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My 30-Day Running Challenge
Fitness
My 30-Day Running Challenge
May 18, 2015 2

I need to make something clear: I am not a runner.

I never have been. In high school, I jog-walked a 10-minute mile. In college, my workouts consisted of unpredictable trips to the gym to hang out on the elliptical and some dancing in musicals. I took up yoga last year, and I'm so happy I did, but I still don't feel fit by any means. (P.S. I've actually never felt fit.)

My boyfriend has been running for about a month now, and I can see the change in him already. He's losing weight. He has stronger arms. On the non-physical side, he's calmer, happier, proud of himself. I saw that and I wanted it.

"Would you mind if I joined you sometime?" I asked.

"Sure!" he said. "But you're going to have to put in some work."

Behind our apartment is a reservoir that spans Brookline, Newton and Brighton. It's 1.5 miles long, and runners are there basically 24/7 Boston is such a running city, and seeing all these people push their limits every day inspires me. I've been going out every day for 3 days now, and I haven't ran across the entire loop yet, but I've seen improvement. My one goal is this:

Run at least 5 times a week. Push yourself past where you stopped before. 

It helps having an accountability buddy, someone to help you put on your shoes and walk out the door. Tommy's actually been doing double duty (running in the morning and at nights, with me), and he's been a great motivator for me.

It also helps that the reservoir itself isn't boring. That's what I always hated about running: it was just so boring. How can people love smacking their feet against the ground for 30 minutes? I didn't get it. Now, I do: It's nice to be out there, with nature, returned to your base self and just running. When I turn my head, I see turtles popping their heads up out of the water, or dogs wagging their tails beside their owners, or a beautiful sunset over the "Hogwarts" tower of Boston College. I see calm, rippling waves on the reservoir, and it eases my heartbeat just a bit.

I've learned a few things so far from a few days of running: You need to watch your pace, focus on your breathing, and stop if anything is really hurting. On the first day I went out, my knee started hurting immediately, a sharp inward pain on the right, and soon I developed two cramps as well. I got about 1/3 of the way around the reservoir before I had to stop and walk it off. The next day, it was my inner thighs, for whatever reason, but there was no sharp pain, so I told myself I could keep going, and I did, this time at a smarter pace for my level. I'm going to run on the weekdays for 30 days, and see how I feel after the challenge is over.

I'm using Momentum to track my new habit and keep me accountable. I'm also going to keep doing yoga twice a week using my Yoga Studio app.  I'm excited yet nervous. As I said, I'm not a "runner," but I hope to be one by the end of this challenge, or at least to find some excitement in the activity.

What do you think? Do you run, and if so, why do you like it? Do you have any ideas to help keep me going?

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Wolves & Woods: My Eerie College Application Essay
Personal
Wolves & Woods: My Eerie College Application Essay
May 6, 2015 0

I spent all morning before work filtering through my old writings -- the Livejournal I used to update daily, the old Wordpress.com blog that quickly grew stale, and the few Tumblr posts that were actually personal to me -- to find something to post here. I'm starting to feel a bit of blogger fatigue. Life has been so busy that I simply didn't have time to write something new. Any motivation from bloggers who've experienced something similar would be greatly appreciated!

However, I did find something worth sharing in the end: my eerie college application essay. I remember how much time I spent on this, and I actually received handwritten feedback on it from the school I ultimately decided to attend: Wheaton College. Please note that I had a bit of a Stephen King obsession at the time.

Without further ado, read this story about wolves, woods, and worry.


Visits to Putnam, Connecticut, were generally boring and frustrating. Family outings concluded with exasperated sighs and rolling eyes. In an effort to maintain peace (and sanity), I distanced myself from my family’s conflicts. I brought sneakers.

Once my laces were tied, I jumped up and interrupted whatever ensuing argument to yell, “I’m going outside!” Red, green, and yellow leaves crunched beneath my Nike sneakers as I forged a path through the expansive woods behind my Nonnie’s house. To me, at age thirteen, the woods were a rainforest, and in that ambiance I could be anything: a bear, a lion, even a mouse. Jumping from rock to rock, across rivers and over hills, I conquered lands, somersaulted into treehouses, and navigated through the pine tree wilderness. Here was a place where I could be myself. Here I didn’t have to speak up for my Nonnie’s hearing aid. I didn’t have to feel coddled as the only child. Here I was home.

On one Thanksgiving evening, after filching a piece of bread for “supplies” and yelling “Bye” to my family, I forged into the forest once again. But this time, I was on a mission: find a tree, cut it down (with what, I didn’t know), and bring it home. As Christmas neared, I realized that the artificial tree we assembled every year was not enough. I wanted something more, something real. Through the pine tree forest I trekked, checking every tree. When I found the perfect tree, I wrapped my arms around it and pulled and pulled with all my might – and then, suddenly, I stopped.

A small trail of blood trickled toward my Nikes, staining the red, green, and yellow leaves in its path. My wide eyes followed the blood to its source: a gray wolf. He lay there peacefully, but I knew he was dead. As I inched closer, I watched as the color red oozed from the small hole puncturing his neck. Around his belly were small pools of blood, flies in a fervor over food, flapping their wings against the liquid. For five minutes, I stood motionless.

Finally, I turned away, and headed back to the ranch. I stumbled through the door, my eyes glazed over. “How was your adventure?” Nonnie asked. “Fine,” I said, or maybe I said “Fun;” I couldn’t hear myself speak. I could only hear the silence that preempted all other sounds. Later, I thought about holding a ceremony for the wolf, but instead I chose to remain silently solemn.

Seeing that dead wolf so naked, so bare, I realized the true definition of mortality. Killed by man, the wolf’s purity as a creature on Earth was tainted. The stark, bleeding wolf made life’s blunt secret clear to me: I too would die. I can’t pretend that I won’t die a humiliating death, or that I will make the best of my life. There will be disappointments, and I will have regrets. I can’t promise that I will make a difference in the world. I can promise that, despite any troubles, I will try. Through life’s rainforest I will trudge, conquering and pilfering. And if I face opposition, or scary dead wolves, I will stay calm, and I will turn away. And maybe at least I can make my life worthwhile to me, as I hope that wolf’s life was worthwhile to him.

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Allie’s Adventures: Travel Guide to Bath, England
Travel
Allie’s Adventures: Travel Guide to Bath, England
April 29, 2015 2

Recently, I was talking to a friend of mine on the phone. She announced that her job at Habitat for Humanity was relocating her to England for a short time.

"Do you have any recommendations for fun places to go in England?" she said. "Besides London."

Now, I studied abroad in London. I lived in South Kensington and soaked up the glory of the city every day, walking by famous museums on my way back from class. But I also took advantage of my proximity to other destinations, and traveled to Winchester, Oxford, and Bath. Not to mention Belgium, Spain, and France. And oh yeah, I've been to Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland, and my most recent adventure was to  Sweden.

However, it wasn't until someone asked that it dawned on me that I may be qualified to give out some travel tips.

So begins Allie's Adventures Travel Guide series, where I share my favorite spots around the world and a few off-beat recommendations for fun things to do there. I believe that we should spend our money on experiences, not things, and traveling is an experience you never forget, especially if you're as shutter-happy as I am whenever I travel.

So without further ado, here is my travel guide to Bath, England!

Where to See Sights

allies-adventures-travel-guide-to-bath-england

I celebrated Easter in Bath with my aunt, who I've traveled with multiple times. I'm guaranteed to have a good time and do a lot of sight-seeing when I'm traveling with her. We both did some research before going, and were determined to see these landmarks:

Pulteney Bridge & Pulteney WeirThe bridge is one of only four bridges in the world with shops across the full span on both sides of the street. It crosses the River Avon, and overlooks the weir, which alters the flow of the river and is basically a small dam. It's a beautiful spot, and you actually can't miss it when you're in Bath; it's at the center of the town. When we were there, thousands of people were piled into the stadium for a soccer game; you can see them (and imagine, if you will, all the noise they made), in the upper right of the picture above.

Sally Lunn's Refreshment House & Museum. Sally Lunn's is the oldest house in Bath; the house was built in the 15th century, and the kitchen in the 18th. It is half restaurant and half museum. I don't think we had time to eat at the restaurant, but we were able to venture downstairs to the museum to see how cooks baked the traditional Sally Lunn Bun, a big piece of bread with no sugar or raisins, but plenty of sweet or savoury fillings. Great transition, I think, to the next section!

Where to Stuff Your Face

allies-adventures-travel-guide-to-bath-england

Easter lunch in Bath? Yes, please!

Actually, we had Easter tea in Bath, pictured above. If you want to experience high tea in Bath, the best place for you is The Pump RoomIt overlooks the Royal Baths and is actually a part of the museum. It's certainly a fancy place, but if you want to spring for one expensive meal, The Pump Room is definitely worth it. We were both super full after high tea... I can still remember the clotted cream!

We also often stopped at Riverside Cafe and Restaurant for delicious Bath Buns while shopping. It was a nice, serene cafe overlooking the weir, which offered a variety of sandwiches and pastries. During the few days we were there, we didn't sit down for lunch often; it was cafes like this one that kept us going! So little time, so much to see!

Where to Get Your Nerd On

allies-adventures-travel-guide-to-bath-england

Did you know Bath was the home of a famous author? That's right; Jane Austen lived there for a short period time! Her house is now memorialized as a museum, The Jane Austen Centre. We toured her family rooms, poked around the gift shop, and learned about Jane Austen's family, education, and books. Bath is very proud of their relation to the famous writer (even though she wasn't very productive in the 9 years she stayed there), and it shows! WE enjoyed peering at her old writing utensils, seemingly fossilized, and imagining her penning a novel at the desk in front of us. I bought my fellow English major friend a few trinkets in the gift shop, and couldn't miss the photo op above.

Where to Sing Chorally

allies-adventures-travel-guide-to-bath-england

We simply had to find a church on Easter Sunday. Luckily, in famous cities, there are plenty of famous churches with free services for those interested. For Easter Sunday, we went to Bath AbbeyIt was so nice to sing with a full congregation, and to hear an Anglican service, which I'd never been to before. I'm sure somebody else could describe it better, but Anglicism is a form of Christianity, with a few more traditions than Baptism but a few less than Catholicism. We listened to a beautiful boys' choir, wearing white to depict joyfulness, and experienced The Great Vigil of Easter, where church members recount the death and resurrection of Christ through song and recitation. It was magical!

Where to Take a Panoramic Picture

allies-adventures-travel-guide-to-bath-england

The Royal Crescent is a row of 30 houses laid across a sweeping crescent. Built in the late 1700s, it's a great example of Georgian architecture. It now includes a hotel and Georgian museum, as well as flats and offices for the considerably wealthy. It's a great tourist attraction in its own right; just standing in front of it is awe-inspiring. We visited the hotel and looked around the lobby, then followed a cute black cat out to the gardens. The Royal Crescent is also on the way to Royal Victoria Park, so you really can't miss it, and on a nice day, you can see quite a few couples and their dogs enjoying the sunshine.

Where to Do What You're Supposed to Do

allies-adventures-travel-guide-to-bath-england

I'm sure you're surprised I haven't mentioned it: The Roman Baths! If you only have one day in Bath, you must put the Roman Baths at the top of your list. It's quite touristy, but it's a great museum which depicts life in Bath in the Roman times. You can check out the excavation of the old Roman steps where they're preserved, and you can take a virtual tour of the Bath houses when they were in their prime. The goddess of water greets you at the entrance of the museum, and you can follow the history of the Baths throughout. Quite the experience!

Where to Do What You're Not Supposed to Do

allies-adventures-travel-guide-to-bath-england

Now, we definitely enjoyed all the architecture and history, but we also wanted to have some fun, so we went to see a play, specifically a comedic farce, at the New Theater Royale. If you didn't know, a farce is a play with a highly exaggerated plot, and a static setting (in this case, a living room), where characters enter and exit, hiding from each other or trying to expose each other. You've probably seen one before; they're absolutely hilarious!

Your Travel Guide to Bath, England

unconventional-travel-guide-to-bath-england

(P.S. This image is optimized for Pinterest! Pin it above & follow me there!)

Have you been to Bath, England? What are your recommendations? Send me over your travel guide to Bath, England; I'd love to see it!

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3 Top Restaurants for Graduation Dinner in Boston
Boston
3 Top Restaurants for Graduation Dinner in Boston
April 26, 2015 2

It's almost May. And if you're a college student, you know what that means: end of classes, finals soon, concert season, and, eventually, commencement.

In the small town of Norton, Mass., families scrambled for a reservation at the few nice restaurants in the area. Last year, after I graduated, we went to a bar called Maguire's in Easton, known for its eccentric food items like "Roasted Pumpkin, Apple and Cranberry Pizza" and "Lamb Lollipop Chops." I couldn't have asked for a better restaurant celebration with my family and my boyfriend's family after a long morning in a hot stadium.

Finding that special restaurant in your area should be a top priority. The right restaurant -- a restaurant that makes you excited to be there -- can make everyone at ease.

In Boston, a notorious college city, there are many restaurants you can visit for graduation dinner. I've only lived here for a year or so, but here are my 3 top picks.

P.S. Parents, you should be making reservations now, because these places will fill up. College students, if anything here catches your eye, forward the link to your parents!

The Beehive 

top-graduation-restaurants-in-boston-beehive

For food and a show, check out The Beehive in the South End. Enjoy creative main dishes and cocktails out on the patio while a jazz band serenades your family. Make reservations for before 3 p.m. to try the (slightly cheaper) brunch menu.

Legal Harborside

top-graduation-restaurants-in-boston-legal-harborside 

This is an option for your family if they're willing to shell a few extra bucks for a great seafood experience overlooking the Boston Harbor. Book a table on the second floor, and then after dinner, head upstairs for an amazing view and a dessert cocktail.

Maggiano's Little Italy

top-graduation-restaurants-in-boston-maggianos-little-italy

Looking to experience good Italian food near the Boston Common with a big group of people? The staff at Maggiano's are experts at serving large groups. There are several dining rooms, and reserving a spot in a smaller one will afford your family more privacy at no extra charge. It is a chain, but it has way more charm than Bertucci's, and everything is served family style in unlimited amounts at about $30 per person.

Where did you go for graduation dinner in Boston? Where are you planning on going this year, wherever you are?

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Why I Hate the Phrase “Work Smarter, Not Harder”
Marketing
Why I Hate the Phrase “Work Smarter, Not Harder”
April 22, 2015 0
Do you remember that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach when a teacher passed back a test you know you failed? I do. It was my freshman year in high school, and I was in Honors Geometry. I'd done so well with Algebra in middle school that I made it into the accelerated class. I didn't belong there. My Geometry teacher, Mr. Shu, dropped the test on my desk, face down. I could see the multitude of red marks bleeding through the page, and I sunk further in my chair. I had friends who never looked at their tests; they just hid them in the back of their folder and waited for their final grades at the end of the trimester. I considered following in their footsteps, but I knew I had to see the grade. I had to punish myself. Just as I was about to flip the page, the kid who sat next to me, who doodled and made snide jokes to his friend across the aisle during class, gave out a short "Woop!" I glanced down; I could see the number circled in the top right of his test: 97%. I suddenly became irrationally angry. He didn't take notes! He didn't even pay attention! He's the class clown! How could he have gotten an A?! He didn't work hard like me!  Emblazoned, I turned the page dramatically. 67%. I guess working hard isn't good enough, I thought. I guess I'm just not smart enough. 

The Problem With This Thinking

The concept of "working smarter, not harder," has been drilled into our brains since the early '30s, since Allan F. Mogensen, the creator of work simplification, coined the phrase. Since then, it has morphed from a simple, inspirational imperative, to an overused, ambiguous business cliché, that more often than not means absolutely nothing at all. The phrase "work smarter, not harder" assumes that "working smart" and "working hard" are mutually exclusive. Our society is obsessed with dualities: gay or straight, male or female, black or white. It's frustrating and counterproductive. Here's the truth: Working more efficiently doesn't ever mean that you will have to work less hard. Working more efficiently doesn't ever mean that you will have to work less hard. Click To Tweet After many years, I learned that.  My problem with Honors Geometry was simple: I wasn't working hard -- at least, not in the way that counted. Sure, I did the homework (even thought I treated it like busy work). Sure, I attended the tutor sessions (even though I abhorred spending extra time with Mr. Shu). Sure, I took notes (even though I never really processed the information). I worked hard in the superficial sense. But I didn't have the passion and perseverance necessary of hard workers. Busy work is neither hard work or smart work. I may have been doing my work as efficiently as I could with limited ingenuity, but I wasn't doing it better.

"Work Smarter, Not Harder" in the Business World

Since becoming a content marketer, I've seen a slew of articles professing "unusual" ways for marketers to work smarter, not harder; "genius" ways for salespeople to work smarter, not harder; and "unprecedented" ways for bloggers to work smarter, not harder. I'm offended when I see each and every one of these articles. You're implying that I'm stupid. You're implying that what I'm doing should take less time and effort than it does. You're implying that what I'm doing should be easy. Ultimately, you're demeaning the work I do. In this day and age, we're too caught up with the idea of "optimizing" our life and work. However, sometimes, work takes time. Sometimes, work is hard. Don't insult your employees by implying that they're not. Yes, we should work smarter. But we should also work harder. Working smarter means using and researching the available tools, technologies, and strategies to find better ways to do your work. Working harder means sitting down and getting that work done, with that passion and perseverance I lacked during Honors Geometry. Smart work without hard work just isn't smart work.

This Simple Phrase is Toxic

The phrase can be toxic to your business. It's just a phrase, but it can inspire smart workers to stop working hard. It can inspire laziness. The simplicity of the phrase -- it does sound good! -- just does not convert to the complexities of a business. In 1997, Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, said:

"When I interview people I tell them, 'You can work long, hard, or smart, but at Amazon.com you can't choose two out of three.'"

That was over 10 years ago, and it still rings true today. It's the people who work smart and hard that win in life -- who finish their theses, become expert saxophonists, write best-selling books, and find inventive ways to work and live. They're successful not because of their talent -- not because they're smart -- but because they put the effort in. They stuck to it. They're not looking for the path of least resistance, because they know there isn't one. Stop telling your employees that they don't need to work hard to achieve their goals. They'll stop caring if they don't treat their jobs like a mini-business. After all, every employee is a mini-entrepreneur, and everyone needs to work smart and hard to succeed.

Let's Change "Work Smarter, Not Harder"

I'm going to ask that we stop saying the phrase "work smarter, not harder." Let's instead change it to this: Never stop learning. Always be hustling. Work smart and hard, and if you don't feel passion for the work you do, stop doing it.  Don't let lazy phrases rule your work. Instead of looking for ways to "work smarter, not harder," look for ways to work better.  What do you think about the phrase "work smarter, not harder?"  P.S. I'm not the only one writing about this. Check out Oliver Burkeman's column in The Guardian, Jessica Ollenburg's blog post, and Drew Browne's article
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4 Payments You Need to Automate, Now
Personal Finance
4 Payments You Need to Automate, Now
April 19, 2015 0

Post-graduate life isn't as glamorous as it seems.

It involves spending a lot more money to maintain a fun, healthy lifestyle, especially when you're living in cities like Boston or New York City.

I laugh when I hear college students talk about how broke they are. They have it good! Surrounded by a community of like-minded individuals, student loan payments far, far away, parents possibly helping out in any way possible -- yes, I miss college. 

When you're on your own after college, you start to realize that payments really add up. If you have a steady income, even if it's not large, you can plan for these payments. There are some payments you can even automate to save time and stress.

Whenever I can, I automate payments. It's just so easy: you set it up one time, and then you don't have to worry about them. You just check in here and there to make sure they're on track.

If you're a recent college graduate, here are a few payments you need to automate and budget for:

1. Student Loans.

First of all, paying loans on time gives you better credit, and missing a payment can cost you dearly in interest. That's why automating makes so much sense. My loan provider service is online, which makes automating student loans a whole lot easier. For the first few months, before deciding on a repayment plan other than Standard, I had to remind myself to pay on a certain date.  But now that I've decided on the Graduated plan, which slowly increases payment values over the years, I automate both my federal and private loan payments. They now come out of my bank account on the same day, and it's so convenient.

2. Auto-Insurance.

When I moved to Boston, I had to get proper auto-insurance; I couldn't use my parents' anymore. They helped me negotiate a monthly insurance fee through Geico, which is a little steep because I did get in one fender-bender a couple years ago. (Since September, that payment's gone down about $5, woohoo!) Geico will take the money out of my account on the first of every month, and I've never had a problem with it. I just expect to see the "Auto-Insurance" category on Mint completely filled out every month.

3. Electricity.

With three roommates, there are a few payments each person is responsible for. When one of us pays it, we then notify the others to pay us back the third they owe. I was in charge of setting up electricity for the apartment. I had a conversation with someone before we moved in, moved the account info to my name, and since then have been getting monthly statements about our electricity bill. When NSTAR, our original electricity provider, became Eversource, I decided to finally automate those payments. It's been so easy; I get the statement over email, I wait a day, and I get another email informing me that it's been paid. Then I charge my roommates for 2/3 of that payment, and that's that!

4. EZPass.

Now that I commute to work over the Mass Pike every morning, I'm paying way more in EZPass fees than I ever had in my life. I signed up for my own EZPass, instead of my family's, because my work is offering to reimburse us for the fees we pay. Now, whenever I get under a certain threshold, the EZPass will add $10 to my account. It's actually very convenient, because it would have been something I had to check in on every week. No thank you! Even if you're not commuting with an EZPass every day, you should consider automating when you get under $10, just so you never have to see the dreaded "Call EZPass" light.

What are some other payments you need to automate?

There are so many payments that add up in post-grad life. How do you keep it all straight? Let me know in the comments below!

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Free Things to Do in Boston: Trivia at Trident Booksellers
Boston
Free Things to Do in Boston: Trivia at Trident Booksellers
April 15, 2015 0

Editor's Note: This is a new feature where, monthly, I will review free things to do in Boston and how fun they are on a scale of 1 to 10.

When looking through the Boston Calendar for a fun thing to do Friday night, something caught me eye: Trivia Night… at a Bookstore?!

That's right. Trident Booksellers and Cafe on Newbury Street, right off of the Hynes Convention Center T stop, holds trivia night every Friday from 8:30 to 11 p.m. Trivia is open to teams as large as six and each group has the opportunity to win a $35 gift card to the store. What's more, the event is held upstairs in their cafe, with a complete bar and a view over Newbury. After wading through bookshelves, you find yourself in a quaint seating area, where staff is working hard to get you one of their many beers on tap. I tried the Breckenridge Vanilla Porter, and boy was it good.

I never understood why trivia questions work so hard to trip you up, when everyone's just there to have fun (and, most often, get drunk). What I loved about my experience at Trident was that this wasn't a traditional stump trivia experience. I went on Friday, March 13, and the topics were about Super Mario (the character, not the game), Pi day, and weird things ravens do. The host, Max, creates original, witty questions every Friday.

For example, here was one question:

What is Yoshi's full name?

  1. T. Yoshisaur Munchakoopas
  2. The Yoshicoptor

  3. Yosheratops Rex

  4. Yoshi the Dinosaur

* Answer at the bottom of the post

I was with two friends, and we each were able to get a few questions right (alright, the boyfriend destroyed the Pi category). The questions were actually interesting fun facts that I didn't know I wanted to know.

Because it's so convenient, and because it's free, I've been trying to get my friends to go out for trivia again. There was a day where I was planning on it, then promptly forgot the time (I thought it started at 11), but that won't happen again! I will most definitely be back for trivia at Trident Booksellers, and I'll probably spend some time browsing the books, too (no doubt their intention). Overall, it's a fun night out -- for free!

Fun meter: 8/10

Trident Booksellers Trivia

Every Friday Night

8:30 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Chance to win $35 gift card

FREE

More on their site

*Answer: A

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Being a Boss at BOSS (And Other Conferences)
A Cappella
Being a Boss at BOSS (And Other Conferences)
April 12, 2015 0

This year was the third year I attended Boston Sings, Boston’s only a cappella festival. It’s a 3-day event that includes a collegiate competition, a buttload of workshops about how to arrange for a cappella and lead your group, an awesome award ceremony called the CARAs, and a few shows with big-name a cappella celebrities. It’s the most exciting a cappella event in Boston, and it happens every April.

Every year, there are new classes and new groups to see. It’s like any business conference -- it lasts over the course of a few days and it’s a great networking opportunity -- but with live shows and improv classes.

This year, I attended BOSS with a few old friends from my college group and a few new friends from my current group. As someone who now has over 5 years experience leading a cappella groups (what?!), I still find I can learn a lot from BOSS, whether about new recording techniques or different ways to do vocal percussion. I’m never going to learn everything there is to learn about a cappella.

And that’s why I decided to spend $75 on this event… I’m spending money on an experience, not a thing, and I’m concentrating on learning valuable lessons from it.

I’ve found that I get the most out of these types of events if I do these three things:

Bring the necessities.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a business conference, but there’s nothing worse than noticing that your iPod is dead after tweeting the hashtag all day, so now you can’t open the Notes app to type out an awesome quote or someone’s name. Before I left the house for BOSS, I made sure that in my purse I had:

With all these things in your arsenal, you’ll definitely be less stressed popping from workshop to workshop, class to class.

Know where you’re heading.

A lot of conferences like BOSS have an app with a map (heehee) of where classes and concerts are. BOSS even allowed you to subscribe to text message updates, and they sent important details over email as well.

A great example of this is HubSpot’s INBOUND. Their app was custom-made for the event, and was yet another place -- besides the #Inbound14 hashtag -- where people could share their excitement for the event. Important scheduling changes showed up as push notifications on your phone. Since we were at the Boston Convention Center, a very big venue, I really would not have known where to go for classes without the app.

If you don’t have an iPhone (I just have an iPod), you need to be prepared. This year, I wrote down all the classes I wanted to go to and their respective locations.

Share your experiences.

The first year I went to BOSS, I was a sophomore in college, having just been thrust into the role of Music Director. The way our group was set up, the Music Director (affectionately labeled the Pitch Pipe), would lead rehearsals from start to finish. There may be a few announcements from the President and Business Manager, but otherwise, the onus was all on the Music Director to get everyone up to speed.

This was a lot of pressure at first. Luckily, the group was very supportive, and everyone offered their advice for leading, which I took to heart. By my senior year, I led The Blend to perform in the ICCA’s, the International Collegiate Competition for A Cappella, for the first time. We didn’t place, but we felt pretty damn proud of ourselves for making it there.

I remember the first year I was at BOSS, I took a class with Amanda Cornaglia and Charlie Friday of Euphonism about fundamentals for leading your group. They offered ideas about how to get the “clowns” in your group to spend more time singing, and how to get the group in general to focus. At the end of the class, they asked if anyone had any questions. I took the opportunity to tell them my situation, and they gave me very specific advice. I frantically wrote it down and still have it to this day.

Remind them you may not run things the same way.
Don't open for comments.
Incorporate songs into warm-ups.
Tape rehearsals.
Don't ridicule, but recognize that you may need to point out specific people.
You need to be 3 steps ahead of the group.
Remember the compliment sandwich -- good, bad, good -- when giving feedback.
It's FEEDBACK, not criticism. 

So my advice to you would be to ask questions about how you can apply your instructor’s teachings to your situation -- whether that be as a marketer looking at business analytics, or as a music director looking to arrange for your group’s voices.

How Do You Make The Most of Conferences?

I know there is so much more to say on the subject of business conferences. I didn’t even mention business cards!

However, these were the tips that helped me the most at BOSS, and last year, at HubSpot’s INBOUND. Networking and handing out business cards are obvious tips, but I don’t want to be obvious. I want to give you advice that will help you get the most out of your experience, and I don’t necessarily think handing out business cards (no matter how cool they are!) will really help you learn.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject. Did you go to any conferences in the past year? Did I see you at BOSS? How did you make the most of the experience?

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Reviews
What to Watch on Netflix Instant Tonight: Horns (2013)
April 8, 2015 0

Editor's Note: This is a new series on Allie Kay Tee that will answer the question everyone asks when they open Netflix Instant: What should I watch?! Instead of agonizing over your decision, just come to Allie Kay Tee and browse the Netflix Instant Reviews category. I've got you covered with reviews of great and not-so-great movies to watch. 

Horns was the kind of movie I really, really wanted to do well.

Director Alexandre Aja (The Hills Have Eyes) brings to life the dark fantasy novel by Joe Hill (son of Stephen King). The story turns our beloved Dan Radcliffe (in this film, Ig Perrish) into the devil -- sort of. Meanwhile, Joe Anderson from Across the Universe plays Ig’s trumpet-playing, coke-addled brother and Max Minghella from The Mindy Project plays Ig’s best friend from childhood and his current lawyer. There are a few girls here and there, but one of them is dead and the other has basically thrown her life away.

Here’s the premise: Ig Perrish is in love with his childhood sweetheart. But then she dies -- at the foot of the treehouse they had been sneaking out to for the past 10 years. Everyone blames him, and then he grows horns. The community made him out to be the devil, so he became the devil, “fallen” from heaven without his angel of a girlfriend beside him. Religious references abound, including Easter eggs like Joe Anderson’s license plate, GEN 138, which refers to Genesis 13:8, which reads, “ And Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brothers.”

The horns have magical powers, of course. Can’t have a movie with good ‘ole Dan Radcliffe without some magic in it! They make everyone around him tell the truth.

Old ladies tell off mothers with loud children, and his doctor confesses that he really just wants to get high on cocaine instead of operating on his horns. Ig does everything he can to get rid of them, but nothing works. And then the snakes come. Did I mention he speaks Parseltongue? In the book, he delivers a sermon to his snakes.

I see God now as an unimaginative writer of popular fictions, someone who builds stories around sadistic and graceless plots, narratives that exist only to express His terror of a woman's power to choose who and how to love, to redefine love as she sees fit, not as God thinks it ought to be.  The author is unworthy of His own characters.  The devil is first a literary critic, who delivers this untalented scribbler the public flaying He deserves.

What’s so entertaining about Horns is that it’s absolutely outlandish. You never know what’s coming next (although the big plot twist is pretty easy to spot), and when you think the movie’s over, you check and there’s 20 minutes left. It’s a classic “whodunnit” scenario with a dark twist, and it will make you laugh incredulously.

My main gripe with Horns is that the female characters really were not developed enough, although I'm sure this is the fault of the medium and not the story. I suppose it’s because we’re seeing these women through the eyes of a male character, but Ig’s girlfriend in the flashbacks seems absolutely perfect. His old friend, on the other hand, is a whore (really).

What I like about Horns, though, is that it’s unlike any other horror movie out there today. I don’t need another Paranormal Activity 5; I’m grateful to be able to watch an original story, even if there are a few plot holes, even if it makes you sympathize with the devil. What matters is that it’s entertaining, and one of the few horror movies on Netflix (alongside Oculus) that's actually worth your time.

In short, I know Horns would never win any awards, but it’s addicting to watch. And that’s why it’s on Netflix Instant.

I give it a B-. What would you give it? 

Production Companies: Red Granite Pictures, Mandalay Pictures

Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Juno Temple, Max Minghella, Joe Anderson, Kelli Garner, Heather Graham, David Morse, Kathleen Quinlan, James Remar

Director: Alexandre Aja

Screenwriter: Keith Bunin; based on the novel by Joe Hill

Producers: Cathy Schulman, Riza Aziz, Joey McFarland, Alexandre Aja

Executive producers: Joe Hill, Shawn Williamson, Adam Stone, Joe Gatta, Christian Mercuri, Danny Dimbort

Director of photography: Frederick Elmes

Production designer: Allan Cameron

Music: Robin Coudert

Costume designer: Carol Beadle

Editor: Baxter

Sales: Graham Taylor & Deb McIntosh, WME

No rating, 123 minutes

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