Women’s gymnastics, a history lesson (And being haunted by the story of Elena Mukhina)

Two weekends ago I got sucked into watching women’s gymnastics videos on Youtube. I do this occasionally, but that weekend it was really bad. I spent hours watching videos. I have never taken gymnastics classes or lessons and I have absolutely no expertise in the sport. But I find it utterly fascinating, more than any other sport. I guess it’s the mix of talent, athleticism, but also emotions. 

In the process I learned about Věra Čáslavská the Czech gymnast that dominated in the 1960’s. I really like what her floor exercise looks like. The 1960’s had some really good looking routines. It was before gymnasts starting adding dangerous moves with lots of flips, so the routines just look impressive but not insane. I like this floor routine a lot:

You can watch her other routines as well, they are all good and highly entertaining. She makes the sport look really fun. 

Olga Korbut is a Russian gymnast who won floor and balance beam gold medal in the 1972 Olympics. But I think she was especially amazing on uneven bars. The Korbut flip is her famous move (and now banned on uneven bars.) Check out her Korbut flip at the 1972 Olympics. It happens right after she stands up on the top uneven bar:

 

I also learned about Elena Mukhina, the world champion in 1978. She was a promising champion Russian gymnast at a time right after Romania’s Nadia Comaneci scored a perfect 10 at the 1976 Olympics. Russia, typically an women’s gymnastics powerhouse, was determined to have an all-around gymnast victory in the 1980 Olympics. Mukhina was one of their promising stars.

The compilation video of her all-around championship routines from the 1978 Worlds is impressive. You may notice on her uneven bar routine she does the Korbut flip with a twist added to it. 

 

But her story after this is extremely tragic. She broke her leg in 1979 and was not able to fully recover from the injury before training for the 1980 Olympics. She was also pressured to learn extremely difficult tumbling moves like the Thomas Salto, which typically had only been done by men (who are able to gain more height on their jumps.) During a practice only two weeks before the Olympics, she landed on her chin, broke her neck and was a quadriplegic for the rest of her life until her death in 2006. This story seriously haunted me for a few days after learning about it. She was only 20 years old when this happened to her. She was even born on the exact same day as my Dad. 

I just wanted to share a few of these stories because I found them very interesting. Gymnastics is a beautiful sport. I think the pressure that world gymnasts face is much too intense, but you can’t deny that it is an amazing example of human athleticism. 

Is your life really awesome, or does it just look like that on social media?

There has been some increased attention lately to the fact that everyone tries to make their life seem more awesome on social media. Some of us may be lying outright (like this viral video that came out in June) but I think most of us are consciously choosing to show only the best parts of our life.

 

I don’t think there is anything wrong with that per-se. What can become a problem is when you start feeling bad about yourself because you believe that everyone else on social media is living a better life than you. Because that’s probably not true. 

That person who just posted photos of their awesome vacation also hates their job and lives in a terrible apartment with 3 terrible roommates. That person who went on a beautiful outdoor hike just spent all of today watching Netflix. Not everyone who’s engaged will be happily married. And so-on.

The second thing to remember is that you can use social media as an excuse to start doing awesome things. One of my Facebook friends kept posting pictures of ceramics they were making and I was super jealous that they were using a potting wheel and making cool stuff. A few months later I was walking to Dunkin’ Donuts (which was not one of the things I chose to share on social media) and it turns out there’s a great pottery studio two blocks from my apartment! I signed up and now I am making my own cool stuff. So you can actually use the experiences of someone else as an excuse to jump start your own. 

And the third thing to remember is even things that looks good on social media may not actually be that good. Back to the ceramics example, I made my first mug in ceramics last week. All-in-all it came out pretty decent considering it’s one of the first things I’ve finished on the wheel and it’s the first time I made a handle. (Handles are actually much easier to make than they might look, but that’s getting off topic.)

When I brought it home yesterday and showed it to my boyfriend he was like “oh, that’s nice” but wasn’t super enthused. Then I took a picture of it with my phone, used some Instagram filter magic to spruce it up, and suddenly I have a slew of compliments on my mug. Way to boost my self-esteem! 

My mug on instagram, looking good!

My mug on instagram, looking good!

That picture I posted on Instagram is a much better looking mug than the real thing. My actual mug has some spots where the glaze is too thin. The mug is a little too short to be practical (my boyfriend said “it could be good for a small bowl of soup”) and it’s also pretty heavy. I won’t be drinking my morning coffee out of this thing any time soon. 

The actual mug, not as great.

The actual mug, not as great.

I’m using my mug (which I’m still proud of, regardless of its faults) as an example of how we can use social media to make our lives look better. And like I said before, I think that is fine to do. In my case, it’s a nice self-esteem boost to share things like this every once in a while. But it’s also important to remember that everyone is filtering their social media feeds, trying to make themselves appear happier and more successful than they actually feel on a day to day basis. 

So next time you peruse your Instagram feed or Facebook wall take time to enjoy reading about everyone else’s awesome life. But remember that social media is a heavily curated list of our life events and your life can be awesome too, regardless of how many likes and retweets you have. 

Adopting a dog in NYC

This year my boyfriend and I decided to move in together after my lease ended in July. We knew that we planned on getting a dog once we found a place, so during the apartment search we had to rule out all apartments that didn’t allow dogs. This ruled out over half the apartments we were looking at, and all of the ones that had dishwashers. sigh.

After we settled into our new place we started seriously looking for a dog in mid-September. We looked for dogs online, visited shelters and talked to local organizations almost daily during that month. After some persistence and patience, we found our dog at Animal Care and Control on October 27, 2013.  I wanted to list all of the resources we used to hunt to help for our dog, in hopes that it may help any other New Yorkers that are interested in adopting a pup soon.

Online Hunting:

Petfinder and Adoptapet are the two main sites online to find rescue dogs. They aggregate information from shelters and rescue organizations across the country. The best feature is that you can filter your search if you are interested in finding dogs of a specific breed, gender, age, shelter location, etc. You can even receive email notifications when a new dog matches a saved search filter you created.

While both sites work well, I applied for five dogs online and I only heard back from two organizations. Both organizations said they were swamped with applications for the dog I applied for. A lot of people use Petfinder and I think searching for dogs online is just too easy, especially in such a populated place like NYC. So if you find a perfect match on one of these websites keep in mind that the dog may be taken by the time your application is viewed.

Local organizations:

Animal Haven is located at 251 Centre St. between Broome and Grant. I know a few people who adopted a dog or cat from Animal Haven and had pleasant experiences. From what I’ve gathered, you find the animal you are interested in on their website and come into their store to meet the animal. Dogs cost $250 and puppies are $350.  Sam and I found a dog we liked on their website one afternoon but the dog had already been adopted by the time we got there that evening. To prevent that I assume you could call them to check to see if an animal is still available before you stop by. Animal Haven also has a cute store area where you can purchase dog and cat supplies and toys.

Foster Dogs NYC shares dogs associated with various rescue groups in NYC who needs foster homes or “forever” homes. While it’s called foster dogs, most of the dogs that are posted are also up for adoption. In October we were interested in one dog posted on the site. Within a few hours I had a response from Sara (the founder of Foster Dogs NYC) AND the rescue representative fostering the dog, letting me know someone else had already expressed interest. While that was a bummer, Sara asked me what dogs I was interested in and even followed up with another dog that became available a few days later. I was really impressed with how thoughtful she was and that she followed up with us.

Social Tees Animal Rescue is one of the organizations that Foster Dogs NYC works with. This fall they had adoption events each weekend at Petco (this may have changed but I’m sure they’d be happy to tell you where you can adopt or meet their dogs.) It appears that their most up to date channel is Facebook, and it’s important to stay up to date because sometimes they bring in bunch of puppies or a dogs that are in desperate need of a foster ASAP.

Badass Brooklyn Foster Dog takes dogs from kill shelters in the South and brings them up to NYC to find homes. They get new dogs all the time and they are really good about taking photos of the dogs and updating their Facebook page. They have a weekly adoption event on Saturday where you can meet all of the available dogs. They put a lot of effort into finding owners that would be good fits for the dogs. To even consider adopting a dog there is a rigorous adoption application process that includes a home visit and reference checks. After about a week and a home visit our application was approved. Once approved you can meet any dogs you’re interested in at their Saturday event in Williamsburg. If no one else has applied you can adopt the dog for $450. By the time we were approved we had already found our dog.

Shelters:

ASPCA We visited the ASPCA on East 92nd St. four times. You fill out a rather simple application on your first visit and they keep it on file for three months. Each time you visit a volunteer takes you on a tour of all available dogs. I liked the ASPCA a lot. The facility was clean and the volunteers were very honest with us. There were typically about 10 small dogs for us to look at so the visit was always worthwhile. The volunteers were also happy to direct us to other shelters in the area when we couldn’t find a good fit with them. Adoption fees from the ASPCA range from $75-200.

Humane Society of NY We visited the Human Society once on a Sunday morning. After waiting a few minutes we were able to speak with an adoption coordinator, however I’ve heard that some people had to wait much longer. We filled out a simple application and had a one-on-one discussion with the adoption coordinator, it felt kind of like an interview. They only had a small selection of dogs on the day we visited, but the adoption coordinator was helpful and honest with us.

Animal Care and Control This is where the majority of the cities stray and rescue dogs end up. As the title acknowledges, this isn’t just a shelter, it’s the place where animals go when they have no other option. We visited the on on 110th st three different times. It smells a bit like pee and is very bare bones, but you can walk right in meet any dog you’re interested in. Keep in mind- these dogs are often strays in a high stress environment, so they may not be looking or acting their best. After a simple application process you can walk out of there with a dog for $75 or less. (puppies are $150) This is a kill shelter, so they are very happy to help you bring an animal home. While it was the least glamorous place we visited, it was the place we eventually adopted our dog, and the process was seamless. On our third visit we walked out of there in less than an hour with a beautiful one year old Shih Tzu we named CC.

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CC and Sam right outside of Animal Care and Control on the day we took her home.

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CC today, all cleaned up and happy!

The entire process took us about a month of constant vigilance. We experienced some rejection and disappointment along the way when dogs we loved were adopted, or when we visited three adoption places in one day without finding any dogs we were interested in. I can sympathize with people who consider getting a puppy from a pet store or breeder, especially when they have their heart set on a specific breed.

But I’m really happy we chose to adopt, and I feel confident that most people would feel the same way. It was fun to “wind up” with the perfect dog for us – I never pictured myself owning a small fluffy dog. The fact that we helped save a dogs life is just an added bonus  : )

I will end this post with three tips for finding a dog in NYC.

1. Looking at dogs in person is better than applying online. We were rejected every time we applied for dogs online. When we visited the ASPCA each time they showed us a great dog that “just came in” and was “sure to be adopted within a few hours.” These dogs never even had time to be posted online.

2. Be persistent. Follow these organizations and check daily for new dogs or upcoming adoption events- things change quickly. These organizations remember you if you keep visiting or applying for available dogs. They want to help you and will start to keep you in mind when a dog that’s a good fit comes along.

3. Don’t get discouraged! Every time a dog we were interested in was adopted, and every time we went to a shelter without any luck, Sam and I would be bummed. There are moments when you think you might never find the right dog! But after moments of despair we would think “it wasn’t meant to be. We’ll find our dog eventually and it will be a great fit.” We mostly said that to make ourselves feel better, but it actually turned out to be true.

If anyone has anything to add about adopting dogs in the city please leave a comment below. Every person has a different story and different suggestions. If you are looking to adopt a dog, best of luck! I’m sure you’ll find the perfect dog for you.

I hate plastic bags

I like coupons. Recently I went to Rite Aid to use my $2-off coupon for two Pantene products, which just so happens to be my shampoo and conditioner of choice. I reminded the man at the counter to not give me a bag- I’d put the bottles in my reusable bag I always carried with me or even just chuck them in my purse.

I also had to remind the man to use my coupon, and somehow in the process of handing over my coupon and paying for my shampoo the man snuck the bottles into a plastic bag.

Several weeks ago I went to Duane Reade to pick up a candy bar. Of course they had a buy one get one half-off sale so I indulged in a second candy bar. (I then proceeded to go back to work and eat two full-sized candy bars which I don’t recommend.) Once again, in the act of paying for my candy, the woman at the register snuck my two candy bars into a plastic bag. It honestly would have been easier for me to hold the bars in my hand.

I’m often annoyed by my constant and failing battle with avoiding plastic bags.

Did I want a bag for my small candy bars? No. And most of society probably didn’t.

Did I want a bag for my jumbo-sized shampoo and conditioner? Probably. But wait! I had a huge purse with me and I would just chuck them in there.

Is a reusable bag more awesome than a plastic bag? YES. A plastic bag has to be carried in your arms, while a reusable bag can be lugged over your shoulder for easy transport- especially valuable in the city or when you are trying to unload every grocery bag in one haul. 

I have no idea why but associates always rush to put my stuff in a sucky plastic bag. I always go to the counter making a conscious effort to ask them for no bag, and sometimes it still winds up in a bag!

There has been debate over whether or not NYC should even allow plastic bags anymore, or charge a 10 cent fee per bag. Personally I’m fine with banning bags or charging fees for them, but there is another, much easier thing we could be doing that I’m amazed isn’t promoted more often. Force retail associates to ask us if we want a bag.

We should have posters next to that ‘employees must wash hands’ sign that say ‘employees must ask customer if they want a bag.’ (Perhaps not in the actual bathroom, but you catch my drift.)

I think many people will start to realize that they actually don’t want a bag, because they are sick of looking that that pile of 40 bags they already have in their closet that they will eventually just throw away next spring cleaning. Or because a reusable bag holds more at once. Or because all you got was a pack of gum and why would anyone need a bag for that?

Just think of how many bags we could save if we just were given a choice in whether or not we wanted one before we got one.

My thoughts on Lean In asking for unpaid interns

Yesterday there was an uproar over the fact that Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In editor posted an opening for an unpaid editorial intern.

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I’m not a fan of unpaid interns in general, so sure, I was slightly bothered by this. Just as I am slightly bothered by every single unpaid intern posting. Past that though, I think people overacted. And in cases like this guy “Marcus Gummibear” above, some people were down right abhorrent.

I guess people assume that Sheryl Sandberg should pay her interns, because she just sold 100 million dollars worth of Facebook stock and she is way wealthier than she probably knows what to do with. This completely ignores the issue that many multi-million and even multi-billion dollar companies hire unpaid interns.

I read Lean In this past spring and really enjoyed it. Sheryl Sandberg readily admits that she has had a lot of help during her career, whether that be growing up in a stable, economically sound home, or having connections after attending Harvard and working in high profile jobs. She isn’t trying to pretend that she is like everyone else in that sense. She relates to us because there have been times in her career where she questioned herself, was made to felt unequal by male colleagues, and struggled to understand what the proper ratio of parenting to working should be for her.

Her message is “lean in” because she wants women to feel like they have a right to sit at the same table as men, yet still have the opportunity to be mothers, wives and family members. This is what she wants us to relate to; and we can. She does not ask us to relate to her wealth, her success, or her way of life, because she knows most of us cannot.

People (and mostly women at that) love to hate on Sheryl Sandberg, especially after Lean In came out. This unpaid interns dilemma is just the most recent installment.

Please remember, if you have an issue with Sheryl Sandberg hiring an unpaid intern, than you need to look at the hundreds of multi-million dollar companies that hire unpaid interns and be just as upset.

How it Feels to Job Hunt as a Recent Grad

Congratulations recent college graduates! Two years ago had just come home from Greece (not bad) and started life guarding for the fifth summer in a row as I hunted and applied for teaching jobs to no avail. I sympathize with anyone who is going through that right now.

I’m a big fan of reading BuzzFeed articles before bed (don’t judge me) and I decided to take a crack at my own gif inspired blog post. With the help of giphy and gifhorse I was able to write one rather easily. One or two people have even said it was funny! I am more proud of it than I probably should be.

You can read ‘How it Feels to Job Hunt as a Recent Grad’ on the NY Creative Interns blog here.

Collaborative Tools Used at Work

I am currently taking a graduate course online called “Computers, problem solving, and cooperative learning.” We use collaborative tools to work together remotely, since we never have any in class sessions. We use a motley crew of sites to collaborate, including wiki’s and websites like flickr and bubbl.us; and our main tool for communication is the discussion forums on the education management platform, Blackboard. I find that our collaboration is very poor and the tools we use are not ideal for collaboration, which is pretty unfortunate given the title of the class.

It is also slightly frustrating to use these tools because I work at a company that allows employees to work remotely. We need collaborative online tools that allow remote employees to connect with the rest of us. I find the tools we use for work are much more effective than the ones we use in class, and if we started using these tools we might have an easier time communicating with each other.  Here are a few our favorite company-wide tools for collaboration. Most of these tools are free or almost free, and you’ve probably heard of all of them.


1. Gmail and Google Apps: Most collaborative documentation in our organization is shared via Google Docs, Slideshows or Spreadsheets. With Gmail for business you automatically have all of your companies employees as contacts when you first join with company. Google Calendar is also such an important tool for planning and keeping everyone connected.

2. Skype: If someone is working from home or working remotely when we have a scheduled meeting, we always Skype them in to the conversation. We have tried Google Hangouts, but we’ve had better luck with Skype.

3. Trello: To collaborate on a project you need to have some sort of  task manager. bitly is an online tool, so our boards have topics like, “Bugs” for problems with the site,  “Current Development” for things that are being worked on currently. Underneath the title are columns that represent different stages of the process, for example a “Next Up” column for things that are prioritized next in the production pipeline. This allows you to see what your coworkers are doing, and you can share the progress you have made on your projects.

 

4. HipChat: We use HipChat as our instant messaging service at work. I think having a group instant message service is key to strong communication. You can quickly grab someones attention when you need it, and for people who have desks far apart that may rarely talk to each other, it allows them to connect in an online chat room. HipChat is $2.00 per user per month, and free for teams of up to 5 users. You can also include a variety of emoticons and gifs, but that’s just a perk.

We try to use as few tools as possible to ensure each tool is actually used efficiently. What tools do you find useful for collaboration with others?

The President using Social Media

Most of the country underestimates the influence of social media, which is understandable. Twitter can just as easily be a place to share a photo of your sandwich as it can be a place to engage in educated discourse. On December 3rd Obama took a small amount of time to head to Twitter to answer various questions that Twitter users (and American citizens) had about Obama’s proposed plan to extend middle-class tax cuts while ending them for those with $250,000+/yr incomes. See an overview of the conversation here.


Photo from the White House blog

A great thing about Twitter is that with hardly any time, effort, or money, you can reach a very large audience. You can also reach a young audience that doesn’t always have cable or a newspaper subscription. I applaud Obama, and his team who suggested this idea to him, for taking the time to use social media to engage an audience that may otherwise ignore this issue all together.

It’s one thing to use AMA on Reddit to answer questions before the election (which I also thought was a cool idea) but it’s even better that Obama has continued to use social media in an attempt to keep the country informed on his ideas and proposed policies.  I’m happy that our President recognizes the potential impact that social media can have, and  understands how to use it in an effective way.

Focusing on my “Passion Project”

I started volunteering for NY Creative Interns in June. I discovered the organization in January while rather franticly trying to get a job and make something of myself. Soon after that I started at ShowMe and stopped attending events but continued to followed them online. In April I saw all the photographs and recaps from their large Find and Follow Your Passion conference, and I decided it was time again to get involved. For purely financial reasons it seemed to more practical to volunteer my time than my money to attend the events. I volunteered to write recap blog posts from their events and now I also get my name attributed to their weekly opportunities post. (Which is skillful copy and pasting at the most- but it’s something!) But I’ve also had the chance to attend many different events and get to know a handful of really nice, motivated people that volunteer as well. It was a great decision.

A large chunk of the volunteers. Photo by Yael Malka 

Last Saturday, November 10th, NY Creative Interns held their second Find and Follow Your Passion conference at Pratt Institute. There were talks about all sorts of things like navigating a new job, finding your self-worth, social Media tools to help you network ‘IRL’ (in real life) and more. I lucked out and was given the task of managing a session room- so I got to sit my butt down and hear four great talks. I loved all four discussions I sat in on but the one that stuck with me most was called ‘Creative Alchemy: Convert Opportunities into Career Gold‘ and was lead by  Monica Lo, Senior Art Director at kbs+ and Megan Nuttall, Senior Writer at kbs+. I’ll be honest I was skeptical of this talk before it started due to the name, but the talk was perfect for me. Unlike a lot of the conference attendees I’m fortunate to currently hold a job I really enjoy, and I’m working towards a degree that should hopefully lead to a “dream” job in the future. I feel like I’m already headed in the right direct to successfully find and follow my passion. So the one thing that these ladies said that really stuck with me was that you need to find your Passion Project.

Monica maintains a food blog and Meagan loves to craft. These aren’t just their interests- these were the first things they shared with us when they introduced themselves at the beginning of their talk, they were passionate about these things. These were two girls who seem to really enjoy their job and have an awesome opportunity to work together as a team at their agency. And while they both enjoy their positions, they still spent a large portion of their discussion talking about the importance of finding your passions and doing what you love outside of the workplace.

So my #1 take-away from the conference was a motivation to begin working on more things I love, like crafting and beauty.  And I’m even contemplating starting a beauty, fashion and crafting blog next year. It sounds a little silly but this blog Merrick’s Art is one of my favorite things on the internet. I wake up every morning and hope she wrote something on her blog  about refashioning a dress, or copying a craft from pinterest, that I can read with coffee. I have a few other blogs I love but hers is my favorite. Is it deep? Not really. Will it drastically change the word for the better? Most likely not. Does it make me happy? YES. And if I work on things that make me happy that I’m passionate about I’ll perform better at work, do well in school, and I’ll better off all around. So while many attendees  were looking for career advice at this conference, I was able to take away something non-career related, but equally as valuable towards helping my find my passion.

Research Questions

I recently started grad school at the Teachers College at Columbia. I am going to be studying Instructional Technology and Media, and I plan on learning how to effectively assess the impact of technology in schools.

I’m going to grad school super part time (4 credits currently!) for a few different reasons.

  1. I was flustered around this time last year, wondering what I was doing with my life, and figured I’d apply to only one grad school. One was enough!
  2. I need to get a Masters degree at some point if I still have dreams of one day being a teacher.
  3. I think this program will provide useful skills if I want to go back into the classroom (we’ll discuss current policies, theories, and strategies for educational research and implementation) or if I want to stay in technology or start-ups. (I’ll learn research skills that are applicable anywhere, and I have a few required Javascript courses I’ll have to take. I might even learn some basic programing.)
  4. If you go to grad school super part-time you have a lot more time to earn the $$$ to go there. ;)

One burning question I’d love to help research and answer is: How Effective is Teacher lead Professional Development? When I worked at ShowMe I went to ISTE and TEDxNYED and edCamp. These are all teacher lead professional development events (Well, ISTE is a lot of things) and I’ve participated in #edchat and other education twitter chats. The teachers that participate were engaged and excited to share what they’ve done in their classrooms.Obviously these teachers are the early adaptors, the mavens, the innovators. Most teachers are not like them. But I’m interested to see more mandatory, well-structured, teacher-lead professional development in schools.

Think of it as after school show and tell; the teachers share any PD they’ve recently attended and what they found useful. They can also share any failures or successes they’ve experienced trying a different tool, policy or strategy in the classroom. Everyone loves talking about “bad” teachers these days, but I think very few teachers are actually “bad.” Many are  just not innovative and stuck in their old ways. Teaching is a rather independent profession and you can get stuck in a bubble believing that what you do is working, simply because students are passing a test or sitting quietly. If all teachers heard what more adventurous, innovative, teachers are doing in the classroom it could at least give them the inspiration and opportunity to change their classroom as well.

But for now this is a complete hypothesis. I can chat all I want, but I’ll need some data to back this up. So perhaps this is a research question I’ll be working on for the rest of my time at Columbia. Or maybe I’ll change my mind tomorrow. Either way I’ll keep you updated.