Columbia engineer instrumental in designing a system to keep trains safe

I got to write, photograph and video my first long-form multimedia piece for the Missourian and it was such a great experience! It involves me going to Kansas City, and Jefferson City to get photos and video.

The story focuses on Columbia native, Rick McGavock, and the role he’s played in progressing train safety over his career.

If positive train control had been available and widely adopted in 1969, it could have prevented 145 rail accidents that killed 288 people and injured 6,574.

Rick McGavock, a Columbia native has spent nearly two decades working on software and products that helps stop those crashes. 


Old MU Parking Rule Enforced

You’d think a story about a “new” parking rule would be easy to report on, right?

Ha. Well, it wasn’t as clear cut as I thought it would be when I first got the assignment.

Read the full story here.

Campus parking is the thorn in side of nearly all university students. Parking police aren’t the most liked bunch. Public opinion may not have improved after there decision to start enforcing an old parking rule three weeks into the semester, without announcing it.

We originally found out about it through a re-tweet of a post by Mizzou’s Parking and Transportation Twitter account saying that there’s a new parking policy. Students weren’t so happy about the timing. The original tweet by Parking and Transport was incorrect—It turned out that the rule was always there, but wasn’t enforced.

The parking rule in question states that parking garage ramps belong to the floor that they begin on, according to MU spokeswoman, Liz McCune. If a student’s parking permission allows them to park on the fourth floor of Virginia Avenue Parking Structure, for example, they can only park on the flat portion of the fourth floor and the entirety of the inclining ramp toward the fifth floor; they may not park on the ramp leading down to the third floor.

The rule was always there, but “It’s a process that we didn’t enforce regularly before, but now that there’s a demand for certain parking spots and parking garages, the parking enforcement felt that they needed to make it clear that this is the policy,” McCune said.

The information became clear after a days worth of calling back and forth and interviewing students who got tickets relating to this violation before the rule enforcement was made official

Mid-Missouri Pride Fest

Read the full story here

Everyday I’m in Missouri, I’m forced to confront the assumptions I made before moving here.

Columbia is a blue liberal dot in the middle of a red ocean with two large liberal cities on the lateral borders.

Recently, I got to report and write an article for an interesting community event for the Columbia Missourian.

Mid-Missouri is not what you’d expect a Pride-Fest to happen, much less have a 14 year history of putting on the event.

What was even more surprising was the amount of young people attending. The political climate of the past couple of months seems to have inspired many young people to take charge in their communities to make change.

Jessie Mattingley, 17, lives in Hallsville. Jessie, who prefers the pronoun they, started Hallsville high school’s Gay Straight Alliance, an organization to “educate, advocate and support the LGBT youth.”

The big event was the drag show.

Jason Thomas Kerr, 11, who performs under the stage name Susan B. Anthony, was first on the stage. Jason has performed since age 8, and said performing at PrideFest means he can be around people who are like him.

“It can make you nervous at first, but then when you’re up there, you’re not nervous anymore,” he said.

It’s always fun getting to report on assignments like these. They’re like soup for the soul.

Islamic center expansion story

An Islamic community made up of over 40 nationalities is the last thing I expected to find when I packed my bags and moved to the town of Columbia, Missouri in the middle of the country. It was oddly comforting and a pleasant surprise. 

Perhaps the way my parents raised me— bringing in their experiences from Aleppo— rubbed off on me and made me naturally drawn towards people of that part of the world. So when I saw a council meeting for a Mid-Missouri Islamic center's appeal for an expansion, I got curious.

Hannah Musick, a fellow Mizzou Grad J-school Bootcamp attendee, and I went to the mosque at around 5:00 a.m. for the first prayer. My ethnic background is Syrian-Armenian, but—being born in Los Angeles— I don't have any true knowledge of middle-eastern traditions or certain religions associated with that part of the world. Nevertheless, I was allowed to enter on the condition that I remove my tightly laced converse and store them in a wooden shelf, downstairs. 

Over the course of the next week, Hannah and I revisited the mosque a few times and interviewed members, the higher-ups, and individuals with relations to the center. One person, in particular, Farah El-Jayyousi, stood out because of a print out of a letter she wrote. It was a letter that pleaded for an expansion of the Islamic center. 

The letter was from roughly 20 years ago. 

The article that Hannah and I collaborated on ended up being a story about the resilience, patience, community and hope of a cluster of individuals from all around the world who came together under one Islamic faith in Columbia, Missouri.


Here's the article that I co-wrote and photographed for the Missourian's front page story. 


Fallacies of time

There are certain areas in Los Angeles where the passing of time seems to be a fallacy. Neighborhoods, completely untouched by the changing waves of things like technology and the influx of outside ideas and individuals. Things may change in the area, but, as I've come to notice in some cases, not truly. It's a tempting topic to spend some time, and film, exploring on my off-hours.

The interesting man, pictured below, is my cousin's neighbor from across the street. 

Try convincing me he isn't a godly time-warp fusion of Marty Mcfly and Doc Brown.

Anyways, for a bit of backstory, I had been visiting my cousins and brought along my camera— I've missed too many interesting photo opportunities to not carry it with me everywhere I go. I think I was down to my last frame of 12 and saw this guy starting up his old motorcycle. I walked up, started a conversation about his bike— I'd like to buy an 80s Honda a convert it into a cafe racer sometime in the near future. I asked him if I could take his portrait. He obliged. 


Thanks for reading along! 

3 posts in

I'm enjoying making these posts. They encourage me to keep up my writing practice.

I recently got accepted to the University of Missouri's Graduate Journalism school and got waitlisted for Columbia's, so, sharpening my less visual skills will prove important for the near future. 

...On to the photo below. 

I got to spend one of my recent Sundays walking around downtown LA with a good friend of mine who's also a photographer. Light was fading and my frame counter hit 9; 3 chances left to get a good shot. Day—the lovely woman in frame— was standing across the street with some magical golden light reflecting onto her from one of the adjacent highrises that seem to be popping up on the daily in downtown. I made my way across the street and asked to take a couple frames. She obliged. 


New Year's Eve, 2017

I just got some film back from the lab that I had shot way back on New Year's Eve. Reason being, a combination of my forgetfulness to properly date and subject film rolls after shooting them and being too cheap to pay for developing. No worries, it'll serve as a lesson to be more organized in my storage and finances...maybe.

This post's photo is from New Year's Eve dinner at my cousin's home. Every year, my extended family of about 20 or so young and old come to my Uncle Anto's (Yup, we got the same name) home, food in arms, ready to drink and eat with the occasional heated debate over god knows what— it wouldn't be the Holidays without it! This photo depicts a small moment in time before said heated debates. 

What speaks to me about this photo is the converging of hands into the center of the frame. I hope that it brings a sense of warmth and intimacy to the viewer. 

Well, that it for now. Till next time!