Thursday, March 31, 2011

Risk in Faith

My friend Jesse Struck said something very interesting today when we were having coffee.  "If there weren't risk in faith, it wouldn't be faith."  Currently in the middle of my job search, this statement is ringing truer now than ever before.

I had a few interviews for positions this past week at the ACPA Conference for college professionals.  The positions are in different areas within Student Affairs and in different areas of the country; sometimes areas that I hadn't considered before.  Aside from the conference, I have been applying to positions all over the country over the past few weeks.  I really don't know where I want to end up, to be honest.  So many positions sound exciting and every location I've applied to is of interest to me for different reasons.  I love Pittsburgh, but must be open to the possibility that I will not have the option to stay.

There is certainly risk in making any of these decisions, though.  Going to a new place is a risk because I'd have to start fresh.  Staying put is a risk because I don't know what lies ahead for my life in Pittsburgh.  What I do know is that I must have faith that God will lead me to the right position in the right location at the right time.  Like many other decisions in my life, it is extremely difficult to have this sort of faith, but also extremely calming and reassuring that I believe in a God who has my best interest in mind.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Album Anticipation

A few exciting things happened this week, including receiving invitations for interviews for jobs at CMU (Student Activities position that I mentioned last week) and at Pitt.  The nerves are running wild as I get prepared to interview for two awesome positions, but they may have been outshined by the anticipation I had built for the new album from The Strokes that came out on Tuesday, Angles.  Below you can hear the first killer single, "Under Cover of Darkness".

Technology has changed the way we experience new music.  Albums leak, bands put tracks on their Myspace page, or we can see the bands playing tunes on late night shows, all before the album is released.  This has basically eliminated the anticipation we can feel for buying that album the day it comes out, except for the rare occurrences like Sufjan Stevens and Radiohead who keep their release under wraps until a few days before it happens.

Tuesday I went to The Exchange in Oakland and picked up Angles, paying more than I'd like.  It was worth it, though, with the first uber-80s blast that comes from the album's first track, "Machu Picchu" and the soothing calm that overcame me with the second track, "Under Cover of Darkness".  I had been feeling nostalgic (surprise, surprise) about the days when buying CDs was the way to go and there was no way to hear the album before its release.  I can still remember the day I bought Blindside's About a Burning Fire in 2004.  The explosion in my ears from the opening track, "Eye of the Storm", sent chills of excitement up my spine.

I wanted to recapture this feeling, so I do not plan on listening to any album before its release if I plan to buy that album without hearing it anyway.  I'll allow myself one song, just to get that excitement rolling.  Taking Back Sunday, Death Cab for Cutie, Bon Iver, this means you!  You can hear a track from the new TBS here and a live performance of a new DCFC track here.

Job Search

 In other news...the ACPA Conference is this coming week, so I'll be in Baltimore trying to make some connections for possible job opportunities.  Most importantly this week, I'll begin the interview process for the aforementioned Student Activities job at CMU, which is a top pick at this point.  I'd love the opportunity to stay in Pittsburgh longer and get my feet wet with some students with whom I can easily relate in a position that will be busy and far from monotonous.  My love for college radio and student activities at-large are getting me very excited for this interview!

On the other hand, I do have opportunities elsewhere, including a meeting about a career counseling position at Virginia Tech.  I'm broadening my horizons to see what other cities, schools, and jobs are out there, so pray for me during this process!


Also, did anyone see the Arizona-Duke game last night?  Derrick Williams is a monster.  I am getting stoked for their match-up with Kemba Walker and UConn on Saturday night.  These are the types of players Pitt needs to recruit in order to get to the next level.  UConn is not a better team than Pitt this year, but Kemba Walker is the type of game-changer that Pitt has never had, which is why they're still playing in this tournament.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A post by Donald Miller

It's been a little longer than usual since my last blog, I think, and that's not really going to change yet.  I'm pretty bogged down with applying for jobs, keeping up with school, and trying to relax enough to recharge my battery.

So instead, here's a link to today's post from Donald Miller's blog.  It's a brief, insightful look into a subject I've considered many times: the reality of death.  Like many of my posts about it before, Don talks about the drive death gives him to live life to the fullest.  Check it out and check back soon for a new post!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Friday, March 18, 2011


Nothing much better than a Friday for one of the first beautiful days in this year's edition of Spring, right?  Riding to work was enviable today cruising down Craig Street on my World Sport this morning with the 63 degree air engulfing my frame.  After a winter of trudging 30 minutes in the snow to get to CMU, I cannot think of better weather to take my 12-minute bike ride to work than today.  Here are a few beautiful thoughts on this beautiful Friday:

March Madness, of course!  Today is the second day of the 68-team tournament.  Basketball is my favorite sport and the next three weekends are the most demonstrative displays of human emotion you'll see in sports all year.  The buzzer-beaters, the upsets, the money pools, and the hope that Pitt will finally make that elusive Final Four.  When my job search ends, I know that the first two days of the tournament will be the first vacation days I try to land.  I've worked Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve; not a big deal.  Yesterday and today?  I'd rather be on my couch.  

Finding a killer job.  I have found a lot of really cool jobs during the past week of job searching, but the best one may have been found in a final gasp of applications.  The position is a Coordinator for Student Activities at CMU.  This coordinator will be the adviser for WRCT (CMU radio), cmuTV, the Activities Board, and a few other programs.  Being the staff adviser for CMU's radio station and Activities Board would be a perfect fit for me.  I love engaging students with on-campus activities and I absolutely loved my time at Pitt's radio station, WPTS.  I love music and students who love music, so this position is at the top of my wish list.

Facebook fasting.  Today is Day 9 of the fast and I barely miss Facebook.  It was an enormous waste of time and I've been plenty more productive in my life since the fast started.  The most unexpected effect is that I am valuing my alone time far more than I ever have.  Facebook would fill the white space of my personal time with a gray area of social interaction.  Instead of wasting time on Facebook, I've been applying for jobs, playing music, and enjoying time reading or with friends.

This weather.  Mid-60s and sunny.  Perfect for biking to the Union Grill after work for a Rogue Dead Guy Ale and March Madness with my buddy Jordan.

What are some other beautiful things about this beautiful Friday?


Sunday, March 13, 2011

March Madness

Today is one of the most exciting days of the year for the die-hard college basketball fan: Selection Sunday.  My interest in the NCAA tournament has been exponentially lower over the past few years as my number of night shifts went up, but I'm back on track this season.  I've watched more college basketball in the last 3 days than possible the last 2 or 3 years combined.

In preparing for the march madness pools, I have a handful of trends and suggestions that could be helpful.  I am no expert, believe me, but I have had my fair share of success when my eye was on the college basketball world more in high school and college.  These aren't getting too specific for this year, but instead they're just some thoughts for picking the tournament in general.

Watch out for teams seeded too high.

If you were to look at some of the major upsets over the past ten years, the teams losing have been teams that got a seed they may not have been suited for: Ole Miss losing to Valparaiso, South Carolina losing to Coppin State, and Iowa State losing to Hampton.  This also applies to teams who make a run in the conference tournament and run out of gas.  A prime example of this theory is the 2005-2006 Syracuse team with Gerry McNamara who won 4 games in 4 days to win the Big East Tournament.  They were seeded 5th (too high) and lost to Texas A&M in the first round.  Keep an eye out for the Penn States and Uconn's this year because they may get a seed they may not have deserved.

Pick teams to win sub-regions before you get set on an upset or two...

What I mean by sub-regions are the 4-team pods from the first weekend (like, the 1, 16, 8 and 9 seeds in a given region).  Maybe you really want to look brilliant like you did last year with Cornell and St. Mary's in the Sweet Sixteen, so you're thinking you like a Penn State.  They made a nice run in the Big Ten tournament, showed they could play, so maybe they've got a couple wins in 'em.  Well, maybe their sharp-shooting has one more, but watch out for that second round match-up with a Louisville or Florida.  Chances are that these teams that an 11 or 12 seed will run into are built for long runs and you don't want to knock out a real contender 4 or 5 seed just to look good with a 1-point first round upset.

...but don't be afraid to put a double-digit seed in the Sweet Sixteen.

Since 1996, there has been at least one double-digit seed in the Sweet Sixteen every year, except once (2007).  These lower-achieving top-conference teams (Seton Hall, Georgetown) and high-achieving mid-majors (Butler, Gonzaga) shake things up every year.  Pick the right one and you're a genius.  Pick the wrong one and you may eliminate the national champion dangerously early.

5-12 match-ups (almost) always produce one upset per year.

This is a common truth in the last 10 years.  Almost every year we get a 12-seed knocking off a 5-seed, so look for a good one.  Or two.  Or three, like in 2002 and 2009.  Five-seeds tend to be vulnerable because these seeds tend to be top teams from second-tier conferences (Atlantic 10, Mountain West) or second-tier teams from top conferences (Providence, Alabama, Florida State in past years).  With a weak overall tournament this year, the 5-seeds should be particularly careful with projections of Arizona (young team with no key wins) and Xavier (weak top-seed bowing out in first round of A-10 tournament) standing out.

Your Final Four teams are 8x more important than your first round winners.

In the standard scoring (1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32) the first round upsets get too much attention from casual basketball fans.  Those of us who have been doing tournament pools for a while recognize that you're not done until your champion is out.  So, maybe a bunch of teams get upset in the first round, but you didn't have any of them winning more than a game or two anyways.  This clearly won't matter as much as if you had Villanova in the finals last year and they lost in the second round to St. Mary's (I picked St. Mary's btw!).

Most importantly, you can lose a lot of points in the first few rounds and still win if your Final Four is in tact.  The eight upsets your buddy picked correctly in the first round got wiped out when they picked Pitt in the Final Four in 2009 and you picked Villanova.  Which brings me to my next point...

Pick your favorite teams with your head...

As any good Pitt fan knows, we just can't put them in the Final Four.  Until 2009, we couldn't put them in the Elite Eight and expect results.  We have a blinded view of how good our favorite team is, which makes it hard to be objective.  My strategy tends to be that I'll pick them to lose early so if they win I can be surprised and if they lose I can at least not kick myself for picking them to go further.  But double-check and think, can Pitt's frontcourt really match up with Purdue?  Could they survive another match-up with Louisville?

...but go with your gut.

1-seeds don't always win, so at times you need to go with a feeling about how a team will fare.  I had a feeling about St. Mary's going far last year and Villanova choking, which paid off.  I also had a feeling about Cornell surprising a couple, which also paid off.  This year, I'm not high on Ohio State, so chances are I won't have them in the Final Four.  But college basketball is all about match-ups.  Be smart, but ultimately go with your gut.  You don't want to be sitting around saying "I almost picked Kansas over Memphis" in 2008 because no one cares about "almost".  I also won the lottery, too, but that surely doesn't pay for a new Gibson Les Paul.

Ultimately, you will have your own style.  I haven't won a pool in a while, but I've been in the running for a lot of money over the years, so my style has worked at times.  Do your homework.  Figure out who the hot shooters are and which teams have struggled down the stretch (ahem, Villanova...).  Never count out a Jimmer Fredette (BYU), but keep an eye on teams that lose important players late in the season (BYU).  See what I mean about relying on your gut instead of your head?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Day 3

Today starts Day 3 of the Facebook Fast.  To be honest, I don't miss it.  My absence from the internet while in Boston earlier in the week made it easy to ween myself off of the time-destroyer.  Last night I saw Sleep Experiments at the 31st Street Pub and today I'm having lunch with a friend.  My quest for social interaction is producing immediate results, even though I'd probably do these things anyways.

Yesterday was far more productive as a result of the fast.  Aside from grocery shopping, I was doing tons of job-searching.  Our good friend, Tom Corbett, is trying to eliminate two of my main application-receivers, Pitt and Temple, so I've started to look outside Pennsylvania for jobs a lot more.  Today I'll be putting in applications at UC San Diego and UCLA.  Other schools on the list are Northeastern, Boston University, Drexel, and the University of Washington.

I have developed a short list of cities I'll consider moving to if I can't get a job in Pittsburgh (although I'd prefer to stay in the Steel City).  That list is Boston, Philadelphia, Seattle, Portland, Denver, and various places in California.

Give me some insight!  Which of these cities are best to live in?  What are some cool colleges in these areas?

Boston seems like a great city, especially if I could get a Resident Director job at one of their schools and not have to pay for housing.  I walked all over Beacon Hill and into Downtown on Monday night.  The city is very walkable and bikeable, depending on where you're going.  But that's most places, right?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Facebook Fasting

I'm giving up Facebook for Lent.  That means on Wednesday I'm letting a friend change my password and de-activate my account so I cannot use it for 40 days.  You won't be able to contact me using it, either!  This could be suicide for my blog because I know so many of you find the link in my Facebook statuses, so I'd love to ask you to bookmark the page or follow me on Twitter (oh_hey_jake) to make sure you keep reading new posts while I'm "gone".

So why do it?  Well, I think you know the answer to that question.  We all waste so much time using Facebook.  It's become a habit or, worse, an addiction.  When I'm typing a paper I'll click over to it every few minutes to see what's changed.  The issue is, though, that nothing important has happened!  Rarely do I click over and see something that is life-changing and/or not something I would have encountered without Facebook.  I read about so-and-so getting a new job or what's-her-name getting engaged or that-one-guy complaining about something-or-other.  None of this is consequential to my life and I fear that I am also posting the same inconsequential material about my own life.

As I've discussed in previous posts, social networking has changed the way we interact with people.  I need to re-center my interactions, remove myself from the computer, and remember what it's like to have real, important, genuine relationships with people.  I do not believe that I am having ingenuine relationships at the moment, but I feel that they can get better.

Instead of writing on someone's wall, I should get a beer with them.
Instead of shooting someone a Facebook message, I should pick up the phone and call.
Instead of "liking" their comments, I should go visit them and see what other comments they have.
Instead of "friending" a nice young lady that I think is cool, I should just ask her out to lunch.

I don't think I've used Facebook incorrectly, but I think I can do better.

I look forward to this sacrifice.  It will be a way to divert my wasted time back to my schoolwork during the home stretch, but more importantly it will be a way to reset the way I look at interactions.  If you want to get a hold of me, give me a call or send me an email.  I'll be back, but with a new way of looking at my relationships with people.  You should do it, too!