Weekend Adventures

May 22, 2012 § Leave a comment

This past weekend, Steve and I were looking for something new to do, so we decided to check out the Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve, where a couple of our friends had gone in the fall. I enjoyed reading her blog about it, so I thought we might want to check it out ourselves.

It’s about forty minutes away, and a home to many migratory birds. The structures for shade and bird viewing are very unique, and Steve teased me for taking so many pictures of them. He brought his binoculars so he could look for birds, taking after his grandfather. Unfortunately, there weren’t many birds while we were there, but based on some of the educational displays, it seems like July and August might be a good time to return. There is a mile-long boardwalk riddled with facts about the birds that make the preserve their home during migration, benches, and a viewing tower. While there were many signs talking about the smell (which accompanies most marsh-like places), we didn’t experience any odors, and just enjoyed our time in the sun. When we return to visit, I’d like to go around sunset, when I’m sure the colors are more vibrant and the sun is less harsh. (We might need bug spray at that time of day, though.)

On Sunday, we planned to go on a hike to Ensign Peak with our neighbors, a hike that is behind the capitol building with a view of the valley. We’d been talking about taking the hike for a while, and we finally landed on a day. When we scheduled it, we hadn’t realized it was also the night of the solar eclipse. While the eclipse meant there were many more people on the hike and at the top of the peak (the hike is about 0.86 miles round trip, so it’s quite accessible), it also meant there were more people there to share their eclipse-viewing equipment with us. One group showed us how to view the eclipse through a CD (by looking through the words on the CD, which showed three eclipses). Another group was using binoculars and pointing them at cardboard to view. Some people had the actual made-for-viewing-eclipses sheets, while others had welding masks. Everyone was pretty excited about the eclipse and was ready to share their versions of viewing it. Besides seeing the different versions of the eclipse, we also got a great view of the city. It was a great ending to the weekend, and we could now add two new activities to our adventures in Utah.


Year One Done!

May 1, 2012 § 5 Comments

This afternoon I officially turned in my last paper of the semester. Woop! To be honest, I’m kind of lost right now, because I don’t know what to do with myself. I’m so used to the feeling that there is always something to be done. This semester, I read more than I’ve ever read, and I wrote more than I’ve ever written, and I was actually proud of most of it. Practice does make us better, and it has been fun to see my thinking and writing continue to improve over the semester. When I add it all up, here’s what the numbers say:

Total weeks in the semester: 16
Total books read:  23 (well, five of them I did not read completely)
Total articles read: 40+
Total pages written: 175
Total papers written (short & long): 22

However, I did not accomplish my goal of reading one fiction, non-school book this semester. I think I need to pick a super short book that is easy to read, and just read a page a night throughout the semester.

I’ll be taking one class this summer and working 10 hours a week in Facilities Management through June. I’m hoping to work on a few papers, and definitely read a fiction book. Seriously. I’m going to do it this time :)

To celebrate our first year under our belts, some of the 2011-2012 cohort members had a BBQ on the rooftop of a few of my classmates’ apartment. It was a beautiful night out, as the sun was setting behind the capitol. It was crazy to think that about nine months ago, most of us were meeting for the first time. Year one: done!

What I miss…What I love

February 16, 2012 § 2 Comments

As we find ourselves in the middle of February, we’ve been noticing we’re getting homesick from time to time. So, I’ve compiled a list of things I miss about SoCal, and things I love about living in SLC. Of course, I’m sure I’ve missed something, so I’ll likely add to it as I think of them.

Things I miss about living in SoCal (in no particular order):

  • Our friends. After college graduation, so many of our good friends stayed close, mostly within the same city. I also had some great friends I made from working at Mariners. We didn’t realize how special that situation was until we moved away from it.
  • Family. We used to live 3 hours away from Steve’s immediate family, and minutes away from extended family. Now we’re 10-12 hours away from them. But we did move a bit closer to my family…(now it only takes 2 days of driving instead of 3!)
  • Back Bay. We lived half a mile from Back Bay, a 10-mile loop around a bay where we would run, walk, bike, without having to wait for stoplights. It was great for every day runs, and it also was great for half marathon and marathon training. And the sunrises and sunsets are beautiful there, too.
  • Warm weather. There is something to be said about getting up at 5:30am to go running in the dark, but not having to wear a ton of clothes to stay warm. It was easier to get up and run when it was warmer. :)
  • Close proximity to EVERYTHING. We lived close to Disneyland, multiple airports, multiple sporting venues, San Diego, Los Angeles, the beach, Hollywood…
  • Our church. Steve and I had just found a church service that we really enjoyed, and then we moved. We have yet to find a church in SLC that we love as much.
  • Being tan year-round. I am getting so pale living here in SLC. However, my skin probably appreciates it.

Things I love about living in Salt Lake City (in no particular order):

  • Big city with a small town feel. I get to live in a “big city” without all the crowds and congestion. We are close to the airport, and minutes from professional basketball games, have access to fantastic healthcare, and have great restaurant choices.
  • Outdoor life. This could really be three or four points, as there is so much diversity as to what we can do outside. We are 10 minutes away from great hikes that overlook the city and 30 minutes away from other hikes and great skiing. We have picked up snowshoeing. The people here embrace the outdoors all year, and it is inspiring.
  • Seasons. While I definitely will never complain about the weather in SoCal, there is something to be said about experiencing the beautiful fall colors, and I hear the mountains are filled with wildflowers in the spring.
  • We live next to a MOUNTAIN. We live at the foothills of the Wasatch Front, which is just plain awesome. Every time I’m driving and I see them, I think “Wow! I can’t believe I live this close to mountains!”
  • New friends. Besides my classmates and Steve’s coworkers, we’ve also made good friends with a couple of our neighbors, and I cannot begin to say how grateful we are for their friendship. In addition to the crazy coincidence that we were married on the same day, same year (yes, it’s true, within a half hour of each other), we all get along so well, and have a ton of fun together.
  • Park City. This is a pretty cool place. It’s got the 2002 Olympic Museum, Sundance Film Festival, and, most importantly, a J Crew outlet.
  • The U. While it definitely stresses me out on a regular basis, it is still the reason that brought us here in the first place. It is an amazing opportunity to be a fully-funded graduate student, and to have my life devoted to following my dream of becoming a professor and better scholar. I am acutely aware of how fortunate I am.

Prevention by Intimidation

February 10, 2012 § Leave a comment

When we moved to Utah, one of the first things I noticed were the anti-underage drinking billboards. These billboards really disturbed me, and I thought a lot about why I found this ad campaign so offensive. I realized it is because of how completely negative the signs are. In communication, we often say, “Don’t lead with the negative” and these signs are doing just that.

The first thing that struck me about these ads is the juxtaposition of the smirking officers next to intimidating/threatening phrases in bold typography. While the officers claim they participated in the ads because “We just want to help the kids” (read the whole article here), I am not convinced by what is visually communicated. The officers look like they find catching underage drinkers enjoyable. And, with all the recent events in which police officers have positioned themselves less as protectors of society and more as against society (the UC Davis pepper spray incident comes to mind), it seems there might be a better way to communicate the danger of underage drinking.  Additionally, it is a bit coincidental that while the men in the billboards “weren’t chosen for their size,” the officers pictured are 6’11”, 335lbs and 6’1″, 225lbs, contributing to the intimidation factor. I have a hard time believing a smaller male or (gasp) a female officer would have even been considered for this ad campaign.

While these signs may be intimidating and effective in preventing underage drinking, they are also contributing to a polarization between police and youth. (Ideally, there would be a relationship of respect for authority and an understanding that ultimately police are here to protect us.) In the end, though, despite how offended I am by the billboards and the campaign, I do not have a ready alternative. I do not think a campaign with police officers saying “Don’t drink underage, because we care about you” would work, either. Oh, the woes of communication.

Experiential Environments

January 27, 2012 § 2 Comments

This year, I’m working for the University of Utah’s Facilities Management department. This job funds my studies (most students in my program are working as TAs or teaching undergraduate classes), and allows me to continue to apply the skills I learned in the communications department at Mariners Church, including website communication, PR stuff, and internal communication.

One of the perks (in addition to helping obtain large, ribbon-cutting scissors) is that I get to learn about all the capital construction projects on campus. In fact, I helped put together a proposal in the fall for the AIA (American Institute of Architects) Client Achievement Award that the U ended up being awarded. Organizing all the photographs and facts about the projects introduced me to one building on campus I find exceptional in its synthesis of intentional architecture and communication. I was finally able to tour it on Wednesday, and this building, the Frederick Albert Sutton Building for Geology and Geophysics, is incredible.

The back story is that the chair of the Department of Geology and Geophysics, Marjorie Chan, really wanted to build an “experiential environment” and worked hard to convince the architects to make it happen. It was a lot of work on her part, and took much persuasion and convincing, as she kept running into resistance from people who were keeping a close eye on the budget. Her strategy, however was that if we spend more now, and construct not only a building, but an experience—causing prospective students to walk in the building and say, “Wow! I want to be a geologist!”—we will win in the end. In fact, since the building opened, enrollment for the department has doubled.

The building feels like an interactive museum, with rocks and displays on the walls with which the students and professors can interact. It creates a hands-on experience unlike any I’ve seen at a university. And, in an increasingly experience-oriented culture, this is quite possibly one of the best recruiting tools a university could have. In the entryway (which they call the “confluence” due to building codes and geology-specific language), the donor wall consists of fish fossils swimming in the direction of the classrooms. In the hallway, leaf fossils appear to be blowing in the direction of the classrooms. Old scrolls that were found in the basement of the old building are now on display in a seating area, and an imitation “river” runs from the mountains to the valley through the building. Additionally, the stones out front, and the ones used for table tops were specifically chosen and intentionally placed where the morning sun will hit them in a way that makes them sparkle. And these are just a few aspects.

As a communication student, and as someone who worked in a communications department and is now working as a communications consultant of sorts, it is easy to get exhausted and lose hope when good communication is trumped by deadlines and budgets. The Sutton building is a breath of fresh air, and a glimmer of hope. And the experience of the building is more than a recruiting tool for prospective students; it’s also persuading others to rethink university construction.

* click on the photo above to see the grand opening brochure

Go Cougars! Wait…

January 23, 2012 § Leave a comment

In communication studies, there is inevitably going to be talk about Saussure and his concepts the sign, the signifier, and the signified. Now, before I lose anyone, just think in terms of a word or object and the different connotations that might be associated with it. A recent example in class was the swastika. While by itself it doesn’t necessarily mean anything (it’s just an image/sign), it has come to connote images and thoughts associated with Hitler, Nazi Germany, concentration camps, etc. In fact, the same image was used in many cultures before it was appropriated by Hitler’s regime and came to possess its current/popular meaning.

I bring this all up, because of a recent event in Draper, UT regarding a type of “sign.” The city of Draper (about 20 miles south of Salt Lake City), is building a new high school, and was trying to decide on a mascot. They ended up deciding on the Chargers, despite the popularity of the Cougars as a mascot. The reason they gave for not choosing the Cougars? The connotation of the word “cougar” in popular culture referring “to women in their 40s who have sex with younger men” (read the whole article here). I couldn’t believe they were serious, especially since one of the major universities in the area, and one of the most conservative in the United States, Brigham Young University, has the cougar as its mascot.

As seemingly ridiculous as this situation is, it created a great opportunity for me to talk about some good ol’ communication theory on my blog. And hopefully you learned something you might be able to use as trivia later, or as a funny story for family, friends and coworkers.

(As a way to show I am in no way becoming a BYU fan, despite what the visual aspect of this post might imply, I am inserting a U of U logo.)

Jazzin’ Things Up

January 4, 2012 § 2 Comments

Last night, one of Steve’s student’s parents asked if the two of us would like free tickets to the Jazz vs. Bucks game. Of course we said yes. It couldn’t have been better timing, either. My semester doesn’t start until Monday, so I have just been playing catch up/get ahead/get organized all week.

We had a lot of fun. It only took us about 15 minutes to get to Energy Solutions Arena. We also found parking for $5, so our whole night of professional basketball only cost us $2.50 a person. While it was really fun to live in SoCal in close proximity to so many sporting events, etc., it definitely was a bit more of a drive and an expense to go to a Lakers game. Of course, the Lakers have had a lot more going for them than the Jazz (perhaps the name Kobe Bryant rings a bell?).

We might not get any more tickets this year, and parking might not be as cheap next time, but it was definitely a great experience. The tickets were fantastic—we were 23 rows from the court. Very cool.

One thing that did drive me a little crazy was when every person was handed a paper after halftime listing the stats of the first half. While many people found the info interesting (“Wow, I knew they weren’t shooting their free throws well. Look, he was only 3 for 6.”), the papers were soon littering the floor. The best part was a blimp floated around the arena with the words “reduce, reuse, recycle” printed on it. Oh, the irony.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, I don’t think the cheerleaders are Mormons.

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