The Best Sporting Event I Went to…

…wasn’t the Giants-Redskins at FedEx Field this past September, nor the Giants-Chargers iceball game back in the 90’s when my sister got pelted with an iceball, nor the two Nets playoff games against the Pacers, not even my high school’s state championship hockey victory over Christian Brothers Academy at what was then Continental Airlines Arena (though that comes close), but the Cornell-Boston U. rivalry hockey game at Madison Square Garden. Even though Cornell lost 6-3, the experience, the atmosphere was amazing, which makes me wonder what it must be like to attend the Rose Bowl. 18,000+ fans packed into MSG to watch one of the greatest rivalries in college hockey. 10-12,000 of those fans must’ve shown their allegiance to Cornell because it appeared that there were only a couple thousand of BU fans seeing that they scored six goals but were relatively silent the whole game. Their band was bigger than their student section. Admittedly, one should expect that a New York school would have a strong showing at a game played in NYC.

It was very disappointing Cornell lost, but the three times Cornell scored I’ve only felt more excited when the Yankees won the 2000 World Series (My mom made me go to sleep before they could win the 96 World Series, 98 and 99 seemed too easy and I don’t remember the Giants’ Super Bowl victory in 1990). It wasn’t just the act of scoring that created the excitement, but the joy of the fans, the simultaneous jumping of 3/4 of the arena, and the synchronized chants coming from that 3/4 of the arena, an arena which happens to be the most famous in the world. For all of that, the Saturday night after Thanksgiving I spent at MSG with two of my friends and countless more Cornell students will be an experience I will never forget, however cliche that sounds.

Edward Hopper’s World

It was fortunate timing that a travelling exhibit of most of Edward Hopper’s oil and watercolor paintings and sketches were on display at the National Gallery of Art during the time of my stay here in DC. I really do enjoy Hopper’s style and the basis for his paintings, but must confess I did not know that much about him besides his famed Nighthawks painting.

While walking through the exhibit, I came to realize that I have never felt so emotionally attached to any painting as I did with Hopper’s, not the one’s Eric Denker described on our tours at the Gallery with him, not Monet, Manet, Degas, Reubens, Constible, Turner, etc. But Hopper was a different story. Hopper’s bold, lonely but inhabited paintings appeal to the eye, but at the same time have this impressionistic feel. I think what does it though is his portrayal of the American city in a lonely, isolating, self-meditative style. It truly was a great experience to walk through rooms emanating the works of Hopper, though I have to say, if it wasn’t for the five tours Eric Denker gave us, I wouldn’t have had an understanding for my appreciation of Hopper.

Q & A with Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Cornell alum and Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Ginsburg sat down and talked with students from three different colleges this past Friday at the Supreme Court. I was lucky enough to be one of the 20 or so Cornell students who attended the discussion with her. Students from Hamilton College and American University were also in attendance.

The value of the experience can be explained by itself and doesn’t need to be verbalized by myself. What was interesting though was thinking about how Ginsburg, as a woman during the 50’s and 60’s, dealt with the sexism. She was only one of nine women attending Harvard Law School, and during her undergraduate days at Cornell, females made up only 25% of the student body whereas now they total 51%. On top of that, women were discouraged from going into law. In fact, not one law firm in New York City hired Ginsburg after she graduated as valedictorian from Cornell and in the top of her class at Harvard.

While I don’t think I’ve ever met a physically smaller person (her glasses were definitely bigger than her), her emotional strength really speaks volumes about her as a person. That and she could kick Scalia’s butt, though apparently they go to different restaurants and operas together. I didn’t ask Justice Ginsburg if that was true, but I recall reading it in some newspaper article.

A Federal Career Fair – United States Postal Service Style

My internship gave me the assignment of reporting back to them on the United States Postal Service Career Fair (USPS) and writing up a piece on it for their web-site. I thought it would be interesting to share my observations.

When a college graduate or prospective employee thinks about working for the USPS, the first image that probably comes to mind is being a mail carrier or working in one of the post offices for a local town or city. One of the goals of the USPS career fair held on November 14, 2007 at the L’Enfant Plaza Hotel was to dispel that popular reputation.

First impressions always carry a lot of weight and the career fair was certainly designed to impress. Held on the second floor of the hotel in the Monet room, the USPS had a large number of current employees ready to help anyone who needed assistance in a friendly and helpful manner. The room was neatly organized into tables with different departments of the Postal Service represented at each table, similar to how other career fairs are run. What set this one apart, however, was the presentation. Immediately, one realized that there was more to the Postal Service than delivering and organizing mail. There were representatives from government relations, engineering, supply management, labor relations, global business, postal inspection service/forensics (like CSI post office style), marketing, finance, safety/environmental and health resource management, human resources, delivery and retail, law department, network operations, public affairs and communications, diversity and employee development, strategic planning, and information technology. Almost every department had a sleek, flat screen television that showed videos of what the department does and what it has accomplished.

USPS said that 3,000 people were registered to attend the career fair, but many were from out of state. They believed a successful outcome would be 300-500 attendees. Every person who shows up helps out the Postal Service because the organization looks to hire 140 employees every month. Of course not all these hires come from job fairs like this. Doug Green, a ranking manager with the Postal Service, mentioned that job boards and web-sites that post job openings as well as resumes, college recruitment days, and even the Partnership for Public Service help aid the organization in accomplishing its recruiting goals.

As for what sets USPS apart from other government agencies, Mr. Green brought attention to the relative independence new hires are given saying that “they are expected to use their skills immediately.” In addition, USPS is working to decrease the length it takes to hire a candidate, while at the same time, providing ample opportunity for management training, and giving competitive benefits to employees.

A Supreme Visit

This morning Cornell students, who chose to, attended a Supreme Court hearing. We were given tickets by Justice Ginsberg (a Cornell alum) letting us bypass the line into the Supreme Court building and sitting in seats reserved for the Justices’ “honorable guests”. Pretty cool. The oral argument was on some contract between Mattel Inc (the same company going through the toy recalls) and a company or government organization based in Oregon. The contract went through an arbitration hearing. After that, I lost track of what was going on because of all the legal jargon.

The room where the arguments are held is smaller than I thought with rose colored columns and maroon drapes. There are two giant clocks that hang from the ceiling and if there were only giant portraits of the justices behind their respective chairs, the room would look like something out of 1984 or V for Vendetta.

Listening to the oral arguments, despite not understanding the arguments, was nonetheless very interesting. It was quite an experience to see how the justices behaved as well as how the lawyers responded.

Justice Breyer, I couldn’t help but notice, was twirling in his chair during the beginning of the arguments and smiled a couple times to Justice Thomas who sits next to him. He asked many questions and joked a couple of times saying that this was the case of the century because it would take a century to debate about this case.

Justice Thomas didn’t ask a single question as he is known to do. However, he frequently called on the Marshal’s Aides to retrieve books (I’m guessing law books) for him to read.

Justice Kennedy asked a couple of questions but sat leaning back in his chair for most of the oral argument.

Justice Stevens and his bow tie looked like Tucker Carlson will in 55 years. Stevens asked no more than 3 or 4 questions about interpretation of the acts they were discussing.

Justice Roberts opened up the arguments and took to firing questions at the prosecution’s lawyer (though it is not called the prosecution in the Supreme Court). After the first fifteen minutes, however, he became pretty much silent and sat listening attentively.

Justice Scalia looks like that evil ogre Mr. Potter in What a Wonderful Life. He doesn’t warrant much more description.

Justice Souter has a Boston accent. I didn’t know that.

Justice Ginsberg went to Cornell, what else do I have to say. She was the first to ask a question though her style, probably more due to old age, was slow and contemplative. It was sometimes a little hard to understand her, but that could’ve been because of our distance from her.

Lastly, Justice Alito, the New Jerseyan on the court, asked one question during the oral argument and listened for the rest of the time though I could’ve sworn his eyes were looking up at the ceiling as much as mine were, and I could tell you all about the ceiling.

A Business Trip to Capitol Hill

Today, as part of my internship, I ventured up to the US Capitol Building with my boss to attend a briefing on human capital practices in the Intelligence Community, which includes the FBI, CIA, Dept. of Justice, etc. The briefing was led by Ron Sanders, a person many consider to be the premiere human capital manager in Washington. He is quite the presenter too, keeping his audience entertained and connected.

We then took the underground subway underneath the Capitol Building to the House offices. Along the way there are flags of each state and a plaque next to them, and like the Kennedy Center, the Capitol Subway conveniently located the New Jersey flag second in the line. This is once again a testament to the prominence of the State of New Jersey.

In the Longfellow House Office Building, we met with a staffer for the Chairman of the Health Subcommittee in the Committee of Veterans Affairs in which we talked about improving the hiring practices of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Both the briefing and meeting were interesting to attend, but it was more of the experience being able to walk through the Capitol Building as well as take the congressional subway underneath and walk through the halls of the House of Representative offices into a committee hearing room, as well as order what were formerly named Freedom Fries in a House cafeteria, but now go by the name of fresh cut fries.

I have been able to experience many things in DC that I know I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to otherwise see if I didn’t spend a semester studying away from Ithaca.

What is the Building next to the Watergate Hotel?

Answer: The Kennedy Center.

On Thursday night about 20 Cornell in Washington students took a trip to the Kennedy Center to listen to the National Symphony perform Beethoven’s Overtures to Egmont and Coriolan as well as his Concerto in D Major and Symphony No. 5, which I, as well as many other people, know only the first part.

The experience was great and it was interesting just to walk into the Kennedy Center. We entered by going through the Hall of States, which has all 50 states’ flags hanging from the rafters. It was a pleasure to see New Jersey’s the second one on the left. The main reception hall was beautiful with red carpet from wall to wall and these massive glass or crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. In the performance hall, there are four levels and we were sitting in the third off to the left. It was great listening to live orchestral music and seeing the bows of each violinist make the same motion at the same time. It looked like clockwork.

The experience made for one great evening. I will never forget what it was like to spend my night at the Kennedy Center.