Make Thanksgiving Worthwhile

Having to celebrate Thanksgiving Day alone or are you not doing anything special? The best of us have to surrender the traditional, family-gathering holiday solo sometimes. But that’s fine. Why not make the best out of it? Maybe I’m an eternal optimist…

I have come up with ten, rather quirky ways to make November 27th a memorable day if you are celebrating by your self, with a small family or with friends.

1. Volunteer: Give others a memorable holiday by serving food or volunteering somehow. Feel self gratification by giving to others in need.

2. Waterin’ Trough: I know – a little strange to some of you non-country music lovers. But they have a food buffet after 7 p.m., line dancing and an opportunity to share a homemade dessert with everyone else.

3. Movies: Movie theaters are open and usually there are new releases on November 27th. But from the looks of Fandango, new releases come out the day before.

4. Make a dinner: Why not cook your favorite food? Think of it this way: you don’t have to cook 50 different dishes and have to clean it all up after. Try your hand at new dishes to expand your cooking talents.

5. Go to McDonalds: Sounds stranger than going to the Waterin’ Trough? Would you laugh at me if I told you I did this with my dad once? Go to McDonalds and order as much as you can eat to create your own feast. My dad and I laughed for days after. It doesn’t hurt to be adventurous and a little silly.

6. Don’t do anything: No, really. Hang around the house; make a Christmas gift list for friends and family and rest before going to the malls on Black Friday.

7. Do homework: You probably won’t do this but I guess if you are desperate for something to do it will not hurt to get ahead.

8. Turkey Trot: Put those running shoes on and run in the cold with the rest of Pinellas County- at least it feels like the whole county is there.

9. Have friends over: I’m sure that after friends spend half the day with their families they need a break. Have friends over to watch whatever football game is on – or better yet – the Macy’s Day parade.

10. Go to someone’s house: Great friends won’t let you down. Bring a dish or a bottle of wine to show your appreciation. Spending the holiday with someone else is better than sitting in your house alone.

Stop stressing over writers block: tips for finals week

By James Kneblik, Jr.

Those looming finals and procrastinated projects are only a week away, followed by the completion of another semester. Students balancing classes, work and social life can easily fall prey to heavy stress and dangerous study habits.

The counseling center at USF St. Petersburg and USF Tampa are providing proactive support for students needing to bring their life back to order.

Rick Temple, Ph.D., at the Counseling Center for Human Development at USF spoke to students recently about stress management, offering guidance to navigate their busy and demanding lifestyle.

Temple said a student’s demanding life can easily become overwhelming, but whether or not this becomes a “serious problem” is how the student manages the stress.

“Too much stress can negatively impact a person in many ways, from physiological symptoms like headaches and illness to emotional distress like anger, sadness and discouragement,” Temple said.

What students really need to develop, explained Temple, is a lifestyle that incorporates healthy stress management. This includes not abusing substances, getting enough sleep, eating well and getting frequent doses of recreational activity. He explained how another important part of managing life’s demands is encouraging yourself rather than being overly critical.

“When stressors build, realize you have resources to cope and find others to help as needed. Instead of feeling defeated and giving up, figure out what to do about the stressors,” Temple said. “You have faced stress in the past and overcome it; you can find ways of doing it now.”

“Be sure you don’t add to your stress level by taking on too much,” Temple said.

Another lecture recently offered by the counseling center was entitled, “Overcoming Writer’s Block.” The talk was given by Belinda Seiger, Ph.D, licensed clinical social worker. A part-time therapist at the Tampa campus, Seiger offered guidance for students hammering out those final papers of the semester.

Writer’s block is often caused by students having unrealistic expectations, and not accepting ones own writing style, Seiger explained. “If you’re a procrastinator, honor that,” she said.

Sometimes a student must embrace an environment that helps them perform, even if it means working under pressure. Seiger said a lot of people process what they are going to write before they actually begin and that is part of the writing process.

According to Seiger, there are three major myths, that contribute to writers block: believing that great writers never struggle with their work, that writing must seem easy or enjoyable at all times and trying edit while writing.

Debunking these myths is necessary to write at your highest potential. Seiger offered five major tips to become a great and efficient writer:

Number one: Know your work style. Where and when the student works best is very important to generating the best results.

Number two: Put your inner editor aside until after a significant amount of writing. “If you edit while you’re writing, you’re basically thwarting your creative process,” Seiger said. “You may never get started if you keep editing.”

Number three: Think out of the box. “You don’t always have to start at the beginning,” said Seiger, who suggested starting at the middle or end in many situations.

Number four: Learn how to brainstorm before you start writing. This can take place by making bullet points or bubbles of ideas, but one doesn’t necessarily need to start the writing process to get organized.

Number five: Limit perfectionism. “Having high expectations is great, but it doesn’t have to be the next great American novel or an award winning paper,” Seiger said. “Strive for realistic expectations.”

Many students may not think they battle with writer’s block. Seiger, holding a Ph.D., said achieving her education meant doing a lot of writing and having a lot of writer’s block to overcome.

True writer’s block is an ongoing inability to write, Seiger said most students don’t have that luxury. “Many students don’t have official writers block, they just get in their own way,” Seiger said.

When the assignment is due the next day, it must get done. “Every writing project has a beginning, middle and end, and eventually you will get there,” Seiger said.

USF Defense Provides Much-Needed Win

After losing four out of its last five games, USF rebounded with a 17-13 win over Connecticut in this season’s final home game. The victory allowed the Bulls to avoid their first four-game losing streak in school history and guaranteed USF a bowl appearance, likely in the St. Petersburg Bowl on Dec. 20.

Still reeling from a three-game skid, the Bulls needed the win to lift the emotional burden of not playing up to expectations that led to this year’s mid-season collapse.

“We didn’t realize how long it’s been,” safety Carlton Williams told The St. Petersburg Times. “It’s been like a month. The feeling feels great.”

A much-needed win, the game also proved bittersweet for 21 seniors who played their final game in front of the home crowd at Raymond James Stadium. USF coaches, teammates and fans alike bid farewell to several key players including Jarriett Buie, Marcus Edwards, Taurus Johnson, Carlton Williams, Tyrone McKenzie, Ben Williams and Brouce Mompremier.

The seniors ended on a good note. Although the Bulls’ offense was not overpowering, totaling 247 total yards, it took just five plays over two minutes for USF to take a 7-0 lead. Dontavia Bogan sparked the drive with an 86-yard return on the opening kickoff, capped by a 3-yard run by Ben Williams.

USF’s defense was a different story. The Bulls compensated for the offense by holding Donald Brown, the nation’s leading rusher, to 96 yards on the night. Coming in to Sunday’s contest, Brown averaged 154 yards per game. With Connecticut threatening inside the five-yard line, the Bulls defense held strong and forced the Huskies to settle for a field goal and a seven-point deficit at halftime.

“We were physical and we knew what we had to do,” defensive end George Selvie said. “Just to have somebody play like that [for the seniors] is great.”

The defensive theme, as well as the momentum, carried into the second half during the fourth quarter with the game on the line. The Bulls stopped the Huskies on two consecutive drives: first on a third down-and-five from inside the 20 and again on a fourth down-and four, in which Connecticut got the first down but fumbled. Riding Jamar Taylor’s 25-yard touchdown run from the third quarter, USF sealed their seventh win of the season.

“The team defensively started to turn and finally did what they were supposed to do,” defensive coordinator Wally Burnham said. “We played football like defensive football is supposed to be played. It’s the best game I think we’ve had.”

USF wraps up 2008 with a tough game against conference rival West Virginia in Morgantown on Dec. 6.  A win against the Mountaineers and the Bulls could contend for a berth in the Gator Bowl.

Tackle the Blues

For an upcoming Crow’s Nest article, I recently attended the stress management discussion hosted by Dr. Anita Sahgal and Dr. Sara Leslie.

I have to be honest; I was disappointed that no students showed up. If I did not go to write an article about it, only one person would have sat through the discussion.

While jotting down notes and quotes, I learned that stress is individualized – not a new concept to me, but a refreshing one.

In times of stress, it helps to know that organization, talking out problems with friends and family and exercising are a few ideas to make the world stop – at least for a minute.

I have always been an advocate for positive de-stressing. A semester away from graduating, I have to admit that I am a veteran of good, wholesome de-stressing.

Take a look at tips and tricks suggested by experts Sahgal and Leslie in my approaching article. But for now, here are a few of my personal de-stressing tips that came in handy during my four years as a student.

1. Power naps – The point is not to fall asleep but to rest. I know it is difficult to do but get comfortable somewhere, close your eyes, focus on your breathing and nothing else. Know that it is possible to clear your mind for at least 15 or 20 minutes. I power napped many times in my car.

2. Clean. Clean. Clean. Clean something – anything. Cleaning helps to clear the mind and it gives you a sense of control. Do not clean something that is going to frustrate you more – like the blinds or the garage. Throw out the junk in your car or reorganize your closet.

3. Favorite Foods. When I am stressed I like to make my self happy by doing something I like to do. Cooking and baking my favorite foods helps me feel replenished.

4. Reassurance. I think that stress is often produced by self-consciousness or a lack in confidence. Talk to a close friend or family member who will tell you your positive characteristics. Make sure you can trust a person who will tell you the truth and not what you want to hear.

5. Let it all out. Cry, scream, run 10 miles or vent to someone you trust.

6. Pin point. Try to put a finger on what exactly is bothering you. Understanding the problem will help you to solve the issue.

7. Beach. Imagine currently living in Maine and stressing out. We live in Florida people, and it’s sunny with a high of 75 right now on Nov. 15. Go to the beach! Relax.

8. Get out of the library. I know that Nelson Poynter Library is a home away from home to most of us. But get your nose out of the books for a few moments. Taking breaks in between studying always helps me to stay focused.

9. Evaluate your relationships. Having an ongoing fight with someone? Feel jealous, angry, bitter or spiteful? Figure out how you will deal with it. Don’t let it linger because everyone else will see that dark cloud hovering over your head.

10. Set priorities. I will never forget this valuable piece of information: work now, play later. If you get in the routine of doing so, I guarantee you will feel accomplished and less stressed. Yes, easier said than done. It takes strength and motivation.

When it comes to stress, remember to assess your problems and feel good inside.

USF Season Can’t Escape Tailspin

With a 49-16 pounding of USF on Saturday, surging Rutgers came one step closer to clinching a bowl berth, as the Scarlet Knights evened their record at 5-5. While Rutgers is beginning to gain momentum late in the season, USF finds itself in a downward spiral that is rapidly spinning out of control.

“It’s obvious we didn’t play very well,” USF head coach Jim Leavitt said. “Our football team is certainly down right now, about as down as you can get.”

Leavitt’s words, while referring to the loss, are a more appropriate summation of the Bulls’ season. The game’s result handed the Bulls their third consecutive loss, and the team’s fourth out of its previous five games. The Scarlet Knights’ 49 points also set a pair of records that the Bulls would like to forget: the touchdowns accounted for the most points allowed by the Bulls at Raymond James Stadium and the 33-point margin of defeat proved enough for the worst home-loss in school history.

Rutgers, on the other hand, extended the Big East’s longest current winning streak to four games, including Saturday’s win which was the third consecutive victory over USF. Quarterback Mike Teel is a large part of the team’s recent success. Against the Bulls, Teel threw for 294 yards and three touchdown passes, while also running from two yards out for an additional score.

Unlike its opponent, USF’s performance resembled more of the same of what fans seemingly witness on a weekly basis: failing to score inside the red-zone, costly penalties, missed scoring chances and harmful turnovers. In the first half, USF managed to keep up with Rutgers’ relentless attack, bringing the game to within four points in the second quarter. But as play resumed after halftime, both the offense and defense seemed to implode.

“We got our tails whipped in the second half. We couldn’t do anything,” defensive coordinator Wally Burnham said. “We played well the first half, then all of a sudden we couldn’t respond.”

In total, USF turned the ball over six times on offense, while the defense gave up 28 points in the second half after holding Rutgers scoreless in the first quarter.

“[The way we played] is disrespectful. The coaches did a great job, but we just didn’t do what we were supposed to do. This loss is all on the players,” linebacker Tyrone McKenzie said.

As a result of the loss, USF will finish the season with its first sub .500 conference record since joining the Big East. Despite USF’s deficiencies, coach Jim Leavitt attests that the Bulls will bounce back. In order to do that, the Bulls have to revert back to the formula that jumpstarted their success back in August.

“We got off to a great 5-0 start this season, but injuries and a lack of continuity have really hurt us a lot,” Leavitt said. “This is not the same team we were the first five games.”

Fall daydreaming of graduation

By James P. Kneblik, Jr.

For Floridians, fall does not mean autumn leaves or fire-like blooming landscape but it does mean cooling temperatures, welcomed relief from mosquitoes and an anticipated end of another hurricane season.

For students, it is just another semester of classes; for me, it is the end.

Just two weeks ago I showed up at the Barnes and Noble on campus and ordered my cap and gown, graduation announcements and joined the USF alumni association.

At that moment it actually felt like I was really nearing the end, maybe because I received a t-shirt from the university with “alumni” printed on it: definitely a first. When December 14 finally comes, I will be completing my 4.5-year college career.

I’ve studied at three universities, in two different states and changed my major half way through. I have a feeling I am not alone in this track record.

In nearly one month I will walk across a stage, receive a piece of paper and somehow earn a higher “degree” of preparation for my life ahead. It hardly seems worth it. But I know it is.

College is worth more than a diploma

I have been given skills and experiences from college far beyond my major or classes. I have learned that life is worth hard work and the work pays off in the end. A bad day is never as horrible as it first seems; even a “C” in marketing management will not ultimately ruin my college career.

I have come to appreciate my business classes, especially economics. Really, I’m serious. So many things come back to these basic principles. While I am not an economics major, understanding it has made me be a better citizen. Sometimes I think people should be a required to take at least one course in economics before voting in an election. I think it would change people’s perspectives.

College has also helped me be spontaneous. I love to explore a new part of town, find a new cafe or take a walk through a park during lunch break. I remember when I first drove through Roser Park, just a couple blocks from campus. It was like driving into a completely different city, something similar to San Francisco. It’s those simple surprises, the serendipity, that got me through the last few years.

Yet academic side, I have learned skills and strategies of how to be an “A” student. Of course, I didn’t always use these tips, but for those ambitious freshmen looking for the top-quality study tips I never had time to implement, please take note:

Top five impractical and brilliant study tips

Number Five: Read all recommended material before every class. With every class added onto a student’s transcript, it seems a more lenient standard of reading is acquired. But for every page number, recommended article and practice homework problems the “A” student is given the opportunity to “get their money’s worth.”

Number 4: Buy every required text. Somewhere along the way, a student realizes that text books are often suggestive, even when they’re considered “required.” One might go for the online approach, borrow from a friend or just try surviving without it, but eventually paying $140 for each text book will grow ridiculously old. But of course, the good student would never give into this temptation to save a buck, would they?

Number 3: Attend every class period. The alarm clock goes off Monday morning, the party went later than expected the night before and there’s a massive urge to keep the head planted on the pillow. Alternative? Think of how each class is another way for knowledge to be systematically inserted into your mind. Right, go ahead and sleep.

Number 2: Study in the library after each class. It has been said that the best time to study is right after the lecture. So, whether it may be from Davis, Coquina or the COB, make the trek across campus and devote some study time at Nelson Poynter Memorial Library.

Finally, number 1: Devote three hours of study time to every one credit hour. During ones college career this suggested system of study will be repeated over and over by seasoned professors who have lost touch with the realistic demands placed upon their students. If you actually do the math, do not be alarmed. It is, unfortunately, pathetically and simply impossible.

Winter Serves as No Deterrent for Waterfront

Even in the winter months, Florida’s tropical setting provides no limit on recreational activities. The USF St. Petersburg Waterfront Office holds many activities, adventures and educational classes that encourage students to take advantage of the open water – even in the middle of winter.

As the end of the semester approaches, students looking to temporarily escape academic pressures can turn to the Waterfront Office. Check out all of the adventure trips that explore Florida’s natural beauty while navigating some of Tampa Bay’s famous coastal corridors:

Keelboat Overnight Sailing Trip – Nov. 21, 22, 23. Leave Tampa Bay and drift into the Gulf of Mexico after making a brief stops at Egmont Key and other small beaches. The trip spans three days and two nights, providing ample time to escape the rigors of the classroom. This will be the last trip of the fall semester, but it will resume again in the spring.

The Eco-Cruise – Nov. 20. Enjoy a more relaxing option for less adventurous students seeking a jaunt on an uneventful weekend. Students can learn about Florida’s wildlife and conservation efforts from other passengers including representatives from the USGS and FWC. The trip provides a relaxing atmosphere, but also an educational one as it highlights environmental awareness and activism.

Snorkel and Kayak Day Trip – Trips will resume in the spring semester, in which students can travel to Crystal River in order to dive down into some of Florida’s most beautiful natural springs and interact first-hand with native wildlife, as USF St. Petersburg graduate student M.K. Bradley did. “I really enjoyed it. The water was crystal clear and we saw a lot of manatees that made the trip a great experience. It was my first time, but I would definitely go again.”

If the above activities sound fun, but the only thing stopping you is a lack of formal training, do not fret. Listed below are many of the instructional classes that the Waterfront Office provides to make you feel more comfortable on the open water:

Intro to Kitesurfing – Nov. 14 and 21. Learn how to master the wind and waves of the Gulf of Mexico by acquiring the skills and technique assured to make you a pro.

Fishing Clinic – Offered various dates and times. Achieve awesome angler status by learning the technique of tying knots, reading tides and knowing the tendencies of Tampa Bay’s native fish species in order to score a big catch.

Scuba Diving – Beginner and advanced classes are offered and will resume during the spring semester. Classes are composed of lecture, instruction, and in-water sessions that build up to eventual open-water dives.

Lifeguard Training – Class resumes during spring semester. Learn the skills necessary to become a certified American Red Cross Lifeguard. Certification includes Lifeguard, First Aid, CPR/AED for the Professional Rescuer taught in a 30-hour course.

Learn to Sail – Class resumes in the spring semester. A great instructional course designed to educate students about the composition of a sailboat and the proper technique of how to sail in order to achieve the best results on the water.

Kayak and Canoe Smart Start – Nov.13 and 20. This class is designed to educate students about one-person vessels commonly seen in Tampa Bay waters. The class will stress safety issue of going out on the water alone, but will also teach essential skills such as paddling and how to handle the boats.

Basic Water Rescue – Classes resume during the spring semester. Learn vital skills such as CPR, as well as how to respond to and prevent aquatic emergencies. Successful completion of the course leads to American Red Cross Certification.

“Students enjoy a lot of the different activities,” Student Life Coordinator at the Waterfront Teresa Przetocki said. “Everything, including the instructional classes and adventures cost money, but it is a minimal amount so students can enjoy themselves.”

For more information, visit the USF St. Petersburg Waterfront Office website at http://www.stpt.usf.edu/waterfront/events.htm.