Monthly Archives: June 2015

Link Party: 6/22-6/26

I did a quick series of sketchbook papers on words I use frequently. This was my favorite one.

I did a quick series of sketchbook papers on words I use frequently. This was my favorite one.

I used my laptop a grand total of two times this week, and I gotta say, a digital detox beyond my phone felt really great. Granted, I still read articles and surfed Facebook / Twitter on my phone. But baby steps, right? Back to your regularly scheduled programming next week. And now to the party:

1. If you’re curious, this is what being a zookeeper is like.

2. Elaine Benes was truly the best part of Seinfeld.

3. I wholeheartedly appreciate Rashida Jones’s advice on happiness at work.

4. Man Repeller nails (as always) an analysis of what the Gmail undo send button really means.

A twofer 5. Claudia Rankine on the condition of African American life being one of mourning and Roxane Gay on why she can’t forgive Dylann Roof.

And a bonus: Everyone was talking about it earlier this week, but Marc Maron’s podcast with Barack Obama is definitely worth listening to.

Have a fantastic weekend.

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Link Party: 6/15-6/19

This week's adventure: the Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Garden.

This week’s adventure: the Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Garden.

Here’s what I read this week:

1. I’m glad I’m not the only person who thinks email is the worst.

2. This is a fascinating story about a totem pole John Barrymore stole from the Tlingit.

3. I didn’t expect the ending for this story titled “The Wetsuitman” and you won’t either but it a) is incredible storytelling and b) sheds much-deserved light on a problem that needs more attention.

4. How do you know you’re a woman?

5. A really great interview with Jessica Hopper, a highly respected rock critic.

And a bonus: This week I crossed Nora Ephron’s I Remember Nothing off my reading list, and am working on Flannery O’Connor’s collection of short stories and J.D. Salinger’s Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction. If you have any recommendations, please send them over.

Have a fantastic weekend!

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Think Tank: Starbucks Mobile Ordering

I walked into Starbucks this afternoon craving an iced coffee, and one of the first things I noticed was this humongous cardboard sign.

Very interesting. Very, very interesting.

Very interesting. Very, very interesting.

My 15-year-old sister explained to me that in a lot of states across the country, you can now order and pay for your Starbucks order — both drinks and food — through the Starbucks mobile app. You skip the line, pick it up at the bar and go on about your day.

I’ve used online ordering for food before, and I don’t have a problem with the general concept of it. It makes both Panera and Chipotle much more pleasant, especially if you’re ordering in a big group. Everyone can pay separately, and one person can go and pick up everything without having to collect money and make a million orders. In the age of the credit card, it makes a lot of sense and streamlines a process. I spent most of the afternoon thinking about  this new way of ordering at Starbucks and why it seemed and felt wrong to me, and I came up with two reasons.

The experience of ordering coffee should be sacred. 

I know this is a really funny statement considering we’re discussing Starbucks, which is so commercialized I’m surprised they don’t do celebrity endorsement deals. This is the same chain the mainstream media covers like national news when it announces six new Frappuccino flavors. Hell, I don’t even really Starbucks coffee that much. I’d rather go somewhere else or make my own coffee, unless I’m really craving it (like today) and it’s convenient (like today).

There’s something about the experience of walking into the cafe, ordering your drink from a barista and waiting to get it. You have the ambience of the making coffee noises, the music (which is almost always pretty good) and people chatting or working away. If you go often enough, it becomes an entire ritual. And I like it: I like looking at the new cups they have, hearing what other people are ordering and maybe even running into someone I know. It’s an experience I really enjoy, especially if it’s a coffee shop that’s relaxing to be in. It seems much more relaxed than say, shopping for clothes in a store, which has become an altogether unpleasant experience.

I guess getting rid of all of this via ordering at home and picking it up in the store isn’t a bad thing if you have social anxiety, you’re picking up a bunch of drinks for a lot of people or you really are too busy to wait in line. Convenience can really make it all the more pleasant. But by ordering and paying through an app, you eliminate all of those other elements that I think are just the simple joys of living life.

It also fosters a world where we don’t have to interact with each other. 

Life requires interaction, and I’m not sure why people gravitate towards things that ensure that they don’t have to engage. While online transactions make things much more convenient, it eliminates face time that people need to build interpersonal skills. Sure, people can be really terrible, but that’s the point: you learn by talking to people and realizing “I shouldn’t act like that because it made me feel a, b or c” or “I should act like that more because of x, y or z.” I would imagine even little kids learn a lot from these kinds of exchanges: the procedure of waiting in line, ordering food, saying “please” and “thank you” and being patient in waiting. If children grow up knowing that you can do just about anything through a phone app, this will change the way they interact with the world and other people in it. We’re seeing this now with online shopping, which I acknowledge as something I do but would change if the conditions were better.

People have always been afraid of robots, and we tell so many “What if robots take over the world???” stories through movies, television shows and novels. But this is basically what is happening right now with something like Starbucks mobile ordering. I realize that’s a gross overstatement, but it’s worth suggesting. There are people who are making and monitoring the app, but they are entirely behind the scenes. The app will treat your drink as a statistic, not as a personal order (which also brings me to believe that this will give Starbucks a whole new mine of demographic and business figures). By introducing this digital component, Starbucks is also opening up a new can of worms. I’ll be interested to see what happens when mobile orders get messed up, or how the staffs will juggle a queue with both in-person and virtual orders.

Another thing about this app is that I’m curious about how many jobs the app will erase. Starbucks obviously still needs baristas to make the drinks — unless they also make that computerized, which will be even scarier — but what will happen to the staffs that previously needed a certain amount of people on register with an additional number actually making the drinks? Even though 64 percent of adult Americans own a smartphone, I don’t think mobile ordering would ever supplant the traditional ordering method — or at least I hope not. But in the face of such a paradigm shift, these are the kinds of questions we should be asking.

What do you think about Starbucks mobile ordering? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

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Undergrad Adventures: 20th Century American Literature

My three favorite texts from this class.

My three favorite texts from this class.

I graduated on Saturday (!) but I couldn’t forget to blog one last time about my undergrad adventures.  The last class to cover this quarter is my last upper-division English class, 20th Century American Literature. There were two main takeaways for me from this class.

The class text selection was one of the best I’ve ever had. 

In an English class, it’s pretty typical to have a reading list of five or six novels for the quarter. I rarely disliked the reading lists for my English classes, but this class had a particularly good one: Claudia Rankine’s Citizen (An overlap with Black Lit in the U.S. [same professor]), Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms, Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony, E.L. Doctorow’s The Book of Daniel and Lorrie Moore’s A Gate at the Stairs. There were also a few essays from postmodern theorists, as well as required viewing of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. All of these texts made for some really great class discussions about biopower, precarity, total war and bare life, and affected me personally in two instances. I had read Ceremony for a prior class, but hadn’t ended up liking it that much. But looking at it through a different lens helped me parse out the implications of post-traumatic stress disorder and being part of a marginalized community, which made me appreciate it as a novel more. I will also never be able to watch a superhero movie / view Bruce Wayne in the same way, but I’m okay with it. And now it’s nearly impossible for me not to think in these terms. I’ve been making my way through Flannery O’Connor’s short stories, and there were a few stories where I immediately thought about the concepts I learned about in this class. To me, that’s a sign that this was a great class.

Being an English major was the best decision I ever made.

We opened the class with a discussion about biopolitics and biopower, concepts that Michel Foucault pioneered in several of his works, including a series of university talks called Society Must Be Defended. I had already read two of his texts — The Order of Things and The Archaeology of Knowledge — so I had a slight idea of what I was getting myself into. We only read a section from the talks, but I want to add the entire text to my reading list. In an oversimplified nutshell, Foucault says the state controls the population through regulating our bodies in many ways, which obviously has many implications. Everything from sexual health to incarceration to even racism is wrapped up in these concepts. And once you understand what biopower is, you begin to understand just how significant the government’s biopolitical intentions are for you in your daily life. This is just one of several examples of concepts I learned about in this class that ended up changing the way I think about the world.

I was talking about this at graduation with my fellow graduates, but I think the best things about being an English major was how interdisciplinary it was and how I got to read books and talk about social issues / get new perspectives. I was encouraged and pushed to look deeper, think more critically and weigh in other possibilities. I don’t think I would have gained as much being a journalism student. You can teach yourself how to use Photoshop and read the AP stylebook cover to cover, but learning in a literature class — and the people you learn it from and the people you learn it with — is like nothing else. I will miss the classroom immensely.

Have thoughts on 20th century American literature? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

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Link Party: 6/8-6/12

It's so surreal to think that I will not be coming back to this place on Monday or even in September. And although I know I will  visit, it'll never be the same.

It’s so surreal to think that I will not be coming back to this place on Monday or even in September. And although I know I will visit, it’ll never be the same.

I’m so overwhelmed that so many people liked yesterday’s post. Thank you.

On to what I read this week:

1. I haven’t finished it because it might be a billion words, but Paul Ford’s explanation of coding is incredible.

2. We all knew this already, but closing bookstores is a very bad idea.

3. Secret wedding boards on Pinterest are a big thing. (Full disclosure: I do not have one.)

4. This isn’t really a story, but I have to go to this yoga studio that plays Drake during class.

5. Some really astute points on typography in UI design.

And a bonus: Please watch the Wes Anderson version of “The Shining.”

Have a fantastic weekend!

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Think Tank: Advice I Would Give My 17-Year-Old Self

Man oh man. Circa May 2011.

Man oh man. Senior prom circa May 2011.

  1. I know that you’re embarrassed that all of your friends are going off to Ivy League schools or UCs while you’re going to a Cal State and living at home. But I promise you, it’ll be the best four years of your life. You’ll get to do some really incredible things and meet some phenomenal people, and by the end the thought of leaving brings you to tears in seconds. I promise you that you made the best choice.
  2. Everything will always work itself out. Do not underestimate that.
  3. You think you’re smart, and you are. But you don’t actually know anything. Soak in the next four years. It’ll be fantastic.
  4. You will want to do and be everything, and almost always feel like you are not enough.  Do not let those feelings consume you.
  5. You are allowed to leave someone or something without saying goodbye.
  6.  You don’t have to explain yourself to anyone, ever.
  7. Treat your creativity as your most prized possession.
  8. Read everything.
  9. You’re going to discover yoga, and you’re going to think it’s the best thing ever. Whatever you do, don’t stop practicing. 21-year-old Zoë will thank you.
  10. You are enough, and you are loved.

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Link Party: 6/1-6/5

Black-and-white June in Los Angeles.

Black-and-white June in Los Angeles.

Man oh man, this was an emotional week — and next week will be even worse. But here’s what I read:

1. The calligraphy stars on Instagram are some of my favorite accounts to follow.

2. Colson Whitehead brings up an incredible hyper-contemporary facet to “pics or it didn’t happen.”

3. This is a fascinating interview with Stephen Wolfram, the guy behind Wolfram Alpha.

4. Great career advice from Mickey Drexler.

5. Wisdom from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie to forget about being “likable.”

And a bonus: This brilliant comic about how all the paintings agree you are better off without him.

Have a wonderful weekend!

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