Horizontal Rain

Seemingly defying all laws of physics, assisted by strong winds, rain in Ithaca sometimes has a knack for falling horizontally. Shocked as I continue to be that this part of the country experiences “wintry mix” in October, which is not a winter month by most people’s classification, I sat down in my American Political Thought class to literally peel off the wet leaves that had gotten stuck to my rain coat and boots. Nice addition that they were, the color of the leaves really didn’t look right with the crazy black-and-silver pattern that graces my rain boots. They are remarkably not the boldest design I’ve seen during my time here. A good friend from Alaska once remarked that rain boots are somewhat pointless since it’s unheard of to encounter standing water that even touches your ankles, even in Ithaca. He’s right, but when else is it acceptable to wear bright yellow footwear that matches little to none of your clothes? We’ve got to take advantages of these opportunities when we can.

Winter is very clearly on our doorstep, and my sophomore class was so spoiled by last year’s late and mild winter that we’re having a hard time adjusting: I rung in my eighteenth birthday last October 4 in a miniskirt in 80-degree temperatures, and I didn’t even buy snow boots until right after Thanksgiving. We’ll survive – we always do – but I suspect a lot of people will have to change their Halloween costumes in light of the ice and snow we might see on Friday!

Tip for new Cornellians, care of my beloved Government professor and thirty-six-year veteran of our fair university: when your umbrella gets blown inside out and you can’t fix it, face the wind, and it will return to normal.

Good Start

It’s feeling like its going to be one of those awesome weekends when it’s only just begun. I went to my first Cornell hockey game of this season last night, a truly beautiful victory over the University of Western Ontario. I come from a football family, and ice hockey is not a big deal in my part of the country, but the rules of hockey are surprisingly easy to pick up.  I’m still astounded players are actually allowed to catch the puck in the air and put it back on the ice. Also, there’s a penalty for “slashing,” when a player hits someone with the stick, and “spearing,” for times when someone is “stabbed with the point of the stick blade while the stick is being carried in one or both hands.” (Credit: Hockey 101.)

The passion of our crowd is incredible. I had attended a few games for free last year by volunteering through Tradition, but this was my first game watching with the diehards who camp out overnight each year to buy season tickets. The pep band always rocks, and I love swaying with the crowd as we all sing the alma mater… or at least try to. I learned some new cheers and quite a bit of creative profanity, so I can’t wait for the next one.

I greeted families this morning who are visiting campus for First-Year Parents Weekend, when Cornell invites special entertainment (this year, Howie Mandel, last year Stephen Colbert,) and plans open houses, lectures, and events. I was posted outside of Mallott Hall, the home of Cornell’s math department. During my Calc II days, I managed to pretty much live there during office hours, help sessions, tutoring, and a one-credit Wednesday night class. Another story for another day, but I only stuck around Calc II, neither a major requirement nor necessarily pertinent to my career plans, long enough to get a whopping 45 on the first prelim and realize I didn’t belong there.

Talk about brilliant timing: the big sticking point in making my Spring ’09 schedule is if I’ll need to try Calculus again! Just when you think you’ve put something to bed, it can suddenly become a bigger issue than it was before. I know I’ll make the right choice, but I’m just looking for a sign, whenever that’s going to happen. In the meantime, I have a great weekend to get back to!

Government without a Free Press

This afternoon, I had the unique privilege of catching a lecture by David Sanger, New York Times White House Correspondent. I’ve never considered journalism as a career, but mornings with the Washington Post defined my early years: my dad drinking coffee and reciting the news in Section A, handing me the crossword in the Style section for the road.  I couldn’t pass up a chance to hear from someone on the front lines, working to reverse of what many of us believe to be a crumbling trust with the American people.

Sanger focused on the business model of the average American newspaper, facing declining subscriptions and resulting poor ad revenue. Advertisers may one day be enthusiastic to buy ad space on line, but in the mean time, print newspapers are suffering, stripping down their foreign bureaus in favor of using cheaper wire services. Sanger argued, and I agreed, that pulling reporters out of the field is necessarily declining the breadth and depth of reports we get overseas. Even more troubling to me is that print newspapers are scrapping their Washington departments, trending toward regional reporting.

That was a big shock to someone who puts national issues way ahead of state and local affairs; in my case, certainly a side effect of growing up outside Washington, DC. Meeting people at Cornell from all over the country, mainly those from small towns, has made me realize what a uniquely cosmopolitan orientation DC kids have: we can rattle off cabinet members and explain the committee system in Congress, but most of us couldn’t name our state senators or a handful of pressing issues to Montgomery County. I think that kind of environment has its upsides in the form of a global outlook and being well-informed, but it’s so easy to lose a sense of connection to your hometown when national politics are your local news. I do have a Maryland flag hanging in my room, but I love where I grew up because of its proximity to someplace else. Add in that almost all of us have parents that were born somewhere else, drawn to the Washington area for its once-booming job market, and you end up with a lot of people who say “I’m from Washington” even though they totally live in the suburbs.

My Stats project, examining what factors influence reelection rates, has also made me acutely aware that not all voters think in the same terms that my Maryland parents do: that electing a candidate from the right party to maintain a balance in Congress is more important than what they’ve done for our state. So many people I’ve met at Cornell have taught me that not everyone sees Washington as the be all and end all that many Americans – and their newspapers – seem to do today.

Amazing about how a lecture about the press can get you to reflect about your hometown, right?

Trustee Weekend

Around this time each year, Cornell welcomes back its most dedicated alumni for the President’s State of the University Address, many meetings, and opportunities to meet the students whom their contributions support. Each year has a Scholarship Reception that I look forward to every year, and Friday night’s was just as fun as always.

Instead of returning to my Labor Law outline after dinner on Thursday, I dragged a number of undeserving friends back to my room to help me decide what to wear to yesterday’s Trustee Council Scholarship Reception. The party is over – and was so much fun! – and yet there are somehow still a good six or seven shoes strewn across my floor right now. The outfit turned out great, mostly courtesy my friend Michelle’s extensive sweater collection. It turns out she is just as lifesaving with cardigans as she has been with consistently brilliant life advice for the past year.

Looking smart in my favorite heels, I spent the whole evening talking to alumni who love Cornell just as much as I do. In all of the rumination I’ve done in the past few weeks about what shape my future will take, it’s so wonderful to see fellow Cornellians who found great careers and gave so much back to our school. Knowing that they were in the same shoes – though maybe not these particular red pumps – is quite a good feeling as I continue to consult the rest of the Labor Economics department (I think I’ve met with at least half!) and graduate school coordinators to no avail. I have to admit, though, I have quite the soft spot for those “my wife and I fell in love here back in 1953” tales, too… but that’s a whole different story and perhaps not as pressing as the upcoming pre-enroll.

I relish chances like these to step back and not think about the future too much, instead only thinking about how happy I am to be here and how I have to savor these years.

Back to School!

I arrived back in Ithaca this afternoon after a fabulous break and a long bus ride. I loved my trip to the University of Maryland, another school with a beautiful-but-hilly campus, and, for now, my Labor Econ data set is complete! I’m exactly where I should be for the horrifying amount of work I am facing for the next two weeks, including two massive grade-determining midterms on the week of the 20th. I’ve also got to figure out my Spring ’09 course plans sometime before Pre-Enroll, namely, how much more Calculus I can handle. These choices are wrapped up in my far-from-fixed graduate school and professional plans. I’m getting great advice from the ten or so ILR professors and advisors who quickly respond to my panicky e-mails, but I’m still the one who has to make this tough call way too soon.

Fall Break was a great time to get into the right mindset for these busy weeks. I know I can do it, but still, wish me luck?

42 Down, 58 to Go

For all of the jokes I make and receive about living in my school’s library, this morning was actually the first that I started my day anywhere close to when it opened at 8 a.m. It was actually a bit spooky when I sat down to continue data collection for my overly-ambitious Labor Econ paper. I’m a little under halfway through my sample of one hundred Chiefs of Staff for members of the House of Representatives, copying data on age, education, and career from a pretty sweet database called The Leadership Library. I will be linking this information to their salary data to see how those factors influence their yearly earnings (and whether or not I should go to grad school…?) The salary numbers are in a report from the Clerk of the House available at the Library of Congress, where I spent many a summer afternoon while working at the National Archives. Since it’s only a short drive from my home in Maryland, guess what I’m doing on the Saturday of my Fall Break?

I’m excited for the vacation, even though part of it will involve copying a lot of numbers into this ridiculous spreadsheet (I already have twenty columns!) I’m leaving most of my textbooks in Ithaca, concentrating on Labor Econ and enjoying the time with my family and beloved friends from the University of Maryland – I’ll see you Sunday, kids!

By the end of this semester, between my Stats and Labor Econ data sets about the Senate and the House, I will probably be sick of Congress. But perhaps for a different reason than the rest of the American public.

Onward: I just finished 51!

Nineteen!

I rang in my nineteenth birthday this weekend with perfect weather and a bunch of incredibly well-timed and free events on campus. If that isn’t classic Patricia Moscoso luck, I have no idea what is.

On Friday night, my friends and I got dressed up for Prom Night at the Johnson Museum, a celebration of Mary Ellen Mark’s Prom Series. Over the past three years, she photographed high school proms all over the U.S., and our own Johnson Museum showcased her work with highlights from her photoshoot at Ithaca High. The Museum hosted a free event for students only: “Eat, dance, get your picture taken… all the old favorites, plus stroll the galleries and make your own corsages and boutonnieres.”  I have a hard time saying no to chances to get dressed up, and I was able to successfully coerce a good group of friends to join me.

We looked sharp, and our tissue paper boutonnieres turned out way better than any of us would have predicted (the best one was clearly made by an engineer.) The photographs were fantastic.  I was particularly struck by one with a girl in a white dress and a guy in a Marine Corps uniform. Their expressions best reflected the point of this exhibit: prom as a liminal experience between adolescence and adulthood. Her uncertainty was palpaple, and his uniform and commitment to military service couldn’t be a better representation of growing up.

The photos definitely got me thinking about my own senior prom. At our high school with its comical gender imbalance, prom wasn’t quite the defining experience that it seemed to be for so many in the photographs. Most of us elected to go in groups and not even sweat asking a date; I believe my prom group had something like six guys and eleven girls. It never struck any of us as strange, but apparently having a date counts at every other high school in America.

I had a great weekend, even though it wasn’t one of those milestone birthdays. It actually only hit me that I was a year older when I was punching in my weight and age on one of the ellipticals at the gym. I’m guessing twenty is going to be much scarier.

And now, back to frost advisories in October (!) and my classes.  Happy business as usual!

Story of My Life

Three lectures I want to attend are scheduled for the same time this Wednesday! In theory, I can easily walk between Ives, Goldwin Smith, and McGraw, but I still hate interrupting these things. As a clumsy person, the potential for becoming a huge distraction when leaving the room is quite high.

What to do?

  • “The Financial Crisis: Implications for Washington, Wall Street and Main Street.An interdisciplinary discussion featuring Robert C. Andolina, Visiting Senior Lecturer of Finance, Johnson School and Former Managing Director, Lehman Brothers; Professor David Easley, Henry Scarborough Professor of Social Sciences, Department of Economics; and Professor Elizabeth Sanders, Department of Government. Extremely topical and relevant content, and I can’t pretend like I fully understand all of the technical aspects of our present situation.
  • ILR Global Affairs Club presents Professor Sarosh Kuruvilla: Service Section Outsourcing to India. Structural changes of service section outsourcing to India as well as its implications for both India and the US. I know very little about India, and I still have yet to take a class here about the rest of the world. Interesting, relevant to my career choices, and given by an ILR professor, so it’s safe to assume that it’s going to be great.
  • The Cornell Democrats present Eric Alterman. Eric is a media critic and liberal journalist at the Nation magazine. He will be talking about media bias in the 2008 election and his take on contemporary politics. Exciting stuff, but discussion of the media and politics is not hard to find on this campus. I had sort of taken this one off the table before I checked the guy’s biography: he wrote a book about Bruce Springsteen. Talk about instantly winning my respect (and curiosity about how one makes money doing so!)

I guess that’s the downside of going to a school with so many great events: sometimes they happen at the same time.

Politically Incorrect Indeed

I’ve always been impressed by the diversity of political opinion at Cornell. In choosing colleges, I figured that if I was going to leave the Democratic stronghold of Montgomery County, Maryland, I might as well go try something new! Cornell has a healthier representation of moderates and conservatives than most of the other schools I visited, which was quite the draw. My closest friends include three republicans, which is two more than I had in high school (the lone libertarian notwithstanding.)

Accordingly, it wasn’t hard to find a Republican among our group who wanted to join me for Bill Maher‘s appearance on campus on Sunday night. Sitting next to her in Barton Hall, coincidentally the same location where our Stats final destroyed our GPAs the semester before, we had quite the good evening. I’d say we laughed at the same jokes about half of the time: Maher’s “equal-opportunity offender” mantle is no exaggeration.

I agreed with much of what Maher had to say about our leaders in Congress on both sides of the aisle. I’m not alone among the Democrats-for-life who have been disappointed with what little our majority in Congress has accomplished since 2006. I laughed and clapped along with his remarks on the Bush administration, but I had to stop when he started beating up on religious Americans. The same argument based on his supposed intellectual superiority gets old, especially when he focuses on their intellect and beliefs rather than their actions. I took a break from clapping for a good twenty minutes, but was happy to rejoin when he went back to points we can all agree on: we all have a stake in this country, and we’ve got to take this election seriously. My qualms aside, Maher got me even more excited for November 4.

Big Weekend

I think I spent a total of ten hours this weekend volunteering in the rain, which ended up being way more enjoyable than it sounds. Saturday morning brought me to the Cornell Plantations, where I joined the new Tradition fellows in helping with re-mulching some garden paths. The 150-acre Plantations is one of those places that you always know is right on campus, but almost never get the chance to visit. Opportunities to spend time there – even if they involve mulching and rain – are ones I always seize.

I just returned to campus and peeled off my wet clothes from another event: the Apple Harvest Festival, which seemed to go off without a hitch! It was the first service event I coordinated as a member of the Cornell Tradition’s Student Advisory Council, which had me a bit nervous for most of the week. It seems like all of the volunteers made it there safely and worked quite hard, so I was thrilled that it went smoothly.

After having to type my cell phone number in every e-mail I sent, I decided that an e-mail signature would be far more efficient. No longer just “Thanks! Patricia,” I have graduated to a very formal “Patricia Moscoso, Cornell University, School of Industrial and Labor Relations, BS 2011.” Talk about another step toward adulthood.

Some friends and I are hitting up Bill Maher’s event after dinner, exciting stuff! The only downside is fitting an entire weekend’s worth of work into a Sunday night. I can’t say I’ve never done it before… and at least I have memories of an awesome weekend. If you manage to have fun in chilly temperatures, strong winds, and torrential downpour, you’ve got to be doing something right.

The ILR Experience from Ithaca and Beyond

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