Communication, baby

Its funny.

You major in a degree called communication, but in reality, you know nothing.

You take intercultural communication, mass communication, communication theory…

It all seemed pretty silly at the time. One professor talking about “saving face” and another about peeling the layers of someone’s onion.

Most people major in communication because they couldn’t think of anything better.

Not me.

I was one of the few lucky ones who actually knew what they were doing in college almost right off the bat. (After I figured out I actually wanted to go to college, anyway.)

That was journalism.

That magical one word: journalism.

The art and science of writing, reporting and communicating all the crap that happens in the world so other people can learn about the day’s or moment’s events and join the global conversation.

But I don’t need a degree to tell me I don’t know jack when I hit the real world.

All one needs is a romantic relationship; a significant other; a boyfriend, girlfriend, husband or wife.

So much of a relationship relies on keeping the conversation going. Just like a reporter converses with a reader through his/her words, a boyfriend must communicate to his girlfriend with a different set of words — the spoken kind.

Well, more often anyway.

I can write more eloquently than I can talk.

Putting my fingers on the keyboard gets my brain churning in a way that allows me to gather my thoughts and get them “on paper” in a comprehensible way.

But the spoken dialogue can be the biggest challenge.

“That’s not what I meant!”

“I didn’t say that!”

“You take that back!”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

Its a never-ending series of statements that reflect two people trying to communicate to each other. To say something that the other understands, to phrase something lightly or delicately, bluntly or plainly. The real trick is to say what you mean without getting under the other’s skin.

I’ve learned more about communication in the past three years with my girlfriend than I could in any classroom.

Same could be said for everything — most true trades are learned outside the classroom. But as someone who studies language and follows all the newfangled ways we humans communicate, I’m always surprised by how much I learn.

Always trying to meet in the middle, find a place where two people can agree is a truly challenging thing.

Especially when the conversation between a serious twentysomething couple spirals into the taboo: marriage, kids, moving in together, etc.

How do two people from totally different backgrounds with similar values but opposite timelines maintain?

Through one way and one way only: communication.

Say what you mean and mean what you say. Apologize when you’re wrong or when you said something mean. Stand up for what you believe in, but always be willing to compromise. Because, without that, there’s nothing.

Life after college

President Barack Obama at the State Of The Union

This post originally published here on the Current TV News Blog.

I’ve been out of college for a little while now.

Six months, two weeks and one day to be exact.

Thing is, I’m not totally sure what I’m doing.

Then again, who is?

Options for college graduates are slim in this economy. And recovery isn’t happening overnight.

Jobs — or at least good ones — are still hard to come by.

One in 10 people in this country are unemployed. In California, it’s one in 12.

Fewer than 20 percent of 2009 grads that applied for a job have one, according to this survey. And it’s no better back in school.

State universities have been cutting courses and programs, like labs for science classes and student exchange programs. All with fewer days of education and tuition fees that keep increasing.

President Obama addressed the needs of the middle class during his first State of the Union address yesterday and expectations were high. He has plans on the way to help the job market, reform higher and lower education, cut taxes and keep his presidency accountable.

They’re minor in comparison to last year’s massive bailouts and the struggling healthcare overhaul, but not a bad start.

While the president attempted to bring back some of that hope we’ve all been missing, I was still left uneasy about the state of the nation.

My generation is experiencing the toughest times our age group has ever seen.

Today’s students, while often supported by their parents, have it harder than ever: we’re constantly under pressure to perform.

Between SAT scores, AP classes and GPAs, there’s always a new way of evaluating how qualified we are for the next step.

Yet, when do we have time to actually figure out what that next step is?

Personally, I’m in a hurry to stop losing money. I work part-time and freelance on the side, but the freelance market for writers isn’t exactly what it used to be.

Savings is a thing of the past. While my parents supported me through college, the deal was you’re on your own once you finish.

So I’m thrown into the wild with $15,000 in debt, not enough work in the field and little time to figure things out when rent is due each month.

There doesn’t appear to be any clear-cut path anymore.

“A high school diploma no longer guarantees a good job,” Obama told the nation yesterday. Yeah, well neither does a college degree.

But at least he’s listening. “In the United States of America, no one should go broke because they chose to go to college” was another line from his speech.

It was our generation that ushered him into office, after all, so we should be entitled to some high expectations.

Obama is promising a $10,000 tax subsidy for community college students and loan repayment reform that forgets a students’ debt after 20 years.

He’s also planning to give tax breaks to parents with kids in college, extend unemployment and create new green jobs.

It all sounds great. Let’s just hope it happens — sooner, rather than later.

For now, empower yourself: understand your student loans, watch the job market, and hold our president to his promises.

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.

LAX to JFK: The luxury of flying (economy) in 2010

Okay, so it’s still 2009. But close enough.

Rooftop of LAX entrance

Now first thing’s first: I’m not what you would call a frequent flyer. My freshman year of college, I flew home a few times a year, traveling regularly from ONT to OAK (I can only speak in airport speak, sorry).

But since I began dedicating my life to the man, it has not been easy to get away.

I got about 10 days after I graduated, right before I took on an internship and soon after a part-time job.

Now I’ve got another internship and the same part-time job, working seven days a week. And that part-time job happens to be with retail sales at the Apple Store, so time off between October and January is pretty challenging.

Now, since the recessions kicked in, it’s been great to take advantage of cheap flight deals and exploit these merciless companies for all they’ve got. You can get on a plane to Vegas for 20 bucks and vacation destinations are advertised as a couple hundred for a week’s stay. Not too shabby.

But this trip was nothing unusually affordable. $350 or so roundtrip from LA to New York. It’s Thanksgiving week, so I guess I’ll take it, but shoot – I booked the flight nearly three months in advance! (Shoulda planned a year ahead, damn)

But here I am, typing away on my Macbook in a cramped little aisle seat (praise the aisle!).

Now we all know flying has been a headache since 9/11 and I guess that’s OK if it means higher security when threat level hits the color orange. But flying out of Ontario and Oakland is a breeze in comparison to LAX. Normally it takes just a few minutes to get your boarding pass checked, and the security line is what you have to account extra time for.

But at the Delta terminal around 10 a.m. on Friday, it took me close to a half hour just to get my boarding pass stamped. Then, they made us wait 5-10 minutes because the security line up the stairs was full. Then, we got to get into the security line, file around the lineholders like we’re at the DMV, and finally make our way. But hey, at least the TSA people seem pretty chill.

The best part has yet to come. I know that’s all par for the course when it comes to flying these days – I ditched my toiletries at home because I forgot to buy travel sizes: couldn’t even take my deodorant (6 oz.) and barely snuck by with my hand sanitizer (2 oz.). This of course because I chose to carry on all my baggage instead of paying $15 (!) to check a bag, just to wait longer and possibly have it lost (seen it happen).

Now luckily the Delta flight attendants are incredibly courteous and well groomed, but I couldn’t help groaning midway through my free (!) viewing of “Away We Go.” I had already given “Dexter” and “Land Of the Lost” a shot, but one was moving too slow and the other was way too…stupid (sorry Will).

The fact that there are little TVs on the back of every chair is great. It took Jet Blue to realize that the majority of people on a plane despise the in-flight movie and that maybe they’d like to have their own personal selection.

But when the lady over the speakers told us she was rebooting the system, it was pretty, well, silly. Apparently the plane had lost some satellite coverage in the clouds and some schmucks in business (first) class weren’t getting service. But a 13-minute system reboot?! Wow. That’s a litte sad. We can touch our screens, but it takes us twice the time of a coffee break (with no coffee here) to get them up and running again.

Another nuisance is of course the lack of space. I didn’t get a prime choice in seating, and I’ll take an aisle over a middle seat any day. But I can’t fit my 13-inch laptop on the dropdown tray and still be able to see it. It’s more spacious to rest the computer on my lap. Thanks, tray table.

Last but not least is the food. I didn’t have time to grab anything at the terminal, and I of course couldn’t bring anything from home without being stopped and accused of terrorism – or smuggling dope.

So to hear they would be offering a free snack and beverage and offering us a meal to pay for, I was pleased. The prices were relative, the food looked decent; I’ll take it.

But when you’re sitting at the back of the plane, apparently that means all the food is gone before they get to you. Really?? You’re going to hand me a menu, tell me I can order a chicken sandwich, and then tell me you’re out of all meals when you get to my seat?! What kind of crap is that?!

There are two real food choices on the ever so stunning “EATS” Delta flight menu featuring hand-picked Todd English (TE) dishes. WTF? Who the fuck is Todd English? And do you really expect me to believe airplane food on an economy flight is going to be hand-anything? Other than handed to me, that is…

So I got stuck with the fruit and cheese platter — $6 for five grapes, two walnuts, four dry crackers and three chunks of cheese. So generous, Delta! You shouldn’t have. Now I’m cheap and I’m quite carefree, so it does take something for me to be bothered. Like unintelligent design: a tray that won’t fit the standard small-size laptop computer. The trash lady who makes one run in her fresh, new eco-recyclable garbage tote and then disappears for good five minutes after serving, er, selling, us.

But most of all, I was just upset I couldn’t actually get some real food on the goddamn plane. I’ll settle for a half-assed $8 chicken sandwich, at least it’ll fill me till we get there. But to be out of the only two main courses you offer? (The other was a Asian shrimp salad….not sure what was Asian about it though) That’s just rude to your fliers. I can hear it now:

Fly Delta, we’ll be out of food by the time we get to your seat!

Delta: don’t get a seat in back! You’ll not only be served last, but you’ll also have NO selection of food. All this for the same price as the first third of the economy cabin.

Damn you people. Now to get back to my 7-inch movie screening with fuzzy audio coming through pristine headphones.

Oh, and the Lamar Burton lookalike/potential real guy from Reading Rainbow and Star Trek sitting up in business class.

In the end, I still made it! Times Square and Rockefeller Center after family brunch on DAY 1:

Online “journalism” today vs. a few years ago — funny!

Found this via, journalism

Says a lot about the changing landscape of online journalism….smaller news hole, many more ads and A LOT more out of control commenters. That’s of course good and bad — people are reading, but expecting more. I’m all about high expectations from the media, especially with the crap going around out there today (Fox News, dancing weatherman I’m looking at you), but I definitely feel users have gotten more and more just plain ridiculous and cruel online. They call even solid reporters names and question the littlest tidbits.

And at The Poly Post, the college kids don’t even remember to fill in their names and still accuse the editors of, essentially, sucking ass. Too bad we’re better than that, more mature, and smart enough to know that even the best writers and reporters make mistakes. We’re students after all, so we’re still learning. (Full disclosure: just finished up tenure there as editor-in-chief).

And speaking of journalism, I’ll be starting an internship at KPCC 89.3 next week.

What of this week? Revel in some post-graduation laziness and kick it at home in San Francisco with the folks.