YONDO

22 Aug

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You only Notre Dame once. That’s the message I had for the then-incoming freshman Class of 2016 exactly a year ago. It’s hard to believe it’s been a full year since my senior year at Notre Dame began — a year I’ll never forget (or ever remember large portions of). In honor of this glorious anniversary, I’ve got my column from last year’sfreshman edition of The Observer. Enjoy.

YONDO

So Class of 2016, you’ve arrived to the tropical resort paradise known as South Bend, Indiana. You’ve moved into your dorm, met your roommates and are about to embark on the greatest four-year journey of your life. Undoubtedly, friends, family and chance acquaintances have thrown you way too much advice on how to approach your college experience — ask questions, don’t be shy, talk to your professors, be outgoing — and yes, most of this is true. But there is no uniform recipe for a triumphant freshman year. Every one of you is different (despite it seeming like the admissions office recruited an army of North Face models) and it would be remiss to think there is some formula to “winning” freshman year. I tried to do all the things I was told to do — yet still, there were periods during my first year at Notre Dame that were the most emotionally draining times of my life.

While there might not be a universal game plan that will indisputably yield straight A’s, a gaggle of friends and the avoidance of the Freshman 15, approaching college with a certain mentality is key.

That’s where YOLO comes in. Much has been made of this ubiquitous phrase. While many toss it around with such regularity you would think their life depended on it (myself included) others scorn its usage (like my friends, who have placed me on astrict cap of five YOLO’s for every time we hang out.)

For the uninitiated, YOLO stands for “You Only Live Once” and it perfectly epitomizes what freshman year is all about. YOLO’s immediate meaning urges one to live life to the fullest, otherwise one might suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out.)

For instance, go ahead and go out on a weeknight. Hang out with your friends instead of studying for that test you know you’ll do fine on anyways. Don’t hold back, eat that cupcake in the dining hall (actually, hold off — the Freshman 15 is a real thing.) You do only live once, so do all those crazy things you want to do!

But lost in the kitsch and obnoxiousness of YOLO’s primary meaning is its true value to all of you members of the Class of 2016. Sure, you can say “YOLO” before you have that non-alcoholic drink you know is going to put you over the edge, or before you engage in a DFMO at your first dorm dance (I’ll let you figure that last acronym out for yourself.) But Notre Dame offers some of the most incredible opportunities to undergraduates of any university in the world. The thing is, you do only live once. On that note, You Only Notre Dame Once — YONDO, if you will — and it would be a terrible waste to cruise through four years of college without taking the University up on some of its offers.

So in this Fighting Irish version of YOLO — YONDO — go out there, and do everything knowing you’ve only got one shot at college. Go on the Appalachia Seminar. Go to the Career Fair. Play a club sport. Write for the student newspaper (If you can string a couple of nouns and verbs together cohesively, we’d love to have you.) Take interesting classes — I bet you didn’t know we have probably the best Medieval Studies program in the United States. Be passionate about something, anything. Basically, get off your bum and be active in the Notre Dame community.

YOLO, YONDO — it doesn’t matter how you say it. You’ve only got one shot at college.Class of 2016, treat it as such.

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24 Cats Who Are Celebrating Shark Week

8 Aug

24 Cats Who Are Celebrating Shark Week

A little post I did for BuzzFeed on felines and sharks. Cats and Sharks — this is EXACTLY what Al Gore had in mind when he invented the Internet. 

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Red Velvet Cupcakes

6 Aug

I love food — eating it, making it, sharing it. My passion for the kitchen — especially baking sweet treats — inspired me to start a video blog for The Observer, Scene Around Campus, along with a cooking column for the Scene section, Cupcake Boy. In this Valentine’s Day edition, my good friend Kicki and I make sinfully delicious red velvet cupcakes.

Cupcake Boy: Valentine’s Day Edition

American capitalism may try to pitch the concept of Valentine’s Day to consumers as one of love and passion to sell flowers, jewelry and cards. But I’m not buying it. The only thing I love come V-Day is sugar and lots of it.

That’s why Scene writer Kicki Astuno and I chose Red Velvet Cupcakes with White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting as this week’s “Cupcake Boy Recipe.” With their brick-red cake, creamy white frosting and red sugar sprinkled on top, these are the perfect treat for Valentine’s Day. Remember: A cupcake can never disappoint you, but a boyfriend or girlfriend can.

Whether you are celebrating today by spending time with that special someone or staying in to enjoy the company of your Netflix account and your cats, these cupcakes are the perfect treat to cap off your day. The best part is they are super easy to make and taste scrumptious. Why be lazy and by stale store-bought baked goods when you can make your own tasty goodies at home?

So what are you waiting for? Fire up that oven because you have some Valentine’s Day treats to make.

This recipe is adapted from Serious Eats and makes a dozen cupcakes. You’ll need a mixer and a cupcake tray. Be sure to check out a video demonstration Kicki and I as we make these cupcakes on ndscmobserver.com!

Ingredients

1 3/4 cup flour

1 tablespoon cocoa powder

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, divided

1/2 cup plus 1/3 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 large egg

1 tablespoon red food coloring

2 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided

3/4 cup milk

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon vinegar

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

3 cups confectioners’ sugar

3 ounces white chocolate, melted and cooled slightly

1/4 cup red sugar

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line the cupcake tray with cupcake liners. Mix the cocoa powder and flour in a medium-size bowl. Using the mixer, cream six tablespoons butter, the sugar and salt on medium speed for two minutes until light and fluffy. Beat the egg, food coloring and one teaspoon of the vanilla until combined. Mix in the flour/cocoa powder mixture and milk, alternating between the two and beginning and ending with the flour/cocoa powder. In a small bowl, stir the baking soda into the vinegar, letting it fizz. Immediately add it into the batter.

Using a spoon or scooper, distribute the batter between the cupcake cups. Bake for 17 minutes until firm to the touch, turning the pan halfway through. Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for five minutes, then remove and let cool completely before you frost them.

To make the frosting, use the mixer to beat the cream cheese, four tablespoons butter and confectioners sugar on medium speed for three minutes until light and fluffy. Beat in the white chocolate and remaining teaspoon of vanilla until just combined. Using an offset spatula, frost the cupcakes (there will be plenty of frosting for each.) Sprinkle the red sugar on top to garnish.

That Time I Wrote About Taylor Swift

29 Jul

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I’ve never been a Taylor Swift fan. I have always thought her “girl next door” meets “women scorned” act was tired and spiteful, but about a year ago, it reached a tipping point when she released the song “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” The very name of the song ticked me off. I like to consider myself a feminist, but in Taylor’s world, why was it always the guys fault? So I responded the only way I knew possible: I wrote a column in The Observer.

The best part is, Taylor’s brother attends Notre Dame, so there is a chance he read it — and maybe even passed it along to his sister. If you’re out there, Taylor, I’d love to grab coffee sometime and hear what you think.

“What’s Up With Taylor Swift?”

Taylor Swift, thank you for ruining my senior year.

Just when I thought our midwestern paradise of a campus was safe, the “country” star has reemerged on the quintessential Notre Dame playlist, all thanks to her new single, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.”

Some things in the life of a Notre Dame student are just routine — the North Face and Sperry uniform, Football Saturdays, Finny’s on Wednesdays and dreadful weather. Well, add the latest Taylor Swift track bleating about her “unfortunate” love life being on heavy rotation to the list. It would seem whatever the latest T-Swift jam is, it gives the Notre Dame Victory March a run for its money in terms of plays on campus.

They say lightning never strikes the same place twice. Unfortunately, Taylor Swift never got the memo. Hell hath no fury like a Nashville pixie scorned, apparently.

Taylor’s new song is about — surprise — her frustration with a former flame. Never one to not beat a dead horse, this is familiar territory for Taylor — think “Back to December” or “The Story of Us,” both dealing with the difficult waters following a relationship gone awry.

For the next semester, I know I can count on hearing Taylor’s depressing lyrical story about her ex-boyfriend several times each evening. It’s not so much that I dislike the song, as it is actually quite catchy. But I know this song will be beaten to death, resurrected, and beaten to death all over again, a musical zombie courtesy of the gaggle of Swift-crazed students at this University.

I’ll give it to her, Taylor is nothing if not consistent. Unfortunately, her consistency has infected Notre Dame students, male and female alike, like a pandemic — a Black Plague of griping country-pop music, if you will.

Listen, Taylor, we get it — life is tough when you’re tall, skinny, rich, blonde, famous and have dated a who’s-who of Hollywood hunks. Unfortunately, her message doesn’t really resonate with me, and I’m not so sure why it does with so many students here. I don’t know any fellow classmates who have encountered problems dating a Kennedy or Twilight star, all while shuffling between sellout concerts and award shows.

Even when Swift does focus on the sunny side of life, it always seems to be about boys. I mean, where would she be without “Love Story” or “Our Song”? When it comes to her music, Taylor is like a chameleon who can only alternate between two colors — always about her love life, either singing a sad or happy tune. Show some versatility, girl.

Taylor’s lack of lyrical creativity is frustrating on several levels. First of all, there is no denying the girl is talented. She is gorgeous and has a voice to match. It would be great if she could show some range in what she sings about — family, fun, whatever. I mean, if Rihanna can create a smash hit singing about umbrellas, I think Taylor Swift can come up with something, anything to sing about aside from her dating life. She really is holding herself back, and it’s unfortunate to watch.

But more important and slightly more troubling, Taylor is being quite the hypocrite and a bad influence to boot singing about all this dating nonsense. For someone who supposedly despises the paparazzi and has engaged in legal wrangling with the tabloids, Swift seems awfully eager to air her dirty laundry and hang her exes out to dry.

While it may seem like her music may be therapeutic or empowering, Taylor is publicly painting the men in her life as the scoundrel and herself as the victim. Last time I checked, I haven’t heard Taylor Lautner or Joe Jonas singing about Taylor being a villainess — what gives her the right to do so to them?

Not only is that catty, but it also sets a bad example for her army of young fans, who are receiving the message over and over from Swift to fall in love, then drag their former Prince Charming through the mud once he has served his purpose. This is not quite the message we want from America’s sweetheart.

So Taylor, I just wanted to formally thank you. Just when I thought it was safe to go out at night, your new song came out. If it’s a love story, you probably should just have said no.

Contact Sam Stryker at sstryke1@nd.edu

The views in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Observer. 

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Slave 4 U

26 Jul

Slave 4 U

Today at work the camp at my pool had a visit from several creepy crawlies from the local nature center. I was lucky enough to hold a painted python named Houdini. Naturally, I had to channel my inner Britney Spears. The question is, who wore it better?

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This …

26 Jul

This ...

… my be the most awesome picture ever taken.

The Art of the Selfie

26 Jul

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Ah, selfies. A surefire sign of the millenial generation’s obsession with itself. But as ridiculous as they are, I think I have elevated the selfie to an art form. Take for instance my selfie with Heisman Trophy runner-up and object of national shame, the one and only Manti Te’o. In a span of seconds, I asked Manti to take the picture, threw up some deuces and then uploaded the pic. I couldn’t mess up — I had one shot at it, and I think I nailed it. Below is my column from The Observer on how to take the perfect selfie, a skill I perfected in my semester abroad in Europe.

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“The Art of the Selfie”

I consider myself a selfie connoisseur. What is a selfie, you may ask? Well, I am glad you inquired. A selfie is a picture one takes of oneself. I discovered the art of the selfie in my semester abroad in Europe, and I have been addicted ever since. This is partially due to the fact that there is no one I would rather take a picture of than myself. But when conducted in the right hands, the selfie has its own artistic merits.

In fact, the selfie has caught on in the mainstream. Several weeks ago, The New York Times featured a selfie on its front page of a female member of the armed forces deployed in the Middle East. The Times described the photo as a “self-portrait” (semantics), but they weren’t fooling me — I know a selfie when I see one. And if a selfie is good enough for the front page of The New York Times, it certainly is good enough for me.

Through the blood, sweat and tears of countless selfies I have taken in the past year and a half, I believe I have perfected the technique to take a flawless selfie. Follow these tips, and you too will have mastered the art of the selfie.

Put on a duck face and throw up the deuces

This should be obvious.

Turn that iPhone around

For those of you attempting the perfect selfie with an iPhone, you hopefully have discovered the fact there is a camera on both sides of your phone. Ostensibly, this would create the perfect means for taking a selfie. Not only can you perfectly position the camera, but you can also see the selfie you are going to take before you capture the picture.

But hold your horses and take those metaphorical training wheels off. Knowing what the selfie looks like before you take the picture totally defeats the purpose of the image. Selfies are about living in the moment and taking a chance the picture you are going to take will turn out horrendous. There is no challenge in utilizing the reverse camera mode on your iPhone, and that’s half the fun in taking a selfie. Ideally, this camera setting should be used more like a mirror — checking if your hair is OK, if you have any zits or if there are food in your teeth.

Instead, turn that iPhone around to the regular camera setting. Not only do you get a better resolution and you can use the flash, but you will also challenge yourself personally to hone your selfie-taking skills.

Angles are a girl’s best friend

This maxim actually applies to all photo-taking in general, but the angle at which you capture a selfie is truly critical in how the picture comes out. I’ve found that aiming the camera above you and capturing yourself (and anything around you) at a downward angle is the most effective method for taking a selfie, allowing for maximum irony and a higher profile of any duck-face you may attempt to make. Aiming from above also eliminates the chance of you accidentally having any double chins in the photo.

Shooting from a higher angle, combined with holding the camera as far away from you as possible, can also allow you to capture the maximum amount of people in the background. I believe my personal record for fitting friends into a selfieis a dozen friends. And as you probably know, nothing says true friendship like squeezing as many of your buddies as possible into a selfie.

Background is critical

Yes, taking a selfie means you are the center of attention in the photo you just took. Would you want it any other way? Of course not. But a selfie becomes extra-special when you can include something unique in the background. I have taken selfies with the “Mona Lisa,” people sleeping in the library, the Colosseum in Rome, Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Griffith from “The Today Show” and at the BCS National Championship game, to name a few. All of these selfies are exceptional and unique. Taking selfies is sort of like having kids : you love each of them in their own way, because each is special in their own way.

So, go out ther, and take some selfies!

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Contact Sam Stryker at sstryke1@nd.edu

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