Spin Move

I'm more proud than I should be about this blog name I came up with; it's a professional sports and public relations combination blog, and PR is stereotyped as being an industry that just tries to put a positive "spin" on everything. Spin Move. Perfect.

Blogging isn't something I've ever really been drawn to, but that being said I'm rather proud of what I produced over the course of the blogging assignment I created Spin Move for last term. I don't plan to keep it updated, but the posts stand as worthy reading on a massive industry both in following and profit margins.

Give it a read here: https://spinmovepr.wordpress.com/

Drive, Passion, and the Apathetic

I hear the same phrase (in any number of variations) everywhere I go and in everything I do:

“Just forget about that last one, move on to the next.” 

People who say this largely just don’t want you to become discouraged or upset, which is a nice sentiment, but the phrase speaks to a fundamentally counter-productive mindset.

Should we wallow in our mistakes and allow them to control us? Never, but how can you learn if you don’t pay attention to your mistakes? How can you improve if you ignore your shortcomings? How can you succeed if you forget about your failures?

Losses should burn. Coming up short should be torture. Mistakes should be frustrating. As I said before these shouldn’t cause you to lose focus or self-destruct; that would be just as counter-productive as trying to forget what happened. However, if you truly care about the task at hand, these will likely be a core part of your experience and motivation moving forward.

That being said it is admirable to be able to laugh at your mistakes, but there is a stark difference between keeping your cool and general apathy. Some people simply don’t care all that much, which is fine. What isn’t fine is spreading it to those who want nothing more than to learn from their experiences, develop their skills, and excel at whatever they do.

“Just forget about that last one, move on to the next” is a generally apathetic phrase used by generally apathetic people; it is not helpful and it is not constructive. Apathetic people shrug it off and the rest resent its utterance.

I write about this not simply because this phrase frustrates me (which it does) but also because I feel there is this popular concept out there that being bothered by something in this way is stupid. It seems that so many people are quick to say that you shouldn’t be upset or frustrated, as if such a feeling is overly negative or an undue burden.

It is very important to have a thick skin and to avoid over-thinking lest you create problems where there are none, but it is not an advantage to go through life without caring about anything in this way. It is not “cool” to avoid simple passions or “smart” to do so because they may lead to pain or failure. It is pain that gives value to pleasure and failure that makes success so sweet.

Being passionate about anything means that you will almost certainly, at some point, be upset by it. This is not “weird” nor is it a weakness, but it seems that many will rush to say that it is both.

This is the problem with that phrase. It assumes that someone’s frustration is unfounded and dismisses it as unnecessary. It is an apathetic phrase that offers apathy as a "solution" to a problem the speaker doesn’t even try to understand. It is not productive and neither is the mindset that supports it. It trivializes drive and rejects passion.

Pride

An application I was filling out recently had this question:

"Tell us about your proudest moment"

This caught my attention as being a particularly good question, especially since the rest of the application had been so plain vanilla. Below is my answer, enjoy.

"The moment that sticks out in my mind was a couple of weeks ago in Louisville. I was there with my team for the men’s college club volleyball national championships, and it was after we had played our final game. That final game was a very close loss in the semifinals to a high caliber team we really didn’t like, so spirits were low. The loss burned deeply, and there was initial bitterness. However, while walking out of the arena we all started talking about the tournament as a whole; how we had won some huge games and played by far the best volleyball we had all season. By the time we got to the cars, everyone had forgotten the rough loss. Everyone was grinning from ear to ear, laughing loudly, and talking about how incredible the whole experience had been.

    In order to understand why this made me so proud, you have to understand my relationship to this team. I am the club president, team captain, and also serve as our coach due to the lack of a men’s volleyball scene here in Eugene. Last season we had a very solid squad, but this season was an entirely different animal. Out of twelve players on the team last year, there were only two returners (including me) as everyone else graduated or quit due to time constraints. This season I had to rebuild the team from scratch, bringing in thirteen new players (including starters and practice players). Of the thirteen I originally brought in, four quit (time constraints) and one was concussed so severely that he couldn’t play for the rest of the year. So I adapted; I brought in an old friend, convinced a former player to return for nationals, and adjusted the lineup to make it easier on the younger players.

    Running (and playing on) the team this year was the most stressful and problematic thing I have ever done, but what made it worth it was that everyone bought in. No one complained about the struggles we faced both on and off the court; everyone focused on getting better every week. Everything went wrong at one point or another this season, but no one got down about it. So when we walked out of that arena and my teammates, my brothers, and my best friends were so obviously stoked about not only our performance as a volleyball team but about the experience as a whole, I was incredibly proud. I put everything into that team, and while there were more problems than I can list, the results were more than I could have ever asked for. Not only did I get the fun of playing and celebrating as a player, I earned the pride of knowing that the positivity I enjoyed was possible as a result of my hard work to keep the team together and moving forward."

I had been in the process of writing an entirely different post to cover the events of this season, but this ended up being a far better summary. Thank you to the application for drawing it out of me, and thank you to my teammates for an unforgettable season.

2016 NCVF Nationals in Louisville, Kentucky

Greece: The Staycation

(Originally posted April 30th, 2014)

The Earth is over 40,000 kilometers around, and has a surface area of 510,072,000 square kilometers. We share this planet with over 7 billion other human beings. Knowing this, it would be hard to call this world we live in small. So then why is it that we seemingly constantly run into people we know while traveling to other countries? It’s not like there aren’t plenty of other places to be.

Photo courtesy of WineTourSantorini

None of this was even remotely close to being on my mind back in eighth grade. It was summer, I had just “graduated” from seventh grade, and I was now at the top of my middle school game. Even better, I was at the top of my middle school game in Greece. To be a bit more specific, I was on a cruise through the Greek islands after having already been through much of Italy and mainland Greece. It was the third day of the boat trip on the Aegean Sea, and we had just arrived at Santorini, a beautiful and high-cliffed island. Due to said cliffs, our boat had just moored about 200 yards offshore, and we were being taken to the tiny port in small ferry vessels. As I stepped through an entry to the main boarding area on our much larger cruise ship, I rammed my knee directly into the steel door frame, hard enough to make my eyes water. The day was already off to a fantastic start.

I soon forgot about my knee as I got on the ferry and took in the coastal cliffs of Santorini with small, white-washed buildings perched way up top. The island itself is actually part of the remains of a massive volcanic caldera that erupted thousands of years ago, leaving a small archipelago of islands behind. This eruption was one of the largest of its kind; it is supposedly what spawned the legend of Atlantis. People have been living on Santorini since the 9th century B.C., but it wasn’t until 1830 that it was united with Greece, after becoming independent from the Ottoman Empire in 1821. With a population of nearly 16,000, this thriving Mediterranean escape has been a popular destination for over two hundred years.

The main issue with having massive 400 meter-high sea cliffs is one of transportation. As I stepped onto the dock under the cloudless heat of what was promising to be another perfect Mediterranean day, I was faced with the three options that the locals had developed to ascend the sheer rock faces. I could take the cable car, hike up the main trail, or ride a donkey up that same trail. The cable car was obviously the fastest, most comfortable, and most scenic. It was for those reasons that I chose NOT to take the cable car, and ride a donkey up. I had never ridden a donkey, I wanted to ride a donkey, and I did not feel the need to hike up a huge hill in the bright sun with donkey dung underfoot. I made the correct choice. Not only did I have more fun than those that partook in the other solutions, I actually got to the top faster. Nearly everyone on the cruise ship had gone for the tram, creating a huge line that I could gleefully observe from the back of my smelly donkey as we hoofed it up the cliff in style.

Upon reaching the top, two things became clear immediately. First, I wanted to live there. Badly. The white-plastered houses were beautiful, the weather was perfect, and the view was to die for with the deep blue ocean glimmering in the sun’s smiling rays. Second, Vespas were everywhere, whether leaning up against yet another perfect house or weaving through people and alleyways. Naturally, I wanted to rent one. No dice. I was only 13 at the time, and while drinking was A-OK, they were not about to loan me a scooter for the day. My disappointment didn’t last however, as walking through the narrow streets was just as fun. The vast amount of shops and restaurants could occupy even the most dedicated tourist for many days. After I had bought a three-bladed knife that caught my eye and seen most else I had wanted to, the sun was on its way down. We ate dinner outside, right on the edge of the drop off with the light breeze teasing through our hair.

All of this is well and good, but if you read like me then you’re probably beginning to wonder why I mentioned the size of the earth at the beginning of this story. Well it was there, eating dinner on the most beautiful island imaginable with the type of view people try to import, that a very peculiar sound reached my ears. Actually it wasn’t the sound that was peculiar, it was that I was hearing it there, on Santorini in the Middle of the Aegean Sea, that made it seem so odd. It was the sound of someone talking. But wait, it was English. That in itself wouldn’t be much of a surprise, but the speaker (a young man) had my accent. Alright so he was another American from southern California, that’s really cool, right? Wrong. Not only was he speaking my language with my accent, he was talking about a middle school that is two blocks from my house. That’s almost creepy. I turned around half expecting to know the guy. Turns out that while I may not have known him or his family, he did live in my neighborhood. Seven small suburban blocks was all that had separated us before, yet here we were, in a much different country and time zone, one table apart. We spent the rest of the evening talking about our home town and the mutual friends that were thousands of miles away, and by the time we were to leave I realized that I had forgotten I was in Greece. It was almost surreal getting on the tram and gliding back down to the water where the cruise ship rested patiently. It was then that my perspective shifted; I had always thought of home as being a set location, like a town or geographic feature. What I realized then was that home isn’t something we can ever leave; home is this planet we share with 7 billion other animals that look kinda like us. Seeing familiar people in unfamiliar places can be jarring, but in truth they belong just as much as any of the locals. So I guess a revision should be made to my earlier question: Why don’t we run into people we know while traveling abroad more often? It’s not like there are plenty of other places to be.

The Butte

(Originally posted October 21, 2013)

Butte (N): A conspicuous isolated hill with steep, often vertical sides and a small, relatively flat top.

In essence, buttes are equivalent to the runt of the litter when it comes to mountains. They are smaller than most mountains (hill size), not very nicely shaped, and are outcast to an eternity of solitude. Not to mention the name butte is conspicuously close to butt.

This is all well and good, but why does it matter? Why is this relevant to me, and by extension you? If left to my own devices buttes still wouldn’t matter. However, I happen to be taking a travel writing class this term, and class last thursday happened to be, that’s right, taking a trip to our local butte here in Eugene, Oregon. It’s called Skinner butte, and for those of you who don’t know, it’s named after Eugene Skinner, who is also the name sake for the city. Skinner moved to the area in 1846, but it wasn’t until 1889 that the town assumed its current name after being called Skinner’s Mudhole and Eugene City, respectively. The butte itself rises 200 feet above the surrounding landscape and is home to, among other things, a huge (and slippery) yellow “O”, more on that later though.

I knew two things before the class trip: We were going on a hike, and we were to meet in the middle of Eugene. The latter part served to be a point of confusion once we got started. There we were, twenty or so travel writers, ready for a hike that was nowhere in sight. Our professor led us off in a seemingly arbitrary direction, bubbling with energy as she listed off a variety of facts about the shops and buildings we were passing as we walked through Eugene. When we stopped to let a freight train rumble past, I noticed that the diesel fumes had begun to fade, and that on the other side of the tracks, the ground was beginning to slope upwards. We were still in a neighborhood, but there were more trees than ever. Suddenly houses turned to forest and sidewalk to trail as we transitioned into the park area that contains Skinner butte within Eugene.

Having been on dozens of backpacking and hiking trips before the new scenery felt familiar, but it was definitely still rather surprising. I had been walking through a city for fifteen minutes with no hint of the wilderness, and then within the space of a few seconds Eugene had completely disappeared. This was particularly shocking to a classmate named Phoebe, who casually mentioned “Guys I’ve never been on a hike before!” This hike was during October, the heart of fall. My eyes were assailed with a vivid assortment of reds, yellows, oranges, and greens as the leaves realized what time of year it was. Being a southern Californian, I had only ever this collection of hues on postcards. Something missing from those pictures, however, are the myriad of other sensations experienced upon setting foot in what can only be described as a small forest. This being Oregon, it had rained recently, and I could feel the moisture not only on my skin but as I breathed in deep lungfuls of the fresh air. The air had an earthy aroma to it and yet every piece of vegetation was vying for my noses’ undivided attention. It was chilly, but the sun filtered through the overhanging branches  in enough places to keep us from shivering.

At this point we were actually hiking, and I was beginning to regret wearing vans instead of the “shoes good for walking” my professor recommended. Luckily the trek was short, so even the annoying switchbacks couldn’t get my spirits down. It helped that every other step brought another beautiful view, especially once we reached the top. One more unmentioned characteristic of buttes is that they are similar to plateaus in that they are generally flat on top with no real peaks. Skinner butte is no exception, topped with a grass field ringed with trees that seemed appropriate (if not a bit inconvenient) for a game of ultimate frisbee.

Also at the top is (as mentioned before) a huge yellow “O” in reference to the nearby University of Oregon. Every year it gets a fresh coat of paint which lends to it being slick. A popular thing to do is to slide down one side of it, but as I soon learned there are near-invisible ridges along the inner edge that hurt. A lot.

Painful aside, the summit was an interesting destination, with plenty of photo-ops and picnic spots.

I was surprised by Skinner Butte. I went in with low expectations, but once we arrived I was blown away. Oregon has beauty everywhere, even in the middle of one of its best-know cities. I highly encourage everyone in the area to make a point of walking up the butte sometime, but if that’s not an immediate possibility here are some ways to gain some experience from where you’re currently sitting.

Bird Brain

(Originally published November 22, 2013)

Hiking is fun. Hiking in the rain unprepared is not. Riding the bus is a fairly neutral experience. Riding the bus soaked having just just hiked in the rain unprepared is a fairly poor experience. You’re probably noticing a pattern here. Long story short; I went on a short trip recently in which I hiked approximately 1,700,056 times the distance I thought I would have to and got rained on in the process. But hey, it’s the journey not the destination right?

Nope. Now for the long story long part.

Hiking in itself isn’t a problem for me; I have many hundreds of miles logged to go along with a couple hundred nights spent in campsites. Things get problematic when what is advertised as a “short walk” turns out to be a nearly two mile trek up a steep hill after riding the bus for half an hour. Oh also, I missed my first bus by one minute, which made me ten minutes late for my second bus, which meant I had to wait twenty minutes for the next one to show up, which meant of the twenty-five people I was supposed to be doing all of this with, three others were left.

So why did I continue to slog through all of these problems? In vans and the pouring rain no less? Birds. This wasn’t a walk for the hell of it, I was going to the Cascades Raptor Center right here in beautiful Eugene, Oregon. The CRC is a wildlife hospital and nature center specializing in birds of prey that has been around since 1987. There they all kinds of feathery friends including Great Horned Owls, Snowy Owls, Bald Eagles, Gyrfalcons, and many more. The whole place is a large collection of large outdoor cages set on the side of the same mountain you have to walk/drive partway up to get there.

I knew most of this when I (finally) got off the bus 30 minutes late, wishing I had worn three more jackets and scuba gear. What I didn’t know was how far the center was from the bus stop, as mentioned earlier. Luckily the DSLR I had brought had a rain cover built into its case. That way it could be useless AND dry, there was no was I would be able to use it in the deluge. Once the (long but scenic) hike was over, I arrived in heaven. Not because I had died on the way up or physically ascended that far, but because I happen to like birds, and there were tons to be seen up close and personal (except for the cages of course). I quickly found my favorite, a Gyrfalcon named Finn. More accurately, he found me, as he screeched at me when I was walking by as I first arrived. I screeched back, and the rest is history.

Finn the Gyrfalcon

The most impressive of the animals I saw that day was the Bald Eagle, Aeolus. He was larger than many dogs I know of, much fiercer too. The award for funniest went to a Snowy Owl (yes, just like in Harry Potter) by the name of Archimedes who would make an awkward cawing sound whenever I said “Hey” to him.

Aeolus the Bald Eagle

The CRC is the perfect alternative outing. The misery of the walk there, the walk back, and the bus rides both ways was completely wiped out by my fascination and the overall positive experience I had once I arrived. The oft-maligned destination had justified the journey, not the other way around. Drive there and everything is flawless.