An epidemic of [swine flu] fear

I just got vaccinated today at Cal Poly Pomona’s Student Health Services.

It was free, and despite the concerns over the mercury thermosal (used to preserve the vaccine and prevent germs) and the minute chance of autism, I took the plunge.

It was the injection and not the nasal spray, but it was painless — other than a sore left arm, which is standard for all shots.

Maybe it’s my laid-back northern California nature, but I’m really not too worried. People have been getting vaccinations all through their lives, and not until there’s one for this new case of H1N1, or swine flu, does everyone become a cynic.

WIRED magazine had a cover story last month called An Epidemic Of Fear that is an enlightening read. The jist? Like with all controversial topics, there’s a plethora of misinformation that floats around, much of it coming from bias sources with a stake in the game. Jenny McCarthy is one advocate linking autism to vaccinations, despite evidence that proves otherwise.

The article reads:

The parent who reads what Jenny McCarthy says and thinks, ‘Well, maybe I shouldn’t get this vaccine,’ and their child dies of Hib meningitis,” he says, shaking his head. “It’s such a fundamental failure on our part that we haven’t convinced that parent.” Consider: In certain parts of the US, vaccination rates have dropped so low that occurrences of some children’s diseases are approaching pre-vaccine levels for the first time ever.

If you want to prove me wrong, go read this: I don’t doubt that there’s research and studies to link vaccinations to autism and other harmful things, but contracting swine flu is pretty harmful too. Perhaps less severe, but I’ll take my chances and avoid the current pandemic.


I did a feature on swine flu concerns on college campuses recently for 89.3 KPCC.


[file name = swine flu college mixdown]

It’s my public radio debut and I don’t have mp3 uploading capabilities on the blog just yet. Here’s the script:

H1N1 – the “swine flu” virus – is hitting young people especially hard.  That’s why local college campuses are on guard.  But getting students to take the “swine flu” threat seriously can be a challenge.  Reporter Daniel Ucko has our story from Cal Poly Pomona.

Daniel Ucko: It’s lunchtime – and thousands of students are roaming the Cal Poly Pomona campus. It’s “university hour” – with no classes in session. Think recess for big kids.

Ucko: It’s the perfect time for Student Health Services workers to pass out fliers that remind people to practice basic hygiene to avoid the flu. But it’s a tough sell.

Eric Au: I’m actually not too worried about it.

Ucko: Cal Poly junior and graphic designer Eric Au says he’s not worried about the “swine flu” even though faculty and students file in and out of his campus office all day. He admits that where he works, germs spread easily.

Au: Anytime flu season comes around or something, we always have that talk in a meeting. And so if this is indeed still flaring up, we’re definitely gonna talk about it here.

Ucko: David Patterson is doing more than talking. He’s Cal Poly Pomona’s director of environmental health and safety.

David Patterson: I would say we have to plan for the fact that we will probably see some cases on campus.

Ucko: There’s only been one confirmed case of H1N1 at Cal Poly Pomona. But it’s hard to say for sure. The campus health center no longer tests for the virus. New guidelines from the federal government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say test only if a patient is hospitalized. The CDC says health officials should instead focus on treatment and containment. David Patterson.

Patterson: It’s the same thing if you live at home and the same thing if you go shopping down at the mall. An old adage I’ve used for years and years is to keep four feet most of the time between you and other people. Avoid sneezing or coughing on people by covering your mouth when you sneeze or cough. You know, frequently washing your hands.

Ucko: Next week, Cal Poly Pomona will host one of LA County’s H1N1 vaccination clinics. The university has a “swine flu” web page that answers basic questions about the virus, and debunks myths – including one that got some play on campus.

Ucko: The agricultural school has about 10 pigs in its swine unit. Despite a campus rumor, you can’t get “swine flu” from these specially bred Cal Poly pigs. But grab your little brother’s piggy bank while he’s sick in bed – and you just might get it.

Patterson: Pretty much the same thing we’ve heard again and again.

Ucko: Cal Poly Pomona health and safety director David Patterson.

Patterson: The issue here is that this is the flu, and given the current severity that CDC’s reporting on the H1N1, it’s a fairly mild version. So it’s as much the same precaution as for any flu or any diseases. It’s all about protections the individual can do or things the individual can do to reduce their chance or risk.

Ucko: Of particular worry on campus are dormitories, shared bathrooms – and, of course, frat parties.

Nick Spagnola: I’ve made a joke that I think that there’s going to be a correlation between the spread of swine flu and the amount of frat parties attended by freshmen.

Ucko: Senior Nick Spagnola is a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity. He thinks the H1N1 virus will spread when partygoers share drinks. But he says there could be an upside to an outbreak.

Spagnola: Oh absolutely! If it becomes like a serious thing, I intend to miss class a decent amount. I’m not saying it’s a good idea to lie to teachers or any sort of administrator or anyone listening, but if I was looking in my arsenal of excuses, “swine flu” would probably pop up there.

Ucko: Cal Poly Pomona anticipated a pandemic of phony “swine flu” absences. Professors will post class notes online for students who really are sick – but those students will need a note from the doctor.

This week in music: Wolfmother’s Cosmic Egg Drop Soup

I started writing this saying I don’t know how i feel about the new Wolfmother CD (compact disc), “Cosmic Egg.”

I do love the album design and name. Definitely retro rock and roll. Nothin’s heavier than a fuckin floating egg. But the first few tracks didn’t have me moving like this Australian trio’s self-titled 2005 debut.

There are some gems to be found, but overall this album lacks the cohesiveness and catchiness the debut had.

The solos and extended jams and improvs are good when they’re there, but the wolf’s mother has definitely lost a bit of edge in this new one.

It seems less natural. It’s like the guys went into a room and were like we should record some rock songs, did, and then threw in a few extra niceties.

It’s not all bad, though. “In The Morning” and “Violence of the Sun” are both pretty awesome jam outs.

But many of the other songs are a bit of a wash. Nothing memorable, nothing particularly captivating.

Do keep in mind this band has only three guys in it, they rule live (saw them at Live 105’s BFD in Mountain View few years back) and won a grammy for best hard rock song with “Woman.”














The self-titled wrapped me in from beginning to end and changed up the pace enough to keep me interested. “Joker and the Thief” and “Mind’s Eye” were excellent.

But for this one, I’m going to have to go back and listen more and revise this when the tracks grow on me and I might just like it a little more. Hopefully that happens. Because unlike some critics, I’m not wishing for a band to release a bad CD just so I can write a scathing review.

OK, not totally true. If it was someone like Panic! At The Disco (are they still around? I think they broke up thankfully), then maybe I would cross my fingers for something even shittier. But I mostly follow bands I like (go figure) so I’m constantly hoping the new disc is going to blow my mind.

I first heard this band freshman year of college, wandering around the third floor of Encinitas Hall at Cal Poly Pomona.

I had a group of guys I’d hang out with, and one of them was a surfer dude from Malibu named Seth.

He walked around in board shorts and no shoes pretty much every day. Let’s just say his wardrobe was pretty small.

But playing from his speakers as I walked into his room was something that sounded like Black Sabbath meets Led Zeppelin. Now there’s plenty of rock and roll groups out there who probably aim for just that, but I literally thought it was a Sabbath song I just hadn’t heard yet. The voice was a young Ozzy to a T on first listen.

Turns out it was this new group with a badass name and a badass sound.

Whether that will stick, especially since rumors of a breakup and so much time since the last release, only time will tell.

No Zeppelin IV, that’s for sure.

Next up: stuff about Silversun Pickups, Ben Harper and the Swell Season.


rx bandits mandala

rx bandits' "mandala" is the best of the latest

I’m waiting for Rhino Records to call me with my copy of Portugal. The Man’s “The Satanic Satinist,” the new one everyone is talking about. I couldn’t find it at Target, Best Buy or Rhino last week! I’m a little in the dark, waiting for my own copy to give it a listen. Sure it’s good, though – “Church Mouth” is one of my favorite albums. And “Censored Colors” was good, but overlooked.

I just downloaded Grizzly Bear‘s new one, Veckatimest. I have to say, I’m not a fan. I’ve gotten about halfway through the album and I’m not sure what the fuss over this band is. They’ve got some good qualities, but overall I get very bored listening.

This SoCal beach-based band has been around for 14 years, and evolved from a second wave ska act to something with far too many labels to full encompass them (progressive, reggae, ska, rock, funk to name a few). I interviewed the guys when they came to Cal Poly last fall, and just caught them on their headlining tour with Dredg at the House of Blues in Anaheim. Killer, to say the least. Their sound gets more off the wall with each record, and for me, that tends to be a good thing. “Mandala” is no different. Gets better with each listen. UPDATE: check box widget on the sidebar to download a track from “Mandala”!

Now, something a bit disappointing was The Mars Volta’s new one, “Octahedron.” I expect a lot from this band, who is now on its fifth album and has a very strong cult-like following of prog rockers, scenesters and hipsters. “Octahedron” is so-so. It’s got a few cool tracks, like “Cotopaxi,” but is nothing new. It’s easy to forget. I still have got to claim “Frances The Mute” as my favorite. Closely followed by “De Loused” and a few tracks from “Amputechture,” like the 11-minute “Meccamputechture” Now that’s the Volta I know. “Octahedron” is sort of just there. Doesn’t do anything significant for me. Just a bit too mellow for this outlandish band, who I still can’t wait to see at Outside Lands in San Francisco in about a month.

Lastly, I just saw mega mashup DJ Girl Talk @ The Fox Theater in Pomona Friday night. Great, great venue. Three bars, space for 2,000, multiple rooftop lounges. Rad. I was unsure of going to see a DJ headline a show at a venue much larger than your typical LA club. While the free show only brought out maybe 1,000, Girl Talk got 40+ people dancing on stage with him his whole show, and got me and the rest of the crowd dancing. Mixing tracks from “Feed The Animals” (download it there…you pay what you want) and “Night Ripper” with an eclectic variety of other mainstream and classic hits and beats, Gregg Gillis aka Girl Talk impressed. Not to mention, the guy plastic wraps his laptop so his sweat doesn’t get all over it.

Hit me up if you need some tracks. I’ve got the tuneage.

Pomona’s Big Changes


The Fox Theater is one of the newer attractions in a revitalized downtown Pomona.

Pomona is working to change its reputation from the inside out.

A city known for gang violence and graffiti has been working to revitalize the downtown and breathe new life into an area that has fallen apart from years of neglect.

A revitalization effort has started turning Downtown Pomona into a vibrant community of galleries, restaurants, bars and clubs.

For some, it’s an “island of safety” within Pomona.

But residents are unsure about what’s next. The Downtown Pomona Owner’s Association, a group created to improve the business district, has helped to usher in the facelift.

A.S. Ashley, a local artist, resident  and chair of the Pomona Arts Colony Association, says that what’s good for the city is good for the district and what’s good for the district is good for the individual.

“It’s taken decades to get it to this point where it is actually living,” Ashley said.

The downtown is creating new impressions on locals who used to stray away from Pomona for fear of their safety.

John Clifford, who writes for various Pomona blogs and is vice chairman for Friends of the Pomona Fox, said he used to spend all of his time in Claremont because Pomona was “downright scary.”

“There’s been no life in Pomona for a long time,” Clifford said.

Pomona, the fifth largest city in Los Angles County, suffers from reoccurring gang violence, prostitution and homelessness.
Pomona’s crime rate is 1.31 times the national average, and violent crime is more than double that of neighboring cities such as Diamond Bar, Chino Hills and Claremont.

Of major concern to citizens is that Pomona police close only 44 percent of their homicide cases, compared to 70 percent nationally.

Residents have written submissions to the local newspaper, calling “abusive police practices and individual police misconduct” reasons for not solving murder cases.

This is in a city of around 155,000 that is reported to have 21 documented gangs and 1,320 gang members as of 2006.

Clifford first experienced Pomona in 1972, when he first came to town to work on a political campaign. His office was in the Second Street Mall, the commercial hub of Pomona Valley until the 1950s.

“Buildings were vacating, long-term businesses left town, the mall was rife with gangs and graffiti and all kinds of problems,” Clifford said.

Second Street was home to a thriving post-World War II suburbia until the 1960s, when shoppers were drawn away to the newly built Montclair Plaza and Eastland Mall in West Covina. Pomona attempted to compete by creating of a new kind of pedestrian-friendly mall, but the project failed by the early 1970s, leaving many of the businesses vacant and the streets empty.

Deterioration continued as rents plummeted and lower income individuals moved into the area. The population is now around 65 percent Latino, a historically lower socioeconomic group according to the Census Bureau.

Today, Clifford and other residents are comparing downtown Pomona to Old Town Pasadena, Long Beach and even Hollywood.
The common thread within these cities is a downtown revitalization effort in the form of a Property and Business Improved Business District, commonly known as a PBID.

A PBID forms when businesses get together and agree to pay fees for special benefits the city can’t afford.

Those benefits include security, maintenance and promotion.

The district was recently renewed for 10 years, with a $712,000 budget for the first year. Much of the money goes to security, with the rest devoted to street improvements, marketing and professional services.

Business owners are assessed based on the size of their property.

Carolyn Hemming, district president, said the additional taxes have helped the area succeed.

“The DPOA is cleaning up the reputation of Pomona,” Hemming said. “Now it’s a destination.”

Hemming says it has taken a while for people to start feeling like they could come downtown again, and the improved district has been the catalyst in developing the community of unique shops and entertainment.

“I really want to see this place succeed,” said Hemming, who was born and raised in Pomona.

The improved district is bordered on the north and south by First Street and Mission Boulevard, and on the west and east by South Rebecca Street and South Eleanor Street, respectively. Garey Avenue runs through the middle.

David Armstrong, a downtown property owner, wants the city to create laws and ordinances to govern the maintenance, making sure businesses are held accountable for their own trash.

“It’s really up to the City Council to support the P-BID with laws and ordinances that will benefit everybody.”

Armstrong said he has seen the downtown change drastically from a family-oriented daytime business district to a nighttime entertainment atmosphere.

He’s concerned the city needs to better prepare for the newfound crowds coming downtown at night.

“If you bring three or four thousand people down here at a time, you’re going to have a certain amount of problems,” Armstrong said, mentioning parking and cleanup.

These are all good problems as far as Hemming is concerned.

“I’m happy to see trash because that means people were here,” she said.

Hemming, who has owned a shop downtown for more than 20 years, said she used to keep a shotgun and handgun ready at all times.

“Now that isn’t the case,” Hemming said. “I leave them at home where they’re not needed.”

The district has made progress in cleaning up the downtown and meeting business owners’ needs, adjusting trash pickup cycles for people like Armstrong.

The Pomona police have also been active in recent years, making efforts to address the gang problems.

The police department’s primary focus has been enforcement, to catch criminal gang members, and prevention, to steer youth away from getting involved.

Violent crime was more than double in the 1990s compared to what it is today.

Andrew Kanzler, a Cal Poly Pomona student who lives in south Pomona, sees the overall improvement as a step in the right direction.

He goes downtown regularly and has started to bring his friends.

“The city obviously needs help,” he said. “And I think by amping the businesses that have the most traffic, which is the downtown area, that will be able to pump money back into the city.”

Pomona’s connection to higher education is ample, with Cal Poly Pomona, Western University and DeVry University located within the city and plenty of other colleges nearby.

Most of Western University, located centrally downtown, was carved out of the new district map because the university handles its own security and promotion. But Senior Vice Provost Greg Guglchuk said that the school is onboard with the changes.

Cal Poly Pomona’s presence in the district is marked by its downtown center, which hosts galleries and children’s events.

However, Kanzler knows that many of his fellow students aren’t interested in what Pomona has to offer.

“People go to our school and they’re expecting two things. Some people … like the quietness of it. Some people … want more. If the downtown grows, that will provide what is missing on campus, but also keeps the people that want the quiet campus happy at the same time.”

The previous City Council helped modernize Pomona a few years ago through installing wireless Internet access in a mile radius downtown.

But memories of children like 3-year-old Ethan Esparza, who died in a gang-related drive-by murder in 2006, remind residents of what’s going on in the rest of the city.

The Pomona police have developed the Gang Resistance Education and Training program to work on discouraging gang involvement and deglamorizing the behaviors glorified in movies and media.

As the city tightens its belt to balance its budget for the state, essential programs and services are being cut, from tree trimming and street cleaning to fewer police on duty.

With the downtown district renewed, a friendlier Pomona is starting at the heart of the city.

Clifford thinks Pomona is near tipping point, and that is has the downtown has the potential to flourish and give hope to the rest of the city.

“Today you can go downtown [in Pomona] on the second or fourth Saturday and the place is jammed,” Clifford said. “People are walking – it’s very pedestrian orientated and it’s absolutely wonderful.”

Change ain’t so bad…or is it?


Comic by Reza James Farazmand.

Comic by Reza James Farazmand.

It’s the biggest word buzzing about right now, but to some it’s a frightening one.

Whether it’s freeway construction, mall upgrades, identity changes, proposed stadiums or new political agendas; we are always quick to scour at whatever someone else is planning for us.

Why does change make people so uncomfortable?

It seems people get extremely comfortable with the way things are, and when someone wants to offer something different we may go along eventually, but it will be kicking and screaming the whole way.

Yet we always adjust. Why? Because we have to.

People are quick to reject transformations that don’t seem necessary. We also reject anything we don’t like, so it’s no surprise to see companies like Facebook and PepsiCo getting flack for changing their looks.

Users seem to rebel against any Facebook facelift when they should be applauding the social networking site for staying with the times.

The thing is, no one intentionally changes for the worse.

The dictionary defines change as becoming different, modifying, transitioning or converting.

Most of these words are generally positive. We need to stop seeing change as a bad thing.

Now, not everyone is on the right track: there are sparse fans of PepsiCo’s new logo that is either a funky smirk or a guy taking his shirt off.

And Tropicana is reverting back to its classic look because people didn’t need anything different from their orange juice.
Orange juice may not need to change, but we do.

If we don’t, we fear a static culture. A culture that remains unaltered becomes rigid and old, ultimately destined not to last.
Take construction as another example. The swarms of hard hats and orange vests doing work where Temple Ave. turns into Amar can take drivers 30 minutes to move two blocks, but it also generates an otherwise subdued creativity.

Some cars seek alternate routes in the Stater Bros. shopping center to make their way faster.

From an economical standpoint, the creative coping mechanism is a good thing.

It forces fresh thinking out of necessity and this will always bring out something better in the end: perhaps the stores by Stater Bros. have actually gotten more traffic from what they thought would be a obstruction to business.

Without change, creativity would be stifled.

It’s all too easy to remain satisfied with status quo, but refusing to be open to new ideas kills the innovation that America thrives on.

Take Cal Poly.

Officials are working on a campaign to re-brand the university’s image. And that could mean a potential name change.
Considering the confusion between Cal Poly Pomona, Pomona Pitzer and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, this is probably a good idea.
That might mean a little change around this place, so don’t get hot and bothered if you start noticing some differences.
Henry David Thoreau said, “Things do not change, we change.”

A possible interpretation being: we change the things around us because we change.

Things aren’t supposed to remain the same.

Yet, every time an organization tries to do something “out of the box,” people are up in arms at the slightest sign of discomfort to get to the finished product.

One solution is that the change agents need to better communicate their reasons for change and initiate a dialogue for feedback and input from those being affected.

And if no one weighs in, at least they had the chance.

And people, be more willing to accept new things.

The economy…still an issue


Back on January 27, The Poly Post put out “the economy issue” and created CALOPOLY, the economic crisis game of chance, distress, and foreclosures.

I would really like to see our creation turned into an interactive graphic available on our website. That would mean putting my graphic designer/web guy to work even more, as he already has the weight of our website on him weekly. If not an actual animated game, at least something where people can scroll over different boxes for information and links and the related stories we published.

It’s your turn, people

In case you missed it, Thursday’s Poly Post Web site Launch Party was a big success with nearly 150 in attendance.dan-in-real-life

Not too shabby for Cal Poly standards – sorry CPP, but I’ve seen many an empty event in my days.

Along with watching free chicken fly out the door, the Poly Post editors had the opportunity to identify ourselves in person and show off a newly redesigned

I had been working all last quarter with my graphic designers, marketing director and editors to find out what we wanted to offer and how we wanted things to look.

My favorite aspect of the new site is the more modern appearance that is immediately noticeable to the viewer. High quality photos show off our lead stories with a headline to link you to the rest, and buttons above provide easy links to advertise, submit a letter to the editor or check out our multimedia page.

You’ll notice the blog button doesn’t direct you anywhere just yet. That’s because the feature is still on its way. The idea here is for each columnist on staff to develop a following through updates in between editions of the newspaper, and allow for more feedback from readers.

In addition to that, the photo editors will be displaying the talents of our photographers and offer some artistic insight in a photo blog.

Even more exciting is the long overdue campus blog that is well on its way.

There is so much that happens on Cal Poly’s campus that goes overlooked, and due to space constraints, not everything can make its way into our weekly newspaper, or any of the other university media outlets.

Expect daily updates here, as the theme is a noticed or observed around campus kind of reporting, that will also include follow-ups on big news like the ASI strategic plan, student government elections, Mr. and Ms. CPP and the university’s identity campaign.

What I hope was made clear in the info session portion of Thursday’s event was that the nine editors at The Poly Post devote a large part of our lives to this job for very little compensation.

We do it because we love it, but we would all like it to take up just a little less time. We sacrifice our weekends and meet three times a week to make sure everything is coming into place and on schedule. And that’s just the surface.

We are all qualified to be paid a lot more for what we are capable of, yet my max stipend earns me about a dollar an hour based upon my calculations.

We’re volunteering hours upon hours while most of you have the day off – from school, at least.

Before the unexpected, but welcome, accusations from the audience during a brief Q&A, we kicked off the event with a photo slideshow and entertaining video asking students what they know about The Poly Post.

The answers in the video – which is available on the home page of the new Web site – were revealing in both good and bad ways.

We discovered from a random polling of 10 to 15 students, that they all knew what The Poly Post was and each had a few favorites.

But they were definitely not very aware of our Web site, which was why we wanted to promote it with the launch party.

What students and campus organizations must realize is that the Post exists to serve you. While we enjoy sharing our opinions, we’re a group of less than 30 people trying to cover a university of around 22,000 students.

So take that into account before you start tearing us a new one.

If you don’t think we’re doing our job well, I encourage…no, I challenge you to do something about it.

Apathy is death, after all.

Feedback fuels our drive to keep doing what we’re doing, so show us some love – or hate (OK, dislike would be preferable) – with a comment, letter or e-mail.

Basically, we’re asking you to utilize us.

E-mail or to promote an event.

E-mail to get your story heard. And check out to see what’s going on around you.

Use your campus newspaper and an online media hub to reach the campus population.

Or join up and take the reigns after I leave.


We can all breathe a proud sigh of belief today knowing that Barack Obama took the presidency.

Astounding that 2008 is a true year of progress, though highly disconcerting that gay marriage is banned for the time being. Is it odd that we can amend the Constitution with a 52% majority? Not sure where that comes from, but really…

I’m impressed by the youth turnout — 24 million, at least 2 million more than 2004. Obama really did rewrite the playbook for electioneering. I don’t think any president has made his face to the front of thousands of T-shirts worn by college-age kids. He makes a good face for Obey, that’s for sure.

—- in other news….

On Nov. 25, Fullerton’s The Living Suns will be playing U-Rock at CPP!

These shows don’t always feature bands worth talking about, but these indie prog-rockers put on a great live show. Check em out on Myspace and the buzz they’ve been generating since their recent self-titled release: The OC Register and CSU Fullerton’s The Daily Titan have been spreading the word.