Binghamton University

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Bundy Museum

Today was the last day before Binghamton’s spring break. I don’t have Friday classes, but I can’t go home until tomorrow because as an RA I’m responsible for helping to inspect the building before it closes. So, this afternoon seemed like a perfect time to check out the Bundy Museum.

The Bundy Museum is maybe a fifteen-minute bus ride away from campus. Its Victorian exterior is a little run-down, but the inside has mostly been restored to look the way it did when it was inhabited at the end of the nineteenth century into the early twentieth. The way the museum is set up, you don’t just go in and walk around on your own; a guide takes you on a tour. I was the only one there, so for me the tour was private. Since I’m used to the bigger museums at home in New York City, the idea of going on a private tour is novel to me me. I liked the intimacy of it, and I also liked having another little thing to add to my overall experience of the differences between bigger and smaller cities.

By going on the tour, I learned more about daily life in Victorian homes. For instance, I learned that there was a brief period during which electricity was on the rise but not yet the dominant power source, and that during that period there were lamps that were built such that they could be powered by either electricity or gas. I also learned that wealthy women saw cooking as beneath them but needlework as a very appropriate activity, and after seeing the single, five-inch-deep kitchen sink used by the household servants, I learned that I should never complain about having to wash dishes in my dorm room again.

I also learned more about Binghamton-specific history from my trip to the Bundy. For example, Harlow Bundy, whose family were the original inhabitants of the mansion, founded the first company to produce the time-recording clock. The annex houses a bunch of these clocks, which stamp punch-cards to indicate what time employees begin and end their shifts. Gradually, the company expanded its repertoire to include other machines that in their own times were cutting-edge, and eventually it morphed into IBM, which was an economic powerhouse in Binghamton until maybe the turn of the twenty-first century.

In addition to the main attraction of the mansion, the Bundy Museum offers several other exhibits. Its annex has not only the clocks but also the Southern Tier Broadcaster’s Hall of Fame, what was the Bundys’ ballroom now shows off contemporary local art, and I got a sneak peek at a really extensive upcoming exhibit of African art. My visit to the Bundy gave me lots of interesting things to think about, including a deepened sense of Binghamton history, and I really enjoyed looking at all the pretty parts of the mansion (the octagonal dining room and the hand-carved wood all over the house are gorgeous!), so I definitely recommend it.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Mutant Mania 2014

Mutant Mania—an annual week full of competitions among Dickinson‘s four buildings—came to a close on Saturday night, and just now am I sufficiently caught up on sleep and studying to tell you about it.

First of all, Mania is sooo much fun. Some of the highlights of Mania, from my perspective, were:
-Helping write an anthem for my res hall that included references to cavemen, our building’s theme for Mania this year
-Helping try to build a cardboard-and-duct-tape boat good enough to sail someone from one side of a pool to the other and back
-Watching a tug-of-war that included a body builder on each team
-Knowing that we raised like $700 for charity through penny wars
-Getting a free show from a local drag queen during a cross-dressed beauty pageant for transgender awareness
-The fact that six people in my building were willing to road-trip to Times Square in the middle of the night just for a photo for a scavenger hunt
-The fact that my building’s entry in the Iron Chef contest included venison that two other RAs in my building had butchered themselves with stone tools (thank you, experimental archaeology class, for having the best timing ever—seriously, how perfect is that for a caveman team?)

Second, Mania is crazy-competitive and if you’re into it (which you should be!) you will sacrifice for it. From my perspective, these were some of the low-lights.
-Giving myself a slight asthmatic reaction by running part of a relay race in 30-degree weather
-Getting water on me because people decided to throw water balloons even though the event involving water balloons was cancelled due to the 30-degree weather
-Being the least helpful person ever in musical charades
-Losing my ID card while walking through campus’s disc golf course for the scavenger hunt
-Discovering, also during the scavenger hunt, that it is no longer appropriate to expect Toys R Us to have Barney paraphernalia (kids these days!)
-Having a borderline-coherent conversation while cleaning my res hall’s kitchen after a 4 AM attendance event
-Hearing people get into an actual heated argument over what counts as a spatula

The thing about the lowlights, though, is that—except for losing my ID and giving myself a medical problem (not practicing self-care, tsk tsk me)—ultimately they are their own kind of highlights. You look back and laugh about how intense things can get and how silly everyone can be. You don’t even have to wait till Mania is over, though, because one of the last Mania events is usually skits. Each building writes and performs two skits, one comedic and one musical (usually also comedic), about Mania. The skits are usually filled with Dickinson in-jokes, some about the different halls’ reputations outside Mania, some about who did how well in other events, and some about things people have said and done during the course of Mania. It gives us the chance to see the humor in everything, and because the teams all watch each other’s skits, we get to sort of start being on the same page again so that the competitiveness ends when Mania does. (If you’re interested, check the skits out here.)

See, by the end of Mania, we’re all definitely ready for the end of Mania, and the great payoff for everyone is that the community is much closer. You’re closer with your team, obviously, because nothing bonds people together like football and midnight road trips. And you’re closer with the rest of the buildings too, because once the dust has settled you realize that you all just spent a week pouring yourself into the same ridiculous things pretty much just because it’s a Dickinson tradition to do so.

I said I’d keep you up-to-date on how new Dickinson compares with Old Dickinson, and I’ll be honest. While there were just as many super-dedicated people this year as there were in the past, there were far fewer people who were semi-involved and far more who just didn’t participate. It’s kind of disappointing, but to be expected, I think, given how nice the new buildings are—whereas Old Dickinson housed basically only friend-hungry freshmen and those upperclassmen drawn by its reputation for tight-knit community, New Dickinson seems to have attracted a lot of people who see their res hall less as their community and more as just a place to live. Maybe as time goes on, and as Res Life and student government continue to promote the Dickinson spirt, that will change. In the meantime, those of us Dickinsonians who choose to get really involved can still have a really great time. I congratulate Rafuse Hall for their fourth consecutive win, I have pride in my own Johnson Hall for our third-place finish, and I thank everyone who helped Mutant Mania happen. Yay Dickinson!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Dig deeper

There are maybe ten restaurants I can think of off the top of my head that Bing U students tend to go to. You can get some great food at those places (for instance, Little Venice has the best pasta I’ve tasted since studying abroad in Italy, seriously). And, if you go anywhere that isn’t a chain restaurant, then you get an imaginary high-five from me for supporting local business and experiencing part of the Binghamton community!

There’s something to be said, though, for going off the beaten path and trying out places people tend to overlook. Case in point: Currys of India, a small, unassuming restaurant in downtown Binghamton. Located right next door to the also-overlooked-by-students M&D R Nuts, Currys advertises a $6.50 lunch buffet. My friends were a little hesitant when I suggested that we check it out this week, mostly because none of us had ever gone there and we didn’t know anyone who had, but they agreed to go try it out with me anyway.

Boy, were we all happy that they indulged me. The restaurant is narrow and long and quiet, but bright and clean, and our hostess was really sweet and attentive (it’s a family-run business, so that’s also cool). And the food was delicious. You could take rice, salad, and whatever you wanted of five different entrees. The entrees were all fantastic—subtly spicy and crazy flavorful. I thought the vegetarian dishes, especially one made with chickpeas (which was vegan!) and one made with spinach and cream, were especially tasty. As one of my friends said on our way back to campus, “We should go back there. Tomorrow.”

Binghamton is swarming with hidden gems, including ones that aren’t so hidden (Currys of India is maybe a two-minute walk from the University Downtown Center). Just keep in mind that there are a lot of things for you to try here once you’ve run out of recommendations from other students, and keep an eye out for them—who knows? You may be rewarded, as my friends and I were, with some of the best naan you’ve ever had in your life.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

An excellent early evening

Yesterday, a friend and I decided to get dinner at Water Street Brewing Co., a new-ish eating place in downtown Binghamton. While my friend had been there before, I hadn’t, and I was excited to try what I’d heard was high-quality food in a classy, relaxed atmosphere.

I liked the atmosphere a lot—it’s set up for people to linger and talk. As its name suggests, Water Street Brewing Co. offers a high-quality selection of craft beers, so it’s a good place to go for those if you’re over twenty-one (I, for the record, am twenty-two). It’s not snobby about that, though (the menu lists beers by IBU and other criteria but explains what those things mean), and beer’s definitely not the whole point. The food is really good in its own right, and the menu offers lots of local and vegan options. I decided to get a spiedie, which, as Neal explained, is a delicious and popular local specialty sandwich made with chunks of marinated meat. Since I’m Catholic and yesterday was a Friday during the season of Lent, I wasn’t supposed to eat meat, so I ordered a tempeh spiedie, unsure of how well that would work. I almost spat out my first bite—because it tasted so much like a chicken spiedie that I thought for a moment I’d been given the wrong order. It was tempeh, though, a little nuttier and softer than chicken. I highly recommend this great new take on a Binghamton classic.

After eating, my friend and I walked around checking out First Friday events. One really cool thing about First Friday gallery showings, aside from the free food they often offer, is that the artists are there to mingle with the crowd. At the ART Mission and Theater, for instance, two artists, Abigail Burpee and Patrick Branigan, were exhibiting their work. One of Branigan’s paintings, The Ascension, showed horses going upstream in a river. My friend was curious as to whether that could happen in real life, so she went up to Branigan and asked. He gave us the picture’s whole backstory about horses on a certain island in Maryland. How cool is it to get that peek behind a painting, within minutes of seeing it, from the painter himself?

That I enjoyed the evening so much was a good reminder to me that having fun on the weekends doesn’t necessarily have to mean staying up late. First Friday only goes from 6 pm to 9 pm, which was convenient for me because I was on back-up duty as an RA, meaning I had to be in the office by 10 pm. But maybe you want to be back to your room early because you want to study, or because you’re starting to get sick and want to fight it off with sleep, or just because you’re an early bird. Whatever your reason, it’s nice to remember that from going out to eat to attending First Fridays to seeing an early movie or sports game, there are lots of entertainment options for weekend nights when you don’t want to mess up your sleep cycle.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Winter’s bright side

If you choose to go to college, say, in the Northeast, you may find yourself hating some of your old high school classmates around November of your freshman year. Photos of kids playing Frisbee in the sunshine between classes in California, or status updates about how someone needs a sweatshirt because Florida just hit seventy degrees? NOT what you want to see while spending half your evening figuring out how to keep yourself from freezing while getting from class to class.

There is, however, one thing we have on those oversharing, tanned kids going to school in warmer climes: snow days!

Binghamton had half of one this past Thursday (i.e. classes that began after 3:30 were cancelled). The excitement of unexpectedly not having to go to class can be matched by the fun of building snowmen or sledding down one of campus’s many hilly areas—or by the relaxation of curling up at home with some nice tea, a good book, and a beautiful view out the window.

Snowed-on Dickinson Community, as seen from my window.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A hidden gem for lunchtime

As many dining options as Binghamton University offers—including the new marketplace!—sometimes, you might just be looking for an alternative. So, where can you find tasty, non-Sodexo meals on campus? The student-run food co-op!

The food co-op is located in the basement of the Old Union and serves only vegetarian food (with great vegan options as well). Because it’s student-run, you obviously can’t use your meal plan, but members do get discounts (though non-members are totally welcome to eat there too). The co-op sells grocery items all day—things like organic soups, frozen dinners, and snacks, as well as herbs and spices—and starting at noon, they serve a hot lunch. I showed up for that the other day with a friend, and we were both pretty pleased with what we got: gingery sweet potatoes, salad, tempeh with roasted tomatoes, walnut tempeh, kale with garlic and mushrooms, and corn bread. It was delicious! Not to mention under $6. wink

If you’re interested in joining the food co-op, or just in learning more, check out their Facebook page, and, if you’re on campus, I encourage you to stop by. The atmosphere is laid-back, hippie-ish, and friendly. I had a good time eating there the other day, plus I got to pick up a teriyaki seaweed snack and a package of surprisingly good organic peanut butter cups for later.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The moment we’ve all been waiting for

That’s right…the new food court is open!

For many years—including when I was a freshman and sophomore—Binghamton’s New University Union building housed a food court, where you could choose from a variety of mostly fast-food options. You could pay with cash or credit or with your meal plan (though for meal plans it was more expensive than the dining hall). It was a convenient, tasty option to have on campus, and for the past year and a half the student body has missed having that hub in the middle of campus.

But now it’s back. The soft launch happened last week, which means that those of us who were back before the semester started got to check it out—it’s huge and sprawling compared to how it was before—and, more excitingly, try some free samples. Personally, I was impressed with the quality of the new SubConnection’s Buffalo chicken sandwich, and I was happy to see that we now have a Cafe Spice (an Indian fast food chain). For a full list of what the new food court will offer, click here (and note the 24-hour Starbucks!).

The grand opening was Monday, and since then it’s been super-crowded. I’m gonna wait till things calm down a bit before I head over, but still, it’s nice to know it’s there.


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