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CAM Blogger's Blog
RedAllOver is a blog about Cornell University and its far-flung community, written by the staff and interns of Cornell Alumni Magazine.

Oct 23

Making (Radio) Waves

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The night of my first shift as a WVBR DJ my freshman year, I hopped in a cab to the “Cow Palace” for my 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. timeslot. The building, so named because it was owned by the Holstein Association, turned out to be a small, endearingly run-down building on a grassy island across from East Hill Plaza. Inside, I found CDs, vinyl, old paperwork, wires, and dust galore. I put on the crackly headphones, queued up a few songs, and adjusted the volume. So far, so good—but I still had to talk to the audience. I nervously waited for a song to end, then pressed the microphone button and informed whoever was listening that they were tuned to Ithaca’s Real Rock Radio. Okay, now I was a DJ.

My high school years had been a frenzy of listening to and learning about music, from classic rock to metal to grunge. So when I walked into Club Fest—the biannual student activities fair—during my first month at Cornell, I knew I wanted to do something music related. I had done some research beforehand. Did I want to join the Concert Commission? The Piano Society? As I walked through the crowded aisles, I was mourning the apparent lack of options for people like me, who just wanted to enjoy good music and share it with other people. Then I heard someone say, “Nice Soundgarden T-shirt!” I looked up and there were several students wearing black shirts with a red guitar logo. They represented WVBR, 93.5 FM, a radio station dedicated to rock. Needless to say, I signed up.

Being a DJ is fun. I get to sit there for hours listening to songs I love, share my knowledge on air, and discover new music. But there’s much more to WVBR than being a DJ, which I discovered when I began attending meetings of the nonprofit that owns the station, the Cornell Media Guild. Like WVBR, the Guild is entirely student-run and independent from the University. So basically, a bunch of kids join an organization because they have a passion for music, and a small group of them has to figure out how to keep a business functioning day-to-day (with the help of our alumni board of directors).

Now I’m a junior, and my involvement includes attending executive board meetings, training new DJs, and staffing promotional events. I’ve been exposed to everything from human resources to branding to budgeting. Working for WVBR also gives me a sense of connection to the Ithaca community, as the majority of listeners aren’t students. And while students run the weekday shows, the weekend programs are hosted by community members of all ages.

I joined the station at an exciting time: after my freshman year we began the long-awaited move from the Cow Palace, where WVBR been had forced to relocate fourteen years earlier after the old building in Collegetown was condemned. Now, with our new studios and equipment, we consider ourselves to have the best college radio facilities in the country. And it shows: WVBR has already seen a boom in interest this semester, with our new studios and the launch of, our online sister station. This semester, we have a nearly full schedule on both stations, with about seventy DJs on WVBR and more than a hundred online—plus many other people working in departments like news, business, and engineering. Who said radio is a dying industry?

— Katie O'Brien ’16

Sep 09

Netflix Anonymous

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Netflix T

Personally, I’ve never really been a “library” type of person. I’ve always been content to do my schoolwork in the comfort of my room without the distraction of other students’ chatter and laughter. That’s until I met the ultimate distraction, my frenemy: Netflix.

Don’t get me wrong; Netflix is an incredible innovation. It allows people to watch television shows, movies, and documentaries online, viewing thousands of programs at their convenience for a measly $7.99 per month. It has never been so easy to watch a show—like the family drama “Brothers and Sisters,” which ran from 2006 to 2011—from the pilot episode to the final goodbye.

But with distractions like Netflix—and so much other technology—it can be hard for students to stay focused. Netflix is one of the biggest aids to procrastination. It gets the best of us—and usually at the worst times, like during Finals week when there are no classes. Since students are already on stress overload, Netflix offers an easy way out. Who wants to study for exams when you can watch ten episodes of “The Big Bang Theory”?

Long before I got my own account, I constantly heard about the joys of Netflix from friends who wouldn’t stop discussing their latest TV obsessions. Though I do love my fair share of shows like “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Breaking Bad,” I wasn’t too concerned about Netflix’s alleged addictive qualities—even though I’d hear stories of friends “binge-watching” not just episodes but entire seasons in just a few days.

Although I tried my best not to give in, I was immediately hooked. The first show I binge-watched was the supernatural adventure “Lost.” It’s just so hard to not click the “Next” button when an episode is over, and so easy to lose track of time in a fantasy world. When you’re in a stressful environment like Cornell, it’s nice to have a mental vacation from your responsibilities.

However. . . when you realize that you haven’t done laundry in two weeks; have about thirty missed calls and texts from friends; don’t remember the last time you put shoes on, let alone left your room; have blown off more than a few club meetings; and find yourself quickly skimming your assigned readings right before class… That’s when you know you’ve got a serious problem, and something has to change.

Let’s just say I am now a proud “library” type of person.


— Elani Cohen ’17

Mar 11

Trick or Tweet?

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Big Brother is watching you. And by “brother, I mean “mother”—if your parents are on social media, like mine are.

We Millennials have given up on Facebook being our exclusive domain, since our parents now use the social media site as much as we do. Parents also love Instagram—but that’s okay with me, because most of my posts involve celebrities, my dog, or Ithaca’s gorges.

For years, Twitter was where I’d turn when I needed to do some serious venting; my profile was an unedited timeline of my life. That’s why I panicked when “@lokosmom”—a.k.a. my mother—started to follow me.

If your parents have a Twitter account, they’re probably just following you, your fifteen best friends, and Ina Garten. So, basically, everything you write they will read. For example: last week I tweeted, half-jokingly, that I planned to have one drink for every internship I was rejected from. Five minutes later, my mom texted me asking just exactly how many drinks I was planning on consuming.

My parents are the typical “helicopter” type. They like to be involved in every aspect of my life; they always want to know where I am, who I’m with, and what I’m doing. Even when I’m not tweeting about a given activity, one of my friends might be—and since my mom follows them, too, I not only have to be careful about what I tweet, but I constantly need to remind my friends not to broadcast the fact that we’re out having fun on a school night.

Still, I think it’s kind of adorable that my mom loves to tweet back and forth with my friends, giving out motherly advice in 140 characters or less. Most of her tweets revolve around enjoying our youth, working hard, and not burning the candle at both ends. My friends love to interact with her—while I’m still stressing out about her being able to follow my collegiate adventures so closely.

But I have to admit that I’m slowly warming up to the idea of my mom being on Twitter. Sure, I can no longer tweet about nights of college debauchery—but I probably shouldn’t publicize that anyway. Twitter allows us to keep up with one another’s lives. I know when she and my dad are smoking cigars on the terrace, when our dog finally got housebroken, and when my dad falls asleep before 8 p.m. These are the little things she may leave out over the phone, but they make me feel like I’m home.

— Courtney Sokol ’15

Feb 19

Soy It Ain't So!

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Over winter break, my girlfriends and I got together for a Mexican feast. But when it came to ordering, it was almost comical. Two of us (including me) are dairy free, two are gluten free, and one is a vegetarian who eats fish if she thinks she needs protein. So five out of seven of us required special accommodations—and we knew that if one of us got sick, the night would quickly turn from fiesta to failure.

Anyone with a food allergy or intolerance knows how challenging it can be to order in a restaurant. If I could, I'd go for a juicy cheeseburger and a milkshake every time. But alas, my body reacts in unholy ways to dairy and fried foods. Let’s just say that certain substances cause me "severe intestinal distress."

And yes: I know how frustrating people like me are to wait staff. Sometimes, I feel as if I should wear a warning sticker explaining that my order will take three times as long as anyone else's. I'll ask what the eggs are cooked in, what kind of salad dressing is used, if there are fillers in the meats, if the vegetables are steamed or sautéed, and if soy milk is available for my coffee. And that's just for starters.

In the past, I've run into trouble when— unbeknownst to the waiter—a sauce had milk in it or the "steamed" string beans I ordered were cooked in butter. At the Mexican restaurant, a friend who has celiac disease asked the waiter whether the margarita mix had gluten in it, as some do; he assured us that it didn't. But before she'd even finished her glass my friend stood up, grabbed her stomach, and doubled over. When she started throwing up into the margarita pitcher, we had to carry her out of the restaurant.

Trust me: nobody likes this kind of drama. I don't want to send my meal back; if I'm out to eat, I'm hungry. And I don’t want to make other people wait to eat their food while mine goes back to the kitchen.

The headaches of ordering with allergies extend past a laundry list of questions for wait staff. Special foods also cost more: soy milk is more expensive than dairy. And forget about soy cheese, a.k.a. "veggie slices." It just adds insult to injury to pay top dollar for a cheese-like substance that’s more rubber than cheddar. I guess it's good to have alternatives—but they'll never be as tasty as the real thing.

— Courtney Sokol ’15

Dec 13

Nooz Flash

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Walking past my roommates flopped over the living room couches, coming up for air between high-pitched bursts of laughter, I stopped to identify the source of their hysteria. Holding court from the table, one of them was reading aloud headlines from CU Nooz, Cornell’s latest online “news source.” By following in the footsteps of satirical media like The Onion, CU Nooz speaks to Cornell students as no other campus publication can.

Almost any topic is fair game for the site, where anonymous authors contribute phony articles about campus life. Outrageous headlines such as “Gannett Health Services Distraught to Learn ‘The Clap’ Not Fun Dance Move” and “Student JA’ed for Murder” take humorous potshots at the serious content produced by the likes of the Daily Sun and the Cornell Chronicle. An Op-Ed entitled “How to Nail a Career Fair” gleefully skewering the generic advice disseminated by Career Services by asking, “Proficient with Microsoft Office? Prove it. Throw some clip art in that resume.”

Launched this fall, CU Nooz is to the Daily Sun as “The Daily Show” is to CNN. Headlines like “Cornell to Build Literally Everywhere Possible on Campus” and “German Language Dept. Tries to Overtake Russian Language Dept., stopped by Ithaca Winter,” cast a humorous—if somewhat insular—gaze on campus.

Of course, CU Nooz isn’t for everyone. The site has been criticized by the news and gossip website IvyGate as “heavy handed” and “hideously unfunny,” perhaps due to its dependence on current, Cornell-specific knowledge. The campus community also turned on the site in the wake of an article entitled “Administration Secretly Kind of Disappointed No One’s Used the Suicide Nets Yet.” After the piece sparked outrage from students, alumni, and campus media, the editors quickly issued an apology and removed it from the site.

CU Nooz is run by two seniors in the sketch comedy group Skits-O-Phrenics with a staff of two dozen regular contributors, though outside submissions are accepted. According to an interview in the Sun, they aim to publish at least one article a day. With each one, the site gets a bit closer to creating a consistent voice and becoming a dependable source of humor and a commentary on the modern student. Like this gem, prompted by a real-life case where University was found liable for more than $200,000 for accidentally destroying equine genetic material: “Law School Breeds Hyperintelligent Horse Lawyers.”

— Brooke LaPorte ’14

Nov 21

The Anti-Social Network

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“I’m off the grid!” I remind my friends whenever they ask me to search for a picture or RSVP to an event on Facebook. Two years ago I deactivated my Facebook account—and the greatest challenge has not been resisting a desire to rejoin the social network but constantly telling my friends that I won’t go back.

I’m not sure when my aversion to the site was born, but it was fully developed and raging the day I closed my account two years ago. I felt oddly empowered, not to mention a bit snobbish. Perhaps this was my own “Walden Pond” moment—my personal declaration of independence and a simpler existence. I no longer aimlessly clicked through Facebook profiles and postings when I was bored. I found myself “virtually” adrift—lonelier, but oddly happier.

Media critics have noted that Facebook is declining in popularity among young people as new social networks have emerged—though nearly all of my friends, and even my parents, use Facebook daily. The clubs I belong to, and the sorority I’m in, rely on Facebook heavily to share information and opinions. In many ways, by opting out of Facebook I have disenfranchised myself.

I’m in no way an Internet recluse, nor do I shy away from other social networks. Like Thoreau—who lauded self-sufficiency despite living two miles from town—I’m a bit of a hypocrite. I’m an avid user of LinkedIn, Pinterest, Tumblr, and Instagram—platforms designed for professional networking, creativity, and personal expression. So what’s the difference? Many would argue there is none, and that Facebook’s popularity and convenience far outweigh any consequences.

But for me Facebook was always a compromise. The content I shared—photos, messages, personal info—felt uncomfortably like a PR report about six years of my life. When less-than-glamorous photos of me were “tagged” by friends, I felt imposed upon and annoyed. Would this incessant public documentation go on for the rest of my life? Is this how celebrities feel all the time?

I’ve had a Facebook profile since freshman year in high school, and my online “friends” numbered more than a thousand. My awkward, brace-faced years were thoroughly documented and are circulating the Internet whether I liked it or not. My new friends at Cornell could easily learn things about me I would never have told them. In turn, it felt odd to be exposed to images of and knowledge about childhood friends whom I was no longer close to; I was witness to the lives of people I hadn’t spoken with in years.

Life without Facebook has had its ups and downs. In some ways it’s like living with blinders on—I rarely hear about events unless I get a direct invitation, and most of the pictures I see are ones I take myself. Many of my friendships have been stifled by a lack of communication, and I worry about keeping in touch with my seven housemates after graduation.

While not quite an exercise in asceticism, cutting myself off from the social network has been a stab at a simpler life. Facebook is an incredible resource—but it’s also an overwhelming and indiscriminate social medium that gives the same attention to major life events as to mislaid cell phones. Though I may have lost something, logging out has been a breath of fresh air.

— Brooke LaPorte ’14

Nov 05

Gathering Places

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Hawaii Hailing from a quiet cul-de-sac on the North Shore of Oahu, I thought that my move from Hawaii to Upstate New York would be a complete inversion of the only life I knew. I was surprised, however, to find myself seamlessly adjusting to Ithaca, once I was equipped with a set of North Face jackets (one for rain, one for snow, and one never to take off).

Every winter break I made the long trek home to be greeted by family and friends waiting for me to grumble about the East Coast: it’s too far, it’s too cold, no surf, etc. But every January I mystified them with my desire to return to snowy Ithaca.

The differences between Ithaca and Hawaii are tremendous, from the most obvious seasonal fluctuations to the different words we use for flip-flops (in Hawaii we call them “slippahs”). But I had expected all of this; If I’d wanted to go to college somewhere more familiar, I would have joined my high school peers who flocked to California. Instead I braced myself for change—leaving my family, swimsuits, and Pidgin English at home, making room for new friends, winter boots, and the language of academia.

Perhaps I overcompensated—bracing myself for a shock by wearing layer upon layer of sweaters and stocking up on Hawaiian snacks—but I was struck by something like deja vu as I drove through Ithaca for the first time. The quaint houses perched around Cayuga Lake and the independent shops clustered on the Commons reminded me of the unhurried ambiance of home.

Hawaii from the air

If I were to make a Venn Diagram of Oahu and Ithaca, you’d be surprised by their overlapping personalities. Like Oahu, Ithaca is happily removed from the hustle and bustle of larger cities. The majority of people on Oahu and in Ithaca are transplants, contributing to a population of students, families, and businesses from all around the world. The natural beauty found in Ithaca and Oahu invokes a sense of pride and responsibility, evident in the slogans “Ithaca is Gorges” and Oahu’s growing environmental campaign to “Keep the Country Country.”

In Hawaiian, Oahu means “the gathering place,” capturing the island’s persistent attraction for those who live there or continue to visit year after year. The name Ithaca also recalls a symbolic gathering place—the Greek isle that was the ultimate destination in Homer’s Odyssey. When people ask me how I made the transition across the country’s geographic extremes, I’m happy to share that it’s easy to move from one island home to another.

— Brooke LaPorte ’14

Oct 17

Old Nails, New Tales

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Students on site

As a requirement for my anthropology major, I signed up for Fieldwork in Urban Archaeology, an introductory course offering fieldwork experience in a local setting. My interest was piqued when I learned we would be graded on our technical skills—something foreign to me as a humanities student used to lugging books.

Our first trip out to the research site, about fifteen minutes from campus, found us in the crook of a hairpin turn near the entrance to Robert Treman State Park. A recent flood had littered the area with rock and debris, making it hard to imagine that this muddy patch was home to the Rumsey family during the nineteenth century. Buried just inches beneath the ground were the remains of a once-vibrant hamlet that was abandoned when the region was converted to parkland around World War I.

The unmowed plot had dried out by the following week, when we were paired off and assigned to sites designated by pink spray-painted stakes plotting ten-by-ten-foot squares. Though we’d been supplied with shovels, buckets, and wire sifting screens, we quickly abandoned them in favor of using our bare hands to tear out the grass.

Hours later, after digging around a fieldstone in an attempt to get to the next layer of soil, my partner and I were tired and bored. Then we unearthed a handful of crumbly metal, the oxidized iron an orange stain in the dirt. Using our red and puffy hands, we pulled out two square nails, a piece of glass, a shard of porcelain, and a hog’s tooth. Shaking the metal screen and whispering, “Big money, big money!” we were rewarded with enough archaeological booty to fill a small paper bag.

Trotting over in a khaki vest and jeans, looking like she’d just walked off the pages of National Geographic, Professor Sherene Baugher announced: “Okay, open this up, you’ve got a unit.” Success! Our humble shovel test had been promoted to an official unit, a three-by-three-foot square of special interest. Assigned a new number and given more stakes, we traced out a larger box and scrambled to find the edges of the pesky fieldstone that had prevented us from digging any deeper.

My hands were sore and filthy as I scratched away at the silty soil, revealing more of the rock. After a few minutes of frowning at the obstinate mass, we reached the same conclusion: it must be a foundation stone from the Rumsey house! We tore at the dirt with a new vengeance.

Several weeks later, the class was absorbed in the excavation of the house foundation. All four walls emerged as we hauled out buckets of dirt containing countless artifacts: complete bottles, children’s toys, a wagon wheel, even porcelain imported from Germany. The objects speak volumes about the daily life of the Rumsey family and the community of Enfield Falls. From toy soldiers to farm tools, the artifacts enlightened me in ways a textbook never could. Not only did I have a rare interaction with a bygone culture, but I was inspired to imagine future students digging up artifacts from my own life. While washing the dirt from perfume bottles and tin cups, I wondered which of my possessions could become archaeological treasures. How will my sneakers and toaster hold up as time wears on, until their value shifts from ordinary to extraordinary? One thing’s for sure: I’ll never look at a rusty nail the same way again.

— Brooke LaPorte ’14

Sep 26

Into the Woods

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“Ithaca is Gorges”—at least that’s what I’ve been told for the past two years. Ask anyone about Ithaca and one of the first things they’ll tell you about is its natural beauty. Although I’ve been going to school here since fall 2011, I’ve never really experienced Ithaca’s natural wonders. It was always in the back of mind—something I had to do before I graduate. But in mid-September, I finally decided it was time. My friends and I drove five miles outside of town to Treman State Park and found the gorge hiking trail. At the trailhead, a sign said: “2 miles one way.” We weren’t that concerned with the distance. We’re all young; how hard could it be?

The answer was clear after about ten steps, when we saw multiple sets of steep stairs stretching ahead of us. By the time we reached the end of the initial set, I felt as if I’d already hiked the two miles. I saw a mile marker not long afterward and hurried over to see how far we’d come. It said a quarter-mile. I was now not only breathless but also speechless. But I kept going, thinking: these falls had better be worth it.

As I hiked I kept staring at the ground; I felt as if one false move would make me fall on my face or tumble off the trail. Then it hit me that the point of the outing was to see nature. So I stopped being so cautious and began to look around. Eventually, we came across a small waterfall flowing into a wide stream. Since there were dry, flat rocks on the shore we decided it would be a good place to rest. After a few minutes of observing the scenery, we were reenergized and eager to arrive at Lucifer Falls.

After our break the rest of the hike seemed to move faster because it got more interesting—but still challenging. But we persevered until we made it to the 115-foot waterfall. The water flowed from a small stream and quickly arrived at the edge of a cliff before falling more than ten stories. Although the roar was loud and powerful, it was somehow also peaceful. While I was standing in front of this massive landscape I couldn’t help feeling small. But it didn’t make me feel insignificant; I felt as if I had become a part of something much greater than myself. Looking at something this stunning, it was hard to believe I live only fifteen minutes away. Unfortunately, we couldn’t enjoy the view for long because we didn’t want to hike back in the dark.

Shortly after my trip, I found out there was an easier way to see the falls; if I’d parked at Upper Treman I could’ve saved myself the 500-foot climb. While Im proud to say I completed the hike, the next time I visit the falls I’ll probably take the shortcut.

— Lyndsay Isaksen

Aug 27

A Terrible Thing to Waste

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I never knew that throwing out garbage could be as challenging as a math exam. At Collegetown Bagels, there’s a whole line of bins—compost, paper, plastic, glass, redeemables, trash—for disposing of waste. As I stood in front of them holding a paper plate with a tiny bit of unfinished bagel, some used napkins, and a Snapple bottle with a little juice left in it, I thought, I’m supposed to separate this how? To this day I’m still not sure if I got it right.

I was aware of Ithaca’s reputation for environmental sustainability prior to coming to school here—but I was naïve enough to think it wouldn’t affect me. Growing up on Long Island, there was never any pressure to be environmentally conscious. My sustainable habits began and ended with the bottles and cans my family would put out at the curb for collection; if the recycling bin was full or it was more convenient to throw something away, I wouldn’t think twice about it. But now, after living in Ithaca for two years, sustainability has become a part of my daily life.

Although my efforts may be small, I have learned that even minor changes can make a difference—like turning off the light when leaving a room, making sure the dishwasher is completely filled before running it, using the water-saving setting on the washing machine, and carrying reusable grocery bags when I shop at Wegmans.

I’ll admit there are still plenty of things I could improve on; for example I’ll probably never trade my car for the TCAT bus. However, each year I live in Ithaca, I become more environmentally aware. And at least now I can navigate the trash bins at Collegetown Bagels.

— Lyndsay Isaksen

Image by Ari Moore via flickr (Creative Commons 2.0) 

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