Is There a Difference?

This is out of order for my bid to catch up on the last semester of missed blogging, but I thought this was necessary to share.

Like many other liberal arts colleges around the country, Loras decided to take a stand against the social injustice that has been plaguing Africa and social forums alike over the last few months. That’s right, Kony.

Loras of course tackled this problem head on in the most helpful way they know how:

Which of course prompted me to make a few editorial adjustments to acknowledge another injustice.

I don’t mean to make light of a humanitarian nightmare, but I’m also sick of everyone acting like they’re changing the world simply by putting up some signs and handing out a few dozen fliers. I’m all for changing the world for the better, but I really can’t support people who think they’ll solve all the world’s problems by making touching YouTube videos.

So it’s time to join together, guys. Voldemort must be stopped.

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Las Vegas

Oh yes. Vegas happened.

As I spent a portion of my Easter break last year in Rome and Vatican City, it only seemed fitting to switch it up.

Also, Libby turned 21 and her mom sent us to Treasure Island. So, you know, Vegas.

Vegas!

After studying abroad, I’ve really missed travelling with Libby, as well as going out to bars with Libby. Vegas covered both of those.

We flew out of Cedar Rapids on a Thursday (Libby’s actual 21st birthday), arriving in sunny Las Vegas by early afternoon, so we walked down the strip a ways, taking in the sights, taking copious amounts of pictures, and taking advantage of their lack of open container laws.

That entire globe in Libby's hand is full of margarita.

Our weekend consisted of shopping, and sight-seeing, going out to clubs, seeing a couple of shows, eating crazy good food, and catching rays out at the pool. I also met my hero.

This picture is about 9 years in the making. My only regret is it's not actually Johnny Depp.

Of all the hotels on the strip that we checked out, my favorite was definitely The Venetian. They had a few clubs and awesome restaurants, as well as good shopping, that we checked out, so we ended up spending a decent amount of time there. Most of the hotels have some sort of theme, and The Venetian’s is of course, Venice. I liked it because it was very authentic feeling. After spending last spring in Europe, it was cool to feel like I was walking around in Europe again.

Except inside.

My favorite club that we went out to was called rEVOLution, a Beatles-themed club in The Mirage. It wasn’t as big or glamorous as some of the other clubs we went to, but those clubs were also packed to the teeth and had waiting lines that stretched across entire casinos. No, rEVOLution was a well-kept secret despite free admission and drinks for ladies, making it a very fun place to hang until the wee hours of the morning.

It had a sweet entrance, too.

My favorite part of the entire trip, however was one of the shows we saw. Everyone talks about seeing shows in Vegas: Cirque du Soleil, Blue Man Group, Chippendales, what have you, but what people don’t typically think of is Andrew Lloyd Weber. 

You’d think he’d come up more in a glitzy place like Vegas given his over-the-top nature.

Anyway, Libby and I got an amazing deal on tickets for The Phantom of the Opera, in the theater in The Venetian that was specifically built for The Phantom of the Opera. Taking into account that I had never seen the show (or the movie), my mind was blown.

Much like the chandelier.

Since easily my favorite part of any activity, including vacations, is food I was quite excited about the fine dining experiences available to us. Of course we tried the buffets everyone talks about (not that great, by the way), a diner and a Vietnamese place in our hotel, several great Mexican places along the strip, and Hash House a Go-Go, a crazy breakfast place with enormous servings of twisted farm food (one menu item is 24oz. of Budweiser and a side of bacon), plus pretty good Bloody Marys.

The pinnacle of my eating experience, however, was Serendipity 3. Known for their foot-long hot dogs and frozen hot chocolate (as well as other ridiculous and decadent menu items), I got to vegan-out with their 100% organic, 100% amazing garden burger and sweet potato fries.

100% Yum

We spent our Easter Sunday at our hotel pool after we went to mass. Yes, we went to mass. I even found a Catholic church within walking distance from Treasure Island, which was sort of like last year when I found a Catholic mass in English in Prague on Easter. Except not even remotely like that, but I digress.

Anyway, after mass we hung out at the pool, sipping mojitos and partying with a group of Canadians who were very excited to help Libby celebrate her 21st in style.

Overall it was an amazing trip, full of amazing experiences, and amazing drinks. I’m still in shock that I got to go, and I am  astoundingly grateful to Libby and her family for giving me the chance to celebrate such a special time for Libby in such a special way.  I had a fabulous vacation, and Libby had a very happy birthday.

A happy, happy...I'm sorry, what were we talking about?

Am Adult?

For pretty much the entire time I’ve been writing this blog, and definitely for the last several months, I’ve been joking about how I pretty much missed the memo about how I’m supposed to become an adult at some point.

And of course by “joking” I mean “totally-joking-except-not-really-at-all-because-I’m-pretty-sure-my-life-may-actually-be-in-shambles-but-got-you-I’m-totally-joking-except-not.” It’s the same way a single woman living with cats talks about how she really doesn’t want to get married.

"I mean, I look stunning in white, but who wants to go through all the trouble for one day? Blech!"

Call it what you will (defense mechanism, distorted reality, denial, insanity, what have you) poking fun at myself is a good way of distracting myself from the problem at hand — that is, at some point I forgot that I’m supposed to be an adult. This is well illustrated by the fact that I have repeatedly blown off grocery shopping to watch Disney movies on ABC Family with my roommate.

IT'S MY FAVORITE

That’s not to say I don’t ever want to grow up — it’s just the opposite. I’m ready to be done with college. I know some of you are cringing at that statement, but I’m completely over having to do pointless assignments for classes that don’t matter. I want to be doing work that I enjoy or can at least justify for a cause or an organization that I care about and/or that pays me. I can imagine sinking my teeth into building a database for a company in ways I can’t even try to summon when it comes time to write tedious papers for a women’s studies class.

I know I’m supposed to be an adult, it just never happened.

Although apparently no one told that to McGladrey.

Surprise!

McGladrey is one of the top five accounting firms in the country, and has offices all over the U.S., including locations in Dubuque and Minneapolis. I had an on-campus interview at the end of last semester with one of the Dubuque executives regarding an MIS position. Truth be told, I didn’t think it went all that great. I felt like I was kind of off my game and that my interviewer wasn’t all that impressed with my resume, so I wrote it off as good practice and went on with my life.

So imagine my surprise a few weeks later when I received a phone call from HR in the Minneapolis office, asking my availability for an interview while I was home for Christmas. I was astounded and excited, and scheduled an interview for December 28th, determined to be well-prepared so I could knock their socks off the second time around.

And I probably would have had it not been for the debilitating case of stomach flu my entire family had the pleasure of enjoying on the 27th of December.

I was afraid to type "stomach flu" into Google, and my blog has been woefully lacking in puppies.

I entered my interview with all the confidence of someone who has just spent the previous 24 hours wrapped around a toilet, in a mental state that could be likened to a child-like psychosis, possibly caused by the body aches and lack of any solid food.

For those of you who haven’t had much experience in the area of interviews, these are not ideal conditions.

Any forethought I had given went immediately out the window as I tried to navigate questions about teamworking skills and resist the temptation of bashing my liberal arts education, all while struggling to remain upright. I vaguely remember trying to scrape together some adult-like thoughts about where I saw myself in ten years as my interviewer led me back to his office, but then he opened his door and the first words that came out of my mouth were, “Ohhh, you’re an Iowa State fan? I don’t think this is going to work out.”

NOT a grown-up! Neener neener!

Needless to say, I left that interview feeling even more lousy than I had when I left the first one. I tried to be optimistic, remembering the bits that went well, and the good vibes I got from the building, but I figured there was no way they were going to give another glance to the girl who was clearly holding herself together with Scotch tape.

Once more I chalked the experience up to being good practice, and went on with my life. I returned to school for J-term, went to San Francisco, and began fretting over becoming a grown-up again.

Clearly McGladrey doesn’t do anything the way I expect them to.

I was home the last week of January for J-term break, which gave me the opportunity to ski, finally update my contact prescription, and field a phone call from McGladrey’s HR department offering me a software consulting job in Minneapolis once I graduate.

Look, another dog!

I’ve learned several important lessons from this whole experience. First, while being a grown-up is something that we’ll all have to inevitably face at some point, there’s no need to force it to happen at the first sign of uncertainty. Keeping your sense of wonder and creativity from childhood will keep you on your toes and fill your head with dynamic ideas. Second, if you ever have the opportunity to interview for a job whilst recovering from the stomach flu, I actually recommend the experience. By having the majority of your energy focused on maintaining your systems during the recuperation process, your potential employer sees a more honest, and possibly less inhibited version of you, which hopefully isn’t a terrible thing.

Unless, you know, you're like Toby here.

The best thing about all of this though, is that I don’t have to worry about what I’m doing anymore. I know I’m not going to be living with my parents as some listless blogger, wishing for a direction in life and wondering if she shouldn’t have put off washing the car for Alice in Wonderland. No, instead I’ll be living with my parents as a listless blogger who is very focused on her job in IS for an accounting firm, and wonders what adventures she’ll find in Minneapolis.

And I’m still not a grown-up. It’s fantastic.

San Francisco

Considering that at this time the year before I was in a different country on a different continent across an ocean, San Francisco may not seem like it would be nearly as exciting. And it wasn’t.

I'm disappointed, too. I want to go back to Ireland.

But it was still fun. There was a group of twelve students from Loras, as well as two professors, who were out to meet with businesses and important business people for our Business Seminar class, aka the senior capstone for business majors. The San Francisco bit isn’t typical of the Bus Sem class, but lucky for me I got into the J-term section. What is typical to the class is the simulation we ran before we left. Our class formed four different teams that competed against each other to gain control of the market for computer sales. This was all fictional of course, run out of an internet simulation game. What wasn’t fictional was my team staying solidly in third place for the majority of the game, then coming out of nowhere to dominate the market in the last three quarters, thus ensuring our grade for the class.

I'd say it was all the game, but I want some credit. It was me, too.

After two weeks of blood, sweat, tears, and heartbreaking business decisions (made by mouse clicks over coffee), we were off to San Francisco. The last time I was in San Francisco, Full House was still airing new episodes, so I was actually looking forward to it. Also, the day before we left the Midwest finally received the snow it had been missing all winter — all the snow — so I was also looking forward to the weather.

For essential San Francisco we went to Pebble Beach and 17 mile drive, Big Sur, Alcatraz, Fisherman’s Wharf, Lombard Street, Ghirardelli Square, saw the sea lions, and rode the trolleys.

The Lone Cypress of Pebble Beach

For class we met with Loras Alumni Rich Clayton — a high up executive at Oracle. We toured several businesses of varying sizes and models, including a steel frame bicycle specialty shop, an internet application development firm, a philanthropy firm, a whole boat load of different marketers, a winery, and of course Oracle, among many others. My favorite was the winery (Wente Vineyards) because, you know, it’s a winery.

Pictured: The Oracle campus.
Not Pictured: Free wine.

We also got to do some nerdy things, I assume because I was there. We went to the Computer History Museum, where I got to see such treasures as the Xerox Alto (the first desktop computer to employ a GUI and mouse and designed for personal use), a prototype of the Apple I that was signed by Woz, and Herman Hollerith’s census counter (the genesis of punch cards, and essentially IBM). All of this paled in comparison, however, upon the discovery that the museum was hosting none other than Charles Babbage’s Difference Engine. Let me clarify: THE Babbage Difference Engine. The first ever computer. 

You are reading this post because of that monster.

No, it doesn’t look like a computer. In fact, it was never actually finished. But it was designed by British mathematician Charles Babbage, commissioned by Queen Victoria, and programmed by Ada Augusta. Yes, not only was the first-ever programmer a woman, she was the daughter of Lord Byron. Figure that one out.

I can hear some of you snoring, so I’ll move on. We also went to the Google headquarters, which I’m sure is awesome, but as we were there on MLK Jr. Day, the campus was closed. Instead of touring buildings, we settled for posing with the giant statues of desserts placed nonsensically in the front yard, and stole the G-bikes provided for employees to use to travel to the different buildings on campus.

We brought them back once I beat everyone and had my picture taken by several Japanese tourists.

It was a great experience for many different reasons, and I was quite upset to return back to the Midwest. And to all the snow. I was impressed that I was able to have such a good time and learn so much and get a requirement for my major out of the way, all at once and over J-term. Well done, Loras! You haven’t screwed this part up…yet.

Veganism. Because why not?

That’s right. Veganism. Not vegetarian, vegan.

I decided to become a vegan shortly after the new year, and have been doing pretty well with it for almost five month now. For those of you who are unfamiliar with what the lifestyle entails, it basically means no animal products or by-products.

The obvious things from that are meat (all meat — white, red, fish, whatever), dairy (cheese, milk, cream, butter, etc.), and eggs, and of course anything that contains those things. There’s more though — things that you’ve never thought of. Things like L-Cysteine, a dough conditioner found in some bagels and other baked goods that’s derived from duck feathers. Or marshmallows and Jell-O, or anything else containing gelatin, which is made from horse hooves. And anything with the red food dye known as carmine, which is made from crushed coccus beetles (don’t worry, red dye #40 is made from coal tar).

Tasty, tasty coal tar.

My point is there’s a lot of stuff in our food that we don’t know about, which brings me to answer the question I can see forming in all of you minds: WHY ON EARTH ARE YOU DOING THIS TO YOURSELF??!?!

I get it. We’re all raised as red blooded Americans who like our meat seared, our eggs fried, our cheese creamy, and our beer cold. I won’t pretend it hasn’t been a difficult journey, either. I like food. I like food a lot. But that doesn’t change the fact that I have several reasons to support my decision, and none of them include becoming a dirty hippie.

Sorry Mo.

For one, there is a definite health aspect to becoming vegan. With a family history of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease, stopping eating some of the leading causes of those can’t be a bad idea. I really don’t want to be on cholesterol medication for the rest of my life, and eating soyburgers is actually a pretty decent alternative.

That helps too — I enjoy tofu and tempeh and soy cheese and almond milk. I’m good with eating fruit for breakfast, a veggie wrap for lunch, and stir-frying tofu cubes in grape seed oil with peppers and mushrooms for dinner. I know some of you are cringing reading that, and I can’t lie — you could probably never be vegan. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s not for everyone. Some people could never give up chocolate or cheese, just like I couldn’t imagine going back from vegan cookie dough or Fakin’ Bacon.

Mmm...tempacon.

I already mentioned the biggest thing though, and that’s that we really have no idea what’s in our food. Seriously, when’s the last time you read an ingredient label and not only knew how to pronounce everything listed, but actually knew what everything was? Taking into account that there really aren’t a lot of regulations in the food industry (seriously there isn’t — did you know Splenda contains trace amounts of arsenic and heavy metals?), I’m kind of over just putting things into my mouth without thinking about it.

So now I’m thinking about it. As a vegan.

And how delicious it is.

Hiatus

OK, so I kind of let this slide again. What can I say? I’m human. A very, very busy human. As of Tuesday morning of this week, however, I am no longer busy. Well, not nearly as busy. More on that in a bit.

The important thing is I’m back (again!), and have several hours right now to type numerous blog posts about the shenanigans I’ve been up to for the last four months. I’ll try and keep it simple.

Please to enjoy.