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...