Monday, 27 February 2017

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.

Jun 22

On the Double

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Shortly after arriving for freshman orientation last fall, my new roommate and I headed to Robert Purcell Community Center for our first dinner together. It started off about as poorly as any meal could. We got in one of the long lines and had a typical, awkward “ice breaker” conversation as we prepared bowls of toppings to add to our Mongolian noodles. Midway through the line, I saw a friend from home walk by. I frantically waved—forgetting about the food in my hand and dumping carrots, baby corn, and various other vegetables all over my poor roommate.

Happily, she laughed it off—although to this day, that friend from home won’t let me forget it.

I am what my mother affectionately calls a “space case.” As a senior in high school, I realized that when I went off to college, I’d need a roommate to help keep my head on straight (or at least have an extra key in case I locked myself out). Little did I know when I finally found that roommate, we’d become so close so quickly.

Grace was the first person to respond to me on the Class of 2018 “Find a Roommate” Facebook page. I’d posted a brief profile with some of my likes and dislikes, sleep schedule, and other habits—don’t drink; don’t smoke—and asked potential roommates to message me if they were interested in pairing up. Grace contacted me within a couple of hours, declaring a mutual love for night-owl schedules and the band Fall Out Boy. I said I’d love to room with her, and a few months later we both arrived in Clara Dickson Hall.

I got there first, and to my dismay our double looked more like a single with two sets of furniture jammed into it. However, after a couple of hours of moving beds and desks around, we made everything fit.

Over Orientation Week, Grace and I got to know each other during the long treks to mandatory programming in the Schwartz Center and on various North Campus adventures. Perhaps my favorite memory is sneaking into the Court-Kay-Bauer dorm and climbing to the outdoor bridge on the top floor, where we watched the sun set as our first hectic week of college came to a close.

I feared that as the year went on, sharing such a tiny living space would cause some friction—but if anything, our tight quarters only drew us closer together. We shared late nights of studying, going to parties in Collegetown, and obsessing over Tumblr and Pinterest. So when the housing lottery came around, we decided to live together again. As sophomores, we’ll be sharing a West Campus dormroom that, sadly, is no bigger than last year’s.

As freshman year came to a close, Grace’s finals ended earlier than mine and she moved out before I’d even begun packing. We said our goodbyes for the summer and promised to keep in touch.

Upon returning to the room, I realized I had locked myself out. I always knew I needed a roommate.

— Christina Lee ’18

Feb 17

They Are What They Eat

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Last semester a new girl joined a club that I’m in. Even before I was introduced to her, I already knew her, though by a different name. She was “Fish Allergy Girl”—the student who regularly came into the Japanese restaurant in Collegetown where I waited tables and asked us to make sure the chefs thoroughly cleaned their knives before making her vegetable sushi, since she was allergic to fish. I’d tell her that the chefs were very busy and we couldn’t guarantee that all the fish residue would be removed; she’d insist that they’d done it for her before. I’d relay the message, the chefs would growl at me, and I’d walk away wondering why in the world this girl insisted on ordering something that might make her sick, or worse. It was a weird little dance we did about once a month.

Like any restaurant, we had quite a few of these notorious regulars. There was the odd, slow-talking couple; the hockey players who lived around the corner and came in constantly; the guy who always got the most expensive things on the menu; the girl who regularly drank too much; the guy who ordered the same salad and invariably sent it back. Most of them were students, and occasionally I’d encounter them in real life—on campus, in class, at Wegmans—and I’d remember that they, too, had lives outside the restaurant. Usually, I was torn between saying hello and hiding behind a cheese display.

As any waiter or waitress will tell you, when you serve someone you see a completely different side of them than their friends see. But it gets more complicated when that waitress is your peer and you’ve stood in line next to them at Collegetown Bagels. Some customers treated us like any other server, which was fine—but others started to relate to us differently when they learned we were fellow students. They’d ask what class year we were at Cornell and if we liked working at the restaurant; sometimes the questions got more personal, and after a few visits they became more like friends.

I don’t work at the restaurant anymore, but I’m still Facebook friends with a few of my former regulars, and we wave when we pass each other in Libe Café. Fish Allergy Girl and I chat when we’re at club meetings, and she’s actually pretty nice—when she isn’t ordering something that might send her into anaphylactic shock.

— Arielle Cruz ’15

Feb 12

'Why Canít You Be Good at Something Else?'

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When I tell people I’m a history major, I’m often asked, “What are you going to do with that?” While it’s a seemingly innocuous question, sometimes I feel like it roughly translates into “You’re never going to find a job”—or, my personal favorite, “Your major is useless.”

Pursuing a liberal arts degree at Cornell can be challenging: in a highly technical institution, it’s easy to get discouraged as peers in Engineering and ILR seem to have their whole lives mapped out from the first day of school.

It’s hard to explain to someone with such specific goals that I’m not concerned with my major’s job prospects because to me, college is about the intrinsic value of learning. I really do get immense enjoyment from deconstructing a film, analyzing historical texts, or writing research papers. Yet with many career fairs and symposia geared toward students in the more structured colleges, the pressure mounts as graduation nears. Looking for internships, I’ve often asked myself, “Why can’t you be good at something else?” My peers majoring in computer science always seem to have the internship conundrum figured out, while I’ve struggled to find listings that call for my skills.

These insecurities subsided somewhat last year, when I became a Mellon Mays Fellow. Available at more than forty colleges and universities in the U.S. and in South Africa, the fellowship provides mentorship to undergrads interested in pursuing a PhD in the humanities. At the end of the fellowship, each student turns in an original research essay. Mine focuses on the importance of anti-Nazi cartoons during World War II and the value of film and television in how society engages with history. Part of my research will take place in Munich, Germany, where I will be studying abroad for a semester.

While I still don’t know whether I want to apply to grad school, the fellowship has helped reassure me that it doesn’t matter that I dropped my computer programming course during the first week. The job market will always need critical thinkers and coherent writers—and that’s exactly what my major has taught me.

— Melissa Sarmiento ’16

Nov 17

Bright Lights, Small City

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        As a high school student shopping for colleges, I thought I needed to be near a big city. I didn’t want to be at an urban school like NYU, but I pictured myself taking a fifteen-minute train trip into a city for weekend entertainment, then returning to a tree-filled, self-contained campus. When I realized there weren’t many colleges offering that perfect balance, I got discouraged and eliminated location as a priority, applying to everything from a tiny liberal arts school in the middle of nowhere to a big university in the middle of Boston. Luckily, I also applied to Cornell.

        I saw the University for the first time as a high school freshman, when my family and I were vacationing on Cayuga Lake: after driving by, I decided that the school was too big, too remote, and too ugly. (I have no idea which part of campus we saw, but it was obviously the wrong one.) The second time, I was a senior visiting a nearby school. My dad convinced me it would be ridiculous not to stop by Cornell as well, despite me “knowing” I didn’t want to go there. A tour of Central Campus on a sunny autumn day convinced me to apply.

        While there were many reasons I decided to come to Cornell, its location in Ithaca wasn’t much of a factor—but as it turns out, Ithaca has offered the ideal balance between nature and culture. With its art exhibits, book stores, record fairs, restaurants, fair-trade boutiques, farmers’ markets, and hiking trails, there is always something to explore when I want to get off campus. And when I’m at school, I can enjoy Cornell’s varied architecture, outdoor art, dramatic gorges, and abundant trees.

        As an ardent music lover, one reason I wanted to be near a city was because I didn’t think there would be any decent concerts in a small town. But I was wrong about that, too: since starting Cornell I’ve seen Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello, the Flaming Lips, Third Eye Blind, the lead singer of the Pixies, and more. Between artists brought to Cornell and the acts from Ithaca’s thriving music scene, there are always shows worth attending. And if I want to see a band that only tours through bigger cities, there are options: I once took a three-hour bus ride to Buffalo to see Pearl Jam (my favorite band), and New York is just an hour or so farther away.

        There have been many other unexpected benefits to living in Ithaca. For one, I’ve become more environmentally conscious: visiting a friend’s school, I was shocked that there weren’t recycling bins accompanying every trashcan, let alone a place to put compost. I also appreciate the community’s emphasis on supporting local artists, musicians, artisans, and farmers, which makes me feel like I’m part of something larger than the campus bubble.

        I’ve realized that there’s no rush to live in a big city; in all likelihood, that’s where I’ll wind up after graduation anyway. But for now, I’m enjoying Ithaca’s natural beauty and artistic edge. After all, there’s a reason why it was named the best college town in America.

— Katie OBrien ’16

Nov 06

If the Sandwich Fits...

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Its trademark green-and-yellow stickers are scattered all over campus and beyond: on water bottles, laptops, and bathroom doors. Collegetown Bagels is Ithaca’s very own—and much beloved—independent sandwich shop. Though there are three outposts of CTB throughout Ithaca (plus two related stores called Ithaca Bakery), the experience at the Collegetown location is one of a kind: trying to find the line through the crowd of students and elbowing your way to the back to peruse the colorful, quirky chalkboard menu that lines the wall. It details more than 150 different sandwiches, divided into categories (turkey, beef, vegetarian, vegan, favorites, etc.) and often creatively named, from the Buttermilk Bialy to the Sweet Rachel.

If you’re a CTB veteran, you likely have a favorite sandwich that you always wind up ordering. These standbys are a kind of CTB Rorschach test: your choice describes your personality. When my friends and I go to CTB, we always promise that we’re going to try a new sandwich. But when we finally get to the counter, we invariably end up ordering the usual.

Considering our varied personalities, it makes sense that we all get different things. One friend is meticulously neat—as vanilla as vanilla gets—so nobody is surprised by her simple order of a plain bagel with cream cheese. Another is loud and messy; with the piles of clothes and papers all over her room, you wouldn’t even know she had carpet. She orders the Zoe, a concoction of chicken salad and cranberry sauce on a rosemary salt bagel. The sandwich is as disheveled as she is.

Yet another friend gets the 5K wrap, which consists of crunchy peanut butter, apples or bananas, granola, honey, and raspberry jalapeño jam on whole wheat; she’s a hardcore runner training for a triathlon. Another gets the California Sunrise: scrambled eggs with avocado, red onion, and melted pepper jack cheese on a plain bagel. It fits her perfectly, since she’s always in the library and pulls more all-nighters than any of us; she sees the sun rise at least once a week.

And as for me? I’m pretty laid back for the stressful Cornell atmosphere, but I’m also a true extrovert. So the not-too-simple, not-too-busy California Dreamin’—turkey, avocado, and coleslaw on multi-grain bread—is my perfect fit.

— Elani Cohen ’17

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

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