Remembering the famous ‘Bird Girl’ of Syracuse University

Mary Jo Zawalski aka "Bird Girl"

Mary Jo Zawalski was also known as "Bird Girl" when she was a student at Syracuse University.

To say the famous Bird Girl of Syracuse University is a creative person would be an understatement.

Mary Jo Zawalski — or, as she was better known during her undergraduate studies in ceramics at SU from 2002 to 2006, “Bird Girl” — was well known across the campus for her quirky appearance, especially for clipping odd objects to the top of her head. Usually it was a plastic bird, but she was also spotted with other fake animals and even a plastic waffle once.

“All the birds I wear on my head are paper trained. Unfortunately, the alligator is not,” Zawalski told student newspaper the Daily Orange in 2005.

Any student that attended Syracuse University with at least one year of overlap with Zawalski’s time there knows about Bird Girl. When she was a freshman, she lived in the same residence hall as I did (Flint Hall on top of Mount Olympus) and I often saw her in the dining hall. I would’ve asked her about her headpieces eventually (just like how people tend to ask me about my hearing loss eventually), but the DO ran a feature story on her during our second semester on campus. (And she probably never asked about that deaf DJ on campus because the DO did a feature story on me, too.)

“I want to be visually interesting, instead of beautiful,” the Texas native told the DO in 2003. She explained that she started wearing birds in her hair (and plastic sandwiches, hamburger buns, etc.) as a way to express her pun-filled sense of humor and to gauge new friends. Obviously, if you don’t get the bun-in-her-hair joke or what she means when she’s “flipping the bird,” then she probably doesn’t want to hang out with you.

And a little Google research finds that Zawalski has been doing pretty awesome since she graduated from Syracuse. She got a masters’ degree in Clinical Art Therapy from Long Island University in 2009, speaks Spanish, some Hindi, and works on the Therapeutic Activities staff at an acute psychiatric hospital outside New York City.

In an interview with an acupuncture therapy blogger last year, she makes being an art therapist sound like an emotionally and psychologically exhausting job, but incredibly rewarding from both interaction with staff and patients. “I get to color with crayons and sidewalk chalk at work!” she exclaims. “Oh, and I get to dance and hula hoop too!!!”

And I assume she still wears the birds in her hair — at least that’s what’s she wearing in her default picture on Facebook still. Oh, Bird Girl. Don’t ever change.

My top 10 favorite posts on syracuse.com (so far)

This week marks my one year anniversary working at syracuse.com — it was in August 2010 that I made the decision to leave radio behind and embark on a new career, and I’ve especially enjoyed the opportunity it’s given me to write more. Among other things I do for syracuse.com, I cover a number of topics including entertainment, technology, social media, Syracuse University, viral videos, Central New York events, business news, concerts coming to CNY (see: Show Patrol), online trends and more.

Here are my top 10 favorite posts that I’ve written in the past year:
10. Why is your mom posting “I like it on the floor” on Facebook?
This was one of my first articles, and I enjoyed raising a little snark over a ridiculous web trend (though for a good cause, to support breast cancer awareness).
9. Did your zodiac sign change? Central New York is having an identity crisis
No, no one’s zodiac sign changed but in January everyone seemed to be freaking out at the “news” that it might have. I collected local reactions on social media, and it became one of the most popular articles I’ve ever written.
8. Syracuse University named No. 12 party school in nation
Princeton Review’s comparison of schools in terms of “partying” always struck me as impossible to quantify, but this was the highest SU had been on the list since before I was an SU student (2002-2005) so current students, alumni and CNY residents all took notice of the new ranking.
7. Is Jennifer Aniston a homewrecker just like Angelina Jolie?
For more than five years, fans of Aniston have praised her acting (which she’s never won an Emmy or Oscar for) mostly out of sympathy after Jolie effectively “stole” her husband. Turns out Aniston basically stole her current boyfriend from another woman, too.
6. Is May 21st the end of the world? How would you spend your last night in CNY?
People mocked Harold Camping’s prediction that May 21 would bring the Rapture, but I wanted to raise a different question. If the world really were to end, how would you spend your last night? I interviewed people in CNY for a video and article and enjoyed hearing their responses.
5. Viral Video of the Day: Baby finds mom blowing nose both terrifying and hilarious
Every day I pick a video that’s gone (or going) viral to write about on syracuse.com — this was the most popular one, and despite my resistance to enjoy baby videos I still find this one hilarious and charming.
4. Michael Jordan’s daughter Jasmine prepares to start college at Syracuse University
This one was interesting because through Twitter I discovered — and subsequently I broke the news — that MJ’s daughter was starting at SU this fall. Some people criticized it for not being “newsworthy,” but the story went insanely viral. TV, radio, and more sites picked up the story, including Huffington Post, Fuse and BET. Jasmine’s number of Twitter followers grew from 2,200 to 3,500 in just days.
3. Who owns the pictures you upload on the web? Probably not you.
I researched copyright ownership rules of photo-sharing sites like Facebook, Flickr, Picasa, Twitpic and more — and wanted people (especially professional photographers and models) to realize that posting photos on such sites usually means giving up ownership and allowing them to sell/license your images.
2. Crazy concert riders? K-Rockathon bands demand booze, DVDs, baby wipes and a garden gnome
I also did a photo retrospective of K-Rockathon’s last 15 years and backstage coverage of this year’s event, but I especially enjoyed reading through bands’ backstage demands because I’m a big music geek.
1. AT&T vs. Verizon iPhone – A comparison chart to help you choose [Infographic]
I created my first infographic to help readers pick the best iPhone for their needs. Though Verizon’s data plans are no longer unlimited, the rest of the information is still accurate and relevant today to people choosing smartphone carriers.

Thanks for reading!

Play kickball at #tweetup2011 in Syracuse! Do you want to be on Team @Ev or Team @Biz?

We're celebrating the 5th anniversary of Twitter going public with a kickball game in Syracuse on July 16!

The first tweet was sent March 13, 2006 and now, five years later, Twitter has grown to 200 million users sharing news, branding businesses, starting revolutions, interacting with celebrities and (best of all) making new friends. Twitter went public July 15, 2006, and we want to celebrate the fifth anniversary by making more new friends with a tweetup — a kickball tweetup!

Join us Saturday, July 16 from 12 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Onondaga Lake Park in Liverpool, just a short distance from Carousel Center in Syracuse, for food and drinks with CNY’s Twitterati. We’ll also be playing kickball at 1 p.m. at the parkside field near the Wegmans playground.

You’re invited to bring friends and family (whether they’re on Twitter or not), plus bring food and drinks! If you want to play kickball, you can either be on Team @Ev (with @dagsly as your team captain) or Team @Biz (with yours truly, @deafgeoff as captain).

» RSVP for the event on Facebook – say what team you want to be on!

Invite others and share this event on Twitter with hashtag #tweetup2011!

We’ll be meeting at 12 noon at the kickball field near the Wegmans Playground at Onondaga Lake Park. Game starts at 1 p.m.

The details:

Celebrate Twitter’s 5th anniversary with a Syracuse tweetup and kickball!
Saturday, July 16 · 12 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Onondaga Lake Park, Liverpool NY (near Carousel Center mall in Syracuse)
Bring friends, family, food and/or drinks. We’ll meet at the field at 12 noon, start kickball at 1 p.m. and have an awesome time.

#SYRDT RECAP: Syracuse Doubletree Tweetup – the trivia (and answers), the tweeps, and the twitpics

@SYRDT put together these awesome nametags so getting to know each other at the tweetup was a fast and fun experience!

Kevin (@SYRDT) and I (@deafgeoff) put together our first tweetup last night as a fun attempt to try something new — we incorporated pub-style trivia and twitpic challenges for tweeps to earn points and win prizes. We also had two social media-inspired drink specials, the Fail Whale Martini and the Tiger Blood Cosmopolitan (thanks to @NikkiFeroni for the recipe on the latter). Thanks so much to everyone who came, and a BIG THANK YOU to the Syracuse Doubletree Hotel for hosting. Re-live the fun experience below, plus see all the trivia answers!

THE TRIVIA
Tweeps formed teams for trivia (questions compiled and emceed by yours truly). There were five rounds with three questions each, and teams had one song’s length to turn in their answers. (We also took a 5-10 minute break for social interaction in between each round to keep the spirit of a tweetup!) At the end, the team with the most points won an overnight stay at the Syracuse Doubletree — and those awesome DT cookies! Here are the questions (with answers posted way at the bottom of this entry, after the jump):

Round 1: Current Events
1. 50 years ago this week, Russia sent the first man into space. What does NASA stand for? (3 points)
2. A photograph of a sign in front of a store saying “No restrooms. Try Amazon.” made headlines last week. What store was it? (5 points)
3. A cobra went missing in the Bronx Zoo last month and became instantly popular on Twitter. When the snake was found, what name did zoo officials give it? (5 points)

Round 2: Entertainment
1. How many times has Britney Spears been married? (1 point)
2. What SU graduate won an Oscar for best adapted screenplay for The Social Network? (3 points)
3. Besides Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer, who appears on the most episodes of “Seinfeld”? (5 points)

Round 3: Sports
1. What Major League Baseball team has currently gone the longest without winning a World Series? (1 point)
2. Syracuse had a professional basketball team in the American Basketball Association for half a season in 2007. What was their team name? (3 points)
3. What football player won two MVP awards and a Super Bowl despite not being picked in the NFL draft? (5 points)

Round 4: Syracuse
1. Where can you find an upside-down traffic light? (1 point)
2. Before Otto the Orange, what was the Syracuse University mascot? (3 points)
3. Other than the 24-second shot clock, name a commonly used invention that originated in Syracuse. (5 points)

Round 5: Famous Phrases
1. Who said “They call me Mr. Pig”? (1 point)
2. Finish the quote: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are…” (3 points)
3. What song has the line “I’ll be beside the phone waiting for you”? (5 points)

(Trivia Answers at the bottom of this entry, after the jump.)

* * * * *

THE TWEEPS:
These awesome people all stopped by the tweetup. Thanks for coming!
@syrdt
@deafgeoff
@doubletreecutie (+ her mom, who isn’t on Twitter)
@nikkiferoni
@blunick / @mozeo
@dagsly
@mitch_m
@kelvinringold
@fosterdad2
@scottseverance
@jhatchDJ / @thesocialDJ
@mmccormickcny
@mandeewidrick / @chargedupmedia
@calebwidrick / @calebsusedbikes
@tdog4494 / @asktim
@missbrittz
@jbbusch
@joshshear
@toddengel
@whoislauramcg
+ Lara (who also isn’t on Twitter yet – let’s remedy that…)

* * * * *

THE TWITPICS:
People who played trivia got bonus points for taking pictures of tweeps and posting them with hashtag #syrdt. The catch? Pictures had to be of people who weren’t on their trivia team, to encourage them to go out and meet new people! Some of my favorite pictures:


@kelvinringold, @mitch_m & @dagsly


@blunick & @nikkiferoni


@mandeewidrick with @doubletreecutie & her mom

@dagsly
@dagsly

More Twitpics:
@calebwidrick: @mitch_m & @dagsly
@mandeewidrick: @syrdt
@jhatchdj: @mmccormickcny
@kelvinringold: @kelvinringold & @mandeewidrick
@calebwidrick: @fosterdad2
@thesocialdj: Lara & @deafgeoff
@mandeewidrick: @deafgeoff, @missbrittz, @dagsly & Lara
@thesocialdj: @deafgeoff & @missbrittz
@mandeewidrick: @scottseverance & @jhatchdj
@fosterdad2: @tdog4494 & @mandeewidrick
@jhatchdj: Empty glass that was a delicious Tiger Blood Cosmo
@calebwidrick: @mitch_m “These chips are awesome!”
@mandeewidrick: @kelvinringold & the cookie monster (@mitch_m)

* * * * *

THE TRIVIA ANSWERS: Continue reading

PHOTOS: Lake effect snow in Syracuse – from blue skies to blizzard in 30 minutes

Ah, Syracuse. For those that have never been there, it’s right in the center of New York state, about halfway between Buffalo and Albany on Interstate 90. We’re known especially for Syracuse University and SU’s basketball and lacrosse teams (currently ranked #4 and #1, respectively), but Syracuse is also where the serrated knife, the dental chair, and the 24-second shot clock were invented.

Syracuse is also the snowiest city in the United States, undefeated in the annual race for the Golden Snowball Award. So far this winter we’ve gotten over 100 inches of white stuff already. Why? It gets crazy lake effect snow from its proximity to the Great Lakes, causing the weather to go from blue skies and sunshine to snowmageddon in half an hour. Syracuse can get 3 feet of snow, while a suburb 20 miles away could see nothing.

On Sunday, I drove from Boston to Syracuse. Here’s photos of the crazy weather:
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Radio Daze #3: Camping in the Mall

I spent May 29th – June 1st of 2009 living in the Carousel Center.  That’s right, I set up an RV/tent campsite and literally lived in the mall for 76 hours.  No shower.  Lots of unhealthy food.  LOTS OF FUN.  And the best part was, I did it to raise over $5,000 for the AIDS Walk/Run in Central New York.

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