Holy Cripes


Not All for the Worst (Final Draft First Article)
April 27, 2010, 6:08 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Bleak Beginnings

Everyone seems to have fallen on hard times recently, including our local agriculture economy.  Many local farmers have made many cut backs, or even completely gone out of business.  One such farmer is Matthew Ashpee, who has been forced to sell his orchard due to underproduction caused by the incre3asing difficulty and inability to get the goods he needs to produce his product, walnuts.  Recession in the local agricultural economy hits us all in the area, as it generates $900,000 million a year for Butte County.  This makes the agriculture business is the strongest and healthiest trade in our local area, with commercial business generating less than half of the amount of revenue agriculture does.

The market crash coupled with fierce and destructive storms that winter caused a drastic drop in the money generated by the sector.  Diamond Nuts, the number one buyer of Walnuts in the north state, saw a drop in stocks totaling nearly 15 dollars, half of their total stock value.  At the same time the total amount of walnuts harvested dropped by nearly 50,000 pounds, reaching the lowest amount generated since the harvest of 2001.

Because of the frightening outlook presented by the clashing of two hard hitting disasters, a number of strong and intelligent efforts were put for by all sectors of the farming industry – from the huller (where the nuts are brought after harvest in order to get their shell, or hull removed) to the farmer.  Many farmers and business made serious cut backs in their inventory for the last several years, often reusing old equipment and practicing conservative energy usage.  Those efforts were greeted by the weak dollar, and the two combined has helped to pull the agricultural economy out of slump it was forced into.

George Nicolaus is one local farmer who has brought intelligent farming and experience into play in order to combat the economic recession.  Farming several hundred acres of almonds just west of Chico, he certainly understood the demands that were brought before him when the economy dropped.  He has made considerable efforts to save money, from buying less equipment to the more difficult decision of laying off employees.  He states that the most difficult time for him and other farmers was the summer of 2008, where in the credit-based system of farming saw it’s bottom fall out.  “Major part was unavailable credit.  It was unavailable for buyers looking to start farms, brokers, and handlers for the distribution and export.  The whole thing dropped like a rock.”

George Nicolaus was fortunate and made the correct decisions to revive his business.  But other farmers were not so lucky.  Many almond farmers saw the loss of up to 30 percent of their total trees during the storms in 2008’s winter, resulting in drastic declines of total nuts during harvest season.  Because of their losses in profits, they were unable to purchase the increasingly expensive equipment from overseas, and some were even forced to sell their orchards for a very low market value.

The Supporting Businesses

Possibly the most fortunate power the local farming communities have on their side is the local and global economic juggernaut Diamond Foods.  Purchasing over 85 percent of walnuts grown in Northern California Butte County as well as supplying 80 percent of supermarkets with nuts nationwide, Diamond Foods represents a vast majority of the local agricultural economy.  Diamond Foods is based Stockton California, with has offices and representatives all the way up and down California.  The corporation is run by one Michael J. Mendes who is known in the industry as a strong and intelligent business-minded individual, and who takes pride in having intimate relations with the farmers that he buys from.  Because of this, Diamond Foods makes extra effort to be connective and responsive to the needs of their suppliers by employing numerous Grower Services Managers (the individual responsible for farmer-huller relations).

Dan Newman is one such individual, representing Butte County and several others.  He routinely makes trips out to local farms in order to put a sort of human face behind the Diamond Foods corporation.  Dan Newman appeared to be very positive out the future of his business, assuring me as I interviewed him that Diamond Foods and the local nut industry is on its up rise. He even mentioned Diamond Food’s acquisition of Pop Secret, a very recognizable and popular popcorn brand, something a business could not do unless it was facing a strong future.

The acquisition of Pop Secret (valued at 615 million dollars) marked the start of Diamond Food’s strongest upward trend it has seen yet.  Recently Diamond has announced plans to purchase yet another popular business – Kettle foods, a famous and potato chip brand focused on providing quality taste.  The company has also put into play several other marketing strategies, including an effort to increase demand for walnuts by supplying 100-calorie snack packs and through product design.  These efforts have caused the Diamond Stock to double in its since its initial price before the market drop at the end of 2008.

Diamond is not the only business in the local community dependent of its agricultural income to generate its own profits.  Chico Farm and Orchard, located just north of Chico off of Highway 99 at the garner exit supplies large amounts of farming equipment (mostly tractors, sprayers, harvesters and other vehicles) to local farmers.  Kurt Steindorf, the owner of business, was forced to follow the trend and make his own necessary sacrifices as well.  As an effort to scale back on costs, he purchased fewer products to sell to the buyers, while at the same time the farmers themselves were buying less.  This decrease in revenue forced him to initiate layoffs for a small number of employees.

Another business affected is Helena Chemical, a large spray and fertilizer company with a satellite store in Chico.  Helena Chemical has been most affected by the increasing petroleum costs, due to the fact that many of their products are dependent on cheap petroleum in order to keep them at a low price and affordable for farmers.  Local Helena Chemical representative Mike Davis emphasized the link between chemical supply for farmers and rising petroleum costs; stating that until the cost of petroleum begins to decline or at least slows its constant rise, the costs for farmer’s basic needs will go up, reducing the profit margin in our local community.

The Weak Dollar

Since the economic recession began and has its strongest effect in our own borders, we have seen the weakening of our own currency – the dollar.  A weakened dollar means that the value is lower when compared to other countries and their currency.  For example, the dollar is worth less than 70% of the value of the euro and less than 50% when compared to Japan’s yen, two of the largest purchasers of Diamond Food’s and Chico’s walnuts.  The low dollar value makes foreign imports far more expensive, as the buyer has to pay in order to make up the difference in the value of the two separate currencies.

Despite the difficulties this may cause for many different sectors of Chico, Butte County, California, and even the entire United States, the weak dollar has bolstered the sales of walnuts to nations worldwide.  The weak dollar goes both ways, since the value of the dollar is weaker than other nation’s currencies, it allows for purchasers in those companies to cut costs by buying overseas where the nuts are valued at a lower price because of the difference in the value of currencies.  Local farmer George Nicolaus said “the significant thing that has kept the business afloat is that what we grow is always in demand worldwide.  The weak dollar against foreign currency helps to make our product more affordable to export overseas.  Which has been helped by the world economy staying relatively healthy.  Exports to China and India stay healthy.  After all, half of what we grow goes overseas.”

A Healthy Outlook

This year is shaping up to be another healthy follow-up to the stock market crash and storms that wrecked the local farms over the past several years.  Healthy rainfall (without violent storms) that cleared before pollination as well as no threatening low temperatures in the near future are creating foundations for a healthy strong crop come this harvest.  The gas and energy costs have began to level out, prices of equipment are beginning to drop, and the property and stock value is on the rise.

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Economic Effect on the Local Farming Community
March 16, 2010, 3:20 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Bleak Beginnings

When the global economy crashed in late 2007 many sectors of our economy were hit hard, with our strongest local economy being a notable exception.  Generating $900,000 million a year for Butte County, the agriculture business is the strongest and healthiest trade in our local area, with commercial business generating less than half of the amount of revenue agriculture does.  The market crash coupled with fierce and destructive storms that winter caused a drastic drop in the money generated by the sector.  Diamond Nuts, the number one buyer of Walnuts in the north state, saw a drop in stocks totaling nearly 15 dollars, half of their total stock value.  At the same time the total amount of walnuts harvested dropped by nearly 50,000 pounds, reaching the lowest amount generated since the harvest of 2001.

Because of the frightening outlook presented by the clashing of two hard hitting disasters, a number of strong and intelligent efforts were put for by all sectors of the farming industry – from the huller (where the nuts are brought after harvest in order to get their shell, or hull removed) to the farmer.  Many farmers and business made serious cut backs in their inventory for the last several years, often reusing old equipment and practicing conservative energy usage.  Those efforts were greeted by the weak dollar, and the two combined has helped to pull the agricultural economy out of slump it was forced into.

George Nicolaus is one local farmer who has brought intelligent farming and experience into play in order to combat the economic recession.  Farming several hundred acres of almonds just west of Chico, he certainly understood the demands that were brought before him when the economy dropped.  He has made considerable efforts to save money, from buying less equipment to the more difficult decision of laying off employees.  He states that the most difficult time for him and other farmers was the summer of 2008, where in the credit-based system of farming saw it’s “bottom fall out.  Major part was unavailable credit.  It was unavailable for buyers looking to start farms, brokers, and handlers for the distribution and export.  The whole thing dropped like a rock.”

George Nicolaus was fortunate and made the correct decisions to revive his business.  But other farmers were not so lucky.  Many almond farmers saw the loss of up to 30% of their total trees during the storms in 2008’s winter, resulting in drastic declines of total nuts during harvest season.  Because of their losses in profits, they were unable to purchase the increasingly expensive equipment from overseas, and some were even forced to sell their orchards for a very low market value.

The Supporting Businesses

Possibly the most fortunate power the local farming communities have on their side is the economic juggernaut Diamond Foods.  Purchasing over 85% of walnuts grown in Northern California Butte County as well as supplying 80% of supermarkets with nuts nationwide, Diamond Foods represents a vast majority of the local agricultural economy.  Diamond Foods is based Stockton California, with has offices and representatives all the way up and down California.  The corporation is run by one Michael J. Mendes who is known in the industry as a strong and intelligent business-minded individual, and who takes pride in having intimate relations with the farmers that he buys from.  Because of this, Diamond Foods makes extra effort to be connective and responsive to the needs of their suppliers by employing numerous Grower Services Managers (the individual responsible for farmer-huller relations).

Dan Newman is one such individual, representing Butte County and several others.  He routinely makes trips out to local farms in order to put a sort of human face behind the Diamond Foods corporation.  Dan Newman appeared to be very positive out the future of his business, assuring me as I interviewed him that Diamond Foods and the local nut industry is on its up rise. He even mentioned Diamond Food’s acquisition of Pop Secret, a very recognizable and popular popcorn brand, something a business could not do unless it was facing a strong future.

The acquisition of Pop Secret (valued at 615 million dollars) marked the start of Diamond Food’s strongest upward trend it has seen yet.  Recently Diamond has announced plans to purchase yet another popular business – Kettle foods, a famous and potato chip brand focused on providing quality taste.  The company has also put into play several other marketing strategies, including an effort to increase demand for walnuts by supplying 100-calorie snack packs and through product design.  These efforts have caused the Diamond Stock to double in its since its initial price before the market drop at the end of 2008.

Diamond is not the only business in the local community dependent of its agricultural income to generate its own profits.  Chico Farm and Orchard, located just north of Chico off of Highway 99 at the garner exit supplies large amounts of farming equipment (mostly tractors, sprayers, harvesters and other vehicles) to local farmers.  Kurt Steindorf, the owner of business, was forced to follow the trend and make his own necessary sacrifices as well.  As an effort to scale back on costs, he purchased fewer products to sell to the buyers, while at the same time the farmers themselves were buying less.  This decrease in revenue forced him to initiate layoffs for a small number of employees.

The Weak Dollar

Since the economic recession began and has its strongest effect in our own borders, we have seen the weakening of our own currency – the dollar.  A weakened dollar means that the value is lower when compared to other countries and their currency.  For example, the dollar is worth less than 70% of the value of the euro and less than 50% when compared to Japan’s yen, two of the largest purchasers of Diamond Food’s and Chico’s walnuts.  The low dollar value makes foreign imports far more expensive, as the buyer has to pay in order to make up the difference in the value of the two separate currencies.

Despite the difficulties this may cause for many different sectors of Chico, Butte County, California, and even the entire United States, the weak dollar has bolstered the sales of walnuts to nations worldwide.  The weak dollar goes both ways, since the value of the dollar is weaker than other nation’s currencies, it allows for purchasers in those companies to cut costs by buying overseas where the nuts are valued at a lower price (due to the difference in the value of currencies).  George Nicalaus, the local farmer mentioned earlier, had this to say on the weak dollar and its importance:  “the significant thing that has kept the business afloat is that what we grow is always in demand worldwide.  The weak dollar against foreign currency helps to make our product more affordable to export overseas.  Which has been helped by the world economy staying relatively healthy.  Exports to China and India stay healthy.  After all, half of what we grow goes overseas.”

A Healthy Outlook

This year is shaping up to be another healthy follow-up to the stock market crash and storms that wrecked the local farms over the past several years.  Healthy rainfall (without violent storms) that cleared before pollination as well as no threatening low temperatures in the near future are creating foundations for a healthy strong crop come this harvest.  The gas and energy costs have began to level out, prices of equipment are beginning to drop, and the property and stock value is on the rise.



Everybody Sucks…
March 4, 2010, 8:29 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I found the article written by Vanessa Grigoriadis from the New York Magazine to be highly entertaining; but above that even was the informative factor.  It really displayed an in depth look at the blogging sphere of not just New York, but the whole world.  Blogging as a phenomenon is something that has only recently taken off as a part of the Journalism’s gradual move to internet publications.  Blogging is often used as an informal method of news reporting, allowing for certain tones (often sarcastic) that go against mainstream news reporting.  Because of this, Blog’s are often vicious; attacking anyone who they think will get them the most page views.

Grigoriadis’s article on Gawker, the now-infamous blog originating from New York as a media rumor mill, uses a tone and voice not too different from the website discussed (though noticeably tamer and less snarky).  She points out the inherent flaws in the blogging system by attacking the individuals responsible for maintaining the blog and their own inherent flaws, seemingly as an attempt maybe to get even.  The audience is fairly obvious; she wants the writers on Gawker to see she is taking a sort of stand against them, and the article is thus tailored to writers of both mainstream media and the blog sphere.  I think she could have done without so many attacks on the Gawker media groups; she seemed to bring herself down to their level by doing so.  I believe that if the article presented itself as level-headed it would have been more effective.



Eavesdropping Assignment
March 1, 2010, 7:36 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

At the bus stop:

Person 1: Male, early 20s, dressed in shorts and a t-shirt (plain).  Appears intelligent.

Person 2: Female, attractive, also early 20s, dressed skimpy.  Has the mannerisms of a cliched valley girl.

Where: Main bus stop.

What: Sitting on benches throughout conversation.

When: Saturday at around 2 in the afternoon.

Person 1: Have you seen Shutter Island?

Person 2: Oh my god yes so amazing.

1: I love Scosese.

2: Yeah!  I thought it was even better than the Sixth Sense.

1: What do you mean?  You know the Sixth Sense was a different director right?

2: Yeah but I thought they were kinda the same.

1: I didn’t think that…

2: Well both movies had dead people…

1: [Interrupting] There weren’t dead people in Shutter Island.

2: Yeah there were.

1: No, he was imaging all of that.

2: Yeah I guess…

On the bus:

Person 1: Male, early 20s, tall, wearing glasses, short hair, and wearing pants with a sweat shirt on.  I feel like I have seen him before, maybe had a class with the individual.

Person 2: Male, early 20s, slightly overweight, buzzed hair and pants with a brown sweatshirt (no noticeable logo).  Appears to be either of Central American heritage.

Where: Bus 8

What: Sitting together in the seat behind me.

When: Friday at around 2 in the afternoon.

Person 1: [Came in midway through conversation] 3 o’clock?

Person 2: First class Monday is canceled!

1: Yeah I have no classes Monday.

2: Nice.

1: Yeah I have my Monday’s off.

2: [Bus jerks forward] Every time this bus moves I feel like I am falling out of my seat.

1: Yeah.  It’s nice though I think I’ll start using it more.

2: I don’t really care…

1: Kinda slow too.

2: It will eventually get there.

1: I know.

Stranger on a cell phone:

Person: Male, early 20s, short, curly hair wearing a Volcom sweatshirt and pants.

Where: Inside BMU (upstairs)

What: Was working on homework until he received a phone call.

When: Friday at around 1:45 in the afternoon.

Hey.

Oh not much, chillen, working on homework.  Yourself?

Right on.  Well then do you want to hang out?

Oh… ok.  I see.  Well after that then?

Yeah it’s fine I have homework I should finish before too long anyways.

Umm, no.

I don’t know where he is, I’m at school still.

Well want to give me a call when you are done then?

Alright sounds good.

Later.



Mini-Profile – “Scotland and Beyond”
February 2, 2010, 8:12 pm
Filed under: Assignments from Home

Imagine spending your poetry final drinking wine with your teacher and classmates while reading famous rhyme and verse.  During the fall and spring semesters of last school year Tiffany Harrison was able to do just that while spending her time going to school in Scotland (where an 18-year-old drinking age is only one of many differences between there and the United States) through the study abroad program.

Harrison has always found herself fascinated with Scottish culture. Despite being born without evidence of even a trace of Scottish blood she spent her time growing up and throughout her teenage years attending Scottish festivals – where she danced, ate authentic Scottish meals, and participated in the culture of a traditional society. From her experiences at these festivals and the beauty of the culture she knew she felt a connection to the country, and felt compelled to visit some day.

When Harrison was visiting universities four years ago she looked for a school with a strong study abroad program so she could spend time being educated in the country she loved. During Harrison’s visit to Chico State she found herself thrilled with the healthy study abroad program present. Also while visiting the school she toured the journalism department, where she “instantly fell in love” and discovered her calling, and enrolled in the program with an option in public relations.

After two years at Chico State Harrison was enrolled at the University of Stirling in Stirling Scotland, the school she would be attending for her next two semesters. Now in Stirling Harrison finally found herself able to experience what she had been dreaming of since her childhood – life in the beautiful green rolling hills of Scotland.

During her months spent in Scotland Harrison met friends that will be with her forever (including her closest friend, a student from Canada who was also studying abroad), experienced the culture first hand, and traveled throughout mainland Europe. She even was sent on a Haggis hunt when a young man in a pub convinced her Haggis was an animal that lived in the nearby hills (those who know what Haggis is realize this is a fool’s errand – Haggis is a kind of Scottish sausage made with a sheep’s heart, liver, and lungs mixed with various vegetables). It was these experiences and more that helped Tiffany finish her final semesters at Chico State.

During this last year Tiffany has worked as a public relations intern for the Study Abroad program for the final requirements of her journalism degree. Working as an intern for the program Harrison has numerous duties, including encouraging communication between faculty and the program as well as helping in advertising the program itself in order to help other students have their own life changing experiences as they study abroad themselves. Despite already having enough duty at the study abroad program to keep her busy, she is also completely in charge of the program’s website, where she recently revamped the site as a part of her journalism degree.

When Harrison graduates she wants to continue following her dream, working to find herself as a public relations agent for study abroad programs across the United States or even into other countries, where she can help others realize their own dreams and aspirations.



Assignment 1: Isolating Voice in a Lead
February 2, 2010, 8:10 pm
Filed under: In-Class Assignments

1.

We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold. I remember saying something like “I feel a bit lightheaded; maybe you should drive. …” And suddenly there was a terrible roar all around us and the sky was full of what looked like huge bats, all swooping and screeching and diving around the car, which was going about a hundred miles an hour with the top down to Las Vegas. And a voice was screaming: “Holy Jesus! What are these goddamn animals?”

Narrator:  First Person

Audience:  America’s counter-culture

Time Anchor:  Because I know this excerpt was from Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas I know the events described take place in the early ’70s.

Tone:  Frantic

Voice:  The voice in this piece is very knowledgeable about drugs and counter-culture.  This may lead to the voice being similar to the drugs themselves – kind of all over the place with half-truths and some things completely made up.

2.

Tall sails scraped the deep purple night as rockets burst, flared, and flourished red, white, and blue over the stoic Statue of Liberty. The whole world was watching, it seemed; the whole world was there. Ships from fifty-five nations had poured sailors into Manhattan to join the throngs, counted in the millions, who watched the greatest pyrotechnic extravaganza ever mounted, all for America’s 200th birthday party. Deep into the morning, bars all over the city were crammed with sailors. New York City had hosted the greatest party ever known, everybody agreed later. The guests had come from all over the world.

This was the part the epidemiologists would later note, when they stayed up late at night and the conversation drifted toward where it had started and when. They would remember that glorious night in New York Harbor, all those sailors, and recall: From all over the world they came to New York.

Narrator:  Third Person

Audience:  Citizens of the world interested in American politics and events – also, Americans themselves.

Time Anchor:  The United State’s 200th anniversary (1976)

Tone:  Admiration

Voice:  Informed as well as educated (strong vocabulary present)

3.

In nineteen minutes, you can mow the front lawn, color your hair, watch a third of a hockey game. In nineteen minutes, you can bake scones or get a tooth filled by a dentist; you can fold laundry for a family of five.

Nineteen minutes is how long it took the Tennessee Titans to sell out of tickets to the play-offs. It’s the length of a sitcom, minus the commercials. It’s the driving distance from the Vermont  border to the town of Sterling, New Hampshire.

In nineteen minutes, you can order a pizza and get it delivered. You can read a story to a child or have your oil changed. You can walk a mile. You can sew a hem.

In nineteen minutes, you can stop the world, or you can just jump off it.
In nineteen minutes, you can get revenge.

Narrator:  Second Person

Audience:  Fans of the Tennessee Titans

Time Anchor:  Recent/modern (the Tennessee Titans went to the Super Bowl in ’99, which is the playoff games I presume they are referring too, but either way the Titans were the Oilers up until that year)

Tone:  Excitement and awe (at the Titans in the playoff’s as well as how fast the tickets were sold)

Voice:  Seems the voice is reminiscent of an average American – stating things every American can identify with.  But at the same time it has a poetic quality to it, due to the repetition of certain statements and the paragraphs’ alliteration.

4.

Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun.

Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-eight million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.

This planet has – or rather had – a problem, which was this: most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movements of small green pieces of paper, which is odd because on the whole it wasn’t the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy.

And so the problem remained; lots of the people were mean, and most of them were miserable, even the ones with the digital watches.

Narrator:  Third Person

Envisioned Audience:  People upset with the direction the world seems to be going.

Time Anchor:  Modern (since digital watches)

Tone:  Unimpressed

Voice:  The narrator speaks with a voice containing an element of omnipresence, appearing as an outsider looking into our world’s “primitive” and petty society. Continue reading