Category Archives: Senior Year- I’m scared out of my mind!

An Analogy…or Two

This semester has been very relaxed in terms of work load. It’s probably safe to assume that 13 credits, three of which are for TA’ing a class and another two are for a cooking class, will do that to you. Problem is actual work is starting to present itself. Two papers, a pre-lim, and a lab practical all due within the next week (a cooking lab practical…what!!??) hearkens back to the days of sophomore year and 16 credit semesters. The problem is back then I was in the busy mindset. Senior year, getting a job, and getting into grad school, has erased even remnants of those underclassmen thoughts from my mind. So when such a slew of work amasses into one week, it feels like I’m a pinch hitter, some washed up vet who only has name recognition coming up in the bottom of the ninth, with two outs, no runners on base, and four run deficit to face Mariano Rivera. I’m rusty. I’m not in the groove. I’m the sacrificial lamb. Two years ago I was the starting shortstop and lead off hitter going to the ballpark everyday knowing I’m going to play and being mentally prepared to get my four at-bats and be in the field for 27 outs. The rhythm made such work doable. The senior slide makes it seem ridiculous.The handicap created is more than a batting doughnut can cure.

I wonder back during freshman year how I handled the significant course load and adjusting to college at the same time. Today, it’s like I’ve been hitting Tim Wakefield knuckleballs for the past year and all of the sudden Wakefield’s on the bench and Joel Zumaya is chucking his 104 mph fastball at me. Maybe I’ll just pull an A-Rod, hack at three pitches, have it look like I made an effort, then walk back to the bench looking like I care I just struck out. Enticing. But the better angels of my nature will get the best of me and I will work to save my pride.

Look at that! I just took a quote right from my American Political Thought class from last semester! How do you like that Kramnick?! I’ve still got something in the tank.

Ideological Pluralism

As mentioned before, David Plouffe will be speaking at this year’s Cornell commencement. Joe Biden will be only an hour north, at Syracuse imparting his wisdom to that college’s graduating class. Barack Obama is scheduled to be about 10+ hours west of Ithaca, in South Bend, IN speaking to the graduating class of Notre Dame. As soon as I found this out I called my friend from home who goes to Notre Dame and immediately made clear my excitement and envy for him (though I’ll take David Plouffe any day…seriously) to which he responded with sheer excitement…and frustration.

So I asked him about the protests, and he confirmed what a Cornell professor and ND alum had mentioned to me about a year ago: the division amongst ND alum and the ever growing size of the one camp that would like to see Notre Dame move towards a more conservative mission as an academy of higher learning. As a result, the President, Fr. Jenkins, who invited Obama to speak has been criticized and chastised by this group of alumni and a small but vocal contingent of the Notre Dame student body because of Obama’s pro-choice political stance. Now, many alumni are threatening to stop donating to the university if Obama comes to give the commencement address and some students are protesting consistently and one time shouted during mass to get their disapproval voiced.

As a Cornell student writing for a Cornell blog it is not my place to verbalize my opinions on Notre Dame’s issues. As a Catholic, I would like to say this ignorance and belief that Catholics hold an absolute hold on what is moral and the suppression of voices from those who disagree must stop. Barack Obama the man is pro-life; Barack Obama the politician is pro-choice for obvious political and policy related reasons (imagine the black market created with the illegalization of abortion). As a result, he takes the centrist approach (and responsible/moral one) of trying to prevent women from ever having to make the decision of whether to have an abortion by arguing for a more comprehensive sex education program, counseling services to explain the process of adoption, calling out absent men who abandon the women they once “loved” instead of focusing on a reactionary, short-sighted school of thought.

But let’s assume Barack Obama the man and politician where both pro choice. Let’s say he were the male version of Rosie O’Donnell. There is a universal right in America to think and say what one believes is right. And when one does it in a scholarly, intelligent, enlightening manner as Obama can do in his sleep, that paradigm of thought should be voiced on a college campus that’s liberal, conservative, Catholic, Jewish, all-female, etc. That is one of the driving principles Thomas Jefferson and other founding fathers sought in creating the United States. In fact, without that belief, a Catholic university, like Notre Dame, would cease to exist. Instead, we Catholics wear blinders, looking at one topic and ignoring the big picture. There’s more to the sanctity of life than just abortion, like an unjust war or capital punishment, both of which the current Christian president opposes and former born-again Christian president supported. With Obama, there’s support for the poor through welfare programs, unemployment benefits, support for homeless policies that help those who have a place to live, a progressive tax system that tells the rich you have a responsibility to support those who aren’t as fortunate as you, a foreign policy that says talking and mediation are the best strategies, not violence. It would be near impossible for anyone to tell me these aren’t also Christian/Catholic teachings. So by prohibiting a President who supports these positions from talking to you, your children, your student body, your colleagues, coworkers, or fellow students, one is also making a statement about how much he/she values those stances and not just the most important American value of freedom of speech and thought. I support Fr. Jenkins’ invitation to Barack Obama. His actions (as well as both priests of the Cornell Catholic Community) remind me that not all clergy of the Catholic Church are as narrow as our leadership suggests.

And hey, President Obama, if you find yourself looking for a place to talk, come join your campaign manager at Cornell and pay homage to the only county in New York state that voted for you in the Democratic primary.

The Smelliest Sport

The pungent manure-like aroma hits the nose the second the door to the Oxley Equestrian Center is cracked open. The mist of dust from the dirt being kicked up by horses who have their tails tied (which prompted my friend to inquire if that’s how we derived the term ponytail) never fades. These two sensory stimulating characteristics still stick with me even three days after I watched a women’s polo match at Cornell. The women are undefeated and were winning against U of Maryland 12-3 at halftime, when my friend and I left to drive back and watch the NCAA basketball tourney. The men are just as good and lost in the national championship game last year to Texas A&M.

The concept of the game is simple enough (at least I think it is. I might be completely botching how I interpreted the sport): hit the ball into your opponent’s garage door and score a point. Indoor polo has 3 horses and riders per side and they cycle around the ball one rider behind the next simultaneously attempting to hit the ball or block their opponent from doing so. There are three types of penalties: Penalty 1, Penalty 2, and Penalty 3. If the other team commits penalty 1 you get an automatic goal, which fascinated me because in no sport that I can think of is any team awarded an automatic point, though basketball comes close with goaltending.  And only in tennis, if one is watching Serena Williams, does one here the consistency and loudness of the grunting that each horse performs during the intermission between quarters.

Cornell Alum Tim Punke

It seems as though it’s always the college of Arts and Sciences that puts on the events, but several times a semester a Cornell alum who has made their way to the upper echelons of the career he/she has made for himself comes back to Ithaca to share their experiences with any student who wishes to attend their talk.

Tonight, that alum was Tim Punke. His brief bio shared to us via email about the event goes as follows:

Tim Punke has over a decade of experience working in politics and policy, including work in the Clinton White House, the U.S. Senate, and for Presidential campaigns. Since leaving government service in 2005, Tim has worked as a Partner at K&L Gates, and helped build Monument Policy Group, a boutique consulting firm focused on government relations.

Right down my alley of course, campaigns, Clinton administration, lobbying…it’s like a carbon copy. So I thought it best to attend. The talk was interesting. As is usually the case with guest speakers like Mr. Punke, it was a narration of his life story. He was a very humble person, though, and through his story telling, an active listener can pick up on the clues, recommendations, and tips related to how he became a successful policy maker/political player. His tagline was that people are lucky, but that those people put themselves in positions to get lucky.

For me, the most important part of the talk was his bit about college/grad school giving you the opportunity to get a job, but the job being the actual tool that gives you the experience. This concept stuck with me because of my ongoing debate between Syracuse, American, and possibly Georgetown as the graduate institution at which to obtain my Masters in Public Policy/Administration once I have completed my Teach for America obligation. In having to choose one of these Universities, I’m hung up at the thought that one has the overall best MPA program, while another (still highly ranked) has a program that focuses more on applied politics, which is my interest. Tim Punke’s talk created a new line of thought in my head that you can learn on the job; right now, get the best education from the best possible resource.

Don’t Forget about Hockey

Many know, Cornell alum/student or not, that Cornell basketball is the 14 seed playing Missouri this Friday at 3pm. Fewer, many fewer, know that Cornell hockey will be playing Princeton in the East Coast Hockey Conference semifinals this weekend in Albany, NY. Winning the conference will guarantee Cornell a spot in the hockey national tournament and a chance for the national title. Cornell is seeded as #2 in the tourney while Princeton is #3. Making it this far involved defeating 11 seed RPI two games to one. Aside from needing 3 games to advance, what was just as entertaining/surprising was the scoreboard at the end of game 2. Cornell won 4-0, but take a closer look at shots on goal. (Photo courtesy of Jen Lin’s iPhone)

Opposites Attract…Ridicule

When you know both Keith Olbermann and Ann Coulter graduated from Cornell, you’re either thinking Cornell only produces cre cre (as Jen Lin says, apparently it’s quicker to say that than crazy) people or extremely spirited, passionate individuals. I personally enjoy Olbermann and his show and think highly of his writing and speaking skills. “Special Comment” anyone? In addition, I believe Ann Coulter plays the stupid, ignorant, elitist, but I’m a woman of the people because I’m a Republican card to get people to listen to her. Regardless, when they both go at it, it’s fun to watch. When they both go at it and Cornell University is in the middle of it, I sit back, relax, and absorb enough entertainment to last me a week. You can watch the battle by clicking the links below.

Ann Coulter started it with this interesting, fallacy ridden, and just not true blog post on her website.

Olbermann responds and wields his diploma at the same time. Funny thing is I know exactly which diploma frame he purchased when he graduated…it’s at the Cornell Store.

You gotta love it. I’m biased but I’m gonna put a tally in Olbermann’s column. Same Cornell education for half the price? Priceless! Plus I go to a college at Cornell that’s really not part of Cornell.

Road to Repeat Complete!

For the second straight year, Cornell will be dancing later this March! Cornell basketball is once again the champions of the Ivy League. And once again the net was cut, culminating with a Steve Donahue (kid in hand) fist to the sky mouthing a thank you to the fans. The atmosphere at Newman Arena was great, just as energized as last year. The only difference, a more experienced, more developed, deeper, Cornell basketball team playing on the floor. I truly believed we had a chance to upset Stanford last year, the shots just didn’t fall. This year, my senior year, depending where Cornell is placed, the possibility for an upset is even greater. Anticipation arrives. Cinderella excitement awaits!

It’s Like Senior Year of High School

The phenomenon never goes away; in economics it’s called the Cap T problem, in student layman’s terms it’s called senioritis.

This semester I’m taking 13 credits (you need 12 to be a full time student), three of which are for TA’ing a class, though I do admit that is legitimate work, but enjoyable. Two are for learning the nutritional principles of cooking…I like eating the food we make at the end of class. Eight are for actual legitimate classes. The problem is I know where I’m working and I just found out I have at least one graduate program where I can study after Teach for America. The Maxwell School at Syracuse University just accepted me to their Master of Public Administration program!!! I’m thoroughly excited and, while I’m waiting to hear back from other schools, this invitation to study at arguably the best MPA program in the nation consoles my worry of the possibility of being rejected from all 7 grad schools I applied to (It’s been four months and I still haven’t heard from Princeton…I hope my app wasn’t that bad) and creates that great feeling of reciprocation knowing that a University I cared so much for as to spend weeks filling out their app likes me just as much! Regardless, another feeling, the one from the last months of high school has leaked into my psyche as the sheer exuberation of getting into Syracuse wears off.

My pre-lim coming up on Monday, sure it matters, but the importance dropped just slightly to where I can justify playing squash on Saturday and watching the two episodes of Heroes I’ve missed. My GPA, it matters too, only in the fact that the competitive side in me wants to see it raised. But after Syracuse has graced me with the option of attending their graduate institution, my mind just opened a little to the other possibilities that would otherwise have been eliminated by studying. For instance, come March Madness the Orange just added another fan…that is unless they play Cornell. My allegiance will never shift from my soon to be alma mater up on The Hill.

Oh the Poetry!

The entire summer going into senior year was dedicated to doing anything I could to help get Barack Obama elected President of the United States. It was also a time in which I spent many hours in front of the tv watching Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, Brian Williams, and the crying Brit Hume (though that was on election night). During these countless hours following the campaign and the many weeks volunteering for Obama’s campaign the name and the man David Plouffe kept appearing, whether it be in emails I received, on television/radio interviews, over the cell phone one time.

I always knew him for his genius, original, and out-of-the-box strategy of how to conduct a political campaign. Well, that, and for his reputation of having a sailor’s mouth when not on camera. I was obsessed with how he devised his strategy of winning the Democratic primary and how he gelled so well with Barack Obama’s pragmatic idealism. Therefore, it could not have been more exciting to be notified via email that he will be the convocation speaker for the Cornell Class of 2009! How fitting! My last day (well technically second to last, since convocation is held the night before graduation) will be used listening to the campaign manager that transformed how political campaigns are run! Forget the movement that Obama created. Plouffe erased the entire political strategy book and wrote a new one over the course of a year and a half. Like what Herb Brooks did to the USSR in the 1980 Olympic Games, Plouffe took the Republican’s game, gave it a face lift and put it on steroids, then threw it right back in their face. He used math, spreadsheets, formulas, and didn’t forget the human intuition to help bring Change into the White House. Oh baby, am I excited to hear him speak!

Rip Van Winkle

It’s almost as if I went to sleep and woke up 20 years later. For the first time in my Cornell career I got sick. This wasn’t the cough and need tissues sick. This was a stomach virus sick. Apparently it’s going around campus. From Tuesday night until early afternoon Saturday (though technically my stomach is still recovering even though the rest of my symptoms are gone) I was victimized by a fever, sore head, dehydration, stomach cramps, chills, and diarrhea. A visit to Gannett took place; so did nights of 12-15 hour periods of sleep. Wednesday was like walking in a fog and going nowhere. Thursday was sleeping all day. Friday was missing one class and tirelessly navigating my way through the last two. Saturday I could see and eventually got to the light.

I mention this experience because for the three weekdays and one weekend day I was inactive, on the DL, it felt as though I missed 20 years of things to do, and unfortunately, twice, missed out on my last opportunity to attend an event as a Cornellian.

Going into my sickness, feelings about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict had surfaced on campus with a non-human protest using black flags was sponsored and created by the Islamic Alliance for Justice, which elicited a response of vandalism by certain individuals, a condemnation of that vandalism by President Skorton, and a statement by a couple of Jewish student groups saying they condemned the actions, but also protested against the protest. I was skeptical my generation could be the one to make progress and inherently change the course of violence when as far away as Cornell, students in their ivory tower up on the hill couldn’t get past a protest and a “misrepresentation of numbers”. (When it comes to violence, there are no right numbers.) During my five days away, apparently there had been an about face. One panel discussion that took place on Wednesday, which turned into trench warfare with professors taking sides and another on Thursday, which represented all the characteristics of a higher education: enlightened discourse, stating actions, intentions, and goals of each side, what is to come, and what possible answers to the problem are. Basically, elitism at its finest. So now waking up from my sickly slumber I again feel hopeful…until I read on BBC that Benjamin Netanyahu has been asked to lead Israel’s government. C’mon Israel are you serious! Again, picking him again! You’d think the corruption scandals were enough to do in his political career. That’s like us saying well the economy is really bad, lets vote for George Bush and give him another try; there are other political opportunities out there (read Tzipi Livni) but we’ll just elect someone who already tried…and failed. Unless Barack Obama is God, I think I’ll choose my 20 year nap again.

As if Israel and Palestine and Cornell Hillel and Islamic Alliance for Justice weren’t enough I also missed two hockey games (one being senior night, which means a lot to me since I’m a senior), A Capella Night Live, the play The History Boys, and the Ithaca Chili Cook-off (this was the last chance for me to do this). Oh and skiing too. Inactive for five days felt like missing one month…or 20 years…and in reality, three blog posts. Hopefully this one made up for it.