02 December 2009

Course Evaluation: Those Who Can, Teach

Paul came highly recommended by a trusted friend, and I can see why. The biggest and most important lesson I have learned this semester in English 111, is to think for yourself, and question everything. I learned to ask "Why?" and "Where did those facts come from?". This may seem like an odd lesson to learn in an English class. It seems like prior to taking this class, I blindly swallowed ideas without ever once questioning it. This is not something I am proud to admit. I had begun to think for myself a little bit, but Paul sort-of sealed the deal. I learned to investigate, and report my findings in an academically articulate manner, and I had fun doing so! During my research, I even found myself fantasizing about being paid just to research, and write about my findings.

Do not, I repeat: do NOT take Paul's class if you don't have time to dedicate to the course. Paul requires a significant amount of out-of-class work, I think this is largely due to only having an hour and fifteen minutes of in-class time. There is a fair amount of time spent researching, reflecting, examining, writing, editing, and reviewing, and he does require that you use your brain.

However, I may be a slight perfectionist, and so I spent literally countless hours of work for his class. I probably spent a little too much time on my projects, if that is possible, because I refuse to hand in imperfect work. I also must add that I happen to love English as a whole, and have spent the greater portion of my life indulging in pastimes like reading and writing. Nineteen-plus journals and growing, along with a sizable collection of books were and are my sanctuary.

One of the things I found most difficult was conforming to the restraints of college-level writing. In my youth, I just knew I would have a problem with this later in life; I always preferred my journals and poetry. When faced with being forced to look inside myself, analyze what I found and write about it, I found this task surprisingly difficult. I was shocked since I have been someone who obviously loves to write about myself. Not being able to use vague words like "they" and adjectives like "really" or "great" forced me (through much mumbled cursing) to find more descriptive, concise words. Another little thing I realized is how much the word "that" is overused. Most of the time, a person could simply omit the word, without it affecting the context.

My only recommendation is to be a little better organized and prepared next semester. It seemed like he was scatter-brained and over-worked (and definitely underpaid). I suspect perhaps Paul had some "extra-curricular" issues going on, and maybe this is a reason for his disorganization. My friend even said that he wasn't like that last semester.

I was impressed with the amount and fantastic quality of information, and entertainment, posted on BlackBoard. I enjoyed browsing through the links and videos in what very little free time I have had this semester.

I intend to continue blogging, most likely using this blog, for both academic and personal subjects. I like the idea of having somewhere that showcases my writing for others to read and (hopefully) review. All constructive criticism is always welcome, and I feel the same way Paul does about it- "When criticism is constructive, it tell you about the writer. When it is destructive, it tells you about the critic." (forgive me, I'm paraphrasing)

In conclusion, Paul Gasparo was recommended to me, and I will happily recommend him to others. Paul really cares about what he does, it's obvious to me, and that makes all the difference.
image source found: here

29 November 2009

Final Diagnostic Essay Draft: Thanks a Latte

I used to be someone who held several different jobs each year. This changed once I became a barista because I had never experienced the joy that comes with truly loving what you do. With Starbucks, I have found a job that literally keeps me coming back each day and not just because of the caffeine addiction I've consequently improved upon. I also used to consider myself a night person, but opening Monday through Friday for two years has changed that. Getting up at four in the morning, when normal people are approaching their third or so R.E.M. cycle, can only be described as a labor of love. Starbucks has taught me many valuable lessons, concerning both career and personal development.

With this particular line of work, each person contributes an equally important part while working together to provide consistently legendary service. There is no “I” in Starbucks. Previously, I had been accustomed to working alone so working with a team took some adjustment. One of the many lessons learned is accepting help is not a sign of weakness. Usually when someone jumps in to help me, I immediately feel threatened, like they are implying I am not capable of doing it on my own. I had to learn not to take it as a personal insult when co-workers assist me, and remind myself that they are only trying to help. It is a lesson in humility I am still learning.

Working with such a diverse group of people every day can have it's trying moments. We all have different backgrounds, religious and political beliefs, principles, and personality traits that make each partner unique. Differences like these can make or break a team; I think in my store, it makes us. Just because two people may be radically different does not mean an excellent working relationship cannot be had between them. Jason, for example, is a fundamentalist, Bible-believing Baptist Christian bordering on evangelical, who also happens to be one of the best baristas I know. He makes every drink to perfection, takes no short-cuts, and in this area, I strive to be just like him. However, to say that he and I are different is quite an understatement. In spite of this, we continue to have a symbiotic work relationship. The reason being based on a mutually genuine respect and appreciation for one another, and our abilities as a barista.

My Starbucks prides itself on the open lines of communication on all levels. Each of us knows that we can talk openly to not just one another, but shift and store managers as well. Squashing little misunderstanding and disputes early and quickly is what stops them from becoming disastrous later on. As an example, one day I was working the espresso bar with Finney when she accidentally made two frappuccinos wrong. When I asked what had happened since I was remaking them, she barked, “Nothing.” I said, “No really, Finney, what's wrong?” I could tell by the way she was slamming pitchers around she was obviously upset. This time she actually yelled, “Nothing!” I immediately felt heat in my cheeks and shut up. I stayed silently fuming for a little too long I supposed because other partners were beginning to notice there was something amiss. Finney was sent on her break since she clearly needed some perspective. I went into the back to grab something where she was briefly when she asked if I wanted to talk. Once upon a time, I would have just said no, and continued silently fuming about it inside, but that is not what we do at this store. It solves nothing, only making things worse. “Actually, yes, I would” I replied. “I don't really understand why you yelled at me when I did nothing wrong.” Finney explained that she was just mad at herself for making such silly mistakes, she didn't mean to take it out on me. That was all it took for us to make up and even laugh about it within minutes. At my store, we believe in communication. This means we talk to each other, and get things out. Holding pent up tension with co-workers will only make the environment more miserable for both parties involved, and lower morale. So to combat this, we talk things out immediately whenever there is any type of misunderstanding or dispute (the latter rarely happens). Had Finney and I not squashed that as quickly as we did, it would have poisoned our relationship by allowing tension to fester between us. It is a simple philosophy, but you would be amazed at how many people don't follow it. We don't talk badly about one another and view doing so like a cancer, injecting negativity into every aspect of the working relationship. This concept has followed me into all of my relationships, making each one better because of it.

Even if given the opportunity, I do not think I could pick a better group of people to work with, or feel more included in my workplace. I am constantly learning, improving both myself and my principles in the process, all while working the best job I have ever had. The respect and compassion I have witnessed while being employed with Starbucks will follow me wherever I go in life, and for that, thanks a latte.

image source: here

04 November 2009

Extra Credit: Scene Not Heard

Bitches Scene & Women Unseen: Hip Hop and Gender in the the 21st Century

Scene Not Heard

This is a well done documentary about the role of gender in hip hop and rap in Philadelphia. It explored the careers and lives of women who have made a difference in the seemingly underground world of female rappers. The talent these women have goes sadly unnoticed by mainstream, commercialized rap and hip hop. Break-dancers, R&B singers, rap, poetry/spoken word were all showcased in a very real and relate-able way. One lady rapper even became emotional when talking about the lack of respect and "props" they were given. A lot of stigmas are involved in this very male-dominate scene. Most of the time, when the general public sees a female in a rap video, she is booty-dancing in thongs and 5 inch-high heels. This is reminiscent of a lot of female stereotypes that emphasize a woman's role is to be seen and not heard. Also, there is the common stereotype that if a female can rap like a man, she must be a dyke, and this is simply untrue. The two have nothing to do with one another, really. From the information presented, most of the "Philly" artists agreed that "Philly is soul." I took this to mean they connect to one another on an intimate level, one not usually attained by an outsider; perhaps the bond of common experiences and lifestyles.

Scene Not Heard argued that the roles of women in the rap scene are sadly out of focus, and that they are just as capable of talent as any man. While it may not be very common to see a female rapper in the forefront these days, it is not obscene. Arguments mostly were focused on appealing to the audience's emotions (pathos), I believe, but still implemented logos by demonstrating the equality in raw and uninhibited talent. I'll give it to these women, I could never do what they do. The amount of courage and yet, at the same time, vulnerability it takes is admirable to say the least.

I was impressed overall, and enjoyed myself. I did not, however, stay for the discussion board after. My stomach was growling since I was in class all day and didn't get a chance to eat yet, not that this is an excuse.

Image source: here

07 October 2009

Extra Credit: a response to Capitalism: A Love Story

Michael Moore has a lot to say, and quite a dramatic way of saying it. In other words, he makes an impact (what type of impact depends on who you talk to). I would even guess that almost, if not every, household in America at least knows his name. Granted, some would argue that he is biased. I agree. We are all biased in some way. Everyone has their own way of looking at the world around them, however, I think Michael does a wonderful job of bringing certain truths (or atrocities) to the forefront of the American mind. He inspires us to question what we are told, including what he has told us. This is all I could really ask of a documentary filmmaker. Michael introduces us to issues, and then leaves us to question what it means, and how it relates to our world. We are ultimately responsible for what we do with the information presented to us. It is obvious which side he leans to, however, he does acknowledge the other side, and asks pertinent questions.

Much like every other Moore film, I left the theater mad. This is probably something just about everyone can agree with, only for different reasons. I heard someone say once that "you can't get people moving unless you step on their toes." and I think this is an effective way to make a point. Michael Moore makes me irate, even, because he exposes such brutality and callousness in America. He opens the film with the quote, "The measure of a society is found in how they treat their weakest and most helpless citizens." from Jimmy Carter. I think this quote sums our situation up nicely. What does it say about us, as a nation, that we would steal from the poor and/or elderly just to hand it over to the already filthy rich? Are those the type of morals America was founded upon? Have we become so barbaric that we no longer value human life? How many mothers, brothers, husbands, co-workers, and friends must we loose before we are convinced of the neccesity of reform?

I belive that things are not this complicated, not as much as people would make it seem. How about this idea- How about we run our country like we would run our family? Would you put your neighbor or nephew out of a home, take everything away from him that he has worked tirelessly his whole life for, just so you could have another Benz? Would we, as Americans, take food out of the hand of a child and give it to the gluttons? This is, in effect, what capitalism doing.

Mr. Moore made his arguments with facts, wit, sarcasm, and emotion. Yes, I think Moore uses emotion to appeal to his audience, and it works... at least with this audience it did.

"I refuse to live in a country like this...and I'm not leaving." -Michael Moore

This sums up exactly what I was thinking and feeling at the end of the film.

image source

22 September 2009

Diagnostic Essay: Labor of Love

I used to be someone who held several different jobs each year. This all changed once I became a barista. Never before had I experienced the joy that can come from truly loving what you do. With Starbucks, I went from being just another employee to being a partner. As such, I know that I have a voice that will be heard. Finally, I have found a line of work that keeps me coming back.

There are many reasons I love my occupation, but I am just going to share my top three. Every single day that I come to work, I have so much fun! In fact, most days it does not feel like work at all. My fellow partners, managers, and customers alike make me smile and laugh on a daily basis. Not everyone is this fortunate so I do consider myself quite lucky. The excitement and camaraderie of being a barista literally gets me out of bed (at four) in the morning.

My Starbucks is like a big diverse family. I know a lot of people make this claim, but at this particular store it is a way of life. We all know, respect, and value one another, and get along really well. There is no “I” in Starbucks, so teamwork is essential. This not only creates a smooth and comfortable working environment, but it helps us to function together like a well-oiled machine.

As a whole, Starbucks prides itself on being a passionate purveyor of the finest coffees in the world. My store manager, Jessie, is a prime example of that passion. It is my belief that having a supervisor who genuinely cares makes the difference between a job to love, and a job to loathe. Jessie’s passion and enthusiasm is contagious and it shines through in all she does. For this reason, her partners want to work hard to not just get the job done, but to do it to legendary standards.

Starbucks Coffee Company operates under the belief that if you take care of your partners, they’ll take care of you. It is this belief that is the foundation behind so many benefits and incentives. For these reasons, and so many more, this has been my very favorite job so far.
Image source here