Cal Poly—more diverse than you might think

As you walk the Cal Poly campus, it may cross your mind that diversity is not a large part of Cal Poly. You wouldn’t be wrong. According to College Factual, the school makeup is nearly 60 percent Caucasian. Fifteen percent of the school is Hispanic/Latino and another 12 percent is Asian.

But if you listen to Peter Gonzalez’ radio show on KCPR, you may find that Cal Poly is more diverse than what meets the eye.

“Conversations with Peter Gonzalez” is a weekly talk show where Gonzalez interviews someone that he believes has an interesting story to tell. Often, they are minorities in one way or another.

A Latino himself, Gonzalez knows Cal Poly’s struggles with diversity all too well.

Gonzalez added that through his network of friends, many of whom are Week of Welcome leaders, he was able to find a variety of students to interview and learn about.

“There’s been a really great response when I ask people to come on the show and tell their story,” Gonzalez said. “There aren’t a lot of opportunities to do that here at Cal Poly.”

While Gonzalez has tried to integrate and learn about his peers, others have had very different experiences.

I asked Vicky Atieh, a Lebanese-American Psychology major about her experience at Cal Poly.

“As a Lebanese-American student, it was hard because I very rarely encountered students that shared my culture,” Atieh said. “I had to assimilate to the students around me, and often times I felt like I was being stripped of who I was.”

Atieh argued that inclusion starts with the majority—not the minority.

“The notion that you can’t look different or be different should be eliminated, biases should be explored, and inclusion should be encouraged,” Atieh said. “I feel like our campus can work on ignorance. Fraternities and sororities shouldn’t be the only outlet for inclusivity for anyone.”

That isn’t to say that Cal Poly isn’t trying.

Cal Poly’s Multicultural Center holds events on almost a weekly basis. I attended one, called Stand Above, which promoted ending violent extremism and had a panel of Islamic members of the San Luis Obispo and Cal Poly community, including a few students.

Allen Muñoz, an event organizer and fourth year Cal Poly student, said these events are beneficial for the community.

“The significance (for the community) is to promote awareness on the subject of discrimination,” Muñoz said, who is also Latino.

Muñoz went on to say that it’s more important now than ever that we try to understand one another’s differences and accept them.

Next time you walk around Cal Poly, try to look for the diversity. As Gonzalez said: the diversity is there, you just have to go and find it.




I interviewed a Millennial, a Baby Boomer and a member of the Silent Generation about consuming music

I recently had the opportunity to interview three very distinct and different generations about their introduction to music. Millennials (1981-2000), Baby Boomers (1946-1964) and the Silent Generation (1927-1945) span nearly 100 years between them, leading to some contrasting life experiences and views.

I interviewed my grandfather, Bob Middlecamp, who is a member of the Silent Generation —  just after the G.I. generation and before the beginning of the Baby Boomers. Growing up on farm with three other siblings, his family didn’t have a budget for music.

It was seen as a luxury that the family couldn’t afford. His parents were products of the Great Depression and as a result, anything deemed excessive was trimmed.

“I don’t ever remember buying a record growing up. It just wasn’t something in our bag.” – Bob Middlecamp

His introduction to music came via the radio, listening to cowboy radio shows when he could. He and his twin brother also scrounged enough to buy a seven inch record. To this day, he doesn’t collect music, nor does it have a large part of his life. The radio is rarely on in the house or the car.

I also interviewed my mother, Linda Middlecamp, who was on the tail end of the Baby Boomer generation. She grew up listening to show tunes that her mother played and sang along to. Her father didn’t play his own music often, instead he preferred to read.

Her real introduction to music came when her parents bought her an AM/FM radio for her room on her 10th birthday, which opened her to a new world of seemingly unlimited possibilities.

“When I got my radio, FM was still a relatively new thing. I mostly flipped through AM stations.” – Linda Middlecamp

She began collecting on her own records late in high school and throughout college. Later, it became tapes, CDs and not long after, MP3s. Her parents had collections of their own (comic books, coins, birdhouses, pins) and her brother had a music collection of his own which normalized collecting.

Millennials have experienced the least amount of change in terms of how we consume music. I interviewed 23-year-old third-year mechanical engineering student Ishmael Rangel about his musical experience growing up. His first memories were of his family members playing music off of CDs in the car, before branching out into music on his own.

“I first purchased music from iTunes using an Itunes gift card on my iPod touch,” Rangel said.

Clearly each generation has their own way of not only viewing music, but consuming it. As I have touched on in earlier posts, it will be interesting to where music goes following the rise of streaming services.



Stringing your guitar can be a drag, but it doesn’t have to be


Guitar players everywhere dread one thing: the time when the strings begin to deaden and hurt just a bit more to play. With the right tools and a little practice, changing strings can become less of a chore and more of something to look forward to.

Here’s a step by step guide to making stringing your guitar a breeze.

What you’ll need: bridge pin puller, wire cutters and new strings.

1. Slowly unwind the strings and remove the bridge pins. IMPORTANT: remember to keep the pins in order of which string the pin goes with. The string can pop out if the proper pin isn’t used, damaging the pin and undoing your hard work!

2. Use the bridge puller to remove the pins. Pliers and other tools aren’t meant for the job and can also damage your pins.

3. Put the string in the corresponding pin hole. Place the bridge pin in just enough to hold the string. Begin tightening the string. Once the string is fairly tight, push the pin flush and finish tightening.

4. Snip off the excess string on the end with the wire cutters. Be careful not to damage anything.

5. Now it’s time to tune your guitar. It can take up to a full day to stabilize as the strings adjust to their new tightness. Enjoy!

There are several ways to string a guitar and none of them are wrong. Brian Swerdfeger of Taylor Guitars prefers to snip the strings before he winds them around the posts. He snips them two inches behind the post. You can see more here.

The record that made my dad appreciate whole albums


If you like music, there’s a time that everyone experiences: the switch from singles to full albums.

For my dad, David, — as well as myself —that transition didn’t happen until the summer entering college. I can’t point to one record that began my musical journey, but my dad can.

After buying singles in high school for a couple years, he stumbled upon the Eagles and their fifth studio album, Hotel California. The rest is history.

“That’s the first album I listen to. I bought singles before that and that’s the first album I listened to that was like, ‘Oh, you can do more than singles,'” he said.

Forty years later, he still rarely listens singles. The farthest he will go is the ‘shuffle’ feature on his iPod. Instead, he will listen to an album front-to-back when he buys it.

Lucky for him, he got to experience the golden era of when albums were made to be played all the way through. Just before his time, in the 50s, singles were the norm. These days, we again are seeing a resurgence of the single.

Forbes covered this very topic in an article titled: “The Album Is Dying — And Good Riddance”.

In the Nielsen mid-year report, album sales (including CDs, cassettes, vinyl LPs and digital albums) have fallen by 13.6% this year but even more worrisome is the fact that albums by current artists aren’t catching on, falling by 20.8%.

The article goes on to say that since albums are long, time consuming and expensive to make, artists are focusing on the one or two songs from an album that people will listen to. They do this because people will either buy those songs or cherry-pick them through streaming services.

Albums will still be made by artists in it for more than just a paycheck, but will be harder to find. It’s up to us to support them!

Neil Young delays release of new album, ‘Peace Trail’

neil_young_2008_firenze_02Music fans will have to wait a little bit longer for new music by Neil Young. Originally scheduled for Dec. 2, Young pushed his release date for his new effort to Dec. 9.

Peace Trail is the acoustic heavy follow up to his 2015 album, Earth, and was recorded at Rick Rubin’s Shangri-La Studios. The album will be Young’s 38th solo record and is available for preorder on his website.

Young recently released a song and video in September for “Indian Givers”, which according to Slate, is “a condemnation of the Dakota Access Pipeline, a major oil duct project under construction in Native American territory.”

Young, fresh of a Desert Trip appearance, has been one of the few major artists to speak out about the controversy, either through song or otherwise.


1. “Peace Trail”
2. “Can’t Stop Workin'”
3. “Indian Givers”
4. “Show Me”
5. “Texas Rangers”
6. “Terrorist Suicide Hang Gliders”
7. “John Oaks”
8. “My Pledge”
9. “Glass Accident”
10. “My New Robot”




Local music store manager says record sales increasing despite digital popularity

At the beginning of the digital age, music store owners began to worry. Why would anyone buy the physical version of an album that takes up a tremendous amount of space? Especially when that same music takes up next to nothing on an MP3 player or computer.

Lucky for music store owners, vinyl has had a resurgence over the last decade, as millennials and baby boomers alike have found nostalgia in the grooves. Mark Woehrle, store manager of Cheap Thrills, has seen it first hand.

“Vinyl sales are growing in younger demographics,” Woehrle said. He pointed to the music side of the store — which splits space with Captain Nemo, a comic and gaming store.

“The only thing that’s on this side of the store that is on any kind of an incline (in sales) is records.”  — Mark Woehrle, Cheap Thrills manager

Woehrle went on to say that the store doesn’t make money on the most current popular records that labels press — partly due to the fact it’s so expensive for the labels to produce. The way that Woehrle’s store and others make money on records is selling old vinyl. He said that the store has the biggest inventory it has ever had, which helps sales because of variety.

Since box stores such as Best Buy and Target have simplified their music selections to the Top 40, music lovers have to turn to local record stores to get the harder-to-find gems.

“People come in here and complain because they used to go to a box store and they would have a decent collection of CDs and now they don’t,” Woehrle said. “It’s Top 40 or maybe Top 20 in three genres and that’s about it.”

Woehrle says he thinks that music stores will always exist, but will become the hunting grounds of collectors and people looking for “odd ball stuff” — things that have been passed over and forgotten, but still have value.

It’s good to hear that local music stores are still keeping their heads above water in the digital era.

Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize win is a welcome shift

Nashville Skyline is Dylan’s ninth studio album. Columbia Records.

Last week, Bob Dylan became the first songwriter to win the Nobel Prize for literature. The award immediately caused controversy, as some argued that some of Dylan’s peers were more deserving for their works. I doubt that many of those same peers have matched his output and quality over the course of his career.

Dylan, now at age 75, has written songs for 57 years. Many of those songs would be right at home at an open-mic show in a coffee shop or analyzed by college classes.

To say that Dylan is undeserving is a discredit to his work. His songs have been included in poetry books, including the Oxford Book of American Poetry and the Cambridge University Press according to the New York Times.

This is not the first time he has been pioneer. 50 years ago, Dylan began playing folk songs on electric guitar, contrary to what was popular. After he conquered that, he went country. The dreary world of literature was in desperate need of a mix up. Who better to do it than Dylan?

As Dylan has written before, times they are a-changing.

Pirating music doesn’t affect amount of digital music sales, says study

In a study by Luis Aguiar and Bertin Martens, it was found that there is no correlation between pirating music and digital music sales. In fact, it leads to more sales. The study additionally found that licensed music streams also don’t affect digital music sales, which is somewhat surprising. It goes to show that actually owning something, whether it be physical or otherwise, is still important in today’s society.

The study focused on clickstream data over 16,500 different European consumers. In the conclusion, Aguiar and Martens state that they found no evidence of displacement. Additionally, they found that there was a two percent overlap between licensed and unlicensed websites:

If this estimate is given a causal interpretation, clicks on licensed purchase websites would have been 2% lower in the absence of unlicensed downloading websites.

Aguiar and Martens say that without pirating, music downloads would drop by two percent. Given that music sales have been falling since the arrival of the MP3, two percent is a number that would likely get the attention of music executives everywhere.

They go on to say that consumers view streaming as a compliment to music purchasing, rather than an alternative. It will be interesting to see if that remains the case as the tail end of the Millennial Generation grows up. Many of them never experienced physical music, and soon some will not have experienced MP3s.

Great interview with a record collecting DJ

In a an insightful interview with the music blog Dust and Grooves, the Los Angeles-based DJ The Gaslamp Killer answers questions about his journey with music and records. The story begins with a quote:

Records are time capsules. They’re emotional, spiritual, energetically-bound pieces of vinyl. They were cut with force and energy, not by a programmer.

In the digital age it’s easy to forget that physical things like records can have long and rich histories of how they came to be where they are, unlike MP3s which only exist on hard drives.