France in Photos

I’ve been home for just over three weeks, and already Talloires feels like a distant, plesant memory, a place I was, once, where I “did” my study abroad, ate some cheese, took some classes, travelled to Paris and around the Haute-Savoie region, went hiking…

To people who ask, that’s all Talloires is: a sentence or two of highlights, accompanied by a whistful, dreamy look in my eyes as I muse privately on the experience. But few want to hear about my sleepless nights in France, the way the sun kissed me good morning almost each day, my struggles in EC30, and the like. But, we can all agree on photos. Talloires was necessary for my growth, and one of the best decisions I’ve made in years. It was unquantifiable, indescribable disconcerting, sensual, delicious, stifling, reassuring. It was a seven-week long contradiction, and my GOD the food was perfection.

Oh. I did work on my thesis while in Talloires. More on that later. For now, photos.

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So…what’s new with you?

VIDEO: Parapenting magic! 

Parapenting in Talloires!

What’s new with me (please, feign interest. It’ll make it go by faster):

  • I’ve been in Talloires, France for about a month now, enjoying the sun, the beach, classes, and the nectar of the heavens: French food. I’ve yet to consume something that I downright didn’t like. Yes, I like some dishes better than others, but I haven’t eaten anything legitimately nasty, or shoddy.
  • I have no idea how I’m going to function back in The States without pain du chocolat everyday, and bauguettes damn-near on demand, and without my wonderful host family watching out for me day and night.
  • My Environmental Economic Policy course has been so fascinating. I’ve never taken an Econ course before, and for good reason. But I’m overjoyed that I’m learning applicable economic theory in this class, and gaining insight into how the environment is regulated, both politically and economically. The course warrants its own blog post.
  • The English Non-fiction writing class also warrants a blog post. Or perhaps a (personal) journal entry. I think the latter. I’ll leave it at that. My thoughts on that class aren’t fit for the interweb. I’ll say this: it’s been a process, and I’m happy I’ve had the chance to explore my past through non-fiction writing. The class has helped me process my time here in Talloires, and has provided a few good friends. I’m a happy writer.

Once I return stateside, it’s off to start an internship at a TV station in Boston, and back to the realities of statelife, sans daily pain du chocolat.

Don’t cry for me.

B

PS: Don’t believe that I’m having the time of my life?? Well, how about some photos? 

Meanwhile, in France…

Hello, readers!

There’s no excuse for my neglect, and for this I’m sorry. The semester ended somewhat messily, but all is done, and behind me. What’s new:

  • I”m a co-exec for the Tufts Daily New Media Department! I’ll still stay on as a News editor, but not on the masthead (can’t be on the masthead as the Exec of a section and also an editor in another section).
  • Courses are OVER, and I can breathe.
  • My quest to be more political has taken a turn. I’ve been monitoring the election a bit, but I think it’s about to get messy and awful catty, as evidenced by this NYT article that had me up in arms. So much wrong. So little time to explain.

Oh, where am I? Talloires, France.

The view on the way to Talloires from Geneva

My first gallery review! Boston MFA “The Allure of Japan” exhibit!

For MONTHS now (seriously, at least 14 months now), I’ve been telling myself I’d write a gallery review for the Daily. I love art galleries. I love writing. Do we see an overlap here? The idea perpetually fell on the academic and social backburner, existing only in my GoogleCalendar through weekly event reminders to “visit SMFA”, reminders that chimed every Sunday at 9 pm during the latter half of 2010 and the whole of 2011. It never happened. Sure, I’d go to the occassional First Fridays downtown, or peruse the Newbury  Street galleries on an unseasonably warm Boston spring day. But writeabout it? Nah. Next time. Next time was this week. Behold, my first gallery review, flaws and all.

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‘The Allure of Japan’ explores America’s fascination with East

By Brionna Jimerson

Published: Monday, April 9, 2012
The artistic expressions of historical Japanese artists such as Ukiyo-E and Hiroshige, among countless others, have influenced world art for centuries — from Claude Monet’s “Madame Monet in Japanese Costume” (1875) painting of his wife to Mary Cassatt’s block prints featuring her typical subjects of mothers and their children. The MFA’s exhibit, “The Allure of Japan,” began in late March and will continue through the end of December — and the exhibit is not to be missed. A collection of work spanning more than 100 years, “The Allure of Japan” examines the undeniable American fascination with Japan during the turn of the 20th century.
 This fascination stemmed from several political and social factors, including the realities of Japanese immigration to the United States via Hawaii and the Japanese government’s subsequent actions to limit emigration. Many Japanese aesthetics, like the poignant usage of negative space and contrasting splashes of vibrant color, have since made their way into America’s visual oeuvre. The sudden influx of and interest in all things Japan accompanied a burgeoning spirit of self-righteous Americana during the early 1900s, spread through an art movement dubbed “Japonisme” by the French art critic Philippe Burty.Japonisme, which mixes Western and Asian motifs, was aided by the advent of more accessible global travel and technologies such as the telephone and electricity that allowed communication to become more widespread.
The historical rationale and realities behind this Japanese infatuation are lost in the art, however, which yields to picturesque block prints and paintings of lacquer furniture in well-appointed staterooms. After examining the art in the exhibit, one would assume that Japan’s greatest export during the 1900s was its own aesthetic culture, conveniently packed away into crates and sent overseas to adorn the dressing rooms of well-to-do ladies or to be mass-produced on the backs of postcards proclaiming “wish you were here.” The collection consisted of a culmination of Japanese objects, artwork, furniture, American prints and examples of its far-reaching influences the world over, all from the museum’s Japanese collections. As a patron stated during a gallery tour, “This art is wonderful, but mellows out all the unrest at the time.” Occasionally, the exhibit lacks cohesion and appears to be an assortment of vaguely Asian-influenced artwork and knickknacks whose organization is not informed historically or thematically.
The result was a visually interesting exhibit that does not lend much insight into the culture of the era it explored. During the historical period chronicled by the exhibit, the forces of opening trade and a mushrooming globalization of cultures made such a fusion of Japanese and American art possible. As many artistic expressions become fads and vessels of their former glory, Japanese art, in kitsch or in earnest, still remains today and is most evident in the works of Cassatt and Monet, who both adopted a Japanese, calligraphic-style of painting. One of the exhibition’s strengths is its subscription to the often-trite “East Meets West” style without appearing stale. The work highlights the budding American obsession with travel during the early 1900s, as well as American self-determinism. The exhibit shows the ways in which Western artists interpreted the modern world and altered how generations understood Japan both as a culture and a country. Eric Johnson, a museum patron and artist in the Boston area, commented on how his personal experiences as a Japanese American have altered his perception of the collection. “You can understand that the artists are interpreting something idealistic, but it doesn’t seem real, you know? I bet people went to Japan afterward expecting geisha all over the place,” he said. Thus, the MFA’s latest exhibit captures the early 20th century American perception of a seemingly distant, alien culture.

Cleaning out email inbox: journalistic hoarding: E-Hoarding.

Does anyone else do this: save the voice recordings of interviews, talks, etc (all acquired with permission, of course!), on a flashdrive or in your mailbox?

What about saving all relevant notes and versions of an article in several word documents?

What about keeping all pieces of literature, hand-outs, press releases, or scheduling correspondences in your inbox, along with an and ALL relevant attachments?

No?

That’s just me?

Ok.

I love emails. I love being able to defer to old documents when necessary. However, only a handful of times have I had to look back at old messages to confirm one thing, or dispute another. Usually it’s about quotes, attribution of sources,  or timeline logistical errors. But still. I love it.

About a week ago, I cleaned out my two gmail accounts, with my trusty ally and bestie at my side, pressing the little trash can icon when I just didn’t have the strength. From over my shoulder, he asked, “yes or no.” in a flat tone. Just what I needed. Objectivity. Indifference. De-cluttering my inbox, de-cluttering my mind.

I still save the voice documents/ voice recordings in emails and compartmentalized them in email folders. But, what do I do about the handful of flashdrives that hold information from my freshman year of HIGH SCHOOL?!?

I mean, it’s compartmentalized, right…?

Confession: I’m an e-hoarder.

Pinterest hasn’t helped one bit.

I periodically clean out my bookmarks, and close tabs often (there are 18 open at the moment on my browser bar. This is an unusual low. Don’t judge.)

Between my fear of losing information, and my inability to give up control, coupled with my never-ending quest to purge myself (as evidenced here), I seriously don’t know what to do! BusinessWeek wrote on the subject a in 2011, listing the pros and cons of this sort of e-hoarding.

From the article:

“E-clutter, which results from e-hoarding, is costly, both mentally and monetarily. We have the same capacity to digest information as our forefathers, but the amount of information zinging its way into our lives is increasing exponentially.

According to the research firm Basex, information overload costs the U.S. economy a minimum of $900 billion per year in lowered employee productivity and reduced innovation. It adds time to normal tasks and creates stress.” 

On the other side…

“As businesses continue to use e-mail as the primary form of communication, keeping a digital trail of conversations and documents is critical, making deletion an increasingly irresponsible action. Findability remains the key, and today’s impressive search and retrieval tools for e-mail and personal files make virtually any digital information available with just a few keystrokes.”


 Where do you fall on e-hoarding? Do you read and delete, or let the megabytes collect e-dust? 

My new model:

No emails please,

B

Latest Article: Game of Thrones season 2 premiere review!

Adam Cohen and I tag-teamed this article! We’re both GoT fans (I am now, thanks to him and his father’s subscription to HBOGo). For the season premiere, we decided to write a review for the Tufts Daily. Unfortunately, the article didn’t run in time (we wrote it last week), and since a new episode aired last nigt, we reviewed both episodes! If you’re not into Game of Thrones (yet),  you’re missing something wonderful! I hadn’t heard of the show or the books prior to Cohen going on and on and ON about it, and I was one of those people who confused “Watch the Throne” (Kanye West and Jay-Z’s studio album) with the show. Both are wonderful pieces of creative adaption. Both are available for free online through sketchy means. I’ll leave the parallels there. Enjoy the review.

*****I’ve included photos and small diagrams to help you along the way, dear reader, if you’re unfamiliar with the show’s plot!*****

‘Game of Thrones’ makes long-awaited return

TV Review | 3.5 out of 5 stars

Published: Monday, April 9, 2012

After many long months, “Game of Thrones” fans have seen their beloved show return on HBO. Let the memes begin.

The first episode of the second season primarily set up what was to come and focused more heavily on character development and intrigue than on the action viewers saw in last season’s concluding episodes. For starters, new characters abound in the second season, the most important being Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane), brother of the late King. In the period of civil war that Westeros is now plunged into, where every man thinks he’s a king, Stannisis throwing in his lot. Viewers know very little about him aside from his kingly ambitions and his belief in a new god, the Lord of Light.

Stannis Baratheon and his ginger wench..er…witch.

The audience also has to bear witness to Joffrey (Jack Gleeson), the late King’s “son” and effective monarch, becoming an even more insufferable brat than he was before. Unfortunately, his character remains one-dimensional, shifting only between apparent and hidden rage. He remains one of the least interesting characters in the entire show, though arguably the most powerful.

Fortunately, Joffrey’s lack of emotional range has made Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey), his mother and queen, a comparatively deep character. Cersei begins to shift away from her cold and calculating persona and develops much more emotional depth. Without spoiling anything,: Cersei slaps her son after he calls her out on the rumors circulating about his lineage. He responds by threatening to kill her, and you can see for the first time that she has genuine fear in her eyes. It’s moments like this, when the veneer of a tough-as-nails harpy breaks and viewers see the scared woman within, that demonstrate Headey’s acting prowess.

King Joffrey. Douche extraordinaire.

Another interesting character, and one who has developed more than any other throughout the show, is Daenarys Targaryan (Emilia Clarke), the Khaleesi (queen) of a horde of roving nomads. When Daenarys was traded to her husband Khal Drogo by her brother Viserys in the first season, she was weak, scared and hesitant to step into the role of queen. After the death of her husband, she comes into her own as the leader of her Khalasar (traveling caravan of the Dothraki people). Clarke paints an image of a formidable queen of men who is prepared to fight for her people.

By season  two, Daenarys is fluent in Dothraki, a language she struggled to learn during season one, and she is asserting herself over what remains of her broken Khalasar. Of all the characters in the show, Daenarys has the promise to be the most intriguing.

Daenerys Targaryen - daenerys-targaryen photo
Daenerys Targaryen. I don’t think she’s gonna share that horse heart.

Of course, where would we be without the Stark family, the ruling family of Winterfell? The dramatic end of the last season set the Starks on the warpath after the patriarch and hand of the king, Eddard (Ned) Stark (Sean Bean), was put to death by Joffrey. Besides the more active members — the mother Catelyn, son Robb and bastard child Jon Snow — we don’t know much of the family. Robb (Richard Madden) is now struggling with the death of his father and rallying the northern kingdoms to battle the Lannister clan for its murder of Ned. Robb, considered the “king in the North,” is intimidated but effective with his newfound responsibilities.  He is clearly intended to serve as a counter-point to Joffrey. Where Joffrey is ignorant and petulant, Robb is clever and avoids ]becoming drunk on power in the way Joffrey has.

Bran, another member of the Stark family, looks like he will play a substantial role as well. He has started having dreams of being a wolf and has been forced into the position of Lord of Winterfell in Robb’s absence, all at the tender age of 10.

The season’s second episode, which aired last night, reaffirmed our suspicions: plenty is going down in Westeros. Sex abounds on land and sea after taking a backseat to plot in the season premier. The Lannisters in King’s Landing are at odds over Joffrey’s highly dubious decisions on the throne: Cersei tries to defend him, and Tyrion actively tries to undermine him.

This season has begun feeling more like the first, in that every episode ends with the fate of one character hanging in the balance. In episode one it was Arya, one of the Starks’ daughters, and this time it was Jon Snow. The interactions between the Lannisters are becoming the foundations of the episodes, as their decisions are becoming the focal points for the interactions of the other characters.

Arya Stark, daughter of Ned Stark, escaped King’s Landing after her father was killed, to travel back to Winterfell with the Night’s Watch army.

If the second season of “Game of Thrones” delivers on the promise of its first episodes, it could exceed the quality of its first season. One of the strengths of “Game of Thrones” is the ease with which an individual unfamiliar with the show’s origins as a novel can follow the action and plot without feeling like an outsider. Viewers can expect Daenarysto rally her Khalasar, Stannis to make an invasion and follow A after her escape from King’s Landing. Though the opening episode didn’t push the plot very far, instead introducing new characters with still unknown motives and reaffirming a scramble for power that threatens to uproot the entire civilization, the second has us rolling into another season sure to keep its audience captivated.

Funny thing, how life gets in the way.

I’m sure it’s the same with most people–a to-do list that’s a mile long, filled with things that you’d rather not do–tedious tasks, energy-dependent assignments that you justdontwannado, excuses, reasons, excuses.

Long story short, I’ve been putting “rest” on my to-do list for a while now.
Scary time when you have to include “resting” among your tasks.
I think updates are in order.

Starting now, blogging and journaling are coming off the backburner. Because, as my grandmother used to say, “what you can do anytime, you won’t do no time.”

Translation: Set aside legitimate time to reflect, to journal, to prep. Trying to fit large things in the cracks in your schedule (10 minutes here, half an hour there) will just elongate the process, not aid in your personal efficiency.

…has anyone found out a way to squeeze a couple more hours into this silly 24-hour day we have going now? No? Ok, just thought I’d ask.

GET EXCITED, BECAUSE COMING UP:

-a gallery review of an exhibit at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts!
-TV review of Game of Thrones season 2 thus far (tag-teamed it with Adam Cohen!)
-updates on my quest to become more politically aware!
-wonderful updates on summer plans, the internship grind, my personal writing, etc!

Miss you too,

B

Latest Article: Mass. legislature to consider paid sick days for employees

This article was incredibly enjoyable to write, believe it or not! I attended the rally (cited in the article). I’m usually not one for large gatherings like protests, etc, but it was a wonderful experience, hearign the pov’s of strangers, and being challenged. Challenge is sometimes necessary. Anyway, on with the article!

**I’m not allowed to use photos from the Tufts Daily article as they appear online and in print, so most of the photos on this blog from here on will either be my own, or be credited in the caption**

Mass. legislature to consider paid sick days for employees

Published: Friday, April 6, 2012

Updated: Friday, April 6, 2012 07:04

An act that would provide a minimum of seven paid sick days to all non-seasonal Massachusetts workers may become law in coming weeks.

 The Labor and Workforce Development Committee of the Massachusetts State Senate in mid-March supported the Earned Paid Sick Time Act which would grant paid sick leave to Massachusetts employees.

The act would provide a minimum of seven paid sick days to all non-seasonal Massachusetts workers, according to Steve Crawford, a representative from the Massachusetts Paid Leave Coalition, a group that advocates for paid sick days for workers statewide.

With public political support from both Governor Deval Patrick and Massachusetts State Senator Patricia Jehlen (D-Middlesex), the act has the potential to become law in the coming weeks.

If only it were this simple…(courtesy of jennicatron.tv)

The goal of the bill, according to its literature, is to require businesses in Massachusetts to provide employees with paid sick leave based on the number of hours they have worked, regardless of part-time or full-time employment. Such a bill does not cover seasonal employees, according to Jehlen.

Vice President of Tufts Human Resources Kathe Cronin. said it is unclear whether the act would apply to temporary and student employees.

“Much legislation regarding employment does not [apply to temporary and student] employees; an example of that would be the federal Family [and] Medical Leave Act, which applies to full time ‘regular’ employees only,” Cronin told the Daily in an email. “Tufts current sick time policies for regular staff employees is already richer than what is being proposed in the bill, and we would continue offering these benefits.”

“Tufts believes in the benefit of paid sick time and offers very good paid sick time benefits to staff employees; this practice has been in effect for many, many years,” she added.

According to the Tufts Employee Handbook, after three months of employment, non-exempt employees are eligible for 13 paid sick days per year, with a total of 91 hours each year. Exempt employees are eligible for up to six months of paid sick days. Non-exempt employees, according to the handbook, are paid on an hourly basis with eligibility for overtime pay, whereas exempt employees are paid on a salaried basis, without overtime potential.

According to the proposed bill, businesses with more than ten employees are required to allow each employee one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, with a cap at 56 hours annually. Employees of business with staffs of six to ten also earns one hour per 30 hours worked, and a business with less than six employees would earn up to 40 hours of unpaid leave annually.

“I think Tufts students would benefit from knowing that the person cooking at a restaurant isn’t coughing into the soup,” Jehlen told the Daily.

Jehlen pointed out that, given the employment demographic of the individuals who would be affected by the bill, supporting it is necessary.

“It’s a public health issue,” she said. “Most of the affected individuals are low-wage workers in human resources, food services, retail. People who don’t get paid sick days go to work sick.”

The original bill was proposed to the Labor and Workforce Development Committee in the Senate in January 2011 with Jehlen’s approval and assistance, and then was agreed upon by the House of Representatives. In July, it was heard by the joint branches, and the new draft was assembled in the House last month.

Jehlen explained that the version of the bill currently in front of committees is a pared down version of previous editions and the result of the work of countless individuals and research.

“We’ve been talking about these things and whittling them down,” Jehlen said.

Courtesy of sickdaythemovie.com

“I’ve been working on the issue of paid leave for twenty years, and this is the closest we’ve come, and the least we asked for,” Jehlen said, noting that the bill was filed for the first time a year and a half ago. “There are lots of people on the outside who want paid sick days. There are many organizations, co-sponsorships, chairmen.”

MPLC is one such organization, with union councils and branches among its membership organizations, including the Greater Boston Labor Council. On March 27, activists and allies rallied outside the statehouse in Boston to create more public awareness for the bill and garner public support. Economists praising the bill’s necessity and ingenuity, alongside laborers and local political figures, came out in support of the bill.

According to Crawford, the next step for the bill’s creation into law is its success with the Healthcare Financing Committee in senate.

“If it passes, it goes to the Ways and Means Committee, then to the floor of the house,” Crawford said.

Maria Colón, a Boston-area children’s worker, was among those in attendance at the rally. Colón detailed the many cases of illness she has witnessed, often the result of contamination.

Colón told the Daily that, in years past, she was fired from a position as a short-order cook because she came in sick to work one day. Her place of employment did not offer sick days for regular employees.

“The claims of the bill are legitimate,” she said. “This needs to be law.”

Latest Article: Fletcher Professor Nasr named dean at Johns Hopkins

Fletcher professor Nasr named dean at Johns Hopkins

Published: Thursday, April 5, 2012

Updated: Thursday, April 5, 2012 17:04

Fletcher School Professor of International Politics Vali Nasr will leave Tufts after this semester to become dean of the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at Johns Hopkins University.

Dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy Stephen Bosworth last week announced to the Fletcher community that Fletcher School Professor of International Politics Vali Nasr will leave Tufts to become dean of the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at Johns Hopkins University in July.

Prof. Vali Nasr, courtesy of khalije-fars.com

Nasr joined the faculty of the Fletcher School in 2007. He is associate director of the Fares Center for Eastern Mediterranean Studies and is a member of the U.S. State Department’s Foreign Policy Advisory Board. He recently served on the Provost Search Committee, which selected Cornell University sociologist and associate dean David Harris as Tufts’ next provost.

“For all of us at Fletcher, the following news is bittersweet,” Bosworth said in his email sent to the Fletcher community. “As both a Fletcher and Tufts alumnus, as well as one of the School’s most respected faculty members, Professor Nasr has made enormous contributions to the University. His professional accomplishments have long been — and continue to be — a source of institutional and personal pride.”

At SAIS, Nasr will be partially responsible for the curriculum, faculty, fundraising and operation of the school, according to Director of Communications at Johns Hopkins University Dennis O’Shea.

“Our administration is excited and our students are excited, especially that he has connections to people who are making and ushering policy in governments across the world,” O’Shea told the Daily.

Nasr graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Tufts in 1983 with a degree in international relations and earned a master’s degree in international economics and Middle East studies from the Fletcher School the following year. He later received a Ph.D. in political science from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Nasr said his knowledge of Tufts and higher education will help him understand the role he will be occupying.

“The experiences I’ve had at Tufts — working with the students, working in government — it’s all in preparation for taking on this challenge,” Nasr said. “I saw Tufts and Fletcher as an undergrad. The office provides me with the opportunity to put into practice the way I envision global and international education, and my perception of challenges in today’s world, and I’m looking to address this from the other end.”

Nasr will succeed Jessica Einhorn, who is retiring after 10 years as SAIS dean.

The search process for a new dean of SAIS began last October, according to O’Shea. The executive search firm Storbeck/Pimentel & Associates helped facilitate the search.

“Someone nominated me for the SAIS job, the firm got in touch and the process of vetting went from there,” Nasr said. “I wanted to understand what was their vision, what they were looking for, if it was a good fit.”

The process became more intense and serious in January, and from there, details fell into place quickly, according to Nasr.

Nasr became acquainted with the current dean through previous meetings, and his relations to SAIS are extensive in the professional arena.

“Over the years, I’ve known students who went to SAIS, SAIS alumni I met when I worked at the state department, and there are many faculty I know as colleagues,” Nasr said. “Most of the individuals I met and learned about through the process.”

“SAIS offered the unique opportunity to get involved in management of a great institution,” he added. “In size, it’s a sister institution to Fletcher, the schools are close in tier profile, [and they] focus on international and global affairs.”

O’Shea said that as an academic and a practitioner of foreign policy, Nasr is very qualified for the position.

“When he visited SAIS last week, the people meeting him for the first time were taken with him and impressed,” O’Shea said. “Basically, he has the full package — academics, policy, and person.”

The Fletcher School

Nasr said he does not know how the Fletcher School plans on filling his position as professor.

“I’ll miss [Tufts] tremendously; it’s been rewarding being here,” Nasr said.

Moonlighting @ HerCampus Tufts

SO!

About a week ago, I decided to branch out on campus, and join another literary outlet on campus, with the Tufts branch of the startup, HerCampus. Anyway, here it is! Writing in an expository frame was incredibly exciting!

Spring Break 2012: “Staycation” Ideas

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Who says that as a college student, budget-breaking spring breaks are in order every time the weather thaws? A popular alternative for students and adults alike is taking a “staycation,” where you enjoy quality time in your hometown or wherever you are, taking in the sites and relaxing!

This spring break, instead of scraping funds together, keep your bank account (and sanity!) intact and ease into a spring break spent in the presence of yourself.

This popular alternative came into vogue during the late 2000’s recession, as an alternative to expensive family vacations. But the truth is, people have been doing “staycations” since before they were “cool” or economically sound—after half a semester spent buzzing around the Hill, why not take some time to reflect, regroup, and recharge?

Staycations aren’t location-specific—all you need is imagination, drive, and a thirst for adventure! In case you’re lacking on the first necessity, here’s a short list to get you going.

SPRING BREAK 2012 STAYCATION IDEAS!

1. Tackle that “to read” list and empty your Netflix queue!

Do you have a running log of books or articles you’d like to read, or topics you’d like to research? Have you been meaning to pick of “The Collected Poems of Maya Angelou,” or want to figure out what this “Hunger Games” hype is all about? Or maybe finally get around to reading Ellison’s “Invisible Man?” What better time than spring break to treat your mental self to a relaxing, just-for-fun read? So pull out your library card or head to your local bookstore, and paw through their collection—you may find your next favorite tale! While you’re at it, go ahead and watch those documentaries you’ve been meaning to watch. Take an afternoon and knock em’ out!

2. Be a tourist (in your own town!)

We sometimes scoff at tour groups or out-of-towners when they’re peering into the heavens at a skyscraper, or fawning over an outdoor exhibit or farmer’s market. This break, be one of them! Do some research about whatever area you’re in, and hit up the local tourist spots! Learn what’s happening in your local area, and take part. See it through the eyes of an outsider, to gain some perspective, or maybe even newfound interest in your everyday surroundings!
3. Volunteer your time

During spring break is when many high-schoolers prep for standardized tests. Want to give back in a meaningful way? Volunteer your time at a local high school, testing center, or community center to help youngsters prep for their exams! But before you do this, do some research and refresh yourself! It’s a wonderful opportunity to engage with high-school students and help them achieve their goals, not to mention potentially building a mentor-mentee relationship that may last a lifetime.

4. Sample some one-of-a-kind fare

If your taste buds have grown unresponsive to Boloco relations, or the stir-fry at Carmichael just doesn’t taste as good as it used to, do some digging into your local fare, and sample it! In the Midwest? Pick up some St. Louis or Kansas City-style ribs or Chicago-style deep-dish pizza. Fruit-filled empanadas in the Southwest or mufalettas in the Bayou. Think local and unique, and your tongue will surely follow!
5. Reflect and journal

Reflect on your semester thus far, a course, your time at Tufts, or coming of age. We often underestimate the power of words and reflection, but they can put into perspective issues or thoughts that at one time seemed insurmountable. Reflect from a place of positivity, and don’t be too critical of yourself! Start (and keep!) a journal, a blog, or jot down how you’re feeling at random moments. You’ll be happy you did, trust me.

6. Get into nature

What better time than springtime to take in the freshness of a new season? Go. Just go! Whether it’s walk in a park, to a museum, through your neighborhood, a trip across town, or across state lines, get out into nature with a vengeance! That includes your backyard or a local park. Make your own fun, lay in the grass, do whatever.
7. Plan for the home stretch

Calling all students! Whether you’re wrapping up your first year, or topping off your last, plan for the weeks ahead! Flip through old notebooks and class notes for interesting topics or notes that can lend themselves to a senior honor’s thesis or senior special project, or read ahead for a challenging class. It’ll make transitioning back into Tufts a smoother experience with a few chapters of work under your belt.

8. What’s your age again? Be a kid!

Break out those coloring books and Crayola, and make an afternoon of your childhood! For less than $5.00, invest in a coloring book, Mad-Lib workbook, and some magic marker and go to town! Bonus points: color outside the lines. Because you can!

9. Conquer that to-do list

Set aside a morning or afternoon, and compile a “master to-do” list. Then, separate items by their time sensitivity, priority, and the type of energy or motivation you will need to conquer each item (from ‘a gentle push’ to ‘a ton of energy!’) Then, when you find yourself possessing any amount of that required momentum, tackle what needs to be done.

10. Purge (in a good way)

Is your life feeling kind of stuffy and unorganized? Your email inbox overflowing with old messages? Take some time to de-clutter your life—from old papers to old emails and bookmarks. Do the same with your closet (donate what you don’t keep!), phonebook, or room, whatever needs to be renewed, go for it.

Latest article: Jumbo Janitor Alliance hosts discussion forum

By Brionna Jimerson

Published: Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, March 14, 2012 08:03

 

The Tufts Daily Jumbo Janitor Alliance (JJA) last night hosted a discussion forum with members of the Tufts janitorial staff, the union representatives and students to discuss workers’ rights and their role at the university.

Jumbo Janitor Alliance (JJA) last night organized and hosted a discussion forum with members of the Tufts janitorial staff, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) representatives and students to discuss workers’ rights and what they believe to be a lack of transparency in the Tufts administration’s dealings with sub-contracted workers.

Tufts’ janitorial staff is provided by UGL Unnico instead of being hired directly by the university.

The panel included Paula Castillo, a UGL Unnico employee who works in both Bendetson Hall and West Hall, Mike Sylvester, a SEIUhigher education organizer in Boston with Local 615, CarlosAramayo (LA ’96), who works as an organizing director for hotel and restaurant unions with Unite Here, and Sergio Duenas, the SEIULocal 615 representative for Tufts janitors. The event was facilitated by Liam Walsh-Mellett, co-chair of JJA.

Most of the evening’s discussion focused on institutional response to organizing efforts and the compartmentalization of workers as members of the Tufts community.

Using Duenas as an interpreter, Castillo shared some of her experiences as a janitorial employee working under three different subcontractors — OneSource, then ABM Industries Incorporated and now UGL Unnico — since the beginning of her time at Tufts.

“I don’t know why [the sub-contractors for janitorial services] are changing so often,” she said. “I want to send a message to the students — [the janitorial staff] do the best we can.”

Castillo said she wishes the university would hire its janitors directly.

The university changed its lMedford/Somerville campus cleaning services provider last September from ABMIndustries to UGL Unnico, a shift that elicited a strong student reaction and staff response on the behalf of janitors, resulting in a protest outside of Ballou Hall in October. Protesters brought administrative attention to the responses of workers under UGL Unnico, who claimed that dozens of available positions had been vacated and not subsequently filled.

According to Castillo, following the fall 2011 shift from ABM to UGL Unnico, janitorial employees have added more responsibilities to their workloads, while their pay and positions often stay the same or decrease without forewarning.

“Right now we don’t even have cleaning supplies,” he said. “We do the work as we can … the best we can. There are many things this company doesn’t want to resolve.”

“We sometimes believe that people working for the institutions directly can get more job security, benefits and things like that. Right now, it’s mostly about respect and dignity,” Duenas said. “Right now, we’re trying to get Unnico to treat workers respectfully.”

“There are some people working 29 hours a week, and they don’t have health insurance, vacation or sick days,” Castillo said.

Duenas continued to outline the process of the switch from ABM to UGL Unnico, with employees filling out a new employment application and going through the hiring process again.

“About 60 of those workers didn’t pass the hiring process,” Duenas said.

Employees who were unable to provide necessary documentation or information, for whatever reason, were terminated, according to Duenas.

When Aramayo attended Tufts in the mid-1990s, the university did not use outside contractors for its janitorial crew.

“Contractors are an easy scapegoat for the university,” Alexa Sasanow, co-chair of JJA, said. “If the workers are employed by Tufts, no one else is to blame.”

Aramayo commented on the anti-union rhetoric often surrounding unionizing efforts at Tufts and its peer institutions in this respect, including claims about social and institutional structures in higher education.

The minute we stand up, they go insane,” he said. “Any time in any corporation when workers try to stand up and say ‘I want to be treated with more dignity,’ corporate groups go to extremes to stop it.”

“It’s true in general and especially in private higher education — they say one thing when it comes to workers in other countries, and they say something different when people are organizing on campus,” he added. “Tufts doesn’t want there to be union for janitors. They don’t want to respect the people who clean the floors. I think it’s structural. They look at the bottom line — it costs more for a union than not [having a union].”

Sasanow, a junior, explained how the students have been engaging with labor policy and action since the early 1990s, beginning with the Student Labor Action Movement, which became JJA in 2007. The community-building aspects of JJA organize soccer games with members of the labor force and bring coffee to UGL Unnico night-shift workers weekly.

“It’s important that students act as stakeholders — the university can’t work without our tuition. Students should be a part of the decision-making process,” Sasanow said.

She explained a sense of elitism and entitlement she observes on the Medford/Somerville campus with respect to the cleaning staff.

“People will puke everywhere and say ‘It’s the janitor’s job to clean it up,’” she said. “It’s disrespectful. Subcontracting distances the workers from the university through indirect employment. Because of that, they’re not seen as members of the Tufts community.”

“I’d love for the administration to interact with the people they employ indirectly,” Walsh-Mellett, a sophomore, said. “It’s important that people who are employed know who their employers are.”

Latest article: Tufts launches Office Intercultural and Social Identities Program

This article was interesting to write, a good study in objectivity.

I’ll come back to share my opinions soon.

Is “separating” oneself from a story even possible? Aren’t stories, isn’t news inherently biased? How do I wear my “caps” simultaneously, or will my views “poison” the story? Is it poisoning, or healing? BAH! Anyway, I’m happy with this story. It’s on the long side, and I’ll reflect privately in my journal (not my blog!), but I’ll come back to share my opinions after a bit. Perhaps during spring break?

 

Anyway, here you go!

http://www.tuftsdaily.com/news/new-office-of-intercultural-and-social-identities-programs-launched-1.2714404#.T14NOTFun3w

New Office of Intercultural and Social Identities Programs launched

By Brionna Jimerson

Published: Monday, March 12, 2012

Updated: Monday, March 12, 2012 08:03

The Office of Intercultural and Social Identities Programs  (ISIP) was launched on Friday as a space for students to gain awareness and respect for racial, ethnic and identity diversity on campus, explore their own identities and confront social concerns on campus.

Goals of the Office of ISIP “We’re working under the guiding principle that says diversity and inclusion are inherent strengths for academic excellence and not problems to be resolved,” Director of the Office of ISIP and Africana Center Director Katrina Moore told the Daily in an interview.

Moore said the office is working to strengthen diversity and inclusion by providing opportunities for students to think critically about who they are and how their identities impact their experiences at Tufts.

“We’re trying to create a campus that respects all students and [works to build] a campus community that is inclusive and make sure everyone has equal participation,” Moore said. “There are some students more aligned with their religious or ethnic identity, but they still need to have support and feel they are equal participants on the campus.”

The Office of ISIP is focused on ensuring inclusion for undergraduate and graduate students, particularly those from historically marginalized groups, according to  Moore.

Student ambassador to the Office of ISIP Genesis Garcia shared her insight on the significance of investigating the meaning of “historically marginalized groups” and “inclusion” in an interview during Friday’s launch day events in the Mayer Campus

Center break-out sessions with ISIP student ambassadors.

“By inclusive, it means that there are a lot of identity groups on campus, and people have had radically different experiences and needs at Tufts,” Garcia, a freshman, said.

“We automatically associate groups of people of color as historically marginalized. [That] almost every identity group — based on religion, race, ability — has been historically marginalized is news for some people,” she said. “And in order for everyone to know, steps must be taken for those who don’t know. I don’t want this to be just another diversity initiative [that] we talk about and nothing gets done.”

The title of the office, Dean of Arts and Sciences Joanne Berger-Sweeney told the audience at the “A Focus on Tufts” dinner event on the launch day, was repeatedly reworked to make it more encompassing of social and cultural experiences.

Moore included among the goals of the Office of ISIP creating a resource directory, an organized “road map” of resources available on campus to help students navigate the  services and opportunities at Tufts.

“The road map is a sort of  ‘what do I do if …’ resource, to make sure students are supported, and know what’s available on campus,” Ikenna Acholonu, graduate assistant and program coordinator of the Office of ISIP, said.

“There are many times when students don’t understand the function of the Provost’s Office, or when they need to go to the Office of Equal Opportunity (OEO). We want students to know where to go to address their concerns,” Moore said.

The Office of ISIP is establishing itself as a direct line of communication between students and administrators, through the support and joint efforts of student ambassadors, a faculty working group, the directors of the Group of Six centers  — the Asian American Center, the International Center, the Africana Center, the Women’s Center, the Latino Center and the LGBT Center — and Dean of Undergraduate and Graduate Studies John Barker, according to Moore.

“With ISIP, there is a direct link to the Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, so the data we’re collecting has a direct route to decision-makers,” Moore said.

Creation of the Office of ISIP

The Office of ISIP began its planning phases in fall 2011, with Moore as the director, at the order of Berger-Sweeney. She had seen a similar program implemented at Wellesley College, where she served as associate dean before coming to Tufts.

According to Moore, adequate qualitative research conducted at other institutions informed the creation of the Office ofISIP at Tufts, along with Berger-Sweeney’s history as Wellesley College.

A report prepared by consultants for Wellesley College concerning multicultural programming aided the creation of such a program at Tufts.

“The consultants found that many institutions had independent houses that reflected singular elements of identity, but these houses did not address the needs of students with complex identities,” Moore told the Daily in an email. “Since the report was research-based and comprehensive, the dean was very well-prepared to address similar issues when she arrived at Tufts.”

According to Moore, Berger-Sweeney spent her second semester at Tufts — Spring 2011 — speaking with students in sororities and fraternities, the Asian American, Africana and Latino Centers, theLGBT Center and the Women’s Center, and reportedly found that her assessment of the Tufts student body mimicked what she had heard at Wellesley.

Afterward, Berger-Sweeney concluded that the issues investigated in the consultants’ report were not just applicable to Wellesley but also had broader applicability to an institution such as Tufts.

Moore explained in the email that the Group of Six leaders continued to research similar programs in higher education and worked to express the particular needs and specific concerns at Tufts to develop the mission and programming for the Office of ISIP.

Moore foresees her dual involvement at the Office of ISIP and the Africana Center as complimentary assets.

“I’m here [at the Africana Center] on a daily basis, [hearing] about experiences students are having,” she said in an interview. “That helps to inform some of the areas that need to be focused on.”

Moore clarified that the Group of Six centers will not disappear to make way for the Office of ISIP. Rather, Moore expressed plans to make the Office of ISIP a focal point for university-wide events addressing racial, ethnic and identity diversity.

“There are lots of events that have to do with inclusion and diversity. Unless you’re a part of that, you know it and otherwise, it may not feel there’s a lot going on on campus.”

To this extent, according to Moore, the Office of ISIP is currently working with Tuftslife for the creation of an event category for cultural identities-related events.

“Just like you can click and find out sports events, you can click and find out what cultural events are,” Moore said.

Launch and Student Ambassadors

Included in the Friday launch events were the student ambassadors’ presentation of their “Say Hello” Campaign Project, small discussions with the Office of ISIP ambassadors in the Mayer Campus Center and dinner and table discussions Friday evening.

The “Say Hello” Campaign has the goal of raising the awareness of all students of the impact of actions and words — even something as simple as saying hello — on another student’s daily life, according to Moore.

“The whole notion around the “Say Hello” campaign is that it’s a way for us to think about how we can do a small simple thing and start to interact with each other more,” Moore said.

Evening table discussions included a preview of the “A Focus on Tufts Initiative” discussion series.

“The series of focus groups is to help create counter-stories, stories that combat issues of racism, classism and other-isms,'” Acholonu said. “With these focus groups, we will compile qualitative data, so that administrators and policy-makers will be able to make decisions based on the information we give them.”

Acholonu added that the “A Focus on Tufts” discussions would be a large part of the Office of ISIP’s programming initiatives.  Future programming initiatives spearheaded by the Office of ISIP will also include the “A Look Within” Series, in which graduate students and professors will showcase their research to build relationships between students and faculty, and the “Your Voice Matters” Conversation Cafe, an opportunity for students to participate in small-group conversations concerning the Tufts community.

The role of the ten student ambassadors recruited to work with the Office of ISIP is to assist with the marketing of the Office of ISIP, serve as a liaison with Tufts student groups and the wider Tufts community, receive social justice and facilitation training and organize programs and initiatives planned by the Office of ISIP to ensure student input in programming, according to an email sent to students nominated by the director of fraternity and sorority affairs, Athletics directors, and Group of Six leaders.

“The activities in the Campus Center are an opportunity for students to hear about the [student ambassador] program,” Moore said. Moore mentioned the possibility of the role of ambassador becoming an application-based role next semester, with potential for work-study wages, as an on-campus job.

“I was thrilled to receive the email,” student ambassador KathrynSelcraig, a sophomore, said during the launch day break-out session event. “I want to be a part of this because having a broader conversation and dialogue about learning differences in people [and] structures of privilege [can] create a more inclusive environment.”

Student Response

Immediately after its inception, the Office of ISIP came under fire from students. Garcia assured students that the office is actively working to address their concerns.

“I’ve heard so many people saying things about ISIP — negative things, positive things, things they don’t know aboutISIP. Whether negative or positive, the only way I can make change is to know what is wrong, what’s missing,” Garcia said.

“There are many assumptions about it already. If you know what’s wrong, there are people in this program who are trying to address this problem. To automatically throw in [the] gutter, I don’t see how that makes any change,” she added.

Acholonu encouraged students to offer feedback for the office, rather than dismiss it entirely.

Cecilia Flores, a senior, attended the launch dinner and remains unclear of the exact purpose of the Office of ISIP and its functionality in the Tufts community.

“We talked [at the launch dinner] about how Tufts has a lot of resources, but how different students have different access. I know from first-hand experience that marginalized students do not have the same access to resources at Tufts and are affected by a lot of issues,” Flores said in an interview with the Daily, citing hate speech and KeithAblow’s statements at a lecture in the fall and how the lack of response left transgender students vulnerable, stigmatized and targeted. “I feel like the ISIP could be doing a much better job incorporating student leaders. The burden cannot be on the students but we need to have power and direction within this push because we are the ones that are affected.”

“We’re trying to gather as much input and feedback as possible,” Acholonu said.  “I want students to know that their voice matters to us, regardless of who they are or what they have to say … Through our connection to aspects of the administration, change can occur, if the students try to engage with the programs and speak their minds.”

 

I love you…and I am not dead.

Dear blog, and my readers (all two of us you)

I’ll take a cue from one of my favorite films, The Color Purple:

“I know you think I am dead. But I am not.”

“But if this do get through, one thing

I want you know, I love you, and I am not dead.

Soo…

I’ll be back after midterms/ when Spring Break starts. Promise. Expect some back articles!!

 

-B

Live-blogging: The 84th Academy Awards

I’m officially on Team Viola. But that’s another story.

Tonight, I’ll liveblog the Academy Awards! I’m not one for award shows (VMA’s, Golden Globes, SAG, Grammy’s etc), but every once in a while, I’ll tune in and see what happens. I recognize that ‘The Academy’ has a history of snubbing more than deserving films, directors, and actors, but this year, I’ll bite.

You’re in for: snarky commentary, genuine insight,  predictions, and red carpet commentary, and hopefully useful implementation of my hard-earned college knowledge. Wha

6:44 pm: Just now tuning into the red carpet. Having “worked” the red carpet at the Tony Awards over the summer, it’s much more difficult than it appears, and about 10 times less glamorous than it appears. Unless, you know, you’re a professional say-nothing named Seacrest.

6:49 pm: Ok, I can’t. I just can’t. I’ll wait for the show. From a Communications and Mass Media Studies perspective (YEAH! COLLEGE MINORS, REMEMBER THOSE??), I’m wondering how effective advertisement will be for tonight. A not-so-subtle Goodyear blimp that reads “Live from the Red Carpet”  probably cost hundreds of thousands, and GY isn’t expecting an immediate surge in sales, but they had a salient advertisement and it was on screen for a bit over 15 seconds. Product placement win.

6:50 pm: A full trailer for Julia Roberts’ upcoming film Mirror Mirror looked divine. In the worst possible way.

I’ve got a fever…and the only prescription…is more tulle. Or taking off a few layers of petticoats. Whichever works.

8:08: As my friend Kristen Johnson pointed out, “The Oscars losing sound is not a good look”. For shame. Glen Close, a la 1987 would not  stand for this.

I will not be IGNORED, Oscars!!

8:30: Morgan Freeman on deck! He hasn’t aged since his Glory days.

Glory, pre-Blue Ivy Carter

9:08: I’m remembering why I don’t care for The Oscars.

9:10: I’m calling it. Goodnight, world! Better luck at the Tony’s.

Latest Article: Dr. Cornel West at Tufts (in other news: I died)

So.

Dr. Cornel West. With his controversial politics and black church-infused rhetoric, it seems that everyone has an opinion on Dr. West and his political and social agenda. What does one do when face-to-face with the Good Doctor, with upwacrds of 20 minutes to spare?

Interview? check.

Video interview? check.

Talk politics and whatnot, shooting the breeze? check.

Hug? check.

Pray? double check.

DR. WEST GIVES ME A SHOUTOUT DURING HIS SPEECH?? WHAAAAAAAH???

The  video portion of the pre-lecture interview will be up soon. Meeting Dr. West was phenomenal, and I’m so grateful to God that Dr. West has kept his spiritual self close to his political self. He is unapologetic, and his body is on the line.

Now for the article! Photo slideshow at the end!

West offers critique of democracy, power structures

By Briona Jimerson

Well-known scholar and activist Cornel West analyzed current political structures and the plight of working class individuals in a lecture last night in a packed Cohen Auditorium.

Well-known scholar, activist and advocate for global and domestic civil rights Cornel West, who is a professor in the Center for African American Studies at Princeton University, addressed a packed Cohen Auditorium in a lecture last night with a message calling for critical personal and social analysis, emphasizing the significance of the plight of working class individuals in advocating for democratic and social reform.

West’s lecture was part of the Faculty Progressive Caucus’s American Democracy in Crisis Series and was made possible largely through his academic and personal relationship with Tufts Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering Jerry Meldon, according to James Glaser, Dean of Undergraduate Education for Arts, Sciences and Engineering.

“He’s very outspoken, he has a great sense of right and wrong and isn’t afraid to speak truth to power,” Meldon told the Daily.

The Tufts Diversity Fund, the Peace and Justice Studies program, the Africana Center, the Office of Intercultural and Social Identities Program, the Office of Student Affairs and the Office for Campus Life co-sponsored the lecture.

West began his lecture with an air of comfortable familiarity and lightheartedness, expressing his desire to unsettle Tufts students in their political and social beliefs in order to incite academic and social change in students.

“I hope I say something that unsettles you, unnerves you,” he said.

During the lecture, West challenged attendees to confront their own location in the democratic process and to learn to “die” — that is, to shrug off preconceived notions of others and themselves in an effort to renew their own expansion capabilities.

Dr. West speaking backstage with an attendee

“Democracies must be reborn continually,” he said. “It’s a process of critically examining yourself. It’s about learning how to die. When you ‘die,’ you let go of assumption or prejudice or prejudgment, that’s a form of death, and you don’t grow without that kind of death.”

West critiqued and analyzed current political structures, including public political offices, and their involvement, or lack thereof, in assisting and advocating on the behalf of the working class and poor demographic groups in the United States.

“When I talk about democracy, I always begin with those catching hell, the wretched of the earth,” he said, referring to members of historically and socially “marginalized” groups based on class, race and often history.

“What does American democracy look like from the vantage point of indigenous brothers and sisters?” West asked.

“World War I has been going on since 1492,” he continued, prompting applause from the audience.

He acknowledged the high crime, alcohol abuse, substance abuse and incarceration rates among individuals living on Native American reservations in the United States.

“With these 312 [Native American] reservations, there is very little visibility in public discourse,” he said. “And our indigenous brothers and sisters don’t have to be in the room for us to be sensitive to their suffering. They’re as precious or priceless as anyone else.”

West expressed his excitement about the younger generation’s involvement in the Occupy movement. He has personally participated in several Occupations.

“When you have a deep compassion for suffering, you can’t stand there being treated unfairly, unjustly,” he said. “That’s the kind of fire we need among the younger generation. That’s why I get excited by [the] Occupy movement.”

His forthcoming work, “The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto,” aims to discuss the different faces of poverty.

Bringing the truth, Dr. Cornel West (photo by me)

“As long as we see only black and brown, it’ll be difficult,” he said.

In closing, West reminded the audience that fights for justice and equality, while often appearing insurmountable, are long-term ventures contingent on lifetime dedication that continues into post-graduate life.

“The question is, how rigorous, how robust and how much courage will students have after they graduate? How courageous will you be?” he said.

“You’ve got to be a long distance runner,” he added. “Many are happy to ‘break the glass ceiling’, but what about those in the basement? That’s the kind of sensibility required to be a person in the long run … It’s about action and an intellectual, moral, and spiritual collective.”

***********

I’m going to post my “full” article up tomorrow or Saturday. How do you cut down thousands of words into a bitesized snapshot, that moves and educates people with the force of those thousands of words?  That’s the art of it.

************

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Journalism 101: E-style profile writing? Anyone? Anyone?

I give credit where credit is due.

During my summer at The Observer, I was able to watch a true editor, team-builder, innovator, and manager work. Under Elizabeth Spiers, the editor-in-chief at The Observer, I began to understand the importance of creating a team of people, and learning from the best.

*aaand scene on the Elizabeth worship*

Every so often, she’d invite a guest to speak with the writing staff–a close (and wildly successful) friend in the industry, an insider, etc. One day, she brought Priscilla Painton, a reporter and editor at Time in the late 80’s, to speak with the staff about “getting the story, and more specifically, the art of the profile.

Behold: the E-curve profile.

Did anyone else know about this? Has anyone else learned about this? I’ve ‘profiled’ my friends before, in creative writing exercises, but it would always become an incoherent ranting on their childhood, or consist of sweeping generalizations about this or that. Long story short, the E-curve changed m life. Well, it changed my style of writing. So yes, my life.e bas

The basics:

  • You begin with the inner part of the e (always lowercase): the ‘–‘ section. That’s where you introduce your subject. A vignette, perhaps. A small snapshot into something larger. A distinctive trait, some notable quirk. Something to make the reader want to keep reading, and find out what built this person, what makes her or him tick, and why should anyone care? Some writers express this with an introduction into the beginning of the interview (BUT NOT NEARLY AS SUCKY AS THE FOLLOWING): “After selecting a corner table at the overpriced coffee shop, one sequestered away near the samovar, I waited patiently for interesting person x to arrive at our scheduled meeting place. I watched as she stepped out of a cab, one Louboutin-clad foot before the other, and scuttled in 6-inch heels toward the coffee shop, her shiny brown skin catching the light in the crook of her arm as she paid the driver with a twenty-dollar bill.”
^^I swear, I’ve read profiles that seem to go on and on and on at nauseum about the mode of the subject’s arrival, initial assumptions, etc, only to “get around to” the point after a page or two.And that’s okay. That’s a specific style of writing, to introduce the subject. But like all good things (and descriptive paragraphs) it must come to an end. It’s just incredibly frustrating when it seems like a writer is hiding behind flowery language and descriptors, instead of ‘getting to the point’.  And what’s the point, more often than not? Sometimes, it’s not to ‘dig deep’ into the life of some socialite or celebrity or another, but an excuse to make a casual but all too carefully crafted mention of their latest project and rehash her or his latest breakup, relationship, or life circumstance (let’s be honest, that’s why they’re on the cover of whatever magazine anyway). But not Painton’s work. She calls. She interviews. She types and transcribes and jots down little mentions and notes, and creates as holistic and purposeful (read PURPOSEFUL) a portrait of the individual.
  • The second part of the ‘e’ (and the profile) is unwinding the story. This is where journalism comes in handy. What story are you telling? To whom are you telling it? What’s the purpose, who is the audience, and why should they care are key questions at this juncture. The ‘flat part’ of the ‘e’ is to introduce them as real people, the detailed aspects that follow is the action. In the words of Ms.  Painton , “action is the center of all journalism.” This is where we get to the meat and potatoes, so to speak, and upturn some earth. Make it as shallow or deep as you want (or as your publication or word count calls), but make it your own, and have integrity.

So, here I am, a student journalist hungry for a profile. My latest foray, the Cookie Guy article, began something like that. In the heat of the editing room, it was reassembled to be more fitting of “Daily style”: I forgot, while writing it, all about “Daily style”. I’ll post the unedited (gasp!) version of the original article/ profile tomorrow, and go through to edit it myself. Online. In the public sphere. In front of everyone (or no one…?).

E is for elephant,

B

Latest Article: TCU Senate survey reveals campus climate, despite low response rate

An article about the Tuft TCU enate, an their goingon. I’m not on the “enate beat”, but when none of my writer coul take the aignment, I went ahea an wrote on it.

TCU Senate survey response rate down

By Brionna Jimerson

Published: Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The annual Senate survey, distributed in the fall, is used to improve student outreach and knowledge of Senate initiatives.

Approximately 22 percent of the Tufts undergraduate student body responded to the fall 2011 Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate survey, which the Senate will use to understand how to best improve student outreach and knowledge about initiatives on campus, according to TCU President Tomas Garcia, a senior.

The response rate was lower than the fall 2010 survey, TCU Vice President Wyatt Cadley noted.

“[The survey is] helpful for students and their various projects,” Cadley, a junior, told the Daily in an email. “The results helped us pull back the shades, and you can see what people think about certain issues.”

According to results released by the Senate, 1,153 students completed the survey in its entirety, with a response rate of 22.6 percent of the undergraduate class. The class of 2015 had the highest number of participants with 33.5 percent. Of the respondents, 82.4 percent were in the School of Arts and Sciences, and 57.6 percent of the 1,153 student respondents were females.

“While we’re never going to have the perfect survey where everyone responds … having 22 percent of students vote was still good,” Cadley said.

The responses are available on the TCU Senate website, and more detailed demographic breakdowns will become available in the near future, according to Cadley.

This year, the Senate hired the Office of Institutional Research and Evaluation (IRE) to help assemble unbiased and clearly worded survey questions. Research Analyst Lauren Conoscenti served as their main IRE contact.

To formulate the questions, each of the five standing committees on the Senate — Services, Student Outreach, Culture, Ethnicity and Community Affairs, Education and Administration and Policy — created 10 to 12 suitable questions that were vetted and reworded for clarity, according to Cadley.

Working in conjunction with the analytical breakdown possibilities, according to Cadley, including the ability to break down information based on race, sexual identification, academic year and other factors.

“These new documents offer a specific breakdown of data, and there are a lot of instances where it’s useful to have this data,” Cadley said. He offered the example of a question asking whether students would be living off campus for their junior or senior year.

“It’s valuable to see the data for juniors and seniors,” he said.

The results indicated that 51.5 percent of students surveyed felt that Tufts has adequately prepared them to handle issues of discrimination and equality pertaining to race and that 59 percent of students surveyed felt that Tufts has adequately prepared them to handle issues of discrimination and equality pertaining to culture and ethnicity.

When asked about satisfaction with Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences Joanne Berger−Sweeney’s announced plan for an academic program dedicated to the study of race, ethnicity and cultures, 46.9 percent of the students surveyed responded, “I am unfamiliar with Dean Berger−Sweeney’s plan.”

“That shocked me a little bit because we have received school−wide emails from [Berger−Sweeney] on that subject,” Garcia, who is part of the working group for the program assembled by Berger−Sweeney, said. “It was a little disheartening to see the Tufts community wasn’t taking more [of an] active role in the creation of an entirely new program on campus.”

More than 37 percent of respondents reported interest in receiving a monthly newsletter from the Senate regarding initiatives and requesting student feedback, with 40.1 percent indicating willingness to read such a publication even more frequently.

Yancy. Fancy Yancy.

Additionally, there was strong demand for the creation of an education major and for entrepreneurial leadership studies to be a second major, Garcia, a senior, said.

“The Education Committee was interested in learning if the student body would utilize an education major,” he said. “These are things that we have heard from the student body and want to use the survey to find if there’s statistically significant information, and we take that to the administration.”

The comments sections included 22 responses asserting that “Tufts does not adequately respect and honor all kinds of diversity,” 19 responses arguing that “Foundation/Distribution requirements need to be revised” and 19 stating that “Tufts needs an Africana Studies department.”

In previous years, two surveys were sent out each academic year — one in the spring and another in the fall. Last year, a Senate−wide decision was passed to hold only one survey each year, during the fall semester.

“The decision was made for two reasons: we could not afford the extra survey, and by the time the second survey’s results were compiled and released, the year is almost over,” Cadley said.

After assessing the data, senators filter it for feedback and information that can inform future initiatives, according to Garcia.

“I expect to see progress on the newsletter and community outreach,” Garcia said. “The Senate spent the first semester researching many projects, and this semester we should see a lot of growth.”

Sophomore Montel Yancy was not surprised to learn that student involvement in the survey diminishes by class year, with 57 percent more freshmen participating in this year’s study than seniors.

“I think as students advance, they care less because they’re closer to graduation,” Yancy said.

He believes it is important for all students to participate in the survey, regardless of their class year.

“I always think voting is good, especially because I’m a minority and as a minority, I need to have my voice heard, because it’s not that many of us on campus,” Yancy said.

Latest Article: BrandHaiti Symposium at Tufts

This week will be another busy one for the Daily, as we get used to this familiar discomfort of sharing a cramped space between upwards of five sections, not to mention the layout and production teams. I’ve taken something of a break for the week from the Daily, until I write about Cornell West on the 22nd. I have an article in today’s paper, and will have another on Tuesday.

Here’s the newest baby!

BrandHaiti symposium uses entrepreneurship to confront negative perceptions of Haiti

By Brionna Jimerson

Published: Monday, February 13, 2012

Updated: Monday, February 13, 2012 07:02

Panelists at Saturday’s BrandHaiti “Investing in Haiti: Challenges, Strategies, Opportunities” symposium discussed entrepreneurship, investing and economic development in Haiti.

Tufts’ chapter of BrandHaiti, a student−led nonprofit organization seeking to transform the negative cultural images and perceptions of Haiti, on Saturday hosted its second annual Business Symposium, “Investing in Haiti: Challenges, Strategies, Opportunities.” The event featured several prominent entrepreneurs and panels discussing entrepreneurship, investment and economic development in Haiti.

Since its inception in 2010, BrandHaiti has worked under the auspices of the Institute for Global Leadership (IGL) at Tufts to highlight the economic agency of Haiti — especially in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake — and to challenge negative international perceptions of the country.

“Our focus is on debunking negative stereotypes about Haiti,”BrandHaiti CFO Joshua Reed−Diawuoh, a junior, said. “We’re doing that by showing success stories, about the competency and agency of the Haitian people, so the symposium is a testament to that.”

The symposium, which consisted of four panels promoting entrepreneurship, the investment industries, infrastructure and economic development in Haiti and the role of the Haitian diaspora in promoting growth, respectively, drew a sizeable crowd. Attendees included many members of Boston’s Haitian community.

Genevieve Lemke, who owns the Wahoo Bay Beach Club and Resort an hour away from the capital city of Port−au−Prince, traveled to Tufts to speak on the state of the tourism industry in Haiti and the power of a negative international image in skewing cross−cultural understandings.

“I want the image of Haiti to change,” Lemke said. “I am tired of when I travel and people ask where I am from and I say ‘Haiti’ they say ‘really?’ Like everywhere else we have our problems, but there’s so much positivity we want people to come discover this positivity that nobody is talking about.”

Panelists also offered their perceptions of the potential trajectories of the Haitian economy by stating what they felt were the most forward−thinking and progressive industries.

Jennifer Fievre, an investment officer at the International Finance Corporation (IFC) branch of the World Bank, said that the housing and construction sectors, along with agri−business, show promise of growth. She noted the decentralization strategies underway in Haiti strive to move people outside of the capital city of Port−au−Prince into the more rural provinces, where opportunities for entrepreneurship abound.

“Some of the problems that exist are in the infrastructure,” Fievre said.

Fievre also cited recent World Bank economic statistics that rank Haiti as one of the worst countries in terms of ease of doing business, placing it 174th out of 183.

“The main challenge that can be addressed is the weakened business environment in Haiti. What can be done is addressing these facts and making it easier to open a business in Haiti,” Fievre told the Daily in an interview.

Dominick Mercier heard about the symposium from a family member who works at Tufts and decided to attend the event. Mercier, who was born in Haiti and raised in Everett, Mass., in the 1990s, appreciated the panel’s honest debate about the challenges facing Haiti and Haitian entrepreneurs and the candid discussion of globalization.

She was dismayed, however, by the negative rhetoric displayed by some of the audience members.

“The optimism is great, and helpful, but some members of the audience seemed bent to cast Haitians in a negative light,” Mercier told the Daily.

Reed−Diawuoh has been assisting BrandHaiti with planning for the symposium since he returned from studying abroad in Ghana during the fall semester.

“The planning process was already underway when I came back from Ghana, but once I got here, we were reaching out to speakers, organizing the logistics on campus and promoting our message,” he said.

The organization has also created a product line and a spring break program initiative which bring students to Haiti in order to help stimulate the local economy and to foster economic and personal engagement with the country.

BrandHaiti CEO and co−founder Marie−Gabrielle Isidore graduated from Tufts last May and continues to work closely with the organization.

Throughout the symposium, the panelists noted the importance of removing the perception of governmental corruption and increasing transparency as keys to promoting entrepreneurship in Haiti and revamping the education system. They expressed optimism regarding the economic and governmental future of Haiti after the 2011 elections.

“The country needs political security, and that we can build trust,” Lemke said. “It’s a new government, and I think they want to try. I see a lot of positive things happening, and I’m willing to do my part to help Haiti move forward.”

Latest Article: World Bank VP visits Tufts Fletcher School School of Law and Diplomacy

This week was a busy one for The Daily. We’ve been operating out of a make-shift office (thanks to flooding in the Daily office!), and the execs of each section have been under a lot of stress. I’ve written a lot this week, after taking on 2 extra articles, with one being put on the backburner for the moment. Anyway, here’s the latest article, about World Bank’s Andrew Steer (kind of a big deal!)

Steer discusses World Bank’s efforts on climate control

World Bank Special Envoy for Climate Change Andrew Steer visited the Hill last night to discuss the World Bank’s initiatives and work concerning climate change and the intersection of policy and action in controlling its effects.

The lecture was part of Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy Professor William Moomaw’s Sustainable Development Diplomacy course. Moomaw is also the director of the Center for International Environment and Resource Policy at the Fletcher School.

Steer’s position with the World Bank is equivalent to vice-president of the organization, according to Moomaw.

At the World Bank, Steer directs and implements plans in over 130 countries with regard to creating a more environmentally conscious attitude toward climate, overseeing the $6.5 billion dollar Climate Investment Funds. With more than three years of experience in the World Bank and in diplomacy concerning environmental and resource policy, Steer brought his expertise to Tufts and discussed the urgency of creating effective policy and supporting grassroots and national-level organizations.

“There are two worlds: negotiation and action,” Steer said. “We’re hoping to bring the action into negotiation to create something that gives us a chance.”

He noted that there is a distinct difference between policy and implementation.

“There are many dimensions to what the World Bank is doing,” he added. “We look at the science of climate change, and we can’t afford to wait … By 2015, we shouldn’t be getting [international] agreements to address climate change, but doing something.”

Steer began the lecture by drawing a distinction between present and past attitudes toward climate control. Nations and their leaders seek input from the World Bank when creating climate-related policies and providing financial backing for projects that research and take action to reverse issues such as global warming and rising sea levels.

“Fifty years ago, there was a belief that climate control was a problem for rich people,” he said. “Ten years ago, 10 percent of our clients worldwide said ‘climate control is so important; it should be one of the top four things we work on.’ Last year, 95 percent said ‘please make climate change one of the top three or four things you’re working on.'”

He noted that the goal is to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius, though he thinks that a more realistic expectation would be a four-degree increase.

“This is not about tweaking at the margins; we can’t gradually do it differently,” he said. “These are choices, and you can’t straddle between two paths very long.”

Steer cited successful endeavors in South Africa, Qatar and China but said that the organization still has a long way to go in stopping climate change.

“The bad news is, even with all of our plans added together, with the most optimistic agenda, we’re nowhere close to where we want to be,” Steer said.

Steer discussed the emotional and economic devastation that often accompanies unsuccessful planning and policy reform.

“To allow negotiations to throw away our futures … it’s a great tragedy,” he said. “It is important we do not lose that in our sophisticated diplomacy. Let’s not forget there are issues of justice here and issues related to our children, and our children’s children.”

The event drew approximately 50 attendees — a mix of graduate and undergraduate students along with residents of the surrounding communities.

Moomaw implements and arranges such events to provide students with a grounded image and understanding of the career opportunities and realities of those endeavoring to change and improve the global approach to climate change.

“The course plays back and forth between reading articles and discussions, and we’re having people here who are doing this stuff,” Moomaw said. “In the conversation surrounding climate control, there’s nothing about the World Bank, yet the World Bank is doing so much, and it’s working in many ways on the international level. We talk about this as a theoretical concept, but it’s actually quite different when you have someone like Mr. Steer here, because this is what he does.”

During the semester, Moomaw invites at least five high-level individuals in the field of sustainable development to speak to students.

“Having the vice president of the World Bank is a pretty big deal,” Moomaw said.

Esther Johnson, a Medford resident and student at Lesley University, was interested in learning about the intersection between finance and environmental sustainability.

“Sometimes it seems like ‘sustainability’ is just a buzz-word, a filler for ‘green’ or ‘environmentally-friendly,'” she told the Daily. “I can’t say I understand all of the specifics of Mr. Steer’s lecture, but it’s nice to know there’s work being done on the ground.”

Tallash Kantai, a first-year Fletcher student, recalled her experiences working for the International Institute of Sustainable Development as part of a team that often implemented the sort of policies Steer spoke about.

“It was very interesting to hear it from a financial perspective,” she said.

My first foray into news-features writing. And it’s about cookies.

At The Daily, I’m a news writer. When times are better, I write for arts (gallery reviews, TV reviews, film reviews, etc.) I’m committed to my section, and I believe I help make The Daily more readable, informative, and forward-thinking when it comes to coverage. But sometimes I just wanna have fun, and try something new.

When one of my writers couldn’t accept an article about John “The Cookie Guy”, the newest entrepreneur on campus, I used the opportunity to “shadow” him for a night as he delivered his wares, and chatted him up about his history. It was decided that the article would be kind of “features-y”, but still “newsy”. The first draft was over 1,500 words long (iknowright??), and the second, more “newsy” rendition was considerably shorter. What was printed are my words, but not necessarily in the original order I composed them. Perhaps I was being “too featuresy”, and I admit I did leave “Daily style” blowing in the wind. But it was fun, and I’m happy to have stretched my expository muscles, or at least remember that they’re there somewhere…buried under all that fat…

So, here’s the latest article for the Tufts Daily. Something fun and upbeat, purposeful and downright delicious.  Big ups to John over at  Have A Sweet Idea for being so willing to let a girl with a Blackberry recording device follow him around on a Saturday night! And for the record, the cookies are FREAKING AMAZING.

MORE ORIGINAL PICS FROM THE NIGHT AT THE END OF THIS POST/ SLIDESHOOOW!

If you have a hankering for a handful of cookies, John “The Cookie Guy” Piermarini has recently set up shop to serve up a solution to those sweet cravings. In just two weeks, the man behind Sweet Idea cookies has already made a splash on campus.

Since Jan. 26, Piermarini has been biking around campus selling cookies on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m. in an effort to turn his passion for baking cookies into a full-time job.

“‘Sweet Idea’ is something I say in my everyday life,” Piermarini said. “It’s a catchy name, but it’s not easy to yell out.”

Piermarini, who graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in 2010 with a B.S. in computer science and a minor in creative writing, is now following his passion for cookies after quitting his job at IBM upon realizing that he did not enjoy programming as much as he previously thought.

“I sold cookies my senior year of college at RIT,” Piermarini said. “After school, I got a job at IBM. I didn’t like programming as much in the real world as I thought I would, so I thought, what could I do to make money and still enjoy my work? So I figured I’d start the cookie thing again.”

Now, he is testing out recipes in the kitchen and continuing development on his business’ website, putting his computer science degree to good use, all in an effort to build Sweet Idea into his career.

Piermarini sells six cookies for five dollars and delivers them for free to a designated delivery zone, which consists mostly of the Medford/Somerville campus and some surrounding streets. He currently offers chocolate chip cookies and snicker doodles which can be ordered by texting his phone, though online ordering is in the works.

Piermarini said that Sweet Idea took four months of planning.

“When I was still working for IBM, I was saving up money so I could do this,” he said. “Around July or August, I knew I was done. I started to stockpile to get ready. I didn’t think September would be when I was going to quit. I thought it’d be January.”

Piermarini has not done any traditional advertising for Sweet Idea but can credit much of his success on the Hill to word of mouth and social media, including his use of Twitter, the Boston Reddit page and his blog.

“All the advertising I’ve done was make a post on Reddit Boston,” he said. “That’s how most people heard about it, and word of mouth. I use Twitter to tell people where I am on campus, and to tell people what I have.”

Sophomore Jay Dodd, a frequent customer of Piermarini’s, agreed that Piermarini’s use of social media gives him a familiar vibe, which aids in students’ willingness to buy from him.

“He is using Twitter, text, modes of communication that people are using, and to top it off, the cookies are great,” Dodd said. “So you have great cookies, a business plan, convenience … and he’s personable … I think it shows [you should] do what you’re good at but don’t be afraid to do what you’re great at.”

Piermarini, who has a food permit from the City of Boston, said that he bakes out of a commercial kitchen in Jamaica Plain called CropCircle Kitchen

“The kitchen is a shared commercial kitchen for culinary entrepreneurs who want to get started in the food business but don’t have that sort of capital,” he said. “It’s sort of pricey, but you wouldn’t be able to get your business off the ground otherwise.”

Piermarini added that many Boston food trucks, including the Roxy’s Grilled Cheese truck, operate out of CropCircle Kitchen.

The total cost of ingredients, the CropCircle Kitchen rent and licensing was in the range of $3,000-$5,000, according to Piermarini.

At RIT, Piermarini prepared his cookies by hand in his apartment and his venture went by “Two Cookies One Buck,” capitalizing on the fame of a certain Internet video.

“The connotation was totally intentional,” Piermarini said.

Piermarini said that he is wary about expanding given the increased demands that doing so would entail.

“I don’t know where I’ll be expanding next,” he said. “There may be some weeks I take a night off here and try to build on another campus. The expansion problem is an interesting one. You’ve got to be personable; that means I can’t just hire anyone.”

Although he is easily recognized by his trademark orange jumpsuit, Piermarini added that he is looking forward to ditching that attire as spring approaches.

“It’s going to be really fun when it gets warm, I won’t have to wear the jumpsuit,” Piermarini said.

He added that he wants to become a prominent figure on the Tufts campus.

“I try to be as visible as possible and be in everyone’s head,” he said. “I want to be like the Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts — there’s one on every corner.”

Piermarini went on to say that although he is becoming more recognizable, some students are still confused by his presence.

“They either know who I am or who the guy in the jumpsuit is, or they’re wondering, ‘Who the f–k is this guy riding around on my campus?'” he said. “Someone will inevitably yell ‘Hey, cookie guy!'”

Junior Gabrielle Thomas remains skeptical about the staying power of Sweet Idea on campus.

“I think it’s an odd thing and people are only doing it because it’s here,” she said. “What happens once the hype dies down?”

Piermarini said he has tested new products, such as sandwiches, on his “frequent customers.” He plans to incorporate other snacks soon into his trade.

“I’ll enjoy this for now, and someone else will in the future,” he said. “That’s what it’s about, I want people to have a good time. It sucks when you’re not having a good time!”

Dodd also expressed his enthusiasm for Piermarini continuing his successful efforts into the future.

“He’s the man simply because he has an idea and is committed to it,” Dodd said. “The reason Moe’s [worked] is because you have kids who go out and party and want to eat. They want comfort food. [Sweet Idea] is tapping into a market that’s not tapped into.

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