As this semester has progressed, I’ve noticed that the ideas I’m learning in my journalism master’s program have slowly but surely infiltrated my daily life. I’m a relative newcomer to the field, having spent one year in the editorial department of a couple of magazines after a full undergraduate career of language and literature studies. My past studies also invaded my life, as I find myself still searching for meaning in every cultural artifact I encounter, and I believe journalism school has taken my natural curiosity and undeniably analytical mind a few steps further. The signs are unmistakable, and all of my classmates have begun to notice them.

So, for some examples of how journalism has taken over my life:

A few days ago, I was talking to a good friend of mine about her new boyfriend. Having never met him before, I followed my natural curiosity and started cyberstalking him. Armed with his first and last names, I searched the Internet and found his hometown, where he studied abroad, his current job and a few pictures that confirmed that my friend has quite good taste.

One Friday night, I was at a cute bar in downtown Phoenix with some of my classmates when we spotted a large crowd of people standing on the sidewalk. After we joked that we “couldn’t turn off” our journalist instincts, two of them wandered over and found out that the people on the sidewalk were participating in a bar crawl.

Last Sunday, I was at Grace Lutheran Church in downtown Phoenix to film my first TV package about the church’s weekly pancake breakfast for homeless members of the community. The church members were absolutely awesome, and I had a great time filming the piece. However, I stayed for the worship service afterward, and while singing along with the praise band, I found myself subconsciously searching for the meaning-laden words on the Powerpoint slides. I may have successfully internalized the principles of broadcast delivery a little too much.

And those are just stories from the past week. Ever since last year, I practically dream in AP style, and great soundbites automatically catch my attention, even sometimes in basic conversation. It’s been a fun adventure so far, and I’m curious to see where it leads.

So how has your education managed to infiltrate your daily life? I’d love to know (or at least know that I’m not the only one).

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Here’s the uncut interview, which is, in my opinion, more interesting. Barry and Pearson play off each other really well, and there was just too much to fit into a one-minute piece. They discuss their band full of famous authors, the joys of touring together, and I ask Dave Barry what it was like to win the Cronkite Award in 2005.

I’ll hopefully upload some footage of their hilarious imitations of Captain Hook and Smee, but I need to cut the file. I also will post the radio wrap once I convert it to a smaller file.

Also, since they were so wonderful to me, I feel like I should promote Barry and Pearson’s Peter Pan series. If you’re into fantasy novels like the Harry Potter series or are a big Disney fan, this series is a great one to check out. I bought the first book and hope to read it after I turn in my portfolio at the end of the semester. And if you want to check out a cool independent bookstore in the Phoenix area, I totally recommend The Poisoned Pen. The staff is super nice and if you’re into fiction, the selection is good for the size of the store. Enjoy!

If there’s one thing I love about this Intro to Broadcast class I’m taking right now, it’s that I can cover just anything that gets at least a lukewarm reaction from my professor. And so far I’ve had one stroke of good fortune after the next.

Last week I ended up at a protest at the Arizona State Capitol after finding the story on Fox 10 News that morning. I came to love protesters while growing up in Eugene (which is pretty much the protest capital of the world), so I was happy to spend some time with the angry parents and childcare providers speaking out against the astronomical license-fee increase the state government wants to impose on daycare centers. I only even really had to ask for my first two interviews; after that people came to me when they saw my microphone. This also meant that I had seven good sound bites to choose from when I went in to compose my piece the next day. (I have to thank Amy for taking the time to listen to all of them and help me pick the best one for my wrap.)

This week, however, I decided to indulge my inner literary nerd and take advantage of a really cool opportunity I found on the Internet on Monday. The Poisoned Pen, an independent bookstore in Scottsdale that I totally recommend visiting, brought in famed humorist Dave Barry and crime-fiction novelist Ridley Pearson to discuss the latest installment of a series of Peter Pan novels they’ve written for Disney. I, being a lover of all things written and funny, decided that I just had to get an interview with them, so I e-mailed The Poisoned Pen, and they graciously agreed. And then it hit me that I was actually going to meet and interview one of the most famous people I’ve ever met that isn’t my mom.

The event itself was unquestionably the most entertaining thing I’ve covered. For an author who made a name for himself writing crime fiction, Pearson is really funny, and Dave Barry is exactly as you’d expect: hilarious. They cracked jokes, explained Peter Pan’s backstory (the theme of the now four novels they’ve written) and read a scene from the latest one for the many excited kids in attendance. (I particularly loved that Barry needed his “pirate reading glasses.”) I couldn’t resist using that piece as the intro to this week’s radio wrap, and it’s the one spot of me laughing that I couldn’t help but keep.

Afterward, I got to ask Barry and Pearson some questions while they passed my baby lav mic back and forth, as the stick mic I checked out from Cronkite didn’t want to do anything but make screeching noises on my recording. They’re both really nice guys that I couldn’t praise enough, and I also now have a couple new books to read when this semester ends (the first in the Peter Pan series and one of Barry’s novels). I can also say that Dave Barry has lightly mocked me, much to the delight of my inner lit geek (that I admitted don’t hide very well). Now I just need to find a project that lets me use Barry’s description of winning the Cronkite Award in 2005 and both his and Pearson’s descriptions of their band, which is made up entirely of famous authors.

Anyway, I have challenge for all of you out there in cyberspace: Try to interview these two without laughing through your whole recording. I managed to control my laughter to about 30 seconds of the seven minutes I recorded, but it’s harder than it sounds. But it was a great challenge nonetheless. It’s moments like these that make me really glad that I’m where I am right now.

Reading Spring’s latest post today reminded me of my love/hate relationship with Jane Austen and her body of work. Like just about every reasonably educated English speaker, I’m familiar with her most famous works; I understand the references to Mr. Darcy, Elizabeth Bennet, Elinor Dashwood and Emma Woodhouse. I appreciate the stories of romantic tension and the critiques of the social mores of the early 19th century. I enjoyed the movie adaptations when one of my neighbors at Franklin invited all of us to her room for a Jane Austen movie night.

However, no matter how hard I try, I cannot get through an Austen novel. I’ve tried to start Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice a few times each, and every time I read a couple chapters and then give up. It might be the page-long sentences and lack of paragraph breaks. It might be the pages upon pages of dialogue that doesn’t really seem to go anywhere. It might also be that, in all of my literary studies, I concentrated mostly on works from the 20th century and beyond.

But there’s also something about Austen’s novels that I can’t quite penetrate, that I can’t quite relate to like I’m told that, as an English-speaking heterosexual woman, I should. I don’t pine for the old days of codified chivalry and gentility to a fault. As much as I can see the tension between Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy that people rave about, it’s not the kind of sexual tension I’ve experienced (and enjoyed) in my own life. I like my tension a bit more, should I say, explicitly sexual and less regulated by social mores.

At the same time, I like love stories to the point of being a total sap. I religiously read the weekly installments of On the Couch on the San Francisco Chronicle‘s website. I cheer on my friends when they start new romances and interrogate them when they return. (You know who you are ;)) I stop just short of squealing when my classmates tell me about celebrating the 25th anniversary of a first date or the latest sweet thing someone’s boyfriend/fiance/husband has done.

And more than anything, I’ve never understood what the big deal was about Mr. Darcy. Yes, he saves the Bennett family’s reputation and breaks through his steely exterior to admit his feelings for Elizabeth, but I’ve never pined for a man like him. I admire the character, but I don’t see the appeal in the archetype. I prefer the more amorphous modern romantic landscape, in which I can out-flirt my guy of the moment, acknowledge the more sexual part sexual tension and choose my partners based on something more personal than familial status and financial well-being. I even appreciate the fact that things like the non-relationship model that has become my unintentional (and frustrating) specialty can exist.

I like romance, but I love men more. (In fact, one of the big reasons I claim the feminist label is for this very reason, but more on that later.) I actually like the messiness that comes with meeting and falling for a person who is just as interesting, nervous and complex as I am. Idealized people intimidate me because I know I can’t live up to them. I’m one of those people that likes to discuss sex, politics and religion on a first date (all of those topics you’re not supposed to bring up in polite society) to gauge his opinions and disarm him of any packaged lines he may have.

Therefore, I enjoy literature that shows a less regulated and more raw picture of romantic relationships more than the classic works of Jane Austen. Maybe one day I’ll make my way through one of her novels, but until then I’ll be content with this world that lets me be myself (for the most part) and where my strategy has at least gotten me a second date once or twice. 😉

It seems that every day, while I’m reading the news, I find at least one headline that is so strange that I have to wonder why an editor at some major media outlet decided that it was worth publishing.  I’ll admit that I appreciate the laugh, but I also have to wonder how there could possibly be such a slow news day that such inane stories have to run.

For example, I was checking CNN’s home page yesterday when I came across this story from Cooking Light:

“Survey Says: Hydration Trumps Sex”

Really. Someone decided that this was a worthy headline for a story discussing the results of a survey the magazine took of women and certain behaviors pertaining to their health. While the results are actually pretty predictable, with sleep ranking No. 1 on the list, the author reports, “When it comes to health, drinking the recommended daily amount of water is more important to women than having enough sex,” as if it were some earth-shattering conclusion. Really? If there is some person, male or female, out there that prioritizes sex over water, I have yet to meet him or her. Sure, a lack of sex can be frustrating, but it generally won’t kill you. Not drinking enough water, however, can actually kill you (something we know especially well here in the desert). So it makes sense that the sane women who responded to Cooking Light’s survey would rank water above sex in a list of factors for ensuring good health.

So, what strange, silly or downright obvious headlines have you seen lately? I’m sure I’ll update this entry soon as I come across more examples.

In the span of a few months and a move away from my college life in San Diego, I’ve gone from being the laughable Luddite of the group to one of the more tech-savvy ones. And I blame it almost entirely on my former roommate, who is also one of my best friends. Well, to be fair, I also have to blame some of our other friends who live and work in the biotech land that is northern San Diego. But anyway …

As long as I’ve known what a computer was, I’ve been able to make them do what I needed them to do, most of the time. I learned how to use a word processor around fourth grade and learned how to make posters and play with clipart shortly thereafter. But I always kept the machine at a certain distance. It’s a tool that is useful when I need it to do something, but I wanted to keep those somethings limited.

And then I met Amy, and she met the field of human-computer interaction. She immersed herself in the social web and joined nearly every social network she could find. She decided that social media in particular was the greatest thing in the world, and she needed to share this revelation with everyone she could find, particularly me.

I found Facebook as a college freshman, when only students from the UC system and the Ivy League were allowed on there. It seemed weird to me at first, but I ultimately joined for one minuscule reason: My next-door neighbor was infatuated with this guy she met in one of her classmates, and I had to see for myself if he really was as attractive as she said he was. The guy wasn’t that exciting, but I stayed when old high school classmates started contacting me, and I realized the potential it had to keep me in touch with people back in the home state. Other than that, though, I was pretty lukewarm on the whole thing.

One fateful weekend afternoon, Amy discovered Twitter and through some aggressive prodding, got me to join shortly thereafter. She convinced her younger sister and her mom to join in a similar fashion. Then it was travel website Dopplr, followed by participatory question-and-answer service Aardvark. (Aardvark actually is really helpful. I have some recommendations for restaurants in Phoenix and got names for hairball-reducing products when one of my cats got sick. But just be warned if you let your friend make your base profile and she puts sex as one of your areas of expertise for laughs. People have some strange questions.)

Even here in Phoenix, where I’m one of the more techy ones, I’m still just a tech geek by proxy. When I told one of our other friends, who is an engineer at Qualcomm, that I had finally learned HTML, his response was, “Our little Ashley is growing up.” We have another friend who got over a bad breakup by teaching himself HTML. My friends who are nerdy enough to be on Twitter are my tech support. Everything I know about computers I learned from them. And now that I’m entering the field of digital media, I’m grateful for my tech-expert friends and my conditioning at Amy’s hands. We understand each other more now than ever, and I’ve discovered that some social media really is useful, even if just for gathering coupon codes from companies I like.

For the two of you or so that don’t already know this, I really like tea, particularly anything that involves a decent tea or herb base and a good fruit blend. However, I never expected that shopping for my favorite beverage would lead me into some really interesting ways to use online media to share information and market products.

It all started when my lovely friend and former roommate Amy got me to join Twitter by following me around the apartment and chanting “Tweet!” over and over again. For the first couple months, I was pretty lukewarm to Twitter, just following Amy and a couple other people from UCSD. But then I started to comb for people to follow and came across Mighty Leaf Tea’s account and discovered that the company announces time-limited sales via Twitter. In fact, when I first arrived in Phoenix, Mighty Leaf offered both a free shipping offer and a 20-percent discount over the same weekend. So I bought five four-ounce bags of tea for about $30 without having to comb the website. I was happy.

Then I started poking around the Web some more and came across Teaviews, a site that has a group of people that write reviews of different teas. I also discovered that Teavana and Rishi Tea offer discounts on Twitter. And one of these days I need to visit local Phoenix tea shop Souvia Tea because, well, pomegranate grape green tea is 20-percent off today.

But by far the best tea-related site I’ve found is Adagio Tea’s site, which includes not just product descriptions and customer reviews, but a bustling forum, a relatively detailed blog called TeaMuse and a site called Tea Map, which gives you all of the tea shops and tea rooms near your ZIP code. Near my apartment, it lists tea shops like Souvia in Scottsdale along with really fancy tea rooms at Biltmore’s luxury hotels. I think it goes without saying which of those I will actually use. Adagio also offers TeaChef, a database of recipes involving tea for everything from baklava to fried tofu. It’s everything a casual tea nerd like me would ever want–not so esoteric as to seek out first-flush darjeelings every year but enough so to want a decent product. Maybe one of these days I should actually try Adagio’s teas. I have a $5 coupon for following it on Twitter.

And this is all one niche product. After working in a different niche market last year, it makes me further realize the possibilities for deploying the tools offered on the ever-expanding and ever-changing digital landscape to reach particular interest groups, on subjects ranging from politics to sports to the world’s most popular beverage. And now, I think Republic of Tea’s holiday teas come out today. (And I need to go to multimedia class.)

A couple of my classmates and I were discussing weird dating stories yesterday afternoon, and one of them had a really strange story involving a friend’s ex-boyfriend. The guy was reportedly a “little emo boy” who “was gay every other day.” The three of us agreed that, if you’re a heterosexual woman, “you deserve a man who will be straight for you every day.” (or at least consistently bi, if that’s his thing) This relationship’s imminent demise was, of course, evident to everyone but the girl in question, and it got me thinking about those odd characters that pop up in all of our love lives, even one as lackluster as mine.

Growing up in Eugene, I used to think that I wanted the uber-liberal hipster that has long been the Eugenean ideal. So, during my sophomore year of high school, I set my sights on a guy that fit that exact description: He came from a family of lifelong vegetarians, campaigned passionately for liberal causes (as much as a 15-year-old can), wore his Birkenstocks with socks in the winter and became one of the most popular kids in school along the way. It also didn’t hurt that he was rather easy on the eyes. So, one of my best friends and I plotted to ask our respective crushes to the big school dance at the end of the year, and somehow, both of them said yes.

However, once the day of the date came (which was also my 16th birthday), it all went downhill. I got one dance with him the whole night, and he eventually ditched me. In fact, the only conversation I had with him the whole night was about Tofurkey, which his family eats every year for Thanksgiving. The one thing I learned that night is that Tofurkey contains wishbones made from tempeh. Now, I just look back at the story of Tofurkey Boy, as I’ve termed him, and laugh. And also, as much as I love my Birkies, they look weird with socks–on anyone.

Since then, I’ve accumulated an interesting cast of characters, including the too-good Christian boy, another holier-than-I-will-ever-be vegan activist, the indecisive guy from my freshman year of college who continually asked me out but evaded any questions about going beyond conversations in the dining hall, the endearing triathlete who thought my job was the coolest thing ever, and the guy from my semester abroad that was, in many ways, my polar opposite but I was hopelessly attracted to anyway.

And, from talking with my friends of all genders, I’ve found that I’m certainly not the only one with colorful characters in my romantic history. One good friend found herself on a hill in Rome with a middle-aged guy that she didn’t realize wanted more than a sushi date until he was trying to shove his tongue down her throat. Another discovered the pitfalls of dating a guy who was so pretty that he didn’t think he needed to put any effort whatsoever into the relationship. I’ve also listened to complaints about the guy who couldn’t decide what he meant when he said he wanted to see my friend “soon,” and one of my best guy friends had a girlfriend that was constantly passive-aggressive and shunned him at the slightest sign of conflict.

We all seem to make our former love interests into such caricatures, and I’m probably one of someone else’s caricatures as well. Is it that sexual attraction make us weird? Does it shove all of our strangest quirks into the limelight? One thing is for sure: Our love lives are a comedic goldmine.

In addition, this process of “trying on” different types of partners has helped me figure out who I am. I eventually realized that, despite my vegetarianism, my efforts to buy local, my egalitarian feminist principles and the hemp-fiber pants I’m currently wearing, it will never be enough for the hardcore activist types. Despite my belief in the basic tenets of Christianity (which is not the same as the social agenda of the Christian Right), I scare really good Christian boys.

And despite all of this, I wish all of them well. I keep up with some of them on Facebook, and it makes me happy to see them do well and find a girl who is a better fit. And some of them have.

For those of you that don’t know, I’m kind of a tea addict. Depending on the time of day, I often have a cup of black, oolong, green, white, red or herbal tea in my hand, and my tea takes over a cabinet in the kitchen of wherever I live. I’m enough of a tea snob to seek out mostly loose-leaf teas from reputable vendors, but I’m not so much of a snob that I hunt down first-flush Assam blacks, premium aged pu-erhs (in fact, I have yet to try any pu-erh) or other single-estate teas. In fact, to the chagrin of real tea snobs, I almost always prefer blends involving fruits, spices and other herbs.

So, a couple days ago, I received my latest shipment from Mighty Leaf, which offered both free shipping and a 20-percent discount on the same weekend. (One of the benefits of using Twitter: Vendors you like often announce special sales via their Twitter accounts.) All of the teas that I ordered have been quite nice so far, but one of my free samples bugged me a bit. I like ginger in tea, so Ginger Twist sounded intriguing. I opened the package and brewed myself a cup, anticipating a nice, spicy ginger tea.

However, when I actually took a sip of it, all I could taste was lemon with a hint of licorice. OK, I knew this was a blend, but really? If someone had handed me this cup and asked me to identify the tea, I would have guessed lemongrass. I like lemongrass and all, but not when I’m expecting ginger.

So, I go to Mighty Leaf’s website and look up the ingredients. Lemongrass is first on the list, with licorice not too much farther down. Ginger is one the last ingredients on the list. So I think Mighty Leaf should really consider changing the name and save me from similar disappointment again.

And I think I’ll stick to the Republic of Tea’s Orange Ginger Mint to satisfy my ginger cravings. That one actually tastes like ginger (and mint, as I discovered after getting over a cold and having a certain friend/cute boy point it out to me shortly after I first bought it).

While doing my daily reading of Feministing, I came across this piece by the insightful and inimitable Shark Fu that I certainly recommend reading. In it, she explains why Serena Williams shouldn’t be expected to have to represent all African Americans at all times, especially in light of her recent on-court flare-up. She also mentions one of the big problems with open commenting that we’ve discussed recently at Cronkite: The anonymity brings to the surface some of the scariest racist remarks imaginable. I often have to avoid comments sections not to feel like I’ve suddenly been transported back to a world of Jim Crow laws and unabashed lynchings. Shark Fu’s writings are definitely worth reading.

However, it’s her first few paragraphs that I want to focus on right now. For many of us, playing sports of some sort has been an instrumental part of our lives. For Shark Fu, tennis has been an outlet for the anger she felt from being bullied at school. She also says that she enjoys being a part of something greater than herself, “part of a tradition that [goes] back hundreds of years.”

For my mom, running has been her career. Through her teens and 20s, she had to fight against a culture that still thought of women primarily as creatures to be looked at, not capable competitors in their own right. She tells stories of growing upon the cusp of Title IX, at track meets where the women’s races were exhibition only. And even now, with all the forward strides we’ve made, girls still participate in sports at a significantly lower rate than guys, particularly during adolescence, despite the many proven benefits of healthy participation in sports for people of all genders.

For me, dancing and other forms of physical activity helped me learn to full inhabit my body, particularly amid and after the changes of puberty. With all of the pressures we all feel to look a certain way, with all of the anxieties we have about our various body parts, it’s refreshing to be reminded of all that my body can do. When I find myself worrying about my butt and thighs being too big, I just have to go jogging or take a ballet class to remember that they’re strong and capable, even if they don’t meet a nebulous standard of “perfection.”

It’s these benefits of physical activity that also make me proud to be associated with the triathlon community after working for its flagship publications. My days always became a bit brighter when I read letters to the editor from the many men, women and children whose lives have been improved by the sport. One particularly touching example involved a young boy who overcame a chronic illness after getting into triathlon. Others discovered the sport in their 50s and 60s, realizing that their bodies were still capable even when many would tell them they are “too old.” Numerous women wrote us to say that they started training solely to lose weight but ultimately found joy not in their dress size but in their strength, stamina and speed. I always enjoyed seeing the good things happening in our little corner of the world, one that I had barely seen before taking the job but will never fully leave again.

For me, it’s vital to be continually reminded of what my body can do, especially when I find myself dwelling on its flaws. Participating in sports (or other physical activities not customarily deemed “sports”) is an antidote to a culture that tells us that we are heavily defined by our appearance and instead shifts the focus to our abilities on and off the court, trail, track, field or studio.