Putting Out the Vibe Random observations from my day-to-day life

November 17, 2009

My current totem pole

A friend of mine, who also happens to be the Assistant Dean of the College of Engineering, brought this cartoon from www.phdcomics.com to my attention on facebook the other day.

The main thing that’s surprising to me is not that Football coaches make over a million dollars, but rather the gross overestimate of Grad Student salaries.  If I made $17,784 right now, I’d be living a lavish life of Qdoba, Spotted Cow, and Tostitos hint of lime chips, instead of El Monterey frozen burritos, PBR, and “badger” chips.  Nonetheless, the graph got me curious.  Here’s my current totem poll at UW-Madison (from the WSJ UW-Madison Salary Database):

  • $91,870 – my band director (who I’ve learned more from than most of my professors)
  • $103,000 – my supervisor
  • $141,707 – my supervisor’s supervisor
  • $164,933 – my department chair
  • $244,525 – college of engineering dean
  • $400,000 – Brett Bielema (bachelor’s degree in marketing)
  • $600,000 – Barry Alvarez

April 15, 2009

UW-Madison Socio-Academic Campus Zones

After ballroom dance class today, I was on my way back to the Engineering campus and ran into my roommate, Lee, who asked, “what are you doing over here?” – a very valid question actually, since I haven’t been required to go to the east side of campus for a legitimate, academic reason since sophomore year. He, although an engineer himself, was actually on his way back from Art History. The truth is, the non-engineering areas of campus do have a completely different disposition and when I venture to the east for either choir or ballroom dance, it’s like visiting an unexplored, foreign world. Without further adieu, I am proud to present my most recent result of procrastinating both work and school – The UW-Madison Socio-Academic Map: My take on how our campus actually breaks down.

Figure 1 - UW-Madison Socio Academic Map

Figure 1 - UW-Madison Socio-Academic Map

Nerd-Land:  Home of the College of Engineering, Computer Sciences, and Wendt Library, Nerd-Land is the dwelling place of some of the most socially inept students on campus.  In traversing the halls of Engineering, one might witness 10 people surrounding a single game of chess, an intense conversation comparing notes on respective W.O.W. (World of Warcraft) characters, or even over hear numerous jokes about μ (“mu” – the coefficient of both static and kinetic friction), all in only a few minutes.  Spend too much time in Nerd-Land and your standards for the opposite sex will drop dramatically (until an eye opening journey to the east brings you back to your senses)

Nerd-Limbo:  I believe students who spend much of their day in the orange zone to be in Nerd-Limbo – still interested in a practical, technical education but capable of holding a conversation about something other than what they got on yesterday’s Thermo Exam.  The hard sciences (not meaning difficult, but the opposite of soft), such as Physics, Chemistry, Biochem, Genetics, and also Math and Stats* find their home in Nerd-Limbo.  People who are regulars in this area of campus may even have interests that lie outside of academics.
*Grainger Hall (School of Business) appears in purple above because it is considered an overlap of the orange and blue zones.

Liberal Arts-Ville:  Venture too far to the east and your existing schemas of what is a normal classroom environment will be greatly challenged.  Students studying Social Sciences, Music, Dance, Languages, and also all of the students on College Life who represent the entire demographic of our student body so well, attend class here (as needed).  College Library also falls within this zone.  Expected attire in Liberal Arts-Ville requires that all students “try” before class (sweat pants strongly discouraged).  As a result, this is where many of the campus’ best looking people, who seem to only emerge nocturnally at the bars on Friday and Saturday, spend their weekdays.
The location of the Psychology building seems to be an anomaly, surrounded by both Nerd-Limbo and Nerd-Land.

Places I only go to drink beer:  A couple times a week I migrate from my familiar world to another familiar world (think Oregon Trail, except no one has ever died of dysentery out at the bars).  Unfortunately, since I live on Lathrop St. (lower left corner of the above map), traveling from my classes and/or house requires navigating through unfamiliar territory, which is commonly avoided via taking cabs.

Coastie-Island:  Also known as “frat row,” Langdon Street is as unfamiliar to me as the internet is to my Grandma.  Hundreds of girls wearing gaucho pants, ugg boots, north faces, and huge sunglasses (regardless of the weather or current sun intensity) and guys with fohawks, popped collars, and probably tribal armband tattoos dwell in this region.§♦
§Coastie Island slightly overlaps with the Places I only go to drink beer only because of the less than ideal location of the State Sider Apartments.
The recently constructed Lucky Apartments, located in between Liberal Arts-Ville and Places I only go to drink beer is an unfortunate contradiction of my Socio-Academic Theory.

Disclaimer:  This post is merely satire.  There are clearly exceptions to the immense stereotypes that I cast here. I realize that very hard working and motivated people exist in all academic areas of campus.





October 7, 2008

“What’s up with the band?…” – something I’ve been asked hundreds of times this week

Filed under: UW-Madison — Tags: , , — Matthew @ 11:46 pm

A day after I was added to the UW Marching Band website (profile) and in many ways I “publicly” became a member of the UW Drumline, we had the strangest marching band rehearsal in my short time as a member.  During warmups on Friday, Mike left for an hour, returned with Lori Berquam, called the band together and told us all to go home.  By now I’m sure that any badger fan has read numerous articles about the “allegations,” compliments of Google news, and whether they like it or not, made their own judgments of the character of the individuals in the band and the group as a whole.  Unfortunately, almost every detail of the investigation I have had to learn from the media and as a result, suffered through reading many journalistic articles, blogging of intelligent people, and blogging of morons.  Plus, I had no idea that there are people who refer to Wisconsin as Wisky.  I’ve been a badger fan for my whole life and have never heard this “nickname.”  Here are a few of the most bizarre comments that I found on the internet.

“I will no longer financially support any errogant, spoiled drunks who have wrongly assumed a place of importance and status…  I wish the band was half as smart as they think they are. Yes, the entire band. Anyone who sits back and does not report these a-holes is as guilty as the a-holes themselves.”  – (source)

Fortunately I’m at least 2/3 as smart as I think I am.

“Having shared music school halls with the UWMarching band for many years and directly seeing how noisy and disruptive to real academics, as well as being extremely rude and inconsiderate of other students, faculty, and the school this group of students was at all times, and yet getting more backing and budget than the rest of the entire music department combined because of their association with the corporate owned football (as well as other UW athletics) team…Perhaps this is the time to teach consideration of the noise made in the halls outside of practice rooms when they go to their equipment lockers and behave like brazen drunk hockey players and poor representatives of the great University of Wisconsin in front of many international students who come to the University to study music. Even the state high schoolers are better behaved when they are on campus. Get a clue marching band members and grow up!” – (source)

I haven’t been stereotyped like this since third grade when I couldn’t pass my multiplication table mighty minute quizzes.  I would like to publicly apologize to all of the “international students” and bitter school of music graduates for my “brazen drunk hockey player” actions.  Although I’m already the oldest “freshman” in the band, I’ll do my best to “get a clue” and “grow up.”

“It is time that we make things better so we do not have to put up with with spoiled brats thinking that sex is everything. Mike you have done the right thing and when the athletic department does more about the the drinking at the games Too bad people need to wear raincoats because of spilled beer . I would like very much to go to games but is it worth it No I will spend my money elsewhere.” – (source)

Thanks for the suggestions!  After all these years I had no idea that you could drink in Camp Randall, but I’ll be sure to bring my raincoat next week.


Was UC Davis in on a national college marching band conspiracy? – I wish…
Interestingly enough, the UC Davis Band has been under fire at the exact time as the UW Band.  Only in this case, instead of receiving allegations of inappropriate behavior, the director actually filed them himself (what?).

  • Simple moral of the story– Professor Leckrone is an incredible leader and I’m relieved that he relates to his students and respects us enough to approach the situation in a proactive manner.  I’ve always loved the UW Band and considered Leckrone to be one of the biggest celebrities in the state, but had no idea what kind of a person he would be to work with on a daily basis if I actually made the drumline.  Although he expects more of us than any other leader I’ve worked under (including ANY high school varsity sport), I have developed a deep rooted respect for his leadership, passion for everything he pursues, and overall approach to life.  All he wants to do is go back to directing an incredible band and teaching young people.  Contrary to some close minded beliefs on campus, it wasn’t a huge personal conspiracy to sabotage the UW football game.  In fact, Leckrone is probably the biggest badger football and basketball fan I have ever met.
  • Complicated moral of the story– college students all over the country, including myself, engage in activities that I would be uncomfortable discussing with my grandmother.  Although I currently have no idea what actions have actually surfaced as a result of the university’s investigation (I probably know even less that the media), I’m pretty sure that during the past four years, while I was a lowly college student, I would not have found any of the allegations out of the ordinary should they happen on a normal college drinking weekend.  As a disclaimer, I’m only aware of the activities which went on in my section of the band and will admit that there is an extremely small chance that more significant problems might have occurred in other sections (however, I believe this to be unlikely).  One of the largest surprises to me is the attention that these bands are receiving form national media.  Are they merely a small microcosm of college culture all over the nation, albeit under a much more public microscope?


If I met anyone who didn’t consider college to be some of the craziest times of their life I would wonder where in the hell they went to college and in what century.  Throughout my college experience, I have tried to cram in as many crazy experiences as possible (going to MN for a year, living with Andrew in the dorms, doing an internship in Colorado for a summer, building a pool table in my hundred year old attic, doing a Co-op for a semester IN MADISON with no homework, buying a short bus and traveling to every away football game, being the president of IIE, “volunteering” to host the 2010 IIE Regional Conference, etc.).  My most recent crazy decision was to “try something new” in my 5th year of college and join the band.  It seemed like an enormous amount of fun… and I was absolutely right.  As the oldest “freshman” in the band, I fit right in with the other freshman, but also with the rest of the drumline, who I now consider close friends.  As a “freshman” I feel in no way that any experiences that we went through were worthy of this type of investigation for a number of reasons.

  • Big Picture – The reputation of any group after a high profile investigation begins takes an incredible hit, regardless of the actual verdict.  Ever hear of the Duke LaCrosse team?  Unfortunately, the answer to this question is an overwhelming YES.  Can (I’ll say it) THE best band in the nation regain the positive reputation that Leckrone spent 40 years shaping?  I hope so.
  • Small Picture– When I joined the band, I was joining one of the most elite and respected organizations in the entire state.  However, now I’m wondering if I should even put “UW Marching Band” on my resume.  While people in Wisconsin would be impressed, I’m not sure that I want to have to defend the organization in an interview with someone who has never seen the band or how hard it works and only read the national media attention.


Part of the reason I joined the band this year is because growing up, I thought the band and badger football were two of the most exciting things around.  Last year, to fuel my love of badger football I bought a short bus with five friends and drove it to every away game in 2007.  In fact, last season I attended more games than badger running back Lance Smith (I attended 11 games last season, while he only attended 7).  (On a side note, the team got to negotiate the details of his suspension, probably not something the band has the privilege of).  This year, although I had no idea I was getting into something like this when I decided to “try something new” during my 5th year of college, I am indeed fueling the other half of my childhood excitement, the UW Marching Band.  I don’t regret joining the band in any way.

September 10, 2008

Re-learning gameday

Filed under: Football,UW-Madison — Matthew @ 1:50 pm

People who are accustomed to seeing me on football gamedays over the past three years (probably more like 6 years) know that I’ve been very dedicated to Badger Pregame Parties.  From my e-mails, all the way down to the caliber of my 7:00 AM breakfast/bloody mary hour, a lot has been expected of me.  However, when Dave and I were enjoying a 5th Quarter in fabulous Las Vegas after the Badgers/UNLV game last Fall and I made a comment how awesome it would have been to be in the UW Drumline, he responded, “why don’t you give it a shot?”  So I did.  I tried out with all the other freshman and after undoubtedly the hardest week of my life (aka “Reg Week”) I am now the oldest freshman in the UW Marching Band – quite a unique way to spend my fifth year of college.  Although a lot of people (including Tequila Dan) miss the pregame parties I used to throw, aside from being a lot more work than drinking and eating brats before the games, my gamedays as a Cymbal player have a relatively similar schedule to my gamedays as your average pregame partier.  Here are the differences…

Partying Gameday
UW Marching Band Gameday
5:30 AM Still passed out Wake up
5:45 AM Still passed out Arrive at Camp Randall with Bagels that I brought for the upperclassmen because I’m a “freshman”
6:00 AM Still passed out Begin Drumline music rehearsal
6:30 AM Wake up, put on Euro Trunks, blast Jump around, and wake up roommates. Drumline plays football on Camp Randall field
7:00 AM Warren, Matt, and Lee have typically already arrived before I’m even out of the shower. Bloody Mary Hour begins. Entire Band rehearsal begins
8:00 AM Bloody Mary Hour ends Band rehearsal ends
8:30 AM Flip cup commences and/or Peter takes four-beer beer bong Drumline begins playing “rounds” (playing cadences at bars in exchange for cases of beer)
9:30 AM Mom and Dad arrive at Party bearing cheesy potatoes and brats. I try to hide inebriation. End rounds, head to Union South.
10:00 AM Tequila Dan serves hundreds of brats to the masses, while my mom serves pounds of cheesy potatoes. Begin concert at Union South.
10:30 AM Lose Yourself is played and David dances on back porch. Play cadences into Camp Randall
10:45 AM Party approaching drunken peak. Begin Pregame and Run on Show
11:00 AM Leave for game Game begins
11:05 AM Light cannons outside of Camp Randall
11:15 AM Enter Camp Randall

So maybe they’re not that similar… at all. However, I’m having just as much fun, albeit a very different kind of fun.  I’ve already been quoted in the Wausau Daily Herald too.

July 6, 2008

From Tony Perkis to David Bowie…

Not to be too boastful about it, but since I started college in Madison, each year for Halloween, I have out done my costume from the previous year. Now some people may not be too impressed by this, but when you set the bar as high as Tony Perkis from Heavy Weights, outdoing myself has become a challenge, even a burden, and I’m not one to disappoint. As a result, people would probably be surprised to know that I have already been giving some thought to costume ideas for this year, which steered my thoughts towards two things:

  1. Halloween in Madison has gotten progressively worse every year that I’ve been in college. Is it even worth going to “Freakfest” this year? Even my brother back in college talked about how each year State Street Halloween sucked more and more as police tried to make the event more and more safe by using more and more pepper spray. Ever since the city put their hand in Halloween planning it has down right sucked. I didn’t go last year and probably won’t this year. Why should I buy a ticket so that I can stand on State Street under stadium lighting and sober up for three hours? I think I would rather spend this year’s Halloween watching Hocus Pocus.
  2. I also began thinking of all of the costumes I’ve had over the years, and as a result, I’m proud to present my top four Halloween costumes of all time:
#4: Diamonds in the Rough
Halloween 2003
#3: Tony Perkis
Halloween 2005
#2: Nickelodeon Guts Athlete
Halloween 2006
#1: David Bowie
Halloween 2007
Diamonds in the Rough - Halloween 2003
Tony Perkis - Halloween 2005
Nickelodeon Guts Athlete - Halloween 2006
David Bowie Labyrinth - Halloween 2007
When I was still a senior in High School Dave and I managed to convince our mom that I should go to Halloween in Madison. Dave, Mike, and I were Diamonds in the Rough and walked around playing Neil Diamond Songs all night. My first Halloween in Madison I was Tony Perkis (Ben Stiller from Heavy Weights). Andrew also mooched off of my costume idea and was my sidekick “Lars.” For my second Madison Halloween I was a Nickelodeon Guts athlete, complete with a piece of the glowing rock. This past year I was David Bowie from the 1986 movie The Labyrinth. This movie was recently made popular again by the Flight of the Conchords skit, but I had been hoping to someday make this my Halloween costume ever since Nick brought the movie over to my basement back in High School. If nothing else, despite spending over $100, this costume not only made for a tremendous walk home on the Sunday after Halloween, but also earned me a spot on College Humor.

Update: 12-12-08: I began e-mailing my logos for both the Nickelodeon Guts costume and the Tony Perkis costume to a few people, but at this point, so many people have requested them that I’ve decided to just post them here for download.
Nickelodeon Guts Logo Nickelodeon Guts Helmet Logo (left side) Nickelodeon Guts Helmet Logo (right side)
Perkis Power Logo for Tony Perkis Halloween Costume I'm Perkisizing Logo for Tony Perkis Halloween Costume (back)





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