Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Um... Public Speaking... uhh... Ya Know?

In grad school, students give presentations--lots of presentations. Today, I listened to SEVEN student presentations in two classes. Some good, some bad, and some that could have been great had I not been so distracted by the presenters saying "um" or "ya know" or "uuuhhhh...."

Public speaking is a learned skill. It takes practice. Part of it is getting over the fear of public speaking and the other crucial aspect is refining how to speak in public. I was fortunate enough to have a Toastmasters group at my last job. We were an informal club, but followed the Toastmasters International guidelines. Part of process is having a Ah-Counter tally the "fillers": the um's, uh's, and ya know's. Had I not participated in this group, I never would have known how many times I used a filler in even a three-minute talk (after you go past 10, the counter stops counting). It gave me a keen awareness of how fillers weakened my speeches and arguments. Now, I take my time when public speaking and rather than say a filler, I talk more slowly and pause to gather my thoughts.

I decided to count the fillers of my colleagues, just out of curiosity, to see how many times they used fillers. Turns out, they use a lot. In one 20-minute presentation, there were 72 ums. That's about an um every 16 seconds.  I counted 58 ums in a 15-minute presentation (an um every 15 seconds) and a combined 28 ums and ya knows for a 15-minute presentation (an um every 30 seconds). I hate to see my brilliant and creative classmates sabotage their hard work due to lackluster presentation skills, but because I do not want to be the asshole who points it out to them, I will just... um... blog about it instead, ya know?


Monday, May 28, 2012

Year One Nearly Done

I've been in LA for 8 months, 17 days. In less than 3 weeks, I'll be kissing this smog, traffic-clogged metropolis goodbye for the summer. LA isn't all bad. It's been a rough adjustment, and I don't know if I'll ever be adjusted to this city. I appreciate all it has to offer, but I'm ready to go back to sweet home Chicago. But then again, I'm leaving views like this:
View from Will Rogers State Park

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Expo Line Fun!

I'm a plannerd. I know it. It can't be denied. I was so excited all day to take the new Expo Line home!
Today started off with taking the Rapid 10 from Santa Monica downtown. I put my bike on the front of the bus and got off near the Los Angeles Planning Department. There, I waited for over an hour to finally talk to a planner about a school project. Turns out, as a planning student, they don't ever teach you how to read a goddam zoning code! This shit is more confusing than linear algebra using matlab. But, the good planner lady (who confessed, "I tell you what, I don't even know most of this stuff. I just learn as I go") set me straight about the true meaning of FAR restrictions within a "D" condition zone.

Interned all day, met up with a friend for drinks, then jumped on the Expo Line at the Pico stop. I happened to sit near a couple who were trying to be inconspicuous with their permanent markers (really, wasn't working since I was getting a buzz off the fumes). I couldn't tell if they were trying to tag the beautifully new and clean rail car, or doodling. With my happy hour liquid courage, I asked what they were drawing. Turns out, they just went to the Fashion District and were writing their names on matching underpants! They just were hanging out exploring the city all day had no plans and were happy to ride the Expo Line for the first time like me. I told them I had to go home and do homework. That's when they told me they had the hook up for some good herb.

Now normally, I don't just take "drugs" from stranger on public transit, but these boys seemed nice. They said the herb would be good for my mental health. So I totally got set with some Ginko Baloba and St. Johns Wort! Yes! Herbal supplements rule! See? Public transit totally rocks.

Monday, May 7, 2012

War Against Obesity

More and more I see articles and posts about the obesity epidemic or plainly put by some, against fat people. Now, there are many arguments as to why more than 30% of American adults are obese and another 30% are overweight: bad diet, sedentary lifestyle, lack of nutrition education, income and access to fresh food, tax structures that make cheeseburgers cheaper than celery, and as a planner, a poorly built environment. Here are a few recent articles to start:

"No Longer Just "Adult On-set'"
"The Linked Burdens of Obesity and Diabetes"
 "Fat Forecast: 42% of Americans Obese by 2030"
 "Everything's on the Table in the Fight Against Obesity"
  "Obesity: Moms May Need Reminder That Too Much Baby Fat isn't Healthy"

Our car-centric lifestyles prevent many Americans from walking to school, work, or to the store. Traditional Euclidean zoning that creates separation of uses also creates barriers to a car-free lifestyle. Streets are designed with vehicles in mind, pushing them through as quickly and efficiently as possible (LOS!), while active forms of transportation such as biking and walking are rendered dangerous endeavors. One of my professors, Dr. Richard Jackson, created a four-part documentary series that looks at many of the factors of the built environment that contribute to the obesity epidemic.

HBO has its own documentary premiering this weekend.

With all this focus on obesity and being overweight, will any of it change? Creating bike-friendly, walkable environments is something that will take years and people love their cars, so then what? I read a blog where the author wrote he is "tired" of fat people. The reactions in the comment section were irate. Yet I can empathize with the author. While there are many socioeconomic factors that come into play (which I am in no way discounting), for those that have the financial means and are educated about diet and exercise (some of my friends and family), yes, I am tired of seeing them literally killing themselves as their weight continues to grow. I have friends and family who I love, and diabetes and other chronic diseases are just around the corner, if not already there. There is the added issue of sensitivity. If I were to ask one of my family members to come workout with me, that person would take offense to the notion that they need exercise. Even my father suffers from sleep apnea due to being overweight, and he knows it's bad to eat as many cookies and chocolates as he does, yet he continues to do so. So what's the solution? How can we motivate people to do something?

I can speak personally about weight loss and know that it's hard. I was overweight for several years, but came to this realization: I EAT LIKE SHIT. Having a giant burrito every day for dinner is not healthy, even if it does have some tomatoes and lettuce in it. And dancing at the bars and clubs at night? That's not really exercise. Especially after downing half a dozen high-calorie drinks through the course of the evening. So I got off my sedentary butt and started eating right and getting daily exercise. It took a few years to get to a healthy BMI (not skinny, but healthy), but I did it. It's definitely not easy and to this day, every single day is a struggle to make the right food choices and incorporate some form of physical activity into my day, even if I have to wake up before the sun comes up for a run. I understand that this isn't the solution for everyone (access, preexisting conditions, etc), but can work for many. I just don't want to see my friends and family suffer from preventable diseases. So whether it's through urban and regional planning or just trying to encourage health and exercise, I'm fighting a war against fat, a war against obesity. It's good to know I'm not fighting this battle alone. I just hope we win.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

I should have gone to B-school

I'm taking a class at the business school, which is kind of awesome. It's a great school and I get to take advantage of it while not having to pay a tuition that is double what I currently shovel out to the University of California system.

Business school is a different beast. First of all, the classrooms are way nicer: padded swivel chairs and wooden desks that form a tiered half circle. These rooms have never seen the likes of a sticky, careless undergrad. Second, the age group is closer to mine. I'm not the oldest hag! But this also means that the students tend to be more aggressive in their ambition. Third, it's a sausage fest! If I were a single gal, let me tell you, I'd be marketing myself to be the trophy wife of the next up-and-coming entrepreneur.  But because I am very happy with my man who is far far away in Chicago, I try to speak up in the 92% male-dominated class and challenge some of the thick-headed men so as to gain respect and not seem like the dumb girl in class.

Because there are so many dudes (I'm one of two women in a class), the class discussions are pretty entertaining and at times just plain chauvinistic. The conversations also tend to digress into weird tangents. For example, yesterday a a real estate development case study analysis discussion went into parking requirements, which lead to taking about Prof. Donald Shoup, the parking policy master, which turned into the class, professor included, singing a Salt-N-Pepa song.