Monthly Archives: January 2015

Link Party: 1/26-1/30

A saying of my grandfather's that I can never, ever forget.

A saying of my grandfather’s that I can never, ever forget.

Here’s what I read this week:

1. W. H. Auden‘s syllabus is incredible.

2. An interesting conversation between a man and his parents about what to do with their social media presences after they die.

3. A sweater-wearing squid is a real thing.

4. You probably shouldn’t use that exclamation point.

5. A review on a new Lewis Carroll biography.

And a bonus: This photo of the Obamas makes them look like they’ve walked out of a Wes Anderson movie.

Have a great weekend!

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Think Tank: Brick-and-Mortar Shopping

True.

True.

There are two things I need to tell you about myself before I keep going with this post:

1. I am one of those weird people that runs errands alone, goes to the movies by herself and would go to any corner of the Earth even if she didn’t have someone to do it with, so going places by myself is not out of the ordinary.

2. Save for art supplies and necessities, I do most of my shopping online.

Last weekend, I made a solo trip to the Pasadena Dick Blick story to buy a few supplies. Since I had 90 minutes of free parking, I figured I would walk up Colorado Boulevard to the Madewell store to see if they had anything good on sale in the store (I buy a lot of their stuff through their online storefront.) On a Saturday morning, the street was buzzing with activity, and a lot of the stores were having sales. I was thinking about buying a new dress or blouse for an event I have this upcoming Saturday (more on that later), and I figured that it was good a time as any to browse. Up until then, I don’t think I had set foot in a physical clothing store in a good six months.

When I stepped in the H&M down the block from Madewell, I quickly realized that I felt very, very uncomfortable. Blaring music and hyper-fluorescent lighting  does not make for the best shopping experience. No one asked me if I needed help or was looking for something in particular. Navigating through the labyrinth of folded sweater tables and dress racks was overwhelming, and everything looked abysmally cheap and totally unappealing. I thought to myself that maybe I was just shopping at a weird seasonal time, and felt strangely proud that I actually went into a clothing store and walked out with nothing. So, I charged onward to Madewell.

Madewell, if you don’t know, is a pretty sparse but aesthetically pleasing store — the complete opposite of H&M. But I still felt the same way: anxious, overwhelmed and nauseated. The clothes didn’t look right on the hangers, and the sales associates would not leave me alone to browse. Plus, I didn’t see anything I couldn’t live without. I successfully went into a clothing store and walked out with nothing twice, but something didn’t feel right.

When I got home, it dawned on me. I’ve been completely spoiled by the online shopping experience.

When I buy anything from books to sweaters to parking permits to music online, I do it from the comfort of my own computer and feel no pressure to buy anything. I can browse multiple stores at the same time for the best prices, and I can filter my results down to the last stitch. Whatever I buy comes directly to my house, and if I don’t like it, I can return it without ever interacting with anybody. I get exactly what I want.

I know this makes me sound like a curmudgeon, but I think it has to do with just how abrasive shopping in a contemporary brick-and-mortar retail store can be. There’s way too much stuff in the stores or not enough at all, and sorting through it all can be nearly impossible. It’s either so loud or fragrant (Abercrombie & Fitch, anyone?) that you can’t concentrate, or so quiet you feel self-conscious. Everyone’s rude to each other — customers to associates, associates to customers and associates to associates. I know from personal experience that working retail is the Worst, but the associates’ feeling of malaise mostly stems from how these companies are set up and the low morale of high turnover rates. None of these factors make for a good shopping experience.

What’s interesting, however, is that I don’t feel this way when I go into the art store or even Target. This might be because there’s just the right amount of product and I rarely go to either when the stores are packed with people. A Goldilocks scenario, if you will. Plus, it’s easier and cheaper to go and buy what I need in person. And at the same time, there’s never any pressure to buy anything.

I know that the fact that I prefer online shopping is really bad. Pretty soon, we’re not going to be able to do anything in person, which will make some things (like disputing finances or even sending a letter at the post office [Do people even do that anymore?]) really difficult. I know that eventually the people that work in those stores on Colorado Boulevard will probably not have a job. Online shopping perpetuates the lack of interaction that our society so desperately needs more of, and as much as I don’t like contributing to that, I really hate browsing in a real store.

I didn’t really do any research on the different in in-person and online shopping for this Think Tank, but I think just about everyone can agree that stores are not like they used to be. We really need to rethink contemporary shopping and make it a more pleasant experience. Until then, I’ll be browsing on Amazon.

What do you think about online shopping? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

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Culture Connoisseur: Sleater-Kinney’s “No Cities To Love”

Sleater-Kinney is even too cool for me, to be honest.

I’ll admit that the only reason I know about Sleater-Kinney is because of Portlandia. Carrie Brownstein is just so damn rad that I had to do some research, and that brought me to the riot grrrl band. Hailing from the Pacific Northwest, the band was highly influential in their scene and managed to go mainstream. Last week, they released a new album that received a lot of hype and acclaim. I bought “No Cities To Love” on Saturday afternoon, and let me tell you, it’s pretty fantastic.

I think what I love most about “No Cities To Love” is that it is raw, abrasive and in your face, while still being highly self-conscious and lyrically beautiful. I’ve listened to it front-to-back again and again, and I’ve gained so much respect for the the 3-piece band.  The only other contemporary girl band I can think of who has done that for me is HAIM, whose lyrics aren’t overall as deep as Sleater-Kinney, but approaches the idea of being a woman and having Real Feelings in the same way.

Sometimes you just need something to rock out to, and “No Cities To Love” definitely fulfills that for me. My favorites from the 10-track album are “Price Tag,” “Fangless,” “Surface Envy,” “No Anthems” and “Bury Our Friends.”  Enjoy.

 

What did you think? Tell me about it in the comments.

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Link Party: 1/19-1/23

I love plants so much, you guys. I can't wait to tell you about what I did yesterday.

I love plants so much, you guys. I can’t wait to tell you about what I did yesterday.

Here’s what I read this week:

1. A very interesting conversation about people who don’t have parents and how they figure out finances.

2. Typewriter emoji is a thing, apparently.

3. The life of a Karl Lagerfeld muse is crazy.

4. Life lessons from Georgia O’Keeffe.

5. A new typeface, designed by algorithms.

And a bonus: This 8-bit version of “Where Is My Mind?” has been stuck in my head for days.

Have a great weekend!

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Think Tank: Trivia Crack

Trivia Crack is simultaneously my reason to live and the bane of my existence.

Trivia Crack is simultaneously my reason to live and the bane of my existence.

Last weekend, the other editors at The Poly Post told me about Trivia Crack, and it’s been downhill ever since.

Trivia Crack is a trivia game that you play against other people. You spin a virtual wheel, and depending on where you land, you get a random multiple-choice question about sports, history, geography, art, science or history. The questions are mostly user-based, meaning that you can submit trivia yourself that can become part of the game. For every three questions you get right (or if you land on the crown), you have a chance to win a badge in each category. Whoever gets all six badges first wins the game.

So far, I’ve creamed just about everyone I’ve played (multiple times): the other editors, my dad, my sister and other friends from school. And to be completely honest, I really (really) don’t try to win.

But after nearly a week of playing Trivia Crack, I’ve started to think more about what this game means culturally, and the pros/cons of playing it.

We think quizzing each other on random pieces of information is fun, but it also definitely means something to win this game.

Is it just me, or is it really amusing that this is the basis of a game that we play for pleasure or out of boredom? What does it really matter that I know which artist is known for wearing crazy outfits (Lady Gaga), where La Guardia airport is (New York) or what year France became a republic (1792)? Some of these questions are interesting in that we even consider them trivia. For example, one of the questions asked which United States president was accused of sexual misconduct with a staffer. Who decided that it was important that I know that, and why? And what does it matter to me or anyone else that I know the right answer to that question? Trivia Crack is truly a goldmine for social construct analysis.

According to the Trivia Crack subtext and the people who have made it or play it,  knowing the right answer actually matters quite a bit. When you add the competition component to it, it becomes less of a brain exercise, and more of a “let’s see who’s the smartest” game. The game itself is harmless: you’re not playing for $1 million, and you’re not on national television. But bragging rights still mean something, and there’s something about it that makes you keep playing.

We actually know a lot more than we think we do.

I’ve answered 258 questions (and counting) correctly in this game, and the questions I get are all random. On several occasions, I have Googled questions or asked people in my general vicinity to help (sports and science). But for the most part, I’ve been able to answer them myself. I either know the answers from pop culture osmosis, or it’s been a lucky guess. It’s fascinating that we all acquire random bits of information, through just existing within a culture, that we can regurgitate when asked on a whim. It’s incredible that we just happen to know, and even when we get a question wrong, we all say to ourselves, “I knew that.”

Also, everyone I’ve talked to about this game says “I’m really good at this one category” and “I’m horrible at this other one.”  And we all use other resources to answer the questions correctly: Google, other people or the in-game shortcuts. It’s a personal blow if you don’t get the question right, and embarrassing to miss one when you’re playing other people. The game, and just about every competition-based thing we do in life, is built on this concept.

It’s probably better for my brain than other game apps.  

I have played many, many rounds of Candy Crush and spent many, many hours playing endless Bejeweled Blitz. At least Trivia Crack makes me dive into the recesses of my mind and recall random bits of information. When I play Candy Crush, I’m focused on getting rid of the jelly in the limited amount of moves. When I play Trivia Crack, I’m stretching my brain in a split second. That distinction proves to me that it’s having some kind of positive effect. It’s less video game-y than some of the other apps for smartphones, so I don’t feel like I’m completely wasting my time by playing it.

But it’s rotting my brain at the same time. 

It really lives up to its name. When I see that I don’t have any turns to take, I grow impatient waiting for my partner. I still don’t know what about this game makes it so addicting.

I know that most of these games have a zenith of popularity (Words With Friends, anyone?), and I’ll be interested to see how and when it dies out. Until then, I guess I’ll be playing another game.

Do you play Trivia Crack? Tell me about it in the comments.

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Undergrad Adventures: Stress Management

I'm convinced that my perpetually high stress level is what keeps me from being overweight.

I’m convinced that my perpetually high stress level is what keeps me from being overweight.

I’m down to my last two general education classes (scary, I know), and the stress management class I’m taking might be one of the most informative classes I’ve ever taken.

Identifying the types of stress in your life can be a very powerful experience.

There are two types of stress in your life: eustress (the good things that happen to you that are still stressful, like getting a new job or moving) and distress (the bad things that happen to you that are stressful.) There are two types of distress: acute (things like getting a bad grade on a test or being late to work) and chronic (credit card debt, a death in the family or a divorce.) Some things that are eustressful for people can be distressful for others, and vice versa. However, what’s really important is discerning what in your life falls under each category. That way, you can keep track of the good things that happen in your life, and balance out your acute and chronic distresses. Lots of chronic distresses are very bad.

There are many different types of stressors. 

We all feel physiological, environmental, sociological, psychological and philosophical stress, and each type has many different stressors. Similar to being able to discern eustress and acute and chronic distress, figuring out which of my stressors fall under what kind of stress has been very helpful. Rooms with a lot of people in them (environmental) and feeling sick (physiological) are both examples of things that stress me out, but they are completely different. Being able to pinpoint the source makes fixing it much easier.

Your body actually goes through a lot in a stressful event. 

In addition to increased heart rate and blood pressure, all sorts of things are happening throughout your body. Your salivary glands dry up, your spleen and stomach shrink and all of these hormone levels increase. Stress doesn’t just happen in your mind, but your physical body too. I knew that the mind-body connection was important from practicing yoga, but it’s been cool to learn about the scientific side. There are nearly 1800 identifiable emotions that we can feel, and every emotion causes a physiological reaction. It shows just how strong the mind-body connection really is, which is cool to know.

Your personality, to a large extent, predicts how we deal with stress. 

A Type A personality is the most stress-prone personality, while a Type D is the least stress-prone. I would consider myself somewhere between A and B — I acknowledge that I get stressed out a lot over all kinds of things, but some stressors I handle a lot better than others. Learning about my personality more and how certain characteristics affect my stress levels has helped me get a better handle on them.

The way the class is set up is ironically stressful — it’s conducted completely online, and there’s a lot of work to turn in every week. But by the time the quarter is over, I hope that I’ll have a better handle on my stress. I’m going to need it post-graduation.

Have you ever taken a class on stress management? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

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Link Party: 1/12-1/16

I don't take nearly enough black and white photos.

I need to take more black and white photos on a regular basis.

Weird, weird, weird week. But here’s what I read:

1. A fascinating article about whether or not homelessness in Sim City is a bug or a feature.

2. With the help of her friends, Joan Traub Ades helps student musicians in the Manhattan School of Music find outfits for performances.

3. The working life of Gwyned Filling, the poster child of career women for LIFE magazine.

4. David Foster Wallace taught Paul Thomas Anderson and I’m still not over it.

5. Sasha Frere-Jones is now Genius’s newest editor.

And a bonus: The Inherent Vice soundtrack (which is excellent), streaming.

Have a fantastic weekend!

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