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She’s not new to the WNBA. She’s been a player, drafted in the league’s second year, and played perhaps her best ball in Portland and Miami. She’s also been a league coach, for the Washington Mystics. But she’s never before been a head coach of a WNBA franchise, let alone one as decorated as the Mercury, which has three championship rings and just missed its fourth last year. She’s also stepping into the coaching shoes of arguably one of the most successful coaches in league history, her friend and former teammate Sandy Brondello. So while there are some big shoes to fill and there’s pressure, to be sure, there’s also a huge upside to the job.
The Phoenix Mercury boasts a roster loaded with talent and chief among the All-Stars is a player who is widely considered perhaps the most dominant player in a generation, maybe ever, to play in the WNBA — Brittney Griner, or “B.G.” as she’s known around the league. For the uninitiated, Griner is so dominant that if we lived in a different world, LeBron would be considered the “B.G.” of the NBA.
Coach Vanessa Nygaard on the court
Photo courtesy of Phoenix Mercury
“When you need a bucket, she’s a bucket,” Nygaard says of Griner. “When things weren’t working well, we’d just throw it into her and she’d get you points.”
If you’re wondering why the name Brittney Griner rings a bell, it’s because you haven’t been living under a rock the last few months. She is the player who’s been locked up in a Russian gulag and, for the last several months, used by Vladimir Putin as a pawn in a dangerous, high-stakes game of international chess. The Russian President is using Griner to pressure the U.S. to get whatever the hell it is he’s trying to get — and let’s be honest, nobody, not even Putin probably, has any idea what that is anymore.
At this point you might be thinking geopolitical security coupled with European war negotiation strategy is outside of a WNBA head coach’s job description — and you’d be right — yet here we are. But hey, Nygaard went to Stanford, so we’re all good, right?
All kidding aside, to say that it hasn’t been a distraction would be like saying Vesuvius wasn’t a concern to the residents of Pompeii. (Google it, you’ll get it later.) Trying to keep reporters interested in how your players are posting up in the paint while all that’s going on hasn’t been easy. Nor has it been a breeze to completely re-invent an offense, or ask a group of All-Stars to suddenly fill roles that are different than what made them All-Stars in the first place. Yet she’s done this, navigating her team to the brink of a playoff berth while getting to know them and a new coaching staff.
Then there’s the human side, getting to know a new area and the fun things that go with it, like monsoons and haboobs. So it’s understandable that Coach hasn’t had time to figure out some of life’s necessities, like, where she should get her first haircut in Phoenix, which was precisely where she was coming from when our interview started.
“I had been getting my haircut in L.A.,” she said, during the first few moments of our Zoom call. When she saw the puzzled look on my face, she explained that her family was still living in Los Angeles when the season started and she would visit a lot. So, she would just get it cut there. Now that her family has fully moved to Phoenix, she had to finally find a new place.
It’s the little things.
Over the next 30 minutes, Coach Nygaard and I would have an illuminating discussion about a variety of topics. While she was born not far from where the Mercury play, it turns out we both went to high school about 30 minutes apart, in the northern part of San Diego county. I graduated two years ahead of her but our high school sports teams would have played each other, though not in Girls Basketball. That’s because until Coach Nygaard’s mother got involved, her high school didn’t have a girl’s basketball team.
During our wide-ranging interview we would talk about that and how Title IX may have changed the game 50 years ago, but what’s needed now for that change to be fully realized is enforcement, perhaps on the local level, to make sure every kid gets the same opportunities she had. Coach Nygaard shared how she followed her mother’s example years later, becoming an advocate herself for a team she coached at the High School level, making sure “separate but equal” wasn’t applied.
We would also talk about why representation matters. Coach Nygaard is an out and proud woman playing in the WNBA. That’s important to her. She’s aware not everyone is as lucky as she’s been.
“I never thought of myself as being a visible member of the LGBTQ community, or anything like that,” Nygaard, said. However, the coach believes that when people are in positions like hers, it’s important to accept the reality that they’re role models.
“We don’t all have families that are supporting and loving and accepting of us,” she said. For those people, especially for young kids, it’s important to see some positivity is possible at the end. “I’ve had success in my career. I have a loving family. It’s important to see that there is joy, there are good things to come… For me, that’s the only reason why I would say anything or why I would be front-facing in any way — to provide some hope for that kid who may be at home and feel like, ‘ugh, I can’t do this anymore.’”
But more than offering hope, being allowed to be who you are, to be your authentic self, is about being your best self, Nygaard said in our interview. “Nobody’s gonna be their best until they’re authentically themselves,” she said. As a player, Nygaard believes she wasn’t her best until she knew she was allowed to be who she really was.
This is a universal truth that isn’t just shared in the locker room. It reaches the upper-most echelon of the organization, perhaps one of the most progressive in the league, which, to be clear, is saying something.
Mercury President Vince Kozar feels it’s important for the organization as a whole to make sure the LGBTQ community recognizes the Mercury as both resource and partner. “As an organization, we pride ourselves on being as inclusive as possible – whether that’s centering women or historically marginalized communities. And the reality is we’re a product that provides visibility and representation for groups that need that, one of which is the LGBTQ+ community. We have athletes who are out, outspoken and living very authentically. We want to show up for them. We want to tell their stories because we know those stories impact folks everywhere.”
That visibility and authenticity is a big reason why Nygaard is thrilled to be a part of the Phoenix Mercury. Another reason she loves stalking the sidelines of the Footprint Center, the Mercury fans known as the X-Factor.
“Our fans are free to be themselves,” Nygaard says. When you come to a Mercury game, she says, “You’re not going to see just one kind of fan. You’ll see families there with young kids. You’ll see older gay couples. You’ll see just random basketball fans who just love basketball. You’ll see all kinds of people.” Ultimately, Nygaard says, “Everyone is there to just support the Mercury.”
But one thing Nygaard is especially proud of: “Our Pride night.” She swears “It’s the best in the history of sports.”
Kozar may agree, and he has some bragging rights to back it up. “We were the first local sports organization to have a presence at Phoenix Pride, the first to march in the Pride parade, the first to host a Pride Night at a game, and the first to sign local organization ONE Community’s Unity Pledge in support of non-discrimination in public accommodations and the workplace. And if that made even one person feel like they were seen or not alone or valued or that our games were a safe space, then every bit of it was worth it.”
Many of the Mercury players are themselves part of the community. In fact, Brittney Griner’s wife, Cherelle, took center stage to advocate for her spouse’s release during the WNBA All-Star game in June, a reality that was not lost on Nygaard. During our interview, we talked about the fact that its willingness to put a queer person center-stage on its biggest night sets the WNBA apart from other professional sports organizations — but maybe not for long.
While other pro leagues can now boast out athletes who are active and playing, it is true that few have done more than the WNBA to embrace them. What is also true is that within the WNBA, few have franchises that have done more than the Mercury to make those players and coaches feel at home
Maybe that’s the real X-Factor.
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A massage gun is a great way to relieve tension in specific muscles. We can do it from the comfort of our own couches while watching TV. The benefits of a massage gun can help you feel relaxed, feel calmer, improve circulation, and can relieve stress and tension throughout your body. It’s no wonder that we seek out full-body massages whenever we can.
I would love to say that I work out so much that a massage gun helps me loosen up the tight muscles from lifting all those weights. The truth is, I have pulled a muscle in my next twice just from shampooing my hair…Or there was that time I turned around in my chair awkwardly and pulled a muscle in my back. That actually happened the day before I got the massage gun to review luckily, the battery had a partial charge to it and I had my first opportunity to test it out.
First, let me introduce to you the B37 Massage Gun by Erkin Athletics…
What is the B37 Massage Gun?
Four Attachments for the B37 Massage Gun
The B37 Massage Gun is an ergonomic and percussive therapy machine. The handle sits at a 15° angle which helps lessen arm fatigue. The handle is also designed so that you can reach the hard-to-reach places that normally would require another person to assist.
- 5-speeds: the variable speed ranges from 1,400 to 3,200 RPMs. The lower speeds let you warm up your muscles and work through any sensitive muscles.
- 4 attachments: There are four different types of attachments you can use to work your muscles.
- Flat: The flat attachment is perfect for overall massaging
- Bullet: The bullet is great for zeroing in on specific knots, and is also perfect for hands and feet.
- Round Foam Ball: the foam attachment works best for all larger muscle groups
- Fork: this attachment is specifically designed for the neck and spine.
- Power: the massage gun delivers up to 56 pounds of stall force. What is stall force? Stall force is the amount of pressure you can apply to a massage gun before the motor stalls.
- 8-Hour Battery: The Samsung Lithium-ion battery provides plenty of power so you can really work out those knots. If you’re on the go, you won’t need to worry about recharging or running down the battery prematurely.
- Travel Case: Take your charged, or uncharged, B37 Massage Gun with you in the handy travel case that organizes everything neatly.
How Do You Use the B37 Massage Gun?
According to the information on their website, you should
- Turn the massage gun on before placing it on your body.
- Use speeds 1 - 3 for any muscle recovery and for speeds 4 and 5 for a soothing massage or pre-workout muscle warm-up.
- Glide the massage gun over the muscles and let the gun do the work. Apply pressure for added muscle relief.
- Breathe and relax and let the machine do the work. (in other words, if you’re tense, the massage will not work.)
Another step I would add is to make sure you know which attachment you need before you even begin step 1. This way, you don’t just turn it on, start massaging, and then realize you need a different attachment.
What I Liked About the B37 Massage Gun
What I love about the B37 Massage GunPhoto by Tyler Nix on Unsplash
There’s always the chance that you get a product that just doesn’t perform. I kind of knew that this was not the case when I turned on the B37. You could feel the power when you were holding it. In fact, it was so powerful I had it on the lowest setting and barely applied any pressure to my sore back. After a few swipes, I felt better.
The attachments are great and my two favorites are the foam ball and the flat attachment. They really promote muscle relaxation and work pretty well for me. To be honest, the fork scares me a little plus, I can’t really reach. I haven’t used the bullet yet because the foam ball and flat piece work great for me. Did I mention that they’re so easy to change too? You just pop them in or out—that simple.
Aside from the handy case, the battery is third in line because well, sometimes, you just forget to charge things. Hello, headsets anyone? I can use the massager for an hour or so and then put it away and use it another day.
What I Don’t Like About the B37 Massage Gun
What I didn't like about the B37 Massage Gun
It's fine when you are on the lower settings but when you get up to the higher settings, it gets a little noisy. Especially if you’re watching TV. If I need that much work on my muscles, I probably shouldn’t be sitting in front of the TV anyway. The lower settings work just fine for my muscles.
Also not a deal killer, but it has some heft to it. While the 15° handle does help with arm fatigue and wrist exhaustion, it’s still there especially if you have a particular knot to work out. Usually, I switch hands if possible or take a break here and there.
Is the B37 Massage Gun Worth the Price?
Prices for massage guns can vary and the B37 Massage Gun is decently priced compared to other massage guns. Considering the quality of the massage gun, all of the features, AND a lifetime warranty, I think it’s well worth the price.
Should You Buy the B37 Massage Gun?
Massage guns are perfect for anyone that is an endurance athlete, an avid weightlifter, or anyone suffering from tight muscles. The National Institute of Mental Health also discusses practicing self-care by using relaxing activities such as muscle relaxation. The institute also mentions using relaxing techniques for managing stress.
I would recommend the massage gun for anyone dealing with sore muscles and who may need relaxation in general.
What to Look for in a Massage Gun?
Speed and Power
When you are searching for a massage gun, you want to look for a gun that offers a range of speed and that has enough power to handle the stall force.
Size and Weight
Part of what I didn’t like about the B37 was the weight. It was a little heavy, especially for one-handed massaging. That’s why you need to make sure that the weight isn’t going to be too cumbersome and at the same time, it isn't too flimsy. There is no way around it but if you have a powerful gun, it’s going to be heavy or heavier. The size is a factor too. If it’s too large, it’ll seem awkward; if it’s too small, it just won’t get the job done.
Chances are, you’re going to want to take the gun with you. Having a nice travel case will make that a lot easier. You will want or need, something compact enough for those road trips and flights. Just don’t forget the charger.
Attachments make life and working out the kinks so much easier. While I really only use two, I can see where the four come in handy. Depending on how often you will use one, I would say a minimum of two attachments.
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After a visit to Honolulu, I returned enthusiastic about the Imu, the traditional Hawaiian underground oven. If you’ve been to a traditional luau, you’ve had kalua pig cooked in an imu. The word kalua means “the hole”. Depending on the pig’s size, it is steamed in an underground pit, sometimes for days. Throughout Polynesia and in many other cultures, earthen ovens have been used for centuries. They are a highly effective way to produce succulent proteins and vegetables without an ounce of electricity.
Really, you can only eat so many carbonized weiners.
While I have always loved cooking outside and enjoy the morning ritual of getting the embers going, camping food is rarely special. It’s hard to control the fire without standing vigil every second. Something always burns. Something is always undercooked. In recent years, meals for the yearly camping trip with my college friends consist of variations on the foil pack theme: individual hobo packs and the like.
The flavor of the food cooked in an imu is unmatched and it frees you up to snuggle with your new love, go for a hike, watch Ellen’s last show, or even do some quick manscaping in your tent.
Consider the imu nature’s crock pot. Maybe you can recline in your new zero gravity camp chair where that perfect combination of rustling leaves and a few beams of sunshine poking through the trees will lull you into a nice nap. This doesn’t have to be just for camping. If you have even the smallest swatch of yard you can do this at home. This summer or fall put on some Don Ho and start digging. It’s worth the ten minutes of cardio. Here’s how to do it.
Pork shoulder is an easy protein to work with. Serve it Cuban style with tortillas, avocado, and salsa verde. An entire pig would be fun, but totally unrealistic if you’re camping. Cooking in a small hole would take a few hours to a half day for the meat to become flavorful and succulent.
This may feel intimidating but it’s really quite easy. Don’t let the digging scare you away.
What Do You Need to Make an Imu?
- 5-8 Burlap bags
- 8-10 Banana leaves, fresh or frozen
- 1 or 2 Grill grates
- 20 pound bag Charcoal
- Foil pans
How do You Prepare an Imu?
Folding banana leaves over coals in an imu
Photo courtesy of Kandace Davis
- Dig a hole three feet deep by four feet wide with sloping slides. Save the dirt you’ve excavated. You’ll need it. If you choose a shady area with soft ground, a typical small camping shovel will work. Go for a bigger hole if you’re feeding a crowd. The pit must be large enough to contain an entire bag of charcoal and the food you’ll be serving.
- Layer the bottom center of the pit with plenty of kindling. Dried leaves, small branches, and twigs are best. Try to avoid newspapers as the print could infuse toxic ink fumes into the food. On top of the kindling, add an entire bag of natural, untreated hardwood charcoal. I use Rockwood brand which comes in a 10 lb and 20 lb bag. For this recipe, use about ¾ of a 20 lb bag. Light the kindling and let the charcoal become white hot. This will take about an hour. Hawaiians would traditionally use hot stones heated to 1,000 degrees and placed carefully into the oven with giant tongs. We aren’t doing that.
- Wear gloves to avoid a steam burn. The cooking process requires steam and not dry heat, so banana leaves will help you easily achieve this. You can find these at Global Foods or other international markets. If your banana leaves are frozen, you can place a double layer of them directly over the coals. If they’re fresh, wet them down before placing them. You are ready to cook.
- Carefully straddle a campfire grill grate (readily available online) over the coals. If you’re cooking for a larger group, consider using two grates and you’ll need a larger hole. Place your foil-wrapped edibles on the grill grate. We will get to specifics about what to cook in a bit.
- Wet down four burlap bags or a roll of burlap and lay them over the foil-wrapped food. Be sure that the burlap extends beyond the opening of the hole. You are going to be covering all of this with dirt and you want to keep the dirt from falling into the imu.
- The final layer is a tarp (anything will do) followed by the excavated dirt which is shoveled over the top of the tarp in order to keep any steam from escaping. Estimating cooking time is tricky. For this pork shoulder recipe, plan for five hours if it goes too long then all the better. As you become more confident, consider other foods including whole vegetables or smaller pieces of beef brisket.
- When finished brush away any loose dirt from the edges of the covering material. Avoid getting dirt into the imu. Uncover the layers of banana leaves and burlap sacks. Allow the foil-wrapped foods to cool for ten minutes before serving.
Pork Shoulder Recipe
Imu cooked pork shoulder
Photo courtesy of Kandace Davis
Yield: Serves 10
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: Approximately 5 hours
- 5 pounds Bone-in Pork Shoulder
- Citrus Garlic Seasoning
- Pat the pork shoulder dry with paper towels.
- Season liberally with salt and citrus rub.
- Double-wrap the pork in heavy-duty aluminum foil by placing the meat on the two sheets where the foil meets, and seal the foil tightly by folding it multiple times until it meets the top of the pork. Seal the foil on the sides in the same way.
- Place When the pork is finished cooking, allow it to rest for 10 minutes.
- Break the meat apart with forks and season again if necessary.
- Serve the meat with the prepared toppings or sides.
Suggested Pork Shoulder Sides
- Avocado slices
- Pickled onions
- Salsa verde
- Corn and/or flour tortillas
- Black beans
- Roasted corn
What Can I Cook in an Imu?
- Whole Chicken
- Beef Brisket
- Whole sweet potatoes or russet potatoes
- Whole acorn squash or spaghetti squash
About the Author
Kandace Davis began her career at a large suburban St. Louis school district where she taught English and theater. In 1999, after training with the Culinary Institute of America, she moved on to pursue her culinary dreams. She enjoyed a twenty-year career as a chef and founded the award-winning St. Louis food company, Cha Cha Chow, which was thrice named by The Daily Meal, NYC, as one of the top food trucks in America. Kandace and Cha Cha Chow have been featured in the St. Louis Business Journal, Sauce Magazine, Feast Magazine, and “Show Me St. Louis.”
In 2013, Kandace was nominated and accepted into Les Dames d’Escoffier International, a philanthropic organization of women leaders in food, fine beverage, and hospitality, and serves on the board of her local chapter. As part of her work to help provide healthy food to underserved communities, Kandace is a supporter of Earthdance Organic Farm School and Mutual Aid St. Louis. She has participated in local events supporting the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the Black Lives Matter movement, and, as a breast cancer survivor, The Breast Cancer Fund.
In 2019, after three spinal surgeries, Kandace stepped down from Cha Cha Chow. She is now working on a memoir about her mother’s mysterious and violent death by suicide and the amazing grandmother who raised her.
Campus Pride, the preeminent resource for LGBTQ+ leadership development, diversity inclusion, and advocacy within higher education, today announced the annual Best of the Best Colleges and Universities for LGBTQ+ students in the United States, recognizing the work of 40 campuses in making their communities safer and more welcoming environments for students, faculty, and staff alike.
“Campus Pride created the Best of the Best List to recognize the outstanding accomplishments of these colleges and universities, creating safer, more welcoming campuses for LGBTQ+ people,” said Shane Windmeyer, Campus Pride Executive Director. “Students, prospective students, and their families, along with faculty and staff members, deserve to know whether they will be safe on campus, so they can make the best choices for their own academic success – and by creating inclusive, safe environments these colleges are taking responsibility for all students.”
Today’s announcement from Campus Pride features 40 four-year campuses from across the country. These campuses have achieved 5 out of 5 stars on the Campus Pride Index (CPI), the definitive national benchmarking tool measuring LGBTQ-friendly policies, programs, and practices. To earn a ranking of 5 out of 5 stars, campuses receive a percentage score from 90 to 100 based on their LGBTQ-inclusive policies, programs, and practices. The methodology to determine this year’s Best of the Best List was based on an overall score of 93 percent or higher.
"We are seeing more and more colleges earn 5 stars because campuses are doing more to support their trans students," states Dr. Genny Beemyn, the coordinator of Campus Pride's Trans Policy Clearinghouse. "While all colleges can and should do more to be trans-inclusive, many institutions are taking important steps forward."
“The work Campus Pride does every day to foster safer, more welcoming campuses across the country is creating positive change for students, staff, and faculty, as this year’s Best of the Best list reflects that with 40 colleges represented, up from 30 last year,” said Tom Elliott, Campus Pride Board Chair. “At a time when LGBTQ+ rights and other civil rights are under assault in states across the country, including Texas and Florida, it is as important as ever to recognize the campuses in these states working to create spaces where the next generation of LGBTQ+ leaders can learn and flourish.”
- Towson University, MD
- Montclair State University, NJ
- Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey-New Brunswick, NJ
- Adelphi University, NY
- Ithaca College, NY
- Pace University, NY
- Lehigh University, PA
- The Pennsylvania State University, PA
- University of Pennsylvania, PA
- Northern Illinois University, IL
- Southern Illinois University Carbondale, IL
- University of Illinois at Chicago, IL
- Indiana University, Bloomington, IN
- Purdue University, IN
- Kansas State University, KS
- Oakland University, MI
- University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, MI
- Macalester College, MN
- Minnesota State University-Mankato, MN
- University of Nebraska at Kearney, NE
- Kent State University, OH
- The Ohio State University, OH
- University of Wisconsin Eau Claire, WI
- University of Wisconsin Green Bay, WI
- University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, WI
- Tufts University, MA
- University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA
- University of Vermont, VT
- University of North Florida, FL
- University of Louisville, KY
- Elon University, NC
- George Mason University, VA
- Virginia Wesleyan University, VA
- Texas Tech University, TX
- University of Texas at Dallas, TX
- San Diego State University, CA
- University of Colorado at Boulder, CO
- University of Northern Colorado, CO
- Southern Oregon University, OR
- Washington State University, WA
About Campus Pride
Campus Pride’s 2022 BEST OF THE BEST Colleges & Universities is online at http://campuspride.org/BestoftheBest.
The Campus Pride Index full listing of LGBTQ-friendly colleges and universities is available at https://www.campusprideindex.org/.
Since 2001, Campus Pride has been the leading national organization building future LGBTQ and ally leaders as well as creating safer communities at colleges and universities. The Campus Pride Index annually helps 80,000 people find LGBTQ-inclusive colleges and universities. In addition, the organization has specifically tailored programs and resources to support LGBTQ youth and campus communities. Learn more at CampusPride.org.