Archive for June, 2012

To Be or Not to Be…Facebook Official

Saturday, June 30th, 2012

“Being in a relationship with someone on Facebook is basically like proposing marriage,” read a friend’s Facebook status, which had about twenty “likes” and a few affirmative comments.  I scrolled down my wall and saw that a friend “is now listed as single.” I called my boyfriend.  “What happened with them?” He was as shocked as I was, both of us having first heard through our News Feed.

 

 

After my first break up, I also had to “break up” with my ex on Facebook because we were one among many couples that chose to make our relationship “Facebook official.” We made sure that we told certain people by mouth first so that they didn’t discover it online. The two of us gave each other the nod, logged onto our accounts, and listed ourselves as single. I tried to hide it from my notifications, but people found out anyway. Comments and messages of regret and comfort trickled in even though no one knew what had happened or why we called it quits. Part of me felt bad that still so many people had to find out online, but, then again, I didn’t have the time or emotional stability to tell everyone who seemed to care. I hated the Facebook attention, but at the same time it was comforting to know that I had support.

Over a year later, I was watching television with my parents when I got a text message: “call me when u go on facebook.”  I responded, “Okay,” figuring Matt just wanted to talk online, and then joked with my dad about the Cialis commercial and waited for the end of the “NCIS” episode. Little did I know, Matt and his best friend were freaking out, suspecting that I had already seen the Facebook relationship request he sent me and was rejecting it without physically clicking the “reject” button. One commercial break later, another text message: “Sup? Go on the computer yet?”  I smiled. A week earlier during our “relationship talk,” we agreed that we didn’t have much of an opinion about our status on Facebook, but a decision had clearly been made.

I’ve always found the “Information” section of Facebook to be a strange concept, as if we define ourselves primarily by our name, hometown, gender, age, sexual orientation, and relationship status. It serves as our “Hi, my name is” sticker, and it is often one of the first things we look at when visiting someone’s profile.

The desire to “go public” with a relationship is definitely a matter of preference. I know some people who have been dating for years and still leave their statuses undefined. In fact, Facebook reported in 2010 that its majority of users, 37.62%, choose not to label their status at all.

I once had a weird, unlabeled relationship, the kind where you introduce your slightly-significant other to friends just by his name and laugh awkwardly when people make more defined assumptions. It was the kind of relationship that I wasn’t really sure how to label, but I didn’t mind; we decided to date exclusively but we weren’t yet committed, and I figured we would just see where time together took us.

Then he said he wanted to be more than whatever we were. I was hesitant but agreed to it if we would take it slow. He assumed since we were “officially together,” we would put it on Facebook. I silently freaked out but reluctantly accepted. Why should it matter? I asked myself. We’re not seeing other people, I’m now calling myself his girlfriend, so what’s the big deal? We have that picture online, some of my friends have met him, my mom knows about him….Besides, it’s just a thing on Facebook.

That night I had congratulations and “likes” on my new update from people who had never even heard of the guy I was dating and didn’t have any clue that I was the least bit apprehensive about being in a relationship. I felt incorrectly labeled, fresh produce in the frozen food section.

Twelve days later, I was searching the Facebook help pages to try to figure out how to guarantee my notifications were hidden from the world, asking friends to check their News Feed to make sure my update wasn’t there. The other end of the relationship didn’t seem to care as much about people knowing about our break up, implied by his spiteful and directed statuses which he updated every few minutes to get his point across, either to me or to everyone else.

After he de-friended me, it became clear whose attention he really wanted. What makes a relationship status a “big deal” is the fact that so many others see it. It’s like the virtual ring on your finger or locket around your neck, except it’s harder to wear it one day and not the other without people noticing. Therefore, it all comes down to the beginning: once you set a relationship status, you have to accept whatever buzz it creates as well as what might happen if it changes.

When you’re in a relationship with the right person (or married to, engaged to, in a complicated something-or-other with, etc.), you might just find that it feels right to let your Facebook friends know about him or her. Talk about it, think about it, and, if it’s what you want, break away from your “NCIS” episode, run to your laptop, and click “accept.”

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 Ever had a nightmare that ended with your smartphone in shiny little pieces? Maybe a Facebook comment on your ex’s page made you drop your phone while crossing the street, only to see it run over by a car? Okay, that probably doesn’t happen that often, but we do break our cool toys for not-so-cool reasons time to time. Use the coupon below for a student discount at Photo Tech to take a little bit of the sting out of getting your electronics fixed.

Carina, New York University. Read my blog and check out my Twitter!

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Authentic Mexican Food in NYC: Oaxaca Revolucion de Taco

Friday, June 29th, 2012

“Oaxaca is a city in Mexico well known for its exceptional food. We have dedicated ourselves to bringing you traditional Mexican fare. Whenever possible we purchase our produce, meats, dairy and soda from local, organic and sustainable sources. Our salsa and sauces are made from scratch and all our food is made fresh every day. Please enjoy our little taste of Mexico.” –Oaxaca Revolucion de Taco

After visiting Mexico during the past couple of summers and consuming only the best original Mexican food, Mexican food in New York did no justice in pleasing my taste buds. I missed the authentic flavors of the grilled meat and the spicy but refreshing salsa. New York’s take on Mexican food is just not the same as the food from Mexico itself, no matter how hard these taquerias emphasize their authenticity. I was about to give up on my search for the perfect Mexican restaurant when a friend and I came across Oaxaca Revolucion de Taco. I was able to find Oaxaca Revolucion de Taco through the Campus Clipper, where student savings and student discounts offer a variety of cheap eateries. This little taqueria is located off Bowery, in an alley covered with colorfully decorated sidewalk. From the outside, Oaxaca Revolucion de Taco looks like any Mexican restaurant – a good amount of seating both indoors and outdoors with a “specials” list hanging on its walls. Despite having a similar look as popular Tex-Mex chains, Oaxaca proved itself to be the most original and authentic Mexican restaurant to set place in NYC.

Patty Wu, the owner of Oaxaca, walked us through the menu and explained some of the highlights offered at Oaxaca. Although the menu is not extensive, customers are able to mix and match fillings and toppings, thus able to get a good variety with simple ingredients. Another thing that Patty mentioned was the special tacos that were not on the menu: the Korean taco and the potato poblano. The Korean taco is filled with Korean bulgogi, sweetly marinated beef, topped with pear and mango slaw, kimchi, and gochujang, the infamous spicy Korean pepper paste. The potato poblano is a vegetarian taco made of stewed potatoes, vegetables, and pico de gallo. My friend, Amanda, and I voted the Korean taco as our favorite, not because of our Korean heritage, but because this taco had the perfect balance of sweet, sour, tangy, and spicy all in one. We’re very well aware that bulgogi has the tendency of being overly sweet from being marinated, but Oaxaca’s bulgogi was light and chewy, with a slight taste of sweetness.

Pollo Guisado, Carne Asada, Korean Taco

 

Potato Poblano Taco

Amanda and I were served with four different tacos: the Korean taco, potato poblano, carne asada (grilled steak), and pollo guisado (stewed chicken). Upon tasting the tacos, I instantly knew that this was the taste of Mexico that I had been desperately searching for. Wrapped with double layers of heated corn tortilla, each taco had its distinct taste of meat and salsa, while at the same time giving the authentic taste that brought me back to Mexico.  We also tried the enchilada (carne asada, pollo guisado, carnitas), chicken quesadilla, and the burrito. This may sound like a lot of food to split between two people, but everything served at Oaxaca is light and fresh, leaving you satisfyingly full instead of bloated as happens after a heavy Mexican meal. The great thing about Oaxaca is that all of their meats are slow cooked, making them extremely tender and well marinated, and their meats are hormone free. To top all of this off, Oaxaca serves Jarritos, traditional Mexican sodas that have a refreshingly cool yet not overly sweet flavor.

Chicken Quesadilla

Enchiladas

Burrito

 

Jarritos

Oaxaca Revolucion de Taco is an overall amazing Mexican restaurant, but the best thing about it is that everything is so affordable. With each taco priced as low as $3.25, it’s guaranteed that you can enjoy a filling meal without having to break your wallet. Oaxaca also offers a great lunch special deal and a taco happy hour, where you can get a taco for only $2. With a wide delivery range and a “bring your own beer” system, Oaxaca is a popular taqueria amongst local eaters and traveling eaters like myself. Everything on Oaxaca’s menu is worth trying and I will be paying them another visit shortly for another round of tacos.

Use this coupon from the Campus Clipper to enjoy a cheap, but delicious Mexican meal at Oaxaca!

Becky Kim, Queens College, Read my blog and follow me on Twitter
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Staying Awake Without Caffeine

Friday, June 29th, 2012

When I was in high school I used to drink a triple shot espresso every morning with at least 5 tablespoons of sugar. That would hold me over in a caffeine and sugar induced high of jitters and wide eyed intensity until lunch time when I’d have a caffeinated cola or another cup of coffee. By the time I got home I’d have a cappuccino until that wore off and I fell asleep and woke up; repeating the cycle. I was a full fledged caffeine addict. When I got to college on the days where my 9:00 AM cross campus class got in the way of my beauty rest, I’d do the same thing. I’d eventually crash around 5:00 PM, falling asleep, and waking up at midnight completely refreshed, because that’s practical and what normal people do. Since then my sleeping habits have only gotten worse and unfortunately I seem to be the most alert and awake when everyone else is asleep. I find this to be a problem common among my friends. Between now and graduation I won’t have anything that resembles a normal sleeping pattern, and if I do it’s only for a few days before I’m up till sunrise watching an America’s Next Top Model marathon and hating myself.

James Franco asleep in class, he's just like the rest of us!

While caffeine has helped me, as fate would have it, caffeine also makes me incredibly ill. Anything in the line of dairy, caffeine, energy drinks or red meat will incapacitate me for a few hours. I try to avoid them as much as I can, and only give in when no other options present themselves. My sporadic and unreliable sleep schedule means that I’ll often get cravings for caffeine and it takes everything in me to not run into a Starbucks and order a grande black coffee with an espresso shot, especially on days when I haven’t slept much. I used to suffer through the caffeine cramps and stomach aches, believing that I was choosing the lesser of two evils.

Molecular structure of B12

It wasn’t until I was complaining to my cousin about my dietary woes that I finally found a fix. His advice was to simply take vitamin B12 every morning with my breakfast and I’d stay awake and alert for the entire day. I took his word for it; he manages to wake up every morning at 6:00 AM for a jog, no matter what he did the night before. I stared down the light pink pill, hoping for the best. As the day carried on I felt awake, but without the on edge tenseness and stomach pain that caffeine gave me. I felt calm and naturally awake, like I would feel after a full night’s sleep.

The body cannot naturally produce B vitamins, so we get them usually from the milk or meat of animals who can, making B12 deficiency a problem amongst vegans. Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause permanent damage to nervous tissue and can present itself as anemia, lethargy, and depression. Foods richest in B12 include liver, cheese, beef, and whole milk- foods that I consciously avoid. B12 promotes metabolism and helps the body extract energy from proteins and fats.  B12 works with melatonin levels in the body to keep you awake in the day and get you to sleep at night, so after a few days taking the vitamin you should notice an improvement in your sleeping schedule.

Catherine, Hudson County Community College, Read my blog and follow me on Twitter

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Book Review: Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: The Story of Success – Not Really A Story At All

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

The sense of possibility so necessary for success comes not just from inside us or from our parents. It comes from our time: from the particular opportunities that our particular place in history presents us with.

-Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers: The Story of Success

Prior to the partition of India on August 14, 1947, the soon-to-be official nation of Pakistan – surviving on an abated amount of the assured 750 million rupees part of a stipulation drafted by then-Viceroy Lord Mountbatten – found itself on fiscal life-support. The expenses of an inpouring exodus of Muslim refugees along with the associated costs of nation-building replaced the exuberance of being on the verge of independence, with the aberrance of being on the verge of bankruptcy. Muhammad Ali Jinnah, credited as the Father of the Nation – to this day popularly known as Quaid-e-Azam (Great Leader) – had to first play the role of Fundraiser of the Nation. The ensuing events would become the context, circumstance, and climax of a story that every child in Pakistan has heard growing up, like “the British are coming,” “We the people,” “I have a dream,” “I did not have sexual relations with that…” – OK, maybe that last one is reserved for more “liberal” households.

Jinnah tasked his newly appointed Finance Master Ghulam Mohomad with tracking down Sir Adamjee Haji Dawood, with hopes that the legendary business mogul and philanthropist would respond to his – and for all intents and purposes, Pakistan’s – desperate “SOS.” About two weeks after August 14, Mohomad, in a meeting held at the Palace Hotel in Karachi, informed Sir Adamjee of the situation to which he famously responded by speaking briefly with M.A Habib – his banker, and founder of modern-day Habib Bank – then turned back to the Finance Master and said, simultaneously handing him a blank check, “You’re problem is solved.” With the stroke of a pen (and a bridge finance secured on his personal assets), Sir Adamjee single-handedly bankrolled the new nation.

***

By all accounts, including one derived from the “story of success” offered in Malcolm Gladwell’s 2008 best-seller of the same name, Sir Adamjee was an outlier. Gladwell’s book, in admittedly archaic fashion, begins with two dictionary definitions:  1. something that is situated away from or classed differently from a main or related body; and 2. a statistical observation that is markedly different in value from the others of the sample. Outliers – in the spirit of the ever-counterintuitive endimanché  that Gladwell captured the literary runway with – yet again presents a thesis that challenges conventional wisdom. On the book’s Q&A page, the 16-year New Yorker staff writer reveals that the “frustration” which led to the occasion of its writing was “with the way we explain the careers of really successful people. You know how you hear someone say of Bill Gates or some rock star or some other outlier – ‘they’re really smart,’ or ‘they’re really ambitious?’ Well, I know lots of people who are really smart and really ambitious, and they aren’t worth 60 billion dollars. It struck me that our understanding of success was really crude – and there was an opportunity to dig down and come up with a better set of explanations.”

And dig down Mr. Gladwell does – deep, very deep, as in World-War-II-mass-grave deep. One could crudely characterize the work as a composite of case studies featuring both familiar and unfamiliar accounts of success.  I use the term crudely because although the majority of the book is dedicated to these (typically back-to-back) narratives, which are gracefully handled with the delicate charm and idiosyncratic wit to which Gladwell owes his own success – to say that the Gladwellian ‘version’ of the “story of success” is the intellectual terminus of his anecdotal chaperone, is to mistake the destination with the vehicle. In the eclectic tradition of his previous works (The Tipping Point, Blink) Gladwell deftly draws from a diverse set of sources to support his argument: seeking to answer contrived questions such as what, if any, common factors led to the success of Bill Gates and The Beatles; the reason why Asians and math go together like the French and wine; why Christopher Langan, perhaps the smartest man in the world, is one of the least successful.

Arguably the most interesting (and coincidentally, credible) claim in the book is the general rule of thumb that an “outlier’s” level of ability – world class talent – requires 10,000 hours (roughly 10 years) of practice. What is even more interesting is the circumstances in which Gladwell’s carefully curated cast of characters come to accumulating the ‘obligatory credit’ for earning their Genius time-card – at least from his vantage point. Consistent with the overall counter-conventional-current that propels the entire work: the catalytic element here is external luck as opposed to internal drive. Chapter 3, where Gladwell asserts the 10K rule (or rather re-asserts the ideas of Anders Ericsson; who more sophistically developed the theories originally proposed by his mentor Herb Simon in the 70s), begins with the observation that musical virtuosos such as Mozart and chess grandmasters reach their pinnacle status after about 10 years.  According to Outliers, The Beatles owe their atomic rise to grueling 8-hours-a-day-7-days-a-week-gigs performed over a year-and-a-half stint at dingy clubs in Hamburg’s red-light district. “By the time they had their first burst of success in 1964,” Gladwell notes, “they had performed live an estimated twelve hundred times. Do you know how extraordinary that is? Most bands today don’t perform twelve hundred times in their entire careers.”

Paul Allen left; Bill Gates right at the Lakeside School

Similarly, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and his lesser-known but equally-if-not-largely-more-important counter-part Bill Joy serendipitously attained their transcendent programming ability and innate technological affinity by virtue of time and place. Gates attended the elite, exclusive Lakeside School in Seattle, where the Mother’s Club using funds accrued in an annual rummage sale, installed a time-shared computer terminal in 1968 – the relative modern equivalent of an official NASA shuttle simulator being donated to the astronomy club. Fortune continued to favor the young Gates by providing him late-night access at nearby University of Washington to a mainframe computer where he would sneak off – without his parent’s knowledge – to write code between the hours of 2 A.M and 6 A.M.

Joy, awarded the appropriate appellation of “the Edison of the Internet” and co-founder of Sun Microsystems, had an equivalent experience. By 1967, his alma mater, the University of Michigan, housed a then prototypical time-sharing (as opposed to punch-card) Computer Center – one of the first and very select universities in the world to do so at the time. The “difference” between the two, as Joy himself states in the book, was akin to “one between playing chess by mail and speed chess.” This was the situation he would find himself in the fall of 1971: one where “Michigan had enough computing power that a hundred people could be programming simultaneously…” However, unlike Gates, Joy showed no prior interest in computers, nor did he choose Michigan for its world-class Computer Center. The ultimate conclusion to be drawn here is, as David Shaywitz of the Wall Street Journal adroitly expresses in his review of Outliers, “[h]ad Mr. Gates attended a different high school, or had Mr. Joy enrolled at his college a few years earlier, today’s computer industry might look dramatically different.”

The remainder of the book is more or less (mostly more) a broken record remixed by a master DJ, and like the axiomatic bachelor Jabbawockee member stepping onto a dime-filled-dance-floor, I have no idea where to begin – or with who. Reviewing Outliers – or anything from Mr. Gladwell’s entire body of work for that matter – by virtue of its very raison d’être, is an enigmatic exercise. Let me preface what is to follow by explicitly expressing that I consider Malcolm Gladwell’s writing to absolutely be art, notwithstanding the BP-sized-holes that often drown away any chance of fully inhaling his arguments. When mentioning to Campus Clipper, specifically its founder, that I was struggling to complete this review, she was understandably concerned – until of course I revealed that I had chosen to dunk my literary neurons into a Gladwell mindpuzzle. This was met by an esoteric chuckle. “He’s often five-dimensional,” she said. “At the very least, at the same time,” I added.

Despite making several contentious submissions that are, quite frankly, either unsubstantiated or even flat out in contradiction with the facts, I am certain Mr. Gladwell still managed to exorcise his original “frustration.” In regards to the popular section (for readers and reviews alike) on Canada’s amateur hockey leagues (albeit unintentionally) providing the ‘man-child’ advantage to those born earlier in the year, David Leonhardt in his review for the NYT mentions contradictory research at odds with Gladwell extended argument claiming that the same pattern is observable in the classroom. In fact, two of Gladwell’s own stand-out examples, namely Bill Gates and Bill Joy, were born on October 28 and November 8 respectively.  Even further, the former nearly intentionally failed his entrance exam into Lakeside and the latter was matriculated into the University of Michigan at the tender of age of 16.

Another discrepancy worth mentioning is one outlined in a (rather scathing) review for Open Letters Monthly by Peter Coclanis (a distinguished History and Economics professor at UNC-Chapel Hill) regarding the immediately bizarre assertion that Asians – particularly East Asians – regardless of their relative global location, are culturally predisposed to excel in mathematics because of an economic legacy in rice farming. While I would personally certainly enjoy obliterating the train of thought (in rather colorful language) that Gladwell, once again artfully conducts, Coclanis – given  his expertise and work-in-progress  on the history of world rice production and international trade since the 17th century – provides a far more erudite analysis.

“For starters,” Coclanis explains, “paddy rice has for millennia been the leading food crop on Java, in Thailand, in Burma, and in the Philippines. Do these peoples also excel in math? What about people from rice-growing parts of West Africa, in the Senegambian region in particular, where paddy rice has also been grown for millennia?” He goes on by narrowing his focus in congruence with Gladwell’s own in the book, viz the regions of China, asserting that “anyone with even a cursory sense of Chinese history knows, northern China for millennia has been a wheat/millet/small grain-producing region rather than a rice region. Do Beijingers get waxed by Shainghainese on international math tests? Gladwell buries this dicey (ricey?) issue in a footnote and claims that “we don’t know” if northern Chinese are good at math. We may not, but I’m sure that bureaucrats at China’s Ministry of Education (No. 37, Damucang Hutong, Xidan, Beijing) or administrators at either of China’s top two schools—Beijing University and Tsinghua University (both in Beijing)—might have something to say on the matter.”

As Leonhardt (Sunday Book Review for the NYT) writes, the incongruity in such minutiae is “a particular shame, because it would be a delight to watch someone of his intellect and clarity make sense of seemingly conflicting claims.”

***

This brings me back to my original point, and anecdote. It is unfortunate that the commercial success of Mr. Gladwell has lent his publisher, handlers, and following in general with license to make claims like one found in the dust jacket of Outliers: “In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell changed the way we understand the world. In Blink he changed the way we think about thinking. Outliers will transform the way we understand success.” The praising phrases are a tidy example of parallel structure, yes, but also debatable – and debated – to a viral degree. I’d like to start by focusing on the peculiar, and thus consequential, choice of the verb “understand” in the line pertaining to Outliers – and also, how it relates to the book’s complete title. The book is less about rewriting the Story of Success and more about rewiring the Way We Think about Success, less about “understanding” success and more about “appreciating” it. To put it simply, Gladwell’s main argument is far more politically charged than anything found in his previous works: we give outliers too much credit. Recall the vehicle-destination metaphor. The tall tales of our modern day borderline mythological figures are not so tall after all. It is political because in many ways it not only debunks, but essentially subverts the notion of the American Dream – wherein lays the controversy. Not for patriotic, but rather patronizing reasons.

The “frustration” that Gladwell cites as his starting (tipping?) point is unfairly exploited to create the presumptive straw man that stands so central in his book(s). The truth is that a very small cohort of people – likely either delusional or severely mis-and-or-uninformed at that (probably both) – believe that Bill Gates’ intelligence alone was cashed in for 50B, that The Beatles’ rigorous performance schedule conjured the creativity needed to sell over a billion records, that Michael Jordan’s 6 rings are a direct result of a genetic anomaly. The truth is that most people believe the exact opposite – even if our romanticized formulas that produce such icons don’t agree on rigid values, nature and nurture are still always present in the equation.  We’ve all heard of the “he stole Windows from Apple” story, the manic-psychotic work ethic of unparalleled champions like Jordan (he meticulously studied weaknesses of opposing teams while on the frickin’ Dream Team and manipulated NBA team beat writers for the same purpose), of the drug-sex-alcohol-and-spiritually electric environments that have led to some of our most beloved creative lights– and perhaps the most assimilated notion of all into the zeitgeist of success: the proverbial “break.” The crucible found in every larger-than-life biography.

Returning to the story of Sir Adamjee (no, I didn’t forget), an essential omission was his prominent status among the Memon community: a well-known and Islamic people renowned for their business acumen and who can be found in the upper echelons of commerce in every corner of the globe. This was not always the case – not even close. Adamjee, lacking any formal education whatsoever, started by working for his father’s humble trading company (if you could even call it that) as a child before quickly being sent off to Calcutta where he would fend for himself, and eventually – while still a teenager – seeking to expand his horizons took a business trip to Burma. His commercial sortie coincided with the calamities of both World Wars. In a then unorthodox move, he committed his capital into stockpiling basic commodities such as jute, rice, and matches (coincidently, those popular among military personnel). In the aftermath of the German bombing of Madras there was a severe shortage of these same essential items. Likewise – as if to prove his newfound wealth was not just the result of luck and timing – during the Japanese invasion of Calcutta in WWII, with the future of the subcontinent being as predictable as a thousand coin-flips, the value of those same goods nose-dived deeper than the U.S.S Wahoo. So he bet on exporting the goods to places he thought would have a shortage via trickle-down (he understood the effects of globalization before we even knew what it was) – and he won, big, really big. For the man who proudly presented himself as a graduate of the Bhadar River (the cotton industry waste dump of his native village of Jetpur), the rest, as they say, is history.

If you ask any Pakistani Memon (identifiable by advertised net-worth, number of Toyota Camrys in the family, and the deterioration of their teeth, in no particular order or proportion) about Sir Adamjee the overwhelming response will be some variant of the following: he is our founder, our father, our mini- Quaid-e-Azam. The abridged history: in the 14th century, Yusuf Sindhi went on a mission to India and converted some several thousand Hindu families to Islam; due to persecution from the Hindus many were forced to migrate to other regions; their genuine devotion and collective cohesiveness is where the name comes from, as Sindhi called them “the Momis,” meaning the exemplary Muslims, eventually becoming “the Memons.” By 1960 roughly 100,000 Memons populated Pakistan with a similar number living in parts of India. Gustav Papanek (President of BIDE; Professor of Economics Emeritus at Boston U; past leader of Harvard University Development Advisory Service) describes their culture and values in Pakistan’s Development:

They were extremely cohesive, frugal, hardworking, well-defined into family groups and had an overwhelming commitment to their traditional occupation of commerce as either employees or self-employed. Only a handful had left their traditional pursuits to become doctors, lawyers, engineers and civil servants. Memons had an extremely high sense of community identity, spoke Gujrati and tended to be organised on the basis of ancestral residency. They were especially strict about community endogamy based on township of origin and had well organized and developed community associations to enforce marriage rules and to moderate group conflicts. They were socially conservative and religiously devout with a large number of hajis among their members. As a community roughly 100,000 Memons ranged across the entire socio-economic spectrum from very poor to very rich.

The culture of modern Memons, what Gladwell might cite as the primary source of their success (I would personally be very curious to see a case study of the group by him), was not intended to create the exclusive club of benefits they now enjoy. Based on the most foundational (and human) values of Islam, it was intended to foster values, not value. Today, Memons despite their continued success have forgotten this; which is what brings to me to my ultimate interpretation of Outliers: Gladwell is apologizing for his own success.

If you’ve read the book then you probably picked up on the latent sense that Gladwell felt as if Chris Langan should’ve been in his place interviewing him for a book on the story of success. That the ex-bouncer’s brutesque photo should be on the back. From the same Q&A page, “I’ve never been able to feel someone’s intellect before, the way I could with him. It was an intimidating experience, but also profoundly heartbreaking…” The invocation of such notions is what leads me to think that Gladwell believes our definition of success is, and has been for quite some time, both obsolete and downright wrong. Not only is it relative (to a child who treks several miles daily for clean water, the idea of someone on welfare; to a middle-school dropout, the idea of someone with a community college degree; to an Ivy League graduate, the idea of billionaire-before-thirty; etc.) but it is also subjective.

Outliers, our so-called nonpareils, are a product of the environment we have created, yes, but the real outliers are those who seek to turn that environment into a product of themselves. Men like Adamjee, who measured his success in the amount of free schools he built and scholarships awarded rather the then the value of his company on the Calcutta Stock Exchange. Who is to say that the most successful person in the world is Bill Gates as opposed to the Dali Lama? Who is to say that success is measured by the balance of cash in your bank account and not the balance of love in your heart? Measured in your personal promotion, rather than collective devotion? The answer should be obvious. The bottom line is that if success is what everyone aspires to, then we have a fundamental responsibility to define it in a set of terms where everyone is on an equal playing field. That field is no longer America. The American Dream Nightmare must be re-written. As Nassim Nicholas Taleb, whom Gladwell cites as an influence (“We associate the willingness to risk great failure – and the ability to climb back from catastrophe – with courage. But in this we are wrong. That is the lesson of Nassim Taleb.” – The Nation),  writes: “Modernity needs to understand that being rich and becoming rich are not mathematically, personally, socially, and ethically the same thing.”

***

                This infinitely ambitious challenge requires an equally ambitious Warrior of The Light. The only reason the swerving Outliers train of thought stays on the track of mostly-plausible and doesn’t derail along its natural trajectory into the Land of Apophenia is because the very talented Mr. Gladwell occupies the conductor’s cabin.  However, the information revolution that has provided Gladwell with the solid planks that he ties together with his own poorly woven ropes of idiosyncratic interpolation to build a bridge between our mind and his own, also render that bridge functionally useless. It is entertaining to walk across only so far as to admire its craftsmanship – because it is indeed a bridge that only he alone can be contracted. But it is also an important reminder of what it means to walk in the first place.

 

Mahad Zara, The University of Arizona and Columbia University, Read my blog and follow me on Twitter

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Deliciously Healthy Dessert Indulgence: Apple Cafe Bakery

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

Lately, I’ve been taking more interest in eating healthy – by this I mean discovering organic restaurants, vegan foods, vegetarian dishes, and finding a good nutritional balance in all of my meals. After starting to exercise on a daily basis, I felt guilty about consuming every type of food without taking the consequences into consideration. As a huge lover of food and all things sugary, eating healthy has been extremely difficult and I found myself lacking the sweet but fattening desserts that I’m so used to indulging in. Because of the lack of sugar in my system, I went out to search for a healthy way to have some of my favorite classic desserts and I found Apple Café Bakery as the perfect solution to my “healthy dessert” dilemma.

Apple Café Bakery is a small but adorable café, with a large baking area in the back of the bakery. The entire bakery smelled of freshly baked bread, which only meant that everything on display came out of the oven not too long before my entrance. Apple Café Bakery has a large selection of baked goods and pastries, and most importantly, a selection of vegan cupcakes. The vegan cupcakes at Apple Café Bakery are extremely popular – many people around the neighborhood are vegetarians or vegans, but not many bakeries offer vegan selections. This makes Apple Café Bakery the perfect hot-spot for vegans and people of all tastes. I was recommended to try one of their vegan cupcakes and their banana pudding, the most popular items on the menu.

The banana pudding that I tried was phenomenal. Banana pudding is one of my favorite desserts, but I often find that many bakeries go overboard with the sweetness in the flavoring and there always tends to be an imbalance between the bananas, pudding, and wafers. However, Apple Café Bakery’s banana pudding was sweet and rich, filled with fresh bananas covered in creamy pudding. The wafers within the pudding were crisp on the outer layer, but soft and fluffy on the inside, giving a good balance to the overall soft pudding. I couldn’t stop myself from pigging out with my cup of pudding, becoming more addicted to its delicious mix of bananas and wafers. The vegan cupcake that I had was a vanilla cupcake with strawberry frosting. I haven’t tried a variety of vegan cupcakes throughout my journey of food, but I could understand why Apple Café Bakery was so popular amongst vegan eaters. Their vegan cupcake was sweet, fluffy, light, and moist – the four qualities that I value the most when faced with a beautiful cupcake. Decorated with a simple strawberry frosting, the cupcake really didn’t need fancy decorations or sprinkles to add sweet flavors; it was purely delicious on its own.

Vegan Cupcake & Non-Vegan Banana Pudding

 

Everything made in Apple Café Bakery is made fresh and on the spot, so the bakery serves only the best. With friendly service and regular customers, Apple Café Bakery is definitely a local favorite and has become one of my favorites as well. Apple Café Bakery also offers free Wi-Fi to customers and is a great place for people just drop by and pick up their baked goods or actually sit down and enjoy a fresh cup of coffee.

Check out their website at http://applecafebakery.com

Use this coupon from Campus Clipper to buy a pastry and get one free!

 

Becky Kim, Queens College, Read my blog and follow me on Twitter
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Cheers to Homey Organic Goodness: Corner Shop Cafe

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

It’s been excruciatingly hot in NYC recently and having to take the crowded subways couldn’t have been any worse in the insane humidity level. Despite roasting in the heat, I had the chance to meet and catch up with a good friend of mine, Kaila, as we went to grab a bite to eat at Corner Shop Café. A small, trendy restaurant located on the corner of Broadway and Bleeker near Soho, the Corner Shop Café was a delightful surprise to both of us.

Painted a deep gray and featuring red brick walls, the Corner Shop Café gives off the kind of rustic, vintage air that is popular with today’s hipsters. Kaila and I benefitted from the recommendations of Jen, our friendly waitress who covered the menu and daily specials for us. As she suggested, we started off with a salmon tartare to share, plated with strips of crispy yucca chips and pesto sauce. The salmon tartare was a beautiful escape from the steaming streets; the freshness of the salmon and avocado mixed with the smoky taste of cilantro, chipotle, and capers gave the perfect blend of creamy and clean that I look for in an  appetizer.

Salmon Tartare with Yucca Chips

Moving on to our individual entrées, Kaila went with the Corner Shop Café favorite, truffle mac & cheese, and I decided on the pancetta-wrapped pork loin with Waldorf apple slaw and orzo. The pork loin was cooked to absolute perfection, the moist and succulent meat wrapped in salty pancetta with the sweet apple slaw and creamy orzo balancing the usually heavy meal. Pancetta wrapped pork loins can easily be a disaster if the seasoning is off. However, the Corner Shop Café’s take on this dish presented a fantastic balance among multiple flavors. Despite not being my own dish, I couldn’t help stealing bites of Kaila’s truffle mac & cheese throughout the meal. With the creamy taste of three different types of cheese and the nutty taste of shiitake mushrooms and truffle, I couldn’t stop commenting on how delicious it was. We also added prosciutto to the mac & cheese, lending a heartier flavoring to the depth of the cheese.

Pancetta Wrapped Pork Loins with Waldorf Apple Slaw and Orzo

Truffle Mac N Cheese with Shiitake Mushrooms and Prosciutto

As we were finishing up our meal, Mark, the manager of Corner Shop Café, gave us two magnificently colored cocktails crafted by their bartender. I had the chance to speak to the creator of our drinks, who said that all of the cocktails at the Corner Shop Café are his original recipes and tweaks on some of his favorite drinks. I had the pleasure of tasting the Berry Peculiar Margarita, which contains Sailor Jerry Rum, iced tea, raspberry puree, mint, and lemon juice, and also the Angry Peach, which contains Bombay Sapphire, lime juice, peach schnapps, and prosecco. Both drinks had a distinct tartness mixed with a sweet, bubbly taste, refreshing enough to beat off the grueling heat. The bartender also described the drinks as having the “mellowness of the berries and the tartness of the gin.” Though these unique cocktails came at the end of our delicious meal, they were definitely the highlight of the evening.

Berry Peculiar Margarita

The Angry Peach

Corner Shop Café prides itself on serving only quality organic food prepared immediately before each meal (brunch, lunch, and dinner). All of the meats used are free-range and grass-fed – only the best types for the best quality. Our waitress, Jen, also recommended that on our next visit we try the truffle poached eggs and the tuna burger for brunch, indicating that brunch at Corner Shop Café is always a fantastic experience for people of all tastes. With the woody décor and lively atmosphere, Corner Shop Café is perfect for a casual date night, a hangout with your friends, or even for a quick meal alone after having roamed around the city. Kaila and I left extremely satisfied with our experience at the Corner Shop Café and there is absolutely no doubt that I will be paying them another visit soon.

Corner Shop Café’s website: http://cornershopcafe.com/

Use this coupon from the Campus Clipper to enjoy a fantastic meal at Corner Shop Cafe!

Becky Kim, Queens College, Read my blog and follow me on Twitter
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Vegan Goods and Quality Coffee: The Bean

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

As an English major and an avid reader, Strand Bookstore in Union Square is by far my favorite place to be when I’m not working or in school. With books priced as low as $1, I always end up walking out with a bag filled with great literature that amounts to less than $20. I went out to Strand this past Monday to pick up some readings and caught a glimpse of an unfamiliar café named The Bean. I’m a 100% loyal customer to Starbucks and their caffeinated drinks, so buying coffee elsewhere is always a rare thing for me. However, my experience at The Bean has completely changed my narrow-minded view on coffee.

Decorated with pieces of art spread across its brick walls featuring couch-style seating along the windows, The Bean exudes a vintage flare with an air of artsy-smart. I was greeted by friendly waitresses who recommend some of the café’s highlight drinks and desserts. I decided upon the Mona Lisa, an original frappe drink mixed with espresso, frappe mix, and milk. The Mona Lisa comes in different flavors–caramel, white chocolate, and mocha– and I decided to go with the mocha for my first. The frappe was a phenomenal blend of sweet and creamy, with the deep coffee taste of espresso–perfect for a hot day in the city. Frappes are drinks that people tend to consume only once in a while because of their high calorie count; however, the Mona Lisa is a low-fat drink that tastes just as sweet as a regular frappe, freeing me from the guilt of calorie binging.

I was also given a chai latte after having been told that The Bean took great pride in their chai. I’m not a big fan of chai, especially because of the notoriously spicy taste. However, I found myself pleasantly surprised by The Bean’s take on the drink. Using the best blend of chai tea from David Rio, The Bean’s chai latte isn’t overpowering, but rather filled with a sweet milky-creamy flavor that I crave during the cold winters. If you’ve been holding back on chai for the same reasons I did, I guarantee The Bean’s chai will turn your chai-empty life upside down. With four different types available (original, vanilla, non-fat, and decaf), I’m eager return to The Bean so that I can indulge in my new favorite drink.

The Bean also offers a wide selection of baked goods, sandwiches, and salads, all of which are vegan friendly as well. I had the chance to try one of their sunshine cupcakes, and I absolutely loved the fluffy, light, and moist cake and its frosting. Everything in The Bean is definitely healthy and perfect for vegans who want to enjoy a range of delicious food and desserts. Usually packed to the brim with customers, The Bean is a great place to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee with a good read or catch up with a friend. With its friendly service and quality foods and drinks, The Bean is perfect for café junkies like me, and I will definitely be taking another trip to Union Square for their chai latte.

Visit The Bean with a friend to get a free latte or cappuccino using this coupon from the Campus Clipper!

Becky Kim, Queens College, Read my blog and follow me on Twitter
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Decoden

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

No matter how sad or gloomy I’m feeling I can always look at my phone for a quick pick-me-up. No, it isn’t a picture of my friends, or an inspirational “I love you hold on <3” text from my mom- it’s my phone case. The case was an impromptu gift from a friend and it does hold sentimental value. I can’t look at it without thinking about her snatching the case from my hand and slamming it on the clerk’s counter denying my meek and humble  ‘no’s and ‘you don’t have to’s with “I’m buying you this case, stop saying no, just take it.” The case is delicate, embellished with cabochon pearls, flowers, and its centerpiece- a regal quinceanera pink cat. With unforeseen durability, the beads have stayed have stayed on for a surprisingly long time. I’d like to think that the state of the case is symbolic of our friendship, and as long as the glue holds down rows of cabochon pearls and flowers, we can always count on one another. A flower has broken off. I hope this isn’t the end.

 

an elaborate decoden phone case, sadly not my own

But besides its sentimental value, the case itself is beautiful. I find myself attracted to the kitschy and tacky accessories that modern minimalism has regarded as garbage. Tacky isn’t a bad word to me. I love things that are splattered with glitter, color, sparkle, fur, and animal print- like Lisa Frank regurgitated her soul onto a surface and sold it for $4.99 in Chinatown. I’d rather live in an Afghan Poppy Palace than a Mies, and I prefer to indulge my eyes in the art of Japanese nail studio Jill and Lovers than anything Modrian could make. It’s not to say I don’t value minimalism or the chicness of the understated, but much like you can’t deny the irresistibility of caramel-filled brownies topped with nuts and powdered sugar, my eyes can’t stop from feeling gorged when I see something shiny and cute.

Jill and Lovers

Japan has taken this feast for the eyes to new levels with Decoden. The term comes from a mix of decoration and denwa, the Japanese term for phone. Decoden artists make miniature sweets from polymer clay and resin that replace the sweetness of pastries with saccharine cuteness. Decoden isn’t just child’s play- to what seems like kid stuff in America is a style that is acceptable among all ages in Japan. Decoden has spread beyond phone decorations to all types of electronics from tablets to portable game systems. Decoden is also popular among nail artists. Popular subjects in decoden art include food, bows, Hello Kitty, and more recently creepy cute. Creepy cute takes elements of macabre like bones, spiders, organs, and cobwebs and blends them with the sticky cuteness of decoden.

 

Decoden is not at all subdued nor does it adhere to modern rules of taste. To me, decoden is purposely over-the-top and embodies the decadent indulgence that is reminiscent of Rococo. Decoden is whimsical and carefree and reminds me of a childhood when I didn’t have to worry about student loan debt or the job market or health insurance. So it doesn’t surprise me that so many people find joy from decoden. It is perhaps one of the only things capable of escaping the wrath of my depressive cynicism and pessimism.

 

Checkout this video of a a decoden notebook demonstration

Because of the labor involved, decadent decoden isn’t cheap. Custom orders through websites like Etsy or EBay can cost upwards of $100. However many online stores sell decoden materials, opening up the possibility of designing and making your own decoden. Just searching decoden on Etsy yields over 6,000 results: from phone cases, to shoes, to sunglasses. Decoden miniatures can be handmade from clays and resins, meaning that anything you can make (or find a mold for) can be the feature of a decoden phone case accompanied by rhinestones, faux whipped cream, lace, and pearls. I find that most of the joy of decoden comes from creation. So much time and effort is invested into decoden that it’s impossible to not form some sort of attachment to the art you make. And if you make it yourself it is truly yours- unique and one of a kind.

Catherine, Hudson County Community College, Read my blog and follow me on Twitter

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NYC Student Guide- About the book

Monday, June 18th, 2012

NYC Student Guide

The Campus Clipper is launching the NYC Student Guide KickStarter Project to fundraise the book, so stay tuned for the updates!

NYC Student Guide is filled with first hand practical advice based on real experiences from fellow students. The guide speaks to every aspect of student life ranging from heath and beauty advice to how-tos on finding lasting friendships and love.

These insights come to life through the fresh creative talents of our student authors who deal with every aspect of student life, all kinds of entertainment, tips on contemporary fashion trends, employment opportunities and the essential human values that make student life a joyful and rewarding experience.

NYC Student Guide, a new guide to New York City published by Campus Clipper, is tailored for students hoping to take advantage of the city’s famously vibrant culture. Written by both native New Yorkers and more recent arrivals that have thrived in the midst of the city’s high expenses and quick pace, the guide contains over 30 short pieces covering topics especially pertinent to college students adjusting to adulthood in the city. Sections such as fashion, food, health, and jobs offer advice on how to manage the demands of school while also exploring New York’s various neighborhoods.

Each of the articles is based on the author’s experiences as a student in New York. Clearly marked sections and maps reveal local stores and restaurants within a student price range. Advice on how to quell roommate conflict or find the perfect ice cream cone is all based on and interspersed with the writers’ first-hand experiences.

Far from simply administering advice, NYC Student Guide’s contributing authors craft their articles as reflections of their growth and the city’s influence on how they live now. The book also contains short profiles of the authors that document outside projects with which they are involved. The guide proves that students are capable not only of surviving in New York, but also of establishing a place for themselves in the fields that interest them.

The Campus Clipper’s NYC Student Guide is a must-have guide for any student looking to enrich their life in “the city that never sleeps.”

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When Home Is Where the Heart Isn’t: Moving Back in with Your Parents

Saturday, June 16th, 2012

There’s no place like home—and good thing, because it’s hard enough dealing with just one of them. The dream life after college varies among students, but these dreams often have one goal in common: never live with parents again. Study results vary, but anywhere from a mere 20-47% of graduates actually achieve this goal right away, hence why we have been dubbed “Boomerang Kids” and “The Lost Generation.”

After having lived on campus and away from home, many students struggle with moving back in with their family, whether just for the summer or for who-knows-how-long after graduation. They might have to share a car or deal with the fact that what was once their bedroom is now the guest room. They might have to take care of pets and siblings. They might have to pay attention to how many possibly-inappropriate “That’s what she said” jokes they make (or maybe that’s just me). They might have to participate in housekeeping that goes beyond the fend-for-yourself methods that worked with roommates. They might have to actually have pants on as they walk around the house.

There are good things about moving back home too, though. Most students won’t have to buy their own groceries, don’t have to pay rent (though there are plenty who do), and won’t have to live with roommates anymore. The opportunity to save money is often enough incentive to make the big move back to the mothership.

Whatever your at-home responsibilities include, family life can often get frustrating and can affect your feelings towards the people you love. The sense of independence that you gained in college might start to feel restricted by watchful eyes of a parent, guardian, or even siblings. When you move back home, how can you make sure both you and your parents keep your sanity?

Of course, our parents aren’t all the same, and these guidelines won’t work with everyone, but the main point to remember is that compromise is crucial to solving many problems. Let’s face it: if you hate moving home, you’d probably only do it if you have to, in which case your parents are doing you a favor. Therefore, you should try to meet them eye-to-eye on issues that concern them (or that they think concern them).

The Problem: You feel weird having friends over.
First, you might want to establish a policy on having friends over (particularly if you want to drink alcohol, do drunken cartwheels, smash bottles, do body shots, etc.). If your parents’ guidelines are not something that you agree with, deal with it. Though the people invited might be your trustworthy friends, the location is still not your own and you have to respect the property of others. Find another place to meet up with people, whether someone else’s house, a public park, or a bar.

The Problem: Your parents want to set a curfew.
Tell them or leave a note before you go out about when they can expect you back. Be honest about where you are going, and assure them that you will be responsible. If you end up staying out later than expected, call them to let them know. Establish beforehand if a text will suffice (no one ever feels comfortable drunkenly calling the ‘rents, but spell check always helps in texts).

The Problem: Your room is now a guest room and feels impersonal.
Explain that you need a place to call home and a room to call your room. Ask them if they wouldn’t mind if you personalized your room a little bit. Offer to change it back before you leave (if you ever do!), just as if you were living in an apartment or dorm room.

The Problem: The nagging never stops.
If your parents constantly assign you tasks or complain about what you haven’t done, ask them to write a list for you ahead of time. That way, they will get an idea of the number of things they are asking of you and you will have all their requests in one spot so that you don’t forget them. This might also enable you to discuss the demands and negotiate them.

The Problem: Your family is simply driving you crazy.
Get out of the house. Rather than spending every minute either at home or with friends (though they can be a great source of sanity), consider getting a job, even if it is not your “dream job” or on the path towards it. In terms of your resumé, future employers would rather see you that you worked anywhere than nowhere. This will also get you out of the house, keep you busy, and maybe even earn you some money so that you can work towards affording your own place (if you’re not already being charged rent).

The Problem: You have no money or car and feel trapped in the house.
Again, get a job. Save money. Maybe babysit a neighbor that you don’t need a car to drive to or find a person or mode of public transportation that can bring you to your job. Ask your parents for loans, but be sure to respect their contributions, keep track of them, and pay them back.

The Problem: Your relationship with your parents is deteriorating.
As they grow up, many children start to realize the potential for their parents to be friends as well as guardians. But once parents start to pick up the roles of “Mom” and “Dad” full-time again, it is important to keep the “friend” role going too. Talk to each other about how your days are going, fill your dinnertime with conversation, and hang out—whether that means watching TV or a movie, washing the cars in the driveway, going shopping, exercising, or even just going to the grocery store together. Helping out around the house will help to bring friendliness back into your relationship as well, since it will encourage more of a mutual we-are-in-this-together relationship and less of a predator-prey, all-you-do-is-live-under-my-roof-and-eat-my-food relationship. Personally, I like to set aside time right when I get home from work to do things around the house so that I can get it done and move on.

The Problem: It doesn’t look like you will ever get out of there.
Stay positive. Set a potential move-out date, get an idea of where you’d want to move to, do research, and get yourself excited with ideas for your independent home. Also, remember that you are not alone. There are millions of others in the same situation as you, like Sabrina.

Even if you do manage to achieve an orderly parent-child relationship, both you and your parents are probably still looking forward to the day that you move out. Know that it will come, but remember that it will not happen by itself. Work towards it, have patience, keep the peace in the meantime, and residential independence will be in your grasp soon enough.

Help the family save money (and appreciate you more!) by offering to pick up the groceries with this discount coupon!

Carina, New York University. Read my blog and check out my Twitter!

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Interested in more deals for students? Sign up for our bi-weekly newsletter to get the latest in student discounts and promotions  and follow our Tumblr and Pinterest. For savings on-the-go, download our printable coupon e-book.

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