Archive for December, 2009

… I’ll just repost this, courtesy of Thu Vo.

Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

I’ll be back when I’m not on vacation/have something substantial to talk about.


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About two and a half weeks ago, I went in for an interview for an internship with the Center for Public Policy Priorities, a “nonpartisan, nonprofit policy institute committed to improving public policies to better the economic and social conditions of low- and moderate-income Texans.” I couldn’t have been more excited about the internship—it was basically the work that I had already been doing at the Parks and Wildlife Department, which I liked and was pretty good at, except it would be at an organization whose mission I am actually excited about.

Going into the interview, I was finding it difficult to keep up optimism about the whole job search thing. The only positions I’d been able to land for the spring were unpaid ones, interning at The Texas Observer and The Austin Chronicle, but my applications to paid positions were consistently failing to bring forth fruit, even at positions I thought I had in the bag.

Case in point: my tour guide job. I had already worked for two and half years as a state Capitol tour guide, from early 2007 through May of this year. I had really enjoyed it, and was pretty good at it—I was recommended for a promotion by my supervisor this past March, and about the same time, I was voted tour guide of the year by my coworkers. I’d been reluctant to leave the office this summer to do an internship in Washington, D.C., particularly because I had to give up my position, and, as I’d suspected, the state agency responsible for the tour guide office, under a new executive director (who was fresh out of Gov. Perry’s office) and facing sunset review, implemented a hiring freeze that kept me from coming back in August. The position that opened up this month was the first opening they’d posted in almost half a year, and I applied for it as a backup plan in case the CPPP didn’t want me.

The tour guide office called me in for an interview within days, and the interview couldn’t have gone better. If I was sure of myself before the interview, I was only more so afterward. A few days later, though, I got a depressing little form letter of an e-mail telling me that I hadn’t gotten the job.

Coupled with my rejection from Teach For America a few weeks ago, I was feeling glum. Even though the interview with CPPP went pretty well, I braced myself for another delicately worded rejection e-mail or phone call. I had already lined up enough resume-building unpaid internships to be comfortable that I wouldn’t be just treading water until the fall, and had decided that after CPPP turned me down, I would go out and find whatever minimum-wage part-time job I could to just stay afloat.

I also applied to the Texas Teaching Fellows, which is part of a state-by-state coalition called The New Teacher Project—basically a Teach For America knock-off. I interviewed with them, also, but still wasn’t feeling all too positive about things.

After about a week and half had passed since my CPPP interview, I, assuming the worst, gave them a call and left a message. A few messages later, I got a call back from one of the CPPP folks, explaining that the person responsible for hiring communications interns had been out of town for the week, but would be back Monday—I should expect a call then, she said. The call from the communications director came Monday morning—and he told me to hold on a few more days, and he’d get back to me with a decision.

It’s safe to say that at this point, I was assuming the worst. So, when the call came this morning, I didn’t feel much of anything—no apprehension, no excitement, nothing. They asked me if I could come in, but wouldn’t say anything definitive about whether or not I was hired. On my way there, though, I began allowing myself to get my hopes up, just a bit.

I showed up, and they led me upstairs to meet with the executive director, former state district judge F. Scott McCown. As I stepped into his office, someone patted me gently on the shoulder. “Good luck,” they said. I didn’t realize that I was walking into another job interview.

Scott (as he prefers to be called) asked me a few questions about my resume, my experience and what I was doing now. There were a few questions that caught me off guard, about whether or not I had health insurance, for instance. Then, he told me that the CPPP communications director—who would have been my supervisor—had just been hired away from them, and that because I had already graduated, their employment policy prohibited them from hiring me as an intern, anyway. For a moment, I felt the same wave of disappointment that I had felt reading rejection letters from Teach For America and the tour guide office. But Scott wasn’t done yet. Since they couldn’t hire me as an intern, and since I had come with recommendations from an old professor who turned out to be a friend of Scott’s, would I be interested in taking over for Derrick?

There wasn’t any hesitation on my part. Absolutely, I said. We agreed that I would work part-time, $20/hour, with a term extending to early June, which would give them enough time to recruit and hire a proper communications director.

In short, I applied and interviewed for an internship, and then got hired as a full-fledged staff member, for double the pay.

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Wrapping things up at TPWD

As I write this, I’m going on the last hour of my internship here at the Parks and Wildlife Department. It has been an interested experience—nowhere near as exciting for me as my internship last summer at Washington Monthly, or the internship I started a couple of weeks ago at The Texas Observer, but far more lucrative than either. It isn’t that I’m not interested in nature, or conservation, or hunting and fishing, its just that I’m not very interested in writing about them. I have also been a little uncomfortable working in something that is essentially PR, even if it is for something as innocuous as conservation—at least I’m not doing PR for a bank or an oil company, I keep telling myself. Certainly, I have gained insight into how closely news reporters and PR people work together, and how much they depend on each other. Far from the adversarial relationship that would seem like the natural corrolary to the contrary aims of news and PR, all I’ve seen in this role is a collegial atmosphere of friends—even coworkers—just helping each other out. We need uncritical publicity from the reporters, and they need story ideas to fill their pages/broadcasts from us. This collegiality might be a function of how innocuous what we’re trying to sell is—or it might not.

At any rate, I’ve picked up some experience that has already proven valuable—the folks I interviewed with a few weeks ago at the Center for Public Policy Priorities were impressed when I explained to them what I do for TPWD—that’s exactly what they want an intern to do for them, they explained (I should find out whether or not they’ve hired me … umm … any day now: How interesting, by the way, that the only paid internships I’ve encountered are in PR, but never in journalism proper.)

Nonetheless, I did write some news releases here that I found interesting, and am proud of. Here are a few of them.

I wrote this the week before last, about a fourth-grade class who, under the guidance of TPWD, nominated a candidate for the vacant spot of state amphibian of Texas, and then persuaded a state Rep. to introduce legislation making their choice official. (Something that I put in the original draft, but that my supervisor removed, is that Gov. Perry vetoed the students’ first nominee in 2007.)

This is actually the first release that I wrote for TPWD, back in August. The release itself isn’t all that great—it didn’t hold up too well during the review/clearance process—but the topic was interesting, and those Web sites really are pretty cool.

This (pdf) is a release that I just recently did that hasn’t gone online yet, about a project underway to map the genetic variation of small, isolated populations of Alligator Gar and Southern Flounder to determine how stocking programs should be deployed. I thought it was pretty cool that the TPWD biologists I talked to are doing pretty much the same stuff that Paula used to talk me about doing in the labs at UTSA.

And finally, this (pdf) is another release that hasn’t gone online yet, about a renovation that is about to get underway on the Battleship TEXAS, which is docked just off of Buffalo Bayou, site of the Battle of San Jacinto in 1836. I thought the history in this one was pretty neat.

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Probably the most well-known examples of commodity racism date back about 120 years, to the 1890s Pear’s Soap advertising campaigns that capitalized on ideas of empire, European colonialism and the “white man’s burden” to sell soap, which the ads equated with progress and civilization. Some of the ads were pretty subtle, others weren’t.



Implied in many of the Pear’s Soap ads, and explicit in other cosmetics advertising of the day, was the promise that using the proper products could physically lighten one’s skin as part of its “civilizing” power.

Obviously, conceptions of race and nationality still play into advertising today, for many of the same reasons that they did in the 1890s: Such groupings, like gender, sexuality, age, etc., allow adveritisers to create a sense of community that centers on their products. If they can create a commodity-based identity to which we, as consumers, aspire, they make lots o’ money. One would think, though, that the wielding of such tools might have gotten a little more subtle in the last century or so.

I thought, so, anyway, until I came across this, a 2008 Indian advertisement for a skin creme called … wait for it … White Beauty. And this ad is just the first of a five-part series.

For anyone who missed what happened there, the folks at Cracked have handily summed it up for us:

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From yesterday’s Daily Texan

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That NY Times piece from last week about how helpful children are was totally wrong. The Onion sets us straight.

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From last week’s infoMania:

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