Friday, May 4, 2007


Credit Card Companies! They love college students, we prove easy targets for companies looking to cash in with high interest credit, often 20% or more for credit card balances. Credit card companies go to great lengths to enlist heavy spending, debt ignorant college students in their credit programs, often an industry standard 0% APR for a fixed amount of time, enticing students to spend frivolously now, thinking they can easily pay it off before their rates change.

However, spending self discipline is one of the hardest aspects of college life for students to master. All three of my roommates have some amount of credit card debt, and while I have and use my own credit card I am very careful to pay my bill in full to avoid exorbitant interest fees.

Credit card offers form the majority of our daily mail, with solicitations coming from an increasingly diverse pool of companies offering teaser rates and creative reward schemes to entice customers. Credit card companies also compete with one another for the privilege of holding your debt in their account by offering 0% on balance transfers to get students to shuffle debt from other accounts to the new one. This entices students to open multiple accounts, which could lead to substantial debt, and if you miss a payment, a lower credit score, or even bankruptcy.

There is a national Do Not Call list for telemarketers, why don't we make one for 'junk mail,' especially for credit card companies. Credit card offers don't bother us during dinner, but they are very much unwanted and annoying as well as wasteful. Creating a national Do Not Mail list would be just as effective as the Do Not Call list and would also cut down on wasted paper.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

What I Missed This Weekend

I was at Ocean Beach twice this past weekend enjoying the beautiful weather. I ran through the park, waving to people I know, admiring the flowers and my fellow SFers out and about, but for all the people I saw in GGP and at the beach there was one group I really wish I had seen.

On Saturday, a group of concerned citizens sent a very large message to President Bush. They positioned themselves on the sand at Ocean Beach to spell out 'IMPEACH NOW!' with their bodies and were then photographed from the air.

Note: I did not take nor do I own the copyright to this photograph

The Impeach message was the work of activist coordinator and SF cab driver Brad Newsham who was hoping to have 2,000 protesters at the event which was scheduled to coincide with the National Day of Protest Demanding Impeachment by the group Impeach'07.

Watch a great video from the event HERE.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

No Brakes? No Problem!

Fixed gear biking is trendier than skinny jeans...well maybe not quite, but they do go hand in hand. This phenomenon has really taken off with the young and hip SF crowd.

Look closely, is there anything missing on this bike? If your answer is 'no' your either a SF hipster or your not looking hard enough.

"Fixed gear" refers to a kind of street bicycle with no back brakes and if you're really bad ass, no front brakes either. In their advanced evolutionary development these bikes also managed to shed traces of any gears. Once the pride of of any high pedaling cyclist, those 12, 18 and even the 24 "speed" gears are now considered unnecessary junk, damned to the scrap pile. These days A true sign of San Francisco machismo is going without gears!

So just how do San Francisco trendsetting cyclists coast their trusty mounts to a stop? Well let me tell you how I came to find out...

I do some volunteer work with the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, including promotions and helping out with the Fix Masonic Campaign. This past week myself and the two other SFBC volunteers from USF manned a table at the Health Fair in USF's Harney plaza. While I was there I had the opportunity to try one of my colleagues "fixies" and he explained that since the pedals are permanently fixed to the chain, and thus the wheel axle, all I had to do was push back hard on the pedals and I would lock up the back tire, laying down rubber while coming to a screeching, smokey halt.

It's kind of like peeling out in your mom's car when you were 16, totally unnecessary yet totally fun. The rubber burns about as fast too.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Half Mast

The Virginia Tech massacre is to Universities what ___________ was to New York City.

It often takes a tragedy to bring people together and the out-pour of support for Virgina Tech this past week has been incredible.

USF has decided to lower their flags to half mast this week, and when I was downtown yesterday I observed that the Hotel Intercontinental had also lowered theirs. Many other Universities and Cities across the US have done the same, Mayor Bloomberg, of NYC, ordered all flags in his city be flown at half mast through the end of the week.

On the Facebook, the online friend networking site, many people have changed their profile picture to that of the Virgina Tech VT logo, and have also created events in a show of support for the school and community who have, like the nation as a whole, been blown away by sadness and shock over what happened there this week.

I am proud of the solidarity Americans have shown for VT, and am equally proud that this event has not prompted racial violence or hatred. While some Asian authorities have expressed fear at the possibility of such violence, others have called into question the importance the media seems to have placed on the ethnic origin of the shooter, Cho Seung-Hiu, of South Korea.

This horrible event will no doubt add new fuel to the fire on debates such as gun control, campus security, and scrutiny over who is to blame for not preventing such attacks. Will students in the future have psychological advisers they way many now have academic advisers?

For me the most serious question is ,will their be copycat attacks like their were after the Columbine shootings? College students face high rates of depression and some turn to suicide, Ceung-Hiu turned to violence and killing, will more follow in his footsteps?

My simple conclusion is this: Students who don't have a group of friends or other group or community to belong to are more likly to have these kinks of problems. An a future Resident Advisor and active community member at USF, I challenge myself to reach out to more people, to be a supportive friend, and to encourage others to get involved with what interests them. I ch allege you to do the same in your community, be it USF, another college, or other community.

If some outgoing student had dragged Cho Seung-Hiu out to a bar for trivia night, or convinced him that they needed his unique insight on the debate team, or multicultural experience for model UN, maybe, maybe, this would not have happened.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Playing with Audio

It's not podcasting, not yet anyway, but it's really close. This weekend I played around with the idea of transmitting audio from a journalist style voice recorder to my computer where I edited it and put it on YouTube. It's not podcasting because you can't download it to your computer or listen on your ipod, hence the name podcasting.

The audio is an interview I conducted with a Resident Advisor in one of the residence halls at the University of San Francisco.

Listen: part 1, part 2.

My next step will be to record cleaner sound, with constant audio levels, which can be downloaded.

Planet Earth: still awe inspiring after all these years

I've been watching more TV than usual lately, a lot more. The show that's sucked me in is a new twist on an old subject, a Discovery Channel mini series about the natural world we live in, titled appropriately and simply, Planet Earth. Oh, and I fully admit, it sounds cliche, and unexciting, that is until you watch it.

Proclaimed, "the definitive look at the diversity of our planet," Planet Earth culminates four years of shooting in 68 countries, all in high definition. The camera crew captures jaw dropping footage from every angle, in every environment in the world. From a seat on my couch I have watched lions bring down an elephant, a shark jump out of the water to bite a seal in half, in slow motion, dolphins hydroplane in the shallows to nab fish, and other astounding footage. The directors rely heavily on stop animation and slow motion, as well as a variety of remote control ed cameras.

The mini series features 12 documentaries each with a specific focus. Tonight I watched "Jungles," which focused on the Amazon and Congo rain forests. This segment uses stop animation to show how various fungi grow and spread out over the course of several weeks. We see a vine plant snake its way around a tree branch as if it were a live snake slithering to the upper canopy. This section lacks the intermittent violence of the other segments, with the possible exception of the part about the parasite that infects ants so they become crazy and are carried away from the colony by other ants. After some duration of time the parasite begins to grow tentacles out of the head of the dead ant, looking for something else to infect.

Planet Earth airs Sundays at 8pm on Discovery Channel. Also, some of the episodes are listed on demand for comcast cable subscribers.