30 September 2008

new gig

You're looking at the newest intern for High Speed Productions, Inc.

HSP produces three magazines: Thrasher, Juxtapoz, and Slap. Today was my first day, and I spent the entire time transcribing an artist interview that will appear in Slap. I may be developing carpal tunnel syndrom. But I couldn't be happier.


28 September 2008

With great power comes great responsibility

So last week I had my first great big genuine journalistic fuck-up.

The story: the USF Faculty Association was holding "informational picketing" sessions last Monday and Wednesday to raise awareness about their ongoing contract negotiations with the administration.

I got in touch with the president of the USFFA and had a phone interview with him over the weekend. Then I figured I could get in touch with the rest of my sources on Monday as the picketing was going on.

The Foghorn does layout Monday night. I had Monday afternoon (my only free time after three classes) to gather the majority of my sources and write the entire 600+ word article. I quickly spoke to as many people as I could who were outside at the event, and then scrambled into the Foghorn office to get my words onto paper, fast.

The story was, I thought, a success. It was long. There were a lot of quotes. My grammar was superb and the story flowed quite nicely. A+ work, I thought.

Sometime around Tuesday, I got a nagging feeling in my stomach. There was something not right about my story. By Wednesday, it was quite clear: my story only presented one side of the issue. Only USFFA picketers and supportive students were quoted. There was no representation from the administration, nor any dissenting faculty or student voices. Oh. Shit.

Sure enough, Thursday morning, after the paper had been on the newsstands no more than 12 hours, Fr. Stephen Privett, USF president, sent the Foghorn an extremely angry e-mail. I'll quote for you some of Privett's more stinging insults:

  • "The article is a classic case of 'Fox' journalism where one and only one perspective is passed it off as 'news.'"
  • "How can anyone with a brain think that the University 'has run economic surpluses of $40 million a year for the last three years?'"
  • "Had your reporter taken the time to at least review my convocation address, she might have had a clue about the University’s overall financial situation."
  • "The Foghorn’s passing off such a one-sided, partisan discussion of a very complex situation as a 'new' article is inexcusable."

Etc. etc.


I definitely regret not spending more time gathering interviews to create a balanced article. It's true that the article was "biased." Not in the sense that I included my own opinions in the piece, but in the sense that I only interviewed people on one side of the issue. Was this based on my own feelings about the faculty contract negotiations? Hardly! It was simply a matter of a busy student journalist trying to do too much in too little time.

I realize now that when one has the great responsibility of covering a story that actually MATTERS to a lot of people, a reporter has to be extremely fair to each and every side -- and if I was too busy to cover the story responsibly, I should have held it for the next week's issue or asked for help from another reporter.

Though I think Fr. Privett's e-mail was a tad harsh, I definitely feel remorseful. Cheesy as it sounds, I learned a valuable lesson from this experience.

Please, read the story for yourself and tell me what you think. And this goes back to my last week's blog post: how do you go about defining bias? And is it always such a horrible thing? Anyway, things to ponder...

17 September 2008

A question of objectivity

When my journalism and media studies professors lecture on the idea of objectivity, neutrality, or bias in journalism, it always leaves me deep in thought. Most people go about reading their news assuming it is neutral, unless there is an overt slant. If such a slant does exist, they usually become turned off. "This is so BIASED!" like it's a dirty word.

Is bias a bad thing? Usually the conclusion we draw in my classes is that everyone is biased, everyone has their own sets of beliefs, everyone cannot help but feel the things they feel, and so -- even in journalism -- it is impossible for anyone to be entirely 100% neutral.

For many consumers of news, neutrality is considered the golden standard, but I'm not sure that is always best. Should one really be neutral about issues of genocide, racism, murder or torture? Or a harder question: should one be neutral about fighting in unjust wars or passing discriminatory propositions if doing so would contradict personal convictions?

Most importantly: is neutrality really the way to lead readers to the truth?

30 June 2008

My Creations

They say creativity is something most people lose as they grow older. I know this to be true for me, as I have already seen my creativity deteriorate drastically. When I was little, my sister and I would spend hours upon hours sitting at the kitchen table with nothing but markers and a stack of blank white paper. With this we would create all kinds of art, art that told stories about completely fictitious people, places, and things. As I grew a bit older, writing became my forte. I would write all the time. Short stories flew off my fingertips magically. Characters with all sorts of complex problems and situations would suddenly exist out of nothingness, simply because I created them.

Now, these tasks seem daunting. My perfectionist instincts halt any creative urges at the door. If I were to draw something, it would have to look realistic, the shading would have to be accurate, the shadow would have to correspond to the light falling... If I were to write, there would have to be great symbolism, social commentary, wit, sophisticated diction and syntax... I forfeit before I enter the game.

I would like to keep whatever remaining creativity I have. Blogging my creative pursuits will allow me to see all that I have accomplished and might actually help strengthen the creative side of my mind.

Lately, my mom has been into beading necklaces, and has taught me a few basic tricks of the trade. I saw these small bird charms at a little store called The Bead Shoppe in Roseville, CA and became immediately inspired to make earrings out of them. Here is how they came out:

I love how simple they look. The red and gold is a very sweet color combination I think. And I love how the birds look like they are swinging from a perch. This project was very simple and fun to do!

Hopefully keeping this blog will have the twofold effect of not only allowing me to see all of my work and progress in one place, but also encouraging and inspiring me to do even more creative endeavors.

25 June 2008


Imagine growing up as an American secular Jew, but finding out that simply because of the blood that flows through my veins, Jewish blood, I am eligible for a free 10 day trip to Israel. As I applied for the trip, I felt like a fraud. (After all, I am not that Jewish. I did not have a bat mitzah, I do not fast for Yom Kippur, I have rarely set foot inside a synagogue.) And yet they accepted me and sent me my travel information. Fast forward to June 12. As my plane lands in the Ben Gurion airport and I make my first few steps in the land of Israel, I am greeted with the words "Welcome Home." What can this possibly mean? Home is in Roseville, California. Home is the United States. Home is paved roads and shopping malls. How can this strange country full of deserts, seas, rivers, foreign insects and animals, and a language I don't even speak be a home to me?

I try to search for a feeling of home throughout my 10 days in Israel. I am traveling with my sister and 38 other American Jews, mostly from the Los Angeles area. We form a fast bond, all of us coming from similar backgrounds and sharing this amazing experience together. With them I feel at home. All of us remark that we feel that we've known each other our whole lives.

But can the country itself ever feel like home? All the beautiful sites.. the stunning views of desert, sea, hills, valleys, the historic cities and towns, the ancient buildings that defined history. Do I feel at home here? I feel unworthy of this beautiful country being my home. It is so rich, textured, old, and important.

I experienced so much in those ten days, so much that to describe it all here would be futile. Do look at my Flickr set to see it all as I tried to capture as much as I could. But to float in the Dead Sea and feel the stinging of salt in your eyes, to ride on a camel's back through the Negev desert as people have done for thousands of years before you, to raft down the Jordan River, to sleep in a tent on the banks of the Sea of Galilee, to eat Falafel in downtown Tel Aviv as you stroll through an outdoor market, to pray by the Western Wall, to be stung by jellyfish in the Mediterranean... all of this cannot be captured in words or photos. As I am back home fighting jet lag from the 15 hour flight back from Tel Aviv to Los Angeles, the whole thing seems like one of those dreams that was so good that you wish you could fall back asleep and be in the dream again.

The final day of the trip, the meaning of Israel being a homeland started to make sense. After nine days of sheer pleasure, the trip took a solemn turn as we visited Yad Vashem, the holocaust memorial museum in Jerusalem. The Holocaust and the existence of the State of Israel are nearly impossible to separate. While some deny a cause/effect relationship, one can't help but acknowledge the sense of urgency with which Israel was formed shortly after the end of World War II. Being in the museum, seeing all of those people who look like you and lived a similarly carefree life, never suspecting anything like that could happen to them... and then seeing that the rest of the world could care less... that even the United States, the country that I call home, did not care if my Jewish relatives lived or died... I suddenly started to see how Israel is a sort of home. Because heaven forbid anything should ever happen, I will have a place to go and be safe. And I could go there tomorrow, ask for citizenship, and be granted it without hesitation.

But it is impossible to go through all of this without feeling torn about the conflict with the Palestinians. Is it fair that the safety and unity of the Jewish people should come at the expense of that of another group? Is it fair that my best friend, who is Palestinian and whose parents own property in a Palestinian territory, just got 40% of his land taken away by the Israeli government? How can I feel joy about this supposed homeland when it is tainted with the knowledge that another people are suffering? Is it possible to simply charge it to the game, and say life's not fair, but ultimately this is the best solution? I don't know.

I do know I had an amazing experience, and feel beyond blessed to have had it. I hope to return someday, but even more I ultimately hope for peace in the region.

25 May 2008

Summer and the suburb

I am home sweet home in Roseville, California, land of a thousand malls. Here are a few interesting anecdotes about Roseville pulled from its Wikipedia page:
  • Roseville has the ninth highest retail sales of all California cities; Roseville is also the smallest of the fifteen top ranked cities in retail sales.
  • Roseville has one of the largest Auto Malls in the country.
  • Roseville was ranked the skinniest city in the country, with an average body mass index of 24.5.
Other than my upcoming trip to Israel (in like three weeks!!!), my summer remains a blank slate. We shall see what develops.

16 May 2008

I love California

I love my state.

Court Affirms Marriage Equality in California

I love how the courts acknowledged that the word "marriage" was of actual importance, and no matter how similar the rights afforded in "civil unions" or "domestic partnerships" or what have you were, it was still not equal, the same way forcing African American children to attend separate schools was not actually equal.

Now can we get a democratic presidential candidate who will step up and support gay marriage?

On second thought, maybe he/she ought to wait until he/she is elected, and then hit them with the news.

Now, a funny cartoon:

08 May 2008

We've been busy

Final class of digital journalism was today. We worked on our map, ate pizza, reflected on our blogs, cried a little on the inside that the class was over... haha, only half-serious about that last part. Okay, mostly I am serious.

Well, anyway, here is all we have to show for our semester of hard work: We hit the pavement, exploring the school, the park, and the city til our feet blistered; we snapped pictures til our eyes hurt; we blogged our fingers to the bone; and finally, we sat down and mapped it all.

Click on a pin. See what happens. Explore USF, Golden Gate Park, and the city of San Francisco all from your computer screen. Enjoy!

CommunityWalk Map - USF, the Park, and San Francisco

05 May 2008

What I've been up to...

It's been a busy semester in my digital journalism class.

First we started blogging the campus of USF, and created a campus map.

Then we started blogging our nearby Golden Gate Park, and put that on a map too.

Finally we decided to jump in and start blogging the city of San Francisco.

Our final task in these last few days before summer (!) is to compile all of our blog posts and flickr sets and youtube videos into a glorious San Francisco/Golden Gate Park/USF map. Stay tuned for that...

Valentines Day Pillow Fight

Freshman Female Farmers

Tai Chi in the de Young Plaza

Japanese Tea Garden

Ocean Beach

Thrift Town

Heart of the City Farmers Market

The San Francisco Chronicle

The Rickshaw Stop

Flickr Sets:

Knitting for Neighbors

The Cafeteria at USF


01 May 2008

A Foghorn First

Check Out My Interview Podcast With Father Privett ! ! !

Special thanks to our super web designer Jim Cortez.

A night at the Rickshaw Stop

Between living on campus, going to classes, doing homework, working on the Foghorn and working at an on-campus job, I spend more time at "school" than in the "city" than my blog title would suggest. Still, I try to get off campus as much as possible. Over the weekend is always the best time.

Last weekend, three friends and I saw a show at the Rickshaw Stop on Fell and Van Ness. From campus, all we had to do was walk to Hayes and take the 21 to Van Ness.

I had never been to the Rickshaw Stop before, but I had heard it was one of the few cool 18 and over spots to hang out, and they have something going on almost every night of the week.

There was a minimal line at the door when we got there. The people there were definitely very "hip." I observed some cutting edge fashions that I had never seen before -- from a guy in (very) short shorts to a girl wearing a bikini top with a baggy, very low cut tee-shirt over it. My friends and I are stylish, but not to this extent. A lot of them looked a little silly to me.

We walked in, and the place was pretty dark. There is a bar near the door, a big dance floor, and a stage in front. A DJ was spinning tunes while the crowd warmed up and danced. Everyone was taking pictures and dancing. Upstairs, a more laid back vibe prevailed, with couches and places to talk.

The band that was performing tonight was called the Plastiscines. They were very rad.. check out the audio slideshow I put together from my pictures from the show.

I had a good night at the Rickshaw Stop, but the crowd was probably not my favorite... Everyone was a little too hip and image-concerned for my taste. I did love the music, though, so I may go back if a good band is playing; til then, I'll be on the look out for someplace better.

28 April 2008

The San Francisco Chronicle

Last Friday, the San Francisco Foghorn gang got to meet with Kay Marie Jacobson, the production and design director of The San Francisco Chronicle's online platform, SFgate.com.

In a little conference room on the fourth floor of the Chronicle building, eight of us writers from the Foghorn, our adviser, and Ms. Jacobson all sat down to talk about the online future of the Foghorn, and the Chronicle.

She informed us that SFGate is in the midst of a revamp, and that their major goals are to start incorporating more and more user generated content. She said that as the web has become more interactive, they have seen a shift in user expectations about how much they should be allowed to contribute. Rather than fear the change, Jacobson said they have embraced it. Some of their ideas have been to allow users to have their own blogs, to upload their own pictures, and personalize their own profiles. Essentially, she said, SFGate is to become like its own social networking site.

The ability for users to comment all of the articles on SFGate was another big topic Jacobson talked to us about, due to our peaked interest. The Foghorn is currently incapable of allowing user comments, but as the entire staff is pretty much on board to start allowing them, we're now focusing on practical details. Particularly, we've been worried about the prospect of "inappropriate" comments that could be offensive or damaging to one's reputation. So Jacobson gave us some very practical advice, describing SFGate's screening process, their terms of use, their list of forbidden words (how I would have loved to sit in on that meeting!), and also the overall success they've found from allowing comments.

The last word of advice she left us with was, "Experiment!" Since we're in college and are not really concerned with any of this from a business perspective, now is the time to try anything and everything we want. I couldn't agree more.

After the inspiring meeting with Ms. Jacobson, politics reporter Rachel Gordon (who was working on this story at the time) gave us a tour of the Chronicle building. What a treat!

Here are some pictures I sneakily snapped along the way.

The newsroom on a Friday afternoon. It was relatively quiet that day, Gordon told us.

A silly desktop decoration. I guess anyone in this industry would have to have a sense of humor.

I was glad to see desk organization was not a job requirement -- I'd be in serious trouble if that were the case.
The Foghorn gang speaking with two of SFGate's primary multi-media guys. They showed us some of their favorite projects, from their first podcast (which was simply an article read aloud) to their more recent, and more sophisticated, interactive Olympic Torch Route Map.

The Chronicle building at 901 Mission Street. I highly recommend checking it out if you ever get the chance.

23 April 2008

Heart of the City

The outside market that takes place in the U.N. Plaza every Wednesday and Sunday is called the Heart of the City Farmers Market. I couldn't think of a better name for it if I tried, for it truly is a place where the heart and soul of San Francisco shines.

The farmers market seems to be a place for everyone in the city to come together. Whether we're rich or poor, white, black, Latino, Asian, old, young, all or none of the above, we all have to eat.

What we choose to eat has become a very complicated issue in this day and age.

Locally grown? Organic? Fair trade? Genetically engineered? Pesticide free? Cage free? Steroid free? Hormone free?

It's enough to make one's head spin.

To further complicate things, the world has gone into a Global Food Crisis.

The price of staple foods such as corn, soybeans, rice, and bread have become so unmanageably high that thousands of people around the world are starving. Such a tragedy that is leading to much suffering and political unrest. Just awful.

* * *

Needless to say, I feel blessed to be able to enjoy whatever foods I want, whenever I want.

Not only is a plethora of food available to me at farmers markets, grocery stores, restaurants, vending machines, and the USF cafeteria, but also the affordability of said foods has never been an issue for me.

While this is without doubt a blessing, there seems to be something almost unnatural about not having to struggle for food.
I have never once had to worry about where my next meal was coming from.
It's just something to think about.

* * *

After spending a day perusing through the Heart of the City Farmers Market, soaking up the sun, examining all the fresh produce, watching people scrutinize long, slender carrots and bunches of leafy kale, I settled by the fountain to enjoy a hot black bean tamale and a plump pink lady apple.

Food is a surprisingly complicated issue, but one thing I know is that food should be enjoyed and appreciated.

22 April 2008

Thrift Town

This weekend, I spent a sunny (yet windy) day in the warmest part of town: the Mission district. I always enjoy spending time there due to the variety of fun shops, interesting people, taquerias, and cool street art. But one of my favorite things to do in the Mission is shop at the thrift stores.

Thrift Town on 17th and Mission has to be one of the best thrift stores not only in the Mission but in all of San Francisco.

Photo Courtesy of dsguestblog.blogspot.com

Thrift Town is very large and very well organized, making it very easy to navigate and find whatever you are looking for. While many thrift stores have crammed racks of clothing that is organized in no particular fashion, Thrift Town organizes its goods by category, size, color, etc.

It is not so organized that it lacks character, though. There is always a lot of variety and plenty of surprises. You can find golf clubs, old electronics, books, toys, clothes, shoes, lamps, dishes, housewares, and more. Really more. There's all kinds of random surprises to be found.

The prices are very reasonable, too. While some urban thrift stores mark up their wares due to their popular locations and the newfound chicness of vintage clothing, Thrift Town is indeed a place to wear thrift is still part of the equation.

During my visit, I acquired two books, a pair of shoes, a floral scarf, and a skirt for about $20.

After a visit to Thrift Town, I recommend checking out one of the amazing taquerias the Mission has to boast for a thrifty yet satisfying meal.

16 April 2008

Curses, www.yourgmap.com

Digital Journalism goes to the Park

After spending several hours tinkering with my map of Golden Gate Park, instructing readers to click the above link is as close as I can get to embedding the map onto my blog. Apparently, the folks over at Yourgmap.com don't see the value of enabling the embed feature, so they instead offer an option of linking to the map. Grrrr.

Technology can be frustrating.

On the plus side, I think the map looks awesome, thanks to everyone in digital journalism for all their excellent blogging, flickring, and youtubing. I really do reccomend that you follow the link to my Park Map; we have a ton of great content up there. Very exciting.

14 April 2008

Mare pacificum: the Peaceful Sea

The largest body of water in Golden Gate Park also happens to be the largest body of water in the world. Spanning from the north to the south pole, washing onto the Eastern shores of Asia and Australia and the western shores of the Americas, the Pacific Ocean covers about 32% of the Earth's total surface area.

San Francisco is so infrequently thought of as a "beach town" -- it is much more often associated with its famous Bay -- and yet, on a sunny day, Ocean Beach is absolutely, positively the place to be. I enjoyed the 80 degree temperatures here on Saturday, bicycling through the park to get here. I seldom appreciate that I live only three miles from the beach.

At Ocean Beach, you can see surfers, sailors, kite fliers, dog walkers, sand castlers and sea shell collectors. It is a place where it would be difficult to feel unhappy.

Ocean Beach is the frosting on the cake of Golden Gate Park.

10 April 2008

Serene garden with a sordid past

A serene space, a taste of Japan, a moment of calmness and clarity -- it is hard to believe that the Japanese Tea Garden is located in one of the most densely populated cities in America.

The history of the Japanese Tea Garden, the first public Japanese garden in the United States nestled comfortably in Golden Gate Park, started out innocently enough. The garden was constructed for the 1894 Midwinter International Exposition, conceptualized by landscape designer Makoto Hagiwara. It was originally built as a "Japanese Village," meant to give Americans a taste of Japanese culture. In this time, the Japanese were a very small minority in this country, their culture largely unknown. The garden was an honor to their country.

The Japanese Village in 1894

After the fair passed, in was renovated as a garden, which was occupied and maintained by the Hagiwara family. They lived in a small house within the garden's property for many years.

Mr. Hagiwara and his daughter in their home, 1924

In 1942, all that changed.

America was in the midst of World War II, and Japanese Americans were under federal order to be evicted from their homes and sent to internment camps, often separated from their families. This ugly chapter in America's history did not fail to impact the Hagiwara family, despite their public service to the San Francisco community and an agreement with John McClaren that the family would tend to the garden for a century.

The family was sent to internment camps. Rubbing salt in the wound, the garden was renamed the Oriental Tea Garden, and Chinese women in Chinese costumes replaced the Japanese ones who served tea in the garden. The garden is said to have fallen into disrepair without the intricate care Mr. Hagiwara provided.

By 1952, the war had ended, and the garden was once again named the Japanese Tea Garden. The family home was destroyed during their years of absence, and the city of San Francisco refused to allow the family to return, despite McClaren's promise.

It is said that since the Hagiwara family left, the garden has never been the same, though it has improved in recent years, more rare plants being replanted each year. It is now a favorite spot for tourists in the park, the bridge a delight for children to climb, and the large, 3,000 pound Buddha statue an impressive, spiritual addition.

Erik Sumiharu Hagiwara-Nagata, Makoto Hagiwara's great-great-grandson, continues the family tradition of gardening, running his well respected plant nursery in Penngrove, California.

09 April 2008

Talking Politics with Speaker Pelosi

Oh boy, have you ever had something so amazing happen that you just can't find the words to do it justice? Because that is exactly how I feel about the last few days I spent in DC for the filming of an interview with Nancy Pelosi for mtvU's Editorial Board.

I've only been gone for three days, but it feels like a lifetime of experiences have occurred. First of all, it was my first time in the nation's capital, and that was just huge for me. When I arrived Sunday night, I called up my friend Josh and he took me for a two hour walking tour of all the monuments and statues and important buildings.

Good thing we did that, because starting Monday morning, I didn't have any time to sight-see at all.

Of course the actual experience of taking part in a professional TV news show and meeting one of the most important women in the world was the most impressive of all.

So here's what happened in a nutshell.

All day Monday was spent figuring out what questions we would ask, how we would ask them, and how we would follow up if she tried to give us a "smooth" or "politician" response. We met with Charlie Mahtesian, national politics editor of Politico.com, to help us ask the tough questions the right way. As a journalist, I have never had to think so hard about my questions. I definitely learned a lot.

I was working with three amazing college students from around the country: Lily Lamboy from Smith College, Micheal O'Brien from U of Michigan, and Jake Sherman from George Washington. These three are really brilliant and I felt honored to be working with them. I was also working with mtvU people, who were all really cool, and I got to meet some folks who are pretty high up in the chain of command. I even met some Viacom people, as Viacom owns MTV. It was really exciting meeting all these important people, and they seemed excited to meet us as this is only the second episode of Editorial Board, and it is still an exciting and unpredictable project for them.

Tuesday was the big day. We woke up super early, grabbed breakfast, and met in the GW Gelman Library where we were shooting. We rehearsed our questions again, discussed follow-ups, got make-up touched up, and joked nervously to calm ourselves. The room was chaotic with lots of cameras, bright lights, tons of people from mtvU, Viacom, politco.com, even the AP.

Suddenly, as though it were the most natural thing in the world, Speaker Pelosi entered the room. She greeted us warmly, we shook hands, and sat down. Lily asked her about a small pin she was wearing, which she said was from Tibet. No more than a minute or so after she sat down, it was time for the interview to commence.

All in all it went smoothly. We got into some interesting conversations about China and Tibet, the war in Iraq, and the Democratic primaries. She was pretty smooth, and didn't say anything that would get her into trouble, but it was still interesting conversation. Sadly, we ran out of time way before we ran out of questions, but that's journalism.

Look at us! We even made the news!
Washington Post - Pelosi: Reduce number of superdelegates

Politico - Pelosi at odds with Petraeus at mtvU forum

Politic0 - Pelosi: Petraeus kicking the can

Blogs from my fellow panelists:
GW Hatchet Blog - MTV, The Hatchet and Nancy Pelosi
Christian Science Monitor - Speaking with Speaker Pelosi

Arriving home last night was odd. There is still so much on my mind from the whole experience; I am kind of overwhelmed by it all. This was something I will always remember, and will probably have to look at the pictures and video clips to make sure I didn't imagine it all.

03 April 2008

Going to D.C.!

So it is official: I am going to Washington D.C. on Sunday to participate in an mtvU program called Editorial Board. The premise of the show is for four college journalists to interview a political figure to get him or her to answer to the issues that are important to young people. There has only been one episode so far, in which the students interviewed Bill Clinton. You can watch it on the Editorial Board web site.

I am one of the lucky four who gets to interview Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi for the show's second episode.

I fly out to D.C. on Sunday, rehearse Monday, and the interview takes place Tuesday. I fly back to San Francisco Tuesday night. Somewhere between all that I hope to see some of the sights our nation's capital has to offer -- I've never been! -- but I won't be heartbroken if that doesn't happen.

All in all, free trip to D.C., opportunity to meet one of my political heroines, invaluable journalistic experience -- not a bad deal.

01 April 2008

Have you ever tried throwing every bone and muscle of the body wide open?

Amidst the trees, in the plaza in front of the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park, dozens of San Franciscans rise early each morning to practice the 300-year-old form of martial arts called Tai-Chi Chuan. This practice strikes the ignorant eye as a strange and futile form of exercise. The motions appear so slow that it would almost seem that they are not exercising at all. However, after doing a bit of research in University of San Francisco's Gleeson Library, it is clear that these deliberate motions require all kinds of inner strength -- physical, mental, and spiritual.

In Kuo Kien-Ying's book Tai-Chi Chuan in Theory and Practice, he writes, "In any given movement of any sort, the whole body must move lightly, nimbly, and in coordination. The chi should be active as the propellant power behind all the movements and the spirit should be gathered internally so there will be no defects, nor uneven distribution, nor discontinuity anywhere." My research right away led me to understand the complexity of this art form. For how exactly does one go about activating their chi, or gathering their spirit?

According to the instructional manual Tai Chi: Ten Minutes to Health by Chia Siew Pang and Goh Ewe Hock, essential techniques to keep in mind while practicing tai chi include slowness, continuity, precision, relaxation, weight distribution, breathing, practice, and posture. With all these practices in mind, it seems that the essence of tai chi cannot be put into words, or at least not into Enlgish words.

"How should a novice begin t'ai-chi?" ask Cheg Man-ch'ing and Robert W. Smith in their book T'ai-Chi: The "Supreme Ultimate" Exercise for Health, Sport, and Self-Defense, "He should relax completely. The aim is to throw every bone and muscle of the body wide open, so that the ch'i may travel unobstructed. Once this is done, the chest must be further relaxed and the chi made to sink to the navel."

Can you see their chi sinking to their navels?

Tai Chi is clearly more complicated than I had ever understood. More than just a series of slow motions done for physical exercise, it is also an exercise in control, in self-awareness, in spiritual awakening.

Tai Chi is just one of the many mysteries that exist in Golden Gate Park.

31 March 2008

Beating addiction

About a month ago, I quit my one big vice: Diet Coke. So far, I haven't looked back.

My Diet Coke habit started out innocently enough. I would usually just order it at restaurants as a special treat. We didn't keep it in the house very much when I was growing up. When we did, I always drank it in moderation.

All that changed when I got to college. The freedom of being able to drink as much as I wanted without anyone watching my intake was too much for me, and my meal plan card allowed me free access to as much as I wanted. I started drinking it with dinner regularly; then I started craving it with my lunch as well. Soon I started consuming it to keep me focused when I studied late at night. It started getting serious when I would crave it with breakfast. Something about oatmeal and Diet Coke says "you have a problem."

One day, for a lot of reasons that are surprisingly personal, I decided to quit. So I did, cold turkey. I did cheat once, but I felt so guilty that it just wasn't worth it. So now it has been almost one month with no Diet Coke (or any diet soda) and I feel really proud of myself.

My next venture is going meat free. Again, for a lot of reasons. I have been a vegetarian on and off throughout my life, and I feel like I can do it, so why not?

25 March 2008

New toy

My new toy: A shiny red bicycle with a basket (I love the basket!).

I bought this bike via an ad on Craigslist the day before I left for my NYC trip. Since I've returned, I have been riding every day.

I've always enjoyed bicycling somewhat, but was intimidated by the idea of riding in this busy city. I brought my old bike to school my freshman year, but I never rode it much, and then it was stolen. Not having a bike pushed the idea of biking out of my mind for obvious reasons.

A few weeks ago, my good friend Chelsea bought a bike, also through Craigslist, which inspired me to follow suit. I am so glad I did! So far, I have stuck to somewhat quiet streets, but I've found that negotiating the road with car traffic is not difficult. Perhaps because bicycles are so prevalent in this city, and thanks to the activism of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, cars are understanding and sometimes even courteous to the needs of cyclists.

Last night, Chelsea and I rode from USF to Ocean Beach and back. Gliding down a city street against the wind with the expansive Pacific Ocean visible at the end of the long road feels so exhilarating. And reaching the beach is just such a sweet reward for the hard work of climbing those San Francisco hills.

I can't wait to check out new areas of the city with this new mode of transportation.

24 March 2008

New York, New York

Over Spring Break I was given the invaluable opportunity to attend a three-day journalism conference in New York City with three other editors of The Foghorn. We were in conferences from about 8 am to 3 pm, and then the afternoons and evenings were free for exploring. Needless to say, I had the time of my life.

The conferences were incredibly fascinating. It came to little surprise to me that many of the speakers emphasized the importance of new media for college newspapers, and newspapers in general.

Blogs. Podcasts. Videos. Comments. Sound familiar, digital journalism classmates?

I am really excited to start incorporating these story-telling technologies into the Foghorn's online platform, which is embarrassingly behind the times. Some of my co-editors seem hesitant to incorporate these changes, in part because they don't know how and in part because they don't know why it is important. Hopefully I can start changing that soon -- I know this conference definitely got me pumped to start taking some action.

I really enjoyed hearing from the professional journalists as well. A lot of them talked about how to get a job and what to expect when you do get one. It's funny how in all of my media studies classes, we rarely get any information about what an actual job in the media industry entails.

* * * * *

As much as I learned inside the conference rooms, I learned almost as much by exploring the great city of New York. What an experience.

First of all, the food! Oh goodness, I have never eaten so well (or so poorly, from a nutritional standpoint). In my few days in the city, I enjoyed a cheesy roast beef sandwich from Connolly's Pub, a thick slab of chocolate cake from Junior's, and delicious Latin American cuisine from Boca Chica.

And I may have indulged in more pizza than one should in a three-day span. Oops.

* * * * *

Our hotel was in Times Square (check out the view from on of the conference rooms!)

But, just as Union Square does not give one an authentic taste of San Francisco, I am sure Times Square does not give much of an accurate portrayal of NYC, so my fellow travelers and I tried to branch out as much as we could in our short stay.

We went to the Laugh Lounge comedy club in the Lower East Side to see some local comedians.

On St. Patty's Day we hit up some Irish Pubs (and I'm pretty sure we saw a real life leprechaun, or else just a very short, red-haired, and intoxicated Irish man).

We checked out Ground Zero. That was humbling.

From there we walked through the Wall Street area to Battery Park, where I got to see the Statue of Liberty.

And we took a super touristy double decker bus ride that actually ended up giving me a good grasp of the city.

I took loads of pictures, so to see the madness firsthand, check out my Flickr set.

* * * * *

Incidentally, I was in the city in the midst of some pretty major breaking news: the embarassing Eliot Spitzer prostitution scandal and the tragic construction mishap that left seven dead. It was interesting to hear all the buzz amongst locals about these major incidents. And there is something really cool about reading the New York Times when you're actually in New York City, a block or so away from its headquarters.

10 March 2008

Freshmen Female Farmers

This year, 11 first year students embarked on a project never before undertaken at the University of San Francisco. Putting aside pencils and papers, stepping out of the confines of the classrooms, 11 young women are getting back in touch with simple pleasures of soil and seeds, giving life to USF’s first on-campus organic garden.

The garden is a small plot of land behind the Education Building. Though it was just a mess of weeds and dirt as recently as last summer, two visionary professors saw the land’s potential, and worked together to plan a new living-learning community they named the Garden Project. 11 students were selected to live together, study together, and garden together.

I had the pleasure of interviewing three of these gardeners this weekend. On a personal note, these young women are very delightful company: I have never before been in an interview situation with so much giggling – it was almost slumber party-esque.

From left to right: freshmen farmers Gopika Misri, Valeria Vital, and Nalini Bholonauth.

The three I spoke to all had little experience gardening before coming to USF. “Uh, I used to watch my grandma water her garden,” Bholonauth described as the extent of her prior knowledge. Nevertheless the idea of the living-learning community appealed to them because it seemed like a good way to connect with people at their new school.

Fortunately for them, community is one thing they got plenty of from this experience. When I asked them what they had learned that would stick with them the most, expecting to hear them gush about the importance of locally grown, organic, pesticide-free, non-genetically enhanced produce, I was surprised to hear them all agree that it was learning to work as a group, and learning to reach out to the larger university population to encourage their involvement that they would take away.

They have learned about all that other stuff too though, don’t get me wrong. Coming from a state of more or less complete ignorance on the subject (“I used to think organic just meant more expensive,” Misri said), the women are now experts on contemporary gardening issues.

Aside from the actual gardening, the women have been taking classes, doing extensive reading, and even taking field trips to other gardens in the Bay Area and beyond. Read about their field trips in their class blog.

Their newfound knowledge seems to be paying off. The garden is slowly but surely reaching maturity. It would seem the main crop they’ve harvested thus far has been broccoli.

Now to the tough questions: “How was it?” I asked. “Was it really different than what you’d find at a grocery store?” (No more softball reporting from me!)

Vital contemplated for a moment. “It just tasted fresher,” she said. “Well, I don’t know if I was just imagining that…No, it was definitely fresher.”

05 March 2008

Campus Map

Testing, 1, 2, 3...

28 February 2008

Outside Lands Festival

The Outside Lands Festival that is rumored to take place in Golden Gate Park this August might just be one of the worst concert ideas I've ever heard of.


Jack Johnson.

Tom Petty.

Three HUGE headliners. Each with its own die-hard fan base, I'm sure. And yet, I don't see a whole lot of overlap amongst these fans... That is, not a lot of people who are Radiohead fanatics are equally excited about oh-so-dreamy surfer boy Jack Johnson.

Maybe I'm all wrong here, but if I want to see Radiohead, which I do, I know it's going to be crowded and expensive and tickets are going to be damn near impossible to score. So why would I also want to see Jack Johnson and Tom Petty, who come with their own fans, to compete for tickets and standing room and to wait in line for the port-a-potties with.

Then again, it might just be the most epic concert of a lifetime.

27 February 2008

One thing I don't get

In this week's Foghorn I wrote an opinion piece about USF's proposed on-campus smoking ban.

Then I came across this blog post in SFist about the smoking ban in bars and restaurants. The post sparked a pretty heated debate between smoking and non-smoking commenters.

The issue seems to be a question of rights: smokers should have the right to smoke, non-smokers should have the right to breathe clean, odorless air.

Personally I can't see the point of smoking. It's that simple -- I just don't get it. Having seen my dad, my mom, and my step dad struggle with quitting time and time again, it just seems absurd.

I guess what I'm saying is that the idea of smokers having "rights" seems beside the point. The real question to me is why are they smoking in the first place? The slow and steady poisoning leading to shortened lifespan and the hundreds of thousands of dollars tossed to evil tobacco companies just doesn't do it for me.

But I know there's more than one side of the story, and I'm sure I just can't see it. What are your thoughts?

The only thing better than travel...

The only thing better than traveling is doing so on someone else's dime.

I have not one but two all-expense paid trips coming up. To answer your question, yes I do pinch myself to make sure I'm not dreaming. Trust me, it's true.

The first trip is from San Francisco to New York City over spring break.

View Larger Map

I am going on this trip with three other editors from the Foghorn for a college journalism conference. During the days we'll get to learn all of the latest innovations in student journalism, and at night we'll peruse one of the few cities I would consider as cool as San Francisco.

The second free trip is to Israel over summer vacation.

View Larger Map

This trip is through the Birthright Israel program, which provides free trips to Israel for any young adult of Jewish descent to expose them to Israeli culture (and, I suspect, to try to convince them to move there). I have no idea what to expect -- the only place I've been outside of North America is Holland, where my brother-in-law is from -- and have a feeling that Israel will be quite a culture shock. I am really excited to be exposed to such a different way of life.

25 February 2008

The joys of Amtrak

Riding Amtrak is something I have become quite familiar with since I moved from Sacramento to San Francisco in fall of 2006. It occurs to me that trains have become somewhat of an antiquated mode of transportation -- often when I tell people that I am taking the train home, they seem to be very intrigued -- so I decided to blog my Amtrak experience.

First, you must decide if you want to travel alone or with a companion.
The upside of traveling with a companion is, well, the companionship. The downside is when you are waiting for her to finish packing, which causes you to miss your bus to the Ferry Building, causing you to miss your bus to the train station in Emeryville, and of course, missing the train from Emeryville to Roseville.

It's okay; we caught the next one. Besides, the Ferry Building is not the worst place to wait for an hour.

We eventually made it to Emeryville. Seeing the train pull up after all that waiting is a sight for sore eyes.

But nothing is more beautiful than some of those views from the train window... The region between the Richmond and Martinez stations is particularly breathtaking.

The train stops in Sacramento. Alas, only one more leg of the journey: the bus from Sacramento to Roseville.

Roseville Train Station -- it may look insignificant, but fun fact! Did you know that in the first half of the twentieth century, Roseville was home of the largest freight marshaling yards west of the Mississippi River? Now you do!

Waiting for our friend to pick us up, we couldn't help but notice this fellow waiting with us.

The funny thing is, he didn't belong to anyone. He was just chilling there.

the Roseville skyline... one to rival San Francisco's? Maybe not.

So, to recap: Took the 31 bus to the Ferry Building, took an Amtrak bus to the Emeryville Train Station, took an Amtrak train to the Sacramento Train Station, took an Amtrak bus to the Roseville Train Station, got a ride home from a friend. Though it would be nice for the trip to be a bit more streamlined, I can't complain. It's always a bit of an adventure.