October 25, 2009 - 8:32 PM
It would be hard to do, but if I had to pick just one location to be my favorite in the city of Eugene, it would probably fall somewhere along the Ruth Bascom Riverbank Trails. Usually when the going gets tough here, I head out to the trails which line the Willamette River to regain some focus and sense of peace. The trails connect to plenty of city park space, an amazing playground that is without-a-doubt, hands down, the most amazing playground I've ever been to, some duck ponds, shopping areas and the downtown area of Eugene.
For me the trail system is a crucial part of what makes Eugene feel like home. I have a very strong sense of place out there walking along the banks of the Willamette. I think part of it is the sheer beauty of being along the water, the breathtaking trees, the Owen Rose Garden , and another part of it is how central the trail system is for my functioning within the city. I pass along the riverbank trails to get to school. Often I'll take the trails out to the Valley River Center shopping mall or downtown. Many days I walk, run, or bike along the river just because I can.
Saturday morning I started my day off right with an early rise and then out to hit the pavement. I registered for a 5K run through the park as a part of the 3rd Annual Monster Mash, an event put on by Slocum as a research fundraiser. I was running the event as training for the Eugene Marathon I want to run this spring. My goal was to practice letting people pass me and allowing that to actually be ‘okay.' I'm kind of competitive (which is really me saying I'm incredibly competitive) so allowing people to run past me is mentally a challenging thing to do. I also wanted to practice the feeling of racing against people, and knowing what it felt like to race with myself from within a much larger field. I don't have a lot of experience with these kind of long distance events so it is an important part of my training schedule.
Eugene truly is "Track Town USA" and events like Saturday's race help defend its rightful title. The race was wonderfully put together. Eugene police protected runners for the short stretch they were on the city streets, and once we were in the park volunteers lined every corner making sure participants stayed on course...and offering them a place to stop and "trick-or-treat." I know, it sounds absurd, but seriously, we could trick-or-treat while running the race. This Monster Mash was a kick-off for the Halloween holiday. Lots of participants dressed up in Halloween costumes, which could be judged for prizes, and people were encouraged to bring their dogs along for the race as well (some of them also in full costume). This of course, delighted me to no end, and I spent possibly as much time thinking about dogs in costumes as I did thinking about the race.
In the end I finished in the top half of the field and proudly completed my 5K before rushing off to eat lunch and watch the UO football game with some friends - many thanks to those who came out to support me running!! I was so pleased after completing the 5K (and determined that I need to continue to train more) I signed up for a 10K event coming up in a few weeks. This will also be along the riverbank trails, and proceeds will be a holiday fundraiser through EWEB's Customer Care program.
Before my time in Eugene is up I'll be out on the trails more times than I'll be able to count. I'd like to get out there again before the last of the leaves fall from the trees and to see the last few bright reds and oranges before they finish changing colors. Having the city of Eugene designed to integrate the river and the devotion to public space leaves me with some room for thought about city development. As a matter of fact it is one of my areas of focus I'm considering for grad school. Grad school applications are getting pushed back another day however. Before I can get back out enjoying Eugene's green spaces, or finish up any applications, I need to go ace a geography 311 midterm. Best of luck on your midterms if you have them! And if you don't...I'm sure you remember what they felt like. Keep praying for the rest of us.
Myself along the trail system feeding ducks
Coburg Rd Bridge at night from the riverbank trails
One of my favorite picnic spots along the North Bank of the river
a festive dog for the event
Before the race with the Halloween decorations
Myself at the start line of the Monster Mash race
October 21, 2009 - 11:23 PM
Well, I can't tell you any interesting facts colorfully demonstrating the rich history of my apartment floor specifically, except to say that I imagine it is the same for most college students... its week four and my apartment is a mess. I'm lost on the floor somewhere in the middle of it. I look around and my once gorgeous fall arrangement of flowers is left wilted and dead on the coffee table. Dishes are stacking up in the sink. A confetti of research papers, course readings, and drafts of recent assignments are hanging from every surface.
This term has been intense for me, with challenges coming in all shapes and sizes. From what I can tell it is the same for most of my peers. And based on the handful of conversations I had with my family, things haven't changed for college students since at least the 70s. Sometimes, college life just gets crazy.
I thought it would be impossible for my course load to get any more rigorous, but midterm week has proven me wrong yet again. I still have work responsibilities, and I have mounting pressures to decide what to do after graduation and beyond. After some heavy investigating work I had a very serious (and I assure you by no means short) conversation with my parents. It appears that I will be able to finish up my two undergraduate degrees by the end of next term. And while I've already been on the hunt for graduate school programs and meeting with graduate school advisors, thinking about the GRE exam I'll be taking next month, and trying to make some serious "where-am-I-going-in-life" decisions, I now have reminders to apply to graduate next term and make arrangements for the spring and summer. At the end of today I was about ready to have a melt down, walk to the edge of a cliff and scream into the horizon, "What am I suppose to do!?" Oh, did I mention I also had midterms this week? And a huge project due Friday. And a field trip this weekend. And a 5K race to run. No wonder my apartment is a mess!
So that's where I am now. I'm currently sitting in a growing sea of papers, (struggling to maintain an understanding of what each pile is supposed to be), stressed trying to keep all the pieces of my life together. And then someone wonderful told me probably the best bit of advice I've heard all day: "Life is what happens between all the other plans you make." After a day like today, I couldn't agree more.
To be entirely honest, this has happened before. If I'm sure of anything in life, it is that this feeling will happen again. College is a time of self discovery and ambition, making large decisions concerning where the next turn will take you. There is a lot to think about. And there is a lot to think about while juggling school assignments, part time jobs, friendships, clubs, and if you're like me, remembering to eat and if there is time, to do the dishes. Just when you think you've got it figured out and you have chosen a top candidate for a graduate school to go to, you realize it isn't the best choice for you as something else unfolds before you. In that sense, college is tough. Unfortunately my recognizing my stress doesn't make it go away any, but I'm assured in part knowing that plenty of others have gone through this process before me. I'm certain at least a handful of them turned out alright.
Eventually my apartment will put itself back together, my midterms will pass (hopefully with amazing grades), my graduate school applications will be submitted, and one day I too will graduate. It will happen. And tonight maybe I don't know all the answers, but I'm working on them...in the midst of completing some other assignments. The great balancing act of college continues. Assuming one has at least a few time management skills and the desire, things will come together, and life will happen along the way.
October 18, 2009 - 3:21 PM
Mac Court is a place of legends. It is the second oldest active on campus basketball arena still in use in the country. My parents often remind me of the time they travelled to Eugene to see Bob Hope in Mac Court. I remember last spring going to Mac to watch Greg Mortenson and have him sign my copy of Three Cups of Tea. Mac Court has seen me through a lot of campus activities over these past few years. If the plans really are to tear Mac down (which is what I've heard), I'll consider it a great loss in the University of Oregon's rich history. Some day I'll tell you about how disappointed I have been, as a current student, in the development of the new Matthew Knight Arena which will replace Mac Court. But for today...
The 5 Best Features of Mac Court
1. Section 10. The bleachers are more trampoline than standing surface. Some of my fondest memories at the UO have been spent jumping up and down yelling in ‘the PIT.' Take last night's volleyball game for instance. I've rarely seen such thrilling volleyball action. In game three UO and Stanford were trading point for point until the match was finally settled 30-32. When the Ducks pushed the series to game five, I had already exhausted myself with enthusiasm. The Ducks hadn't beat Stanford in a series at home since before I was born. We hadn't beaten Stanford in a series at all since I was two. When the ducks took control of game five and toppled the 5th ranked Cardinals I added another fond memory of wild cheering from section 10.
2. The History. I've kind of already said it. There really aren't words to do justice to what comes over you when step into the arena. Mac Court isn't just building, it is an experience. Walking into the arena and finding your seat feels like you're joining the hundreds who have been through the University of Oregon before you. For me, Mac is a place I feel like I can connect to previous alumni, to previous University presidents, even to previous University staff and faculty. It is a place that reminds me that I'm a part of something now, because I am a Duck. Going to the University of Oregon isn't just a place you go, and then forget. Once you've experienced what it means to be a Duck, you'll always be a Duck. There are other historic buildings on the campus, but not as widely used and not with the same atmosphere.
3. Its Intimate. Mac was designed in a way that you feel like you really get to experience whatever it is you're there to see. Sometimes that's been a basketball or a volleyball game, sometimes it has been a guest speaker on campus, but it is always personal. Our volleyball coach often comes over to thank students for attending after the games even. How often does that happen across the country? During a basketball game I often feel like I'm ‘on the court,' and well, it's because I basically am. It isn't so big you can't see the expressions of the fans on the other side of the court, or so profit driven you feel like your experience is directly impacted by your income. The facility is designed, in both its best and in its worst features, to create an atmosphere where people truly come together.
4. The Daisy Ducks. I know, it sounds cheesy but I really do have a soft spot in my heart for those Daisy Ducks. There is something about halftime bingo during basketball season that just really makes me happy. I'm not going to lie- the thought of actually winning Bingo and having to yell "BINGO" in an arena full of people, still terrifies me. I just looked at their website and they had an announcement for crochet mitten patterns. It actually makes me melt a little bit on the inside with affection.
5. The memories. It sums everything else up into its own category. There was the time my first year here I slept outside before the Arizona game to get great seats. People actually brought mattresses from their residence hall room to sleep on. There was the time I went to Mac Court as a kid with my uncle to watch the Oregon women play and I was sitting near the football coach, Mike Bellotti. Seeing Greg Mortenson speak. Hearing about the times my uncle watched games at Mac as a student. Hearing my parents talk about the times they travelled to Mac. Remembering past experiences with friends. Winning free textbooks during a volleyball game. Sometimes I feel like there is no end to the stories that have emerged from being at the University of Oregon. Mac Court just seems to hold an awful lot of them.
October 13, 2009 - 4:48 PM
Columbia Hall has an interesting history. The building rests on a sight that was formerly the Men's Gymnasium. Now Columbia is home to one of the largest lecture halls on campus, which seats just over 500 students - the room is built into the foundation of an old swimming pool. Columbia is also home to the environmental studies and science departments which is one of the departments I am involved with on campus.
This term I spend four hours of my Friday afternoons in the basement of Columbia working on a Geology 318 Field studies course. Actually that makes it sound worse than it really is; we spend a lot of time out in the field, and the class only lasts half the term (five weeks). I was particularly pumped for this course when I registered because I knew the instructor, Dave Blackwell, from a previous course I had taken on the geology of the national parks. I really enjoyed Dave as an instructor and was truly looking forward to taking another class from him. But if we're being entirely honest with each other...this class is kind of hard.
As a geology minor student I have taken a fair number of geology courses. This course however, is particularly challenging in its practical application of theory in a field setting. In other words, it is requiring a lot more than just learning material from a textbook. Usually the first day of any course you go over the syllabus of the course, give some framework to the term and discuss what you might be learning, and if there is time, start some lecture material. The first day of this course we measured our eye height, pace length, took the strike and dip of various surfaces, created a pace and Brunton map, and, as though that wasn't enough, we measured the height of a building by pacing away from the building and attempting to measure the angle of our line of sight to the roof. ...and that doesn't even include the homework assignment. The work is interesting, and it's kind of exciting to be learning some of the skills, but also, challenging.
I was pretty proud of myself when I completed the first assignment and handed it in during the second lecture. For our second class session we didn't even stay in the classroom; we loaded into three vans and drove out to a rock outcrop off I-5 to continue working on our field skills. Within the first hour of the class, I realized I had done about half of my first assignment incorrectly. I felt horrible! I made a silly mathematical error when calculating my pace length, which meant all measurements calculated by using my pace length were also incorrect. It took going out into the field and attempting to use that measurement again to realize my mistake. So there I was, standing out next to a rock outcrop attempting to measure some distances and heights by using my pace length, and incredibly frustrated with myself for messing up the first assignment. I went to go have a chat with Dave.
Luckily Dave was understanding of my error and willing to allow me the opportunity to recreate parts of my assignment and learn the material correctly. I had to entirely redraft some materials, but in the end, I at least felt proud of myself again for completing the assignment correctly. Knowing I'd have the opportunity to try again (which doesn't always happen) also allowed me some peace of mind to continue working through my second lab. We were working on mastering the art of collecting field data in our notebooks in an organized way and also practicing the skills of rock descriptions and identifications. It had been awhile since I'd been using those skills so it was a healthy mind exercise to recall that information from previous geology courses. It was also a great opportunity to work with some of my peers in the class collecting data and taking measurements.
I'm worried about how well I'm doing in the course, primarily because it is comprised of these rather large projects based around skills I have never used before. A short course, with few projects makes earning a respectable grade seem difficult to achieve, if not impossible at times. But I'm working through it. This is an incredibly busy term for me while I balance work with school and other events on campus, as well as working through the process of applying to graduate school. It's a lot to think about! But then there are nights like tonight. Nights where I really have plenty to do but I'm at a point where I need some ‘me' time. I think tonight I'll take an hour or two to just paint, or relax in front of my fireplace, anything that will reset my mind until I'm ready to conquer the next big project.
October 11, 2009 - 12:48 PM
For those of you who haven't visited the U of O campus before, or perhaps it has been awhile, East 13th Avenue is the main street that runs through the heart of our campus. The stretch of 13th between University and Kincaid (roughly the stretch from the student union to the bookstore) used to be open to through traffic. I was told that in 1972 students conducted a sit-in to block traffic until the City of Eugene agreed to sell that stretch of the street. It was sold to the University for the grand sum of $1.
For me, the benefits of having a campus virtually inaccessible to passing traffic have been wonderful. This particular stretch of street is also home to one of my favorite events in the fall, which is the street faire. Year after year the smells of street fair are heavenly. I suppose smell might be a strange thing to dream about when recalling an event but let's be real - I go for the food. I am an eater. When the aroma of street faire wafts under my nose I am a very happy kid.
The street faire is a kind of market along 13th Avenue for three days, typically once during fall term and once again in the spring. The vendors are a collection of local companies in the business of everything from food to entertainment to furniture. The event is hosted by the ASUO, and they actually have a commitment to diversifying the types of vendors that are at the event every year. Usually the street faire turns into the most congested pedestrian street traffic I have ever experienced, all clamoring to get to class, or shop in the tents. It can be overwhelming, but it is also exciting to have an event on campus that is so popular and brings the campus community together. Regardless, I'm always very grateful the event only lasts three days. I'm kind of partial to the ‘small town feel' on campus. I've been known to purchase a pair of sunglasses or a water bottle in the past, but mostly I go to the street faire to enjoy the divine tastes I never seem to be able to pack in my sack lunch on a daily basis.
For three years I have had my eye on a caramel covered apple with M'n'Ms, and I have yet to purchase one. Usually I have good intentions of getting back for a dessert, and every instance the same thing happens - I eat lunch first and am full before my plate clears. There have been times whilst consuming street faire food I have wondered if chicken teriyaki on rice has ever been made better. I also enjoy the opportunity to learn more of ‘what's out there' in Eugene to explore when wanting to buy local. If you're interested to read more about the wonders of shopping local in Eugene I'd encourage you to check out Korrin's blog. She has spoken to shopping local before in the past.
Despite the heavy foot traffic and the air of craziness that comes with the street faire, it sent me into the weekend in high spirits. I still need to one day invest in and enjoy a caramel and M'n'M covered apple, but that might be a fantastic ‘cooking' project to pursue on my own. Or, I can always wait until spring term when the street fair will be back once again!
Coming next: Columbia Hall