Monday, February 28, 2011

Pentathalon. The Best Worst Idea Ever. :)

So.... I was at my best friend's house.  As I often am.  And I was in a super feel-good mood because her little brother and I had just made muffins.  Chocolate chip muffins, to be exact.  They were awesome, not that I need to mention that though.  And there I was, standing in the kitchen, probably eating some sort of snack (although I have no recollection of stuffing my face at the time, but I feel that it's safe to say that I was. :)) Her mom, Francy, also known as FranDog, comes waltzing into the kitchen with her happy-go-lucky manner that she always has, and says "Hey Erin, wanna go to the Pentathalon with us?"  And I, being in my super feel good mood, decide 'What the heck?  It kinda sounds like fun.  Plus, I love the people that are going, so why not?  I think I can handle swimming five events in one day.  No big.'  That was all intermonologue, of course.  So I told her yeah, I'd go, sign me up, etc...

What is a pentathalon, you may ask?  It's a living hell. :)  Except... not really.  Created by the Zoltoski's approximately 30 years ago, the Pentathalon is an annual swim meet held at Lock Haven University where the swimmers must complete all four individual strokes and an individual medley.  The yardage of those strokes is determined based on age group.  So, being that I am in the 15-18 year old age group, I was required to swim 100 yds of each stroke (4 laps) and a 200 IM (8 laps).

The day in and of itself was great.  Out of the 7 girls competing in the 15-18 year old age group, the four competing for Juniata Valley (the same four that make up the relay team mentioned in a previous blog) took home the top four awards.  The one 13-14 year old boy that competed for Juniata Valley snagged 1st place overall and one of the three girls competing in the 10 and under age group secured third place.  With 12 swimmers, the Juniata Valley YMCA brought the most swimmers from one team to the meet, which was our best turn out so far in JVYMCA history.

The Pentathalon, all in all, was an amazing experience.  It pushed every swimmer to their limits as they fought fatigue throughout the entire day.  Many may not realize it, but swimming five events in one day is extremely strenuous on a swimmer's body.  Especially when they are swimming all individual events.  Relay events are less strenuous because a swimmer is only swimming a portion of the entire race.  Because there was not a great number of swimmers at the Pentathalon, as swimmers, we found it hard to have time to refuel before seeding for our next race began, and refueling is a crucial part of a swimmer's competition.  Hence, the Pentathalon is the best worst idea ever.  Everything turned out okay, however, and everyone left the meet with a positive attitude and intentions to return to the Pentathalon again.

Props to the Zoltoski's for founding the Pentathalon and providing central Pennsylvania's swimmers with an event to look forward to as the season comes to a close.

Just A Little Something...

The bright red numbers of the alarm clock read 5:29 am. As the last minute of sleep quickly ticked away, she envisioned how the day would go. How she hoped the day would go. When the sharp, distinct sound of the alarm rang, she rolled over, slapped the off button, and sat up. Her teammates, lying quietly next to her, did the same. The weight of what was in store for them created a somber atmosphere as they sleepily changed into the uniforms that scrawled Lady Patriots across the front. They were wearing red today.

It was still dark outside when eleven girls, all about 16 years old, trudged down the hall to the elevators that they would take downstairs to the hotel lobby. Complementary breakfasts weren’t great; they’d had hundreds of them. But they ate anyway, knowing it would be the last meal they would get for awhile, if things went well. Nobody spoke as they poured milk in their cereal, smeared cream cheese on an almost-stale bagel, or jammed waffles into a toaster. They ate quickly and quietly, rolling thoughts of the day to come around in their heads. One of them prayed.

The elevator doors slid open. Their coach stepped out, scanned the lobby full of girls, and nodded. It was a silent signal they all recognized: time to go. As they shouldered their body-size bags and headed for the doorway, their parents drove up to the hotel entrance and they loaded up.

Five minutes later, at 7 am, they arrived at the fields to the sound of clinking bats and the smack of ball against glove. Shoving their feet into cleats, they traipsed down to field 2 and set up their equipment. Two of them created a number 23 in the fence using plastic solo cups. That was his number. After a forty-five minute warm-up consisting of fielding, hitting, throwing, and running, the team lined up on the third base line. The umpire gave them a run down of the rules, flipped a coin, and announced the home team. It wasn’t them. But that was okay; they did better when they batted first. “Put ‘em in the hole quick,” their coach always said. When the ump yelled “Play ball!” that’s exactly what they did.

They won the first game by a long shot. If they kept winning, they would play back to back all day long. A landslide victory in the second game carried them into the third. Squeaking by with a score of 3-2, the girls won yet again in the third game. By the time the fourth game arrived, desperation hung in the air like a blanket over all of them. It was a record 101 degrees outside, and they were attempting to achieve the impossible. After losing every game the day before, the Patriots had to walk a tight rope; if they lost today, they were out of the tournament. It was three o’clock by the time the fifth game got underway. With a come-from-behind victory, the Patriots went on to the championship game.

Knowing how much was on the line, the girls jogged over to the next field and prepared for what would be the most exciting, invigorating game of their lives. It started off well; the Patriots were up 4-1. The cheers from the stands were uplifting. As the sun began to set, the game continued in a cat-and-mouse fashion. The Patriots would score, then the other team would score, and the cycle repeat itself.

The seventh inning: the Patriots were up 7-5, and in the field. Bases were loaded with the other team’s best hitter up to bat. There were two outs and the count was two balls, one strike. Parents bit their fingernails; the players’ legs were shaking. If this batter smacked a homerun, the game was over and the Patriots would lose. The batter ripped a hard line drive into foul territory. The suspense was intoxicating. Fear and hope all but emotionally drowned the two teams.

As the pitcher wound up and threw the pitch, the batter swung hard, and met the ball early sending it down the third base line. With reflexes like lightning, the third baseman quickly performed a backhand. The sound of ball hitting glove brought huge relief to everyone rooting for the Patriots. Now there was only the throw. With one lunge, she whipped the ball across the field to the first baseman, who caught it gracefully for the third out. The screams of the crowd deafened the players’ ears as they ran to the pitcher’s mound for a team hug. They did it; they were Pennsylvania ASA State Champions again.

The girls’ faces, wet with tears, cracked smiles so huge their cheeks began to hurt after the first three minutes. They lined up on the third baseline to receive their medals. After receiving their medals, their parents ushered them onto the field for pictures. When pictures, cheers, and congratulations were finished and they came down from high they were on, the tears they cried turned from happy to sad. He wasn’t there, and he would never be again. He would never jump in the air enthusiastically after a great play or an awesome hit. The memory of him made the moment bittersweet. They had done it with him in their hearts, but he wasn’t there to celebrate it with them. He was their coach and passed away three months earlier.

Although he was gone, his spirit lived on in the hearts of eleven girls who had achieved the impossible. They would never forget him. All sunburned faces and tired bodies, the girls gathered around the pitcher’s mound and said a small prayer in remembrance of the coach that taught them class, dignity, and sportsmanship. They were characteristics that would never be forgotten.

As she crawled into bed that night, images of the backhand, the lunge, and the throw scrolled through her mind like the film on a projector. Exhaustion blurred the images, but they were there, and they filled her with pride. She, the dark horse of the Lady Patriots Softball team, threw the last out in the most important game in Patriot’s history. To many it would seem a small, insignificant triumph. For her, it would go down as one of the top five moments in her softball career. In the dark, she smiled, and in her head replayed the game one more time.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

New Cell Phone Radiation Study!

Despite numerous studies showing no links between cell phones and brain tumors or cancer, the fears swirling around concerning the possible dangers of prolonged cell phone use persist.  Now, a new study indicates that cell phone radiation boosts brain activity, which is sure to fuel the fire.

According to, "researchers used PET scans to measure brain activity in 47 participants when they had cell phones held to their ears in both off and on but muted positions and found that exposure to an in-use cell phone for more than 50 minutes increased brain activity by about 7 percent in the regions closes to the antenna. Whereas past studies have looked at cerebral blood flow to measure changes in brain activity, this study measured the brain's consumption of glucose -- the fuel of the brain -- in order to measure localized activity near the antenna."  Therefore, it is now known that the brain is sensitive to the very weak electromagnetic waves produced through cell phone radiation. 

However, sensitivity doesn't necessarily mean harm or an increased risk of cancer, and "it may even turn out that the ability of this radiation to boost brain activity could have therapeutic effects. Further study is needed, however, to explore the potential detrimental or beneficial effects of such an increase in activity", according to the lead author on the study, Dr. Nora Volkow of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Although the research on the effects of cell phone radiation has been uncertain and inconclusive, the findings reheat the debate about cell phone concerns and make it impossible to ignore that prolonged use over many years might have some kind of effect on the brain.

I feel that this study is, in its own right, a breakthrough in the cell phone radiation research department because most other studies were rather inconclusive.  At least this study shows that there is a connection between the electromagnetic waves and cell phone radiation.  Do I believe that cell phones have an effect on the brain?  Yes, but who am I to make those kind of judgments?

The research in this field will continue relentlessly, I am sure.  If not because it is important to our technologically savvy society, then because the debate is fueled so vigorously by interested cell phone "addicts."  I expect more results to surface relatively quickly after this groundbreaking evidence has been released.  Look for more on this topic!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The 12 Dirtiest Fruits and Vegetables (& the 15 Cleanest, too!)

So if you're anything like me, you LOOOOOOVVVVVVVVEEEE fruit.  It's so good, right?  And not just one specific type of fruit, mostly any kind of fruit is tasty.  And we've all heard about how dirty food is and what the food industry does to your food before you actually eat it.  So here are the dirty dozen from and, because I don't want to turn you away from fruits, I'll give you the link to the clean fifteen.

P.S.- says to buy organic.  "It's worth it."

Dirty Dozen:

1. Celery
          Due to peak consumer demand around Thanksgiving and Christmas, 75% of the crop is grown during the fall and winter, when rain and wind promote the growth of bacteria and fungal diseases. Because we eat the entire stalk, it must be sprayed repeatedly to ward off pests.

2. Peaches
          Sweet and succulent, peaches can be just as alluring to insects as to people. Farmers may spray peaches every week or two from bloom to harvest—and peach fuzz can trap pesticides.

3. Strawberries
          Strawberries are not only sweet and juicy but also delicate and prone to disease, including fungal attacks that can turn them to mush during transit and storage. "With apples and peaches, a lot of spraying is cosmetic to get blemish-free fruits," says Richard Wiles, senior vice president for policy at EWG. "With berries, you're just trying to get them across the finish line into the store before they go bad."

4. Apples
          Sweet-smelling and delicious, apples are susceptible to more than 30 insects and at least 10 diseases. And fungicides and other chemicals are added after picking to prevent tiny blemishes that can accumulate during storage of up to 9 months.
5. Blueberries
          Blueberries are new on the Dirty Dozen list—possibly because the USDA began testing them only 3 years ago, after large increases in production. The berries are targets for insects such as blueberry maggots and bagworms.
6. Nectarines
          Nectarines differ from peaches only in the absence of fuzz—a trait that likely arose as a natural mutation of a peach tree—so it's no wonder they're susceptible to many of the same pests, including oriental fruit moths and peach twig borers. Thanks to their waxy skin, they don't retain as many pesticides as peaches. On the other hand, they are more vulnerable to rot and scarring.

7. Bell Peppers
          Unlike cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, sweet bell peppers (which are technically fruits) have no bitter compounds to serve as built-in insect repellants. They even lack the fiery taste of their cousins, chili peppers. And the creases at their crowns may provide nooks for pesticides to accumulate.

8. Spinach
          Spinach is a mere leaf that's crunched by a variety of insects, including grasshoppers. In addition, says Wiles, "spinach tends to pull persistent DDT residues out of the soil and into the leaf." These chemicals remain in the earth decades after they were banned.
9. Kale
          The outer leaves are not removed before sale, so any amount of damage will make it unmarketable. Even natural enemies of the pests that feed on kale can be considered contaminants in harvested produce, so farmers spray for all bugs, including the "good" ones.
10. Cherries
          Because cherries are a naked fruit—without peel or protection—they're vulnerable to pests such as the western cherry fruit fly. If just one of its maggots is found in a shipment, the entire load of fruit must be dumped, according to quarantine regulations, so growers spray out of fear of losing their crops.
11. Potatoes
           New to the list, America's number one vegetable is sprayed 5 or more times throughout the growing season to protect against various pests—and to ensure a crop of uniform shape and size for fast-food outlets and potato chip producers. After harvesting, another round of spraying occurs in the packing shed to ward off molds and sprouting.
12. Imported Grapes
          During their long transit from the southern hemisphere, imported grapes are susceptible to Botrytis cinerea rot, which causes the fruits to split and leak. To prevent that, farmers spray aggressively with fungicides. (Domestic table grapes do not need the same spraying because most are grown in the dry desert climate of Southern California, where botrytis does not thrive.)

So the next time you see that gorgeous looking apple in the store, grab it and eat it.  But wash it first.  Then you'll be golden.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Juniata Valley YMCA 15-18 Girls Secure 7 Trophies at Champs

The Juniata Valley YMCA put out all the stops for the KYSL YMCA Championship swim meet held today at 9 am.  Most commonly known as Champs, this championship meet is the biggest YMCA swim meet of the year, aside from Districts (which are held at IUP.)  Housing eight YMCA swim teams, the JV YMCA closed down the entire facility to accommodate the number of people attending this event.  With eight teams, and that includes parents, grandparents, siblings, coaches, and swimmers, the YMCA was almost at max capacity for hours upon end today.  Clearly, you can see that there were a ton of people there.  That means there were a ton of swimmers there.  All in all, I would estimate about 300 swimmers total showed up to compete today.  This is a huge deal.

An even "huger" deal is the feat that three of the four 15-18 year old girls team accomplished.  Between the three of them (Sarah Bonson, Megan Becker, and myself), they brought home 7 trophies and 1 medal.  1st, 2nd, and 3rd places get trophies and 4th, 5th, and 6th places get a medal.  The trio competed in a total of 6 different events and each swimmer scored either a trophy or a medal.  Across the board, the girls team scored approximately 150 points for the JVY team, an impressive feat, considering the fact that there were only three of them.  So, this blog goes out as a big hoorah to the girls of the JVY swim team age group 15-18.  Congratulations, girls. 

As a side note, the fourth member of the 15-18 girls team (Jenna Kile) did not compete today due to major illness, and we're hoping she will return as soon as possible.  Another side note:  These four girls have also qualified for YMCA West Districts in the 400 yd Freestyle Relay with a time roundabout 4:10.00.  Qualifying time is 4:23.00.  I think I speak for all of us when I say that we are extremely excited about this and cannot wait until districts on March 12th and 13th! 

P.S.- I would say to come out and watch, but seeing as it is located in Indiana, PA, I don't expect you'll be there.  :P

Friday, February 18, 2011

AFV: The Quick Fix For a Bad Day

We've all been there.  The alarm rang, you tripped over the shoe you couldn't find yesterday, you stumbled to the light switch, smacked your face off the door, and made a nice entrance into the living room by tumbling down the stairs on your backside.  Then, as if the past 2.3 minutes haven't been horrific enough, you put orange juice on your cereal, that god-forsaken shampoo bottle that always seems to be empty smashed your toes in the shower, your mom didn't buy more toothpaste (looks like mouth-wash for you, buddy), and to top it all off, you have no clean underwear.  Just think.  You haven't even gotten out the door yet!!

Next, the bus driver almost ran you over as you sprinted across the street to get to the bus stop on time, the principal screamed at you for putting gum under your desk (in every single class), and some big dude tripped you in the hallway... You consequently fell on your face.  Your glasses are broke (you look like a total nerd now that you've taped them back together), you left that chem assignment (that you didn't do) at home, you split your shorts in gym class (to the amusement of every single person in the class), oh, and you remembered that your breath stinks.

I think you get the point. It's been a really awful day.  And you knew, after you watched your life flash before your eyes and a big yellow bus coming toward you, that there was no way to reverse your bad mood.  Or prevent the extraordinarily terrible events that you knew would come at various points during the day.  So you flop down on the couch around 9 o'clock, after your mom forced you to eat a nice big helping of cabbage stew (that you almost hacked right back up), and think:  "Well dang.  I should just hit the sack now.  Nothing good can come of this day anymore." 

And that's where you're wrong.  At 9 o'clock on most weeknights, ABC Family is your ticket out of the blues, my friend.  America's Funniest Home Videos runs pretty much every night around 9 and 10 o'clock.  If you've never seen this show... Well, let's be honest.  You're nuts.  My all-time favorite show, America's Funniest Home Videos (more commonly known as AFV), is, in many ways, the original YouTube.  Tom Bergeron hosts this hilarious show, and he never ceases to please.  With mini activities like "SloMo Gizmo" and "Name that Sound," you will bust a gut by the end of the show.  About half-way through you'll wonder why your ab muscles hurt so bad and only five minutes in you'll realize that your cheeks hurt.

What's so funny? you may ask.  Well, when the middle-aged rough and tough father goes bolting out of his chair and screaming at a note that only dogs can hear because his son stuck a spider on his shoulder, you'll know.  AFV also runs 30-90 second video montages of continuous videos of a similar theme strung together.  A few examples are "28 Monkeys in 30 seconds" and "53 Burps in 60 seconds."  Hilarious, right?  Even if you don't have time to watch the entire show, do it anyway.  These montages alone will be worth the trouble.  Seriously.  They usually run with some sort of catchy song that relates honestly to the videos and you'll laugh your pants off.  I promise.

So the next time you have an incredibly horrific, awful, terrible, can't-get-any-worse day, watch AFV.  It'll give you that feel-good feeling that you just can't resist. 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Ohhhhhhhh, the 90's.

In case you haven't noticed... It's 2011.  Woah.  Where did all the time go?  As a child born in the early 1990's,  I remember some of the awesome things we had and some of the more... hideous (for lack of a better word) trends of the 90's, and that includes the fanny pack your father wore to Disney World.  Oh yeah, we remember, Dad!

As a tribute to the late, great 1990's, I've compiled a list of items/trends that were big hits in the 90's.  Some are target more toward those who grew up in the 90's.  If you can remember any of them, you're awesome.


- Myspace had yet to be invented.  If you wanted to know something about somebody, you asked them.
- PS2, XBOX, and the idea of text messaging had yet to be conceived as well.
- You rented VHS.  And that was considered high tech.

- We still played tag, kickball, and dodge ball until the porch light came on.
- Hide-and-Go-Seek was best at dusk.
- Red Light, Green Light, Heads Up 7 Up, and Sparkle were great games to play on a rainy day.
- Hopskotch was for girls with cooties.  Jump ropes were girly, too.
- Red Rover and Four Square.  'Nuff said.

- Slip-N-Slides!
- Tree Houses (Remember when you used to hide all of your "bad stuff" up there?  Yeah, Mom totally knew about it.)
- Hula Hoops.
- Nano Pets and Furbies.  In retrospect, those things were creepy.

- Hey Arnold, Rugrats, and Doug were the perfect Saturday morning and after-school cartoons.
- The ORIGINAL PowerRangers.  So cool.
- You gave your undivided attention to Rocko's Modern Life and CatDog for hours upon hours.
- Kenan and Kel.  The bomb-diggity.

- The Back Street Boys.  *Swoon.*
- 'N Sync was a close runner up.
- Britney Spears was America's sweetheart.  Oops, she won't be doing that again.

And the rest:
- Getting to sit in the front seat of the car was a privilege.
- "Eat your nuggets first.  Then you can have the Barbie."  Or Hotwheels.
- Running through sprinklers on a hot summer day.
- Decisions were made by an "eeny-meenie-miney-moe" fashion.
- Playing Nintendo was the hardest thing... EVER.
- Wearing your new shoes on the first day of school.
- Kool-Aid was the next best thing to sliced bread. (Which you took the crust off of anyway.)
- Monday:  "Can we have McDonald's for dinner?"  Tuesday:  "Can we have McDonald's for dinner?"  Wednesday:  "Can we have McDonald's for LUNCH??"  Thursday:  "C'mon, Mom... I haven't had McDonald's for like two whole days!"  Friday: "McDonald's for dinner? Please? Please? Pretty pretty please?"

Lastly... Trends of the 1990's.
- Roller blades
- Furby, Gigapets, and Tomagatchi
- The Macarena!!
- Grunge
- Push pops
- Bleached hair.  It was cool to be the "real slim shady."
- Overalls and fanny packs.  Thank goodness those are gone... Dad, you really did look silly at Disney World.  No lie.
- The Rachel haircut.  Jennifer Aniston never looked so good.
- Polly Pocket Toys.

Hope you enjoyed! 

Monday, February 14, 2011

Alexandria, VA Named Most Romantic City, Especially on VDay

So... It's Valentine's Day.  And everybody is either up in arms about how stupid Valentine's Day is or gushing over their "one true love" that they think they've found.  I'm indifferent.  As a girl, flowers are always nice.  Necessary?  Absolutely not.  It's Valentine's Day.  Give me a box of candy hearts and nice chick-flick, and I'll be happy.

Regardless of how you feel about VDay, has released its annual list of the 20 most romantic cities, and Alexandria has taken the title for the second year in a row.  Arlington also made the list, which brings me to believe that all of the hopeless romantics in the world collaborate in the grand ol' state of Virginia. 

Amazon's method for determining the level of romance in a city is as follows: Purchases of romance novels + Barry White albums + sex and relationship books + romantic comedies + sexual wellness products = Romance.

On a side note, Amazon named Miami, Florida the sexiest city for the second straight year, based on number of purchases in the sexual wellness category.  I don't know much about Miami, but I have seen some reality television shows set in Miami, and I believe it.  Miami = sexiness.

I've been to Alexandria and Arlington, and I must say that both have definite romantic qualities... if you're looking at it from a romantic perspective.  Although I was always looking at it from a historic perspective, the romance always seemed to be an underlying characteristic.  Given this, I give Amazon's list legitimacy. Even if it's not totally legit, who doesn't love reading stuff like this on Valentine's Day?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Africa says goodbye to Sudan, Hello to Northern Sudan and Southern Sudan

As most of us know, Sudan, an empoverished country in Africa, has dealt with its fair share of problems.  On February 7th, over 99% of the population of Southern Sudan voted to secede from Northern Sudan, creating a new nation.

On July 9th, Southern or South Sudan, will become a country complete with its own flag, constitution and a government selected by and comprising of the people of Southern Sudan. Hopefully, this will end unrest in a country that has been at war with itself more often than not since gaining independance from Britain.

Despite the joy and positive attitudes, Southern Sudan faces great challenges in the near future. Its people have to create a constitution, a new currency, an entire government, and some kind of judicial system.  Because most of the new country is rural, they also have to come up with innovative ideas to develop at least their capital city, Juba.

I do not expect Southern Sudan to get on its feet anytime soon.  Based on the timeline used in creating America, with the economic and social state of Sudan at this time, I doubt we will see any sort of stability from Southern Sudan within the next few years.  Things are looking up, however, due to nurturing and support from the United States and other established countries like us.  With the best of luck and guidance, Southern Sudan will one day become a great nation where "peace and prosperity will reign."

When I read this article, I was happy to see that the people in Africa finally decided to do something about the repression they were victim to for years.  The news of Southern Sudan becoming a country gave me a feeling of peace and happiness, but also one of unrest and wariness, because you just never know what's going to happen in these kinds of situations.  Will they work it all out and prosper, as we did hundreds of years ago?  Or will they crack under the pressure of creating a new country?  Only time will tell.