The Best Things You Learn Aren’t Used in a Classroom…

Nearing the one year anniversary of my departure to my beloved Italy, I find myself constantly consuming satirical picture-lists of what I should, should have, and should not have learned from my experience abroad. I mean, these lists, for all intents and purposes just knock me back into a state of euphoric nostalgia. Half the time I can’t believe my experience happened and the other half I am replaying it in my head, wishing that I’ll wake up in my bed in Viterbo. I’m waiting for the part where my dream becomes reality. Yearning for what was has become a new favorite past time. Especially if it means reliving the experience that revitalized — no, revolutionized — my life. I’ll never be able to live the carefree lifestyle I had in Viterbo again. Not unless I win the lottery.

Each day I wake up is even farther from the dream that became reality. I conquered my fears and gave it everything I had. No regrets, but plenty of memories.

A year ago, I was writing a story about a SigEp whose life was taken by cancer while preparing for the trip of a lifetime. At this time, I hypothesized the things I might see and feel, too naive to know what studying abroad was actually like.

Instead of finding a way to replicate that experience, I’ll just keep reading and sharing these fun lists. Like this one from Huffington Post.

Nobody’s really sure which animal a doner kebab’s is shaved meat comes from.

4 Things We Can Learn From Ndamukong Suh About Accountability


It’s the middle of September, that means football has returned for the long haul. Week 1 of the NFL regular season is in the books, while nearly everyone around the league and fans everywhere can be happy, one player might not be so happy.

That player is Ndamukong Suh. Suh was fined $100,000 for an illegal block on the opposing team last Sunday. Even though his team won the game, he clearly wasn’t acting like the leader, the four-year pro and defensive captain that he is.

Suh is a player who has quintessentially acted like a selfish jerk since day one in the NFL. Given all that has happened in his young career, you would think Suh would have learned his lesson already. You would think he would have altered his behavior. You would think he would learn to channel whatever impulses change him from a mild-mannered man off the field to an occasionally out-of-control athlete on it. But apparently, Suh hasn’t.

He slammed Green Bay offensive lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith’s head into the ground three times and stomped on his right arm on Thanksgiving two seasons ago. The NFL suspended Suh for two games for that. Last Thanksgiving, Suh kicked Schaub in the groin. The league did not suspend Suh but fined him $30,000 for that.

Four things stood out to me that Ndamukong Suh wasn’t doing that he could have done better.

1.  Give honest, sincere appreciation. Ever since coming into the league Suh has acted with pure disregard for other players. Suh belittles and undermines other players around him by kicking his co-workers in the groin or stomping on their head rather than giving honest, sincere appreciation. The latter behavior would have been respecting that the play was over and that the other guys are probably as tired and frustrated as he was.

2. Arouse in the other person an eager want. As a football professional, Suh is constantly required to prove himself and his talent. Other players, and executives must buy in to his skills for their own reasons. If he gave coaches, for example, a reason for how his skills could benefit the team, they might welcome him. Instead, the Detroit Lions are stuck protecting a troublemaker, which affects their team.
3.  If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically. So Suh has acted out, becoming physically violent and sometime vocal about it. Rather than admit his mistake, that is illegally blocking a player or kicking him in the groin, him and his teammates continue to make excuses for his play. Teammate, Dominic Raiola said of Suh’s illegal block in week 1, “I don’t know if he really went down,” Raiola said. “I think he kind of hit him on the hip and fell. … That’s out of my hands.” He made a mistake, just admit it!

4.  Appeal to nobler motives. Most people will work very hard for ideals and the higher aims of the organization, in this case, a pro football team, if they know what they are and how they apply in a particular situation. Suh clearly has no noble motives and the Lions don’t attempt to enforce their ideals upon him, though.

Just Another Day in D.C.

Sweet potato pancakes!

My last day in Washington D.C. began at a Langston Hughes inspired restaurant called Busboy and Poets. A delicious local restaurant with a broad range of choices including my breakfast of choice – sweet potato pancakes. If you haven’t had sweet potato pancakes, try them immediately..

Next stop was the White House. Barack Obama didn’t know what hit him when I rolled through. He was probably still sleeping or something. Seriously, though. Everything was fenced off and I didn’t get a great look at the building. It was very disappointing to be honest. I guess if you’ve seen the My Date with the President’s Daughter, you didn’t miss anything. Nevertheless, I can say that I saw the building in person now.

Next I walked to the highly under-appreciated Octagon building, the place where the proceedings of American Government took place while the Capitol building was being built. Yes it actually is the shape of an octagon.

Through the park, I saw the ugly looking Washington Monument. The 533-foot structure stands as the tallest building in Washington D.C. as current law prohibits anything taller to exist. It looked ugly because scaffolding lines every inch of the outside while damage from the 2011 earthquake is repaired. I remember when Robert Langdon had to walk up all the stairs at the end of The Lost Symbol with his friend Peter Solomon. I realized that I wouldn’t have that chance this time around. Continue reading

Our Nation’s Capital

Did you know that Greyhound bus services intentionally over books bus routes to protect against buses not filled?

Neither did I.

Flash back: It’s Thursday night, and I’m ready to take the 10 p.m. bus to New York City and after that, to the nation’s historic capital. Only, two bus drivers don’t show up for work so we were forced to take the 1 a.m. bus instead.

We must have had the worst luck in the world because our bus broke down at 2:15 a.m. on the Mass Pike. Coupled with the reality of sitting next to four obnoxious African Americans for 6 hours, it was safe to safe to say we were already off to a rough start.

Inside the National Postal Museum.

These people were shouting profanities at the driver and passengers, shouting inappropriate lyrics, and trying their hardest to rap like Lil Wayne. One of them had his hands down his pants while sleeping and the rest of them were drunk and smoking cigarettes in the bathroom. The funniest line of the night, though, was when the 4’11″ midget of the group asked the bus driver not to treat him like a child because he was a grown man. Except he wasn’t so grown after all.

We finally made it to the Washington D.C. at 1:30 p.m. and immediately dived into its exciting history. Our first stop was the National Postal Museum. Here I saw the special Fire and Ice exhibit headlined by commemorating the Hindenburg fire disaster and the Titanic ice tragedy. In this museum, I saw the postal service from its inception including the sparkly postal mascot, Owney.

Detective McDevitt, our tour guide.

After check in at Capital View, followed by drinks and dinner in downtown D.C., I made my way towards the History on Foot walking tour that chronicled the events of April 14 1865, the day President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, led by Detective. McDevitt. The tour guide was an overzealous local actor who took his job very seriously. He lectured to us about the night’s events with such riveting detail I was reminded of my 7th grade history class. In total, the tour lasted about two hours and covered just less than two miles. I’d recommend this to anyone interested in learning about John Wilkes Booth and the conspiracy to destroy the Union by eliminating the Union’s leaders.

The Capitol building is humongous. There are hundreds of rooms, offices, and old meeting spaces used by the Supreme Court and House of Representatives. This building was clearly built to last. The rotunda is adorned with eight oil-on-canvas paintings depicting the American Revolution, all done by John Trumbull. It also has a meticulously painted wrap around fresco of the events of America’s history.

While standing below the Apotheosis of Washington, I got the chance to marvel at Constantino Brumidi’s work – I’d been hoping for this moment since I read The Lost Symbol. Ever since my time in Italy, I’ve taken a serious liking to Italian renaissance art. This piece was very similar in style, anyway.

Continue reading