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FIFA Fun: The US, the World Cup, and Soccer more generally

We are in the midst of one of the world’s biggest sporting events – the World Cup.  This is an event that only happens every four years, and it is a huge deal.  Thirty-two teams from various countries are divided into eight groups of four.  Each group plays all of the teams in their group, and the top two teams from each group make it into the round of sixteen which is set up as a single elimination bracket for those sixteen teams.  The winner takes home the cup to their country.

world cup

It’s always a spectacular event worldwide, and this year, it has been especially huge in the US as well, as ratings seem to indicate a flash of “soccer fever.”  This was partly due to Team USA’s unexpected success as they managed to win their first match against Ghana, which allowed them to move out of the “Group of Death” and into the round play with a loss and a tie against Portugal and Germany.  [A point system and goal differential is often a critical factor in getting out of a group - not just wins and losses.]  Regardless of the US’s 1-1-1 record, they generated interest and excitement that was unprecedented** in this country when it comes to soccer.

However, soccer in the US has not generally been viewed with much interest.  Here, I offer a few reasons why soccer in the US has lagged so far behind the rest of the world in terms of popularity:

 

Litigious / Precision / Rules:

In the US we tend to be a very litigious people obsessed with rules (though often looking for loopholes in the rules that will give us an advantage).  I often hear complaints about the running clock and stoppage time (how can you be so imprecise!?).  There is only one field official and sometimes calls are missed, and there is no instant replay to resolve discrepancies (who did the ball go out on from there!?).  There is a bit of leeway given and certain flow to the game that is not meant to be interrupted and challenged by the letter of the law on every play.  If the ball is kicked out, throw it in from that general area…there is no need for a referee to place you in a specific spot and tell you it must be from there (unless a player is truly egregious in taking advantage – a judgment call by the referee).  As Americans, I think we tend to crave a final ruling that is the “right” ruling, backed up by specific rules.  We don’t like judgement calls.  And we want to make sure that every play and every call is exactly right every time (thus, more and more emphasis on instant replay in most of our major sports).  Sometimes soccer is too free form for this for our taste.

 

Flopping

This could have fallen within the first category, but since I believe it is perhaps the biggest factor, I am giving it its own space.  I can’t even count the number of times or people who I have heard complain about the excessive “flopping” that goes on in a given match.  This relates to above in that it’s not precise and is left up to the judgement of a particular official.  A foul in soccer is often not called if a player does not go down.  Therefore it becomes a catch-22 that if a player is fouled but doesn’t go down, he may not get the call.  It has since turned into players falling at the slightest touch (and sometimes no touch at all) to draw fouls and free kicks.

I will give the benefit of the doubt to the players not flopping on most occasions.  When you have been running several miles throughout the course of the game and get clipped on the achilles or the shin by another individual at full speed, you will probably take a tumble.  But yes, flopping does happen. Yes, it is annoying if becomes excessive.  It is a part of the game, and it becomes a bit easier for players to embellish with only one official on the field.  And generally speaking, I think we exaggerate just how much “flopping” actually goes on during a match.

 

Advertising Revenue

Soccer games don’t lend themselves all that well to advertising revenue, as far as television broadcasts compared to other popular sports here.  The nature of a soccer game is constant action for 45 minutes with a short halftime break followed by 45 more minutes of constant action.  At any point during that action the winning play could occur – you can’t tune in for the 4th quarter or final few minutes and expect to see the most important plays.  There are not team time-outs or tv time-outs or multiple breaks throughout the game where stations cut to advertising breaks. (I think this is a huge positive as a fan, though I’m not sure that those concerned about revenue see it the same.)  Sure, the Europeans and South Americans have obviously gotten huge corporations to invest largely in teams and have figured out a way to make it work.  We will see if think it can work here.

 

History / Tradition / Infrastructure

We just don’t have a long standing history with soccer…we’re still getting to know one another.  We don’t have a rich tradition of great (men’s) teams that we all remember fondly or players who were huge stars that we collectively idolize (or perhaps villainize).  We don’t have a long standing professional league with deep roots in cities where we go spend an afternoon or an evening watching a sport that we all know and love. Nor do we tune in to the television for regular season or tournament games.  There’s no emphasis to direct our finest athletes in that direction to achieve greatness.  As soccer begins to grow in popularity among youth, we will begin to develop an infrastructure with more leagues and opportunities to develop players…and perhaps some of the best athletes will be enticed to stay and develop within the game of soccer instead of leaving for more valued sports.  Who knows…this year’s World Cup may be a turning point; one that we look back at as a cornerstone that becomes an integral part of our collective sports history and tradition.

 

We Love to Win

Building on the above, we really haven’t had much success as a country when it comes to soccer.  And, as a nation, we really like to win.  We pride ourselves on being the best at everything (even when we are not).  Soccer is perhaps one sport where we couldn’t fool ourselves into believing that we were good, probably because the gap between us and superpower teams was so obvious.  There really hasn’t been a whole lot to cheer for or get interested in up until this point.  Even just a little bit of success in this World Cup spiked interest pretty drastically.  I imagine that if we continue to show signs of success and the capability to win (or advance with a 1-1-1 record), the love will follow.

 

For this World Cup, however, I’ll leave the winning up to Argentina!  That is the team I am always pulling for – and it happens to be a nice bonus that we have the best player on the planet in Messi.  Germany versus Argentina for the World Cup Champion should be a great match.  I think that the Germans are probably a bit better overall, but with Messi on the field anything is possible.  !Para adelante…Vamos ya!

with my host parents in argentina circa 2007

with my host parents in argentina circa 2007

 

 

**It is certainly the case that in recent years, interest in soccer has been steadily growing in the US – youth leagues here, a growing MLS, and viewership of European soccer leagues.  I am not trying to suggest that there was zero interest before this World Cup, but I do think this World Cup did help to generate an unprecedented interest and excitement about the sport. 

 

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DIY project: pallet coffee table

What happens when you give a crafty children’s librarian some free time, tools, and a new place to decorate?  The answer: A  whole lot of DIY projects!  The first month that we were in our new place, Em was waiting for her new job to process paperwork and get everything lined up for her to start.  This led to quite a bit of free time, and she certainly took advantage of it by taking on several DIY projects to make the new house feel beachy!

Today’s featured project: a wood pallet coffee table.  There are all kinds of wood pallet items that have become popularized via Pinterest and other DIY website, and Em decided to do her own version.  This was actually a complete surprise to me…she hadn’t mentioned it to me, but one day I came home from work to a nearly completed pallet table that has since replaced our old table.

the pallet

the pallet

Truth be told, I had kind of forgotten that we even had a pallet.  When we first moved in, I had used an old pallet that we found leaning up against the house as a platform on which to set my grill.  However, Em saw some raw potential and plucked the pallet from underneath the grill.  Table-town, here we come!

Em assured me that one of the most difficult parts of the entire process was pulling the pallet apart.  This was probably partly due to the fact that the pallet was quite old and weathered (thus stuck together pretty well), and also partly due to the fact that she was essentially working with only a crowbar and a hammer to get the whole thing disassembled.  The fact is, I’m happy I wasn’t around to watch the whole process, because I probably would have been worried sick about her losing an eye or stepping on a rusty nail and getting tetanus. Eventually, she did get the pallet apart.

photo 2 (1)

When she got the boards apart, the object was then to put them back together (in a table-like fashion).  She lined up the longer boards alongside one another and then attached them to two shorter boards running perpendicular at each end of the table.  Once you have this base assembled, you can begin assembling the table rather quickly.

photo 3

This base (top) of the pallet table still left a fair amount of wood to work with, and Em was able to make the legs with the extra wood.  This was the only point that we received any outside help…Em went to Home Depot and they made a few cuts in the 2×4′s for her to make them even.  They did it for free, so that was a nice bonus!  She then attached the legs with the nails that she had saved when taking apart the pallet, so I came home to a standing table.  (We later put in screws in the legs to help reinforce the sturdiness of the table – not quite as rustic as the old rusty nails, but necessary.  This was my first contribution to the table.)  Just like that we had a standing table.

photo 4

After this, we went through several rounds of sanding the table – starting with a more coarse paper and moving to a finer paper.  This was my second contribution to the project – some good ol’ fashioned elbow grease.  After the sanding, we added two layers of a stain/finish combination that we got.  We followed that up with two layers of a polycrylic satin finish.

photo 3 (1)

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Finally, after a pretty decent amount of work, we had a finished coffee table.  The only thing we paid for the entire project was the stain/finish and polycrylic (and we needed the polycrylic for other projects anyway!).  You really can’t beat that…especially when it turns out well and you get a new coffee table to enjoy on a daily basis.

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Wendy approves.

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All in all, a very successful project that has thus far proved to be very sturdy as well.  The lighter colored wood and the slatted style is a much nicer fit with our beachy style than our former coffee table that was a shiny, darker wood.  All of that added to the fact that it was completely free (aside from the small can of finish/stain that we bought), make it an even more impressive project.  We’ve even had friends who have told us that we could peddle these guys for $100+….maybe after another practice round or two!  So kudos to Em, who saw the potential in the old, weathered pallet, and decided to go for it!

 

 

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Congratulations

Congratulations to the youngest Metroka – now a Gebhardt.  The wedding was a fantastic success and the marriage will continue to be for many, many years.  If I do say so myself, I got one of the better pictures of the event, due in large part to my (nearly) front row seat.

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Bonus pic (not the best of the night, but still not bad as far as I’m concerned):

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2 Comments

Posted by on June 17, 2014 in Projects/Activities

 

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Words Matter

Words matter.  Words matter because we give them definitions and attach meanings to them and then react to those meanings that words evoke.  No, meanings are not static; words can shift meaning over time as people and cultures use them and react to them differently.  A Duke University movement about words – “You Don’t Say” – caught my eye a few weeks ago, and I liked it.  Here are some examples from the campaign:

you don't say

As you can probably gather from the above image, the idea behind the campaign is to make people think about the words that they use in their everyday language and what kinds of meanings they are attaching to those words.  For example, when someone gets mad at something and says, “That’s so retarded!” or “That’s so gay!” they are associating their anger/frustration/negative emotion with that particular word.

One high profile example that got a lot of attention a couple of years ago was when Kobe Bryant was fined $100,000 for calling a referee a “fucking faggot.”  Think about it – when Kobe was about as mad and frustrated as you will ever see him, the phrase he used to express that intense emotion was “fucking faggot.”  That says something about what those words have come to mean and how we use them.

 

 

This idea that words matter matters to me.  The two that particularly bother me are “gay” and “retarded.”  This is in part because they are so commonly used by so many people.  Listen to people talk and listen for those words and how they are used.  You will certainly never hear me use either of these words to express anger, frustration, or distaste in any way.  And it bothers me when others around me use them in that way, though I will admit, I’m not good at confronting people who do choose to use them in a derogatory manner, and I should probably do more about that.

There has been some pushback about this as promoting a PC agenda designed to censor people or somehow infringe on their freedom of speech.  I think that assessment is unfair. (So did others involved, in this response.)  The campaign is designed to try and make people think a little bit about some of these phrases and the meanings they have taken on and how these kinds of associations matter.  There are plenty of words to express all kinds of emotions, both positive and negative.  Be a little more creative, and don’t use an entire group’s sexuality or mental capability as a synonym for a negative emotion or situation. They are not interchangeable.

 

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jobs jobs jobs

This past week I was thinking about all of the different jobs and work experience I’ve had.  I think that what inspired my mind to wander down that rabbit hole was when someone I work with asked me how I ended up here in Florida, with no family or friend connections down here.  That question, coupled with me explaining that I was actually quite a bit older than I appear got me thinking about how long I have been working, as well as the wide variety of work related experiences and positions I have had.

So I decided to attempt a compilation of the different jobs I’ve had. So here we go – jobs I’ve had since I started working.  I’m trying to only add jobs that are not one time gigs, and that I actually consider jobs.  I’m trying to go in chronological order if possible, but there is lots of overlap that makes it somewhat difficult:

Wendy’s: Grillmaster. Ok, they didn’t actually call me a “grillmaster” at Wendy’s, but I did work the grill there for a handful of months.  And I did master the art of the “four corner press” which is the method that Wendy’s teaches for grilling their hamburger patties on the flat top grill. I also did spend the vast majority of my time on the grill while working there.  I also worked the fryers, helped make the chili, and did whatever else I was told.  I never worked the register or the front of the house, but mostly everything else I had a hand in at some point.

Short order cook.  One of my close friends’ mom ran a concession stand during the summer, and I worked in the kitchen.  [She also had a small diner and did catering as well.]  This was not a typical concession stand of just nachos and candy bars.  This was a little shack with a fully equipped kitchen.  It was at a local park that was a pretty big stop for horse shows and rodeos from people all over the midwest.  We served breakfast, lunch, and dinner, along with snacks and other treats.  Biscuits and gravy (homemade), eggs any way you order them, burgers, grilled chicken, Philly cheese steaks (my favorite!), nachos, spaghetti dinners, and homemade lemon shakeups to name a few.  It wasn’t gourmet, but it was on par with a little diner.  There were some days where we would start at 5:45am and go until 7-8pm.  They were long days, and it got pretty hot at times (the building didn’t have air conditioning for a long time), but we got free food, and I got to work with people I liked (my friend and his family) doing stuff I liked (cooking).  The was off and on throughout summers in high school, on the weekends and whenever the horse shows were going on.

Hauling straw/stable boy?  Related to above.  I don’t even know how to accurately describe this other than to say that for some of the horse shows, we were hired off and on to cart straw and other supplies to the different participants.  The fun part about this was that we had access to the little Gator ATVs to make our deliveries, which we enjoyed buzzing around on.

Detasseling corn.  Yes, I grew up in Indiana, and yes, there is plenty of corn in Indiana.  Detasseling is actually a very difficult and tiring job physically.  You ride 2-4 people in a little metal basket (think what an electrician might be in to get to the top of a telephone pole), and pick the tops off of the corn as you are slowly driven forward.  [There is typically a "wing" that comes out of each side of a tractor that has several of these baskets attached, spaced to fit into each row of the corn.]  I was actually pretty lucky, and after about a week of detasseling, I was put on a “rogue-ing crew.”  This was a group of 8-12 of us and we went from field to field and walked every row looking for “rogue” plants/corn and then cutting them down.  It was a lot of walking and work that lasted all day, but I still am very glad that I got selected to do that instead of riding in the baskets detasseling. I did this for one summer (and the season really only lasts a little over a month).

detasseling

 

Lifeguarding.  For three years, I lifeguarded at the local public pool and also the high school pool.  This actually requires a bit of skill and training.  When I was going through the class, it was approximately 3 weeks of training and learning, with an additional few days for CPR training.  Lifeguarding should be a job requiring and cultivating a fair amount of responsibility (of course, this is not the case for all lifeguards), which I think is probably a good thing for teens (and people) to learn.  It should be more than just high schoolers hanging out in the sun to get a great tan (though a nice benefit on the side) because you are actually a first responder in case anything goes wrong.  In the 3 years I was a lifeguard, I was glad that I never had anything too serious happen – I jumped in to pluck little kids out of the water a handful of times, and had to call an ambulance one time for a deep cut.  Otherwise, clean record.

Swimming lessons teacher. The three summers that I was a lifeguard, I also taught swimming lessons in the morning.  I taught swimming lessons to kids ages 3-13.  Their abilities ranged from kids who were terrified and would scream as soon as they saw the water, to kids who were swimming well and really didn’t need to be there (aside from some extra practice on their form).  I always really enjoyed this job and working with the kids.  Except that I was always cold!  I was a pretty skinny guy as a high schooler and spending a few hours in the pool first thing in the morning (usually 8am-11am then to lifeguard at noon), really got my teeth chattering.  In fact, I used to leave the pool where I taught swimming lessons and get into my car that had been baking in the sun and TURN ON THE HEAT while I was making the short drive to the other pool to lifeguard.  That’s just silly looking back at it.

Accident reconstruction.  My dad has been doing accident reconstruction for a long time; he received training while he was with the State Police, and he ran with it, furthering his training and then doing it on his own.  Whenever there was a big accident, he was often called.  And that meant that I was often going along with him to help out in any number of ways.  It’s actually pretty interesting to see how this line of work has advanced as technology has gotten better and better. Initially everything was hand measured (me running across and along interstates with huge rulers and marking sticks) and he would hand diagram everything to scale.  Then software came out and he could input our measurements and that would help generate diagrams.  Then he upgraded to a laser measuring system (which still involved me running along interstates quite a bit, but a little less with the huge measuring sticks).  I was helping out quite a bit right up until I moved down to Florida.  Luckily, right before I moved, he upgraded again to some new software that is able to turn digital photographs into diagrams while using reference points.  This was just in time since he lost his handy assistant right at that time (me).  I did this for probably a stretch of about 12 years.

Kappa Waiter.  This was a waiter-ing gig that I had throughout college at the sorority next door (Kappa).  There was a group of 7 of my good friends and I who were hired as the waiters.  Essentially, we put out the food and then cleaned up and did the dishes for lunch and dinner each weekday and brunch on the weekends.  It was a pretty good gig because I worked with some of my best friends and got to eat the food they had (which was nearly always better than our food at the fraternity!).  Plus, every Friday we had a little pre-dinner soiree, where we invited a few lucky ladies from the sorority over to join us for some pre-dinner cocktails. And these soirees were often themed. With short shorts.  Jean short shorts.  Enough said.

kappa friday

kappa friday

Indiana Ice.  I had an internship here the summer after my freshman year of college. It’s a premier hockey league for 15-18 year olds, many of whom are looking for college scholarship opportunities or even a spot in the NHL.  I worked mostly within the marketing department doing lots of event promotion, but the office was small enough that I definitely did a little bit of everything.  I wrote a couple of Kids’ Club newsletters and press releases, updated advertising contracts, did promo events at the Indy 500, the State Fair, and many other events.  I think that the most memorable experience was when I dressed up as the mascot , Bigg-E Foot, and walked around for a 4th of July parade.  It was an intensely hot experience.  Those mascot suits are extremely extremely hot, and I was a sweaty sweaty guy.  Overall the internship was a lot of fun, and I will not forget my one stint as a mascot.

this is what bigg e foot looks like. it gets hot in there!

this is what bigg e foot looks like. it gets hot in there!

 

Painting fraternity rooms.  This was a side job one summer while I was living on campus.  A couple of guys who were also living on campus and I cleaned out and repainted our entire fraternity house.  This was another hot job – the house was empty and there was no air conditioning which made for a very hot and stuffy house.

NCAA Basketball.  I had this internship working at the NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis for the Men’s and Women’s Division I Basketball Championships.  You might know it better as March Madness.  It was pretty neat; I did a lot of work helping to ensure that it went as smoothly as possible. I was also (mostly) in charge of analyzing the first ever public release of the RPI rankings for teams.  The neatest part about this internship was that I got a special invite back to work behind the scenes of the Final Four (held in Indy that year).  This included them putting me up at a nice hotel and providing me with some nice tickets to the Final Four and Championship games.

OLAB.  This was my longest running job (other than accident reconstruction) spanning about 10 summers.  Opportunities to Learn About Business (OLAB) is a week long summer camp for high school seniors designed to teach them business concepts.  Over the (many) years that I hung around as a counselor, I got pretty involved with many facets of the program.  I was one of the head counselors in charge of organizing the counseling staff, I helped teach/coach some of the business concepts, organized and put on different team building activities, got to DJ a couple of dances (high school dances are the best!), and also had a lot of fun with the counseling staff making faux news programs!

me in action as the dj

me in action as the dj

 

Government.  One year I applied for the “governor’s intern program” or something along those lines.  I never actually worked for the governor.  Somewhat ironically, I worked for the Division of Aging (far and away the youngest person there) and worked to coordinate a “clean-up” of the medicaid waiting list with sixteen area agencies across the state.  The waiting list was clogged with people who were already receiving services, some who had passed away (but were never taken off the list), and some who weren’t even eligible; thus, pushing back even further those who were legitimately waiting on services.

Lawyer.  I was not a lawyer.  However, I did work for one and helped archive and file legal documents.  I also did some translating for Spanish speaking clients.

Government.  This was round two with the Division of Aging.  I went back for a second summer (I skipped a summer in between) and worked on the Money Follows the Person MFP program.  This was a program designed to give elderly individuals more options when deciding on nursing homes and assisted living.  Again, I was the young guy working in the Division of Aging on a project for elderly people.

Graduate Assistant / TA.  With some of the above experiences I had had, I decided that I might like a college teaching gig, so I applied to PhD programs in sociology.  I was accepted and decided to go.  [Side note: The goal of many graduate programs is not to produce teaching professors.]  My first role was a graduate assistant which was the prequel to teaching your own course and spanned my first two years of graduate school.  This entailed helping a professor with a class in whatever ways they asked – taking attendance, grading, running review sessions, and sometimes even guest lectures. It was a good way to ease into teaching and thinking about some of the things that I wanted to do running my own class.  [I was also taking graduate courses and working on my master's thesis full time while doing this.]

Survey Interviewing.  I spent two different summers doing “computer assisted telephone surveys” for academic research at the university center for survey research.  This involved me cold calling randomly selected phone numbers from across the country (from a computer) and asking people to take part in a survey.  No, I was NOT a telemarketer!  And when people told me they were on the “no call list” I always explained to them that since this was important university research, that list did not apply to us.  I was still hung up on way more often than not.  But occasionally I got some people to actually take the interview.  And every now and then I got some real characters who really chatted me up about the surveys and seemed to get a kick out of it.  They knew that the completion rate was extremely low and that being on the phone wears on you, so we were only scheduled for four hour blocks (usually in the evenings) which made for an interesting work schedule with a lot of free time during the day.

Bartending.  One summer, I took a two week bartending or “mixology” class with my sister.  I probably would not have done this on my own, but she was moving to NYC at the time and thought this would be good at helping her get a job as a waitress.  I decided to go along with her for the ride.  We spent a lot of time memorizing mnemonic devices to remember drink recipes, most of which I have since forgotten.  Examples: “Sex on the Beach” – only have sex on the beach if the person is Very Pretty Or Cute (Vodka, Peach schnapps, Orange juice, Cranberry juice).  “Blue Hawaiian” – Hawaii is the Little Blue Paradise State (Lite/clear rum, Blue curacao, Pineapple juice, Soda water).  It was pretty interesting to learn some of the ins and outs of mixing drinks.  All of our practice was done with colored water.  We worked a few different events that summer, like the Indy 500, and made our money back.  I haven’t done much else since then, but my sister is still working and using a lot of her skills, so it really did pan out for her.

bar

 

Research.  While in graduate school, you are expected to develop a “research agenda” and start working toward that.  This was not my favorite part of graduate school, as I never truly enjoyed this research aspect. Unfortunately for me, this aspect was more valued and important than teaching in terms of moving forward in the program.  I never fully jumped on board the academic research train, even though I did write a few full research papers and plenty of other papers detailing research outlines. I do remember a speech from our Director of Graduate Studies during orientation where she said, “You are now transitioning from consumers of knowledge into producers of knowledge.”  I thought that was pretty neat and kind of inspiring, though I never really caught the academic research bug.

Teaching.  Finally my own class – the main reason I was interested in graduate school!  I was in charge of everything that a regular full time college professor would do with respect to teaching.  Creating course policies, choosing readings, writing a syllabus, designing assignments, writing exams, giving lectures, grading, holding office hours, and even writing letters of recommendation for students.  I really enjoyed working with students and getting some interesting class discussions going about stuff that I felt was important.  And a good bit of it seemed to catch their interest as well which was a really rewarding feeling.

Lifeguarding (round two).  This was round two of lifeguarding, revisited nearly 10 years later.  When we first moved down to Florida and I was waiting to start my “real” job, I accepted a summer position as a lifeguard at Seaworld’s waterpark, Aquatica.  It was a fun throwback job to relearn some of those lifeguarding and CPR skills.  It was also a very different experience to work at such a large waterpark (top 5 in the world).  It also came with a bunch of fun little perks and activities that we tried to take advantage of – free laser tag, trip to Gatorland, a soccer game at the Citrus Bowl, entry to Seaworld and Aquatica, and several other things.  It was a fleeting, but fun summer at Aquatica.

Mortgage Loan Review Analyst.  Going into the mortgage industry was not necessarily something I had been dreaming about since I was a young lad; in fact, it was an opportunity that came out of left field.  When we moved down to Florida, I found out about this opportunity and got into a program called the “FASTLane” which takes capable individuals without mortgage specific experience and puts them on an accelerated track.  Within just a couple of months, I found myself working proficiently as a forensic underwriter, or loan review analyst.  Essentially, I was re-underwriting loans to ensure that there was no misrepresentation or fraud that was going on, and that everything was properly disclosed and calculated and that all guidelines were met. [I mention some of this here.]

Master Puppeteer. Okay, I was certainly not a master puppeteer, but I did go into the library and help put on puppet shows for kids for a period of time. I was not compensated, but this along with a lot of other volunteer activities on a very regular basis at the library qualify for the list.  I knew what I was signing up for when I asked a children’s librarian to marry me.

pile of puppets from "little red riding hood"

pile of puppets from “little red riding hood”

Mortgage Loan processing.  After being on the forensic, or back end of the mortgage loan process for a bit, I transferred to the origination, or front end.  Instead of reviewing files that have already funded, I am now working to process the mortgage loan so that it can get to funding.  It truly is the opposite end of what I was doing above.  Hopefully, the mortgages that I am working on are done well enough that there is nothing for loan review analysts to find wrong with them!

 

So I’m not exactly sure what all of this means, except that I’ve had a pretty broad range of job experiences, even though I’m still fairly young.  Perhaps this makes me something of a Jack of all Trades.  I’ve had several jobs that I’ve enjoyed quite a bit, but one thing I would say that I’ve found in many of my jobs is that (for me at least) I often find the people around me to be equally important as the job when it comes to whether I enjoy myself or not.  For example, I would say that the hardest job I had on this list was probably detasseling/rogue-ing corn; however, I really liked the people on the rogue-ing crew that I worked with, and I really enjoyed myself doing that job.  Lots of different opportunities, lots of different experiences.

 

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Panda Fact

Just the other day on the radio, I learned a really interesting panda fact.  Apparently, all of the pandas in US zoos are rented.  The Chinese government has retained ownership of every panda in all zoos.  Each panda costs 1 million dollars per year.  That’s right, if a zoo has two pandas, it’s two million dollars to the Chinese per year for those pandas.  And, of course, that doesn’t include any of the actual costs of feeding or housing them.  And if the pandas get a little frisky and you wind up with a little baby panda, that baby panda still belongs to the Chinese government (you still have to pay for it).  This high cost of rent is hard for zoos to offset; thus, this is one of the main reasons why there are only four US zoos that have pandas (San Diego, Atlanta, Memphis, and Washington D.C.).  I never knew that they were all owned by the Chinese government, or that the rent was so steep to own one!  Check out here and here for some of the details.


panda

 

 

 

Bonus Fact about Bamboo (pandas’ main source of food): Bamboo can grow over 8 feet in a single day!

 
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Posted by on May 28, 2014 in Advice, Food, Media/Movies/TV

 

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A tribute to Barbara

This past Friday night, Em and I had a pretty wild night.  We stayed in and watched the two hour special/tribute/interview of Barbara Walters, Her Story.  Ok, so maybe that’s not really all that wild, but to be completely honest, I found it to be incredibly interesting.  It was a tribute to Barbara, who at 84, just retired this week.

2020

 

Before seeing the show, I would have said that I didn’t have any particular opinion for or against Barbara Walters.  Growing up, I remembered her most for being on 20/20, later The View, and of course, various interviews with important people.  What I did not know or realize before the show, was the incredible history of her career, and also the immense breadth of individuals that she has spoken with over time.  In fact, as they cut back and showed various interview clips, I became more and more convinced that there is probably no living person who has talked to as many important people from across such a broad spectrum as Barbara has.  And, I’d be willing to bet that there are very few people ever who have come close to speaking with as many important people.

 

The two-hour special was put together as a one-on-one interview, with Barbara’s producer interviewing her.  They covered a lot of topics and spliced in many clips of Barbara as both newswoman and interviewer.  They discussed her story as far as getting into the business, eventually on tv, then the news, and interviews and shows.  They covered some of her favorite interviews, her favorites interview questions, and even a bit of her personal life.  It was a fairly long program, but I would absolutely say that I was interested from beginning to end and would recommend watching it. (Try this link, or you can just google Barbara Walters Her Story).

Some interesting things that stuck out:

 

Yes, Anchorman was/is real.  Barbara started her career writing and doing production for news programs. (Ok, actually before that she did some commercials. And they were kind of funny.)  She eventually found her way onto the screen to do “fluff” segments about women’s interest stories such as short fashion segments.  She eventually found her way closer and closer to a news desk doing more “hard news” stories.  However, this was not without a fight; the host at the time, Frank McGee, said that women were not fit to do “hard news” and she was never given the title of co-host while he was around.  She eventually did get the title of co-host, along with a nice contract, but even then it was a constant uphill battle to be taken seriously as a woman doing hard news.

 

 

She has interviewed so many people.  I know I have already mentioned this above, but it isn’t until you watch the program go through a spattering of the people that Barbara has interviewed and spoken with that you can get a true appreciation of just how many important people she has talked to over the years.  This list spans leaders in the Middle East, every president and first lady since Nixon, Fidel Castro, movie stars, singers, and so many more.  If an individual has done something remarkable or newsworthy, Barbara has likely interviewed him or her.

 

She always asked “tough questions” and got answers.  I sometimes think that “tough questions” are a little hyped and sometimes aren’t all that tough.  But after watching some of these interview clips, she really did.  She asked Sean Connery about hitting women (which he said was ok – yikes!), she got two leaders from Israel and Egypt who were enemies to interview with her (it was the first time they had even been in the same room with one another), she asked Monica Lewinsky some of the juicy details about Clinton, she asked Putin if he had ever ordered anyone to be killed, and she asked Mike Tyson’s wife (Robin Givens) if he ever hit her (while Tyson was sitting right next to her!).  These are pretty gutsy questions to be asking a person in a face to face interview.  She was also known to make people cry (think emotionally tough questions here) and it became a running joke among her interviewees to try and survive an interview with Barbara without crying!

 

She didn’t consider herself to be a great family woman.  I didn’t know that Barbara had been married, but apparently she was married four times.  She said that she probably wasn’t very good at being married.  This was probably due, in large part, to her commitment to her job.  She also has an adopted daughter, Jackie.  She talked about Jackie a bit, but it was a little unclear as to how their relationship really was, though Barbara again admitted that she probably should have been around more.  She seemed to understand that Jackie didn’t want to be known as “Barbara’s daughter”, though again, it was a little unclear if that was partly resentment or some tension in the relationship from Jackie’s end.

 

Barbara got paid.  In 1976, Barbara accepted an offer from ABC to be the first female co-anchor of a network evening news program.  She was given a salary of one million dollars.  (Part of that contract was that she was to do a series of interviews on the side with different individuals.  She said that these interviews are probably what saved and then catapulted her career.)   While this is a handsome amount of money, especially at that time, it didn’t come without its drawbacks as she was often challenged and even ridiculed by others for receiving such a contract.  Again, it was certainly not easy to be the woman trying to blaze a trail in a news arena full of men.  But she certainly did a lot of the legwork for many women to follow in all realms of business, not just the news.

 

Barbara Walters

 

I thought the program did an excellent job of highlighting Barbara’s career, through her own reflections during the interviews along with the clips that were selected.  Her place in history is a fascinating one.  It is an intersection of trailblazing a path for women in (and out of) news, news and television in general (other shows such as 20/20 and The View), and an individual who has arguably had more access and contact with more important individuals than anyone else has, ever!  So farewell, Barbara, you’ve had a long and incredibly successful career, despite many obstacles!  I’m glad that Her Story was put out there to help highlight her achievements and importance, and to educate those who were not fully aware (like myself).

 

 

 
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Posted by on May 22, 2014 in Advice, Media/Movies/TV, sociology

 

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