Category Archives: Columns

Find a Hobby: Spice Up Life

By Acadia Otlowski

Whenever it seems like someone may have too much time on their hands, those around them often joke, “Get a hobby.”

But kidding aside, having a hobby is an extraordinarily important aspect of living a healthy life. Without hobbies, life becomes unbalanced, all about work and less about play. And while work is important, it can become overwhelming when there is nothing else.

By hobby, I do not mean sitting on the couch and watching television. Hobbies should be something constructive, an escape from the doldrums of life.

To put it simply, a good hobby puts the spice back in life. Whether you are under stimulated or over stimulated, a hobby will either provide a challenge or a break, depending on what you need in your life.

Over the weekend I indulged in my own hobby, hula hooping. I went to a flow arts and fire spinning retreat called Wildfire, which features a group of people learning to manipulate objects to produce complex patterns and illusions. Then to take those same skills and transfer them to objects lit on fire.

Everyone there had that one thing in common. And so when we came together at a Boy Scout camp in Ashford, Connecticut, suddenly spinning transformed from a solitary activity to a communal one. There were classes and spontaneous skill-sharing circles.

This is another benefit of having a hobby you are willing to spend a little time with. Hobbies will draw together a different group of people into being friends, simply because of the shared interest. This is a better group of friends than say, friends from school or friends from your job, because often the place where you became friends is all you have in common.

With a hobby it is different. You can connect with a group of people and bond over the exchange of ideas related to the hobby the group shares.

What I saw at Wildfire was that these idea-sharing sessions resulted in a flood of new ideas, further increasing the benefits of the hobby.

But the most important concept behind hobbies is the idea of relaxing and staving off burnout. We work so hard in our daily lives that sometimes we forget to focus on us. When we dedicate too much of our lives to our jobs, we get tired and uninspired. A good hobby should prevent this.

Spinning has become and escape from reality, a balancing factor in my life. This should be the affect of a good hobby. Instead of fully becoming my schoolwork and job, I have a separate identity in which to escape into.

It should be something that will make you happy and even out the negatives in life. It might take some time to find the hobby that inspires you to the point of passion. It doesn’t have to be complicated or as obscure as object manipulation. It may take a little more effort than sitting on the couch eating chips, but in the end it will be so much more satisfying.


Time to Warm Up to Climate Change

by Sean Begin

Over 300,000 people descended on New York City on Sunday for the People’s Climate March, calling for action from the international community over the growing global warming issue. The march comes as the United Nations prepares to meet for a summit to discuss climate change.

The idea of global warming has been around for some time, often assailed by critics who call it a hoax. But large amounts of studies exist showing that the Earth continues to get warmer while countries continue to pump out more and more greenhouse gases.

While it’s true the planet goes through cycles of warming and cooling, it’s become clear that humans have made a major impact on the natural cycle, perhaps irreversibly.

The Global Carbon Project, which tracks emissions levels across the world, recently released numbers showing that world greenhouse gas emissions increased 2.3 percent in 2013 to record highs.

From an article in the Sunday NY Times: “The nations of the world have agreed to try to limit the warming to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, which would require that emissions slow down and largely stop in the next 30 years or so. If they continue on their present course through the century, scientists say that the earth could warm by as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit above the preindustrial level. This would likely be incompatible with human civilization in its current form.”

The march in New York City on Sunday was part of protests occurring around the world trying to call attention to this issue, which continues to be ignored as if it’s a mere inconvenience.

As usual though, politics and division will likely stand in the way of any significant change.

The UN summit that happened on Tuesday was one of the largest of its kind. But like most meetings before, it was a divide among rich and poor nations.

From a separate article in the NY Times on Saturday: “If history is any guide, the rich countries of the world will say how concerned they are about the damage their emissions of heat-trapping gases are causing. The poor countries — whose people have done little to contribute to global warming but stand to suffer the most from it because of their vulnerability to rising seas and weather extremes — will point out that this professed concern never seems to translate into sufficient action.”

To date, most of the work to fight climate change has been big on talk but small on action. Emission levels continue to skyrocket at an alarming rate and the temperatures this summer were the highest ever recorded, both attesting to the fact that Earth is getting warmer.

With the mountains of evidence showing support for a warming climate, it’s hard to imagine that anything will change as long countries continue to divide themselves along financial lines. If scientists are correct and the planet becomes increasingly hotter, it could signal a slow extinction for humanity.

As fresh water reserves running out, a warmer Earth would make it difficult to grow crops. And as one protestors sign at the march on Sunday proclaimed: “There is No Planet B.”

Despite a Lost Season, an Ace Makes a Return

by Sean Begin

Masahiro Tanaka signed with the New York Yankees in January for seven years and $155 million. His contract includes an opt out clause after the 2017 season meaning at a minimum the Yankees could start him for four years.

At 25 years old this would give the Yankees control of some his best years of pitching, with a chance to again sign him long term before the 2018 season. Then came the worst start of his young career, when he gave up 10 hits and five runs over 6.2 innings to the Cleveland Indians on July 8.

The next day, Tanaka was in New York for an MRI, eventually being placed on the disabled list with elbow inflammation. The injury was essentially a slight tear to his ulnar collateral ligament, the ligament most often associated with Tommy John surgery.

Rather than undergo the now widely-used procedure, Tanaka and Yankee’s doctors decided to rest and rehabilitate his elbow, hopefully avoiding surgery. Tanaka left the team having posted a 12-4 record with a 2.51 ERA, among the league leaders in both categories. He also struck out 135 batters while walking just 19.

As the summer wore on, Tanaka rested. Eventually he began light tossing before moving on to simulated games and full bullpen sessions. And on Sunday, he returned to the mound for the first time since July.

And he actually looked good.

He threw just 70 pitches but went 5.1 innings, with four strikeouts and zero walks, spreading around five hits and surrendering a single run. His pitches looked as sharp as they did before the injury.

This doesn’t mean Tanaka is out of hot water though. St. Louis Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright went down a similar route. In an article by the NY Times’ Tyler Kepner, Wainwright explains how he first felt elbow discomfort in middle school.

Then, in middle school, he was diagnosed with a partial-UCL tear, which he rehabbed over surgery. It happened again while he was in AAA. But after another successful rehab, Wainwright pitched six years in the major, culminating in his All-Star 2010 season.

Wainwright had to have Tommy John surgery after that season, sidelining him for all of 2011 but he returned strong and has been an All-Star the last two years.

“You don’t want to have surgery unless you have to,” Wainwright said in the Kepner article. “We’ve been given ligaments and tendons that are much better than repaired ligaments and tendons. Any time they’re drilling holes in bones and putting things in, there’s risk involved. So don’t get it unless you need it.”

So, what does this mean for Tanaka and the Yankees?

Well, if the rehab proves as successful as Wainwright’s, it means the Yankees only lost Tanaka for two months of his rookie season. Had he had surgery, he’d be gone until 2016, essentially losing his first two years.

If Tanaka can follow Wainwright and pitch six more years, it’d be through those first four years of his contract until his opt out clause kicks in. And if something goes wrong further down the road, there’s still the option of surgery, which has an almost universal success rate.

So while the Yankees season may lie dead in the water at the hands of the Baltimore Orioles, Tanaka provided one last important spark, one last look at the potential of the 2015 Yankees rotation.

Silence as Sympathy

By Matt Knox 

Sympathy is a one-sided feeling most of the time. There is no instant gratification involved, except that you may manage to ease someone’s pain for a short time. In the end, they must overcome it themselves. You may not receive a thank you until months or years later when that sadness has finally ebbed and what you have done becomes more obvious. It may not even come in the form of words. Eventually, you may be in that same situation, and I have no doubt that person will be there for you just the same.

Sympathy is an agreement in feeling. An attempt, no matter how futile, to understand what another is feeling; whether be it pain, sadness or any other emotion. Sympathy is most often associated with sadness because it is at those times that we feel we need others the most. And if you are there during those times it is all the more recognized. It always seems to me that people say someone is a true friend when they stick with you through the tough times. This makes me wonder what all of the other times are really worth. Shouldn’t they be worth more? Shouldn’t it be worth just as much that day after day they have made you laugh? I would much rather measure the worth of a friend by all of the good times we have together. Just remember that a friendship based solely on sympathy can never work. There is a point where that friendship will change into more of a relationship like doctor and patient, and it will be hard to get out of. It will be those days when you’re finally starting to feel better, but people can’t stop asking you how you feel. They don’t know what else to talk about around you. It’s important to break that bubble. Tell them to stop walking on eggshells as if any wrong word could toss you back into the hole you spent so long climbing out of.

I’ve found, through personal experience, that when it comes to helping someone through a tough time it’s best just to let silence reign. They most likely don’t want you to analyze what they say and offer your opinion. If they want advice they will ask for it. Telling you a story, or how they feel, is not permission to break out the Dr. Phil mode. They certainly don’t want a story of the time that the same thing happened to you. How could that ever be sympathy? That’s just a disgusting game of one-up-manship. You will show how much you care just by sitting there and listening, hugging them when they need it and letting them know that you will be there for as long as you’re needed.

Time to Find Our Place in the Stars

by Sean Begin

“Mankind was born on Earth. It was never meant to die here.”

This is the tagline from one of the trailers for “Interstellar,” the new movie from Christopher Nolan coming out in November.

The film features an Earth in the not-to-distant future that sees the human race facing extinction, as the planet has become unable to sustain life. Matthew McConaughey stars as an engineer who travels with other astronauts to a wormhole to try and find a way to save the human race.

The idea of traveling along wormholes to move through space-time has been a proposed theory in physics for some time now. Space travel itself has long been a romantic notion in human thought.

The human race is slowly, steadily, moving towards interstellar space exploration. Ideas like the space elevator (while implausible right now) and the space jump two years ago by Felix Baumgartner and Red Bull have served to keep human minds trained towards the stars.

And then there’s Richard Branson and his Virgin Galactic space program, which seeks to bring the “average” citizen on a flight in suborbital space on a ship that’s been in design for the last decade. The price for such a flight is around six figures, so an “average” citizen probably can’t afford it, but the technology exists.

Another company, XCOR Space Exploration, recently awarded a trip to space to golfer Andy Sullivan for hitting a hole-in-one during a European Tour tournament. The trip was valued at $95,000.

While private citizens and corporations seek to bring humans to orbital space, NASA continues to push the boundaries of human travel into deep space and beyond.

NASA currently has plans to build a giant space lasso that will trap and transport an asteroid to an orbit around the moon. The plan is for NASA to use this asteroid as a training ground for manned missions to Mars.

This comes on the heels of the successful Mars Curiosity rover that continues to move across the surface of Mars looking for signs of life. The rover recently reached it’s destination on the red planet: a mountain that may contain evidence of life.

NASA received a $100 million budget to build their space lasso. This is still, though, just a fraction of their total budget. And their total budget is a mere fraction of the total US budget.

In 2011, NASA received a budget of $18.724 billion about half of a percent of the total US budget. Their projected 2015 fiscal year budget is earmarked at $17.46 billion.

Compare this to the military budget. In 2011, the US military had a budget of $680 billion, or about 22.6 percent of the US budget. Their approved 2015 fiscal year budget is $756.4 billion.

NASA also continues to face potential cuts to their already slimming budget. They manage to maintain and enact newer and bolder plans for space exploration. Even programs enacted decades ago continue to bring return on investments. Voyager I reached interstellar space in August of 2012 after 35 years traveling through and past our solar system.

On their website, NASA has a webpage headlined “Beyond Earth: Expanding Human Presence into the Solar System.” The future of humanity lies in part in the stars and planets that exist in our galaxy. And with the ideas NASA is putting forth, it’s time for the government and the people to choose to spend money funding that research.

It sounds like science fiction, humanity reaching new planets. But communicating to someone on the other side of the world instantaneously was considered science fiction. So were submarines and helicopters.

If the American public is smart, they’ll view science fiction merely as precursor to science fact and make an effort to fund NASA to continue to push human boundaries.

Irony At Its Worst

By Acadia Otlowski 

Studio City police handcuffed and detained an African-American actress from “Django Unchained,” a movie that focuses on racism in the south during slavery, after she kissed her white husband in public.

Exactly why did this occur?

Allegedly, the officer mistook Danièle Watts, the actress, for a prostitute. Despite the fact that Watts was wearing a t-shirt and was fully-clothed at the time of the incident.

Watts took to the internet following the incident. She posted pictures of herself crying while handcuffed with a caption detailing her experience: “Today I was handcuffed and detained by 2 police officers from the Studio City Police Department after refusing to agree that I had done something wrong by showing affection, fully clothed, in a public place,” read part of Watts’ post.

There is something wrong with the system when something like this occurs. It is not as if Watts had been out at 2 a.m., wearing something provocative.  She was simply going about her daily life — something every American should have the right to do.

There was just one thing that Watts did in this situation that may have warranted any sort of action. She refused to show the officer her I.D. because she was so outraged by the incident. Although that may have been an incorrect move, it still does not account for officers handcuffing Watts and putting her into the back of a police cruiser.

LAPD has also made no real move to defend its actions. When asked about the incident, the department said that, because Watts was not arrested, nor questioned, no record of the encounter exists.

Except, of course, the photos of Watts.

This is cause for further alarm. If Watts was detained in this manner, who is to say that this sort of thing doesn’t happen regularly. And since there are no records of encounters such as this, there is no way to truly tell how big the issue is.

The only reason Watts was released so quickly is because officers realized that they had detained someone who was in the public eye. Perhaps, had she been an ordinary person, they would have eventually let her go once they realized she was actually married to the person she kissed. But it seems that, had Watts been an average person, this encounter with the authorities could have been far worse.

There is one other, alarming detail that many have picked up on. Watts’ husband, Brian James Lucas, was nearby when this incident occurred. He was actually questioned by the police and handed them his I.D. In his Facebook post about the incident, there is no mention of Lucas being handcuffed or detained in any manner.

Why wouldn’t he also be detained if it was suspected that Watts was a prostitute and he was either a client or a “pimp.” Isn’t soliciting prostitution a crime? Just because Lucas was cooperating doesn’t mean he shouldn’t have been a suspect of a crime.

This incident raises serious questions about racism in America. Just when it seems we have evolved beyond incidents such as this, an African American women gets detained for engaging in public displays of affection. What century is this? Based on LAPD rule, it is one where a woman cannot kiss her husband in public.