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Monday, July 29, 2013

The Near Death Experience that is Flying

Alright guys. I wrote this blog after stepping off my plane in Charlotte, North Carolina. So I was in a little bit of a funk. I went to bed at 6pm and woke up at 1am. Then I rode in a car for an hour and a half to get to the Ottawa International Airport three hours in advance as required. Now I know... I didn't drive so I can't complain, but still... it was 2 am and I was awake for the day so...
Photo: Josh Cameron

There I sat in the Charlotte/Douglas International Airport at a small table outside Chili's restaurant with four hours to kill. The waitress was sweet enough to let me hold down a table right next to an outlet so I could write this for you

Before I get into the flying, I have to say that I probably had one of the best burgers of my life there. Whether it was that magic touch of southern hospitality or the fact that I was just so tired, I would probably have thought a Big Mac to be the best... I don't know.

So let's talk about flying. I mean... this has become one of our most common modes of transportation. Until the Wright Brothers came along, it was thought to be an impossible/magical feat. Now we treat it as just a normal part of our daily lives. If you really think about it... this is a big deal! We are 37,000+ feet in the air traveling at speeds in the 500 mph ball park! Trust me... all of this stuff runs through your mind when you are high above the clouds, staring out your window. 

If you are like me, you are moderately comfortable with flying. There are those of us who hate it, those who love it, and the 'tweeners like myself. I think it is great and very interesting and all, but I would be lying if I said I didn't ever get nervous. Especially after their just being a crash in San Francisco and you are wondering if your pilot is in training or not.

Photo: Josh Cameron
Let's come up with some examples of why you might get a little anxious. For instance, when the seat belt light comes on and the captain doesn't tell you why. That happened on this flight. No turbulence or anything. We were just in the air soaring smooth and the lights came on. Here I'm thinking, is the engine failing? Did the pilot fall asleep? I feel so uninformed... Or maybe when you go through that ten second pocket of turbulence you see your life flash before your eyes. You grip the arm rests, run the crash scene through your mind and make sure you know how to work the flotation device and oxygen masks.

I always just imagine myself in an old war movie or a super hero flick, thinking of how incredibly bad ass I will become when we start going down. Somehow I will turn my bag into a parachute and make an incredibly daring leap, land in a lake or some trees and be completely unscathed. 

But then reality sets in. The turbulence is over in mere seconds and you feel like an idiot. Your palms are sweaty and heart is racing double time all for nothing. You ask yourself "why?" and the person next to you has certainly made a judgement call on your character. 

Besides those little pockets of near death, I think flying is pretty majestic. Soaring above or under the clouds, seeing the land below... it's so beautiful. This is why I am a window seat kinda guy. You get high above the clouds and they seem to be endless.  

The worst part for me isn't the turbulence though. It is that split second right before the plane tires touch the ground on the landing. The moment when you think... Oh wow that was a really smooth la.... "BOOM!" You hit the ground running! Let's rephrase that. You hit the ground sprinting! And you are Usain Bolt! You cruise down the runway as the plane seems to teeter totter left and right and then you finally come to a quick halt. Then you start breathing and life resumes. 

When you step off the plane, who knows what comes next? You may walk right into the arms of a loving friend or family member. Or maybe you will be sitting in an airport with a seven hour layover... blogging away...  We all have a different destination. 

Now, my next flight was much better. It was on a bigger plane for starters! I am a very short person and I had to crouch in the first plane... do you see a problem here? I'm thankful I got a blanket, because the air conditioning was on high enough to freeze you solid! They served a pretty good dinner considering it was airplane food, but they played one of the saddest movies I have ever seen...

Photo: Josh Cameron
Unfortunately, no matter the circumstances, I can't sleep on planes. I was supposed to sleep so I wasn't as jetlagged, but I couldn't do it... So after landing in Madrid and spending the day traveling to Mallorca, I had been up for almost a day. But it was all worth it because after two long months, I  finally saw my beautiful girlfriend and met her family! You can certainly expect a blog about my trip very soon. 

So now I wanna hear from you guys!! Any horrible flight experiences? Any really good flights? What do you think about the whole process? What was waiting for you beyond your gate?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Using Native Americans as a Symbol: Disrespect or Honor?

This topic hits home for me. I grew up 15 miles from the Mohawk Indian reservation in Massena, New York. A small little North Country town. And as far as I know, we have always been the Red Raiders. Our symbol... well... it used to be cool. It used to be a red Indian Chief, with a big head dress. Instead of trying to describe it, let me show you...

Massena Central School's old Raider Head logo

It was our history. Most sports teams in Massena have dominated at some points. Whether it be the football team of the 70's or the hockey team who won states in 2008. This symbol has represented our school through it all. It was highly respected and recognized for decades. During my time in Massena Central School, the administration changed our logo due to complaints from a select group of Native Americans from the Mohawk Reservation. And let me tell you... the new logo is far from spectacular, but I'll let you be the judge of that...

Massena Central School's new logo, the big M

Being so close to the Reservation, Massena Central School has a large group of Mohawk students. During my time there, I befriended many of them. Out of all the Mohawks I talked to, not a single one of them had a problem with the Raider Head. They thought it was awesome.

This is my point, not just regarding the Massena logo change, but any logo change that has taken place at a school or on a sports team. I don't understand why the Native Americans find these logos to be so offensive. We are honoring them. It isn't like we are trying to make fun of them or mock them by using them as a sports logo... We used a Native American symbol to represent what we stand for. Perseverance, will, motivation, intelligence, good conduct, skill... the list goes on and on. We used that Native American Chief head to represent all of those qualities and we respected it. This is why I don't understand why it is such an issue.

What sparked me to write this post was the most recent (ever-present) call for the Washington Redskins to change their name and symbol. Now, as a Cowboys fan, I hold a deep respect for the Redskins. Changing their symbol is changing history. I get that this is different, because they are referring to a race by a color stereotype, but still. The Redskins are the Redskins. When you think of the Redskins, you think of dominance, respect, and integrity. Nothing else. I don't see what is wrong with that. I am glad that Roger Goodell has stepped up to the plate to defend the name. It is about time someone did.

Enough from me. I want to get your input. Should these names and logos be changed? Is it disrespectful to use the Native Americans as symbols? How far can this go? If you are a Native American reading this, do you agree or disagree? It seems that as time goes on, our society gets more carried away with what is/isn't socially acceptable... What do you think?

See what Roger Goodell had to say about the Redskin's name here!


Monday, July 1, 2013

The Intern Experience

If you have ever had an internship, you may have mixed reviews on your experience. Some of you may have been paid and received a valuable work experience. Others of you may have been unpaid and grabbed the boss’s coffee every morning. Well, recently, a New York federal court has ruled that a group of interns should have been paid for the work they did on the movie Black Swan. The Department of Labor has introduced guidelines as to when interns cannot be paid. But this new court ruling takes it even further. Internships must now have some sort of educational component beyond school credit or work experience.
Get more information on the court ruling here!

This summer I am interning here at North Country Public Radio. So far, my experience has been spectacular. I have been doing anything and everything from morning post-production of web content to actually reporting and getting stories online. On top of getting this great work experience, I am getting paid and receive free housing on campus! I consider myself pretty lucky, but there are a lot of other interns out there who do not have it this good. In fact, some interns have it pretty bad.

Photo: Sean MacEntee

“I had one from 2002-2003. The first time I went to school at SUNY Canton, I got an internship through the IT program. It was not paid, but it took money off of my tuition. I was hoping to at least touch a computer, but the "manager" made me answer phones and go wash his car... And I was technically drastically underpaid, but I wasn't "employed" - so it was “ok”,” writes Danielle Cunningham of Massena.
This is a prime example of a paid internship with no educational benefit.

She was working through the IT program and didn’t even touch a computer… Anyone else see a problem here?

“I graduated May 2012 with a degree in Graphic and Multimedia Design from SUNY Canton. My senior year, an internship or extensive senior project was required. I landed an internship with Lake Placid school district that spanned from January to May. They wanted me to completely redesign their webpage. I met with the superintendent a couple times in March and submitted 5 template designs. By the middle of April, I hadn't gotten a decision. I tried to get in contact with my internship supervisor and found out that he was let go by the district. By now it was the middle of April and all I had to show were 5 website templates. My internship wasn’t much more than a bust. Here I sit more than a year later without even getting a call back for an interview on all of the applications I have sent out, both within my major field and outside of it,” says Bridget Webber.

Thanks to a lack of communication and complete disregard for this intern, she is still searching for a job today. The time she spent at her internship was a waste. She could have had a job making money or at an internship where they had their priorities straight. Unfortunately, the poor management and leadership of others have left this intern jobless.

Students count on their internships getting them somewhere. The point of an internship is to help prepare you for a certain career field or at least give you some professional work experience before you start job hunting.
Though these internships were a bust, there are positive internships out there like mine. Some are paid, some allow you to obtain course credit, and some just provide educational value. It would be nice to have all three in one, but as long as you are getting something out of it, it’s certainly worth your time.

“I'm getting minimal course credit (I think SLU should give more than .25) but I don't think I deserve a salary. The experience I'm getting for my age and education level is incredible, so I see that as an investment in my future,” says St. Lawrence University student Paige Randal.

“I have a paid internship with my church (unaffiliated with my college) and even though I'd like to get credit for it, the educational benefits, experience and lessons I'm learning have made it worth while,” says Cazenovia College student Leigha Burkhalter.

“I have found it [interning] to be an interesting experience and one that has a decent amount of educational components attached. Although the work is basic and at times boring, the staff meetings and other talks/events I am able to attend allow me to broaden my understanding of the NGO world/non-profit sector as well as the issues that come along with global giving. As far as being unpaid and how it affects me, if I'm honest, it doesn't. I am lucky enough to have the financial resources where interning for no pay does not have to factor into my decision-making. The only thing that I consider is if it is a good/interesting opportunity for me in my field and in my twenty-one year old vision of my career path. I'm not getting paid, but it isn't an issue and I’m enjoying what I'm doing,” says St. Lawrence University student Maxwell Miller, who is interning at The Synergos Institute in NYC.

These three interns fit each situation. Paige is receiving credit, Leigha is getting paid, and Maxwell is receiving tremendous educational/work experience. And even though the two girls are getting credit/payment, they are grateful for the educational components and site those as being what makes their internships worthwhile.
The big question is, what kind of impact will the new court ruling have on the life of all interns? Will it change the landscape?

Photo: SalFalko

“I think the court ruling is a very important for interns because finding an internship in the first place is difficult and when you are paying for college 8 months of the year and a summer internship is unpaid, there is little time to make money. Also, interns shouldn’t be the ones doing the unwanted work of full time employees, they should be learning what it takes to be a part of the “real world” so they are prepared for life after college. Having a paid internship can also increase the interns devotion to work harder because they’re earning money and the internship gives he/she the sense of understanding what it is like to work 8-5 Monday-Friday and receive a paycheck for the hard work,” says Matthew Santello of Saint Anselm College.

“From what I’ve experienced the likelihood of you doing some stupid superfluous work definitely goes down [If you have a paid internship]. Many companies aren’t willing to pay an intern if they aren’t going to be doing anything valuable for the company. I think that the amount of meaningful internships or the chance of getting a more meaningful internship will occur if it is going to be paid [Due to the court ruling]. But, the overall amount being offered will probably go down. I think it’s probably going to cut a lot of slack out of the whole equation for potential interns, but at the same time there will be those few [internships] that are unpaid that are very meaningful experiences, but won’t be able to continue,” says Dartmouth University student Frohman Anderson.”

Every intern out there shares a different experience, whether they are good or bad. What do you think about the court ruling? Should this be seen as a victory for interns or a defeat for smaller internship programs? How will companies react to this?