What do I do when my car battery dies?

12 Apr

When my car battery died, I was at work. I happened to be the only female employee at the restaurant at the time, and I was also kind of on a date. My solution to the problem was the gather every man I could and have them diagnose the problem for me.

Unfortunately, there aren’t always men around when you have car problems. Also unfortunately, women think that whenever you have car issues, men are the only answer. Parents don’t often see fit to teach their daughters basic car maintenance. My dad was interested in having my brother help him out with the repairs, but he never asked me. I had to learn  am learning the hard way.

Since my first experience with car trouble, I’ve had to help two other women jump their batteries. The experiences are the same: Nervous giggling.  Awkward standing around. Asking, “Ok, so what now?” The process usually takes about half an hour, which is way too long. I’ll get better the more I do it, but this is one of those cases where you’d rather not get the extra practice.

There is a right and a wrong way to jump a car, and from what I understand, you could even blow up your car get zapped if you do it wrong. Since that’s a potentially a bad situation, here’s how to jump your car the right way:

  1. Find a friend/sympathetic bystander with a working car. Have them park their car so that the engines are close. Make sure both engines are turned off. This is where the whole engine-blowing-up thing could happen, so don’t neglect this part.
  2. Grab some jumper cables and connect one of the red ends to the positive terminal on the stalled battery. For science reasons, there’s an order to how you connect the cables, and if you do it out of order, bad things could happen. Connect the other red end to the working car.
  3. Connect a black end to the negative terminal to the working car. Then connect the other black end to an unpainted part of the engine block, not the negative terminal of the stalled car.
  4. Start the working car. Let it run for a little bit before trying to start the dead car.
  5. Remove the cables in the opposite order that you put them on. Black off the engine block, black off the working car, red off the working car and finally, red off the stalled car.
  6. Once the stalled car starts working, don’t turn it off for a while. If you do, it could die again.

That’s it! Jumping a car isn’t as scary as not knowing what’s wrong with you car. In case the instructions aren’t clear from the text, here’s a video showing you how to do it. Sometimes you have to watch a few times before it make sense.

Disclaimer: Humans of the male persuasion are awesome and I have nothing against them helping me with my car, but I don’t think that half the population should be rendered helpless when something happens to the vehicles that they depend upon every day. Everyone should know basic mechanical skills. That is my official position on the men, women and cars topic.

 

Thursday List

26 Sep

It’s Thursday, and that means there’s a 50% chance it’s deadline day for my reporting class. Deadline day is perhaps the most hectic, stressful day of the week, which has been stressful and hectic itself.Image 

In honor of deadline day, I’m making a struggle bus list of all the crazy things that happened to me this week that ultimately led to a news story I’m pretty darn proud of. At the end of the day, I really feel like I accomplished something. I hope the faculty agrees.

 

1. Collective hours of sleep since Monday: 16 or less. I’m not sure if stolen naps count. I fell asleep inside the bubble desk in the lounge at school.

2. Meals I’ve eaten at home since Monday: 2

3. Meals I’ve eaten period: 5

4. Number of people I’ve interviewed since Monday: 6

4. Total driving time for interviews: Don’t even ask

5. Transformative experiences that made it all worth it: 2

News-Style Videography

9 May

   This is my last blog of the semester (I promise! No extra credit for me…), and with it, I would like to share my last triumph of multimedia: finishing my first news-style video.

While I was originally supposed to film omelets, I forgot about the J-school’s wonky Saturday rental rules and was forced to do my filming on Sunday. I turned my attention instead to the often patronized but little-recognized Kaldi’s in the local Schnucks. The baristas were very kind and let me shamelessly order them around film them while I fiddled with the camera (which I hadn’t touched in months) and filmed them making coffee very slowly. Our online instructions lied- coffee makers don’t do repetitive things. Their actions are based on customer orders, and if someone needs a drink quickly, I’m screwed. There’s no way I can catch multiple angles.

The reason this project was so significant is because I am terrified of the camcorder. I had an irrational fear of screwing up, missing moments, getting in the way and generally failing. And yes, it truly is an incredibly frustrating art. There are so many “takes” before you can get a clip right, and if your subject is running short on time or patience, you could totally walk away with nothing. I was somewhat unhappy with the footage I got, because I was scrambling to get as much footage as I could, and there were so many things that I completely forgot, such as:

1. Always film on one side- avoid jump cuts

2. Filming the sequence means filming in sequence. Just because you have a shot doesn’t mean it’s in the right angle

3. Film in stereo, not mono

4. Yes, the tripod is long and leggy, but you can fold it down and place it on a counter to make the shot better

After the shoot was over, I mulled it all around in my head and considered all my missed opportunities. There were a lot. It’s so hard not to get overwhelmed while you’re filming and just prove to your subjects that you’re getting something, rather than take the time to remember it all. I now realize why my teacher told me to always do a story that I can have a lot of access to- I would have loved to be able to go back and film different sequences and shots. But what if I have to film and event that only happens once? I will need perfection on the first try. This is exactly what is so scary about film for me- not a lot of room for failure. I need a lot of room for failure, otherwise I don’t feel safe to try.

I did put the video together, and I think it came out well. There are a million small things that I would do differently if I were doing the project over again, such as getting a close-up of the coffee while cream and chocolate was being poured into it, making my script longer, etc., but I turned the video in, and for the longest time I wasn’t sure it was ever going to happen. That was pretty big for me, especially since this was the one assignment out of all of them that I was most nervous about and didn’t want to do (I was even more nervous than with Seeing Red, where I’d never taken a real picture before and had no idea what was going on). It’s over and done, and so is the semester. Almost.

I’m really sad this class is over, because it was extremely helpful in building my confidence as a journalist. Like my classmate said, now I have skills that are both uncommon and marketable, and I will be able to do amazing things with them, my mac and my adobe programs. Look out world, a new journalist has just been born.

Practical Education Only Isn’t Practical

9 May

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/05/opinion/Brooks-The-Practical-University.html?ref=davidbrooks&_r=1&

New York Times columnist David Brooks argues that there are two kinds of knowledge: technical knowledge and practical knowledge. The former is “like following a recipe”; it can be boiled down to steps and directions, like an algebraic formula. The later is boiled down to something that the rest of the world would call experience. Brooks believes that with the advent of online classes, universities will begin to focus on teaching practical skills rather than technical skills. Most of his examples deal with interpersonal skills in a business setting. He proposes seminars that will evaluate exchanges between students and teach them how they could have communicated more effectively.

This may work for a business school, but I wonder how it would translate for the rest of us. If multimedia classes are relegated to online sources, my university education will be limited to learning how to manipulate charm my sources into giving better interviews. I already detest any/all forms of online learning to begin, so why would I want to do everything BUT the social aspects on my computer?

Online learning, no matter how stellar the teacher is (I’ve never actually met a teacher that was stellar on the computer, by the way) simply can’t compare to in-person learning, even when it comes to “technical knowledge”. A teacher I one had, who was brilliant in person, turned into a deadline-crunching tyrant behind the mouse. Her “teaching” turned into a tired syllabus that wasn’t customized for me or my class at all, a bunch of textbooks and some small feedback via email or school website. Do I remember anything from that class? Not really. It was so very easy to BS all my quizzes and tests (they were open book, after all) and then forget about what I had just learned. I’ll say it again, with a very regretful heart: it is so very easy to BS learning when it is done online. The only skill I acquire is meeting a deadline with some half-hearted work. And I’ll get an A for it because the teacher may be teaching several online classes (because aren’t they just so efficient?). I might be able to coast on short-term memory and a few hours of studying in a purely lecture class, but I won’t get an A. And I’ll have a better idea of what I don’t know, instead of being blindly confident in my ability to fake it all.

Now when I say fake, I don’t mean cheat. I most certainly don’t cheat on my academic work, online or otherwise. When I say BS the quizzes or exams, I mean that I utilize the phenomenon of my generation: the extraordinary ability to know how to find information while having no powers of recall at all later. All that googling and wikipedia-ing as a baby trained my mind to function like a giant search engine where the browsing history is wiped clean. Online learning doesn’t help this. At. All. I don’t have to memorize anything- like I said, it’s all open book. And that’s fantastic while I’m enrolled in the class, but God help me when I pass the class and am expected to retain all that technical knowledge for my career. All the practical knowledge in the world can’t help me if that’s all I have to lean on- after all, training and experience walk hand-in-hand.

Brooks isn’t a part of my generation, so his brain hasn’t been physically altered by all this technology. I don’t expect him to understand my problems. After all, his generation is great at retention. I just think that he might want to talk to some college students (the ones who actually care about learning- truly learning) before he advocates for more online education.

A Moment From the Boston Marathon

9 May

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2013/04/22/sports/boston-moment.html?_r=1&

One photo, taken moments before lives were changed forever. Right before the bombs went off in Boston on Monday, April 18 2013, a photo was taken of runners crossing the finish line- and spectators cheering them on. In the far right corner of the photograph you can see a flash of light, but no one has noticed it. Even if they had, there’s nothing they can do to escape from the impending blast. It’s a horrifically tragic photograph: for some, it may be the last one taken of them in their old bodies, before the surgeries; before the amputations. It might be the last photo ever taken of them standing upright, or even alive. There’s death on the screen.

The New York Times took this image and turned it into a multimedia account of what happened- as told by the survivors of the blast, identified in the photograph by their names in text above their heads. If you click on the link, the page scrolls down to their audio interview, a photograph and a text summary. You can listen to them tell their story in their own words, with their own voices. Much like the multimedia story of the avalanche that I covered a while back, this form of storytelling seeks to connect viewers with the victims, seemingly eliminating the middleman: the reporter. Of course, we know the reporter is still there; the multimedia account wouldn’t exist without them. However, you can feel close to the victim: “I heard them say…” is now a valid statement.

Is this form of multimedia revolutionary, or is it merely advancing the lengths a reporter will go to invade the privacy of victims in order to get a story? Within the span of a week, the New York Times had located several people willing and able to tell their story. How lucky for them that the victims clustered in the photo were alive and coherent; what if they had all died?

I feel that the multimedia aspect of this article is brilliant. I love text and I love reading, but I’m always looking for something with that brand-new-shiny-toy feeling, and I definitely get it from this page. I think it showcases the skill of the media makers by combining photography, audio and text to make the article stand out. I’m impressed with The New York Times’ innovation, and I’d definitely go back to their website to find more multimedia articles like this one. However, I’m ethically divided about this as a media maker (not as a consumer. As a consumer, I could care less whether someone’s privacy was invaded; I just want to know the whole story). I know that timeliness is a key factor of whether or not a story is considered news-worthy, but that puts it at war with things like sensitivity. You were there, it happened, you most likely have some form of PTSD now and a week later someone finds you, asking you to tell them what happened to you. It may not be your first time telling the story. Maybe you’ve already told the story thirty times. Maybe you find it therapeutic, or maybe you just want to forget about all the bodies and blood that you saw.

There’s no question that this story should have been run- it was an amazing piece with highly dramatic impact, and I can’t think of any reason why it would hurt anyone identified in the photo- they’ve already agreed to be interviewed. But would I have sought them out in the first place? Was it in the public’s best interest to hear these interviews live, one week after the tragic events? By even raising this question, I probably sound like I believe the answer is no. I will admit, there was possibility of harm in creating this story. But I can’t answer the question of whether or not this should have been created. All I can do is acknowledge that there is a conflict. Only when I’m the one to have to make the decision will I finally know what my answer is.

Last Reflections

4 May

…But not necessarily my last post (we’ll see how many I actually have tallied up by the end).

As per my instructor’s instructions, I’m being asked to answer a series of questions and reflect over the semester. I’ve decided to leave the questions on the page so it actually looks like a Q and A session, instead of my own ramblings. I’ll pretend like I’m being interviewed by some True/False representative.

1.   What moments come to mind quickly when you think back over the class: good moments, bad moments, perplexing moments?

This was probably my favorite class this semester. I liked the hands-on approach of checking out cameras before class and working with them in the lab, instead of just taking the online quizzes or reading from a textbook. I liked how technology-based it was, because I got to use my new laptop and Photoshop programs (shiny new toys…), as well as the Macs in the lab. Also, I was finally able to figure Twitter out and have become pretty proficient in tweeting. I guess I could get better at looking things up on Twitter, but baby steps. Baby steps.

There were also several perplexing moments when I realized that an assignment was due and I had yet to even get started on it. I didn’t like the whole ‘learn a new media and create something professional-quality… in one week!’ format that we were subjected to asked to do. It made me think that ALL multimedia has to be completed in five days or less; oh, and here’s this new program to learn, too. Scary stuff. I think I (mostly) survived.

 2.   What do these moments tell about you as a student, about the course, about the teachers?

They tell me that the teachers are eager to have us learn as much as possible. That’s good, but when you consider a course like this that is a pre-requisite for entering the J-school, you have to keep in mind that students MUST keep their grades as high as possible or they won’t be accepted, their dreams will be crushed, hearts will be broken, etc. So maybe it would be better if your grades weren’t riding on assignments that are so frantically paced. Maybe your entire grade should depend on the final project (which will no longer be a group project) and what you do with that- if you do well, then the teacher knows, “Oh, good for you! You’ve been practicing your skills all semester. Way to go, baby journo!” But if there are certain aspects of your project that aren’t up to par, the teacher can honestly say, “You’ve been slacking off this semester. Well, sucks to suck.” Just a thought.

3.   What are you most proud of about your own efforts and accomplishments in the course? 

I’m proud of the fact that I went from absolutely no journalistic experience- no interviews, no audio recordings, no filming, no photos, nada- to producing some pretty decent stuff. I definitely have the confidence now to take a camera out and be like, “Let me get some photos of you”. 

4.   What has been your greatest challenge?

Deadlines. I’m not a deadline person- they terrify me. I actually take a deer-in-the-headlights approach to oncoming deadlines; if they’re too close, I freeze and let them hit me rather than make the effort to do something about it. I’m not sure why this happens, but it’s pretty detrimental. I think deadlines are actually emotionally crippling. It’s probably pretty common among students to struggle with multiple deadlines, but I take it pretty hard. I don’t want to be one of ‘those people’, the one ones who can’t be counted on to do stuff on time. It’s definitely my biggest struggle.

5.   What are you not satisfied with or what do you want to work on improving?

I want to work on using the video camera. I’m terrified of it and I don’t know why (I also don’t know why I have such strong emotions about all this technology- that’s not normal). I have some traumatic childhood memories that involve being forced to film the unwrapping process on Christmas, so that could be a factor. At any rate, I’m extremely suspicious of it. Using the shotgun mike just confuses me, too- when I did my 5 shot sequence, I had to contort like a Cirque du Soleil performer in order to get the mic out of the shot. Maybe I can learn to be creative and disguise the mic in a vase of flowers or as an ice cream cone. That would be easier on my back.

6.   What have you learned about other than media making– perhaps about yourself, or about people, about learning or about storytelling?

When I was little, I journaled a lot, and then moved to fiction. I thought that storytelling always involves a ton of creativity -and it does- but it’s not always as overt as creating your own characters. There’s multiple ways to tell stories, and in journalism, the creativity comes from choosing the right sources or subjects. You can’t make anything up. You can’t be very artistic, because the premium is on truth; “What did you see? What did they see? How did it look?” You have to provide your audience with the experience of actually being there. It’s a lot more like my five-year-old journal entries than it is any preteen fiction account.

This isn’t exactly the kind of storytelling I had in mind when I signed up for journalism- I did think there would be a lot more overt creativity involved. But as I learned at the True/False Festival last February, every edit is a lie. You take something out, you put yourself in. You change things. I don’t have that freedom in journalism- my role is just to be a conduit between the truth and the public. It’s actually a little boring to think of it that way. But it’s absolutely vital. 

April Event Encourages Testing

17 Apr

20130417-113816.jpg

Offices in the Women’s Center are transformed into STI testing spaces on April 17, 2013 at the University of Missouri.

Early on a Wednesday morning, volunteers for the S.H.A.P.E (Sexual Health Advocate Peer Education) program are busy transforming offices into STI testing centers. April is the official month of the Center for Disease Control’s GYT or Get Yourself Tested campaign, and from April 17 to April 18, The University of Missouri is offering free, confidential STI testing in the Women’s Center in the basement level of the Student Center.

The event is from 10 a.m to 3 p.m both days and aims to eliminate the stigma of STI testing among students and to inform students of safer sex practices and disease prevention. “Use barrier methods to protect yourself and any partners you have if you choose to be sexually active,” S.H.A.P.E president Hanna Keel advised, “and get yourself tested is the best way to protect yourself and those around you.”

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S.H.A.P.E president Hannah Keel advises using barrier methods for protection from STIs.

Mobile Journalism

13 Apr

My last post was intentionally short because it was done 100% from my iPhone. Everything, from the taking of the picture to the editing and posting was done on the phone, without the aid of my laptop (although typing all that text made me sorely tempted to finish on the computer). My next lesson in this class will be to scope out a story and cover it on my mobile phone. Oh, and I’ll have 60 min. to do it.

When you think about it, an iPhone has the potential to be an amazing multimedia tool. It can record sound and audio, take pictures, write notes and text, edit everything and connect to the internet in a few seconds. You can supplement the iPhone’s built-in features with additional apps and hook it up to external microphones and earbuds. It’s extremely portable. Also, you can call or text your editor and your mom with it and let them know the project is running later than you thought it would. And if you’re bored while waiting on the job, there’s Angry Birds. I think this technology has great potential to be more than a supplement to regular reporting tools, but the quality isn’t quite there yet. The video and picture on an iPhone is good, but there’s no way it can match a Nikon D7000 or a Canon Zoom. I wouldn’t feel comfortable using my phone for anything other than emergency breaking-news coverage; sometimes the apps can be a bit buggy and close the program before you’re done, and I don’t feel quite professional when I’ve done something on my phone- I’m basically doing the same things as a citizen journalist- there’s no way to make that distinction. I don’t doubt that mobile journalism has a growing place in the industry as the technology improves. Society will get used to having minute-by-minute or even second-by-second coverage on stories (like Twitter on steroids) all the time, and deadlines are going to be insane. I wonder, though, if quality will have to be sacrificed for constant lightning-fast coverage; there’s no way that you can make sure everything is 100% correct all the time if your story needs to be up five minutes after it happened.

Either way, I’m excited for the advent of more mobile journalism and less time indoors, in a newsroom, in front of a computer. I’m studying journalism with an emphasis on convergence with an interest area in emerging journalism, which basically translates to being on the forefront of technological updates. Hopefully I’ll work for a company that will let me play with the newest gadgets and implement the latest technology to get their stories out there more efficiently. I’ll probably be one of those sleep-deprived journalists frantically posting every five seconds, updating each new development as it happens so the public will never, ever have to wait until the next morning’s headlines to find out what on earth is going on in the world. It’s a good thing I’m learning to run on 4 hours of sleep and several shots of espresso now, while I’m young and still pliable. I feel sorry for the older journalists out there who are used to traditional newsrooms and deadlines for headlines. What they learned in school was totally different from what’s on the street today. I can only imagine the things that I’ll have to get used to when I’m an older journalist and have a caffeine IV drip permanently attached to my arm. Either way, my eyesight will be destroyed by the time I’m 50 from all the screens. Hopefully the medical technology will be as advanced as the journalism technology.

Image

Becoming a Journo at the Farmers Market

13 Apr

My multimedia journalism project led me to drag my sleep-deprived self out of bed at the ungodly hour of 7:45 a.m on a Saturday. Splashing water on my face and racing out the door with a camera bag in tow made me feel like a real journalist, and the feeling grew stronger when I stumbled into Starbucks and ordered two shots of espresso. My group and I carpooled to the market, where we devised a game plan and set up our equipment. The mission: infiltrate the Farmers Market and find out just why people were buying local, organic food.

Having a camera in hand gives me purpose and makes me bolder. I can laugh, talk and use my girly charm to get great photos and even an impromptu interview. When you have a snazzy camera, people know you are somebody from somewhere, and they love you. Nobody ever told me that I couldn’t snap their photo or take a picture of their vegetables, and sometimes I was even able to find a few sources for interviews for my teammates. I don’t know if I would have been that confident with an audio recorder in hand, or worse, a video recorder.

While at the market, I was inspired by the beautiful produce to try buying my own cilantro plant so I can have fresh, organic cilantro whenever I want (because every Angelino had to be ready when they get the spontaneous urge to make street-style tacos). This is kind of an experiment to go along with our story, and hopefully by the time this class is over, I’ll be able to make organic pico de gallo for my tacos.

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My venture at the Market led to the adoption of a cilantro plant

Spring Break Confirmation

6 Apr

I didn’t start thinking about journalism when I was five years old. I knew nothing about the New York Times or even the Los Angeles Times- I just knew that I had to search through piles of seemingly useless paper in order to find the Sunday comics. Once, as a child, I expressed a desire to get the Wall Street Journal and I was met with derision. “Why would you want to read that?” I was asked, “That’s mostly financial information.” The only other time before MU that I showed remote interest in journalism was when I picked up the school paper at the local community college and noticed the lack of interesting content and proper spelling. I briefly entertained the thought of joining the staff to try and help the paper put its commas in proper places, but the idea was forgotten.

Now that I’m in my pre-journalism sequence, trying desperately to keep it all together enough to complete all my assignments on time and still look for opportunities to get published, I often wonder what I’m doing; me, the interloper who has more fingers than photo credits and hasn’t mastered AP style yet. Sometimes I get overwhelmed by my classmates, who have such a burning passion for NEWS and know exactly what they want to do with that passion. For me, aggregating information into units that the average person can consume in the span of their busy day (and knowing what the rules are on how to do it with transparency) is a completely foreign concept. I just like to tell stories.

Ironically, it was when I was relaying my fears about my lack of experience in journalism to a trusted confidant that I had my first encounter with an honest-to-blog real life reporter on the job. Her name was Hetty Chang, and she worked for NBC Los Angeles (which is a pretty big deal- I mean, it’s definitely not just The Press Telegram). She had a camera and was standing across the street while I walked by. Before I could stare curiously for too long (anyone with a camera on the street instantly gets my attention, especially in Los Angeles), she came over to me. Immediately, she noticed my Mizzou sweatshirt and said, “Great J-school.” She then asked if I had heard anything in the neighborhood that morning, which I hadn’t. Apparently there had been a theft of golf equipment, an attempted homicide and a shooting. After talking to me about my history with Long Beach, she asked if I wanted to be interviewed? Yes, please! We walked back to her van, where she clipped on the tiniest microphone on my sweatshirt (so much better than the huge shotgun mike I’ve been using for my interviews) and set up her camera and tripod. Then, she asked me a slew of questions about the safety of the neighborhood, while I tried to sound intelligent (the camera makes it hard, I swear) and wear my hoodie with pride. After Ms. Chang finished, I was able to confess my feelings of inadequacy in starting journalism so late in the game. To my dismay, she said she was also one of those small children who had always known that they wanted to produce news, but she had some advice for me. As long as I didn’t allow my late start to be a disadvantage, it wouldn’t hurt me. I was going to a great school. Don’t worry. She also gave me her card and told me to email her if I had any questions.

Ms. Hetty Chang didn’t become my fairy journo-mother, swooping down and magically gifting me with experience and savvy, but she did give me hope that I was where I was supposed to be. She heard my story and didn’t laugh in my face; she didn’t say, “Forget it kid, I’ve been doing journalism since I was in preschool! You’re 16 years too late.” Meeting a multimedia journalist who works in Los Angeles (my target destination) while on Spring Break was just the inspiration I needed to come back to Missouri and keep trucking along.

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