Thursday, July 31, 2014

Cosplay Double Standard

     In one of my close-knit friend groups, Rachel and Kathryn are white, and I am Asian.  Last night, Rachel, Kathryn, and I were spending a night in with comic books, tumblr, and cosplay preparations for tonight's midnight premiere of Guardians of the Galaxy. Our conversation drifted between nerdom and the realm of race.
      We were talking about character cosplaying, and Kathryn said something about not being "ethnic" enough to portray certain characters of the fictional world. I thought that was silly. Kat should be able to portray any character she wants. Sure, it would not be the most movie/comic-accurate cosplay on terms of character skin tone, but if there's a character she'd love to dress up as, why should the color of her skin hold her back?
       She responded, "It's because we (implying she and Rachel) have more options."
       "Why do you have more options?"
       "Because so many comic book leads are white, straight males," Rachel interjected.
       "Uh, so since there are more white characters in comic books, you can't cosplay as non-white characters?" I asked.
       "Yeah, but there was a black girl who cosplayed as Galadriel, and it was awesome," Kat added.
       "Wait," I questioned. "So, if I cosplayed as Galadriel, that would be okay, but..."
       "Yeah!" Kat encouraged. "That would be great! But if I cosplayed Storm...since storm was Hallie Barrie and I'm white, that would be bad."
       "Wait, what?"
       "There's a double standard," Kat replied matter-of-factly.
       "Why did this double standard happen?"
       "Because.... of our country's history?" Kat rhetorically asked.
       She brought up slavery, and I was thinking....Okay, so the culturally-aware legion of comic book readers agree that barring whites from cosplaying as non-white characters is supposed to be some sort of compensation to ethnic minorities for the colonial slave trade?
        I failed to follow her logic, so I questioned, "So, we should just allow there to be a double standard? Why can't people just be free to cosplay whichever character they'd like to be?"
       "Not everyone thinks that way," Rachel said.
       "It would be great if they did, but..." Kat trailed off.

       And we basically left it at that. 
      I realized what I was not angry about the obvious lack of diversity in the comic book world (an issue, which, is slowly but thankfully resolving! Check out Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson). What I was really stuck on was the way by which supposedly diversity-conscious and diversity-advocating comic book readers believed they were compensating for the lack of comic character diversity. Since the minorities are being oppressed, the sympathetic majority should tiptoe around the issue. Instead of speaking out about the issue at hand and striving to thwart it, let's give the minority something they never asked for, total cosplay monopolization over non-white characters in addition to the ability to portray white characters without judgement. Meanwhile, let's bash any white person who tries to cosplay as a non-white because double-standards can exist if they are against the "privileged" group.
       As a minority, I don't need the sympathy or double-standard-induced compensation from the majority. That does not make me feel better. I am a minority who is against any kind of double-standard, even those supposedly erected to "benefit" me. Bashing people based on the color of their skin is wrong, regardless of whether the majority or minority does such bashing or if the "privileged" group is bashed.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

How to: Write a Cover Letter

What is a cover letter?
    According to about. com, a cover letter is "a document sent with your resume to provide additional information on your skills and experience."
    According to the employer to which this letter will be submitted, a cover letter is your chance to introduce yourself and expand on your resume. Unlike writing a resume, writing a cover letter allows one to greater express her individual personality. Not only is the cover letter a great opportunity to convince your employer of your enthusiasm and skill-set, but cover letters also showcase your ability to write, a valuable skill in nearly every industry. Even if you're not the best with words, a cover letter can simply act as proof that you are a competent human being and can encourage the company that you are the best candidate for the job. 

How to Write a Cover Letter

basics and formatting:
1. Cover Letter Basics
  • One page (Do not write exceed one page)
  • 1" margins
  • Times New Roman, Times, or Arial font
  • Size 10, 11, or 12
  • Align all text to the left
2. The Anatomy of a Cover Letter

Your street address
City, State Zip Code


Contact Name 
Street Address
City, State Zip Code

 Dear Mr/Ms. ________: [or, To Whom it May Concern/ Director of Human Resources if a name is unavailable]

First Paragraphs: (single-spaced)

Middle Paragraphs: (single-spaced)

Last Paragraph: (single spaced)

(Signature here)

Your typed name

paragraph by paragraph

3. How to Write an Introduction
  1. Pique your reader's interest (see tip below)
  2. Name the position and how you became aware of the opportunity (if you were referred by someone or networked with someone relevant to your employer, mention that person's name)
  3. Reveal your knowledge of how you would fit within the unique environment of the employer and industry
  4. Finish as if you were writing a thesis for the rest of the letter: cite the specific highlights of the body paragraphs you will discuss in greater detail
3a. How to Initially Reel in Your Readers
    Many people stick with the generic introduction:

      To Whom is May Concern:
      Please consider me to be a candidate as a writer for Fancy Fashion Magazine. I would love to work with others who share my perspective on fashion and a love of couture. I strong believe I am a perfect match for Fancy Fashion. 

    While introductions such as the one above work, cliches such as "I would be a good match" or "I believe in your company's vision" are generic.

       Dear Mr. Taco:
       It is with great interest that I am applying as an editorial writer for Fancy Fashion Magazine. When Jennifer Hernandez from Fancy Fashion's wardrobe recommended me for this opportunity, I knew I had to take it. Ever since Fancy Fashion's article on African Couture in 2008, my big binder of writing inspiration, nearing the size of a tome, has become dominated by your magazine's stunning pieces on global fashion. I admire Fancy Fashion's values such as promoting global style awareness and showcasing both the designs of the infamous and avant-garde as well as bringing new designers onto the fashion scene. It would be incredible to be a component of your magazine, and I have the organizational, creative, and writing skills to create fashion-conscious, engaging content, while still retaining the integrity of your brand. 

This advice was based on Jenny Foss' book Ridiculously Awesome Resume. See more samples here: Bad Pick-up Lines: They Don't Work in Bars, They Don't Work in Cover Letters

4. How to Write Your Middle Paragraphs
  1. Build a connection between the company's needs and the skills you posses (aim to present yourself as the "perfect/ best candidate")
  2. You don't have to follow a 3-paragraph model
  3. Provide concrete examples that outline your specific qualifications, skills or accomplishments that match the job description
  • extracurriculars
  • work experience
  • key aspects of  your resume (do not restate resume descriptions)
  • relevant personal qualities that may not be obvious from resume 
4a. Don't list, relate
    Don't just list relevant experiences. That's what your resume's for. Focus on relating the values of the company to your personal values. Relate skills you showcased during experiences to the skills required for the job. Expand on your most integral, relevant experiences. 

4b. Be Specific 
    What experiences have you had that are both unique and gave you relevant skills for the position?
For my most recent job application, some skills potential candidates should possess included:
  • literacy in Photoshop and Illustrator
  • ability to receive feedback
  • creativity
  • ability to work with a group
  • ability to work with deadlines

"From my FSEM (First Year Seminar), Creativity in the Digital Age, I learned the skills necessary to adopt Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator as tools for future artistic projects. Within the month during which my professor introduced these programs, I quickly became well-versed in both. I received a lot of valuable feedback which truly helped improve my ability to produce neat, innovative, and well-organized designs. This semester, I have employed these skills in designing posters for on-campus organizations, such as the SGA and College Republicans. My clients and I collaborated and worked on revising the designs until every detail of each poster was in place well before our deadlines."

Also, research the company. The more specific details you include (relevant details, of course!) the more the company knows you did your homework.

4c. Use Strong Verbs

Before, my cover letter read, "As the president of San José Friends, I gained my ability to lead." However, a friend who edited believed "showcased" would be a stronger verb. Now, the sentence implies that I already had leadership skills and now, they are even stronger!

"As the president of San José Friends, I showcased my ability to lead."

Check out UC Berkeley's Guide (page 6 pdf, 27 pamphlet) for a nifty verbs list:

4d. Don't explain what the employer can do for you. Explain what you can do for them!
    Of course that company will have a lot of skills and opportunites to offer to you. However, they know what they have to offer. Now, it's your job to encourage your potential employer that you will be an asset to their team. 

5. How to Conclude
  • Restate your desire for the job.
  • Request an interview and tell him/her you will follow up to discuss a possible time to meet
  • Include your contact info (phone number and email). 
  • Close by thanking the employer.
"I will be available to work up to 20 hours a week this coming summer and would welcome the opportunity to meet with you to discuss the possibility of interning there. I will follow up on this letter in a week to see if we can set up a time. Thank you very much for your attention." 

overall tips:

6. Don't send generic cover letters 
    As stated before, specific details show how much you care about this opportunity, and a tailored description of skills will make you seem like a perfect candidate for this specific opportunity. 

7. Be concise
     You have a page and no more. Make the most out of this space. As stated above, use concrete evidence to show that you are a strong candidate for this position, but do not be superfluous. Be direct and straightforward.
8. Show your personality 
    Be genuine and be yourself. Even though I just advised you not to be superfluous, make sure that your cover letter sounds like you. People enjoy reading cover letters that sound more "human" than "robotic." Think of it this way, your in-person interview is the movie, and  your cover letter is the movie trailer. After reading your cover letter, will your employer feel inclined to meet you in person? If your voice on paper comes off as engaging, enthusiastic, and memorable, you'll make a better impression on your potential employer and start off on the right foot during the interview.

9. Proofread
    Ask a friend, family member, roommate, boyfriend, counselor, etc. to help your proofread. They'll help catch things like:

  • contractions
  • missing articles (I don't know how many times I've missed "a")
  • parallel structure
  • tenses 
  • weak verbs
  • etc.

Sources and More Helpful Tips:
7 Cover Letter Mistakes That Will Sink You 
Bad Pick-up Lines: They Don't Work in Bars, They Don't Work in Cover Letters
Purdue OWL Cover Letter Workshop: Formatting and Organization
My School's Cover Letter Guide

Why toilets are awesome


    I love toilets! I can't express how amazing they are. However, most take them for granted- especially in our community where we consider toilets "disgusting" and "gross." This week, my group and I visited Nicaragua for a mission trip where we, alongside the members of a poor community, dug septic tanks for the village's new toilets. Our mission group contributed the materials- shovels, pick axes, but it was the people of Nicaragua who brought strength to the project. Even after working in the farms or walking home from the school miles away, the locals worked harder than any missionary. The sweltering heat and humidity, their fatigue- none of this mattered. What mattered was the fact that for the first time in their lives, they could have a toilet. To them, a toilet meant no more latrines- a haven for disease carrying flies- or roadside plants- where one constantly fears not only being discovered but ant bites, mosquitoes, and whatever else the great outdoors has to offer. They wanted a toilet more than anything in the world. To them, a toilet was a miracle.

(This post was from August 11, 2012 after my mission trip in Nicaragua. :) 

How to: Survive an Interview (Re-published)


     Above is the poster I had to design for the second (final) round of the interview for my current job as the Graphic Designer for my college's wellness institute. The first round interview was conducted via Skype. I was super nervous because I've only gone through two other interviews prior.
    My very first job interview was for a position at my school's library. There was only one question: "Do you want to work here?" Most interviews, however, are much more brutal. My second job interview was pretty rough. I applied to be a Writing Consultant for the Writing Center. I thought I was ready, but when I was finally face-to-face with the interviewers, I spat out answers too quickly and stumbled over words. In retrospect, I must have appeared frazzled and unprepared. Needless-to-say, I did not get called back for a second interview. 
    When I stumbled upon my current opportunity, I spent half the night taking notes on the company, researching everything from their goals to their foundation date. I brainstormed my answers to the most common interview questions for this field-- graphic design (what is your greatest weakness? tell us about an opportunity in which you were challenged? what unique aspect could you bring to the team? how do you respond to feedback? how do you work in a group? what ideas do you have for a new project?) I was even  so enthusiastic about the position that I explored potential projects I would propose if I did get the job. I prepared a business casual outfit and rehearsed some hard-hitting questions about my career path in the shower.
     The day of my interview, I logged into Skype a whole twenty minutes before the set interview time. I cleared out a section of my room and placed my laptop so I'd have a plain, non-distracting background view. Then, the call came. During the interview, the vibe between myself and my interviewers was very cordial and upbeat. Conversing with interviewers was easier this time around compared to my previous interviews because I had prepared and was therefore confident in what I would say. And I got really lucky. The questions I'd mentally prepared for came up in conversation. I was even asked to pitch a potential video podcast idea, and I already had a list prepared. 
     Several days later, I got the call telling me I got the job. I was ecstatic. I was also indubitably surprised. As much as I'd tried to link my design and community service skills to the skills my employers were looking for in a candidate when I wrote my resume and cover letter, I knew I was going out on a limb applying for this job. I am under-qualified; I lack program-specific skills. However, my employers basically said this didn't matter when they hired me. My confidence and , "good energy," and "excitement," they said, compelled them to hire me. My personality during the interview overshadowed my inadequate skill-set. 
     Interviews are a crucial opportunity to show who you are and what you can offer to your potential employer. Here are a few tips a I put together from prior knowledge and other articles I've read on Student Health 101. 

Interview Tips:
1.) Research. Research. Research.
      Many companies will ask you why you are drawn to their company's opportunity. Knowing more about the company will allow you have more specifics to incorporate into your answer. During my interview, I was asked which aspects of the organization made me want to join their team. I responded by saying I believed in their goals. "Which goals?" my interviewer coerced. I responded with a list of mottoes the company adhered to which I felt best touched on my interests. Answering with specifics reassures the company that you are a thoughtful, prepared, and strong candidate for their position. 

      In addition, when the interviewer asks, "Are there any questions you'd like to ask us?" always have "after questions." This shows implies interest in the company and shows employers that you have done enough research about the company to spark questions. You can ask questions about the position, current projects the company is working on, etc. 

2.) Prepare for Questions.
Be able to answer company trivia. You cannot make up answers to questions like, "When was the company founded," so be sure to know your facts. Knowing company goals is especially important. 

Typical interview questions include:
  • Who are you?/ Describe yourself?
           Use this as an opportunity to describe your skill-set and life goals (major, future career path,         ambitions). Avoid discussing your social life or childhood.

  • Describe a situation when...
           -Based on the job describe, anticipate possible questions
  struggled/ failed. For questions like these, turn a negative story into a positive. Do not list your failures 

3.) Ponder. 
Don't feel pressured to answer on the spot. It's fine to take 30 seconds to a minute to let the question sink in and think through how you will answer it. This way, your answers will tend to come off less rushed and more thorough and purposeful.

4.) Dress for success
Have a business outfit prepared (even if its a Skype interview! You do not want to have to get up to grab something and have your cartoon duck pajama pants be on display.) For in-person interviews, lean in and appear attentive and confident. Sit up straight. Make eye contact. Do not fiddle. If you have a tendency to talk with your hands, do so reasonably. For Skype interviews, employ the same tips, and make sure you set yourself in a setting with a plain background as not to distract the interviewer(s). 

5.) Relax.
Let the jitters out before your session by taking a few deep breaths. Then, go in there and believe in yourself.

6.) Be yourself. 
Let your personality shine through. Personality is a main aspect of what your interviewer will remember when reviewing her candidate. It's great when an employer chooses you because he enjoyed talking to you during an interview. 

Inglorious Fruits!

This just made me happy :)

Saturday, July 26, 2014

How To: Long-Distance

   Throughout my short, nineteen years (plus a month) on este planeta, I have experienced the often dreaded relationship: the "long-distance relationship." I have experienced such a relationship not once, but twice, out of the four romantic relationships of which I have had. With this statistic, it would seem as if I enjoyed putting myself in long-distance romances, but alas, this is hella false (so false, indeed, I failed to find an adjective more appropriate than one from the realm of NorCal slang). After my first long-distance relationship ended (Cali to New York), I vowed to never engage in another long-distance relationship "ever again." Six months later, I'm experiencing an even greater amount of long-distance. Welcome to Angel's long-distance relationship numero dos.
This is  a lot of distance. Oh hey, Australia! 

     From my grand total of seven-ish months of experience long-distancing, I present to you the following pointers. 

Tips to Surviving a Long-Distance Relationship

Trust is a must
     (Assuming you are in a closed, monogamous relationship) Do you trust that your partner will not cheat on you? (In the case of any relationship) Do you trust that your partner will stay faithful to the boundaries of your relationship? (I.e. If you say you agree that seeing other people is okay, but only if you tell your partner if you do see another person, do you trust your partner to be honest with you?) 
     Basically, if you do not completely trust your significant other, your long-distance relationship may cause feelings of worry, jealousy, and other emotions you most likely do not wish to feel. I personally prefer going long-distance only if I know there is transparency between myself and my partner, meaning neither of us will hide sketchy stuff behind the other's back. Honesty is key. Trust is a must. 

    With in-person communication off the table, couples in long-distance relationships often turn to Skype, Face Time, Snapchat, phone calls, texting, etc. As my relationships both began in-person and eventually turned into long-distance stints, my boyfriend at the time and I were able to establish a vague communication schedule. Right now, my schedule involves a 13 hour time difference, us knowing roughly what times we're both free-est, and our daily (sometimes more frequently, sometimes less frequently) hour-ish Skype date. Aside from this, we Facebook message each other updates about our day. I like knowing how and when I can communicate with the boyf before the long-distancing begins because it reassures me that we'll still be able to spend time together though we'll be miles apart. I am a firm believer in the cliche that "communication is the key to any relationship." So, I try to maintain as much of the same level of communication we had prior to long-distance. We usually fall short, but even a little conversation helps lessen the "OMG I MISS YOU."

Have fun
       Yes, you're doing long-distance, but dates and fun can still exist in your relationship. Here are some (clean!) tips I've used, heard about, and picked up from friends on how to keep a long-distance relationship fresh and exciting. 
  • Have fancy dates (A friend of mine would find a nice location on campus to act as a fancy backdrop for her Skype call and dress up for special Skype dates)
  • Tell each other bedtime stories before saying goodnight (Bedtime stories are an interesting way to keep a convo going and get to know more about each other; you can recite stories your parents used to tell you, show off your creativity by making something up, or tell stories about your childhood, etc.)
  • Snail-mail (Send a heartfelt letter, a postcard, or if you're feeling Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants-y, pass a light journal back and forth. Fill it with a letter or a Polaroid or a scribble or a fun memory from the day and send it back. It'll make an epic keepsake)
  • During your next skype date talk like pirates or in British accents or like Yoda (until it gets too annoying) just to change it up a little
  • Watch a show together. You two can comment as the show/Movie/etc. goes on. During the World Cup, my boyfriend and I would spam each other with Argentina and other World Cup stickers on Facebook chat during the matches we'd watch together.
  • Get your game on. Challenge your partner to an online game of pool or League or whatever online, interactive games you both enjoy. Or just see who can make the most awkward face during a Skype date. 

Keep some normalcy
      Yes, you'll look weird if you do this in public, but if your significant other appears to need a hug or kiss, wrap your arms around that laptop or make that kissy face. Keep telling each other about your day and telling each other how much you love each other (if you've already reached the L-word stage). Keep conversations as regular as possible, and it'll feel like you're having a typical face-to-face convo.

Remember the pros
       Unfortunately, when I'm dwelling on my long-distance relationship, my mind instantly switches into negative-nelly-mr.-grumpy-gills mode. I am so glad for my current boyfriend because as much as I bitch about long-distance sucking (because sometimes we have to go days without a Skype date if there's a rut where we happen to never be free at the same time) he reassures me that everything will be worth it. We only have to long-distance over the summer since we go to college together. But ugh, I'm such an impatient human being. If I did not have him helping me through our long-distance struggs, I do not think I'd be as hopeful about enduring the distance. He tells me how fun your year will be once school starts, and seeing him so positive makes me feel positive too. To quote my favorite animated fish, "When life gets you down, you know what you gotta do? Just keep swimming, just keep swimming..." 

It's okay to not survive
     I could not survive my first long-distance relationship. It was one of those high-school relationships that, when put to the distance test, did not pass. I know other girls who began college with their high school sweet hearts but lost stamina after first semester, and I know girls who are going strong. Long-distance does not work for many reasons: some people cannot stand the lack of physical contact, others get bored, for some couples it isn't even the distance but something wrong with solely their relationship, etc. I knew my long-distance relationship was not working early on, but I pushed through, determined not to let the distance wreck us. But it turned out what was wrong with our relationship was not the distance. For one reason or another, if you feel your relationship presents itself with more harm than good, more cons than pros, evaluate the factors which draw you to the relationship and the factors which pull you away. Then, it's up to you to make a decision on whether or not to breakup or stay together. 

How To (From Angel's Point of View)

   You know how YouTubers start mini-series, basically categorized/themed videos? For example, fashion vloggers divide their videos into: OOTD (Outfits of the Day) or GRWM (Get Ready With Me) or Follow Me Arounds? Okay, maybe I watch too many fashion YouTubers... Comedians do this too- like, Ryan Higa has his "Dear Ryan" series. Anyway, I decided to do a similar thing on my blog. Here's an intro before my first "How To (From Angel's Point of View)" where I give my two cents and tips on a something I think I am even mildly sufficient at doing or simply a something which I have thoughts regarding.

   I do not claim to be an expert in anything of the following things about which I provide advice. These tips are personal and hopelessly subjective to myself and my circumstances. Nevertheless, hopefully at least one tidbit is applicable and/or helpful to you, my dear reader. Take these "How To's" as what they are: referential guides composed by a prolific, vaguely knowledgeable, and chocolate-craving nineteen-year-old.

Project Runway Season 13 Faves (Warning: Contains Spoilers From Ep. 1)

    Shoutout to the wonderful Andy who alerted me to the fact that the newest season of Project Runway had begun (: I have been obsessed with the show since late middle school, and it is onto its (lucky) Season 13! I shall commence to gush about my favorites.

  My ultimate favorite is Angela Sum. I realized this when I would literally begin cheering for her every time she appeared on my laptop screen during the first episode (my friend who had been around me at the time can testify). Sum's a thirty-two-year-old, petite Asian designer with a clean-cut and romantic aesthetic. Think neat blouses, pastels, and neutrals. Her previous job consisted of Wall Street and computer engineering, but after spending nights after her all her coworkers had gone home for the day sewing clothing on conference tables, she decided to pursue fashion full-time. She ditched a tiny New York space for her new L.A. studio, and now she's fighting for the perks of Project Runway Season 13. Anxiety-ridden (to the point of clumsily dropping one of her sample pieces in front of Heidi, Nina, and Zac during her audition), she went through the motions of the first challenge with a panicked expression on her face and an inability to properly socialize on account of her frenzied thoughts. A nervous wreck myself, I could not help but sympathize. I hope she manages to keep herself calm and rock the second challenge.

    Next, challenge winner Sandhya Garg, 28, from Birmingham, AL, stole my heart. For this challenge, she created a dip-dyed floral-print frock with long sleeves, cut-and-frayed edges, and outlined accents from the scrap fabric and 24-hours each designer was allotted. Garg designs with a creative, cultural eye. Many of her ideas stem from her Indian influences. I'm obsessed with her careful thought and addition of personal details to each of her designs. Her looks have a playful charm mixed with Bollywood and a Free People-esque essence of intricacy yet effortlessness.
    And last but not least, I'm rooting for Char Glover, 37, from Detroit as she is a fellow pocket-enthusiast. Both her audition sample and her runway look incorporated skirts with pockets. I know I have way too many floral skirts, but hand me a skirt with pockets and putting it back on the store rack just got a lot more difficult.