Friday, November 28, 2008

Back in Buffalo for the Holidays

Posted by Craig on 11/28/2008 3 comments
I am back in Buffalo, and I was greeted by a blanketing of snow (Chicago has yet to have snow stick this year). Nice to see and good to be home.

Had Thanksgiving dinner last night and it was great, as always. Mom makes a great spread every year, without fail, and we have a bunch of traditions like watching NFL football, having a family prayer before eating, and playing games (we did Yahtzee, Boggle, and trivia this year) which were nice to do again.

My girlfriend Nicole was also able to join us for the festivities - I'm so glad she was able to. It was great to see her, and it was wonderful to spend time with her, share in the meal, etc.

Before Nicole left today we played the Wii with my sister, and I do have to record here - I got my first ever Wii spare in Wii Sports/bowling! It's seriously a big deal for me because I'm not that good at the game, yet, lol. I have this bad habit/issue of curving the ball every time I release it; I'm getting better though. Got my first spare, my second ever strike, and a few more spares and strikes after that as well! So that was fun. The Wii is a blast -- even though Nicole is the Wii 301 Darts champion, winning 11 straight before my sister upset her.

I'm sure I'll update at least a few more times over the holidays - I'm here until Jan. 4. Looking forward to Christmas and New Years for sure. About to watch the Sabres game now...Let's go Buffalo!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The great debate

Posted by Craig on 11/26/2008 1 comments
Before I head back to Western New York for the holidays (I leave in just a few hours), I wanted to get this post up real quick.

I want to have a little winter project that I can play with from time to time - mostly, just for fun. I want to do something with either Joomla (develops Content Management Systems) or Flash (develops applications/animations).

I know little of Joomla and just the basics of Flash. But I currently have a free trial to, which teaches you how to use either, so I want to focus on one of the two to really get a handle of it.

Here's where you come in. What should be my "winter break project"?

Let your voice be heard! Take the poll here:

Whatever the results are when I get back home, I'll go with that. A little bit better than flipping a coin, I think. Thanks!

UPDATE (11/28): Results are 95% Flash, 5% Joomla. I'll go with the Flash then. Thanks for those who voted!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

First quarter in the books

Posted by Craig on 11/25/2008 3 comments
And so, I've completed my first 10 weeks as a graduate student.

Submitted my final paper electronically just a few moments ago, and upon a confirmation of receipt from my professor, it'll be dubbed "official."

I couldn't be happier with the way the quarter has gone and the way I plunged into this experience full force. For anyone who's made a leap like this before - spending 20+ years of your life in a city like Buffalo and coming to a city like Chicago - they'll know what I mean when I say it isn't easy. It's a big adaptation, there's so much to get used to.

I approached the experience fearlessly though; I think that's how you have to be. Within a few days, I had an internship lined up. I continuously made networking a priority and met new people every chance possible. I put an emphasis on continuing to write, write, write, contributing to sites like and I jumped into Twitter and I began populating/reading as many social media/technology/online journalism blogs as I could find.

I also experienced some things I could have never dreamed of. First, I witnessed the Chicago Cubs complete one of the worst collapses in MLB history (sorry Cubs fans, this HAD to be in here). I was one of 70,000 to be in the ticketed area at Grant Park on Election Night. I put a video together of that from my vantage point and posted it on YouTube; Generated some 7,500+ views (so far). And somehow, a generous guy at WGN Radio - a friend of a friend of the family sort deal - gave me a pair of 100-level tickets to a Blackhawks game for free. These things just don't happen!

At times, I think I tried to do too much. But it lined me up nicely. Next quarter, I will be a graduate assistant for the College of Communication. I'll continue to freelance for, who I just started working with a few weeks ago. And I'll be going to Washington, D.C. to help cover the Inauguration. Wow.

Must have done something right. Will take a brief intermission and give it another go on Jan. 5.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

One class down, one to go

Posted by Craig on 11/20/2008 1 comments
I've officially closed the book on my first ever grad school class, Campaign Reporting 2008 (aka: Political Reporting) with longtime Chicago Tribune reporter Mike Conklin. What a class it was - absolutely loved it. Practical experience was emphasized, rather than studying theory or learning from a textbook, and I got to cover a ton of stuff.

I worked with the Associated Press on Election Night, was at a watch party for the VP Debate at the Chicago History Museum and did a story on that, got to attend and put together a video on the Obama Rally at Grant Park, went to Obama's Illinois Headquarters and wrote about that, featured Mikva Challenge, a non-partisan political organization that works with young people in Chicago, etc.

I'm now two papers, a 3-pager and an 8-pager, away from completing my first quarter as a graduate student, and a most welcome return home to Western New York to visit with loved ones, celebrate Thanksgiving/Christmas, catch a Sabres game at HSBC, kick in 2009, and turn 23 years old. Can't wait to see my family, my girlfriend, and friends back home!

I'll leave detailed reflection for later, but briefly, the experience has gone extremely well. In fact, it's been a smoother transition than I thought it would be. I think I've adapted to living in this new place far quicker than I anticipated too. I've also plunged into it full force, have put an emphasis on networking and have met so many wonderful people, and I've kept up on writing/practical experience as well. In addition, I still feel the way I always have about this decision - it's the right one for me. DePaul's been nothing but great, I've learned so much, and I'm opening up my eyes to a whole new world having the chance to live in Chicago.

But all the while, it hasn't changed who I am. I proudly tell people I meet I'm from Buffalo, N.Y. I've still closely followed the Sabres, Bills, Buffalo News, etc. I'm still infinitely tied to my roots and my hometown, always will be. So for those back home, you should know that! And I remain so gracious to have the wonderful parents and family that I have, as well as many great friends and my wonderful girlfriend Nicole back home. For these reasons, I'm extremely excited about coming back for break. I love you guys and no matter where I go, always will.

Friday, November 14, 2008

New Orleans Style Dinner

Posted by Craig on 11/14/2008 0 comments
Tonight a friend upstairs generously made dinner for my roommates and I, as well as some others from the building.

She's from New Orleans and brought some of the culture down there up to Chicago...prepared gumbo for us with chicken and sausage, optional shrimp on the side (I skipped on that), and rice with some specialty sauce. King cake, a specialty in New Orleans for Mardi Gras, for dessert --- basically cinnamon breading with frosting and sprinkles on top...very very good!

It was a great meal and just like my journey to the Arabic restaurant a few weeks ago, it was wonderful to once again experience a little culture and try some new foods. Had never tried this stuff before, but I found it to be very good!! Highly recommended.

We watched a movie after and it was nice to just relax. Big thanks to that friend!!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Blackhawks-Bruins game

Posted by Craig on 11/13/2008 2 comments
I had the chance to take in the Blackhawks-Bruins game tonight, thanks to a kind soul at WGN Radio. It was a pleasant surprise and really good seats too.

It was a highly entertaining game that pretty much had it all - plenty of fights, awesome saves, goal posts, breakaways, a penalty shot, overtime, even a shootout. Boston took it 2-1 in the shootout, but Buffalo native Patrick Kane scored in the SO and picked up the primary assist on the game-tying goal.

Here's some video I took at the game from my vantage point:

Chicago's goal in regulation (Jonathan Toews tip-in)

The entire shootout!

I also did a write-up on the game in my Blackhawks blog over at Windy Citizen.

BTW, I just found out yesterday that I'm descended of European royalty...kings, queens, the whole deal...pretty cool. A write-up on the discovery - the exact connection, etc. - can be found here in my Journey into Genealogy blog.

Monday, November 10, 2008

My first Bananas Foster

Posted by Craig on 11/10/2008 0 comments
New place, (occasionally) new food. Tonight I had my first ever "Bananas Foster." They had the dessert at my dining hall this evening.

Had never even heard of this dish before tonight!

It's basically lots of cinnamon thrown together with fried banana slices and vanilla ice cream! Sooo good. What a treat.

Wikipedia describes it as: "Bananas Foster is a dessert made from bananas and vanilla ice cream, with the sauce made from butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, dark rum, and banana liqueur. The butter, sugar and bananas are cooked, and then the alcohol is added and ignited. The bananas and sauce are then served over the ice cream. Preparation of the dish is often made into a tableside performance as a flambé."

No alcohol in mine tonight. But looks like that's one way to prepare it.

Anyway, I highly recommend this to anyone who has never tried it before! So good!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Did my part with the AP

Posted by Craig on 11/05/2008 0 comments
BTW, I went to the polls today to interview voters for the Associated Press and one of my quotes got picked up by the Boston Herald and Gainesville Sun. Here's my reporting that appears in both papers' AP stories on the Nov. 4 election:

Miranda Young, an 18-year-old college student in Chicago, was in the
hospital for an ovarian cyst, but said she left the facility to vote
for Obama.

"I think Obama would produce more change than McCain, and he inspires
so many people," she said.

UPDATE: Another newspaper, the Rockford Register Star, also picked up one of my quotes, but from a different interview - with Chicago truck driver Julius Taylor.

Obama Rally Recap: One in 70,000

Posted by Craig on 11/05/2008 2 comments
Electrifying. That's the first word that comes to mind to describe tonight.

I was so very fortunate to attend the Barack Obama rally tonight at Grant Park. Thirty-five thousand people received free tickets to sit in the area closest to the stage in a first-come, first-serve free-for-all online. Each could bring a guest. Out of hundreds of thousands of hopefuls, I was one of the 70,000 with a ticket to tonight's event (an estimated quarter of a million people scattered across Grant Park in total). A front row seat to history.

Let me say one thing right off the bat. This man sounds great on TV - he looks good, he's very photogenic. But it's nothing compared to seeing him in person. I wasn't expecting this, so it really blew me away, but he's so inspirational to see in person. The way he commands attention, the way the hundreds of thousands went silent and looked at him attentively, he puts a whole new meaning to "controlling a room." He has such a great presence and is amazing to see in person - and being tall came in handy tonight, because I did get a good view of him (though a good bunch of people between him and I) and was able to watch as he spoke.

I've only experienced two events anything like tonight in my life. And this goes back to my love for sports as much does! One, the Winter Classic in Buffalo - 70,000 people for a hockey game. The hype that generated, the excitement for that game, the energy in Ralph Wilson Stadium mirrored in a lot of ways the general "feel" of tonight at Grant Park. Two, 2007 NHL playoffs, Round 2, Game 5, Rangers vs. Sabres. Yes, indoors, and only 18,690, but the MOMENT when Chris Drury tied the score with 7.7 seconds left in regulation to force OT - as strangers embraced and everyone hopped up and down - was darn close to that moment when CNN projected Barack Obama had won the presidency just moments after 10 p.m. Central Time (we were watching CNN and big screen and everyone just erupted). Strangers embraced, but one noticeable difference from that sports event. Tears. Everywhere. I wasn't prepared for that either. Even I had tears, the magnitude of the moment just overcame me. And I don't really cry; I hadn't since I heard Tim Russert died back in June.

Finally, I got to comment on the media, as a journalist. I was in awe of them all day. First, when I'm at a polling place this morning for the Associated Press, the Wall Street Journal is standing right next to me doing interviews as people walk out, just like I was. That was pretty cool, and it was exciting to watch them do their stuff, which included audio and video. Through the day, I saw reporters from NPR, Fox News, CNN, the BBC, and media outlets from around the world including Hong Kong, Australia, and Latin America. After the rally ended, everyone pushed toward the exits. I couldn't find myself to leave. I stayed a good 30-40 mins, and just watched the media scour the remaining crowd for interviews... I saw CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, MTV, local Chicago outlets, endless international media, etc. do their stuff. It was really something.

Those are my initial impressions from the event. Surely, this was history - that's just my "piece," my little take on tonight.

Video from my vantage point:

Some pictures:

Monday, November 3, 2008

Great visit in WNY

Posted by Craig on 11/03/2008 2 comments
I had an awesome visit to Western New York! Very relaxing and so nice to see Nicole. We went to Olive Garden to celebrate our 3-year anniversary, we celebrated Halloween together, and we even got to see her cousin Maggie score the shootout-winning goal after four overtimes settled nothing in a high school soccer sectional final!

On top of the great time in Rochester, I had the chance to drive to Buffalo Sat. night to visit the family - thanks Nicole! Got to watch the Sabres game with the fam, big 5-0 winners that night over Washington, and had some homemade meatloaf with mashed potatoes. (Sabres won 2-0 at New Jersey tonight, btw - they're playing great lately.)

It was also my first experience with Amtrak. They got me to Rochester and they got me back to Chicago, and I have no complaints. In fact, I enjoyed the rides! Very comfortable seats, plenty of leg room, dimmed lights and overnight transportation availability combined to allow me to get some shut eye both going there and coming back. I was very impressed.

Tomorrow's Election Day. I'll be floating around some poll booths gathering information for the AP, and then I'll be attending the Obama rally at Grant Park in the evening. I'll take some pics at the rally and will post those tomorrow.

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