers donated money online. This turned out to be a major part of helping them beat last year’s record.

My Super Weekend

Hope you had a good holiday weekend. That’s right, Super Bowl Sunday is a national holiday according to one PSU professor. It certainly does a good enough job getting people to come together. I watched the game in a dorm with some friends, including one annoyingly happy Steelers fan. Though we like to think its a 50-50 split, the truth is the Steelers are the favorite team here in State College. It seemed like they might have been the NFL’s favorite too. Truth is I like the Steelers as a team, I just didn’t want to have to deal with their obnoxious fans. Congratulations to the Steelers, especially Betis and Cowher, and the thousands of Steelers fans who live under the delusion that their support made the difference. If you weren’t interested in the game, I thought the FedEx’s cavemen commercial was the best.

Actually the biggest sports news around here is Penn State’s upset of #6 Illinois on Saturday night. I went to the game Wednesday night against Michigan, which was a closer match-up than it should have been. I imagine I will be going to more games after this weekend’s performance. I spent my weekend at the theaters seeing Something New and Captoe, both very worthwhile. I think Phillip Seymore Hoffman should be getting an Oscar for his performance. Speaking of which, I am planning to put together my belated Best Films of 2005 list and Oscar picks soon when I get a chance. Also, I got tricked into watching Grey’s Anatomy after seeing the commercials – only to be left with a cliffhanger. It confirmed most of my worst suspicions about the show, including the fact that it couldn’t take Scrubs in a fight.

My real reason for writing tonight was just to get back to blogging again. I have been really slow about posting, though the posts I have written have gotten a lot of attention. It’s nice to take time and write a good post once in a while, but lately I have just only been doing long rants which don’t really reflect what I am thinking. So starting tomorrow I will go back to posting at least once a day, something I did when I started this blog. I am also pleased with the way I styled this post, so I wouldn’t be surprised if I do even more first person writing. Anyway, more posts are on the way in the future.

Giving JoePa a Break

Here at Penn State the women’s basketball coach has continued to coach despite being accused of discrimination against players, but a comment from Joe Paterno is making all the headlines. These comments have lead some to call for his resignation. Here’s what the old man said:

“There’s some tough — there’s so many people gravitating to these kids. He may not have even known what he was getting into, Nicholson. They knock on the door; somebody may knock on the door; a cute girl knocks on the door. What do you do?

Geez. I hope — thank God they don’t knock on my door because I’d refer them to a couple of other rooms

But that’s too bad. You hate to see that. I really do. You like to see a kid end up his football career. He’s a heck of a football player, by the way; he’s a really good football player. And it’s just too bad.”

This is murky water for anyone to get into, but I am going to play devil’s advocate here. While these comments appear to be insensitive on paper, I am pretty sure that was not his intent. I got the impression that Joe is just frustrated about the problems college football attracts and lamenting these situations in general. If it didn’t come out entirely PC, well that’s because he’s a 70-year-old guy and he doesn’t care what people think. He wouldn’t resign anyway, but I don’t think this situation warrants it. Still, Joe should apologize and let everyone move on.

What interests me is the evolution of this media mess. These comments came out of a January 2nd press conference, yet it took almost a week for NOW and the media to get onto this story. It seems to indicate to me that this wasn’t news on January 2nd and I wonder how it got to be this way. Centre Daily Times’ writer Walt Moody says today the quote wasn’t taken out of context. He said, “You could feel the room cringe,” when Paterno spoke.

Interestingly enough though, cringing doesn’t make noise, so its hard to tell whether Moody’s observation is true. Based on this video of the quote in a local news report all we can hear is Paterno’s words – and about a dozen writers laughing at his comments. Perhaps sportswriters are also insensitive about sexual assault? Don’t expect that to be making the headline of your local paper anytime soon.

Just as a disclaimer, I like Paterno a lot and that is why I wrote this. I am not endorsing Paterno’s comments – they were wrong. I just think they are also a bit misunderstood.

Travel Troubles

I am back in State College now and hoping to get back into the hang of posting regularly, but I wanted to talk a little more about my trip to Miami first. In my last post I tried to stay positive about everything that happened. And I did have fun in Miami. It was not a stress-free trip however, in fact I cannot imagine how it could have gotten worse. Murphy’s Law was in full effect.

Since we were traveling on a budget and were late in planning our trip, we bought tickets to Miami from Dulles airport in Washington, with a stop in Atlanta. My mom drove us to our cousins’ house in Maryland and visited, while my uncle took us to Dulles. That part actually went pretty well. Uncle Joe travels a lot and was helpful in telling us what to expect and where to go. We got our tickets and got through security rather easily.

Unfortunately there was no rush. We arrived around noon and our 3:30 flight had been delayed until 5:30. Apparently everything in Atlanta got shut down. So we basically sat around listening to music and reading in Terminal B of Dulles. While on our flight, we were kind of nervous about whether we would miss our connecting flight due to the delay. No worries, though, because that had been delayed almost 2 hours as well. Unlike Dulles which had been quiet, Atlanta was a madhouse of people waiting for delayed flights and such. I got dinner while we waited for our second flight at the worst Burger King ever. We didn’t arrive in Miami until 1am.

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Back from the Orange Bowl

Orange Bowl

I have a lot to say about my whirlwind trip, but I won’t get to it all now. Bottom line: Good trip and worth the trouble. I am going to focus on the positives tonight and talk about the problems and lessons learned later. Pat, Chris, and I arrived in Miami after midnight on Tuesday due to delays. In the morning we met with Jenna, Jess, Rob, and Cat and got breakfast in the hotel restaurant. It was a nice buffet, though the place was very empty. Afterwords we picked up our game tickets and got ready to go to the beach.

We took a shuttle from the hotel (which was by the airport) to Miami Beach. It was nice because the short drive seemed to cut through the town and give us an idea of what the city is like. Palm trees are everywhere and every building is pastel colored. It seems like there were patches of downtown mixed with residential areas throughout the city. It’s a neat city and very different from what I am used to. They let us off a block away from the beach in a pretty high-class shopping district. The weather was nice and the water was relatively warm, comparable to June in Ocean City, NJ. Except it was January. We figured it must be a cold day for Florida because we saw more Penn State fans out on the beach than Florida State fans.

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See You in Miami

Well after a lot of worry over whether I would be able to get a ticket tomorrow at the student ticket sale, I took a plunge and just bought a tour package. Apparently students can get packages through the Alumni Association, which come with a ticket. In addition to the ticket you get two nights in a hotel and transportation to the stadium. It does not come with transportation to Miami though, so I got to find a flight or someone to drive with. If you are a PSU student who is interested in the package, you can check it out here.

I am a little nervous about committing so much money to this trip, but I think I would have been more disappointed if I hadn’t gone. It’s a chance to be a participant, rather than a mere television viewer. Anyhow, hopefully my finances will take care of themselves soon. So see you in Miami on Jan. 3!