Top of the Ticket

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Clipped from the SAMPLE ballot in my home jurisdiction of Santa Clara County, Calif.

My choices in this state for the next President of these United States on Nov. 8 (or before, if I choose to vote early):

Gloria La Riva, Peace and Freedom Party – This party is farther to the left than the solidly progressive Green Party. La Riva makes Jill Stein look like Hillary Clinton.

Donald Trump, GOP – [sigh] Where do I start? You know what, I won’t. Next ticket…

Gary Johnson, Libertarian Party – While Johnson has the right idea on some issues, he has some misguided views or has waffled on others. If Bill Weld was at the top of this ticket, I would have given this team greater consideration.

Jill Stein, Green Party – I was for her, albeit reluctantly, as she is closer to being a progressive as Bernie Sanders than Hillary. While I uneasily put up with Dr. Stein’s reluctance to fully denounce people who are against mandatory vaccinations and her openness to clinging to certain nutty conspiracy theories on a variety of issues, there came a point where I could no longer reasonably support her.

Hillary Clinton, Democratic Party – She’s always been a strong, well-qualified candidate. My interest in her declined upon Sanders’ entry into the race and after learning about her insufficiently progressive credentials. My distaste for her became even more pronounced when the Democratic National Committee, in those leaked emails from Wikileaks, revealed how the party establishment was unsurprisingly in the tank for Clinton while trying to undermine the Vermont senator. I don’t care that much about the emails, Benghazi and a bunch of other issues surrounding her like the Right does. Some of them are problems in their own ways but she has settled those issues in various ways. Still, I’m unsure about throwing my support around her just yet.

______________ (write-in candidate) – The California Secretary of State says I have these five options for this line. It’s good to see Bernie as a legitimate choice although it was not organized by the senator himself. Even if I did write in Bernie, he has virtually no chance of winning. In the off-chance he did win this and enough of other states to receive at least 270 electoral votes, there’s no guarantee he will even accept the offer to serve as the 45th President of these United States.

I didn’t struggle this much with the down-ballot races and propositions. Never have I struggled much about voting for anyone of any level since I began voting in 2008. You can easily deduct who I might gravitate toward at the top of the ticket but even I’m still not sure if it is a done deal just yet. I also know there are at least two candidates I definitely will not be voting for. I know, I live in a solid blue state so it doesn’t matter what I think.

I’ll be glad when it’s finally Nov. 9.

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On This Sunday: It’s No Joke

Of all the horrible things the bigoted orange twine ball that is Donald Trump has said and done, his long-documented mistreatment of women has drawn the greatest deal of attention as of late.

We all know by now Trump’s penchant for publicly talking about his supposed sexual conquests, demeaning women for being too old or too fat, how he wants to bang his own daughter Ivanka among a whole host of horrendous things he’s been known to say. Within the last week, several women have come forward to allege that Trump has sexually assaulted them in the past. I have no reason not to believe these women, as with most people who have experienced something as horrific as this by anyone else.

Sexual assault is a serious matter that sometimes takes having to know someone who has experienced such a thing to truly understand its impact. It’s also through different yet fundamentally similar life events that help to tangentially apply one’s understanding of sexual assaults in general.

Within the last few months, two female friends of mine directly told me they have been sexually assaulted in their lives — both instances marking the first time anyone has ever told me such a thing. One told me she was once date-raped while the other was not specific about what happened but I was able to easily deduct it was something terribly bad. I suspect there are many more women in my life — friends, former colleagues and maybe even relatives — that also have stories like this but I have either yet to know or will never know. Although difficult in nature, I hope to have more private conversations like this from people who are willing to share their own experiences so that I can better empathize with them, cope with them and heal with them. It truly makes a difference.

I never experienced sexual assault myself although growing up, I have been abused in other ways to understand the trauma and horror that victims undergo. They all share common traits — a seemingly powerful person taking advantage of someone seemingly indefensible.

Such was the case when I grew up as a child, living with a physically-abusive father. It was horrible at each turn — the fear, the pain, the trauma, the feelings of defenselessness. I finally escaped all that when I entered foster care at age 13, although one of my subsequent foster parents engaged in psychological abuse with the same effects as what I went through with my father. It was under their care I once attempted to commit suicide. Bottom line, my father and that particular foster parents can rot in hell. I wish the same or for some kind of justice for those who engage in sexual assaults. There is no rhyme or reason for any of this type of behavior.

Oh, and screw Trump. Anyone but him on Nov. 8.

My Thoughts on Recent Tragedies and Personal Losses

The last seven days have proven to be some absolutely tragic times, both for this country and personally.

Last Thursday, 10 people including the gunman were killed in a campus shooting at a community college in Roseburg, Oregon. This tragedy is the latest in what has become an epidemic in this country as mass shootings have become a near-weekly occurrence. I won’t go in depth about how I feel about the gun laws in the U.S. as I’m not in the mood to argue with anyone nor is this the appropriate forum for a discussion. All I’ll say is that this can be prevented and it sickens me to still see this happening.

On a personal level, I learned last Friday about a mother of an extended relative of mine in Orange County passing away. She died at age 50 after complications of a stroke. Although I met her only once during a family gathering in 2011, I remember her as a gracious and admirable woman well liked by everyone around her. 

That extended relative of mine who is grieving over the loss of her mother this week is in her 20s like I am. It reminded me of another person around the same age — a friend of mine in Nebraska — who lost her mother in a car accident back in May. Although I never met her mother, I can only imagine she embodies the same wonderful spirit as my friend and the other mother who passed on last week. 

None of these deaths impact me the same way those closer to them are impacted. The nature of these kinds of deaths, however, are still heartbreaking and tragic. On one end, the victims in Oregon did not deserve to die in such senseless violence. On the other, seeing two people that are my age this year alone grappling with the loss of their mothers at this stage of their lives puts things in a more personal perspective when it comes to losing a loved one. 

I never lost anyone I had any strong feelings for. The closest would be the passing of my paternal grandmother in December 2005. I chose not to attend her funeral back then as I lacked any emotions for the woman despite having grown up and partially raised by her. I have yet to know what it feels like to lose someone closer to me who I value a great deal and love. 

Seeing all these losses does serve as a reminder to all of us to cherish our loved ones — parents, siblings, cousins, friends — and not to take their presence for granted. It reminds us that life is too short and we never know how much we truly value someone until they are gone. They are the people that made us. They are the people that complement our lives. Let them know today how much you appreciate and love them. It’s the least we can do to maintain humanity for all of us, especially during times of tragedy. 

#Read3: Counting My Blessings

San Jose State University

San Jose State University

When the going gets tough in life, I have learned that it is always important to count your blessings.

This week is one I certainly consider to be a very good week, even though there haven’t been many of those lately.

I learned Wednesday morning that I have been formally admitted to the Master of Science in Transportation Management (MSTM) program, administered by the Mineta Transportation Institute at San Jose State University. It is a continuation of the certificate program of the same concentration I started off with in January. At this point, if all goes well, I have eight classes and two years left until I earn a master’s degree that will further my career in transportation.

This is an exciting step forward — as my cousin-in-law put it when she learned of the news — and I agree. This is a program I have long sought to enroll in and now, I’m officially a part of it.

Graduate school is something I had largely ruled out in the past as I did not have any programs in mind that I wanted to pursue. In 2010, two of my coworkers at the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) — where I was an intern, at the time — were already enrolled in the same MSTM program. Both have since graduated from the program. Given that my interest in going into transportation predated my time at OCTA, I learned from them and the program administrators early on how the MSTM program will better develop my knowledge and expertise in the field, preparing me for a leading role in helping shape the transportation policies of tomorrow.

Despite having to put my plans on hold in 2012 and 2013 as a result of my short stint with AmeriCorps in Philadelphia, I finally enrolled in the program in January of this year as a Certificate in Transportation Management student. I received an A in both spring semester classes, marking a very good start to a program that I want to continue on with as a student now pursuing a master’s degree.

A very good start to my first semester in grad school

A very good start to my first semester in grad school

While I am thrilled this bit of good news has materialized, there’s still one thing missing that my life and career depends on: finding my next new job. Past job searches have never dragged on this long nor has it been as difficult. Yet, I have kept at it the efforts to find out where I want to work next — a place where I can thrive and make a difference. I’m still on the case.

We are halfway through 2014. I still believe there is time for things to get even better for me this year despite the personal slump that I have been experiencing over the last two years. Since then, I have gradually risen from that slump in fits and starts.

I also have learned that no matter how difficult times are, it’s important to count your blessings. The hundreds of friends I have across these United States of America and around the world, dozens of relatives that are mostly in California, professional connections and former colleagues on both coasts and in between have all kept me going and remind me that each and every day, I have a reason to live.

Count your blessings, folks. There are others counting on you too.

Have a great weekend and a great rest of your week, America. I’ll leave you with this.

Winners and Losers: Honey Maid, Oakland, Teens on Twitter

Every now and then, I offer praise and somewhat gentle but biting scorn to individuals and institutions that are deserving of their respective honors. Let’s take a look at some of the latest Winners and Losers. This month, I have just one winner to profile for a good reason.

Winner

Honey Maid – Whenever major brands and companies inject a message of inclusion and equality into their marketing efforts, there are always the vocal, often hateful detractors who threaten to boycott what they are selling for taking a stance on a human rights issue that some still object to. Cheerios saw that in response to its ads featuring a biracial little girl. Oreo posted a mockup picture of a rainbow cream cookie to express its support for same-sex marriage. The list goes on and on.

What’s even better is when such brands choose not to retreat and decide to mess with their detractors by doubling down its efforts to be more inclusive in its marketing campaigns. Here’s one from Honey Maid.

Sure, some people may still object to homosexuality and even interracial relationships. Society continually changes, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. Same-sex marriage is no better or worse than heterosexual marriage. Same-sex parents are no better or worse than heterosexual parents. Children will not necessarily turn out gay just because their parents are gay and even in that case, who cares? No one person is less of a human than another.

Brands like Honey Maid see not only a profit potential but also an opportunity to garner and command respect as a major brand for being inclusive and promoting equality in its messaging. It couldn’t care less what detractors think. So what if they lose some customers as a result? As I’ve alluded to in a post about Chick-fil-A in July 2012, most boycotts fizzle out not long after they begin. Honey Maid will be fine and so will others that embrace equality.

Losers

1. City of Oakland –  You had one job!

Last week, ABC7 News San Francisco reported on an intersection in Oakland where the STOP sign on the pavement was misspelled. Come on! It’s only four big letters to paint on a pavement. How hard can that be? Not before long, this seemingly small mishap could become a big problem. This has got to sotp — I mean, stop.

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Photo: KGO-TV

Fortunately, someone later took a clever yet temporary approach to fixing this error. Ah, the joy of AP Style.

2. Teenage “Terrorist” on Twitter – You’d have to be a complete moron to think that tweeting a terrorist threat to an air carrier’s Twitter account is somehow funny. Well, that’s exactly what one Dutch teenager did over the weekend.

The screenshot of the tweet below shows that this user claimed to be from Afghanistan and a member of Al Qaeda — notice how she misspelled the name — who plans to “do something big” June 1st. American Airlines immediately responded to her tweet, informing her that she will be reported to the authorities for making a terrorist threat. Dutch police have since arrested and released the 14-year-old Rotterdam girl although the investigation is still ongoing.

Photo: Gawker

Photo: Gawker

It’s highly unlikely that she belongs to any terrorist group nor does she have any plans to “do something big,” as she claims. It does, however, remind us that Twitter users out there like her exist and they tend to exhibit such foolish behavior that sometimes have serious consequences.

There are posts from BuzzFeed and others out there that have compiled a collection of tweets from teenagers and young adults, expressing their admiration for figures like Justin Bieber and One Direction while demonstrating how ignorant they are to more pertinent matters that truly impact the lives of people everywhere. This is not a knock on all teenagers and young adults as there are those that don’t fall under this stereotype and I commend them for keeping it together.

My advice to parents, while you still have the ability to yield any influence on your teenage children: Don’t let your children use Twitter if they cannot tell what’s right from wrong when it comes to what should be shared in a public space. We don’t need more idiots like her tweeting out terrorist threats for the fun of it. The Boy Who Cried Wolf scenario also comes to mind in instances like this.

Rants in My Pants: Chick-Fil-A Chickens Out and So Does Its Opponents

Before I commence my rant, I thought about doing a blog post on my Portland trip from three weeks ago — like I have done with all trips I’ve taken since 2010 — but I lost interest. I will say that it was fun, the light rail system was superb, the food scene is great and the fireworks show was spectacular. Here are my photos from the trip if anyone’s interested in seeing them.

Now, on to my rant. If you’ve been paying attention to the news in the last few weeks, you’ll very well know that Chick-fil-A has been mired in a series of controversies that began when the company President and COO Dan Cathy confirmed in a media interview that the company officials are “guilty as charged” when it comes to their opposition to same-sex marriage.

“We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit,” Cathy told the interviewer for Baptist Press. “We are a family-owned business, a family-led business.”

Soon after those comments, gay rights groups called for a boycott of the chain, mayors of Chicago and Boston withdrew permits for the company’s plans to open locations in the cities, the Jim Henson Company withdrew their support for the company in favor of GLAAD among other actions.

Despite the ensuing controversies, company officials remained steadfast in their opposition to the issue and showed no signs of backing down. Social conservatives and religious groups have stood by with the company and praised their efforts in defending traditional marriage.

Since then, Chick-fil-A has received greater scrutiny for a series of unfortunate events like this photo from a restaurant in Plano, Texas only a day after the Jim Henson Company announced its withdrawal of support for the chain.

The timing and the reasoning is suspect. Unless proven to be true at some point, they really suck at playing dumb with the rest of the populace.

Tying into that comes this incident on the company’s Facebook page where a possible “plant” from the company created a profile with a fake identity and a photo of a teenage girl taken from a stock photo website posting comments on someone else’s thread critical of the chain. She appears to be a shill, albeit not a very good one, who claims to the other commenters on the thread that the company made this decision long before the Cathy interview and defended the company’s stance on the issue by erroneously citing a Bible passage that had nothing to do with homosexuality. Not long after was her cover blown.

I, for one, very much support same-sex marriage and Chick-fil-A’s stance on the issue has never been much of a secret to anyone. I was really baffled to see supporters of same-sex marriage expressing a great deal of outrage as if this was somehow a huge surprise. Cathy’s comments confirmed an open secret — something we already knew or have figured out but waited until someone actually confirmed it as true (take Anderson Cooper’s recent announcement, for instance).

I really don’t see any point in holding boycotts or staging protests for the sole purpose of pressuring company officials to change its stance. As Cathy said, it is a family-owned operation, a family that believes and takes a particular stance on the issue, even if not everyone agrees. We can’t change their minds either. Chick-fil-A is not a publicly-funded entity or agency people rely on for services. That being said, as a free country, we can either choose to eat there or not eat there.

I certainly don’t agree with the company’s stance but I will continue going there occasionally as long as the purchase and consumption of the food there doesn’t also equate to a pledge that I have to affirm to their beliefs.

Not that I’m saying boycotts aren’t and shouldn’t be necessary but when it comes to something deeply rooted in the beliefs of a family-owned and -run company, it’s hard to change that.

Many recent boycotts tend to be ineffective and often make little to no measurable impact. Koch Industries, run by the same Koch Brothers that take solace in sabotaging our democracy, manufacture some very well known products like Brawny paper towels and Dixie-branded cups and plates. People have called for boycotts of these products too but those efforts lost steam rather quickly. A socially conservative group of mothers earlier this year called for a boycott of J.C. Penney solely because of a new ad campaign featuring Ellen DeGeneres, a lesbian, as its spokesperson. Those efforts also fell flat.

In closing, I have this message for Chick-fil-A: When you take a stance on an issue, especially one that gets people fired up, be consistent and don’t run around like a chicken with its head cut off.

[UPDATE as of 8:30 p.m. Tuesday: Chick-fil-A released a statement on its Facebook page, stating that the aforementioned fake account allegedly planted by company officials to defend their stance on the same-sex marriage issue was not perpetrated by anyone within the company. Such a claim that they created the account, in their own words, is 100 percent false.]

Whatcha Gonna Do?

Last night, I watched America’s Got Talent on NBC, a show that I decided to start watching regularly this summer after The Voice ended for the season two weeks ago.

From last night’s show, there were many extraordinarily talented performers (who couldn’t forget the dogs that can jump ropes and do backflips?) as well as a few underwhelming talents.

One talent in particular stood out in a profound way. Burton Crane, a 77-year-old retired teacher, decided to do something most of us don’t expect someone his age would do — try his hand at rap music.

I’m not gonna give away too many details so I will let you watch the clip from last night’s show and come back after the jump.

As you have just seen in that clip, the audience initially expressed great skepticism about his not-so-traditional approach to rapping, being almost immediately dismissive of the talent for which he was demonstrating in front of hundreds in that theater in New York City and millions more across the country watching at home on Monday night.

The judges appeared eager to hit the buzzer to give him the boot but they gave him a chance and had a completely different opinion of him as soon as he uttered the now-infamously catchy chorus, “Whatcha Gonna Do?”

If Susan Boyle taught us anything, it’s that we shouldn’t be so quick to judge anything or anyone based on first impressions. In the case of Burton Crane, it is no different.

Thanks to the judges’ willingness to let him sing his song without quickly writing him off, we can now thank Crane and his catchy chorus — depending on your opinion of his performance — for bringing up a good question: Whatcha gonna do? It is an important question we ask ourselves when we come up against a crucial moment in our lives.

Whatcha gonna do? Whatcha gonna do to make your dreams come true? Whatcha gonna do to make a difference in yourself and the lives of others? Whatcha gonna do to make that big first step toward something that will change your life forever?

There are things I’m certainly gonna do. I’m gonna be persistent and remain optimistic during this prolonged job search. I’m gonna continue to prepare for grad school in the process. I’m gonna keep up with my commitment to giving back to the less fortunate in any way I can. I’m gonna keep exploring new territories and meet new people along the way. I’m gonna continue to seek new opportunities and find out where it all leads to.

Whatcha gonna do? Yes, you. What’s it gonna be?