Tag Archives: graduation

The incredible potential of potential: On Facebook, commercial space travel and the 2012 graduates of SFSU

This week we have arrived at an exciting time when hope, dreams and potential have all come together in a combustible mix.  

We’ve got Facebook’s IPO, commercial space travel’s first big test , and my oldest kid’s college graduation all coming at once.

The excitement is all about the tremendous unknown. Upside? Anything can happen.

Including the downside.

Place your bets.


Is it heresy to say I was rooting for Facebook to come undone on the opening? 

There was a pop from $38 to $43 and a few billionaires were still made, but really, do the 1 percent really deserve more? To me, it just seemed more decent to bet against greed.

Better for the soul.

This is not to say I’m anti-Facebook or social networking (though I do favor Twitter). In fact, Facebook is a great American story of entrepreneurship and the drive to create the next big thing.  

When I was in college, I was romanced by the big ideas of the past. Hegel anyone? I wasn’t  tinkering around in the computer lab anticipating the future and the digital translation of everything in life.

I was thinking about  things like the Great American Novel, not the Great Killer App.

Oh, and I actually had the Facebook in my hands. The printed version. I was thinking about that person I met in the Freshman Union.  I was in the G’s.  So was some guy named Gates.

Over the last few days I’ve had several friends ask me about Facebook, and what could I say?  What’s it going to be worth in 5, 10, 20 years? Remember My Space? These tech things trend out.  Remember when Palm and Blackberry were way cool, then way not?

Speculation is a matter of heat and Facebook right now is both hot and not.  If you’re on it constantly, do you click on any ads?  Does the company really  know how it  will make money on advertising through social networking?

I don’t know the answers to Facebook’s future value. No one really does.

But this I know. If you’re a user, Facebook still knows more about you than you know about it.

So until things become a tad more transparent,  and the lucky buy their Ferraris and SF condos, Facebook remains that nice, nosy little utility of life and any big bet on it is all about faith, hope, and a whole lot of greed.


On Saturday comes the big rocket test for Space X, the big bet on commercial space flight that could bring the Jetsons to reality.

The Mile High Club?  Compared to Space X, that’s like necking in the backseat of a Mustang. With commercial space flight, we’re talking about reaching heights around 240 miles above the earth. 

Travelling in space may seem cool to the astrophysicists amongst us. But not me. Space? This is why God gave us telescopes—so that we can view the cosmos from our Lazy-Boy.  (Oh, actually, there is an app for that now, isn’t there?)

Still, if you’d like to fly non-stop someday from here to the space station,  I don’t want to be the person to say no.  Personally, I’d rather see a bullet train through the state. Or BART get a station in Livermore.

When you consider the billions of dollars needed just to see if commercial space travel is feasible during these very tenuous financial times, I’m wondering if the coolness factor of saying you can do it is enough reason to actually do it?

So I doubt if I’ll  be a Frequent Flyer.

I’m plenty happy  just  getting to Cincinnati every now and then to see my in-laws.  Given that’s like going back in time, who needs commercial space travel?


Lastly, is there anything more hopeful than a graduation?

I’ll be on the field at San Francisco State’s Cox Stadium when my daughter Jilly crosses the stage with a B.S. in Geology.

This is a big deal for a family of liberal arts-types, who last considered science when people still used slide rules. (Youngsters, those really were considered accurate, to the nearest black line).

As a young girl, my daughter seemed destined to follow in her parents’ tradition.  In high school, she took chemistry for jocks (which was a little more than an analysis of Gatorade, but not by much). I knew she could do better, but I didn’t push her. I lectured. She didn’t listen. I made it her responsibility.

Still, here was a girl, and a person of color, who it was assumed, had no talent for the sciences. In today’s tech oriented world, that’s like saying you have no ticket to the future.

But boy, did she prove them all wrong. And all it took was some great professors at SFSU to help her discover that.

So while I’m proud of my daughter, I’m also a little worried about the future of our state’s high ed programs.  

SFSU may have a rockier road  ahead than my daughter.

The one thing about the state schools is they were always  there to assure a level of education for all.

Now with all the cutbacks in the state’s budget, I’m not so sure. 

For state schools, it’s all about resources, and currently there aren’t many. Even my daughter felt the pinch. She needed an extra year to graduate because she couldn’t get into required classes that were either cancelled, full, or not available.

I’m a big supporter of affirmative action. But that’s not the only answer to real educational equality.  You can bicker about college admissions all you want, but it still comes down to resources.

 What, after all, are you vying for admission to?  When budgets are cut, as my daughter found out searching for a basic chemistry course, sometimes it means there’s  “no there there.”

Graduation will be my celebration that there was a there for my daughter at 19th and Holloway.

I have no hesitation, nor doubts here.  My abundant hope is our state system will also be there for the vast numbers of Californians  in the future.

To Grads: The truth about journalism

June is grad season, and globetrotting millionaire journalist Christiane Amanpour has graduated to the place for old journalists.  No knock on Amanpour who left CNN and war zones to join Disney’s Sunday salon in D.C.

My quarrel with her is over what she said to the 2010 class at Harvard recently.

I’m not jealous of her. I spoke at Harvard’s Class Day in 1977 as class humorist.  I told 3,000 mostly rich white people about being a Filipino at Harvard. I appeared as Marcos.  It was a crack-up. For details, you’ll have to get my book “Amok.”

I don’t know if Amanpour channeled a dictator during her speech. In fact, I wouldn’t have known about it had she not used that new media technique known as Twitter, where she tweeted thusly: Delivered Harvard Class Day speech for seniors yesterday. Great honor for me! Urged them to pursue journalism, find passion and purpose. 6:08 AM May 27th

Twitter’s great isn’t it? But here I can respond in more than 140 characters.

I’m glad she’s honored. It was an honor for me. My first stand-up comedy routine. And then I went into journalism.   Amanpour did the reverse. She spent years in the trenches covering wars and wearing Safari outfits, and then went to Harvard to deliver her biggest one-liner:  She actually urged people to pursue journalism.

That’s a funny line.  But easy for a multi-millionaire journalist  to say.

The fact is many of the journalists I know are currently under or unemployed. Among them a few Pulitizer prize winners and a number of regional and local award winners who just can’t get a job because there aren’t any.

The journalism industry’s business model has disintegrated in the last five years, and the only way a news organization  seems to stay in business is by cutting wages, people,  and coverage.

It’s not pretty.

In Honolulu, the small paper bought the big paper making the city a one newspaper town with one too many staffs. Many of my old colleagues who have done nothing but journalism are now polishing up resumes to send where? The next newspaper that will go under?

In radio and TV, your best prospects of getting a job is not having done a hot story, but being hot and young (which means you have no kids, mortgage, nor a need for a high salary). Great.  But it’s unlikely you’ll cover Watergate. Or even a City Hall scandal.  Maybe you’ll get a murder. Is that your passion?

And if you’re a minority, the days when diversity was valued by the mainstream media are over.  An industry loses compassion in survival mode.

You want the future of journalism? You’re seeing it. The niche market. Highly targeted audiences. Not the shotgun approach of the “mass media.”  When was the last time your local mainstream paper even printed the word “Filipino” in the context of your life, your community?  That’s why one of the outlets I write for, the Philippine News, the oldest Filipino newspaper in America, has real value.

Perhaps I’ve reacted to Amanpour more acutely because recently I gave a talk to 5th graders at the ACORN Woodland Academy in Oakland.

How can you tell 5th graders in the inner city with a straight face to go into a dying industry?

So I was honest.  I told them you could make millions, or you can make ten cents a word. I told them they are already  licensed to be journalists. The First Amendment (which they had just learned about) gives them that right.

Now the question is are you curious? Do you want to know–everything? And once you do know, are you burning to tell everyone the truth about it?

If so, you are cursed, but journalism will be both your blessing and reward.

That’s more honest than Amanpour’s message at Harvard.

(Oh, and I also told them to learn how to tweet).