Saturday, May 22, 2010

How to Make Yourself More Marketable

As a recent college grad (I graduated one week ago today), I understand just how difficult it can be to find a job. I've applied to three different newspapers so far, and am sending material out to a fourth on Monday. Now, I know there are positions available, but it is really nerve-wracking to sit around, hoping and praying to get an interview. I've recently decided to expand my horizons and learn new things in the hope it will make me more marketable.

My degree is in print journalism. A dying field, right? Wrong. In this economy, there are fewer and fewer jobs, so it is important to expand your knowledge base online in order to grow with the times. As I have not had anyone explain the various media outlets to me, I have had to be a self-starter.

For instance, when I first started college, my parents bought me a USB-compatible digital recorder. This meant that I could record interviews and later upload them to my laptop. Handy, no? A year ago, however, I was enrolled in an advance tap class at UW-Whitewater. I wanted to practice the dances on my own, so I recorded the songs on my digital recorder. Unfortunately, it was hard to rewind, so I figured out how to format the recordings into iTunes and upload it to my iPod.

As you can tell, I have also started blogging. Honestly, no one showed me how to do it, or explained what to write about, so it is hit-or-miss right now. It's a little frustrating, as I have no followers, but I persevere.

In addition, one of my graduation gifts was The Flip - a video and audio recorder. I haven't had much time to experiment with it yet, but I plan on taking the time soon and uploading some videos online.

My final point is to seek employment outside of your major. I recently got a job with Vector Marketing selling Cutco knives. Although it is business-oriented, the skills I learn there will benefit me in my future career. My parents are not very supportive of the job, despite the fact I get paid even if customers don't purchase anything. They view it as just selling knives; I view it as selling myself.

To clarify, my position with Vector will develop my people skills and teach me sales as well. When you really break it down, there is not a huge difference between selling knives to families and selling ad space to businesses. You need to know the basic selling points as well as know how to sell your product.

I was recently told that if a newspaper has to lay off a person, they are going to lay off the individual with only one specialty, not the person who has multiple skills.

Though my position with Vector does not tie in directly, it will make me more marketable with employers. Careers can overlap, and it is for that reason that you should not be afraid to seek employment outside of your degree.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Halama's Martial Arts

I’m going to do something a little different with this next post. This was an article I wrote for the Wausau Daily Herald about the expansion of Halama’s Martial Arts in Wausau. The article got chopped down a little and is no longer available online, so here is the original. I am very interested in martial arts, and both Master Nathan Halama and Mr. Bryden do an amazing job instructing their students.

Halama’s Martial Arts, located at 267 Chellis Street in Wausau, recently expanded their business to include a variety of martial arts classes.

A fifth-degree black belt, Master Nathan Halama opened Halama’s Martial Arts in May of 2005. Halama’s originally offered an open taekwondo class five nights a week, teaching children and adults at the same time.

“I’d always wanted to open my own gym and teach taekwondo as a career,” Halama said. “I had a branch school for seven years before I came here. I was looking to run my own gym since before high school.”

One of the first changes Halama made back in September was the establishment of a children's taekwondo class, separate from the adults. While Halama himself teaches the adult class, the children are taught by Benjamin Bryden, a second-degree black belt.

According to Bryden, the decision to separate the kids and adults into two classes stemmed from comments they received.

“We got a lot of comments over the years that the adults didn’t really like that it took the kids longer to pick up on stuff, and the kids didn’t have as much fun with that many adults in class,” Bryden said. “Sometimes the kids’ parents didn’t want them in with that many adults in class; they didn’t know who they all were.”

Both Bryden and Halama run the new A.C.E. class. A.C.E., which stands for assess the situation, calculate a response and execute action, is a more reality-based self-defense class. It covers unarmed combat, knife fighting, knife defense and gun defense.

“It is a much more intensive program,” Halama said. “It is not for everybody. We decided to open it up to everybody, but they have to meet our criteria; we aren’t going to let just anybody into that class. They have to have decent motives. It has to be for self-defense and making themselves a better person.”

Unconventional Art Forms...Breakdancing

I was also recently exposed to breakdancing as an art form. A little over two weeks ago a friend contacted me, asking about whether I would be interested in cheering on his friends at a breakdancing competition at Madison’s Monona Terrace.

Although I have seen breakdancing on television and in movies, I was completely unprepared for the amazing dancing I saw that night. People of all ages and ethnicities arrived to perform; they even had judges come from as far away as Japan!

Upon entering the conference room, I was overwhelmed by the number of dancers and fans gathered there - the place was packed! In the middle of the room was a large, smooth, wooden floor, located in front of a stage where two disc jockeys scratched a beat on records. Smaller practice floors allowed the dance groups to warm up, while family and friends cheered them on.

How the crowd cheered the dancers on was just as unique as the dance style. Instead of the traditional clapping, individuals were instructed to raise a hand in the air and bob their hand up and down whenever they saw an impressive move.

Ironically, white dancers were in the minority, as most of the people there looked to be of either Asian or African-American descent. There were two dancers that stood out to me.

The first was a tall African-American male dressed all in blue that the crowd dubbed “Avatar.” As a former gymnast, I understand that the taller you are, the more difficult it is to throw your body around. Yet despite his height, “Avatar” managed to twist and spin with the best of them.

The second person that drew my attention was a white male I dubbed “Farmer Joe.” As I told my friend, “I can die happy now that I have seen a white man dressed in flannel breakdance.”

I was left breathless by the dance moves I saw. I saw people bouncing on their hands while suspending both legs in the air. I also saw men and women swinging their legs in the air like male gymnasts do on the pommel horse, as well as spin on their heads. The most unusual move I saw was a reverse worm-the man forced his body up while on his back instead of his stomach. The real challenge the dancers faced was breakdancing to whatever beat the DJs set.

The music, strength, control and sheer athleticism of the dancers combined to make an amazing competition. The so-called “untraditional” art forms I have witnessed in recent months has expanded my view of art, as well as given me an understanding about how other cultures express themselves.

Note: I will later post a couple videos I took at the breakdancing competition. I just moved back home after graduation and I have yet to find the cord that allows me to upload pictures and videos from my digital camera to my laptop.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Unconventional Art Forms...Tattoos

When one says art, what images come to mind? Pottery? The Mona Lisa? Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven?" Pottery, paintings, poetry, plays...these are the more conventional art forms, and the ones that immediately sprang to my mind when I started college. In the past five years, however, I have been exposed to unusual art forms.

The art of tattoos is thought to date as far back as 12,000 BC. Each culture has a history with tattoos, and they can represent different things. Some tattoos show rites of passage, status or rank, spirituality or serve as signs of bravery. In some cultures, criminals were marked with a tattoo and banished.

While most tattoo images are either pulled from images online or designed by the tattoo artist, it is also possible for individuals to design their own images. Those individuals are able to show off their own artistic talents while expressing themselves in a unique way.

In today's culture, tattoos have become more mainstream, and they can be seen as a form of expressionist art. I have a number of friends who have tattoos; some have them for personal reasons, while others are trivial.

A friend of mine has a tattoo on the base of his neck in memory of his father. Another has a winged shoe on her right ankle and a swimmer diving into water on her left foot as a tribute to her years as an athlete in those sports.

On a less serious note, four of my friends recently got Hello Kitty tattoos on, that's right, their right butt cheeks. When I inquired as to why they chose to get those particular tattoos I received the following answer:

"Duh, it's Hello Kitty, on our butts!"

The same friend said it would serve as a crazy and fun memory that they will all share as they get older. He plans on being in a nursing home one day, reminiscing about their group tattoos.

While one might think they will regret those particular tattoos down the road, I believe otherwise. My friends are just crazy enough that I truly believe they will look back on their pre-Vegas tattoos with fondness and laughter.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Finally a Graduate!

Wow, the past 48 hours have flown by in a flash! After 5 long years of writing papers, doing projects and cramming thousands upon thousands of facts in my brain, I finally graduated. Alright, I’ll admit it - I don’t actually have my diploma yet, just the case, but it’s still so hard to believe my educational career is at a close.

Harder still to believe that I am moved out of my apartment. I have spent over two years in that building - lots of laughs, lots of memories. I know I’ll be building new memories and have more laughs in my future, but change has always been hard for me. We as human beings are creatures of habit - we like our ruts, our patterns - familiarity is our friend. And though I have one job interview behind me and hopefully a couple more in my future, I do not have anything concrete laid out yet.

As I look to the future, I want to thank my parents for everything they have done. Without them and their support, none of this would be possible. They footed the bill for my tuition and rent, ensuring that I graduate college debt-free. They made sure I always had food in my fridge and a roof over my head. I may not always have the hottest items on the market, but I also do not go wanting. When I told them I wanted to enroll in a travel study course to Greece and Istanbul, they said yes and helped pay for it. They have sacrificed so much, given me so much, and without their continued love and support, I most likely would not be where I am today.

I’d like to offer one piece of advice to future graduates: try not to be afraid. Try not to be afraid of life, and of taking chances. Don’t let that uncertainty prevent you from enjoying life and living each day to its fullest. I didn’t fully grasp that concept until this past year, and I wish I had learned that lesson earlier. Now that I know what is out there, I plan on making time to live and experience new things. Once I have a job and some money saved up, I plan on conquering my fears and trying my hand at skydiving this summer. I know I will probably be terrified, but take it from me: it’s much scarier to live your life with regrets.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Whitewater Common Council Curbs All-You-Can-Drink Specials

The Whitewater Common Council voted 4-3 Tuesday night to pass an ordinance prohibiting bars from offering all-you-can-drink specials in the hope of decreasing binge drinking.

District two representative Max Taylor spoke strongly against passing the ordinance. Taylor felt passing it would do little to discourage binge drinking. He said the all-you-can-drink specials actually benefit the economy.

“These specials actually get people to come out to the bars,” Taylor said. “When you’re low on cash it’s nice to be able to go down to the bar and spend $5 and have a few drinks, as opposed to going out with that same $5 without the specials and having one, maybe two drinks. They encourage people to stick around the downtown. It is a very, very vibrant place [late at night]. After going to the bars, a lot of people go to patronize restaurants that decide to stay open that late, such as Rosa’s or the Day ‘N Nite CafĂ©.

Taylor also felt that prohibiting the specials would encourage individuals to attend unregulated house parties and put more strain on the police to check on the bars. He felt it was the responsibility of the bar owners to make sure they don’t overserve patrons.

“Even if you have an all-you-can-drink special, if a bartender sees that you are clearly intoxicated and falling over yourself, they should stop serving you, even if you did pay your $5 fee,” Taylor said. “If they don’t stop serving you, that is when our police department should step in and regulate.”

Patrick Singer, the common council president, also voted in favor of keeping all-you-can-drink specials. Singer, who is also on the alcohol licensing committee, did not think they [the common council] were qualified to set prices. Singer said there are only four places in Whitewater that offer the all-you-can-drink specials. They include The College Pub, Fat Jack’s, the Hawks Nest Bar & Grill and the Downstairs Sports Bar & Grill.

“This was brought up by one licensed owner who does not offer specials,” Singer said. “This was never brought up as something to help binge drinking. It seems like it was brought up by one licensed holder to level the playing field. It sounded like this was a solution in search of a problem, or a bar owner trying to use us to level the playing field against his competition, which I don’t think we should have any business in.”

District four representative Lynn Binnie spoke strongly in favor of prohibiting the all-you-can-drink specials.

“Drunken driving is a problem in this state,” Binnie said. “It causes massive injuries and deaths day after day after day in this state. We have our fair share of drunk driving arrests in this community. Alcohol levels are considerably higher after leaving an establishment where there is an all-you-can-drink special.”

Whitewater Police Chief Jim Coan echoed Binnie’s concerns. If passed, Coan said they would enforce the ordinance prohibiting all-you-can-drink specials by word of mouth. He felt the ordinance would be symbolic and send a message to people that binge drinking is wrong.

Fat Jack’s owner Mark Wokasch, and Pumper’s and Mitchell’s Bar & Grill employee Curt Patrick expressed their dissatisfaction concerning the passing of the ordinance. Patrick said he goes to the bars almost every Wednesday, which is his only night off. Patrick felt prohibiting the specials would not affect how much people consume because it is cheaper to buy individual drinks than pay the cover charge.”

“The ones who go out on Wednesdays nights are responsible,” Patrick said. “I can assure you that it is Thursday, Friday and Saturday [that people are overly intoxicated]. Getting rid of all-you-can-drink specials would not solve anything. It would only encourage them to drink more.”

Wokasch said he had a problem with the city trying to take more than they were qualified to do. He felt they should have first looked at other state legislatures to see what is needed to effectively curb binge drinking. He also said they very rarely have to cut someone off on a Wednesday, or even Thursday, night.

“We keep a better eye on how much a particular person is drinking,” Wokasch said. “They have an attitude and a way of asking for their next drink that tips us off.”
Wokasch said the signs they look for include being rude to bartenders or customers, having difficulty standing and slurred speech.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Self-Defense Seminar a Part of Peace Week

Master Trent Norrell and the UW-Whitewater Warhawk Karate Club worked with the P.E.A.C.E. organization on campus to host a self-defense seminar Wednesday night.

P.E.A.C.E, which stands for Peace, Education and Activism through Creative Engagement, is a university-sponsored organization designed to promote peace, equality and justice through activism, education and creative engagement.

The self-defense seminar is part of the organization’s Peace Week. The event was coordinated by one of their co-presidents, Katka Showers-Curtis. Showers-Curtis said they had been considering a self-defense seminar for a long time and felt it would fit in well with the week’s plans.

“P.E.A.C.E. has been working a lot with women’s issues this year,” Showers-Curtis said. “All year we’ve been doing events that correlate with women’s issues. The self-defense seminar isn’t to teach people how to attack other people, but what to do and take care of yourself if you get attacked.”

A fourth-degree black belt, Norrell teaches beginning self-defense and advanced taekwondo at the university, as well as runs the Warhawk Karate Club. He kicked off the seminar with the three As of self defense: be aware of your surroundings, assess the situation and take action.

“Self-defense is an awareness,” Norrell said. “It differs from martial arts in that it focuses on the practical and [doing] whatever it takes [to get away].”

Black belts Austin Sams and Jonathon Nagel helped Norrell teach individuals a variety of offensive techniques, which included the palm-heel strike, groin clap and vertical elbow strike. Attendees also learned how to throw off and escape from an attacker who has them on the ground.

“I wanted them [Norrell and Sams] to focus on how to get away, and not necessarily on how to beat someone to a pulp,” Showers-Curtis said. “If you are in a dangerous situation, how to get out of it the quickest way and get away, because if you stay and fight you could get hurt worse.”

Norrell has taught hundreds of self-defense seminars over the years, and said the most challenging part for individuals is to overcome their fears and attend the seminars.

“Some people don’t come because of the fear of the unexpected,” Norrell said. “Some
people don’t come because they are fearful of facing the fact they may have to defend themselves, and some people are possibly afraid because maybe they have been attacked, and they don’t want to relive it. We get that a lot actually. Reliving it can be very difficult.”

Rachel Sanders, a sophomore, said even though Whitewater is a pretty safe campus, she thought it would be a good idea to learn some self-defense moves. Sanders said she would like to see more seminars on campus in the future.

“You never know what could happen,” Sanders said. “On campus, if you are walking alone at night, you don’t have to fear someone, you will know how to protect and defend yourself in any situation.”