One Year Later

I graduated a year ago today.

My life then: listening to lectures, gabbing with friends in dorm rooms, attending Masses at Gesu, writing term papers on convoluted concepts, some of which I’m still struggling to grasp.  I had hot cookies on Mondays, $5 pizzas at Papa John’s on Tuesdays, Friday night dinners with my aunt and uncle and chicken nuggets or mac ‘n cheese or whatever other dining hall delicacies were available on the days in between. It was four years of Grey’s Anatomy binge sessions, highlighter-covered hands, crappy apartment couches and shivering, snowy walks to Johnston Hall.

That life came with an expiration date: May 22, 2016.

The crappy couch and mac ‘n cheese, they’re still there, dominating my everyday life. So, too, are my trusty highlighters, which I use to review financial budgets and lawsuits and whatever other documents I’m sifting through for my story of the day. But the other stuff, it’s been replaced with palm trees and school board meetings and a helluva lotta humidity for a person with my type of hair to have to handle.

I’m halfway across the country writing for a newspaper I hadn’t heard of 15 months before. I’m living in a house on Hilton Head Island with two other reporters. I’m a 15-minute bike ride to the beach. Five days a week, I cross the bridge and, if I time my commute just right, am graced with the sunrise over the Lowcountry.


Courtesy @mandy_matney

I’ve had some cool assignments for my job. Trying to hold a state agency accountable for a statute that went into effect following a state-of-emergency declaration. Writing about cute kids at a Christmas Pageant. Interviewing a military man who, up until months before 9/11, was working in the Pentagon building. Covering when The Bachelorette came to film an episode on the island. And, my most exciting career opportunity thus far, covering the before-during-and-after of Hurricane Matthew, the largest natural disaster to hit Hilton Head since Hugo roared through in 1989.

But let’s not romanticize post-grad life.

I have found my job much more challenging than the one I pictured in my mind. The journalism in my head — the ideas of sitting at a coffee shop talking with sources about crime and death and the meaning of life, of writing big exposes that led to changes in state laws, of getting calls from readers praising the prose I penned — has been replaced with the daily grind of reality where incessant emails clutter my inbox, where every day seems like a fight with FOIA officers, where each story seems to be a struggle in distilling nuanced cases into themes without making sweeping overgeneralizations. I have changed no state laws. I have received approximately two “Loved your Sunday story!” emails. In fact, a reader said in response to one of my stories that “This is why we are seeing the end of print journalism in the world. Good thing there will always be barista jobs.” I squirm in my office chair because I feel like a fraud in my grown-up clothes, interviewing people who have been at their job for at least 12 years while I have yet to hit the 12-month mark.

I was reading through a bunch of commencement speech quotes online today when I really should have been editing my story about the school district’s culture of critics. I came across one that really resonated. It’s from a speech Ariana Huffington from the Huffington Post delivered to Vassar College grads:

“We have, if we’re lucky, about 30,000 days to play the game of life. And trust me, that’s not morbid. In fact, it’s wisdom that will put all the inevitable failures and rejections and disappointments and heartbreaks into perspective.

Office6In the past 365 days, there’s been a lot of mistakes and disappointments. I plowed my car into a tree. I’ve pitched a lot of dumb ideas. I’ve lost a newsroom friend to industry cutbacks. I’ve missed deadlines. I call friends and family back home in desperate doubt that the decision I made, the one to move halfway across the country, was somehow right, at least for now.

This time in our lives is trying and messy. We sit in our office cubicles or teach or decide to go to grad school, all the while wondering, searching, for any sort of validation that we’ve picked the right path. And the grown-ups tell us to calm down. God, I hate that. “Everything will work itself out,” I’ve been told. I want to see the bigger picture, to be assured that all of this worrying and work will lead somewhere. We don’t yet have children or spouses or secure jobs or whatever it is that will make us feel like we’re living with some sort of legitimacy. I mean, I don’t even know if I want those things, but I want something. 

What I struggle with most in this new life is the lack of an expiration date. For the rest of my life, there is no more May 22 telling me it’s time to move on. It’s almost like I have to come up with my own arbitrary expiration date. It’s just me and my highlighter-covered hands to make something of it.


50 BOOKS IN 52 WEEKS (#41-50)

I did it! I read 50 books in 2016. According to my Goodreads account, that’s more than 17,000 pages. When I factor in all of the books I started and stopped halfway through because they were terrible, I’d bet the page count is closer to 20,000.


Here’s the last 10 I read from Oct. 24 through Dec. 31:

41. The Gatekeepers: Inside the Admissions Process of a Premier College by Jacques Steinberg

OK, I read this my junior year of high school for a required reading assignment, but had forgotten pretty much everything. Also, it’s amazing to re-read college admissions related books after having gone through the admissions process, college experience and graduation. It made me realize how I wrote my own essays in a way I thought college admissions officers wanted even after I read this book that encouraged students to be more honest and direct in their aspirations.

42. Hungry Heart: Adventures in Life, Love and Writing by Jennifer Weiner

Found Weiner’s memoir on how she went from awkward child to rookie reporter/part-time writer. An  inspiring read about a woman who vowed to publish her first book by age 30 — and missed the deadline by a couple of weeks.

43. Laura Bush: An Intimate Portrait of a First Lady by Ronald Kessler

After reading American Wife, a fictional account of a character loosely based on Laura Bush, I knew I wanted to read a biography of Bush to compare. There were quite a few similarities — Sittenfeld had clearly done her research — but I found the biased slant of Kessler’s ideology to sour the reading experience. If you want to learn more about her, try a different Bush biography because this one was a disappointment.

44. Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America by Barbara Ehrenreich

Waiting tables in Key West. Cleaning homes in Maine. Working at a Minnesota Wal-Mart. A journalist goes undercover and works minimum wage jobs at three places across the country to see if a “living” wage is really liveable. The book was written in the ’90s, so the takeaways were a bit dated, but a fun read nonetheless.

45. William and Kate: A Royal Love Story by Christopher Andersen

I’ve always fancied this royal couple, so I enjoyed little tidbits from this biography, but as was my issue with the Bush biography, I found the author’s bias overwhelming. (I guess that’s the journalist in me trying to remain somewhat objective!) I might try another Will and/or Kate biography because I enjoyed the subject matter, but could do without Andersen’s writing.

46. Betrayal: The Crisis in the Catholic Church by The Boston Globe staff

A roundup of some of the amazing reporting done by the Globe’s Spotlight team. Reading it made me sick as it was much more detailed than the movies. Also, one of those weird situations where I enjoyed the movie more than the book. That’s probably because the movie highlighted journalist’s real lives and the struggles in the reporting process. The book was the reporting they did.

47. The Price of Admission: How America’s Ruling Class Buys Its Way into Elite Colleges — and Who Gets Left Outside the Gates by Daniel Golden

I stumbled upon this book after reading a post-election Propublica article by Golden addressing Jared Kushner’s acceptance to Harv`ard despite his lackluster grades, especially in comparison to some less affluent boarding school classmates that were turned away. In his story, he referenced his book that details how the rich and famous finagle their way into top colleges. Great read for anyone who wants to get their blood boiling a bit.

48. Who Do You Love by Jennifer Weiner

I’ve tried some of her other books and found them to be too light and fluffy, but I actually enjoyed this one about a couple that meets at eight years old in a Florida hospital and life keeps bringing them back together.

49. The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

This thriller got rave reviews. People called it the 2016 version of Gone Girl. Well, still haven’t read that one, so I can’t attest to whether it as up to that standard, but I will say I wasn’t impressed. Poor quality writing and too many characters made it difficult to wade through the mystery of a woman thrown overboard a Scandinavian cruise ship.

50. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Can you believe I almost went all of 2016 without reading any “classics”? Full disclosure: I Sparknoted most of the classics I was assigned to read in high school. For some reason, I can’t read when I’m assigned to read because I overanalyze dialogue and mistake insignificant details for symbolism. I can’t enjoy books when I’ve got essays to write about them. So, I figured I’d try a work I would’ve bypassed in high school now that there’s no pressure to produce an A. Still didn’t enjoy it. Maybe it’s the buildup of reading a classic and trying to take away some grand meaning. Maybe because it was my last book of the year and I was trying to power through it while on vacation with family. Whatever the reason, I didn’t love Bradbury’s beloved bestseller…but I also didn’t hate it. Baby steps, people.

So, 50 books –  check. If I had to winnow down my selections, here’d be my six recommendations in order, from left to right, from most favorite to, well, sixth most favorite:


Now, onto 2017. I’m challenging myself a smidge more — to 52 books in 52 weeks.

50 Books in 52 Weeks (#31-40)

I can’t believe I might actually follow through on this New Year’s Resolution! Keeping up during college was a lot easier than now with a full-time job, but I’ve found ways to finish about a book a week by always reading during breakfast. I only get through about 20 pages, but that’s about 100 pages in a week. Sometimes I’ll read during lunch or before bed, but I do most of my reading on the weekends. I’ve come to enjoy laying out by my neighborhood pool, book in hand, now that it’s not 110 degrees. (I still have to jump in every 20 minutes or so to cool off, but then it’s right back to my book.)

Here’s what I read during August and September:

31. Commencement by J. Courtney Sullivan

I don’t think this book was in any way groundbreaking. There’s quite a few stories out there about a group of girls struggling to stay in touch after college graduation, but this one came at the right time for me as I was finishing up my summer and coming to terms with not going back to Marquette.

32. The Singles Game by Lauren Weiseberger

Love fiction books about tennis! It was a quick, indulgent read that I’d probably never pick up again, but glad I did the first time around.

33. Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan

I picked this up because I was so impressed with her other book earlier, but this one wasn’t as great. I thought it would be centered around all of the women in this family and the time they spend at their lake house in Maine. It sort of was, but felt drawn out and not as satisfying as Commencement.

34. Telling True Stories: A Non-Fiction Writer’s Guide by Mark Kramer

Wouldn’t recommend this to anyone except journalists, but if you do fall into that category, it’s worth the read. Lots of pointers about interviewing, organization and how to find those little details that transform a story.

35. Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

This one’s gotten a LOT of buzz, and I think rightfully so. It’s a thriller, which I’m not always a huge fan of, but Hawley’s plot about a private plane that was flying from Martha’s Vineyard to NYC crashing kept me turning the pages.

36. Firehouse by David Halberstam 

This super-short non-fiction book describes the 13 firefighters at one of the NYC firehouses. Of the 13, 12 died on 9/11. I read this on the 15th anniversary of 9/11, so it meant a lot more to me than if I’d read it in, say, February. I loved how Halberstam wrote more about their lives and their careers than about that day. Learned a lot about how firehouses operate. For example, lieutenants, the highest ranking guys at the house, are the first ones into the fire and the last ones out. They don’t have some cush sense of hierarchy like a lot of other public agencies.

37. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion 

If you like the TV show The Big Bang Theory, this book reminded me a lot of the nerdy characters. Simsion writes about this socially inept Australian professor and his friend who try to track down her biological father. Interesting plot, but Simsion’s writing isn’t believable. I couldn’t place myself into any of the character’s shoes and the ending was one of those where you’re asking the author, Really?

38. The Gilded Years by Karin Tanabe

I’m not usually a huge fan of historical memoir, but this one was fantastic. Set at Vassar College in the 1890’s, The Gilded Years describes Anita Hemmings’s senior year of college. She was the first African-American woman to graduate from Vassar by hiding her race (she had light enough skin to pass as white). I remember learning about the Gilded Age for AP US History, learning about the greenback movement and thinking, “My God, am I gla I wasn’t born during this dud of an era.” Not the case anymore. Highly recommend this one!

39. American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld

OK, so I read this book before, probably back in 2012 or 2013, but I’m counting it because it was 522 pages. It was even better the second time around. I think I’m going to go so far and say that it’s my number one favorite book. It’s just. that. good. Having three-fourths of the pages set in Wisconsin doesn’t hurt, either!

40. The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close

This one got good reviews, but I’m still sort of scratching my head because it was a letdown. The plot sounded enticing, two couples living in DC and working in the White House, but the writing just felt elementary. And I couldn’t care about any of the four main characters. It made me realize how important it is for authors to have sympathetic protagonists.

Read about #1-10, #11-20, #21-30.

50 Books in 52 Weeks (#21-30)

21. How I Got Skinny, Famous and Fell Madly in Love by Ken Baker

Quick read about an overweight girl who signs up for a weight loss reality show. I picked it up because it sounded like an interesting story line, but all of the secondary characters were completely two-dimensional and the ending was AWFUL. One of the worst I’ve read in a while. My first one-star rating on Goodreads.

22. MFA vs NYC: The Two Cultures of American Fiction by Chad Harbach

Reading Stephen King’s story on how to write really got me interested in the entire writing culture, of which Harbach identifies two routes to publication, both that come with their own challenges. His book was really an anthology of short chapters written by accomplished writers and publicists. Good insight for any aspiring writers.

23. One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

I LOVED Me Before You but was disappointed by Moyes’ sequel, After You. I wanted to believe that it was just a fluke, that she set herself up to fail because some stories aren’t meant to be extended. But I was also underwhelmed by this novel, which means I’ll probably hold off any Moyes books for awhile.

24. The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger

I’ve seen the movie at least five times, but never got around to reading the book. I don’t know which I liked better. Both were good, but both were different from each other (for example, in the book, Andy is sort of friends with the other assistant). I prefer Miranda Priestly in the movie (Meryl Streep is phenomenal!) but the book includes lots of little details the film cannot.

25. I Just Graduated … Now What? Honest Answers from Those Who Have Been There by Katherine Schwarzenegger

In one of the many moments of What am I doing with my life? since I moved here, my roommate had this book sitting on her shelf and I decided to give it a go. It was a collection of essays from famous people who struggled through the first few post-college years and now are super successful. Not as comforting as I would have liked. Learned very little since each person’s advice contradicted the others’.

26. Salem Falls by Jodi Picoult

I think I’ve read this Picoult book before, but it’s been years, so it felt like I was re-reading it. Does that count for my book goal? I won’t make it a habit, I promise, but I’ve always been a big fan of her books.

27. The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food  by Jennifer 8. Lee

Lee writes: “Our benchmark for Americanness is apple pie, but ask yourself: How often do you eat apple pie? How often do you eat Chinese food?” She spends the next, oh, four hundred pages finding out.

28. Where They Found Her by Kimberly McCreight

I had high, high hopes for this one. One of my top 10 favorite books of all-time is another McCreight book, Finding Amelia. This paled in comparison. It had a good set-up: a murer-mystery and a small-town reporter trying to figure it out. But the three different points of view got too confusing. And not enough backstory was provided. I rated it 2/5 stars.

29. The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty by Vendela Vida

I’m pretty sure this is the first book I’ve read that’s set in second person. I found it interesting, but also exasperating because you want to know more about the character you’re reading, but you can’t really because it’s about you. The plot was interesting — a Florida woman travels to Morocco where her passport and credit cards are stolen, so she has no poof of her identity. (She obviously didn’t take the US State Department’s advice and make several copies of all of her proofs of identification). She senses the hotel and police department are in on the theft, so she assumes several different identities on her trip. Super quick read, like 200 pages, but nothing I will remember or want to re-read.

30. Evicted by Matthew Desmond

A sociologist follows eight families through Milwaukee for a year chronicling how eviction impacts every aspect of their lives. Loved his detail of the city (it made me want to go back so badly!) and how he wove research into the narrative.  Anyone who cares anything about urban policy should read this book because it brought attention to issues that I didn’t even know were policy issues.


50 Books in 52 Weeks (#11-20)

Read about my first ten books here.

11. The Wrong Side of Right by Jenn Marie Thorne

Probably my least favorite book of the ones I’ve read in 2016, this novel was a little below my reading level. Thorne said she wanted to explore political campaigning through a child’s eyes, so she crafted a story about a high school girl whose mother died a year before and she finds out her father is a senator campaigning for president. It was an easy read with an interesting (albeit completely unrealistic) plot.

12. Paris in Love: A Memoir by Eloisa James

James’s memoir was beautifully written in short snippets that were easy to digest. A Shakespeare professor, she took a yearlong sabbatical and uproots her entire family to live in Paris for the year. I especially enjoyed reading about her two children, a 16-year old boy and an 11-year old girl as they navigate through normal adolescent struggles in a different language and culture. The only thing I didn’t like about this selection: it made me want to go back to Paris, something I probably won’t be able to do for at least the next decade!

13. The Eve of Destruction: How 1965 Transformed America by James T. Patterson

Another mandatory reading for my history course. This book was chock FULL of facts, almost too much, in my opinion. It was written by a history professor at an Ivy League and made me realize I much prefer books by journalists who write nonfiction in a more readable, narrative style. I know more about the year 1965 than I thought I would ever know.

14. After You by Jojo Moyes

After I finished (and bawled) my way through Me Before You, I knew I had to read the sequel, After You. But, like most sequels, it just wasn’t that good. It lacked the punch of the first and I found myself missing one of the main characters (who, *spoiler,* dies at the end of the first book). Sometimes it really is best to just leave it at that first book.

15. The Swiss Affair by Emylia Hall

I didn’t love the plot because it was just a bit far-fetched (a college girl form England spends a year studying abroad, meets a friend who gets murdered three months later and later has an affair with one of her professors who is mysteriously linked to the murder). But it’s set in Switzerland! Hall’s descriptions reminded me so much of my short stay there and had me dying to go back.

16. The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

I actually hate baseball, and this novel is filled with it, but I still enjoyed Harbach’s story. What drew me to commit to this 500-pager is that it’s set in a fictional college town located on the shores of Lake Michigan. I love, love, love books set in my home state. The Wisconsin references, the character development, the dazzling prose make it well worth the investment of this brick of a book.

17. On Writing by Stephen King

I’ve never read one of King’s novels (I actually don’t think I’ve ever read a horror novel), but decided to give this loan from my aunt a go.  I was surprised by the quick pace of this how-to. I’ve never been a fan of books that tell me how to do something; I’d much prefer a story with the how-to symbolically embedded in the prose. But King states up front this same position. Since devouring it in a couple of days, I find myself reading other books differently, more through Kings’ lens. Get on with the story, I’ll tell the author just as King instructed. Good details and descriptions cannot compensate for a poor story. Of the 10 books I read in this batch, I was most influenced by this one. It’s a book everyone, not just aspiring writers, but everyone should read.

18. Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Reid’s story has been told time and time again — a woman trying to figure out what man she should end up with. But she formats the story into two separate ones following the protagonist through two completely different scenarios hinging on a decision made one night. In one scenario, she chooses to hang out with a friend. In the other, she chooses to spend time with a former flame. The alternating storylines made for a quick read because as one story got a little dry, the others’ intensity picked right up.

19. Unanswered Cries: A True Story of Friends, Neighbors and Murder in a Small Town by Thomas French

If I had to pick just one journalist to have dinner with, it’d be Tom French. He’s actually a journalism professor now at Indiana University, but worked for decades at the Tampa Bay Times, one of the country’s greatest regional newspapers. French casually wrote this book in the middle of his career. Its premise sounds pretty ordinary, a woman in her thirties murdered in her Florida home, but French explains why this matters. I’m not a huge fan of murder mysteries, but this is one worth picking up.

20. The Opposite of Me by Sarah Pekkanen

I’ve always been fascinated by twins and this book delves into that topic. I don’t think the quality of writing was that strong. You know when an author writes something so good, so profound, that you quite literally have to put your book down and think about the words he or she just put on the page? Never happened with this read, a forgettable chick lit book, but still an interesting story that attempt to untangle the twin dynamics of jealousy and envy.

In other reading-related news, I started a GoodReads account, which allows me to electronically track the books I’ve read and the ones I want to read. I spent a good couple of hours procrastinating on final papers during one of my last weeks of school and imported my entire reading list Google doc onto my GoodReads account (more than 170 titles)! The website’s cool because, after reading a book, you can rate it out of five stars and an algorithm spits out reading recommendations based on your ratings. It also helps me better visualize how much progress I’ve made on my New Year’s resolution.

{Photography Class} Final Project

As my time at Marquette comes to a close, I have found myself prematurely missing not only campus, but also Milwaukee. In In particular, Wisconsin Ave. has become as
much of my home street as the small road where my childhood home sits. For this photo series, I decided to photograph some of the buildings I often pass on my walks throughout the city.

The series is chronological, beginning on campus where I started in the fall of 2012. I spent most of my freshman year on campus, but as time passed, I ventured beyond
11th St. Viewers will follow my metaphorical journey and walk eastward down
Wisconsin Ave. until they arrive at the Milwaukee Art Museum and Lake Michigan, marking the unofficial end of Wisconsin Ave.

The title for this photo series is “Walking Down Wisconsin”

The tulips are in full bloom at Marquette University on May 5, 2016.

1542 W. Wisconsin Ave. The tulips are in full bloom near the arched entrance to Marquette University.


1145 W. Wisconsin Ave. The blooming crab trees near Cobeen Hall, my freshman dorm, frame Gesu Church and Marquette Hall.

The entrance to Johnston Hall is backlit by sunshine outside on May 5, 2016.

1131 W. Wisconsin Ave. Johnston Hall, home to the journalism school, is where I’ve spent most of my college career.

The garbage can on May 5. 2016 near the Milwaukee River is intricately carved.

735 W. Wisconsin Ave. An intricately carved trash can near the Milwaukee River.


424 W. Wisconsin Ave. The entrance to the Pfister in Milwaukee, Wisconsin taken at a different angle to highlight how the hotel’s entrance and awning is suspended from the building.


517 E. Wisconsin Ave. A taxi waits at a stop light near the federal courthouse.


(700 N. Art Museum Drive) Two couples stand in the Windhover Hall of the Milwaukee Art Museum  taking in the view of Lake Michigan. Wisconsin Ave. (basically) ends here.


At the curve where Wisconsin Ave. turns into prospect — Downtown construction is ongoing and the cranes intersect with Milwaukee iconic orange sculpture that bookends the east end of Wisconsin Ave.

Originally, I had the art museum shot as my end image to the series. However, I decided to take viewers down to the end of the street, through the art museum and then back onto Wisconsin Ave., but looking down the street we just walked. I find it fitting that Wisconsin Ave. does not technically end. It simply curves into Prospect Ave. As my time in Wisconsin ends (at least for a while), new prospects are quite literally around the corner and I can look ahead to the next street — er, stage — of my life.


{Photography Class} Documentary

The most recent assignment in my photojournalism class was to demonstrate our knowledge of the documentary style of photography. This form is most similar to journalism, which is why I think I enjoyed this assignment the most. We had to cover an event or environment and make sure our photos placed a person where we were. This means I had to have a wide, establishing shot, some medium shots and close, detail shots.

My instructor gave our class almost two weeks for this assignment because we were turning in 3-5 photos instead of our typical two. I struggled with finding a worthy subject until I came across a poster in the student union. A sorority on campus was hosting a charity walk to raise money for their philanthropy, the Milwaukee Women’s Shelter. But this wasn’t any ordinary walk. Male students are encouraged to pay for a $7 ticket and walk a mile in high heels (shoes provided by sorority) around Marquette’s campus.

The event wasn’t what most sororities do — selling doughnuts or other artery-clogging baked goods — for some charity in which they have no ties.I loved how the fundraiser directly related to their cause, so it wasn’t just moeny being raised, but also awareness.

Some of the shots that didn’t make it into the final package:

And the winners (I went with six, even though it called for 3-5):

Check out one of the guy’s faces in the shot where the guys are putting on their heels for the first time. His face kills me!

If I were to ever make a career as a photographer, I’d  get into the documentary style, but I’d still probably end up homeless. Still, I enjoyed covering the event. I felt most in my element not staging people, but just blending into the background and capturing people in their natural habitats. Well, as natural as a pair of heels was for the guys that day…

Weekend Reading

50 years in a cab: A long, winding trip for one driver, and his city | New York Times

“Despite not using a GPS device, he said he could find any address in the city, from the historic center — a warren of one-way streets one must navigate to get near the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain or the Spanish Steps — to the outlying areas.

“I can bet you a coffee I’ll know where any street is,” he said.

He also said he thought traffic in Rome had actually improved. Years ago, he said, there were fewer roads, so drivers stuck to known routes, clogging main arteries. For example, there was no highway linking the city to Fiumicino Airport, which is on the coast between Fregene and Ostia, two popular beach spots.

“If you can get through the first 15 years without getting really angry, you can do it forever,” Mr. Tomassi said. “I just take things as they come.””

This feature of a Roman cabdriver made me long for the Eternal City. Lighthearted, quick read for any Italophile.

4 men with 4 very different incomes open up about the lives they can afford | Esquire

I’m not going to share a snippet from this because it’s just a Q&A with four men. One is a millionaire, another in the upper class making $250,000, a third who makes around $50,000 and the last guy who sits at the poverty line. It’s a fascinating read about saving, spending and the relativeness of happiness.

Netflix and Ch-Ch-Chilly | Backchannel

“I love meeting people in New York who say they grew up in a small town. “Oh yeah?” I always ask. “Where?”

Inevitably, their answer is someplace like Syracuse or Fresno or a suburb of Miami. When I tell them that I grew up in rural North Dakota, their eyes light up. With uncanny precision, their next words are one of these three statements:

A) “I have never met anyone from North Dakota.”
B) “North Dakota is the only state I have never visited.”
C) “My parents dragged me to North Dakota to see Mount Rushmore.”

When they answer C, which is not uncommon, I have to correct them. “Actually, that’s South Dakota.” Sometimes they contest my geographic knowledge, which is fun.

“I’m preeeety sure,” I say.

I tell them that North Dakota has the lowest tourism rate in the country. There aren’t many reasons to visit.

Usually the conversation wraps up quickly. “Well, now I know someone from North Dakota.”

Yep, now you do.”

The description for this long read is: How have decades of mass media and technology changed us? A writer returns to his remote hometown – once isolated, now connected – and finds unexpected answers.

Journalist, 9, responds to critics and becomes a media star | New York Times

Mr. Lysiak, a former crime reporter for The Daily News, said that his daughter was exposed to journalism through his work and that she was “obsessed” with reporting on vandalism in her neighborhood. In turn, she developed grass-roots sources in the area and gained people’s trust — which is how she got the scoop about the death on Ninth Street.

A delightful story of a 9-year-old girl who runs her own monthly newspaper, The Orange Street News. After covering a homicide and, like any good reporter does, sharing the story via social media, comments and criticism poured in. Many asked if a girl her age should be covering something this severe. Others went so far as to suggest she play with dolls. She posted a video reaction — can you guess how it went? — and then was off, in pursuit of her next big story.

I enjoyed a lovely weekend at home. The sun was shining, the magnolia trees blooming and town already packed with tourists. Ordinary activities — grocery shopping at Woodman’s, cooking breakfast, watching television and sample-hopping at Costco — are so much more enjoyable with family at your side. My dad and I popped in a few model homes as part of the free spring-version of Parade of Homes (no photos this time around, though). And it wouldn’t be a great weekend without a stop at Kopp’s for custard.

Only two weeks of college classes left. HOW did that happen? Off to work on my last two 10-page papers…

Weekend Reading

*I meant to post this last weekend, but forgot to, so some of the articles (NCAA tournament, Brewers opening day are a little dated). My apologies!

Confessions of a racing sausage |

“See, for three years, starting in high school and ending my sophomore year of college, I was a proud member of the Milwaukee Brewers Brew Crew. The job mostly entails doing odd jobs of various levels of boredom around the stadium. But the main draw of the gig – other than getting essentially paid to go to games – was, every so often, getting to compete in the sixth inning Klements sausage race.

It’s the ultimate fun factoid to bust out during icebreakers, and it always results in a pile of questions from Brewers fans (or merely fans of racing meat products).”

In honor of Opening Day at Miller Park earlier this week, I thought it’d be appropriate to share this tell-all about the Milwaukee Brewers sausage race answer. Most surprising finding: the races aren’t rigged!

Why I’m moving to the place I called ‘America’s worst place to live’ | Washington Post

“If you live in a major metro area, you’ve probably had the experience of driving through the country on the way to the beach, or to visit relatives in other states, wondering, “what do these people do for a living out here?”

Many people I’ve discussed the move with tell me how it sounds like a lot of fun, but they can’t imagine living without all the amenities of a city — the culture, the restaurants, the general bustle and abundance of things to do. But with a 15-hour commute, these things have generally been an abstraction to me — activities other people did that I didn’t have time for.”

This WashPo data reporter wrote a story last year about the best and worst places to live, but got a lot of flack for his snarky assessment of a northern Minnesota county. Tired of long commutes, he is moving his family there after realizing how nice it is. Crazy story!

Before Kris Jenkins’s shot, there was Ryan Arcidiacono’s pass | New York Times

“On Monday night came the moment when Arcidiacono could finally live his dream of being the hero of a big game. With a real championship on the line against North Carolina, with 4.7 seconds left on the clock and the game tied at 74, he had the ball and headed toward the basket. He dribbled up the court thinking, “I’m going to shoot this!”

Then, he took the ball – and passed it?

“Nope, you don’t ever dream about making the pass,” he said.

That single flick of the ball set up one of the most stunning moments in N.C.A.A. tournament history.

I only watched the last six minutes of the NCAA championship game, but so glad I did because this game was INSANE. I was really rooting for Villanova because a lot of people said at the beginning of basketball season that the Big East Conference (Marquette’s conference) is just mediocre. Well…

This article delved into the selflessness of Arcidiacono’s pass and how Nova played as a team. The plan, formulated in the huddle with just 4.7 seconds left on the clock, was for Arcidiacono to take the last shot — and then Jenkins got open. It’s a split-second decision  — make the pass or take the glory — and Arcidiacono decided on the latter. It paid off.

Time off the bench: the social lives of Supreme Court justices | Washington Post

“The reality is that most people outside Washington are hard-pressed to name all the justices, much less recognize them without their robes. Kennedy was once stopped on the steps in front of the Supreme Court building by tourists who handed him a camera and giddily asked him to take their picture — without ever recognizing their ad hoc photographer.

You can’t talk about a case or an issue that might come before the court. You talk about life — kids, music, movies — the things normal people talk

Before they joined the court, the justices functioned under the radar, not really known by the general public. Then suddenly, they’re at the top of Washington’s social elite.”

Interesting insight into how reserved judges are thrown into the spotlight when they are appointed to the Supreme Court.

Will you sprint, stroll or stumble into a career? | New York Times

“Sprinters start fast right out of the gate. They pick a major early on and stick with it, enabling a progression of internships that look more and more impressive with each year. Some have the perfect job lined up on graduation; others are laserlike in their focus, moving from job to job up the career ladder. They have little or no student-loan debt, freeing them to pick job opportunities without regard to pay.

She became a Wanderer, part of the contingent of young adults who are largely treading water in the years after graduation. Most, eventually, go on to get a Master’s.

Many Stragglers struggle to find viable options after high school. And if they go to college, most of them struggle to finish, or don’t at all.”

This story outlines the three types of college graduates: sprinters, wanderers and stragglers. It describes that it’s not just personality traits that place people into particular categories, but many other factors outside of students’ control. The amount of debt, the general direction of the economy and geographic location all play a part in college gradautes’ trajectories.

I also loved the lede for this story — an extended anecdote about a Williams College graduate unsure of what to pursue who considers grad school and lives abroad for a while. It sounds like a lot of people I know. And yet, this example dates back to the 1800s.

I’m trying to get a bunch of work done on my end-of-the-semester projects this weekend to save myself a little sanity come mid-May, so I’ll be holed up in the library for most of today and tomorrow evening.

But tomorrow afternoon, I’m headed down to my hometown to take two of my friends around. We visited one of their hometowns last weekend and wanted to squeeze in each of ours before graduation. We had first come up with this idea first semester of freshman year, so it’s cool that it’s finally happening (albeit, a month before graduation). Hoping the lake is thawed and the skies are blue tomorrow!

{Photography Class} Lighting

Another week, another mediocre photography assignment. This week’s topic: lightning. I learned about the three types of light:

  • Back lighting: commonly used for silhouettes at sunrise and sunset
  • Side lighting: when the light hits only one side of someone’s face
  • Front lighting: when the light hits someone from the front (and the person can end up squinting)

I threw my photos together the day before the assignment was due by walking around campus and heading downtown to the Milwaukee art Museum. While there, a woman came up to me and offered me two free admissions. She said she was a volunteer there and received free passes every so often, then she went on to describe this exhibit that’d be perfect for shooting lighting photos. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough time to make my way through the museum, so I’ll save the passes for another day.

The two that made the cut:

The difficult thing about this particular assignment was selecting photos that demonstrated my understanding of the concepts to my professor. Every photo has some form of light, so I had to select ones that showed I wasn’t just snapping a photo, but experimenting with the different styles.