It’s not just fast food that will kill you, you know?
Since Groupon made a splash a few years ago with meal deals, it seems like there has been a glut of offers for pretty unhealthy meals, especially here in New York City. And it’s not just Groupon. Any number of the “daily deals” sites feature pretty savory but fattening food. Today, for example, Thrillist catalogs twenty-one places where one can munch this weekend. Their featured image is of a burger and fries. Topped with bacon. And an egg. And instead of a bun, there’s a donut. I’m old enough to remember thinking this kind of burger was a joke. But now, I’m tempted to dig in.
For a long time, I had complained that New York food catered to bland palettes. Living here for over a decade cost me a healthy tolerance for spicy food and can probably never eat at Los Angeles’s Jitlada unless I move west. But since about 2006 or so, there has been an explosion of comfort food. Have you noticed? How many BBQ have opened in the last seven years? Blue Smoke, Fette Sau, Fatty Cue, Mabels, and Hill Country are among the standouts. How you noticed how easy it is to get chicken and waffles in New York City? And although I do love a good burger, is it possible to get a burger patty smaller than a half pound that is not considered a “slider”?
Can anyone explain the proliferation of these comfort establishments? Has it been to cater to transplants from the South and Midwest? Is it a way to have flavorful food but still cater to these bland palettes? A cheap way to add flavor is to add salt, sugar, or fat. Adding all three would be a flavor explosion, right? And now it’s easier to get a slice of Paula Deen than it is a slice of pizza.
The driver of this Hyundai tried to run me over today on East 62nd St and Lexington Ave in Manhattan. He honked at me as I was at the intersection in the shoulder and lunged his car towards me. Then in a bout of blind but irrational rage, he ran his car into this minivan. Not shown here was how he almost pinned the woman (pictured) between his car and the van.
Earlier today, I read Richard Forno’s Powerpoint Manifesto. It was a refreshing affirmation about how I have tried to minimize the use of slides in my class in favor of a more personal form of presenting. There has been some resistance to this method in class because it seems like most students are conditioned to rely on slides as the primary product of the lecture. That’s dangerous because if I don’t put it on a slide, then students don’t consider what material I’ve covered as important. Consequently, they won’t bother to study it for an exam.
Over the last few years, my goal in lecturing is to emphasize my own relationship to the material we’re covering. I often include anecdotes when discussing course material in an attempt to share my personal connections to the material. I hope that students find the connections meaningful and forge their own links to the material we’re covering. Isn’t it easier to memorize something when there’s a meaningful and lively context behind it? Some of the material I cover in lecture may not appear in the readings. That’s because not everything I’ve learn originated from our textbook. As most scholars would agree, our insight comes from studying extensively and dutifully researching over time and across a variety of sources.
Forno discusses the personal aspect of presenting, even ascribing a “soul” to the presenter and the presentation. He writes:
I firmly belive the art of “presentation” is more than reading animated bullets on a computer – it’s the speaker’s personality, dynamics, war stories, vocal inflections, dramatic pauses, spontaneous remarks, and how he interacts with the audience while conveying his MESSAGE that are the “memorable” parts of a presentation, and is traditionally how a speaker emphasizes the important points of his lecture as well.
Technology – if used – should enhance the quality of a presentation, not become the sole reason for its existience. While computers are a handy tool for presenters, they have no personality and no soul; nothing to “hook” the listener or interact with them in any meaningful way. That usually makes for a boring lecture and a well-rested audience.
Forno is not the first person to argue that slides should not be the focus of a lecture. A year ago, Gabe Zichermann discussed presentation software last on his list of tips for giving a great keynote address. Even then it was only to recommend Apple’s Keynote over the downright ubiquitous Powerpoint. Moreover, the argument that technology should serve your presentation instead of be your presentation is a common refrain that is, unfortunately, frequently ignored.
While a lecture should not revolve around reading slides, it also should not entirely consist of reading anything. Eliminating all technology from a presentation could lead to simply reading a lecture. It always saddened me that, at conferences in film and media studies, we have to read a paper, word-for-word, to be taken seriously. Our subject is inherently visual, but we must revert to a strictly textual form to present our research.
My strategy to avoid reading my lecture is simply to use an outline. To help students with studying, I post outlines of my lecture. The outlines contain almost no complete sentences, just a few key words or phrases. Each outline is a “map” of my lecture, rather than a record of it. Rather than read from them, I use them as cues, reminding me what to cover. (If I’m on my “game” however, I won’t need to look at them.) The outlines are also not study guides. They are only reminders of what I discussed in class. Attentive students should be able to reconstruct my lecture based on the slides and the outlines. But, first, they have to be there and listen to me and my message in order to make sense of them. If I gave them nothing more than what they could get from slides or an outline, then why bother meeting in person?
Although I wasn’t happy with T-Mobile when I used their service between 2005 and 2006 with a Sony Ericsson K700a, I find their new “uncarrier” plan really attractive, especially since they are now carrying the iPhone.
New iPhone customers will be able to purchase the 16GB iPhone 5 for $100 down, plus 24 monthly payments of $20. After the payments are finished, customers will see their monthly bills drop. On traditional subsidized plans from AT&T or Verizon, users pay $199 up front, and then see a subsidy payment invisibly built into their monthly plans. However, if the customer goes longer than two years without purchasing a new phone, the carrier continues to collect subsidy repayments as pure profit.
How about that? Are you telling me that a mobile phone carrier hides the cost of our equipment in our monthly plan and keeps our bill inflated even after we’ve paid back the phone? Thieves!
By reducing the monthly amount due once the I’ve repaid the equipment, T-Mobile’s pricing plan is downright refreshing. I wonder if they would have offered such a plan had T-Mobile merged with AT&T. Don’t bet on it.
It’s been a pretty long, cold winter. Most of my friends have complained about it, exclaiming "I’m over this winter," and "Bring it, spring!" since Martin Luther King Day. But I enjoy the long winter because it allows me to savor the months when there’s work for me and because it feels like there’s a lot of semester left for writing my dissertation. But winter makes me inert. It makes me slow. And I am usually quite out of shape by the time the spring equinox rolls around.
Being out of shape was most evident on Saturday when I rode with the New York Cycle Club for a 59-mile bike ride from Sakura Park to Pizzarena in West Nyack, and back to Central Park. It was my first long ride since last summer. And I was completely out of shape. I began cramping up on the return particularly on the hills on Route 9W. The group kept dropping me despite a good number of the members being my parents’ age.
Once I figured out that they had dropped me, I took my sweet time. I used the restroom twice: once at the Englewood Cliffs Police station and again at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. I rode at a pokey 15 miles per hour, but took it easy on the hills because I wanted to avoid the painful cramping.
When I returned home, I found a couple of mechanical issues with my bike. First, the front tire had a bulge, suggesting that the thread had started to weaken. I could have been in some real trouble should my tire had burst while I was riding, especially since my group was well ahead of me. Second, my rear wheel was significantly out of true. I seem to remember this when I rode it as some point last year. I had loosened my rear brake as triage and made a mental note to repair it later. As with most mental notes, I had forgotten it and thought that my brakes needed a simple adjustment. Nope, my bike really needs a proper tune up.
Discovering that I am out of shape and that my bike needs some work has been a brutal but necessary start to the cycling season.
When you get to be a thirty-something year-old in New York, or any big city really, your wife/husband/boyfriend/girlfriend likely goes away without you. I think the commonly used term for this state is being a “bachelor” or some derivation of being single. However, that’s not an accurate term since it implies that you’re newly single not that you’re without your partner for a temporary period of time. There has to be a better term.
A few weeks ago in my silent film class, I screened a series of European films. One of the films featured the pioneering French silent comedian Max Linder. The film was called Troubles of a Grasswidower (1908). In the film, Linder’s character’s wife leaves for a bit. (“I’m going home to mother”) The comedy is a pretty standard formula for a time when gender roles were quite strictly defined, not unlike Mr. Mom (1983) where household chores are challenging. In Troubles of a Grasswidower, Max has to maintain the home while his wife is away. He struggles with chores familiar to us, such as washing the dishes and making the bed, and other deprecated tasks, such as plucking a chicken.
While the film makes for entertaining physical comedy, I have been sharing the title with many of my friends about the common situation of being without your partner. The Oxford English Dictionary offers two definitions, although the entry indicates that the following is the more common usage:
grass widow (n.)
A married woman whose husband is absent from her.
As one would expect, there is the derivative of the term for men, too. What’s good for the gander is apparently good for the goose:
grass widower (n.)
a man living apart from his wife.
While many of us in this situation are not married, thus the term does not entirely apply to us, it is still a wonderful, antiquated term to reintroduce to contemporary usage. And when I think of bachelor, it implies you’re partying. That’s not alway the case for me. In an age when bartenders and barbers dress up like film pioneer W.K.L Dickson, you’ll forgive me for mistaking our era for the late nineteenth century.
Over the weekend a student wrote me to ask a question about an upcoming assignment. His query was a very basic but fair one. According to the assignment guidelines, each student is supposed to write a 500-word essay. The student asked:
it says the paper is to be 500 words. Are we limited to roughly that amount or is that just the minimum required?
My response was my usual boilerplate about word count. I said that the word count was a target, meaning that he could be a reasonable amount over or under that count.
Then I started thinking about my response. As a challenge, why don’t I have students write their essays to exact word count? Every student uses word processing software of some type to write their essays. College students have been doing that for the better part of the last thirty years. Word processors make it really easy to count words. It’s part of what they process, isn’t it?
The benefit of writing to an exact word count is that it forces students to edit their essays beyond running the spelling and grammar checkers. One of my colleagues in graduate school used to write paragraphs so that the last line of a paragraph would be flush with the right margin. In other words, he would edit until his paragraph was a fully-justified, four-sided rectangle.
Having students write to an exact word count would also help ensure more equitable grading. Although I’ve tried to avoid this particular bias, I have found over my years of reading undergraduate prose that the more-engaged (i.e., "better") students tend to write longer-than-average essays and get better grades. If every student writes to the exact same length, it would minimize the "verbose-essay bias" and ensure I am grading on written content not its form.
While it’s a little to try with an assignment due in a matter of days, I will experiment with an upcoming assignment for my Media Technologies class. They have three essays to write over the semester so I have some room to perform an experiment such as this one. If it works with exactly 500 words, maybe I’ll have them write to other counts, consisting of prime numbers like 571, 839, or 1013. After all, a word count is just an arbitrary number.
I don’t know how long this will last, but I managed over the last few weeks to get my email inbox to zero messages. That means that I have responded to, completed, filed, or deleted every message in my email inbox. Did someone invite to an event? It’s now in my calendar. Did you ask me to do something? It’s now in my task manager of choice OmniFocus. Did I get a marketing message or invitation to a conference I can’t afford to attend? It’s the trash for you.
Speaking of OmniFocus, it now shows a ton of items I have to complete. I better get cracking.
Much like we did last year, Sarah and I spent an entire Saturday searching for icons of modern architecture around New York City. The hunt was pretty simple. There were about forty clues. We had to solve each clue by going to each building and snapping a photo of ourselves in front of it. To ensure we didn’t submit snapshots of ourselves either before or after the hunt, we had to sport a very specific “ONHY” button.
We learned from last year’s that there’s a lot of traveling involved. While we used a 7-day unlimited ride Metrocard to get around last year, we brought our bikes for this year’s hunt. We found that we could get around a lot faster, especially going crosstown, but it didn’t see like we covered much more ground than we did in 2012. Go figure.
Because we were getting around by bicycle, I saw a lot of places I haven’t in years. For instance, there were reminders of when friends would come to visit, the hotels they stayed in, and the places we visited. We also spotted a few potential candidates for future contests.
Highlights of this year’s contest included Paley Park, a little courtyard with a waterfall right in the middle of midtown, the Synagogue for the Arts in TriBeCa, and the Kelly and Gruzen–designed branch of the New York Public Library at 10 Jersey Street. While most of the photography was pretty basic, there were some difficult shots. Perhaps the most difficult was getting a shot of the AT&T Building (now the Sony Building…but not for much longer) and the Rockefeller Apartments in the same shot. The only way we could get that shot was by going inside of the Museum of Modern Art and snapping a photo just past the museum’s entrance.