Category Archives: Opinion

Opinion: What is your city spending millions of dollars on?

An approximately $7 million project for a new community center in the city of Santa Clarita and very few people know what this means.

Time and money are a large factor in keeping Santa Clarita such an Awesome Town to live in but, awesome isn’t necessarily the first word to come to mind for some members of the Santa Clarita Valley.

The city budget for Santa Clarita is estimated to be about $180.6 million.

This includes funding for the Capital Improvements Program, personnel, the Redevelopment Successor Agency, operations and maintenance and debt services.

Santa Clarita has a population of more than 209,000 people, making it the third largest community in the Los Angela County, and all of these people are about to be provided with a newer and bigger resource they may not even know already existed within their community.

Most young people living in Santa Clarita  don’t consider it an awesome town to live in, but it might just be the lack of knowledge they have on the new up and coming resources.

“I have no idea what a community center is and I defiantly did not realize we had one in Santa Clarita,” said 18-year-old Canyon High School student Danielle Desch.

There is currently a community center in Newhall right off of Flying Tiger Parkway which many young adults other than Desch are unaware of.

It is unfortunate for the city that one of the main audiences they are trying to reach is completely oblivious to all of the classes, activities and even academic support the community center can provide for them.

The city does not advertise in places that are beneficial to it, keeping their efforts at a hush.

That silence may be one of the exact reasons that in the near future there will be a new, larger and more improved community center in Canyon Country right off of Sierra High Way and Soledad Canyon Rd.

“A community center provides a lot of services to area residents- and this site will be convenient and within walking distance to many residents, including seniors,” said Barbara Blankenship, the acquisition specialist of Santa Clarita.

“We know from experience how important programs are that provide assistance and resources to families and youth, this can change lives”

If only Blankenship and her colleagues had a better way of informing the public of this new community center it might benefit more people and save even more young lives.

“The City Council has been interested in creating a community center in Canyon Country for many years, and the current site on Flying Tiger Parkway was leased as a temporary location, while the City continued to look for a larger piece of land,” said Blankenship

Even the current business owner of the tattoo shop, Eternal Art, Adam Guyot is unaware of the new community center that is soon to be his shops neighboring building.

“I still know nothing about the center. I tried looking it up online and found no info,” said Guyot.

According to Blankenship they are unsure of exactly how much this new project is estimated to cost and will not know until the new design is complete.

Screen Shot 2015-06-04 at 8.34.29 AM
Site of the new location.

Considering the current community center cost $6.5 million to make in 2005, the new 30% larger community center will also be quite costly.

The new center is going to be approximately 22,000 square feet in comparison to the current 17,000 square foot one in Newhall.

“The proposed 2015/16 budget proposes to allocated funds for the design from the City’s Facility Replacement Funds. The source of construction funds is not known at this point,” said Tom Reilly, the Park Development Administrator
of the City of Santa Clarita.

Blankenship also commented on how the current community center has amazing and valuable people.

A woman by the name of Hope Horner provides help to young people and families trying to avoid a troubled lifestyle, including drugs and violence that are found in all areas of society.

When the current community center was first built its aim was to help the disadvantaged youth in the Newhall area.

With in the first week of the grand opening, more than 600 residents signed up for membership. The center was built in one of the highest crime areas in the Santa Clarita Valley.

The new center however, will be in a much different place reaching out to a different demographic that might benefit differently from its amenities, because they would not be in such a desperate need for them.

“I mean the community center sounds like a good idea but I just don’t find it very appealing and I don’t think it would be a place where me and my friends would choose to hang out,” said Alexis Desch a COC student. “If I’m going to work out or take an exercise class I’d rather go to the gym.”

When asked what he thinks about the current community center that employees him, Coley Apsay responded in a way that show exactly how well the center is advertising itself.

“I am a referee for volleyball and basketball games that the city provides,” Apsay said, “but I was unaware that the location it self was a Community Center.”

If the City of Santa Clarita could just get the word out more efficiently about the resources the current and the future community center provide, many teens, adults, elderly people, parents and their children could benefit greatly.

When mother of two, Ashley Guardino was asked why she doesn’t utilize the existing community center that she is aware of she responded, “I guess I just don’t know enough about it, maybe if the city had some sort of a fund raiser I would be exploiting the resources that are right in my backyard.”

Now imagine how many people could benefit from the community center if the city could figure out an affective way to inform all of its residents.

 

Opinion: The financial rewards of attending COC

“I didn’t know COC changed its mascot,” teased a peer on a COC student athlete’s Instagram, suggesting that COC may not have been the first choice of the apparently boastful student.

I’ve noticed that for many high school students having plans to attend community college or, microscopically, COC, is a shameful last resort as some students are under the assumption that the experience is no different than that of high school. They want to see new faces and a greater change in scenery.

However, choosing COC over a university may benefit a student academically as the curriculum may be easier and the classes are smaller than those of universities. The average class size for community college is 25-35 students while some university lecture halls have 150-300 students in them. Therefore, students may have more one-on-one time with their professors. Students will also be able to test out classes and majors a lot more comfortably and really take their time choosing their career paths.

Students attending COC may also benefit financially. “The current price of a state four-year institution is nearly triple that of a community college. Many students will switch majors in the first two years,” according to money.usnews.com. Changing majors can result in students having to take on a fuller workload in order to graduate on time. Students attending community college will save time and money. “Adding up the cost of my own four-year college experience, I would have saved over $10,000 simply by attending a junior college and transferring. It would have been even more expensive had I switched majors between semesters,” money.usnews.com writer Jeffery King said.

Ultimately, the cost of attendance is the biggest benefit of attending a junior college as students will save and sometimes gain while most likely remaining home with their parents. “Living at home instead of a dormitory or an apartment and graduating sooner than those at a four-year college or university, students are able to join the workforce and start earning real income sooner,” COC’s Student Services Specialist, Lindsey Lassak said.

The average cost of tuition for COC is $1,104 per year for in state residents, according to Lassak. Also, books and student fees can be as much as $1,750 for an academic year, which is “significantly” lower than a four-year university.

$5,730 was the maximum amount awarded for the Pell grant in the 2014/2015 academic years. This is true for all level, both junior colleges and universities. It is the loans that differ and since junior colleges are cheaper, smaller loans may be requested and easier paid back.

Most students don’t have a clear understanding of how a student loan works, they’re just happy to receive the money, not thinking about the future, in others words, interest. “America’s student debt crisis is not only being fueled by skyrocketing tuition and a weak job market, but also by students’ ignorance about financial matters in a system that makes it surprisingly easy for them to attain a loan. In many cases, students barely understand the obligations they’re assuming,” writer of CNN’s The Hechinger Report, Jon Marcus reported.

When asked about her own experience, Lassak joked, “I did attend a junior college many years ago.  Much like today, the cost of attendance was definitely cheaper than attending a four-year university. The process seemed to be much simpler too!”

Many students preparing for higher education seem to want to roam far from COC. With little to no knowledge of the benefits, this attitude has been passed from graduating class to graduating class. “I don’t want to see the same people from my high school and I know a lot of them are going,” 2015 Golden Valley graduate Myah Floyd said. Though many students may feel the same as Myah, they may be open to the possibility of attending COC once the benefits are explained to them.

When asked if she would reconsider if she knew that she could start working professionally earlier with a two-year degree, “Yes, who wouldn’t want to get their money up,” she replied.

Opinion: Homelessness rising in the SCV?

While driving their minivans along the usual route from Starbucks to soccer practice, as the kids sit tight in the backseat glued to mobile devices, Santa Clarita residents are often shocked as they now see what has become a foreign concept to locals: homelessness. But is this issue more common in Santa Clarita or is it a mirage? Furthermore, can the root causes of homelessness be sorted out or should the problem be seen merely as inevitable?

Homelessness is a topic often mixed into a cocktail of politically fashionable issues to discuss at social events, in conjunction with race relations, wage inequality and global warming. The obvious problem with these types of conversations is that they rarely solve anything, except soothing the guilty consciences of the speaker. So in order to cut out the rhetoric and get to the issue at hand, facts must be examined.

Despite many studies on the national homeless population, it is obviously very difficult to count those who are not accounted for. According to the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, in any given year, approximately 3.5 million Americans may experience homelessness. These statistics, though, are based on the amount of people who use service providers such as shelters, so the numbers may be skewed.

State statistics are slightly more concrete, with about 113, 952 homeless individuals in the state of California, and about 12,000 having been veterans. While this statistic may seem alarming, it is a mere percentage of California’s population.

Santa Clarita, though, has long been seen as a suburban sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles. So when a lonely bearded man holding out a tin cup and a cardboard sign is spotted, city locals are justifiably surprised.

Erin Lay, the Housing Program Administrator in City Hall, deals with this subject on a daily basis. According to Lay, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) conducts a bi-annual survey of homeless people in the area. The Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing explains that there are about 612 homeless individuals in Santa Clarita.

The city’s sole homeless shelter, known as Bridge to Home, sits nestled in the middle of Canyon Country. It began in 1996, and operates during the winter months with a budget of $1 million, according to the organization’s website. They only provide assistance to homeless families with children, however.

“Not everyone knows that this is an existent problem in Santa Clarita,” said Aly Guevara, Bridge to Home employee. “We are just trying to make sure that resources exists, and that people are educated and know that this is a problem.”

So at last, when the statistics are sorted out and the paperwork filed, the question becomes why are these individuals on the streets? Guevara revealed her beliefs regarding the root causes of homelessness in the city, which she sees as being neither mental illness nor substance abuse, but wages earned. “If you try to calculate how much people make on minimum wage, which is common, and then try to live off that with a family of five or four, it’s very difficult,” she asserts. “It should be more like a living wage, associated with what the economy dictates for living expenses.”

Many Americans share this belief. Most economists agree, though, that when businesses are required to raise the minimum wage, they are unable to hire as many people. In a 1966 Newsweek article, Milton Friedman, one of the most eminent economists of the 20th century, stated that wage increases “will induce employers to replace such workers with other workers- either to do the same work…or to produce machinery to do the work.” (http://0055d26.netsolhost.com/friedman/pdfs/newsweek/NW.09.26.1966.pdf)

Moreover, in Spain, South Africa and Greece, minimum wage laws are extremely generous. It may shock certain readers to note that, according to CIA.gov, the rates of unemployment for each of these countries in 2014 were 24.3 percent, 25 percent, and 26.8 percent, respectively. Yet in Switzerland, a country that to this day does not have a federal minimum wage law, the 2014 unemployment rate was 3.2 percent.

Another sad fact is that the minimum wage laws likely contribute to the homelessness of minorities. According to economist Thomas Sowell, a senior fellow at Stanford University, the most recent year the black unemployment rate was lower that that of whites was 1930. This also happened to be the final year in which there were no federal minimum wage laws.

Unemployment is certainly a primary concern to homeless people, yet recent wage increases may, in fact, fan the flames of homelessness, both throughout the world and even in Santa Clarita.

Unfortunately, as homeless statistics are tough to find, is difficult to determine whether or not homelessness has increased in the city of Santa Clarita in recent years. Most residents have begun to see homeless individuals pop up now and again around the city, so it is assumed that the number has increased.

In addition to the possibility that wage increases heighten concerns, on average, according to the U.S. Conference of Mayors, 26 percent of homeless people in the country are mentally ill. This is most certainly a factor as well, and the issue of mental illness abuse may need to be addressed along with economic concerns.

It can be assumed that homelessness will probably remain an inevitable part of the American economic system as well as the world’s. The sound of a tin cup receiving a donation from the minivan driving to soccer practice may indeed become commonplace. It’s also clear that without Santa Clarita residents and, indeed, Americans addressing the issue of wage increases as well as mental illness, the problem will persist, from Skid Row to Old Town Newhall.

 

Opinion: The reality of ‘Wanderlust’

By Monica Hamilton

It was dark. I had no umbrella. I was alone. How did I end up wandering the streets of London at two o’clock in the morning looking like a hopeless, drenched Californian? I thought I was independent.

Most of us think that if we travel “independently” to the grocery store, pick out the right milk our moms’ tell us to buy, and make it back safely to our car, that proves we are “independent.” Because this is all our Santa Clarita “bubble” has prepared us for, we are trained to believe these small travels signify independence. Wrong. We are misinformed. Raised in the suburbs, I experienced first hand the true meaning of independence…the hard way.

After landing in London from a weekend in Prague, my friends walked me to the nearest bus station where the next bus would soon pick me up and drop me off right in front of my home stay -perfect! When I was with my friends there was no confusion or hesitation about my journey home. I felt this security until my bus didn’t come…10 minutes…30 minutes…45 minutes…an hour later…This was odd; my bus should have come by now.

I figured that if my bus had not arrived, it would never come. So, I walked to find the next nearest bus stop. After what seemed like hours, I had no luck in finding a single bus stop and had no way of communicating with anyone to seek help. The streets were deserted; I looked down the street, left and right-nothing. I had no one to cry to, no one to comfort me, and no one to fix my predicament. If I was going to make it home tonight, I would have to use the only resource I had-me. As I was becoming overwhelmed with the daunting situation, I felt the first drops of the imminent rainstorm. I wobbled down the street with my suitcase in one hand and a newspaper over my head in the other. I felt so stupid. Why did I think I was capable of traveling alone? What happened to “Independent Monica” who could conquer anything? She wasn’t there.

I was out of luck and out of resources, so I held my hand out with my left thumb in the air, hoping someone would stop and pick me up. In hindsight, this was dangerous decision, but I had no other options. One car drove past without stopping, another car sped past, four cars later…no one was willing to stop, but I was persistent. Finally, a car pulled over. My heart was pounding. Will I arrive home safely tonight? Is this person going to take advantage of me? Should I just drop my bags and run? The car window rolled down and inside was a young couple, “Do you need help?” they asked.

Never in my life have I been more scared. I wish someone would have told me that “traveling is not always going to be easy and sometimes, you will have to fend for yourself.”   Humble, sheltered SCV did not prepare me for situations like these. Although, I do understand why parents and families move to this valley, for the spectacular schools, the tight knit communities, and the title of “one of the safest cities in the U.S.” Parents want what is best for their children. But, is hovering, sheltering, and shielding really what is best for us? It seems that as children, our parents neglect to inform us that the beautiful neighborhoods of the cookie-cutters homes and perfectly manicured lawns aren’t “life.” Before traveling half way across the world, in my mind, I was prepared for any challenge. Unfortunately, this proved to be incorrect. That unexpected night in London was my “wake up call” and strong dose of reality. There is no way for me to predict how you will experience the reality outside of SCV, only you have the opportunity to discover your own path. That is life.

 

Opinion: Does the media control what we think?

By Chelsea Preimesberger

It surrounds us and is a part of our everyday lives from the moment we wake up in the morning, till the moment we fall asleep at night. The media, it would be hard to function in an industrialized society without it; without television, film, radio, music, or the internet. Like I said, it’s all around us. Since our lives are so consumed with being connected, is it fair to say that the media could have the power to control our decisions? The answer is yes and no.

According to a study conducted by the UC San Diego News Center in 2013, an average of 15.5 hours of media consumption per person was expected to be used by 2015, which did not include media used for work related purposes (Zvernia, paragraph 9). That means that almost 2/3 of your day is being spent on some form of media for your own enjoyment, and only 1/3 or 8.5 hours or less, depending on your career, would be spent media free. It’s hard to think, with those numbers, that the media wouldn’t have some sort of impact on our lives or our decisions.

From the article titled, “Agenda Setting Theory”, written by Bernard Cohen, he states that, “the mass media may not be successful much of the time in telling people what to think, but the media are stunningly successful in telling their audience what to think about. In other words, the media cannot force you to believe in something or to have a certain opinion on a subject, but it can get you thinking about what it feels is important. The media is focusing you on less important issues, so that it distracts you from what is really going on, and that happens all the time in traditional media. For example, our country is in some of the most severe debt of all time, but you aren’t learning about what measures could be taken to fix our growing debt, instead you are hearing about what stupid thing some celebrity did over the weekend.

To a certain extent, yes, the media is controlling some of our decisions. We use media for hours on end and within that media we are being told what to think is important, instead of having an objective point of view and deciding ourselves what we feel is important. On the other hand, the media cannot decide whether you or I agree or disagree, or whether you or I feel positively or negatively about something. At the end of the day, we control what we do with our time and how we choose to feel about it, but the media can control what exactly it is that we contemplate.

 

 

Opinion: The lacking presence of student government

By Eddie Averill

Towards the end of the spring 2014 semester, as I walked through the quad, I saw a handful of students eating pizza. Naturally, I wanted to know where they got the pizza, and whether or not said pizza was being provided for free by some organization that just wanted a moment of my time. What I came to find was that the Associated Student Government, or ASG, was using pizza as a tool to make students care about their upcoming elections.

Each participant would receive a stamp-card. After hearing a speech from a candidate, the candidate would stamp the card. Five stamps and 15 minutes worth of speeches later, pizza was given.

My first instinct was to go for it, because I hadn’t eaten all day, and I’m a sucker for free pie. I then realized that this might be important. To be completely honest, I had no idea that COC even had a student government.

I was only in my first semester at the school, but the fact that I had nearly made it through an entire semester without hearing of student government made me think that I wasn’t involved enough in my school. So not only did I listen to the required amount of speeches, I listened to every single candidate, even those running for the position of assistant coordinator of activities, which seemed like the least important position. It was one of the more attention grabbing speeches. The candidate promised that if he won the position there would be multiple concerts on campus for the students to attend each semester. There would be more than just the under-promoted Battle of the Bands, which took place a few weeks after the pizza campaign.

As a student who loves music and attends COC, I was now moderately excited to vote for at least one of these positions, and the pizza now seemed like an afterthought.

One thing that I noticed in the election is that there weren’t exactly political parties, but a large group, “The Big Six,” which had one member running for each position, and a handful of independent candidates taking up the rest of the slots. This intrigued me, as the main talking points of each of these students from The Big Six was the fact that they were, in fact, part of this supergroup of student politicians, and that you should vote for not one, but all six of them.

The independent candidates seemed to dwell on policy for a majority of their speaking time, which was uninteresting to the primary audience of pizza-loving students who did not care one bit about policy. Come election day, I was filling out my ballot realizing that I could not remember a single thing that anybody in The Big Six party talked about aside from the promised concerts, and that the independent candidates’ policies were much more solidified in my memory. I voted how I thought was right for the school, but low and behold, The Big Six was triumphant, sweeping the entire election.

After realizing that I wasn’t exactly sure what these student politicians had in mind to help our school, I had no real reason to be angry about these elections. There was a possibility that these candidates would, in fact, help our school out substantially, but after attending the summer intersession and with this fall semester coming to a close, I have noticed no changes about the school I attend, aside from further progress in the construction area. I was disappointed, because I wanted to have a better student life, and I wanted to go to shows. Granted, I knew COC wouldn’t be booking any of my favorite bands, but when nobody had promoted a single on-campus show to me the entire semester, I felt like I was missing something. What exactly could the ASG even accomplish?

I was in luck on Tuesday, when ASG President Christine Colindres took a few moments out of her otherwise busy day to talk to me. When I asked her what she had accomplished thus far, she immediately wanted know my angle, asking me what I meant by accomplished. She used the phrase “different things” to summarize her accomplishments, which didn’t seem to be accomplishments at all. All of what she said were ideas, that she admitted were still just that. Her intentions as a president were as pure as they can come, talking about wanting to accomplish community development in countries like Nicaragua, although this, again, was just an idea that was in talks.

I asked how many students voted in the previous election, and got what I would consider a mixed-bag of answers. Although I had only asked Colindres, another student that was in the office interjected. “Something like 600,” he said. Colindres thought that the number was closer to 800, and a compromise to estimate that 700 votes were tallied was reached. 700 is a scary number, considering that would not even be one out of every 25 students voting. Although an overwhelming majority of students do not vote in the student body elections, many of those apathetic to student government would be pleased to know that the ASG does not get paid, aside from the Student Trustee, who is not a direct member of ASG, but an employee of the school’s chancellor.

I talked to Nathan Black, a COC alumni and current student of the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley, about the issue. While attending COC, he was close to the student government, although he never did run for office. When I asked him about the policy-making that the ASG had the capability of, he said that “ASG is more of a reflection of high school politics than college politics.” Apparently, the most important thing that they have a say in is funding clubs, and Black had a problem with the way they handled that as well. “Club grants are given somewhat arbitrarily, or if they aren’t, its very unclear what the criteria is for the decision,” said Black.

By the time that the most recent elections took place, Black had already been accepted on transfer to Berkeley, and was less involved in the ASG, so I decided to ask someone who was closer. A candidate in the previous election, who asked not to be named, had some very strong words about the way that the student government is run. He said that the ASG members are much more concerned with furthering themselves than furthering the school. “This is especially apparent in student elections — it’s just a popularity contest. The best-looking group of friends win. Policy competence is utterly meaningless,” he said. Although these are much harsher words than those given by his aforementioned schoolmate, when I read this quote to Black he said that it “sounds accurate to me.”

A former candidate calling the elections a “popularity contest” made me really think about how relatable COC’s student government is to that of my former high school. I still remember the speeches given at lunch time, and one candidate with a gymnast background ending each speech with a backflip. The crowd would go wild, and not one person knew what his policies were, or possibly even what position he was running for. He did end up winning the election, and during voting, I can still remember my classmates whispering questions such as, “wait, which one is the backflip guy again?” Backflip guy, as I will call him, as I don’t remember his name either, didn’t do much for the school, and neither did anyone that was elected. That seemed normal though, because I was in high school. How can someone who is not even an adult be any type of politician? It is high school, and that is its excuse. COC doesn’t have that same excuse, as one of the top junior colleges in the state. Whether the ASG will grow into something more meaningful or not only will be determined by time, but hopefully more students will care about it after this.

 

 

 

Too many students, too little parking

Imagine a daily commute to work with a parking spot search much like Christmas time at the mall. Circling the parking lots, aggressive drivers and the car-stalking of strangers in hopes of snagging their parking spot. This scenario may seem all too familiar because it’s an everyday reality for the 12,000 COC students fighting for one of only 3,600 available spaces and remarkably, the school’s suggestions on how to rectify this issue may be just as bad as searching for a parking spot.

“It is really hard to find parking here,” said student Cynthia Cisneros. “You have to either get here really early or wait for hours driving around.”

For those who have never experienced the parking at COC, before 8 a.m. finding a parking space is relatively easy, after that though it becomes much harder. “My first day of school I spent an hour looking for a spot,” said student Kelly Bravocuevas, who takes classes at both the Canyon Country and Valencia campuses. Since then, Bravocuevas has learned from her time circling the lots, so she now comes early and parks as far away as possible.

Some students have gone to great lengths to stay clear of the parking chaos, even resorting to a make-shift dirt parking lot at the corner of Rockwell Canyon and University Center Drive. The school said they do not control that lot nor do they know who owns it, so it’s unclear if the people parking there have permission to do so.

Even with the shortage of spots- only enough for 30 percent of the 12,000 permitted students- COC continues to rent out lots for movie productions, selling of Christmas trees and other community events. For the last several weeks, approximately 30 spaces have been occupied for the selling of Christmas trees. When COC spokesman Eric Harnish was asked where students who normally park in those spaces should go, he replied: “Students are welcome to park in any student parking lot where space is available.”

To compound the problem, construction on campus has been underway for nearly two years, forcing staff and construction workers to use student parking spots. Currently, lot one is being used as the staging point for construction of the Student Center and Administration building. However, the school said that the lot would be reopened to staff in spring of 2015. This will free up roughly 130 spaces for students that were previously being occupied by staff.

For fall of 2014, COC reported 18,000 enrolled students, 67 percent of them purchased permits from the school.

“We do not restrict sales of permits,” said Harnish. “Every student who wishes to purchase a parking permit may do so.

“What students may be unaware of is that line item two on the back of the pass states that the permit allows them to park on campus, but it does not guarantee them a spot.

In the past year alone, not including winter or summer semesters, the school has sold 33,750 parking permits for $35 a piece. That’s a grand total of $1.2 million of revenue for the school.

COC has said that much of the revenue from selling passes go towards the repayment of the $3.5 million it cost to build the south lot, which was completed nearly six years ago.

“Even when I come early, there’s no parking,” said freshman Joshua Gutierrez. “There should be more.” The students may think so, but the school does not as there are no plans for additional parking.

COC has chosen to spend money elsewhere, like on creating labs, classrooms and student services. The school has said that if any money were spent to build parking lots it would have to be diverted away from these types of projects.

Even with the schools decision to not expand parking, it is attempting to help ease the congestion. “We schedule classes throughout the day, instead of just in the morning,” said Harnish.

The idea behind shifting classes to the afternoon and evening time slots, which the school has been doing for the last few semesters, is to balance the demand for parking and spread the load throughout the day. Ideally, students who take classes during these non-peak morning hours will find parking to be more convenient.

COC also suggests students consider non-traditional formats of learning, like online classes or weekend college, which meet mostly online with in-class sessions held at the Canyon Country campus on Saturdays. According to the school, these options enable them to serve more students without adversely impacting parking.

As the search for parking becomes more difficult, perhaps COC might follow the example of other California colleges. De Anza College made a deal with the local transit agency to give students free bus passes. San Jose College created special parking spaces for carpooling students. It’s worth noting, that COC has special carpooling parking spaces for staff but not for students. These are small steps, but might be just enough to encourage students to use public transportation or to carpool, which in turn would lighten the parking problem.

The last two buildings in the Valencia campus master plan are nearing completion: the Culinary Arts and Administration/Student Services building. The school will no doubt use these new top-of-the line buildings, as well as the new labs and classrooms to showcase all that COC has to offer, which will most likely help spike enrollment.

So, when students return back to school in the spring, it’s likely there will be more students, more classrooms and you’ll have an even more difficult time finding parking.

Students obviously want a great academic experience, but if they can’t park, then they can’t get to class. Then what good will the new buildings, new classes and new labs be?

Time will tell what the best solution is to solve the growing concern over parking. One thing is for sure, unless COC plans to require all future students to only take online classes or weekend college, this parking situation is only going to get worse.

 

 

Opinion: why savings are a thing of the past

By Luis Gomez

There was once a time when common people would tout the benefit in saving hard-earned income. If you wanted something bad enough, you need to save up for it. Stories of working entire summers to afford a first car, or saving for months before being able to buy a coat, are commonplace among the baby boomer generation. In modern times, the idea of saving up is a completely alien concept which draws ire from the younger generations. Why on earth would anyone want to save their income to buy something when it’s incredibly easy to take out a loan? At least, this is what lenders would like you to believe.

However, according to a recent survey conducted by Bankrate.com, 76% of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck. Fewer than one-in-four Americans have the savings to cover six months of expenses. Take a moment to absorb this information. Statistically, you are most likely in this group; I know I am. The question to ask is why we are in this position as a nation? It could very well be the down economy in action, but I believe there is a more interesting reason behind this matte

What exactly is disposable income? It is defined as the amount of money that a household has available to spend or save after taxes are accounted for. Essentially, it’s a term used by economists to gauge the spending ability of a populous. Hyper-consumerism is so prevalent that every loose dollar in our pockets is sucked out by clever companies and their marketing campaigns. I can not count the times I’ve had to ask myself if I really needed to buy something or if I was simply falling victim to a consumerist society.

What is not helping this situation is the common portrayal of wealth in popular culture as an indicator of normalcy. A majority of Americans can’t meet this level of wealth, so they have to opt for ulterior methods to display wealth. Faking of wealth is attributed to consumerism, to display belongings as indicators of real wealth. Do you have a new car on loan? Is your pocket phone the latest gadgetry on the market? Are your clothes designer and in fashion? Do you spend hours of your working life’s income on eating dinner at a restaurant instead of cooking at home? If you answered yes to these questions; congratulations, you are a hyper-consumerist. While there are practical applications to using consumable goods or services, chances are you were influenced into buying them by clever marketing. Marketing teams try to make these products seem like normal parts of daily life. Does it matter how you can afford to buy them? No. What matters is meeting the bottom line on their end with absolutely no thought put into meeting yours. Rather than trying to help consumers by improving their lives through marketplace competition and innovation, marketers of consumable products will do everything they can to remove money from the consumer’s pocket.

A much larger problem is the instant-gratification of buying products with credit cards. A consumer can afford to buy something they normally couldn’t buy with their income and pay it off with timed payments. Since debt is seemingly given to just about anyone, consumers were now free to have their products at the cost of incurring large amounts of debt. Consumers have become used to this method of purchasing goods and services.

People are now slaves to themselves, predatory lending, consumerism and the narcissistic impulse of instant gratification. Now that micro-loans, credit cards and the ability to own a car or house through large loans is common place, it would seem that there is no end in sight to hyper-consumerism. The old adage of simply saving up to afford whatever is you desire, it would seem, is an idea of the distant past.

Opinion: The phenomenon of skinny versus fat

By Yessenia Navarro

“I want to look just like that model, she is beautiful, skinny and is admired by everyone.” Those are the words that come out of my mouth every time I see a beautiful figure on TV and I’m betting I’m not the only one who has said those same words to themselves.

Why hasn’t anyone ever questioned why being skinny is preferred when it comes to body types? Our world is filled with hate and judgment when someone doesn’t look perfect or is heavier than most. Entertainment media tells every little girl and boy that skinny and fit is the way to go and if they’re not than something is wrong with them.

Bullying has become such a huge problem in society and a lot of the bullying is done to someone who is heavier or is not the typical body frame. Once someone has told you that you are fat that can mess with the mind especially if the person is in their teen years. It can cause so much harm, teenagers may engage in drugs to lose weight or they can end up having an eating disorder because they want to look skinny due to someone telling them they are fat or television is saying skinny is better. I myself have been bullied for my looks and I decided to make myself vomit in order to get skinner, I didn’t like the feeling so I never did it again but the fact that I even tried it because I was being bullied is a problem and it is a problem that all our youth is facing today. Why is being skinny versus fat preferred in society? Has anyone ever even thought of that? Yes being fit is better for your health but it doesn’t mean that skinny people are the only beautiful people in the world.

I feel like the entertainment industry is at fault for this issue we are having with weight. Everyone on television is portrayed to be these beautiful fit people and ordinary people at home start to feel down on themselves because they don’t look like that. Modeling agencies won’t even higher someone who is the “perfect size.” That is so sad because entertainment media and modeling agencies are destroying the self-esteems of our youth today. Looks are even going beyond entertainment, hiring companies most of the time hire people who are good looking and fit which is so unfair. It is sad that our country is based on outer appearance rather than a person’s personality traits.

Something needs to be done about this horrific issue that skinny is better than heavy. I feel a good way to start is to protest against the big modeling agencies and show them that we will not take no for an answer without them giving heavier females and males a shot. Entertainment shows also need to start portraying what an actual woman looks like rather than having someone unrealistically thin on TV who by the way has personal trainers and special people to make them look the way they do. There is one singer/song writer who has inspired me to make big girls feel good about themselves and her name is Meghan Trainor. She wrote a song called “All about the Bass.” Her song is about how there is nothing wrong with have a little more junk in the trunk and that being heavier should be embraced and that it is a beautiful feature. We need more positive influential people like that in our society especially when all little girls turn to television for entertainment and everything on TV is woman who don’t look like ordinary women.

I say we take a stand and say no more to the hate on body types. Everyone is beautiful in their own way and as a challenge I want every person who ever gets the chance to read this article to go up to any person and let them know they are a beautiful human being. It is time to pass the love and the appreciation around.

Opinion: Do Apps help you, or just waste your time

By Brittany Sammeter

In a society like ours, it is almost impossible to be in a public area and see an individual that is not straining their neck to look down at their mobile device.  Cell phones are a part of today’s culture, and whether we enjoy it or not, it is a concept that is almost inconceivable to escape.  What makes cell phones so popular in today’s day and age is the extensive amount of things you can use them for.  Cell phones like the iPhone, as well as Androids, are famous for their large collection of applications that the user can download, to make their phone work for them and reflect the user’s interests.  Applications, also known as “apps”, range from social media, to productivity, to customization.  Some applications, like those that are used for productivity purposes (this would include weather, note pads, calculators, etc.), are supposed to save the user time and energy.  They are designed to be a helpful tool to make the consumer’s life easier.  But is this really what applications are doing for us?  Or are they hindering our lives by making them more difficult and stressful?

When an iPhone or Android user wants to search for a new application to download, they can search by category.  One common category that most users are familiar with is the productivity category which displays apps that are supposed to be helpful to everyday living.  For example: calendars, reminders, alarm clocks, to-do lists, and calculators.  Consumers believe that by downloading a productivity application, they are doing a good deed for themselves.  These application users believe that they can now better sort out their schedules to allow for improved time management, but really, all they are doing is wasting more time.  In the time it takes to find an application to help you create a to-do list, download the application, set it up how you would prefer, and actually write your to-do list, you could have written the list on a sheet of paper and completed at least one of the items.  When it comes to accessing the to-do list, or any other application that you are using, you take the time to search for and through your phone, as well as the waiting period you’re given for the app to load.  And then what happens if the productivity application crashes?  You’re not going to be so productive now are you?  Applications on mobile devices are tricking everyone, and unfortunately we are all falling into the trap.

While iPhone and Android users may believe that they are saving themselves time and energy by using applications, they are really just setting themselves back and hindering their daily activities.  A downfall to these applications that consumers believe to be so great, is the most obvious, they are on your mobile device.  Cell phones are one of the biggest distractions for Americans, it is difficult for many to complete a task if their phone is in their presence.  In using applications on your phone such as calculators or reminders, chances are you are becoming distracted by other apps you may have, such as social media apps, that you have now completely forgotten what you were originally on your phone to do.  The consumer intended to use their speedy calculator application to avoid the time it may take to solve the equation in their head, but has now found themselves logging onto Facebook.  Instead of saving you time like you thought the app was there to do, you have now wasted your time.  Applications are made with the best intentions in mind, but our society just doesn’t know how to use them efficiently so that they really serve their true purpose.

Americans can avoid the craze of time-saving, but really time-wasting applications by sticking to the old-fashioned methods.  Stay off of your phone and use a pen and paper or an actual hand held calculator.  If consumers were not so infatuated with the idea of owning the newest and greatest cell phones, time would not be wasted as much as it is.

Opinion: The good, the bad, and the misinformation of Proposition 1

For months now we have been bombarded by campaign issues and promises from all the candidates involved by either billboards, television and radio announcements, posters and political mailers. But the huge question is, what do we really know when it comes to the propositions and how they can affect us on a personal level, in particular Proposition 1.

On Aug. 13, Proposition 43 was removed and Proposition 1 was added to the ballot with the promise that information on Proposition 1 would be provided on a supplemental voter information guide. Most local residences have not received any information yet and are confused as to what Proposition 1 is really about.

Many citizens feel that Proposition 1 is a smoke screen to groundwater legislation that was passed on Sept. 16 which allows the State of California to manage and monitor groundwater basins including the City of Santa Clarita’s aquifer — the state’s third largest aquifer. Many residents feel that Proposition 1 does not address California’s worst drought on record. and actually has nothing to do with the current water crisis, conservation, or water efficiency for California’s water supply, and does not mitigate the effects from California’s drought.

Proposition 1 will actually include the construction of new dams which is highly controversial by ecologists due to potential harmful and damaging environmental impacts which actually takes place further downstream from the dams. Proposition 1 does not install new infrastructure such as cisterns to capture and store water caused by intense rains, or drip irrigation for agriculture use which is is one of the prominent elements of the state’s economy. Most importantly, the proposition does not prioritize funds to repair underground water delivery systems that are aging.

Proposition 1 will, however, provide funding for water recycling and advanced water treatment projects, and prevent or clean up contamination of groundwater that serves as a source of drinking water. It will provide infrastructure projects for public water systems improvements and water treatment technology. The biggest advantage to Proposition 1 is that it replaces the $11.1 billion bond (Proposition 43) with a cheaper $6 billion bond that is considered reasonable and affordable.

Opinion: College Voters

During every presidential election, campaigns such as “Rock the Vote” and “The Campus Vote Project” aim to get young voters, ages 18 to 24, into the voting booths. The youth vote is important in shaping our nation’s future, but many don’t realize they don’t have to wait every four years to make their voices heard.

Every year the primary and general elections are held to elect representatives and senators to Congress and to pass bills that affect your community. The power to make a difference in your city, state and nation is at your fingers twice a year, but according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement in 2010, less than 13 percent of college students said that the reason they didn’t vote was that they weren’t interested.

College of the Canyons was no exception to the statistic. Cougar News was determined to find out just how much Cougars know about issues in the upcoming election, politics and American political history.

In keeping with the American spirit and America’s favorite past time, each student was given three chances to prove his or her smarts before striking out.

CoC Student- Tyler Clark
CoC Student- Tyler Clark

When asked about issues on the ballot coming up on November 4, not a single student interviewed could tell you what the vote was for. “Oh, what is Prop 1? That’s a good question,” answered Tyler Clark. Proposition 1 is in regards to “funding for water quality, treatment and storage projects,” according to the California General Election Voter’s Guide.

We then asked students if they knew anything about Measure S on the Santa Clarita ballot.

“Hell no,” said student Kris Rose. After explaining the issue and asking for his reaction to it, he replied, “Who cares?”

Yet, these students could tell you how many senators each state has and which president served the longest in office.

You’d be surprised what shocking answer was common among Cougars when asked who our current governor is. Both Sandra Garcia and Christian Lomeli knew that our governor’s last name is Brown, but when asked his first name, they responded, “John.”

Garcia knew other facts, however, such as when women were granted the right to vote and that Franklin D. Roosevelt was our longest serving president. Lomeli could tell you what you need to register to vote and that nine judges sit on the Supreme Court.

CoC Student- Veronica Romero
CoC Student- Veronica Romero

Veronica Romero admitted before answering questions, “I’m not political savvy at all.” When asked how many representatives in California, she answered, “OK, representatives is by population. I’m going to guess 47.” She made a good attempt, but California is currently the most populated state and has 53 representatives in the House, and while she thought Senators served two years a term instead of six, she did know that Jerry Brown is our current governor.

Only one Cougar got his answer right on the first try. Vini Buttino knew that the general election is held in November. When given the option to pick a photo caption for our Cougar News photo booth he was the only person who knew anything about the Green Party.

Unfortunately, only one young voter, Rachel Brown, got all three answers correct. She knew that California has 53 representatives in the House, voters have 15 days before an election to register to vote and nine judges sit on the Supreme Court.

If our political future depended on the youth votes of COC, I don’t know how much of a future our nation would have. However, it’s never too late to start being a more active citizen. Be sure, if you’re registered to vote, to take a look at your voter’s guide and cast your vote on Nov. 4.

Don’t forget to tune into our Election Special on Nov. 4 at 8 p.m. on cougarnews.com and on SCVTV. Cougar News will bring you live results from around the valley, state and nation.

Opinion: Where’s the rest of the picture?

Why do smartphones have the option to record vertically? Not once have I seen an appropriate circumstance that would require anyone to record a video in such a matter. Not only does this decrease the quality of the footage, it is also hard to watch when it is played back on a TV or a computer screen.

For example, sometimes when watching the news, the news station would take a video clip of a tragic event that some witness recorded on their smartphone. For some reason, it’s not rare that people would record a tragic event vertically. Why is that? Every time I see the news use vertical footage I am always more focused on the fact that the person who recorded the video decided to record it vertically then whatever is being reported.

Why do smartphone have the option to record vertically at all? My theory is that when smartphone cameras were first programmed, designers wanted whatever footage that was recorded with the device to be compatible with other smart phone device screens. Although vertical footage does work on smartphones, it does not work on other media devices. In fact, it looks really sloppy when played on other screens. Imagine watching a blockbuster in a movie theater and the movie footage was recorded vertically, it would make for a really hard to watch movie because most of the screen is missing.

Why keep vertical footage as an option for smartphone users if most of the screen is missing on other devices? Horizontal footage looks absolutely fine on a smartphone because you are using the whole smartphone screen. Some might say vertical footage is easier on people’s hands because you only need one hand to record and not two. Although it might be easier to record with on hand, the product of recording vertically will always be the same. A sloppy looking video that is hard to look at and feels like it has no depth. It is like looking through a keyhole, you can see what is going on but you can’t get the whole picture. Human eyes are used to seeing things horizontally because we have peripheral vision. Not seeing the whole picture can counteract our natural was of seeing the world and can be very awkward and uncomfortable.

Opinion: The cost of a DREAM

President Obama was recently on the receiving end of a cynical Fox News report (I know. I can’t believe it either).  This time, the president was criticized for a “constitutional violation” he allegedly committed by enacting the DREAM Act in 2012, without any passage of legislation through Congress. However, in similar fashion to previous Fox News reports about the president, this one is also biased and strays far from the truth. In fact, the DREAM Act has not been enacted, but the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which was put into action back in 2012.

The reporters accused the president of using his executive order to start the DACA program, which he believes is the DREAM Act in disguise. However, this deferred action program for undocumented youth is only a temporary fix, as it does not provide a path to citizenship for recipients like the DREAM Act would do.

The DACA program allows for eligible undocumented immigrants to remain in the US on a renewable two-year period without fear of deportation. Immigrants under age 31 who qualify can apply for work permits and Social Security cards. DACA recipients do not gain a chance to apply for legal status or a path to citizenship, as proposed in the controversial DREAM Act.

The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act provides a path to legalization for eligible youth. Through this law, naturalized students with clean records that were brought to the U.S. as minors would gain a path to citizenship, and therefore a chance at equality.

Unfortunately this legislation has failed to pass Congress on numerous occasions, but President Obama’s executive order has enabled qualifying illegal immigrants to work and go to school on granted two-year renewable deferrals of deportation. This order is not the same as the Dream Act and is limited in its capabilities to help its recipients.

However, this did not stop Fox News reporter Peter Johnson Jr. on a March 2014 broadcast from conflating the two, saying “by the stroke of the president’s pen and whispers in the night to various agencies, they said we’re gonna enact it anyway, even though Congress hasn’t done it, and provide benefits to children of illegal immigrants,” claiming Obama enacted the DREAM Act “by executive fiat.”

The lack of significant Congressional action on immigration reform, particularly a solution for young undocumented immigrants has left these youth in want. The Los Angeles Times reported that “since the program started, more than 40 percent of participants have failed to land new jobs after receiving work permits, and only 45 percent reported getting pay increases” according to a 2013 survey of 2,381 participants, conducted by assistant professor at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education, Roberto G. Gonzales. The recipients have reached the limits of the president’s program, only to be left disappointed as the program has failed to reach its expectations and transform their lives.

Many obstacles still present this group of young individuals, even with the president’s deferred action program, which at its core is just that, deferred action, and not a means to an end. These DREAMers have done nothing undeserving of a chance to be called an American citizen. If anything they have helped their communities and contributed to the overall well-being of society. All they ask in return is a small privilege – something we all take for granted.

You and I forget the honor in being called a U.S. citizen. After all, our society is built on these individuals. Wasn’t America founded on immigrants who came to seek a better life in the Land of Opportunity? How can we take that opportunity our nation was founded on away from a person who has committed no wrong to allow us to do so?

Without the passage of the DREAM Act, countless numbers of hardworking, selfless, and patriotic individuals would have no way to even lawfully stay in the country, much less serve it.

A 2010 study by the UCLA North American Integration and Development Center estimated that between $1.4 and $3.6 trillion would be the total earnings of DREAM Act recipients for the rest of their working lives. This could lead to economic growth and tax revenue for the government, but that is only, of course, if they are allowed to pay such taxes.

A final positive in the passage of the DREAM Act is that it would allow our limited law enforcement resources to focus on detaining and removing criminal aliens, and all those who pose a threat to our national security and public safety; not young scholars and patriots who pose no greater threat than the average American. They pose no greater threat than the average American because they are American, whether they have a piece of paper to back that it up or not. They embody the true nature of the American spirit and the time has come to reward them for it. Don’t limit limitless individuals.

Opinion: Facebook wants to redefine reality

Facebook had made its second big purchase this year by buying Occulus Rift, a company developing a virtual reality headset for immersive gaming. What place does social networking have in the gaming community? According to Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and Co-founder of Facebook, virtual reality goggles are the next step to a social platform and bringing the world together.

Zuckerberg claims to allow Occulus to go on with their vision of virtual reality gaming, but make it a platform for other experiences. “Imagine sharing not only moments with friends online, but entire experiences and adventures,” Zuckerberg says. His vision of connecting others is to put on a headset and be able to sit courtside at a basketball game, or take a virtual vacation.

That doesn’t sound like much of a connection to society. It is another way people don’t have to get off their couches and make much of an effort to connect to the real world.

Zuckerberg implies that the experiences and adventures we can have on virtual reality can be memorable. What is so memorable about sitting on the couch and putting on a pair of goggles? It’s the effort of taking the time to gather friends and family together and the journey that make memories.

It’s ironic how our society claims to be more and more connected to the world, but people are more connected to their phones or mobile devices than anything else. This once helpful website of connecting people no matter the distance, has become an addiction.

We should take the challenge to turn off our phones and mobile devices, and really connect with the community around us. Tell people what we like about them rather than clicking a “thumbs up,” or make the effort to really befriend someone rather than sending a friend request.

The world will still exist without the use of Facebook for a day.

Opinion: Eat More Food and Less Stuff

By Jessie Crissman

We all have heard of the average inclining obesity rate in America and how bad for us fast food restaurants are, but have we really thought about what all the average grocery store food is doing to us? Yes many of us have watched “forks over knives,” “Food Fight,” “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead,” or any of the other food documentaries on netflix, but have we actually changed the way we ate after watching them?

People love food. Whether it’s burgers, fries, salads, pasta, waffles, or just a big steak, it could be consumed in a much healthier way than most people make it. They buy wholesale meat, microwavable waffles with sugary syrup to go along with it, and some angel hair egg noodle pasta without even looking at the ingredients that are in these products. Heck, someone could slap a label with rat poison in the ingredients and half the people buying it would probably never know. Ingredients are so important and the only way we can get an idea of what is going to being sitting in our stomachs shortly after.

There is a saying that if you can’t pronounce all the ingredients in your food, than you probably shouldn’t be eating it. This is so true! If more people researched ingredients of common products and found out what they really were made of, much less of those foods would be purchased.

No matter what people are always going to be eating food that isn’t very beneficial for them. Which is why they should aim to at least eat much less of it. Foods with crazy ingredients are commonly the foods that have more calories, have much less nutrients, and don’t even satisfy our hunger. If more thought were given to the food we eat, then we wouldn’t have to eat any less. The trick is to eat more of the real food and less of the fake “stuff.”

Often time’s people say they don’t eat healthy because they like to eat a lot of food and to be full. Well nobody made a rule saying that you can’t eat healthy and be full/satisfied at the same time. You can eat about 4 times the amount of healthy food versus unhealthy food and get the same exact full feeling along with more nutrients. Would you rather have a small smoothie or an extra large smoothie that is better for you than the small? Most likely the extra large. By changing the ingredients in the extra large smoothie to healthy alternatives, this could easily be done!

Instead of buying wholesale meat with all its antibiotics and animal cruelty behind it, buying a piece of grass-fed organic meat is much smarter. It eliminates the risk of being affected by any of the antibiotics the animal was given, any of the growth injections they had, and by any other things that could have been wrong with the factory farm animals. And instead of always choosing to grab milk off the shelf at the grocery store, you could grab almond milk or another milk alternative that has less calories and even more protein! There are healthy alternatives to all foods especially nowadays. Not only are there store bought and still processed alternatives but there are tons of recipes to make homemade natural things that require much less ingredients. And the less ingredients, the better.

Opinion: Baseball’s cheaters deserve harsher punishment

Baseball is in the process of recovering from one of the most embarrassing — yet some argue exciting — eras in the history of the game: the Steroid Era.

During the 1990s, steroids became widely used throughout the league, despite the ban of the drug in 1991. The prohibition of this performance-enhancing drug  surely didn’t stop players from using it to gain an advantage, as power numbers surged during the mid- to late 1990s. While some will argue that these “juiced up” players brought baseball back to life, a majority of baseball fanatics will say that the Steroid Era gave the game a massive black eye.

Over the years, we’ve seen the league put the hammer down on the use of PEDs. Under the current Joint-Drug Agreement, any player who tests positive for PEDs is subject to a 50-game ban without pay. That equates to a little less than a third of one baseball season. If a player is caught cheating a second time, they are issued a 100-game suspension without pay. Lastly, if a player is caught for a third time, they are officially banned from the game of baseball for life.

Fifty games for a first offense may seem like a good chunk of games to someone who doesn’t follow baseball, but to me, it’s nothing.

A ban of 50 games can be covered in a little over two months in a baseball season which I find ridiculously low in a six-month season. Of course, even a second time offender can be suspended and still wind up playing in the same season. I find that absurd. Another fact that I find unbelievable is that Major League Baseball also allows suspended players to be eligible for the postseason.

I, along with many other baseball fans, need to see Major League Baseball take actions against PED users and toughen up the penalties.

My proposal is to give first time offenders a 162-game ban from baseball if they test positive for a banned substance. If they are caught a second time, they should be sentenced to a lifetime ban from the game. Unlike the game of baseball where you’re out on three strikes, I believe in this case, it should be two strikes and you’re done. We all deserve second chances, but a third?

In the case where a high-profile player with a rich contract is caught cheating, Major League Baseball should allow a team to void that contract. This would allow only the players to be hurt, and not the organization. Threatening players with the loss of a season’s salary or possibly a contract should scare them away from the thought of taking PEDs.

A player who serves his suspension during the course of a season should also be prohibited from playing in the postseason even if his suspension time is up. They must learn from their mistakes and should not have the privilege of playing baseball in October.

As we saw during last year’s season, Detroit Tigers’ shortstop Jhonny Peralta was suspended on Aug. 5, 2013. He was eligible to return just in time for the playoffs, played well, and was rewarded with a fat four-year, $53 million contract with the St. Louis Cardinals. To me, that seems unfair that he was able to receive such a large contract, while other free agents are still looking for work — free agents who actually play the game clean and with respect. In a way, the suspension was a time for him to rest and prepare for the postseason. Getting caught was sort of a reward financially for him.

Baseball started cleaning up at the beginning of the century, but it still needs work. We can’t let America’s pastime be tainted with PEDs and artificial talent. Major League Baseball needs to set an example for young kids growing up that drugs aren’t the way to go. The most effective way to do this is to enforce stricter penalties — whether it’s increasing the amount of games lost or taking away a player’s salary, something needs to be done. We can’t let this game succumb to cheaters and frauds.

Opinion: Turning a blind eye to the horrors in the Congo

Imagine you are a civilian left to fend for yourself against brutal attacks, torture, looting, rape and murder, as well as being deprived of basic conditions necessary for life. You are also unable to properly provide for yourself, and for your children, as you all become more severely sick as the days go by. Women in the Congo carry this burden every day. They are forced to watch their husbands and children be murdered in front of them, forced to flee their homes, being victims of torture and gang rape. Having no proper form of protection, and no proper form of help, they are left with an inescapable fate.

Women of the Congo are being violated and abused every hour as a war tactic used to show position of power between communities.

Most of the abuse women endure is sexual violence. In their lifetime, estimates of around 1.8 million women have reported being raped; with the average lifespan of a woman living in the Congo to be 46. Approximately 3.1 to 3.4 million women reported experiencing an intimate partner regarding sexual violence.

Women are used as a war tactic and prime target to break and destroy community and family bonds; in the past five years violence towards women has become more common and increasingly more brutal in the area of The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Used to ultimately create population control, the type of violence experienced by the majority of women, is sexual abuse, including: gang rape, sexual slavery, forced participation of family members in rape, and mutilation of women’s genitalia with knives and guns. Mutilation is done to get rid of the sexual “libido,” allowing women to no longer want to engage in illicit sexual activity. The severity of violence against women in the DRC and the scarce attention it receives in the media, provide little research and estimates of the magnitude and intensity of this problem.

For every woman admitted for treatment, there are an estimated 30 more suffering from similar injuries that stay in hiding, because they cannot commute to a health center, or are stigmatized for being a rape victim. Some victims fear rejection from their husbands and families and may never be able to have children again.

Others are either impregnated by their attackers, or are just too weak from starvation to sustain treatment. WFP coordinator Jean-Charles Dei states, “Women can’t go into the fields to cultivate their produce because they fear being abducted and raped. This is having a huge impact on food stability because women make up to 80 percent of the agricultural workforce.” This may force women to stay inside starving, where they could be living with an abusive partner or family member. Bringing truth to the fact that nowhere is safe for a woman living in the Congo. More so than ever, women have begun to seek help at health centers to hopefully gain treatment after being abused. Stories exist of women walking 200 miles for help, while suffering from broken legs and gunshot wounds to their vaginas. Women of the Congo face horrific abuse and mutilation, these women need to find new hope in order to one day ensure their future generations a nonviolent life.

There is not enough readily available information out there that talks about this particular issue. Compared to what’s going on with the women in the Middle East, or Russia and Crimea, the women of the Congo is barely, if at all, touched on by the media. The media is a gateway to finding out world issues for most people, without the media we are crippled to obtaining this vital information. Raising awareness can change generalized thinking, allowing for people of current and future generations to start the change and eventually help to permanently stop sexual abuse and mutilation in the Congo. By exploiting this issue through the media we can provide outside help for women in the Congo. Once the conditions of this controversial issue are learned, globally and universally, it can call people to action. Giving the voiceless, a voice.

Opinion: Southern California: The fool’s gold state

For decades, Southern California has been portrayed as the “Golden State.” Some would consider it to be one of the most desirable places in the U.S. to live because of its weather, varied geography and the large number of colleges in the area. With 325-plus days of mild weather, beaches up and down the coast, and hundreds of colleges reeling in thousands of out of state students, this area is very attractive to outsiders. People always think the grass is greener on the other side, but I believe that people considering a move to Southern California should think twice.

So what makes Southern California not so “golden” as people make it out to be? I’m going to use Los Angeles as our representative for Southern California. Here are some statistics comparing average costs in Los Angeles with the average city in the United States. Let’s start with cost of living. The cost of living is among the top three most expensive places to live in the U.S. (along with San Francisco and New York). The costs of gasoline, apartment rentals and home purchasing are far higher in Southern California than the rest of the country. Here is a chart, showing some comparisons:

U.S.A.

  • Gasoline/gal: $3.56
  • Rent/Apt: (1 bdr in city = $991.11) (1bdr outside city = $747.79),(3 bdr in city = $1,702.98),(3 bdr outside city = $1,280.67)
  • Buy/Apt: (In city = $1,907.46, outside city =1,235.80)

Los Angeles

  • Gasoline/gal: $4.00
  • Rent/Apt: (1 bdr in city = $1,511.65)(1 bdr outside city = $1076.17),(3 bdr in city = $2,620.00),(3bdr outside city = $1,810.71)
  • Buy/Apt: (In city = $4,663.13, outside city = $2,186.11)

As you can see, the cost of living in Los Angeles is horrid, and as of 2014, is still rising. In Los Angeles it’s merely impossible to live on a minimum wage salary, whereas minimum wage in another state can be quite comfortable.  As a longtime resident of Southern California, I believe the perks of living in California shouldn’t cost as much they do. I’ve been to other states up north, down south, in the Midwest, and in “no man’s land,” and nothing California has put on the table has convinced me enough to waste my hard earned money on a house or apartment I can get for half the price in another state, just because the beach is in driving distance or the weather’s always nice.

But like all things in life, it comes down to preference; I have mine and you should have yours, but you might want to think twice about moving to Southern California. I would do some research and see if what SoCal has to offer is really worth the money. For some people it is, and some it is not.

Opinion: Reality TV takes new approach on entertainment

By Gabrielle Latade

It is such a convenience for us to be able to fast forward through commercials to get back  to watching the intense drama of our lovable or hateable reality TV stars. But did you ever noticevwhat these stars are eating? Drinking? Or where they go to buy nice clothes?

We have grown  close to these reality shows and the people who participate.  But do we really know the impact that they are having on our everyday lives? Advertainment is a concept created by producers and  editors of reality TV shows including  “The Real World” and “Keeping Up With the Kardashians”.

Advertainment is simply the crossing of advertisement and entertainment.  Although you don’t believe you are watching advertisements an hour everyday because  you use to the remote to avoid them, advertisements  are still being shown throughout the series you watch. This has not only given these production companies like Bunim/Murray and Viacom more income to work  with when creating new reality series, but has also been an intentional brainwashing form of advertisement to the viewers  eyes and mind.

We have been tricked into more advertisement being shown to us in multiple ways that we don’t even realize it. People think Subway is a more healthier alternative to McDonald’s because Real World cast and crew members eat unlimited amounts of Subway products. But in the actual world, Subway is considered a fast food chain in America.  Jersey Shore, a show about tanning party fanatics, is constantly showcasing characters seen drinking Red Bull on a day-to-day basis.  The actual goal  and is to help keep the cast energetic and active but in reality, Red Bull is proven to lead to heart failure and stunted growth.

The only way to solve the manifestation of advertainment being shown throughout the hour long reality TV shows, is to not be vulnerable to these advertisements. Although the empathy we have for these stars we relate to will continue, the empathy we have toward the drink they are holding or the chair they sit on, should not be allowed to have an impact on our real lives.

Entertainment and advertisement are two opposing forces that have come together to ruin entertainment and the means of relaxing without any interruptions of advertisements.  Reality TV was solely created because of the lack of money these companies had to hire a writer or buy a script.  Now, reality TV has become a means of gaining money for these companies to be able to invest in bigger ideas, like movies or a scripted series. Overall, advertainment has brought on a new concept of television but is in turn, killing the old past time of reality television.

Opinion: “Sylmars Fix” fixes hungry Cougars too

Maybe you’re on your way to Downtown LA.
You’re hungry and could spare a detour to stuff your face.
Your taste buds feign for those golden fries but your head and stomach know that’s a mistake.
Or maybe, you’re not sure if it’s a date, in which case, you might just want to take her to the right place, just to be safe.

Whatever your case, good, fast, healthy food seems to get harder to find and easier to crave, and Subway already seems to get too overplayed. So we need a new spot where all of our senses can enjoy a filling plate, and neither you or your date will feel guilty about what you just ate. That spot COC students is Sylmars Fix.

 

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Well worth the 15 minute drive from COC’s Valencia Campus, “The Fixx” as locals call it, has established itself as a well known “healthy alternative” eating establishment.

All their dishes use fresh ingredients as they utilize local businesses and produce, which in return supports Sylmar’s community. They also use environmentally friendly beverage containers made from plant cellulose.

They have fresh and healthy signature dishes such as Breakfast Croissants, Panini’s, Salads, Wraps, cold and hot Pastas, and even signature desserts and smoothies that keep your senses happy.

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Delivery options are available via the application “Eat 24” but there is a $3 delivery fee added to a minimum purchase of $20. You can also order from their website.

“It can be expensive [at almost $8 a plate],” said Dennis a customer I interviewed as he was leaving the establishment. “But it’s delicious to the point where I don’t care about the price; they also don’t mind using their ingredients ensuring the full flavor at every bite.”

You don’t have to take my positive appraisal of this place as the only motive to lure you into the establishment.

“They packed on the avocado and cheese,” wrote Armando A. in his web testimonial. “It’s nice having something in Sylmar that isn’t fast food or Mexican food for a change. Service was really friendly too.”

“A true gem in Sylmar is no joke,” wrote Lynlee B. in her web testimonial. “If you want great fresh food you have to try the Fixx.”

Their websites homepage reads, “Healthy alternatives such as Fresh Juices, Smoothies and an Expresso Bar! Inventive Healthy Salads, Fresh produce and baked goods used daily. The Fix has original recipes specializing in homemade spreads and specialties that feature chicken, turkey, tuna and fresh vegetables.”

Read the reviews for yourself. Google reviewers have given it a 4 out of 5 stars.

Check out their website and drool over the mouth watering pictures in front of you and imagine their healthy dishes brought to life through customer testimonials.

And If you have a sweet tooth and are looking for a treat without minding a little bit of calorie guilt, try the Nutella Croissant filled with fresh Strawberries and Banana. It is indeed to die for.

So now hungry Cougars go eat healthy for a change and try this awesome place that’ll put a smile on your face.

Opinion: Looking for love … everywhere

Between late nights studying for exams, early mornings to commute to class, working overtime and hanging out with your friends, love gets lost in the busy college life that you lead day to day.

Remember gentlemen, thanks to Disney, Nicholas Spark books-turned-films and 1990s boy bands, women’s expectations are high. They want all the romance and excitement that is scripted and you should already know all the right things to say.

Ladies, it’s a tad harder for us because the spectrum of guy’s standards varies from guy to guy. Sometimes you can cook your way to a man’s heart or you can win his heart over by knowing how to talk about cars or the latest video game.

Some young adults aren’t even thinking of finding love at this age. While some of us are looking for that special person to start building the foundation of a relationship, others just want a special friend to cuddle up with on the couch and watch a movie with during the cold winter, while still others are just looking for someone to have a good time with for the night. Whatever you’re looking for, the question is, where do you even look?

The first obvious place you’d search for a date would be someone in your class. Clearly, you two could relate to having a busy schedule since you’re both in college. Dating doesn’t get much easier than asking your class crush for a study date that could lead to more time together, minus the studying.

If you’re afraid of the awkward moment in class that could follow after an unsuccessful date, then why not try going old school and meeting someone at a bar? You could have a drink or two to relax and take that chance on striking up a conversation with that special someone who’s caught your eye. Let’s just not go overboard with that liquid courage and forget to filter out the part about how his butt grabbed your attention the minute you walked in.

If at first you don’t succeed, maybe your friend can introduce you to someone new. This is probably one of the most reliable ways to find a date, but it could also be one of the most disastrous. It could be a match made in college-life heaven because, who knows you better than your friends? If a really good buddy sets you up with a friend he has known for quite some time­— and I’m talking years, not a semester— then obviously they would know you both well enough to match you two up. However, if your friend sets you up with that guy she met twice through her boyfriend at his friend’s party, well then, you might find out that you two aren’t as compatible as everyone had hoped.

Most young adults in their early to mid-20s find that they’re too young for speed dating, so where else do you turn to find a date? In today’s day and age, a date or cuddle buddy could be a smartphone app away.

Yes, the fastest growing fad in dating is online dating. Because who wouldn’t want to be able to do a full background check on someone before they decide to meet that person face-to-face? Type their name into Google and their Facebook profile will most likely pop-up and depending on their security settings you could find out about them and their friends within minutes.

What is really fascinating is the fact that there are multiple ways that the Internet could help you find someone for life, the day, or even just the night. From virtual games with avatars you design, to apps on your smartphone to dating websites, love truly could be at your fingertips. As long as you have an e-mail address you can look for love in all corners of the world all from your seat on the bus or even the comfort of your bed.

Imagine creating an avatar to look the way you dream of looking and walking around in this online universe meeting people from other parts of the country and the world, chatting about life and learning about each other while sitting in your virtual condo you have decked out. Sounds fun, right? IMVU— origins of the name are unknown— an online community with 3D avatar-based experiences, let’s you do this. Save up your virtual currency and dress your avatar the way you want them to look to the world and meet them at the virtual “club” chatroom before inviting them back to your virtual place to have some “alone” time. If you don’t mind possibly finding someone whose thousands of miles from you and the idea of a long distance relationship doesn’t faze you, then try your luck. But be warned, who really makes their avatars look like themselves on those types of games, right?

Just be careful who you talk to online.
Just be careful who you talk to online.

Speaking of cautions, with online dating— whether it’s a website or app— keep an eye out for people who are just looking for attention not love or company. Thanks to MTV’s popular show, ‘Catfish,’ the caution of dating someone who turns out to be not the person they say they are is being brought to the world’s attention. Before you commit to someone you have started talking to online, you should definitely try to at least Skype video chat them. If they are being completely honest then they won’t have any excuse as to why they can’t even log onto Skype for five minutes to talk to you.

Another caution is the infamous filter fad. Let’s be honest, because even I’m guilty of this, girls love to find that perfect angle with the right lighting that makes them look amazing and add on an Instagram filter that makes them look that much better. However, if ALL her photos are from the same angle and show only half of her face while the other half of her face is in the shadow being all “mysterious,” I’d ask for a pic of her beautiful face and smile to use as her caller ID picture. And if she still sends you a filtered angled Instagram photo, I’d be weary. Sure, maybe she likes Instagram and filters, but not every single photo should be filtered.

And ladies, if he only has pictures of his abs or with his shirt off, he’s either using fake photos or he’s a jerk that’s totally into his six-pack abs more than he is into really getting to know you.

Most importantly, always be skeptical when trying online dating. I know we all know that one friend who met this guy on one of those social media websites when they were looking for new friends to hang out with and now they’re happily married. I’m sure we also have those friends who have been together since high school and are still going strong. We probably all know someone who tried one of those online apps because they were bored and turns out they found their perfect match.

While there is no rule or specific formula for finding your one true love, the movie, “He’s Just Not That Into You,” helped explain that these few select friends who got lucky in love are the exceptions. But if you’re really up to trying your luck online, then there are plenty of sites you can try, and they’re all free.

  • If you want to try IMVU, your chances of finding love are one in one hundred million. Literally, since they have registered user accounts worldwide. You can text chat with your virtual friends, or if you have a microphone connected to your computer, then you can talk person-to-person. This website’s members are predominately young adults ages 18-24, however the minimum age to register is 13-years-old and 7 percent of the members are 35 years and older, so beware of who you’re talking to.
  • Looking for a friend to cuddle up or spend the night with? Check out MeetMe. Formerly known as “MyYearbook.com,” MeetMe is an online social media sites that lets you connect with people around you. With the slogan, “Where friends meet,” their aim is for connecting people, not creating relationships.
  • Everyone says there’s plenty of fish in the sea so go fish on POF.com. With over 70 million registered members, there really are plenty of fish in the sea to choose from. They also have reported over 1 million relationships created every year from the website, which proves their focus is more on finding someone to spend your time with longer than a night or two.
  • OneScene.com is for finding a connection in the LGBT community.
  • Match.com is probably the most famous online matchmaker. In 2012, Match.com reported a 1-5 ratio of newly committed relationships and your chances of finding someone in your age range are high since 25 percent of their members are under the age of 30.
  • Perhaps you want someone who shares the same values as you? There is a mingle.com site for almost every religion.  There’s ChristianMingle.com. If you’re Jewish, you can try JDate.com. There is a MuslimMingle.com, and a CatholicMingle.com. For the Mormon community, try your luck at LDSMingle.com.
  • eHarmony.com is a Santa Monica-based online matchmaking website that launched in 2000 and since then has become the #1 trusted relationship service provider in America. They use their psychological based compatibility matching system to match members with matches they are most likely to enjoy a long-term relationship with.

If you’re looking for something more permanent, maybe the reason you can’t find love is because you’re looking too hard. Just like when you’re running late and you can’t seem to find where you placed your keys but you check every inch of your room only to have someone else walk in and point out that they have been in front of your face the entire time, you just looked so hard you overlooked them. Because, let’s be honest here, it’s called “falling in love,” you’re not supposed to see it coming, it’s just supposed to sort of happen.

So while your searching so hard for love, you could be overlooking that special person and not even realize it. It could be that best friend who stays up with you every time you procrastinate to make sure you don’t fall asleep while trying to finish that paper. The one you’re meant to be with could be that guy who you knew in elementary school, lost contact with, and recently reconnected with. Your true love could be that girl who is everything you say you want in a girlfriend but never considered because she’s not the typical “type” of girl you date

And if you’re serious about finding love, don’t rule someone out because they’re not your “type.” Clearly, if you keep dating the same “type” of person— looks and personality wise— then maybe it’s time you break the pattern that isn’t working and try someone new. Who knows? Your Prince Charming or your Cinderella could disappear all because you weren’t brave enough to take the chance— at the bar, online, or even with that friend you care so deeply for.

Opinion: Fighting in hockey, should it stop?

By Matt Robinson

“It looks like we are going to have a scrap behind the play.” That is often the line that is heard from the play-by-play announcer as the referee blows the whistle and two opposing players drop their gloves, sometimes even taking off their helmets.

Fighting in hockey in most hockey circles is thought to be part of the game. Many current and former NHL players and executives say it is a way for players to police the game in a way the referees cannot. Others like Hockey News Writer Adam Proteau say “Fighting can change the momentum of a game.”

Many fans of the game in non-traditional hockey markets like California and Florida have often been heard saying the only reason they go to hockey is for the fighting.

That still does not answer the question that has been a hot button topic around the hockey world as of late. Is fighting really worth the risk to be kept in the game?

It’s no secret that hockey is a physical, fast paced game that can produce an injury at any time. With all that in mind, do leagues need to subject their players to further injury with something that quite honestly, has no place in today’s game.

In the last number of years there have been horrifying injuries and even deaths, both on and off the ice, because of fighting. The most recent one came on the opening night of the 2013-2014 NHL season when so called “enforcers” George Parros and Colton Orr squared off in a game in front of arguably the most intelligent hockey fans in the world, le Canadiens de Montreal.

Parros, a graduate of Princeton with a Degree in Economics, was attempting to hit Orr, who had fallen down, when he was accidentally pulled down by Orr, crashing chin first into the ice. Orr immediately jumped up off the ice and waived for a trainer, abiding by the unwritten enforcers code, knowing that his fellow fighter was hurt. Parros was taken off the ice on a stretcher with a neck brace and a noticeable cut on his chin. He was later released from the hospital with a concussion and stitches.

Now don’t get me wrong, when I say Parros and Orr are fighters, I don’t mean that simply their only job is to fight. Both are actually well respected players in their own right, each with skill enough to score goals and help their team win without dropping the mitts. They are a different breed of fighter, long removed from the likes of Tie Dome or Bob Probert.

This begs the question, do we still need fighters. Isn’t it more important in today’s game to have 18 players that can help you’re team win by putting the puck in the back of the other team’s goal? I say yes, I would rather have 18 skaters that actually have the skill to play the game at the highest level to give my team a better chance to win.

There is no proof that fighting changes momentum. There is no reason why the game needs to be secretly policed by the players when we have four officials on the ice. There is no reason this great game cannot be entertaining enough for fans in non-traditional markets without fighting. It is the fastest, hardest hitting, most skillful game on earth. It’s time to finally get rid of the knuckle dragging, Neanderthal part of the game that the current NHL leaders cling to so tightly as “an entertaining part of the game”

Opinion: I belong to the 5%

By Hans Santos

Not long ago I heard a joke regarding vegans: “How do you find a vegan in a group? Don’t worry, he will tell you.” This may or may not be funny, but it is true. And why does a vegan tells you that he or she is vegan? I have found out that it is inevitable. I became vegan two years ago and this situation happens every time there is a gathering and there is food involved. Imagine the next scenario that happened to me, one of a dozen that I have experienced: I was invited to a birthday party that my ex company was throwing to an employee. The waitress approaches me to take my order and I ask her: “Is the shitake soup made with chicken stock or is it vegan?” Since it is not a vegan restaurant, I must make sure that I am not going to eat an animal product. And as soon as humanly possible, the person next to me asks: “What’s wrong with eating animals”?

 

Where do I start, really? First, this is a conversation that you don’t want to have when you are about to eat. Do you really want to hear about how your food will give you cancer? About how you are destroying the planet? Or do you want me to talk about how disgusting and inhumane the animal factories are? But people must ask you, they cannot help it. They feel that you are judging them because you feel superior. We do not feel superior. That is not the case. We feel that we are equal to the rest of the animals. We feel empathy for them and we do not want to hurt them.

So where to start telling someone why I am vegan? Health-wise? Eating animal protein is bad for your health, you will get cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis and many more illnesses. Planet-wise? It’s terrible. We are destroying the forests to make room for pasture lands. But most important what’s wrong about eating animals is what the animals go through so they can end up in our dinner plate, or in that particular case, the stock used to make soup.

In a nutshell, you have been lied to all of your life by the meat and dairy industry. Animal protein is not good for your body. It may taste great, but it will damage you. And do animals really suffer that much? I’ll tell you a bit about that, although in my experience people that don’t see the images are not impressed by the words. I sometimes tell people that I do not eat bacon anymore because “they boil the pigs alive,” and they seem to forget that in a minute. But if you were to see the pig screaming for two minutes in boiling water, the next time you had a pork chop in front of you, you will remember that image and hopefully be so disgusted about what you are promoting that you may not eat that. However, here it is what chickens go through without the sounds and images: Since male baby chicks will not lay eggs and do not produce as much meat as chickens, they are violently separated from the females and thrown alive into a meat grinder on their first, and last, day on this Earth. And they are the lucky ones. The females will spend their whole lives in darkness and under inhumane conditions. First they are debeaked. Their beaks are cut with searing blades without anesthesia (because anesthesia is expensive), so they do not peck each other to death in their cages. Why would they kill each other? Because chickens go crazy when they live under those conditions. They are crammed into tiny cages where they cannot extend their wings. They stand on wires every minute of their miserable lives. They do not have any veterinarian assistance. If they get sick, or get an infection, they let them die a very painful death, and later remove the carcass from the cage. They are bred to grow very fast, and to have larger breasts. What this causes is that their legs are too weak to support all that weight and cannot keep up, so the chickens cannot even stand up. They live their lives in darkness and under an unbearable stench. They are hurt on the way to the slaughterhouse. They arrive dehydrated, with broken bones or even dead.

All this suffering so I can have soup that tastes like chicken? I don’t think so. And chickens are not the animals that suffer the most. Don’t get me started on cows and pigs. Humans should be ashamed for treating animals this way. I became vegan after I saw videos of what animals go through. I haven’t been able to eat anything that I think may have animal products in it. I am convinced that most people have empathy. It’s something that makes us human. I believe that if they all saw these videos most of them would stop consuming meat and dairy. The problem is that once I tell this story to someone, their reaction is: “I don’t want to see those videos because I love the taste of meat (and or cheese), and maybe I won’t want to eat anymore, or I will feel guilty if I do.”

Yes, they are on to something. They realize that what they are doing, eating animals, is wrong. How sad. Humans are hypocrites. And yet they continue to support animal cruelty because of their selfishness. Some believe it’s a God given right. Some believe they are at the top of the food chain. We are not. We are not carnivores. We are not omnivores. We are herbivores. I recently heard the word “necrovores.” That may be a better description for those who eat corpses. Humans don’t kill their prey, they eat the carcass, and very rarely is it fresh.

Where do I get all my information? Can I back it up? Sure. I can tell you exactly where to listen to the doctors talk about the research and studies made that back these claims. If you believe consuming animal protein will not give you cancer, heart disease or osteoporosis, watch Forks Over Knives. It is a documentary that contains no animal cruelty, and it could and should change your life.

If you do not care that much about your heart, your bones or your health, but you are intrigued to see if animals really suffer or if I am only exaggerating everything that relates to factory farming, then check out Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home, or watch Earthlings. If you want a glimpse on what the fur industry does to animals, watch The Witness. They will open your eyes. I guarantee it.

I heard an impressive vegan speaker not long ago that said: “To prove beyond a reasonable doubt that humans are herbivores, place a two-year old child in a crib with a bunny rabbit and an apple. If the child eats the rabbit and plays with the apple, then I’ll eat a steak sandwich that’s been dipped in ice cream! Humans have no carnivorous/omnivorous instincts whatsoever when we’re born, young and growing up.” Gary Yourofsky.

Opinion: defining art

By Kiana Mosser

Art is one of those words that the meaning of has been altered and disputed many times over. That’s all very well – it can be reshaped and redefined at the single stroke of a pen. Some might say that you can’t define art just as you can’t define beauty, because it’s subjective. But even with a term that’s highly subjective, there tend to be general trends in how people depict it; if a word for a concrete thing were entirely subjective, there would be little reason for that word to exist, because every person would interpret it differently. So if it can be defined, what exactly is art?

When we hear the word “art”, usually the first thing that comes to mind is a painting of some sort. After all, it’s hard to find someone who doesn’t agree that the Renaissance paintings hanging in a museum are art. But what about, as commonly joked about, how anyone can throw paint on a canvas or mount an empty soda can upside-down on a piece of plywood and claim that it’s “modern art” or “minimalist”?

The most important factor in deciding whether something is art is the thought, creativity, and/or expression behind it. According to the Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary, art is defined as “something that is created with imagination and skill and that is beautiful or that expresses important ideas or feelings”. It’s also important to remember that art isn’t created in a vacuum; it’s the manifestation of a person’s thoughts, which are influenced by the world around them, and there’s always a reason for the creation of a piece of art. A question that’s good to ask when figuring out the reason for its creation is, “Why did this person create this?” or “What was this person thinking when they created this?”

Art is a much broader subject than just painting; it comes in the form of many different mediums, including but not limited to music, writing, sculpture, film, animation, poetry, and even video games. In addition to the well-known mediums themselves, each of them have different genres (e.g. rock music) and subgenres (e.g. indie rock music) to take into account, and new mediums tend to pop up as well (although it’s not new now, film didn’t exist until the late 1880s), and some mediums that are considered art now weren’t considered art when they were first created. Because of how general mediums are, it’s best not to define art by its medium, but rather by what it expresses.

A common mistake people make when deciding whether something is art is to only take the medium into account, not the content itself; proclaiming, “Video games aren’t art!” is just as faulty as proclaiming, “That pencil you’re holding isn’t art!” The reason it’s invalid is that it targets the medium itself, not the art in question! Not everything created with a pencil is art – casually scribbling with the side of the graphite in a wooden pencil on a piece of paper to re-sharpen the tip might make a mark on the paper, but that mark made on the paper isn’t necessarily art because it wasn’t created with any intention to express a thought, feeling, or idea. It’s the same thing with video games as a medium; you can have a simple or fun game that isn’t intended to be thought-provoking, like Pong, or you can have a game with a well-thought out storyline/visual style/narrative/etc., as is the case with video games like Portal, Journey, Okami, and Bastion. The interactive nature of video games makes them a particularly effective art medium, since by playing one, you can immerse yourself in its world and its story.

Whatever the medium, in its purest form, art is the expression of an artist’s very soul, and through the reinterpretation of that expression by others, it has the power to touch their souls as well. It’s important to understand the power of an idea being brought to life through art because it can make the strongest man cry or bring down the most powerful of nations just the same as it can warm one’s heart or save a person from committing suicide.

How to eat healthy on a college budget

How many times have you complained that starting a diet is too expensive? Well guess what? You’re already on one!

Eating healthy can actually put some extra money back in your pocket.
Eating healthy can actually put some money back in your pocket.

A diet isn’t something you go on all the sudden: it’s what you eat every day and you don’t have to drop a ton of cash to improve it. You can even make your diet healthier and spend less at the same time.

First, make sure you eat breakfast. We’ve all heard it for years, it’s the most important meal of the day.

Taylor Hagan, medical dietetics graduate from the University of Missouri said, “Another good thing about breakfast is that it is usually the cheapest meal of the day.”

Next time you make your grocery run, grab some eggs and plain oatmeal, not the packets and all the added sugars that come with them. Go for the bin instead; it has no added sugar and you’ll spend around four dollars for thirty servings.

Eggs are one of the most complete sources of protein, which will help you stay full longer and will help to jumpstart your metabolism in the morning. And oatmeal is 100 % natural, just take a look at the ingredients label. It takes you less than a second to read.  Oatmeal is a great source of complex carbs, iron, protein, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants you need in a balanced diet.

Old Fashioned Quaker Oats is one of the best options out there for a cheap and nutritious breakfast.
Old Fashioned Quaker Oats is one of the best options out there for a cheap and nutritious breakfast.

The best part about eggs and oatmeal is that you can literally mix them with anything. Toss in some vegetables with your scrambled eggs or some fruit and nuts for taste and nutrition to your oatmeal, all for a much more sustainable and wallet friendly breakfast.

You can make anything for lunch and dinner so the possibilities are endless, but sometimes dangerous. Refrain from dining out for these meals, the six to twelve dollars you’d spend on one meal can buy you the ingredients for anywhere from two to six meals at home. Some cheap, healthy and easy staples for these meals are chicken, whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, frozen vegetables, fresh fruits and dried beans. Pull out that laptop and search recipes for some of these ingredients and you will see the combinations are endless. These ingredients provide you with protein, complex carbs, fiber, vitamins and minerals.

The key is versatility in the food you buy.  Making sure you can mix and match will not only save you money, it will mix things up and you’ll avoid eating the same meals everyday.

Take a look at this picture from menshealth.com, drinking one Rockstar energy drink is equivalent to eating six crispy creme donuts!
Take a look at this picture from menshealth.com, drinking one Rockstar energy drink is equivalent to eating six crispy creme donuts. I bet you didn’t account for that kind of sugar intake into your diet.

In between classes it can be easy and tempting to buy a candy bar or bag of chips.  Instead of wasting your dining dollars on these unhealthy items why not spend them on less expensive fruits, raw nuts or a protein bar with minimal sugar that will keep those hunger pains at bay longer and provide you with much needed energy, protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals.

What about those Rock Stars and Monsters? Just look at the ingredients label on those energy drinks. If you’ve never heard of it or can’t pronounce it, that probably means you shouldn’t be drinking it.

Hagan said, “A lot of Americans operate in a constant state of dehydration.” So instead of making things worse with energy drinks, drink water and eliminate the 400 calories average Americans drink in a day from your diet.

The best thing about eating healthy is you only have to do it about 80-90% of the time; many nutritionists say this will offset the negative effects of those times you indulge. So go ahead and spend the money you saved from eating healthy on those tempting cravings you have every now and then.

 

 

 

Opinion: Religious clubs on campus, it’s a good thing!

Religious clubs are not just relegated to after church services anymore.  It is welcomed on several college campuses as a way to allow students to share their beliefs with fellow students and allow then to be well-rounded in their academic pursuits.

College of the Canyons has several religious clubs that students can be involved in.  There are 53 clubs on campus currently.  Five of them are religious based and they are Grace on Campus, Bible Talk, Catholic Forum Club, Latter Day Saint Student Association, and the Muslim Student Association. The Associated Student Government department, at COC, would like to see that number increase next year.

There are an average of 15 members per club at any given time and that number can change depending on certain variables that take place each semester.  Membership drop due to students graduating or a shift in the enrollment tactics of the potential club, for example.

One of the primary purposes of religious clubs on campus is to allow the students to learn more about our college and a number of social issues that directly and indirectly affect our way of life.

“Their main focus is to have open discussions and activities that provide students at COC with more knowledge and encourage their involvement on campus and in the community,” said ASG Vice President of Inter Club Council Fernando Vasquez.

Kristy Lafon, a senior at COC, feels that a college that has religious clubs as a part of its social scene is okay if all religious beliefs can be represented in an equal playing field.  “Some people would get highly offended if their religion was not openly recognized,” said Lafon.

COC is very hospitable to religious beliefs, says Vasquez.  “We have religious clubs that hold talks about the topics mentioned previously and these clubs have also held activities on campus that encourage students to be aware of religion and God,” said Vasquez.

Each potential club must go through a process.  They must first pick up a packet containing a petition for charter from the Student Development Office, they must find seven people who would be interested in being part of the club and attend regular meetings, and  these seven members would then become the founding members of the club and elect officers to manage the club.

Once the petition has been submitted for approval to the SDO along with a written constitution stating their rules and regulations, a meeting is set up with the SDO to go over those objectives.

The final process is to turn in two very important forms, the club chartering form and the club members roster form that contains the names of all members in the club.

At the beginning of each semester, established clubs of all kinds are allowed to display their enrollment booths and post billboard signs around the campus to attract new members into their ranks, as the college enrollment grows with new students.

Having a college or university in your area that allows its students to express their religious beliefs in a setting other than a church, temple or temporary place of worship is a good thing.

 

Opinion: Aspergers, it’s misunderstood

Imagine you’re on a bus and two or three seats away you see somebody talking to themselves over and over again, your first inclination is to think that they’re crazy. The person could be reciting a poem or organizing their day to come. Regardless, there is something “off” about them. It could very well be that they are mentally ill, and you would have no idea. The fact is that mental illness is not dealt with this country as it should be. Whether you are bipolar or have OCD, it is a MAJOR problem. Most people do not seek out a diagnosis because they do not want to be told they are “different. Doctors believe pills can help, and in some cases it might ,but it does not alleviate it. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 1 in 17 or about 6% live with a mental illness.

One of the latest disorders to be discovered is called Asperger’s Syndrome. A brief background on it… in 1944 a man named Hans Asperger discovered children who lacked nonverbal communication skills. They were clumsy, and rarely showed emotion. “Aspies” as they like to be called are creatures of habit and routine. Amongst other things “Aspies” have very poor social and communication skills, especially with the opposite sex. They will do the same thing, the same way every single day..sometimes multiple times a day. There is no known cure at this point. In 1981, the concept of it was modernized. When the early 1990’s came along that’s when it got an official diagnosis from WHO (World Health Organization) Recently, the tragedy in Newtown CT brought it to light that the shooter had Asperger’s.

The reason I am writing this is because I have Asperger’s. I was appalled and angered at the insensitivity that Adam Lanza was portrayed as. Did he kill 26 people? Yes, no doubt it was a vile and heinous crime. People live on a day to day basis with this and unless you have been diagnosed, the average person can’t begin to understand what it’s like. Sure there are positives to it: we are more creative, and have better focus. But there are negatives, such as having very few friends, and not being able to date or have a relationship. Just like the average person, we have our good and bad days. I can tell you for me personally, I have never had a long term relationship.

I was given my diagnosis when I was 31, I’m 37 today. I have tried everything from state mental health services to reading books. The later in life you are given a diagnosis, the more difficult it is to get help. I should also say that men are twice as like to be afflicted by this. Women have been known to get it, however it is rare. Six years later I am still learning things about myself. Hopefully one day in the future, Asperger’s will be talked about as prevalent as other mental illnesses.

If you believe you have Asperger’s or any other mental illness I have a few pieces of advices:

1) Be Yourself- Don’t try and conform to somebody you’re not. Your friends and family are the best support you have.
2) Go to a Doctor- Sitting down and talking to someone DOES help. I am not ashamed to say that I was in therapy for a time.
3) Use Your Creativity- You will surprise yourself on the things you can accomplish. I LOVE movies, so I am taking that and learning how to become a screenwriter. Just DO IT!

Bite-sized life lessons

Jessica Pineda is a former Cougar News correspondent. Currently, she is in Florida taking part in a Walt Disney World internship program. From time to time, she will write about her experiences in Florida and at the “Magic Kingdom.”

I’ve learned a lot of things during my College Program, and here are some of those lessons condensed into bite size bits!

1.Rejection is no big deal. I applied for several internships and scholarship opportunities only to be rejected by each and every one of them. Sure, it was disappointing at first, but I learned that it is nothing to cry about. Entering a job market, one will be faced with plenty of rejection, but the ones who are resilient and work hard are the ones who succeed.

DCP White Board
My white board has helped me plan out my days here in Orlando!

2. Organization is key. Working over 30 hours a week, apartment chores, laundry, attending two classes, and trying to squeeze in the time to have fun? It seems like too much to do, but making to-do lists and organizing has really helped me manage my time well! Taking just 15 minutes in the morning to roughly plan out your day helps clear your mind. Also, take the time to put things away after you use them. It avoids the rush of trying to find a lost nametag or belt while getting ready for work.

3. The little things are important. At Disney, they are called Magical Moments. Even while working a 9.5 hour shift and having a stressful life situation on my hands outside of work that left me on the verge of tears, a little girl gave me a hug after I told her she looked beautiful in her Princess Aurora gown. That was enough to leave me glowing for the rest of the day, despite what was going on around me. Appreciating many little things turns the day into something extravagant and different.

4. Build relationships. Make friends and say hello to people at school, work, or anywhere you go. You never know whom you may meet or if you will ever cross paths again! A random guest at work stopped me for a few minutes, and we introduced ourselves and spoke for a while before she went on her way. A few weeks later, I found out she was actually one of my newest coworkers who wanted to see what PhotoPass at Epcot was like before she started. Now, I see her every week. If you’d like to grow within a company or be a good leader, be sure to say hello and socialize with your managers and coworkers. A good leader is also a friend to everyone.

Opinion: Awesometown

By Lisa Carroll

“I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself.” Maya Angelou, American author and poet, recognizes the innate human need to find a place to call home. Having lived in the Santa Clarita Valley for most of my life, I feel that this is a great town to call home, as it is considered a wonderful community in which to raise a family.

Furthermore, Valencia, a subset of the Santa Clarita Valley, has even recently been dubbed, “Awesometown.” But not everything is as “awesome” as this advertising campaign has tried to convey to potential home buyers.

The Santa Clarita Valley has a very broad and extensive history, and many of the city’s inhabitants are unaware of the multitude of historical places and events which have occurred right here in this town.

In 1842, the first documented discovery of gold in California was found right here in Placerita Canyon before the famous California gold rush. Following this event, in 1876, Charles Alexander Mentry brought in the first commercially successful oil strike in California. The remaining ghost town of Mentryville is now home to the longest running oil well on record, finally being capped in 1990. It can still be visited today, on the outskirts of Pico Canyon Road.

Another landmark is Saugus Café, which was established in 1887 and happens to be the oldest still-operating restaurant in the Los Angeles County. Additionally, the homes of two silent movie era stars, William S. Hart and Harry Carey, are located in the Santa Clarita Valley and are open to the public as historical landmarks.

The city’s historical significance can be quite interesting and colorful, and Santa Clarita is known for being the safest city to live in within  Los Angeles County. Although this safe city rating has changed over the years, as Santa Clarita has grown into the fourth largest city in the county, the city has maintained its claim to being the safest city in which to live.

Many families have moved to the Santa Clarita Valley in order to raise their children in a master-planned community, with every neighborhood having a nearby park, pool, shopping center and a highly rated school within close proximity.

The city is very family-oriented, and offers an abundance of activities, sports, organizations and classes for all ages of children through the city’s Parks and Recreation organization. All public schools in the district are rated highly for academic standards, and, specifically, the high schools are known for having highly competitive and award-winning athletic teams.

Santa Clarita is nestled 35 miles north of Los Angeles in between the 5 and 14 freeways, offering easy access to downtown Los Angeles via the 5 freeway, mountain resorts via the 14 freeway, and Ventura beaches via the 126 freeway. The convenient location of Santa Clarita makes any trip easy and relatively close.

Magic Mountain and Hurricane Harbor Water Park are the local theme parks in town, which boast many record-holding roller coasters and rides that are sure to excite any thrill-seeker. Other attractions in town are the aquatic center, skate park, ice station and the public and private golf courses. In 2006, Money Magazine rated Santa Clarita as number 18 in the top 100 best places to live in America, which I believe has created a great deal of interest for families looking to relocate.

As awesome as living in “Awesometown” may seem, it’s not all rainbows and “happily-ever-afters” for all the city’s dwellers. There has been an astronomical rise in heroin use in teenagers and young adults, striking the community with a great deal of pain, grief and sickness. Captain Paul Becker of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department recently stated that the city of Santa Clarita has had more heroin overdoses than fatal traffic collisions, and that the age range of these victims only consists of 18 to 27-year-olds.

While heroin has been a growing problem for many parts of the United States, presently it seems as though Santa Clarita has been a focal point as a result of adolescents and young adults in this area having easy access to money and too much free time on their hands. The city is making an enormous effort to curb the rise in this drug abuse issue by enforcing earlier education on addiction and overdose.

The number of opiate related deaths last year is staggering. There are 15 drug related deaths confirmed by the Coroner’s Office in 2012, and four others that were still being investigated at the time this statement was made in December by Bob Wachsmuth, a longtime resident and investigator with the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station’s Juvenile Intervention Team.

In 2010, there were five deaths, and in 2011, there were seven.  This rapid rise has brought many residents out of the denial stages of recognizing heroin and opiate prescription drugs as being a real problem for the young members of our beautiful city. These statistics also don’t take into account the number of deaths that have occurred with people who grew up out here and happened to overdose in a different city or county. Having personally known and buried many young friends and acquaintances over the years as a Santa Clarita resident has been heartbreaking.

The tragic losses can be felt across the valley, but organizations like Action Family Counseling, Not One More, and HeroinKills.org have stepped up to the plate to raise awareness of our ever growing problem and seek a solution to end the epidemic that has affected so many families.

Another drawback to living in this beautiful city is the high risk of fires, which result from dry winters and even drier summers. In recent years, there have been numerous fires which have decimated regions on the outskirts of town, but fortunately the fire department has managed to both gain control and reduce damage during fire season.

Furthermore, the city is also situated on the San Fernando fault line, and was significantly affected in both the 1971 San Fernando and the 1994 Northridge earthquakes.

Nonetheless, many Santa Clarita residents will proudly attest to how wonderful this town is to raise a family and to begin a new chapter in their lives. Its population has grown 17.5 percent from 2000 to 2010, and is now almost twice the growth experienced in all of Los Angeles County, which proves that many people are glad to call this rapidly-expanding, suburban city their home.

On the other hand, in my experience, it appears that most of the adolescent and young adult residents talk about leaving the town, seeking the independence of living outside of their comfort zones and exploring other cities. However, I believe many of these people rarely end up leaving because they begin to realize what a beautiful place the city of Santa Clarita actually is.

Despite certain drawbacks to living in this pristine community, such as the covert but rampant drug problem and the high fire hazard risks, I believe there are many positive qualities that qualify Santa Clarita as a wonderful town. Its culturally rich and colorful history, along with its excellent school system, has created a desirable suburb in which over 200,000 people prefer to grow up and raise children.

Though I have considered moving to other areas, I have a difficult time imagining calling any other town my home.

Opinion: Get connected

By Valerie Traba

Social media is a phenomenon that continues to transform the way the world functions. The methods that people now use to interact with others have shaped society in a myriad of ways. Negotiating business, interacting with friends and family, advertising, learning, and gossiping are just a few of these processes.

Because people now form, maintain, and sever ties with one another on the web, the ways the world operates—in comparison to how it did when face-to-face communication was still the norm—has changed. However, this change is an improvement overall. Because of the benefits that have emerged as a result of social media—broad audiences can be reached quickly more efficiently, life moments and memories can be uploaded and shared securely, communicating with people is more affordable, instant access to information can make people more knowledgeable—it fundamentally is a good service to society.

Social media gives people the convenience to reach a broad audience in a fast and more efficient way. Because messages are posted instantly and are readily available to everyone online, the one who posts the content does not have to contribute as much effort as one would in a face-to-face exchange.

This facilitates voluntary responses from a wider range of people who could give better, more useful information than those from a small group. The guesswork of having to research solutions independently is taken out of the equation when others are given the opportunity to offer assistance.

People are able to store memories and share life moments securely with others through the use of social media. With the click of a button, a proud parent can upload the footage of their child’s first steps onto his/her online profile and share it with the people in that given network. A benefit to saving content on the web is the peace of mind that comes with knowing that if the primary source is lost; the same version is still available online. The process of sharing experiences online, according to Laura Fitton, allows one to self reflect on their own lives.
“Perhaps the person you see most clearly is yourself”, Thompson said.  This self-examination is an example of how social media can be meaningful; good for society.
      
 Social media has made communication much more affordable. People can enjoy the amenities of communicating with their friends and loved ones without paying the steep prices of international data and calling plans. Social media allows people to communicate through online calling, video chatting, and instant messaging in a way that, according to Clive Thompson, is “felt even more intimate than a phone call”.
Because the social networking sites have features that enable private conversation, messaging, individuals are attracted to the idea of being in a place where they can communicate privately with another person.
Social media encourages people to become informed of the happenings in the world and helps them form opinions on them. This is precisely why sites like YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook have live news feeds that are constantly supplying the latest information for users to digest, and features that allow people to like, dislike, and respond to the content.
According to Steven Johnson, author of the article, “How Twitter Will Change the Way We Live”, “The most fascinating thing about Twitter is not what it is doing to us, but  as Johnson explains what we’re doing to it. Johnson is illustrating how it is the users’ reactions that not only keep social media alive, but cause it to evolve.
There is no doubt that social media has succeeded in certain areas such as connecting people from all over the world and simplifying the ways in which society operates. However, it is not a perfect system, and many people suffer the consequences of misusing social media, both intentionally and unintentionally. Even though the intention of social media is to make networking run more efficiently, sometimes quantity compromises quality. It is this reason why people, especially college students, should use social media wisely and in moderation.
As exciting–and in many ways welcoming—as social media is, college students must strive to practice serious reflection without making a blog post, facebook status, or tweet that shows the world how they feel; because, although these means of sharing allow one to “see” themselves, it detracts them from experiencing the authenticity of being alone. Social media is a remarkable aspect of society, and when it is used properly and respectfully, it has the power to make amazing things happen.






Opinion: An Arab Fall

By Robert Spallone

The once hopeful optimism of native uprisings that spread throughout the Middle East over two years ago might be coming to an end.  The movements that were lead by supporters risking their lives, and that eventually lead to the name “The Arab Spring,” could be falling faster than the time it took for social media to get Arab’s voices heard. This fall couldn’t be any more evident than in Syria, where a lack of early U.S. involvement may have lead to an even worse off fate than what Syrians could have ever imagined.

At least the Countries of Egypt and Libya were able to remove their governments, and can now focus on the hardest part of overthrowing a government, setting up a new one. The future isn’t clear for the progression of Egypt and Libya, but the fate of Syria is even more deadlocked, where a bloody civil war hasn’t even allowed Syrians to complete their first task of the Removal of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. The Syrians might fall before they even have a chance to get up and fight.

U.S. involvement wasn’t as easy in Syria as it was for other countries like Libya, where opposition groups had the approval of the U.S., and actually had a chance of defeating government forces. Till this day the Obama administration is still weary of which Syrian opposition groups should be given aid. This problem of fearing opposition groups due to the possibility of them having terrorist affiliations could have been avoided if the United States would have organized a U.S. led coalition, like the one achieved in Libya. An early led U.S. coalition could have stopped Syrian opposition groups from looking for any aid they could get, including aid offered by terrorist groups like the Al Qaeda inspired Al Nusra Front.

Now even if Syrian opposition groups are successful in the removal of the Assad regime, the U.S. will have to fear which group will be in charge of Assad’s stash of Chemical weapons.  The same chemical weapons that Bashar Al -Assad threatened to use against rebel forces, and the same chemical weapons that President Obama considered to be a “red line” for U.S. involvement, may end up in the hands of terrorist factions. If 70,000 dead Syrians aren’t a “red Line” for The Obama Administration to become more involved in the Syria conflict, then hopefully the idea of terrorist controlled chemical weapons will be.

The Syrian uprising is not a simple situation that can be solved only by the President ordering U.S. soldiers on the ground. A fear of more U.S. involvement in the Middle East is expected after Americans can see what occurred in Iraq now ten years later after a war that lasted for eight of those years. Many options are being implemented by the United States, like economic sanctions and missile batteries placed on Syrian boarders, but they don’t measure up to the increasing Syrian death toll. Sitting around any longer and waiting to see how things play out in Syria is not the best option anymore. With close to a hundred thousand silenced Syrians, and over a million newly displaced Syrian refugees, The U.S. doesn’t exactly have much time to make a decision in Syria’s fate. The United States is going to have to decide whether taking a risk on a Syria is the best option, compared to waiting a few years until U.S. intervention might become the only answer.

 

Opinion: Gay Marraige

By Leanne Park

It was in 1996 that the Defense of Marriage Act was signed by Bill Clinton, stating that a marriage was exclusively between a man and a woman.  This was over ten years ago and today, one can find Clinton publicly refuting the legitimacy of the reason behind said legislation.

Meanwhile in 2008, Proposition 8 was passed in the state of California, purely recognizing marriages between a man and a woman.  Since then, the Proposition has been taken to Supreme Court as being unconstitutional, and the court is expected to make its decision by June 2013.

This year, in which Barack Obama is serving his second term, gay rights were compared with that of the struggles of the civil rights movement in the President’s inaugural speech.  The President has seemingly taken a stance to support gay rights activists, a huge milestone in terms of accumulating executive support for this area of controversy.

While the fight for the legalization of gay marriage seems to grow more in favor of the gay activists every day, it is still appalling to consider that certain rights are denied to fellow citizens as if they were second class.  Not only are these citizens not allowed to get married to the person they love, but because they cannot marry, they are also denied the right to make emergency medical decisions on behalf of their loved ones, adopt children in need of a loving family, and gain from Social Security and disability benefits.

Where is the justification behind this absurdity?   Are these people not considered human beings just because they fail to love someone outside of their own sex?  Despite this slight difference, and much to the dismay of many Conservatives, they love the same way as any straight person.  The only problem serves to be that the government fails to treat them as equals.

This year, it is 2013 and we see powerful people like Clinton and Obama advocating for change.  We see people demanding the overturn of Proposition 8, and it is apparent that public opinion is shifting.  It is 2013 and slowly, but surely, the overdue change is coming.

Opinion: The trouble with mainstream music

By Kyle Quiambao

It starts off with a confused look on my face. I shift back between stations on my car radio just to make sure that I did in fact change the station. This has happened countless times before. I change the radio station as it begins to play a song I am not particularly fond of, only to be greeted by the very same song.
 
This is what is wrong with music on the radio and in the mainstream media. There is simply just not enough variety. Year after year, the music industry is dominated by the same few artists who put out the same type of songs. Monotony is blasted through the airwaves as each song sounds like the one before it.
 
Of course, that’s not to say that all mainstream music is terrible. They are topping charts and constantly being played for a reason. However, it does make evident the trend of commercialization in mainstream media (a trend that the Grammy’s attempt to deny by giving awards to one independent artist a year, such as Arcade Fire or Bon Iver). Take, for example, the band Maroon 5. The jazzy, reggae sound of their 2002 release Songs About Jane has seemingly been dispensed in favor of the electronic sound of “Moves Like Jagger.” It appears that guitar melodies have been overshadowed by repetitive “beats” and “synth riffs.”
 
Lyrics and content also seem to have a pattern in mainstream music. Songs have been riddled with things such as sexual innuendo, partying, and how amazing it is to be young. Songs have become so repetitive in sound, themes, and even specific words. How many songs in the past year have used the word “racks”? How many have used the word “swag?”
 
Despite this obvious repetition, the masses are still gravitating towards this music, listening to it, supporting it, and cementing its place on several stations of the radio. It is an endless cycle. They give it to us. We take it. We want it. And they give us more.

A beautiful tomorrow begins blooming today!

I got to see Minnie Mouse after class one day!
I got to see Minnie Mouse after class one day!

Jessica Pineda is a former Cougar News correspondent. Currently, she is in Florida taking part in a Walt Disney World internship program. From time to time, she will write about her experiences in Florida and at the “Magic Kingdom.”

My Disney College Program experience has been nothing less than amazing and unforgettable. Lately, I have been so occupied with work and planning for the future.

Despite the perk of having the ability to visit the theme parks whenever I’d like, I haven’t had much time to spend there beyond a few hours before my shifts or after class.

You read correctly. Even while living at Walt Disney World, I cannot escape Monday morning 8 a.m. classes, homework, or lectures.

I am enrolled in a Corporate Communications collegiate course and an Exploring Disney Heritage seminar series. Both are classes that I enjoy thoroughly and look forward to waking up at 7 a.m. to go to each week!

In addition, I have been attending Disney Career Development workshops that guide attendees on how to further their career with skills such as resume writing, networking, and much more!

I have also been accepted and will be attending California State University, Fullerton in the fall to study Communications!

Now, I must apply for scholarships, figure out how I will be paying for school, make living arrangements, plan my academic path, and apply for at Disneyland.

In the midst of all this planning, during Disney Heritage, my facilitator told our class a motto I will never forget.

“Bloom where you are planted.”

He meant that, if you have something great planned for the future, one must not forget to first excel where he is presently.

Often times, high school and college students are unenthusiastic about where they are at the time: sitting in a boring lecture, drowning in oceans of homework, or stocking shelves at a retail store—all the while dreaming about where they would ultimately like to be and what they plan to do after graduation.

The reality is, in order to reach that career goal, in order to get accepted to the perfect graduate school or get promoted to that management position, you must go above and beyond in that seemingly irrelevant general education class and part-time cashier job that doesn’t seem to be anywhere near what you “really want to do.”

They are not irrelevant at all.

These positions are the proving grounds for where you would like to end up in the future.

The networking you do and contributions you make now can lead you further down your career path.

In fact, George Kalogridis, the President of the Walt Disney World Resort, began his career bussing tables at Disney’s Contemporary Resort while he was in college.

From there, he climbed up the corporate ladder and is now overseeing a team of over 60,000 Cast Members.

Do everything with passion. Do everything with your best effort.

My role as an intern at Walt Disney World is a stepping-stone. I have been creating magic and learning as much as I can, in the hopes that it will help me grow within the company.

Achieving dreams is an art that requires the perfect balance of planning and doing your best work where you are now.

The attraction poster for Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress in Tomorrowland at Magic Kingdom!
The attraction poster for Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress in Tomorrowland at Magic Kingdom!

In Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress, the main character at the end of each phase of history looks forward to what the future holds singing, “There’s a great, big, beautiful tomorrow shining at the end of everyday, and tomorrow’s just a dream away!”

A great, big, beautiful tomorrow awaits you. So, be sure to dream and work hard today!

Want to see more about my Disney College Program experience? Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, or Flickr!

Opinion: Defining the sequester

sequester

Everyone hears the word sequester, but most people have no idea what it even means.

Several college students, when asked how they feel about this years’ sequester have no idea what it is; therefore, they have no opinion on the matter, nor a reason to be or not to be worried.

A sequester is defined as a general cut in government spending according to dictionary.com

It is a battle that has raged  between the Democratic and Republican parties of the government for the past 2 years, and if they don’t reach an agreement by Friday, several cuts in federal spending will automatically kick in.

Among cuts that will be made are the amounts of money available to the military, the FBI, and other programs that will total out to $85 billion by the end of the year and $2.1 trillion dollars divided evenly over the next nine years (2013 through 2021).

Certainly the average person is wondering how this will impact them, or why should they be concerned with it at all.

That money will be completely cut out of the budget affecting programs that the majority of the country will actually care about,  are probably more recognizable to the public eye including national parks, hurricane relief programs and local school districts.

The sequester can only be avoided if Congress reduces the deficit by over $1 trillion.

“President Obama put forward a plan to avoid these cuts and reduce the deficit by cutting spending and closing tax loopholes. Now it’s up to Congress to act,” said Megan Slack author of the article What is the Sequester? at www.whitehouse.gov.

Ultimately, the fear is that a full $85 billion cut from the federal budget will damage the economy.

Perhaps the bigger issue is that if a decision is not reached it could threaten thousands of jobs and programs affecting citizens across the country.

With an understanding of the sequester, we simply wait until Friday and hope for the best.

Making mistakes and making magic

The things I never leave my apartment without: sneakers, backpack, water bottle, ID, and costume!
The things I never leave my apartment without: sneakers, backpack, water bottle, ID, and costume!

Jessica Pineda is a former Cougar News correspondent. Currently, she is in Florida taking part in a Walt Disney World internship program. From time to time, she will write about her experiences in Florida and at the “Magic Kingdom.”

I am striving to do my best work, create magic, and make the most of my time here. Hopefully, what I am doing here is just the sprout of what I dream will blossom into a career within Walt Disney Parks & Resorts.

For college students who aspire to work for The Mouse, the Disney College Program has been suggested as a good springboard to a career with The Walt Disney Company and its affiliates.

But like all other dreamers, going the distance does not come without its hurdles.

Upon my first day of training, nerves and worries had incessantly buzzed in my head like a bee you just can’t shoo away.

It all boiled down to, “This is the company I hope to work with for a long time. The rest of my life depends on this. I have to be perfect.”

This is a toxic way of thinking: a set up for disaster.

My mind was so consumed from worrying about making a wrong step that I wasn’t watching where I was walking. I made more mistakes than I should have, and those mistakes caused excess emotional grief.

The backside of Spaceship Earth at Epcot as seen from the Monorail.

A few days ago, I decided to visit Epcot as a Guest a few hours before my shift started in order to gain a better idea of what Epcot is like from the other perspective. I noted wait times, crowded points, firework viewing spots, and sought the answer to any guest inquiries that I did not know the answer to before.

That exploration session helped me become a more knowledgeable Cast Member.

Before work, I stepped into the locker room to change into my costume. As I shuffled through my Mickey State University backpack to trade my Mickey Mouse sneakers for my work shoes, I came to the horrid realization that I had left the button-up shirt for my costume (my uniform) at my apartment.

Additionally, it turned out I clocked in incorrectly and accidentally pressed a button that would cause an error on not only my schedule, but two other photographers’ as well.

I was focusing so much on trying to improve myself as a Cast Member earlier in the day, yet I made two mistakes within the first few minutes of my shift.

At that point, a manager had noticed that I was not in costume, and said I had to run down to the costuming department as quickly as possible to get another shirt.

On my way downstairs, my eyes started welling up and the tears began rolling down my cheeks.

The worrisome bee inside my head was buzzing up a storm, and I was so disappointed and angry with myself for making such careless mistakes.

The reality was that both of those mistakes were easily fixable and not remotely worth shedding tears for. My coordinators were so patient and kind, assuring me everything was taken care of and I was ready for work. I just had to relax and be careful next time.

“Always look at the bright side of things—learn from it when things go bad,” a custodial Cast Member said to me as I briefly passed him as I walked to my post.

That I did.

This Cast Member did not have an inkling of why I was crying, but little did he know that his words went a long way.

I learned that I needed to relax and have faith in myself. A little pressure to challenge myself is good, but it should not be overwhelming.

It’s OK to make mistakes. In fact, it is the best way to learn.

I owned up to what I did wrong, assessed what I needed to do in order to prevent them, and fully remembered the consequences for not being careful.

There was no need for tears and no need to dwell on something that has already happened.

The buzzing bee of constant worry dwindled down. One could say Jiminy Cricket took its place and faintly reminded me to relax and let my conscience be my guide.

I walked onstage feeling truly refreshed and ready to capture some magic.

The happiest internship on earth

Main Street USA, Magic Kingdom

Jessica Pineda is a former Cougar News correspondent. Currently, she is in Florida taking part in a Walt Disney World internship program. From time to time, she will write about her experiences in Florida and at the “Magic Kingdom.”

A few weeks ago, I traveled 3,000 miles away from home to pursue my dream of living at Disney World  and working for the one and only Mickey Mouse!

I am currently residing in Orlando, Florida this spring semester for the Walt Disney World College Program, in which I take courses taught by Disney facilitators, work at the theme parks, and create magic that will last a lifetime.

My role within Disney is a PhotoPass Photographer at Epcot! I add magic to Guests’ memories by photographing them with icons and beautiful views, taking photos of character meetings and capturing magical moments.

A photo of my boss and me!
A photo of my boss and me!

In the dedication of Disneyland, Walt Disney said, “Here age relives fond memories of the past, and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future.”

This is my first experience living away from home, travelling to the east coast, paying rent and essentially living and supporting myself as a fully independent adult.

I may be spending five months where children of all ages come to play, but I have a lot of growing up ahead of me as I live, learn, and earn at “Where Dreams Come True”.

I will be posting updates on Cougar News with my experiences and lessons learned on a variety of topics, from Disney news and photos, career building, living on my own, advice, and much more!

Let the Memories Begin!

Cyber Monday vs. Black Friday

Lines filed all the way outside of the mall for some stores on Black Friday and there was hardly any walking space for customers or employees at the Newhall Ranch Road Wal-Mart, but some 2011 statistics show Cyber Monday to be in the running with Black Friday.

There was obviously a time when Thanksgiving was simply Thanksgiving and the holidays were the holidays, but now the Friday after Thanksgiving is looked to as one of the biggest shopping days of the year and the following Monday seems to be its competition.

Black Friday has only recently become the busiest shopping day of the year.

In 2003, Black Friday was the busiest shopping day that year and has remained so since then.

Cyber Monday refers to the online version of Black Friday, where people can go all out on huge deals without standing in line for hours on black Friday.

Though Black Friday is fairly new to being the biggest shopping day of the year, it is not new to shoppers in general. However, Cyber Monday is a term that was coined only 7 years ago in November of 2005.

Apparently retailers noted that some shoppers couldn’t physically make it to the Black Friday sales and would look for online deals the following Monday.

IBM reported that Cyber Monday brought in 29.3% more online sales than Black Friday sales online in 2011.

Of course on Black Friday one is more likely to be found trying to find the last 55” flat screen television than online.

Shoppers may find that completely ignoring Black Friday and only using Cyber Monday takes away from the excitement and thrills of camping outside a department store.

Both shopping days show a record of shoppers in the millions.

Though some may believe that the question to pose is which will win this year, others say that the two days aren’t a competition.

CNBC reported in 2011 that bargain shoppers no longer look at the two days as “an either – or proposition”.

Perhaps this is the holiday shopping phenomenon evolved, if folks can’t find products on Black Friday, there’s always Cyber Monday ahead with more deals.

Opinion: Proposition 30 – A way to fix finances for education in California

Students may have noticed that the price of tuition has gone up dramatically over the past few years. Proposition 30 can help with the rise in tuition costs. This initiative helps generate money for children as young as the pre-school level and benefits those who are getting a degree at the four year level. In its entirety, the bill would generate $6 billion in revenue to help the education process.

The way Prop 30 generates money for the education system is by raising the sales tax by one quarter of a penny over the next 4 years. It would also raise the income tax of everyone who makes over $250,000 a year for the next 7 years.

Governor Jerry Brown hopes that this would get California on a track to fix the growing financial problem of education in California. There is no guarantee that the proposition will work in the long run, but there are certainly benefits for those who are currently enrolled in California schools.

If Prop 30 does not pass, there will be additional cuts across all CSU, UC, and community colleges alike. CSU is estimated to cut $250 million from its budget, which would result in fewer classes, fewer teachers, and less funding for a growing number of students in California. Those cuts would mean an additional $150 in tuition next year for those who currently go to CSUN.

Although it may seem like Prop 30 is a must for our education system, some argue that it is imperative for California residence to stop feeding money to the California State budget. Lisa Snell a spokeswoman for the Libertarian think tank Reason Foundation says, “The state of California spends too much money, and they haven’t made real to cut funding in things like pensions, we just made a huge investment in high speed rail; the spending cuts are disingenuous at best.”

Opinion: Proposition 32 – California’s corporate coup

“At its core, Proposition 32 is a good idea; it’s the execution that’s sloppy.”

When it comes to politics, the majority of people seem to enjoy fairness, we like the idea of everyone having an equal say in the process. This is why the idea of the special interest is so despicable; people inherently oppose the idea of corporations or unions holding more sway over political decisions than the average voter. This explains why Proposition 32, also known as the “Stop Special Interest Money Now Act”, has garnered so much attention this election season; Californians want to keep special interests out of politics.

However, Proposition 32 is not what it claims to be, as far from ending special interests in California, it will instead transfer almost all lobbying power to a single select group: corporations. Proposition 32 does this by preventing unions from collecting funds, as well exempting organizations like Super PAC’s.

Currently, the two major lobbying powers in California are the state’s various worker’s unions and assorted corporate interests. Both of these organizations use their funds to support candidates that they feel agree with their interests. Proposition 32’s language seems to put an end to that, as it explicitly prohibits both unions and corporations from deducting money from employee wages, or union dues, in order to fund campaign contributions. But here’s the catch: corporations by and large don’t collect for campaign funds this way; instead, most pull directly from their profits to pour into candidate funding. Unions, on the other hand, rely almost entirely on union dues to fund campaigns. This would effectively cripple union political power, and would allow corporate interests to run amok in Sacramento unopposed.

But doesn’t Proposition 32 prevent both unions and corporations from giving directly to politicians? Yes, while Proposition 32 does prevent direct candidate contributions, something already prohibited on the federal level, it does not prevent funding for Super PACs. But what is a Super PAC? A Super PAC is a committee that operates independent of a candidate’s campaign, but may campaign on their behalf with unlimited legal limits on expenditures. Corporations and unions often fund Super PACs so that they will more effectively campaign. Proposition 32 notably excludes any restrictions on the use of Super PACs, meaning that even if it were to pass, both corporations and unions would still be able to lobby Sacramento with little effort.

But what does all this mean for the average California citizen? Proposition 32 represents an ineffectual effort to curb special interests in California; instead it seems to simply solidify corporate dominance in lobbying politicians. It wipes out the power of unions, whilst simultaneously allowing the continued use of Super PACs to fund campaigns.

At its core, Proposition 32 is a good idea; it’s the execution that’s sloppy. As citizens, we should demand more. We need to call for an end to all special interests in California, not just unions. When Election Day rolls around on Nov. 6, just remember that Proposition 32 doesn’t have the voter’s best interests at heart. Instead, it helps the very special interests it claims to fight.

Opinion: First presidential debate of 2012, and the winner is …?

The first of three presidential debates aired Wednesday from the University of Denver in Colorado and it featured a debate on domestic issues.

The beginning of the debate started with Governor Romney congratulating President Obama on his 20 year anniversary with the First Lady, but that is where the friendship ended and partisanship and fact-bending began.

Most of the debate was about the economy where three segments – half the debate – took place. The enthusiasm on the subject from both candidates kept moderator Jim Lehrer from keeping control, going far over the allotted time. He tried to interrupt both candidates whenever he could. “We are way over our first 15 minutes,” said Lehrer at the 17 minute mark of the debate.

The highlights of the debate were Romney’s remarks regarding China, claiming, if elected, he would cut spending on certain programs asking, “Is it so critical that it’s worth borrowing from China to pay for it?”

But social media site Twitter went abuzz after Romney named a few programs he was willing to cut, including PBS saying he likes Big Bird, the Sesame Street character, but would still cut funding to PBS, the company that also employs Lehrer.

The low-light of the debate was more of the same, half-truths and exaggerations on both sides. Both candidates fervently argued with each other with Governor Romney repeatedly saying, “I will not give the rich tax breaks” while the President argued that Romney’s plan does exactly that. The President said, “We should not give deductions to companies that are moving jobs overseas, we should take a balanced approach.” While the GOP candidate said that there are no such tax breaks for shipping jobs overseas or that Obama should hire a new accountant.

There were no winners in this debate, though social media and CNN suggest that Romney was the hands down winner, the real losers are those who were and are still unsure who to vote for. According to a CNN poll, 67% of voters who watched the debate said GOP nominee Mitt Romney won the debate, while 25% said President Obama came out as the winner.

Romney for the first time articulated his stance on how to bring in revenue and balance the budget without having to raise taxes.

He also for the first time refuted the logic that he is like Republican candidates before him who brought economic turmoil to America, compared to his gaffes last week including a video where he said nearly half of Americans don’t pay taxes. “My (tax) plan is not like anything that has been tried before, my plan is to bring down rates and deductions and credits at the same time,” Romney said.

Throughout the debate President Obama still pointed out, though articulate, the GOP nominee is lacking in his specifics on how he plans to turn the country around if he is elected. Obama also said the country at least knows where he stands on his policies.

We can only wait to see what the next debates have to offer and see which candidate voters that are still on the fence choose.

Opinion: Someone get the real referees back!

The final play of last night’s Monday Night Football game in Seattle was all it took for the world to go in uproar over the replacement referees officiating.

While Seattle Seahawks fans rejoiced, the entire rest of the league, and its fans, sat in shock and anger as they viewed the most controversial touchdown ever seen. The Seattle Seahawks had defeated the Green Bay Packers 14-12, in what will go down as the most controversial touchdown ruling of all time.

With only 8 seconds remaining on the clock in the 4th quarter and the Packers up by five points, the Seahawks scored on a fraudulent “Hail Mary” touchdown heave by Seahawks Quarterback, Russell Wilson, to Wide Receiver Golden Tate. Call it a debacle, miracle, or whatever else you want to name it, everyone AND their mothers, brothers, and second cousins knew that the Packers were robbed of a victory.

Packers defensive back, M.D. Jennings, had a clear and cut throat interception. Jennings had two hands grasped firmly around the Roger Goodell tagged football as he was coming down to the  ground with what appeared to be a game-winning interception by the 2nd year safety. As they hit the artificial turf, Jennings had clear possession of the football, as Tate only had one hand in the locked vice grip of the Packer defensive back.

The officials looked to each other to figure out what to call this shocking play as one official signaled a touchback for Packers, but the other signaled touchdown. Now, keep in mind the ball was clearly in the hands of Jennings with Tate having no part of the football in his grasp. After the call was made, the head official and his crew did not meet to discuss what the other zebras had seen.

As part of a new rule in the National Football League, every scoring play is automatically reviewed. After review of the play, the call on the field stood, and the Seahawks were pronounced the winner of the game.

The entire world, and specifically the social media world, could not believe what they had just witnessed. Athletes across all platforms of sports and their fans, were taking to Twitter to voice their opinion or a fact as I think we would all agree on (sorry Seahawk fans or Packer-haters).

With NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell trying to restore integrity to the game of football, he might have glanced over the importance of having the original referees to enforce his lawful ways. NFL players are shouting in grief and despair as they are clamoring for the original referees to come back.

Who would have known that these referees we generally hate, would eventually turn into a lost love like the ex boyfriends or girlfriends who are begging for their loved ones to come back.

I think we can all finally agree that we need peace restored to our league and bring back our referees. We CANNOT have these Division 3 college football referees altering the way the game is called and played. There is no place in the sport of football for this lack of officiating. (Not to mention it dampens the image of Division 3 football.)

As bad as last evenings game was, it sent a much needed message to the league offices. Unfortunately, the guinea pigs had to be the Green Bay Packers.

Get this deal done, and done quickly Goodell. ALL eyes are now on you.

Opinion: 10 Tips for job interviews

1. Prepare

Don’t go into an interview blindly.  Research the business and position you are applying for.  The more you know, the better you will feel when walking into the interview.  Educate yourself on the job’s requirements and responsibilities and relate you’re past experiences to the skills needed to complete the job effectively.  It is best to prepare examples and past experiences to show the interviewer you are the best person for the job.

 2. Be On Time

Nothing is worse than showing up to a job interview late and frazzled because you felt rushed.  Allow yourself plenty of time to get to your destination and plan accordingly.  Traffic can hinder your travels and the lack of parking can leave you pressed for time.  Try to show up around 15 minutes early in order to have a moment to your self, otherwise known as the pre-beat.  During your pre-beat, organize your thoughts and go over key points you wish to bring up in the interview.

3. Calm Yourself

The interview process can be a nerve-racking experience and consist of you worrying about saying the right thing in order to impress the interviewer.  The interviewer isn’t looking for a certain answer.  They are looking to find out more about you and your work ethics. Get out of you head and don’t worry about what the interviewer thinks of you so much.  Be your natural self and answer the questions simply and concisely.  Take a deep breath and show who you are and your best qualities will shine through.

4. Show Don’t Tell

Everyone will come into a job interview claiming they are hard working and responsible.  In order to climb above the rest of the applicants, provide examples of your past work in order to show the interviewer your skills.  It is one thing to tell the interviewer what your skills are but it is another thing to show them the quality of your work.

5. Dress Appropriately

When you go on your interview you want to look put together because it reflects your personality.  Someone who comes in looking disheveled will appear unorganized and unfit for the position.  But if you come in well groomed and wearing the appropriate clothing, you will look like a responsible and efficient employee.  So invest in a designated professional outfit so you appear ready for the job.

6. Practice

The question everyone loathes, “tell me about yourself,” is so broad that your mind wanders to many different places as you try to figure out where to begin and which path to take.  Prepare for these questions for they are inevitable. Figure out the best way to answer these questions while covering all your points and segway into topics you wish to discuss. Practice makes perfect.

7. Don’t be afraid to make small talk

Don’t feel like it is all business all the time.  People have lives outside of work and it is okay to discuss family or other aspects from your personal lives.  It will take the edge off the interview and you will feel more comfortable with answering the pressing questions later on in the interview.  However, try not to brown nose for the sake of winning over the interviewer.

8. Don’t be afraid to ask questions

By asking questions about the job, you will show interest in the company.  However, be sure to ask good questions instead of questions with obvious answers.

9. Avoid Slang

Show that you are a good communicator by speaking formally and avoiding slang.

10.  Follow Up

Send the interviewer a thank you note along with other personal touches.  Express your gratitude for the interviewer’s time along with any other elements you see fit.

Opinion: The great outdoors

Some of my fondest childhood memories involve being outdoors. The children in my neighborhood would gather outside in the afternoon organizing games to play well into the evening until the inevitable flicker of the streetlights would signal us back to our homes.

I was also heavily involved in horseback riding growing up. Starting from the age of seven, I spent the majority of my free time riding and grooming horses. I would spend hours at the barn during the weekends and go home wind burnt, dusty and happy. I spent my entire life immersed in this outdoor hobby and even after I graduated form high school I still spent a great deal of time horseback riding. As a result, I never placed a great deal of value on technological hobbies.

I have never been good with computers, video games, or anything technological for that manner. I feel like while I was growing up I placed such a high value on spending time with my horse and being outdoors that I never bothered to get into technology at all because I found it unnecessary, I already had my own entertainment.

I now look at children and wonder how different their lives will be. I see babies playing on iPads and toddlers toting around their parent’s cell phones already pretending to have adult conversations on adult devices. Instead of picking up a real book children are learning how to read on devices like the Kindle. Teenagers and adults alike are in their own technological worlds always madly moving fingers and thumbs across keypads of electronic devices completely oblivious to the world around them.  When did society begin to favor letters on a screen over face-to-face conversations? When did children who can barely walk learn to operate a device so complex as an iPad? What will happen to this new generation of children? Will they feel the joy of an outdoor game of hide and seek? Will they ever feel the accomplishment of turning the last page of a novel and closing the cover?

I think it is time for society to take a step back from their electronic devices and see just how good it feels to have a real conversation with a friend instead of a hastily typed message sent in seconds. I understand that the major advances in technology are necessary in today’s world. And believe me, I enjoy my laptop with Wi-Fi and my iPhone with all of its capabilities just as much as the next person. I, however, do not prefer to spend my time glued to these devices. I just think it seems like a cold lonely world when there is such a dependence on technology and the value of “old fashioned” entertainment has diminished so.

Take the time to read a real book, meet a friend for coffee and actually talk, and encourage children to play outside. I do not want to grow old in a world where technology is more important that what is right outside your front door. Use technology as it is meant for, an aid to make life easier, but please don’t forget to actually live your life too.

Opinion: Keeping COC clean is up to students

Budget cuts seem to be a constant theme here at College of the Canyons. When budget cuts come to mind, most students think about the hit they will take in their pocket books. One area that may be overlooked in these unsure times is the cleanliness of the campus.

The overall look of the school is truly remarkable, even during these tough times, however there are some areas that need some extra care. One reoccurring issue is cigarette butts, which can be remedied by smoking in the designated smoking areas or simply cleaning up after oneself.

“With what used to take two days, now may take up to two weeks.” This statement from the schools Public Information Officer Bruce Battle, just goes to show one of the issues facing the school. He went on to say, that the school recently lost four custodial positions and will not be replacing those staff members.

Not withstanding, the budget shouldn’t have to play such a giant role in the way campus looks. The students can be just as effective when it comes to keeping their school clean.

Keeping pride in one’s school is beneficial not only for the students, but also for the many people that visit the school everyday. As students, take a moment and look around you and ask what can I do to help keep my campus clean.

Opinion: Honors students should be a priority

By Amanda Besa

Registration for fall semester is just around the corner. For many, registration is a like putting together a complex and intricate puzzle. Having to organize a school schedule around what classes are still available after those who get priority registration can be stressful and sometimes impossible.

There are currently eight groups on campus that receive priority registration: Veterans, Foster Youth, EOPS, DSPS, MESA, CalWorks, athletes, and the Associate Student Government. A majority of these groups are given priority registration through laws or grants. But other groups, like athletes and ASG, are rewarded with priority registration by COC because of the time commitment required of them.

At COC about 2,600 students have priority registration. Understandably, COC is apprehensive in allowing other groups to register early because “the priority would become less and less,” said Director of Admissions and Records, Jasmine Ruys.

“Other groups such as the forensic team, reentry students, upward bound, and many programs searching for grants try to write [priority registration] into their grant proposals.”

So the question is: who, if anyone, should be given priority registration in addition to the groups that already have the privilege? Surely the Honors Program is a prized candidate.

Students in the Honors Program “engage in creative and challenging coursework, enrichment activities, scholarship, and research opportunities, and community service events,” according to the COC Honors website. The Honors courses are designed to challenge students and demand more critical thinking, reading, and research skills.

Beyond these difficulties, the students in the Honors Program are the students who want to be on the fast track to college. These are the students who are motivated to transfer to a four-year university and dedicate much of their time to creating the best possible résumé. They make a conscious and disciplined effort towards good grades and involvement on campus so that they will have an upper hand when applying to transfer.

But COC does not recognize these students’ efforts or goals. Rather, these students are grouped with all the other non-priority students attending COC. Because Honors students don’t receive priority registration, many of their goals are delayed.

Along with all the students who don’t receive priority registration, Honors students often times don’t get the classes they need and are forced to remain at COC longer than they had planned. By not rewarding the Honors Program with priority registration, COC is hindering top students from achieving their goals in a timely manner.

“The state is currently coming up with guidelines and new laws to dictate to the community colleges how to do priority enrollment. In the current version the state is considering, Honors students are not part of the priority enrollment,” said Ruys.

If the state is unwilling and COC is reluctant to reward Honors students with priority registration, can there at least be a compromise? Other community colleges such as Fullerton, allow their Honors students priority in registering for honors courses.

Since Honors students don’t have priority registration, many are not even able to get into honors classes at COC.

If priority registration was given to the Honors Program, “honors classes would fill first with honors students while non-honors students could not potentially ‘rush’ a class,” said Patty Robinson, the head of the Honors Program at COC.

If COC is not willing or able to give Honors students a general priority registration, can they at least give Honors students priority for their own courses? After all, Honors courses were created for the benefit of Honors students.

Opinion: Caffeine, the daily drug

A stereotypical American’s day usually starts by a person rolling out of bed and going to find some coffee to help wake up.

Coffe contains a stimulant called caffeine which helps people feel more alert and ready to face the day. A stimulant is a substance or a drug that raises the levels of activity in the body.

Caffeine is in coffee, sodas, energy drinks, tea and even chocolate. Having more than the recommended amount of caffeine a day is not beneficial to a person’s health; in fact, it would be best to avoid caffeine as much as possible.

Every single day, 90% of American adults consume caffeine.

The amount of caffeine different products contain varies quite a bit. There is a lot more caffeine in a cup of Starbucks coffee than there is in a piece of chocolate. A person would be able to eat more chocolate without having too much caffeine than with the cup of coffee.

At most a person should be having one cup of coffee, one cup of tea OR one cup of soda a day. Sadly most people do not have only one cup, students especially. Instead of grabbing another cup of coffee or an energy drink, students should just get more sleep to help themselves feel more rested and ready to face the day.

The biggest reason people consume caffeine is to get what they feel is a boost of energy.

Inside the brain, what the caffeine is doing is replacing adenosine which is what tells the brain that it is tired. If a person consumes too much caffeine, they can inadvertently develop insomnia.

Just like any other stimulant, once the effects of the caffeine wear off, the person can experience symptoms like fatigue, irritation or even headaches. Caffeine affects your sleeping patterns and can possibly mimic stress symptoms. After this happens a person might feel like they need to drink even more caffeine when in reality they just need to let the effects wear off before they start to really improve.

Caffeine is the most commonly used drug in North America. If people cautiously use any other type of drug, then why do they feel free to consume as much caffeine as they wish? Perhaps they are too addicted to caffeine to notice. Caffeine may make a person feel more alert and better in the short term but in the long run it is just not the healthiest choice. It is not too difficult to drink an alternative like water, juice or even milk. It is best to consume as little caffeine as possible and perhaps just get more sleep.

Opinion: The Rising Cost of Gas

$3.86- The national average price of gas as of March 19, 2012, according to the Energy Information Administration. This is a 45 cents increase since January.

Gas prices are becoming a big issue for the candidates running for election in 2012. With a sudden burst in prices at the pump, the conversation has turned from unemployment rate to solutions for American oil and energy.

Some say President Barrack Obama can cure our pain of rising gas prices by simply approving the pipeline in Alaska, or increasing the amount of domestic fuel produced per year. Newt Gingrich proposed that he could make gas prices $2.50 a gallon. But what do we do with all of this debate?

There truly is not much America can to over night to make the price of gas drop. The current market is determined by the supply and demand of the entire world. With the industrialization of countries like China and India, the overall demand of gas has greatly increased in the last decade.

Since 2008, America has become less and less dependent on imported oil. In 2007, we domestically produced 42% of our own gasoline according to the Consumer Energy Report. However in 2010, the U.S. produced 49% of its own gasoline as noted by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

There has been a lot of thought that Iran is the reason our oil prices are quickly rising. While this statement is somewhat true, there are still many other factors at hand. Iran only controls 4.6% of the total amount of oil produced a day (US E.I.A.). As stated earlier, the US produces 49% of its own fuel, and 49% of imported oil comes from the Western Hemisphere (US E.I.A). We get about 12% of our oil from Canada alone. Only about 9% of the total oil in America comes from the Persian Gulf, and Saudi Arabia makes up for 6% of the 9%. This means the amount of petroleum we receive from Iran equals less than 3% of the total consumption in the United States. Iran certainly makes an impact on the world market of oil, but there are still more contributing factors.

Demand has gone up over the last few months, as the economy seems to be making a turn around. The Federal Bank also plays a role in the growing gas prices. In 2008, when the economy took a drastic downturn, the Federal Reserve released billions of dollars in order to boost the economy out of a recession. The central bank created a situation of “loose monetary policies,” says the Week’s Editorial Staff. This decision has created a larger inflation rate than normal, which has affected our price of gas. Now that people are spending money again, we are starting to see some of inflation’s effects at the pump.

Newt Gingrich stated he could get gas prices down to $2.50 a gallon, but is that actually possible? Well it could be, but at a high cost. The full effect of Gingrich’s proposal would not take effect until 2030. American Petroleum Institute projects the operation to create around 1.4 million jobs in America, and $800 billion in revenue. So what’s the down side to this plan?

For one, there would be a lot of created pollution and waste to deal with. A lot of this oil would come from the Keystone XL Pipeline. At first glance the pipeline looks like a great idea, however there are large drawbacks. The pipeline would span 2000 miles from Alberta, Canada to Texas. It would be transporting “tar sands oil.” This oil is much more dirty than the typical oil we extract. It also takes three times the energy to harvest. The total emissions would be like adding “six million new cars to U.S. roads,” reports the Friends of the Earth Campaign. A large amount of water has to be used in order to extract the oil. The water carries “harmful substances like cyanide and ammonia.” These pollutants cause a lot of environmental problems, which are no light issue.

In the long run, the pipeline could very well be a good solution to American energy issues, but the right environmental regulations need to be kept intact. We do not want another Gulf of Mexico situation to be on our hands. Gingrich’s plan skips a lot of the safety precautions in order to deliver cheap and affordable gas.

$2.50 gas is possible in a long term outcome, but at a potentially very high price to our environment.

So what now? How can America lower its gas prices?

I’ll give 5 good answers that I have found:

1) Increase the amount of domestic oil produced- This has continued to rise every year since 2008.

2) Lower the dependency on oil- America spends billions on energy development every year.

3) Incorporate the Keystone Pipeline correctly- Not short cutting safety and pollution standards.

4) Fixing the “loose money policy” of the Federal Bank- Not allowing a drastic increase in inflation.

5) Vote- In the coming election, potential presidents will promise lower gas prices. Look into what they are saying and the pro and cons of their choices.

Opinion: What’s my parking really worth?

If you’re a student at COC, you have undoubtedly felt the hassle and disappointment of the lack of available parking spots on the Valencia Campus over the last few semesters. The Spring 2012 semester is more of the same, and arguably the worst to date. Even after the semester class drop-date has past, a time when traffic on campus would normally seem to equalize, finding a parking spot anywhere on campus is still a challenge.

Like many students, I understand that with the new library construction still underway, coupled with the emerging success of the University Center, parking is destined to be strained. What I’m puzzled about is the recent cost hike of the student parking permit. As many can recall, the parking permit cost doubled last semester from $20 to $40.

Surely, the school administration realized that parking for the coming semesters would be limited, as the library renovations will take additional time to complete and student enrollment has risen in response to a recession. If that’s true, why raise the rates to coincide with this? Did the COC administration, realizing that some students may find other means of travel i.e.: bicycle, carpool, etc., raise the rates simply to keep that portion of the schools revenue stream consistent? Is it possible that the parking permit increase as well as the coinciding tuition rate increase from $26 to $36 per unit (spoiler alert – it’s about to rise again) was approved simply to counter-act the schools rising debt? If so, how is that the student’s fault?

In addition to affecting our wallets, another issue this parking situation has created is a lack of safety on campus. As students are adjusting to the new length of time it takes to find a parking spot, many are speeding through lots and endangering pedestrians making the “hike” to class. In the last two weeks, I have experienced two near parking-lot collisions. Once as a pedestrian and once as a driver, so occupied with finding a spot, I didn’t see the car speeding towards me.

In these times, I propose that a good use for the “additional” funds generated by doubled parking-pass cost could be the hiring of lot supervisors as well as the installation of additional speed bumps throughout campus parking lots.

While it’s obvious that our state’s economy is in need of help, and that COC has had some financial troubles of it’s own recently, most students do not complain  much about the rising cost of tuition or even the parking permit cost. However, what added value does the student receive in exchange for a doubled parking permit fee? Are there more parking spots? No. Has parking lot safety been increased? No. Is the student population expected to simply roll over and continue to accept hiking fees for everything without explanation or added value? Why should we stand by silent and fork over more dollars to band-aid the sucking chest wound that is California’s mis-managed economy and more specifically, dare I say, that of COC.

Maybe that’s what we are truly learning after all. That the education machine is really no different than government. Fall in line. Pay your fees. Don’t ask questions, and for god sake don’t expect anything in return.