Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Buy me some peanuts and cracker jacks...

Our most recent sporting event took place last week: a very belated birthday trip to Citi Field for Howie. If you live in New York, like baseball, or are passing through and wouldn't mind stopping off for something fun to do, I recommend visiting this ballpark. Its got a very cozy, intimate feel, which makes me favor it over the ostentatious Yankee Stadium.

Our seats in left field
Back to the story: As usual when traveling to Citi Field, we went separately - he took the subways from the city and I drove from north of the Bronx. This ended up being a fiasco filled with traffic, bridges, construction, and generalized game-day confusion in Queens. By the time I made it to the parking lot, I was quite agitated, worsened only by a poor cell phone connection trying to coordinate our respective locations. Eventually I was able to hear Howie well enough to make out a "WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM SHAKE SHACK - TEXT ME!" before loosing each other again. Finally having gained some useful information, I went directly to Shake Shack to order my delicious burger. 

This was actually the highlight of my trip, as I previously had no idea that there was a Shake Shack at Citi Field, and Shake Shack happens to be one of my favorite "fast food" burgers (Five Guys is second and last on the list of fast food burgers I will eat). 
Shake Shack - Yum
After the chaos of our arrival, we sat down with our dinner just as batting practice was wrapping up (much to Howie's dismay). We had a very nice time watching a laid back game between the Mets and the Orioles on a humid hot summer's night. The game wasn't the most thrilling I've ever seen, but it was nice to sit back, be outside, and not be studying or stressing for a couple of hours. We did have a bit of excitement after the 6th inning when there was a very mini fireworks display that coincided with a Verizon commercial. Overall, it was a great time-out for us to have a little date. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Culture of a Train Town

I've been waiting for a hot summer day to share this piece of creative writing with you all, and its arrived right on time - the summer solstice is here!
It’s hot... It’s humid. The air melts onto my face and neck within seconds of being out of the AC’d building. My skin simmers as I drive home from work – a five minute commute. I don't mind my sticky skin, as my hair blows wild around the car. The sunshine touches everything, beautifully painting the day in color. The trees and grass are still at their greenest, the heat of the pavement sways upward and the people splatter pinks, yellows, and blues across the canvas of the afternoon. Every moment is a moment to memorize, a moment to live in. 
I turn left onto my street, the main street. Its a train town. A speck on a map, a location people often confuse with being somewhere else – it’s that small. This one main street is always a bustle in the afternoons: Kids on bikes, teens window shopping, workpeople on the go, townies sitting on the outdoor patios of the restaurants that speckle the neighborhood. Young adults and old adults jogging with their dogs, a group of boys in the park playing football. Most characteristically, the rumble every fifteen minutes of the trains to and from the city marks the passage of time. Though small, this town is certainly alive in itself. You can see how its nestled into the world. The sidewalks are uneven, the streets are composed of potholes, the store fronts are mismatched, all evidence of a town that has lived for years and aged quaintly nourishing those living here.  
Driving down this busy street is comfortable. I am home. Passing by the townies, the children, the dog walkers and joggers, I know here I am safe and at ease. Ah, this town. A train town. It’s at its best in summer. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

23.5 Hours

My friend Megan (holla!) showed me this video and I think its great stuff to think about. Its advice you know, its common sense you've heard, but watch the video (the whole video) to find out why its something you've heard and should start doing now.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Mother's Day vs. Father's Day

Father's Day is around the corner and, being the procrastinator that I am, I went hunting for cards yesterday. Being that one of the cards I will have to mail across the country, this is cutting it pretty close. This time, its slightly easier because I only need to hunt down 3 cards, instead of the 4 I had to buy for Mother's Day. Despite the benefits of having two families now, it makes card hunting very difficult. I'm a bit of an emotionally-stunted individual when it comes to card shopping. Just one month ago I was a nut running from store to store looking for Mother's Day cards that said just what I wanted them to say. I was in a panic, a frenzy, if you will. Card shopping is a very anxiety driven chore for me for some reason.

For Father's Day, however, I thought things would be different. Father's don't read into things as much, they are more laid back, and generally (from my experience) don't put as high a value on a card as a mother would. So I started with the little townie stationary store half a block down the street. They had nothing. Literally a 10 card selection that wasn't cutting it. So I kept walking to the local specialty super market. Now, I knew they didn't have a card section, but I'd seen a turn-style there before with cards so I figured I would give it a try. Again, a minimal selection. Another half block down I ran into the townie pharmacy. They had ZERO Father's Day cards! How can this be, is Father's Day not a holiday in this town?!? My difficulty at Mother's Day was not for lack of options. I must have looked at hundreds of cards before making my final selections. How on earth was I going to find appropriate cards for this holiday if the stores didn't have any to choose from!

At this point, it was time to get in my car and drive to a brand store. The Target parking lot is always a nightmare, so I went to CVS. I joke not, 90% of their Father's Day options were for "Husband". There was one left for "Dad" and a select 5 for "Papa." A woman standing next to me, also looking dumbfounded at the options, said aloud "Man, this is not like Mother's Day." I completely agreed with her and was just about whittled down to purchasing blank cards and writing my own messages. But wait! CVS had no blank cards either! With the most grumpy face I could muster, I left the store and resolved to make Target my last stop. If I had no luck there I'd send homemade cards out of computer paper, that's how flustered I felt.

Fortunately I did not have to throw a temper tantrum in Target. While they had a slightly smaller selection than at Mother's Day, they still had a sizable section of their card department devoted to Father's Day cards. I found my three in about 30 minutes (I'm not kidding, card shopping is an ordeal for me) and then bee-lined it to the parking lot.

The point of this story: I was so amazed at the lack of attention the stores put on Father's Day. Do people not buy Father's Day cards?  Mother's Day naturally gets some extra attention. Everyone is excited that its spring, commercials advertising the holiday seem to be more present, no one is consumed by summer plans yet. But does that mean Father's Day just gets forgotten about? How? Why? Do fathers not do as much as our mothers? Surely this is not the case - in my family I'd like to say my parents have done equally as much for me, but in very different ways. Despite my mother having a more emotional presence, I still wouldn't be who I am without both my parents' influence. Maybe (Hopefully) my town was simply unprepared as a fluke. Maybe I was more behind the ball than usual and all people of my town already got their cards, leaving the pickings for me... It can't be like this everywhere? If we, as Americans, are keen on wasting our money on cards for Mother's Day (among other, more ridiculous card holidays), why would Father's Day be an exception? 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

I'm gonna fight em off, a seven nation army couldn't hold me back...

Being an American soccer fan, I usually like to randomly start chanting "Ole! ole ole ole! ole, ole" as I rally myself in my living room. However, over the past couple of years I've noticed a change in the chant, particularly at live MLS or international friendlies I've attended. Out of the background a group of young male voices rise, its the White Stripes Seven Nation Army bassline:  "Ohh, o-O-o-ohhhh, ohh!"

Being American, and knowing this song is one by an American husband-wife duo band, I had always assumed it was "our" thing, an American thing, a USA thing. So much to my surprise, today while watching the Spain v Italy Group C match-up at the UEFA Euro Cup 2012 I hear the Italian fans singing after their goal: "Ohh, o-O-o-ohhhh, ohh!" I turn to Howie and say, "Isn't that an American thing? Why are the Italians singing it?" Howie promptly and matter-of-factly states, "No, it started in Europe." 

I bet you can guess what I did next....To Google! In my search to discover who really turned this American alternative rock song into an international soccer (futbol?) chant, I discovered Howie was right... Europeans started it.

An article on Deadspin reported:
The march toward musical empire began on Oct. 22, 2003, in a bar in Milan, Italy, 4,300 miles away from Detroit. Fans of Club Brugge K.V., in town for their team's group-stage UEFA Champions League clash against European giant A.C. Milan, gathered to knock back some pre-match beers. Over a stereo blared seven notes: Da...da-DA-da da DAAH DAAH, the signature riff of a minor American hit song.
But in Milan, at the beginning, it was purely spontaneous and local. Kickoff was coming. The visiting Belgians moved out into the city center, still singing. They kept chanting it in the stands of the San SiroOh...oh-OH-oh oh OHH OHH—as Peruvian striker Andres Mendoza stunned Milan with a goal in the 33rd minute and Brugge made it hold up for a shocking 1-0 upset. Filing out of the stadium, they continued to belt it out.
The song traveled back to Belgium with them, and the Brugge crowd began singing it at home games. The club itself eventually started blasting "Seven Nation Army" through the stadium speakers after goals. 
My favorite website wikipedia corroborates the story:
The song is very popular in European football stadiums even becoming the anthem of Italy's World Cup win in 2006 and of the Euro 2008.[12] Its emergence as a popular sporting anthem can be traced to a bar in Milan, Italy where on October 22, 2003 supporters of Club Brugge K.V. overheard the song while preparing for a UEFA Champions League group match against A.C. Milan and began to sing along. After a 0-1 upset win, the fans brought the song back with them to Belgium, where Brugge began playing it during matches. After Brugge hosted A.S. Roma in a UEFA Cup match on February 15, 2006, the Italian side brought the song back home with them. By the time the World Cup had began in June, the song had become the national team's unofficial anthem.[13]
Over the course of just under a decade, the song has not only infiltrated Europe, but MLS, college club sports, varsity sports, and the NFL as well (Supposedly its become a big deal at Ravens games, but I wouldn't know much about them). I will admit, I was a bit disappointed to find that USA fans did not start this chant, but what can ya do? Even though soccer is on the rise here, the fan-ship is just not the same as it is in Europe and Latin America. Ultimately, I'm just glad the vuvuzela craze has calmed down and chants are back at the forefront of goal scoring celebrations.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

All-in-one cheese-steaks

Time for a one dish wonder: Cheese-steaks! These are great when you want something quick with VERY easy clean-up (a cutting board, knife, and one pan)

Rib-eye cut that's been shaved (I get mine at Stew Leonard's, a local specialty supermarket)
Rolls (I use grinder rolls)
Cheese (I use provolone from the deli, but you can use what you like)
Salt, pepper, oregano, garlic salt

On my favorite square flat pan, I start by spraying it with some butter flavored PAM and laying down the rolls to toast. While the rolls toast, chop the onions; I kind of eye-ball it based on how much we like on our sandwiches.

When the rolls are toasted, take them off the pan and IMMEDIATELY put the cheese on the rolls while they are still warmed.

Add a little olive oil to the pan if you need for the onions, then toss those on the pan with a little salt and pepper.

While the onions cook, season the beef with generous amounts of salt, pepper, garlic powder, and a bit of oregano. Once the onions are to your liking, throw the beef on WITH the onions. I let my onions go until they are pretty translucent just when they start to caramelize before putting the beef on.

Babysit the beef a little making sure the shavings don't clump up into chunks of meat, use a fork to keep them shredded. The beef only takes another 5 or so minutes to cook. Drain off any excess drippings. Then scoop up the beef and onions onto your sandwich and there you go! Enjoy!

Now, I will usually make a vegetable, which depending on the veggie could be an additional one pan, but most of the time I just chop some lettuce, cucumbers, and carrots and have a little side salad keeping my mess small. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Tweaks to a famous life-stage theory

We're grown-ups, how did that happen? And how do we make it stop?
(Props to who can name where that quote came from)

This one is for all of you psychology geeks out there. I've been having jitters for about a month or two... Life is changing and I fear I'm entering a life-stage crisis as I like to say. The last semester of PA school is underway, I'm in the middle of planning my wedding, I've started to job hunt, my board exam date is booked, and my quarter century birthday is on it's way.

So lets talk psychology. Everyone has heard of a "mid life crisis" and ironically, when you Google search, there is also a quarter life crisis -- which refers exactly to the time frame I'm in right now. Furthermore, the famed psychologist Erik Erikson developed and proposed a sort of counter-theory to Freud's approach that describes life stages that correlate with certain ages and with specific psychological barriers that must be overcome to continue to the next stage. His 8 stages of development are as follows:

1. Trust vs. Mistrust: 0-1 years, highly related to the baby's relationship with the mother; separation anxiety usually starts during this stage and the baby must learn to trust the caregivers

2. Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt: 1-3 years, coincides with toilet training, child learns that he/she has control over his/her body and actions

3. Initiative vs. Guilt: 3-5 years, associated with preschool, children learn to assert control over their environments

4. Industry vs. Inferiority: 6-11 years, associated with elementary education, children learn to how cope with new challenges independently, such as homework and responsibility at home

5. Identity vs. Role Confusion: 12-18 years, this coincides with middle school and high school when teens start learning about themselves and who they are/who they want to be, this is highly affected by social influences (peer pressures)

**6. Intimacy vs. Isolation: 19-40 years, young adults learn and need to form loving human relationships and bonds while also finding a sense of security in adult hood (via career, education, relationships, etc)

**7. Generativity vs. Stagnation: 40-65 years, adult lean and need to find ways to be productive, whether it be having and nurturing children or creating a positive change that will benefit others

8. Ego Integrity vs. Despair: 65-Death, older adults reflect and acknowledge their accomplishments to find a sense of fulfillment

The first word in the stage name, trust, autonomy, initiative, etc, is the attribute the individual attains if successful, and the second word, mistrust, shame, guilt, etc, is that which the individual learns if unsuccessful. I have written these descriptions in the positive light in which the individual is successful during that stage (i.e. in stage 2 if the child learns he has control over his body, he feels a sense of autonomy, if he fails and does not learn this self control he learns to feel shame and doubt).

Stages 6 and 7 have been starred and I bet you can guess why. Intimacy vs. Isolation (stage 6: young adulthood) correlates with a "quarter life crisis"... however, I personally like to call what I'm going through a "life-stage crisis" because over the span of 20 years, I'm sure individuals can feel a sense of uncertainty at multiple and various points along that time frame. Yes graduating and getting a job is one, but what about marriage? Or buying a house? Or having a child? All these can happen at different time points and still cause feelings of "crisis" because they are each big life changes. And while Erikson's theory doesn't specifically refer to crisis, his description of the stages account for the crisis by suggesting there is a certain conflict to overcome, in this case finding security.

Generativity vs. Stagnation (stage 7: middle adulthood), which correlates to "mid-life crisis," is really just a continuation from finding security, for after you gain security the next goal is to be productive in that role. If you have nothing to show for your hard work and effort at the end of the day, or if you feel like you have nothing to show or you don't know where your work is taking you, that can lead to feelings of crisis. Though I'm not at this stage in my life, its important to keep in mind now that I'm currently laying the foundation for what is to come, so I better give myself a nice set up so I can be successful in the future.

What does this mean for me right now? I guess I need to get some "security." Since I've identified the feeling, and now the problem/solution, the next step is putting it into action and continuing to keep my goals in mind while taking one step forward at a time. The important thing is to avoid letting the feeling take over and paralyze progress, because the feeling is simply a feeling - it is of no real value. To keep it simple: this too shall pass.

*Note: Any supplemental information about Erikson in this post is from my good friend wikipedia. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

New Great Blog!

Alright, for all of you who like inspirational things, here is a great blog for you! Its got some cheese and it is an overly positive type of inspiration, so if you are not into that, this may not be a fun site for you to meander around. I like these things, we all have struggles, this is the kind of stuff that brings me back to earth and gives me a little boost during those not-as-happy times:

Note: this will be added to my list in the side bar of sites I love for future reference