Oh, the agony

Like many twentysomethings living in the Northwest, I am a proud Apple devotee. Ever since the Dell laptop I’d had since high school crashed for the millionth and final time in 2008, my aluminum MacBook and I have been inseparable. I’ve laughed at my PC-owning peers whose machines regularly contract viruses; I’ve marveled at the seamless way each laptop, iPhone and tablet in this apartment syncs with my roommate’s Apple TV; and, I admit it, I’ve watched a handful of Steve Jobs presentations in awe.

Yet until recently, I never stopped to wonder why the back of each Apple product I own proudly bears the statement “designed by Apple in California” but fails to disclose where the electronics are manufactured. Now, thanks to monologist and author Mike Daisey, I know why–and part of me wishes I didn’t.

Daisey’s one-man show at Seattle Repertory Theatre, “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” describes the daily lives of 450,000 workers at Foxconn, the manufacturing plant where most Apple products are made. The plant is in Shenzhen, China, a city whose name most Americans have never heard even though more than 14 million people live there. Defying others’ advice, Daisey visited the plant even after several journalists and an Associated Press photographer attempted the same and were escorted off the premises; he successfully managed to talk to hundreds of workers in their teens and 20s who were made to pull 12- to 16-hour shifts performing just one task over and over again for years on end. He heard from 20-year-olds who were crippled for life from the repetitive labor. He described how these young workers–the kind of intelligent people who here in the U.S. would go on to be doctors, lawyers and respected academics–lived in quarters nearly as cramped as those I saw at a concentration camp in Terezín. One young worker told Daisey she spent her workdays wiping thousands of iPhone screens clean; when Daisey asked her age, she said she was 13.

Most harrowing of all is the knowledge that dozens of the plant’s employees–perhaps more–have committed suicide from the top of the Foxconn building. While both Apple and Foxconn have acknowledged at least one of these deaths, neither seems to have investigated this deeply tragic trend.

Daisey’s stories left me in a temporary state of shock. That afternoon, I sat in my apartment building for a while, staring around, unable to open my laptop or turn on my cellphone. To think that my consumer tendencies were to blame for the unfair treatment of workers, many of them 10 years my junior, was heartbreaking and nauseating. How did I trick myself into believing I needed all these whirring, blinking machines? How did I live so long in blissful ignorance, not knowing the origins of my most prized electronics?

And here’s the big question everyone came out of the theater asking: If Steve Jobs knows about the working conditions at Foxconn–and he must–why hasn’t he done anything about it?

I’m now aware of and informed about workers’ horrendous treatment in Shenzhen, which Daisey says is half the battle. I’ve also spread the word, something he hoped we would all do. But still I feel I haven’t done enough. Though I’ve often felt compelled to do so in the last few days, I know throwing out every electronic device I own isn’t the answer; as a 21st-century aspiring journalist, I can’t quit blogging, Tweeting and keeping abreast of news online. Someday, I may be one of the reporters who helps expose injustices like these and forces corporations to take a harder look at their outsourcing practices.

But for now, the knowledge that I’ve informed just a few more people of Foxconn’s heinous crimes against humanity will have to sate me.

What’s a goat-choker? Weird news terms 101

gripngrin

GRIP-AND-GRIN (n.) A photograph of no inherent interest in which a notable and an obscure person shake hands at an occasion of supposed significance.

Today I was CQing (fact-checking) a story I wrote…and I suddenly wondered what the heck CQ stood for.

It took some pretty ruthless Googling to find the history of this term, universally known in newsrooms as the short way to say “I’ve confirmed this name/date/fact is correct.” Turns out it’s the acronym for the Latin term “cadit quaestio,” literally translated “the question falls.”

But according to a commenter on an online journalists’ forum, “cq” is also an abbreviation for “correct” that Associated Press telegraph operator Walter P. Phillips created before the turn of the 20th century. It isn’t clear whether he created it out of thin air or knew about the Latin term.

Other forum commenters thought the acronym might stand for “correct as quoted,” “can’t question” or, my personal favorite, “correct but queer.”

In other words, everyone’s got a theory, but no one’s got a real, honest, CQed answer. You’d think in a profession such as journalism, where everyone feels compelled to look things up and actually enjoys doing in-depth research, we would know more about this ubiquitous acronym’s origins.

Funny thing is, the newspaper world is full of such terms. A suffocatingly long article whose purpose is to satisfy a reporter’s vanity and win the newspaper prestigious awards rather than to gratify readers is called a “goat-choker.” Why? Nobody knows. A “slug” is a short, one- or two-word temporary title we have for story files as they go through the editing process. While there are lots of theories on the origin of this word–some say it comes from the Middle English “slugge,” which turned into the word “sluggard,” describing a lazy person–none of the theories explain why we use the term in journalism.

It took the reporter four paragraphs to get to the point: “Titanic sank at 2:20 a.m. Monday.” This newspaper is still famous for its buried leads.

Granted, most journalism terms are easily explained. Copy editors, for example, were once called “rim editors” because they sat at a horseshoe-shaped table, at the head of which was the copy chief or “slot editor.” The slot sat in such a position that he could easily hand out to-be-edited stories to everyone at the table. A “budget” meeting, though it has nothing to do with money, is aptly named because it’s a meeting in which editors decide how and with which stories they’ll fill the space in tomorrow’s paper. And editors accuse reporters of “burying a lead” when their introductory paragraphs take too long to reach the story’s thesis.

Still more terms need no explanation at all: “lead” (intro to a story), “flag” (the paper’s logo at the top of page A1) and “jump” (an instruction to follow a front-page story to an inside page) are a few of these.

My favorite phrases are the old-fashioned terms we’ve adapted for use in the 21st century. Only editors in budget meetings use the term “above the fold” to describe the stories, headlines and photos readers will see the moment they pick up a print newspaper. But nearly everyone here at The Times tosses around that phrase to describe the headlines online and mobile readers can see without using the scroll-down function on their browsers. Copy editors also use the phrase “off the floor” to describe a page or section that is officially ready for print, even though pages are never “on the floor” to begin with these days. And some of the small papers where I’ve interned use the word “pasteup” to describe the process of designing the news pages before they’re printed, even though the process no longer involves actual paste.

The question is, is all this strange lingo creating a wall between newspapers and their readers? I can hardly talk about my day at work around non-journalists without getting some head scratches, but I don’t think that’s unique to journalism. My roommate’s employer, the U.S. Coast Guard, might be the worst offender when it comes to confusing workplace terms; while the newspaper language is made up of real words or at least abbreviations of words, the military’s is nothing more than a series of acronyms, something we journalists disdainfully call “alphabet soup.” My dad speaks programming language at work, using terms such as “Delphi” and “JBuilder” offhandedly as if they’re common. My uncle, a retired ER doctor, had to memorize definitions of phrases such as “pulmonary thromboembolism” in medical school.

And most of the country speaks in corporate-ese at work, spending their days discussing “synergy,” looking for “accelerated emergence of high maturity behaviors” and “utilizing” just about everything.

So even though my line of work comes with a huge handful of obscure phrases with unknown origins, I’d say we’ve done comparatively well in simplifying things. But I can’t CQ that.

Seattle institutions

Lately, my deskmates and I can’t converse without getting hungry.

It all started last week, when I solicited a coworker’s advice on where to get great seafood in Seattle. My parents are in town this weekend and are looking forward to eating wild Alaskan salmon, said to be some of the best in the world. They wanted something good, not too fancy and quintessentially Seattle.

Well, my coworker said, what’s more quintessentially Seattle than Ivar’s? It’s best known for the “Acres of Clams” sign ferry riders see on their way in and out of Seattle, but another location in Fremont specializes in salmon and overlooks Lake Union. It was settled.

Days later, we discussed where in South Lake Union we’d eat lunch to send off the winter-term news intern. Most of the South Lake Union neighborhood was purely industrial just a few years ago, but then came a connection to downtown and several biotech companies. And in 2007, when Amazon announced it would move its headquarters there, out went the decrepit warehouses and in went the upscale cafes, LEED-certified condo buildings and trendy restaurants. Most eateries are so new they haven’t yet established themselves among residents or Amazonians.

But when Dahlia Lounge and Serious Pie moved into a building on Westlake Avenue, their reputations preceded them. The owner, Tom Douglas, is a well-known and critically-acclaimed restaurateur here and already found a following at his eateries in Belltown. We concluded that Tom Douglas is, arguably, a Seattle institution.

Amid all this food talk was discussion about what makes something “quintessentially Seattle.” It’s tricky, because Seattle is a city of neighborhoods; one neighborhood might call a popular hangout a Seattle institution even though residents in another neighborhood haven’t even heard of it. Places like Kidd Valley, Buckley’s and La Toulouse Petit make up my impression of Seattle, but that’s because they’re all within two blocks of my apartment in Lower Queen Anne. For others, Mama’s Mexican Kitchen, Espresso Vivace or Bauhaus might sum up Seattle best.

There are a number of factors in what makes a true, city-wide Seattle institution. For one, it must be a citywide chain (see: Dick’s, Molly Moon’s) or it must be fabulous enough for locals and tourists alike to make the cross-town trip to visit regularly (Elliott Bay Books). For another, it should be old and/or decrepit enough that it’s firmly rooted in the Seattle community (Ivar’s). And it’s got to have that quirky, eclectic vibe that attracts hipsters, intellectuals and weirdos alike (King’s Hardware or, on the fancier end, anything tied to Ethan Stowell).

The absolute hippest in restaurants, bars and shops rarely endures–especially in Capitol Hill!–but Seattle institutions like these seem to infuse the right amount of hip with something classic. At King’s Hardware, you get the same old beer but you get to play Skee-Ball while you drink it. At Molly Moon’s, you can opt for good ol’ vanilla ice cream–or you can try a scoop of honey lavender.

Maybe that’s why I think Douglas’ restaurant Serious Pie, our chosen lunch spot today, can endure. It takes a classic favorite–brick oven pizza–and places it in a modern industrial setting with appetizers involving kale, pine nuts and carnation sunchokes.

Birthday headlines

Today, the day I turn 23, is the ultimate in in-betweens: it will be exactly two years before I’m legally able to rent a car, and it’s exactly two years after the day I had my first legal drink (in the U.S., at least).

I have no wild plans for this particular birthday, since work consumes my life and last year’s “Where’s Waldo?”-themed blowout at my house in Eugene, Ore. was memorable enough to carry me through to Feb. 10, 2012. I’ll mark this as the year in which I discovered the small pleasures of birthdays: opening cards over coffee and smiling at the messages, going to work to find a platter of brownies, and hearing from friends I haven’t seen in years. I don’t need to celebrate my existence with bar-hopping or expensive dinners.

Today, I celebrated as only I would do: by looking up Seattle Times headlines from Feb. 10, 1988, the day I was born. Startlingly, some of the headlines I found could be in a newspaper today. I leave you with them here.

  • Americans Should Open Minds To Non-Western Cultures
  • Military Can’t Bar Gays, Court Rules
  • U.S. Offers Plan For Mideast Peace
  • Middle Class Seems Stuck In Middle — Economists Worry Over Increasing Gap Between Rich, Poor

The new and improved AP test

A New York Times article today reminded me of a time when the AP was more than a national news wire service to me.

The advanced placement test was one of the greatest banes of my high school existence, second only to the college application process. From what I remember, the entire experience, which I withstood three (almost four!) times, consisted of three steps: receive a giant 1,000-page tome, memorize everything in it, and sit an exam whose questions in no way relate to the hundreds of pages of facts you memorized.

The first test I sat was for U.S. history. Just before the test, I remember going over the succession of presidents with a friend’s flashcards, trying desperately to remember which state ratified the Constitution first and telling my friend to stop playing his ukulele so I could concentrate. The test was far more difficult than any of us imagined and covered material we hadn’t had time to touch on in class. We didn’t do as well as we’d hoped.

The second test I sat was for English literature. Since most questions had more to do with reading comprehension than with memorization, I felt prepared after years of reading classic books and writing critical essays. I walked in confident and walked out tired but still sure I’d done well. I’d used knowledge from a wide range of books I had read, in school and at home, to answer the essay questions, and I had even drawn on past choir repertoire to answer questions about Latin roots of English words–further proving my belief that academic well-roundedness is still valuable.

The third and final test I sat was for calculus. Advanced calculus, no less. I don’t talk about that test, except to say that poetry was involved when it shouldn’t have been.

While I studied and prepared for these tests, I couldn’t help but think–why can’t they all be more like the literature test? That exam, rather than asking me to rattle off authors and book titles robotically, tested my ability to think critically and organize my thoughts coherently.

Why do tests in history, math and science focus so intently on students’ memory of names and places? Shouldn’t we demonstrate our comprehension of a subject by discussing broader concepts? What’s more important: that we know which days the Civil War began and ended or that we know what caused the war and how the war affected Americans?

Finally, the College Board agrees. The Times says:

A preview of the changes shows that the board will slash the amount of material students need to know for the tests and provide, for the first time, a curriculum framework for what courses should look like. The goal is to clear students’ minds to focus on bigger concepts and stimulate more analytic thinking.

Not only is it impossible for students to memorize every fact, figure and formula without a photographic memory, it’s also beside the point–and I’m glad the test writers finally get that.

Musings on music and criticism

“After playing Chopin, I feel as if I had been weeping over sins that I had never committed, and mourning over tragedies that were not my own. Music always seems to me to produce that effect. It creates for one a past of which one has been ignorant, and fills one with a sense of sorrows that had been hidden from one’s tears. I can fancy a man who had led a perfectly commonplace life, hearing by chance some curious piece of music, and suddenly discovering that his soul, without his being conscious of it, had passed through terrible experiences, and known fearful joys, or wild romantic loves, or great renunciations.”

I love this quote from Oscar Wilde’s “The Critic As Artist,” which I confess I’ve never read in full. It captures so perfectly why I have always loved making music. I don’t live life on the edge, but for a few brief hours every week, I feel as if I’ve lived out the melodramas that unfold on my sheet music.

Alex Ross, the music critic at The New Yorker and the author of “The Rest is Noise,” posted this quote on his blog and expressed his surprise that Wilde never actually played Chopin–or any piece of music, for that matter. I, too, think it’s truly amazing that Wilde was able to articulate music-making’s emotional effects so well despite never actually making music himself.

Little does Ross know, his loyal readers respect him so much because he regularly does the same thing Wilde has done in this passage. While most can’t find the words to describe an impressive or emotionally moving piece of music after they’ve heard it, Ross seems to conjure up the perfect phrases effortlessly.

Not only that, but Ross seems to find emotions others don’t immediately understand in lots of contemporary music. Despite the fact that audiences find modern classical music increasingly unrelatable, Ross and other critics of his caliber can still appreciate ground-breaking musical compositions years before the rest of us “get it.”

Like a lot of  my fellow vocal musicians, I don’t often find myself emotionally moved by pieces I haven’t sung or played myself, especially if the pieces are contemporary and lack traditional Western aesthetic appeal. Part of the fondness I develop toward particular pieces of music is borne from the sometimes emotionally draining process of learning and finessing the notes. Without the hard work and resulting appreciation for a piece of music’s complexity, I might easily disregard it. Among the several pieces I probably wouldn’t have warmed to if I’d just listened to them are the “Christe Eleison” soprano duet from Bach’s B Minor Mass, Veljo Tormis’ “Autumn Landscapes” set and a slew of Imant Raminsh pieces.

In the same vein, I can develop a fondness for pieces I learn about, while pieces for which I have no basis of knowledge don’t resonate with me. I often warm to music that has a compelling history behind it, and I can more easily appreciate a piece I’ve analyzed in a theory class. I now love several Bach, Handel and Beethoven pieces I once considered boring or stodgy thanks to a series of college music classes.

But unlike Ross, I don’t seem to pick up on or appreciate genius contemporary work immediately. Even after years of listening to it, Arnold Schoenberg’s work doesn’t leave an impression on me as it does on Ross.

Someday, I’d like to reach out to Ross and learn how he develops appreciation for a wide spectrum of composers from all over the world without performing the music and often before analyzing it. Is it a matter of tuning out the rest of the world and focusing solely on the sounds you’re hearing? Or is it more about setting aside all preconceptions and forgetting one’s “personal taste” to treat each piece as a separate entity unrelated to everything else?

Maybe if I keep Schoenberg in heavy rotation on my iPod, the answers will come to me.

Entrepreneurship

I’ve been thinking a lot about entrepreneurship recently–its inherent financial risks, the unique “type A” drive required for it, the amount of time and commitment involved. I’ve also been trying to figure out why the heck anyone would be idiotic enough to try his hand at entrepreneurship in these trying economic times.

I just read an article in The New York Times about the increasing number of twentysomethings who decided to create their own jobs rather than endure the grueling process of searching for a job as the country climbs out of the recession. I can’t believe what these young people, some my age or scarcely older, have accomplished. Twenty-six-year-old Lauren Berger founded Intern Queen, an internship database for motivated young people looking for experience–people not unlike herself. Josh Weinstein, 24, got a PayPal founder to back his social-networking site CollegeOnly. Two 22-year-olds started an online magazine for college women called HerCampus. They’re my age–and they’re turning a profit!

These are a few success stories among, as you might guess, many stories of failure. It’s always difficult and risky to start a business, especially when you’re young and broke. But right now, it’s even more difficult. So are these kids crazy…or are they onto something?

I’m a highly logical person and haven’t been known to take huge risks, but I’m starting to believe in recession-era entrepreneurship. It’s not just happening among young people; the number of startups founded in the last couple of years is much larger than the number of startups founded before the recession began–and there’s an explanation for the madness.

Say you’ve been working at a big company in Silicon Valley for a number of years. You’re happy for now, but you have vague thoughts of taking that idea you’ve been mulling in the back of your mind and making it into something on your own in the far-off future. Then, suddenly, your company’s earnings are way down and you’re laid off out of necessity. What now? All the other tech companies are doing the same thing, so finding another job with equal pay and benefits might not be a possibility. Suddenly, that vague idea you’d been mulling is at the forefront of your mind. You’ve got intelligent colleagues, also recently laid off, all around you. You’ve got some money. You don’t need a whole lot of office space, so rent won’t be too high–and neither will the cost of marketing, thanks to social networking and the access you have to big tech companies’ clouds.

Suddenly, you’ve got yourself a startup.

It’s called accidental entrepreneurship, or necessity entrepreneurship–when people take the gigantic step to become their own boss after they’ve exhausted all other options. With lots of spare time to think–you can only spend so many hours scouring CraigslistMonster and CareerBuilder, something I know all too well–the unemployed start to get creative, and big ideas often start to blossom into little companies.

As it turns out, founding startups in recessions isn’t unheard of–in fact it’s common. The Kauffman Foundation found last year that more than half the companies on 2009’s Fortune 500 list were founded during a recession or a downward market trend. Among the recession-born companies: Starbucks, Intuit, PetSmart.

How do we re-energize the economy? Maybe the startups that come from the big ideas people get during unemployment are the answer to that question. Maybe it’s startups that propel us up and out of economic woe.

If that’s the case, could the creative news ventures people are building now be the saving grace we need to get us out of this “newspapers are dying” funk? Interesting, promising things are happening in journalism despite continued financial hardship at traditional news organizations. One of my favorite ideas is Spot.us, where people can bid on investigative story pitches from journalists all over the country and can later read the stories that get enough financial backing. Voice of San Diego, a small news organization of former editors and investigative reporters founded in 2005, resulted from a frustration its founders felt in the San Diego Union-Tribune’s lack of hard-hitting local news coverage. In the last few years, it has been lauded for its excellent investigative reporting and original financial model.

Journalism, like this state’s government, needs to make some drastic changes, financially and logistically, if it wants to stay afloat. Let’s hope these creative new ventures, many started post-layoff, point journalism (and the economy!) in the right direction.

Snowmageddon

“You tell people they might see snowflakes out their windows tomorrow morning and then nothing happens…but you give no forecast at all and then I-5 is a skating rink.”

Ah, the weather reporting catch-22–as neatly summed up by a Seattle Times editor.

Today all the editors (I sat meekly in a corner and took notes) met to discuss how they’d handle the next “snowmageddon,” the nickname for 2008’s Northwest snowstorm, or other natural disaster. Among the questions on the table: Do we call in the troops at 3 a.m.? Do we let everyone work from home and post pictures and blog items to show how hard their neighborhoods were hit? Do we use bit.ly bundles so readers can be informed and prepared before The Big Storm hits? Should the information be prominent on the homepage, or does it deserve only a tiny square of seattletimes.com real estate?

At the root of all these ideas were two questions whose answers were more complex than just a “yes” or “no”: What exactly do locals want or need to know in the event of a major snowstorm? And do we have the resources, capacity and desire to give those locals exactly what they want?

Here’s the answer to the first question. Readers, they concluded, read the paper’s weather stories every morning not to marvel at meteorological miracles but to see how the weather will affect them personally. That’s why, if the city wakes up to a snowstorm, the most important information to disseminate immediately is road conditions, school closures and information on anyone who was hurt. People need to know how (and whether) they’ll be able to get to work, whether their kids need to be dropped off on the way, and whether everyone they know and love is safe.

Here’s the answer to the second question: no.

If everyone is most concerned about how the weather will affect them, they’ll probably be eager to know when a snow plow will visit their street, whether it’s safe for two-wheel-drive cars to drive in the neighborhood, whether the local convenience store is open, which day their youngest child’s daycare will be up and running again and whether church/bridge club/rehearsal/24 Hour Fitness will go on as it always has.

People have a lot of questions. For news agencies to answer all of them, they’d have to have an unlimited budget and an endless supply of reporters working around the clock. But let’s face it: not even The New York Times could–or would, for that matter, even if they could–supply all the above information.

However, it’s fascinating how much information we can provide in a short amount of time.

Among other things, Times editors want to tell people how many inches of snowfall their neighborhood has seen in comparison with other neighborhoods in the city; which major roads in their neighborhoods are open or closed; which school districts have announced snow days; and what the weather looks like later that day and beyond.

Someday, they also want everyone on staff to post pictures of the weather scenes near their respective places of residence and map the pictures in an interactive graphic. They’re also mulling posting reader-submitted photos in the same package, à la The Washington Post during its own snowpocalypse.

As for the catch-22, The Times has decided to err on the side of caution, informing people of any and all possible turns the weather could take on its brand new blog, The Weather Beat. So far I’m the blog’s sole contributor, but come snowmageddon season, I’m sure the entire staff will pitch in.

A look back

Tonight I stumbled across a New York Times story about the increasing competitiveness of college admissions. Universities such as Tulane, UCLA and Georgetown saw record applicants, tens of thousands of them, for so few spots that they began to wonder whether having so many applicants to choose from was a blessing or a curse.

Accompanying the article was a blog post on how high school seniors should prepare for interviews with admissions departments and alumni at the schools to which they’ve applied.

These two pieces got me thinking about my own college application experience. I struggle to remember specific details of the process–it was only five years ago, yet the whole thing is just a blur of stress, confusion and raging emotion–but I soon realized two things. One was that if college admissions continue to increase in competitiveness, Stanford and Harvard will soon be home to young cyborgs, underrepresented minorities and not much else. (OK, I kid.)

The other was that in 2005, at the beginning of my senior year of high school, I was apparently grossly underprepared to apply for and interview at some of the more competitive schools I’d set my sights on.

The one specific admissions-era memory I have is an interview I took at Whitman College. I remember staring out the window of the admissions dean’s office, in awe of the fall colors in the trees. I remember stumbling over my words overeagerly as I tried to explain to her what a passionate and well-rounded person I was, struggling to stay on topic and wondering how long my diatribe should last. Most of all, I remember how young, naive, unprofessional and unintelligent I felt sitting in that antique chair, facing the woman in the cashmere sweater and the window with a view of the fall leaves and the main quad, where far superior people (or so I imagined) walked along the pathways.

In the New York Times post, the author advises prospective students to dress in business casual attire; I was wearing jeans and a T-shirt.  In the comments section, a schoolteacher advises students to bring a resume with them to interviews; at 17, I had no such thing.

David Kogler, a college admissions officer, said, “I’m surprised at the number of students who can’t easily articulate why they drove six hours to visit our campus”  and how they’d take advantage of their time there should they be accepted.

I’m not. Most of these teenagers haven’t taken speech and communications classes, haven’t experienced professional job interviews (minimum-wage retail and food service jobs don’t count) and haven’t yet figured out their identities or future goals. How can they be expected to talk about their ambitions with certainty when they haven’t yet entered the stage in their lives where they actually start discovering those ambitions?

On that fall afternoon at Whitman College five years ago, I had no idea where I was headed. Vague ideas of art history classes, stacks of classical Greek literature and busy choir schedules floated through my head. If the admissions officer was looking for someone who was certain, focused and as articulate as a college graduate, she certainly didn’t get it–and why should she? It should be high school seniors’ enthusiasm, passion and curiosity that gets them into their colleges of choice. They shouldn’t worry about getting a polished business-casual wardrobe and credentials that are perfectly in order until they’ve lived a little.

Though applications have only continued to increase since 2005–and even then, college admissions were more competitive than ever–high school seniors shouldn’t have to put on a show in which they become someone else entirely when they interview at colleges. If they do, my cyborg theory may actually become reality.

(Oh, and in case you wondered…I was waitlisted and then invited to join Whitman College’s class of 2010 on the condition that I start in the spring. I declined and went to the University of Oregon in September. I’ve never regretted it.)

Election night

Yesterday, The Seattle Times was humming with even more purpose and productivity than usual. Reporters argued over fractions of percentages. Editors posted dozens of news updates every hour until midnight. Fifteen boxes of pizza vanished in an hour.

That’s right, it was election day–only the most simultaneously stressful and exciting day of the year for the news media.

In the summer, I was around for the primaries and was thrilled to see the entire staff working well into the night to gather statistics, opinions, feedback and fallout from all around the state. I stayed five hours past my regular shift and dreamed of being on the team that helped produce the content on the real election day in November.

Amazingly, that dream came true. After two months away, I returned to The Times Monday to temporarily cover the nighttime police beat.

As I predicted, the “welcome back”s and “we missed you”s lasted mere minutes before I was whisked away and enlisted to help cover breaking news. Since Monday, my waking hours haven’t been boring for even a minute. The entirety of Tuesday was defined by pure euphoria and sleep deprivation.

Being part of election night at a newspaper–the hustle, the bustle, the political jokes running rampant–reminds me why I want so badly to land a career in print journalism. The things that happen here don’t happen in any other workplace, no matter how much more sophisticated or technologically advanced those workplaces may be. There’s a kind of casual give-and-take here, a special brand of slightly rude banter that actually strengthens the quality of the work, that doesn’t seem to exist anywhere else. Though I still believe there are multiple possible career paths out there for me, this particular path–insanely demanding and underpaid though it may be–is still my number one choice.