Prime Time

On February 5 we discussed marketing and football with GRF Shiv. The Super Bowl brings big bucks. With over 110 million viewers, the average cost of a 30 second commercial is around $5 million. This year the event netted Fox about $500 million: http://www.businessinsider.com/fox-gets-500-million-from-super-bowl-2017-2

Commercials used to be a tad less expensive. According to that same article, a 30 second ad in the first super bowl would have cost you a little under $40,000. The cost was only $4 million about five years ago, which tells us that it has been increasing pretty considerably year over year.

As a lifelong New England Patriots hater and a temporary Atlanta Falcons fan, the game was a wild ride. The Falcons led 28-3 halfway through the third quarter, which was completely overrided by the Patriots to my stunning amazement. This game set the record for the biggest deficit over-come in a Super Bowl, but not the biggest comeback in general. That honor goes to “The Comeback” in 1993, which had the Buffalo Bills recover from a 32 point deficit to win 41-38 against the Houston Oilers: http://www.nytimes.com/1993/01/04/sports/pro-football-bills-eagles-turn-mountains-into-molehill-buffalo-erases-32-point.html

But She Must Have Roses Too

­­­­­Last Friday, Flora’s Friday Film showed Bread and Roses, a film depicting the struggles that two Mexican immigrants endure to find and keep their work. The two become janitors in a large LA high-rise, and are forced to endure horrible wages, constant fear of losing their jobs, and disrespect and mistreatment.

The film begins with Maya, the protagonist, arriving in Los Angeles after being smuggled across the border. When Rosa, Maya’s sister, fails to pay the smugglers, Maya is not allowed to leave, and is instead taken by the smugglers, one of whom nearly rapes her. Maya escapes to her sister’s house and begins working as a janitor shortly after. The bulk of the movie shows a union activist slowly convincing the janitors to join the union and to protest the abusive conditions that they are working in. Most of the works are tentative to join at first, understandably, given that their job might be the only thing keeping their families off the streets.

The phrase “Bread and Roses” has a charged history. It first originates, funnily enough, from Rose Schneiderman, who said that “the worker must have bread, but she also must have roses too.” The phrase attempts to say that all workers should of course be able to afford the basic amenities of life, but that they should be treated with respect, and allowed recreation and happiness both inside and outside the workplace.

Time to go mobile

Convenience is really what drives my part in this consumer media market. Since high school, I could stream my favorite movies and shows to my phone or laptop. I could watch highlights of recent Premier League fixtures on the go. Pandora (before Spotify took over) provided all the music that I could possibly listen to. So then was no need for cable packages or album purchases or DVD collections. Why buy a single physical copy when I could have a version that was available wherever I went?

I don’t see a way forward for broadcasting dinosaurs like ESPN. Its decline in revenue doesn’t surprise me at all because ESPN doesn’t offer anything new other than a steady supply of live sports. I can’t relate its analysis-driven and highlight reel shows which I only seem to view in sports bars these days. Compare ESPN with, say, Netflix. It started out as a Blockbuster of sorts before cornering the streaming market. And over the past few years, Netflix has grown into a supplier of its own original programming whose quality rivals and often surpasses normal series. The freedom from commercial interruptions that Netflix and other streaming services offer has become so normal that I now get annoyed by any delay to my viewing experience. In short, broadcasting has remained stagnant and hasn’t addressed the changes of the times enough to rival the burgeoning streaming services. Until some progress is made towards fixing this issue more giants will stumble.

Imagine the fire

Is Dr. Strangelove truly an anti-war movie? Sure, it’s one of the famous comedies created since, well, the beginning of movies, but it is unique enough from its contemporaries that I believe this classification invites challenge.

Dr. Strangelove is, at its core, a comedy, meaning that every element is designed to be ridiculous. The characters, from the president to the general, to the pilot in control of the world’s deadliest payload are shockingly incompetent. The higher a person is on the chain of command, the more self-centered and self-serving they are. This approach is veiled by a pseudo-patriotism veiled by a guise of patriotism. Nationalist fervor is used as justification for sacrificing the lives of millions of innocents by the War Council in a move which would save their own lives rather than the country they regularly proclaim allegiance to.

I think the absurdist approach that Dr. Strangelove takes towards war works because, while it lampoons international conflict, it doesn’t completely dismiss the possibility of ingenuine motivations for starting war. I read the warning at the film’s beginning that claimed the events in the movie were impossible as more of an expectation of caricature than the assurance in the stability of the world’s armed forces it was intended to invoke. The disturbing truth is that the decision to start the next world war is completely out of our hands.

The Twelfth Night

On Thursday I had the opportunity to watch a modern reenactment Shakespeare’s play, Twelfth Night. What amazes me the most is that despite this play being written about 500 years ago, it still lives on! I am familiar with some of Shakespeare’s work from high school English class, however I have never read the Twelfth Night, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I wasn’t disappointed. One of my favorite things about the play is that it takes place in the present, not the 1500s, and yet the same lines are used and still completely make sense. For example, there is a scene in which one of the main characters, Olivia, commands that she be handed her veil. However, instead of a veil, she puts on stylish shades.

However, what was even more engaging was how the play seemed to transgress gender and racial lines. Two of the main characters, Sebastian and Viola, were black and, in addition to this, they both had complicated romantic relationships with both men and women. The director, Simon Godwin, switched up the gender of some the characters in the original play. For example, Malvolia in this play, is Molvolio in the original play. In this way the play now had more layers to explore which are relevant to today’s conversations about gender and sexuality.

After the play, GRF Sara and two other Rose Scholars and I were able to discuss some of the themes in the play. It was helpful the Sara is so knowledgable on Shakespeare and his work which helped us understand the context better. This was my second time attending a play at the Cinemapolis this academic year, and I hope to have the opportunity to attend some more plays next semester.

Cornell’s beauty

We all agree that Cornell is extremely stressing with work load and the difficulty of class. Yet, we will also agree on the fact that Cornell is very diverse and this diversity makes its beauty. Unfortunately when talking about diversity in Cornell, I am not talking about the population even though there are students from various countries. I am mostly talking about the environment. Cornell have so much diverse spaces, various building with different stories, and also the waterfalls. In addition of all, we have the diversity of species found in the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Even though it is located very far from the campus, this place is worth the trip. They have various type of birds with beautiful plumage. I am not a bird person so I can only comment on how beautiful the plumage is.  If when you visit you have the chance on entering one of the room at the back, you should look for the one with dead reptiles. You will see a diverse range of snakes with different size and colors. Don’t worry they are all dead.  In addition, they even have skeletons I believe. I did not see as much as I would like to so I will plan to go there again by the end of next year as well as to the museum.

Gimme Coffeeeeeeee!

It’s always nice taking a stroll off campus, especially for some coffee. Along with GRFs Sara and Magdala, a group of about 6 of us head off to Ithaca’s well-known Gimme! Coffee, and although the weather was a bit bleak, we warmed up quickly once we arrived. It was my first time trying a cortado, which was a bit too strong for my liking, but at least now I know what to get when I need an extra boost of energy.

Even more delightful than the warm coffee was the conversations we had. It started off with Magdala and Sara sharing a few stories (that had to include something related to coffee) and somehow made its way to Harry Potter and other fictional works and ended with the topic artificial intelligence. Although I have not read the Harry Potter series, it was interesting to hear the discussion and the fervor some people expressed for different interpretations of the book. Hearing them talk so passionately about the book kind of made me want to read the series! Regardless of my lack of familiarity with the fictional works discussed, it was great seeing new faces and hearing different opinions. When you’re so consumed with school work/life, it’s easy to forget how meaningful simple things like getting coffee and having a good conversation can be.

Tying a Tie with Ty

For this event, GRF Tyler and SAs Ben and Ashley gave out a few pointers for looking good for different professional occasions. I typically tend to stay in the safe zone when it comes to any type of professional event, however, after this event I’m willing to experiment a little more. Even though you’re dressing professionally, it doesn’t mean you can’t show your personality! In addition to women’s pointers, Ty and Ben also covered professional attire for men. I’m was always confused as to what the proper attire for men is in different professional occasions, but after this event, I got a bit of a better grasp. with the help of Ty, we even learned how to tie ties and bow ties! Although I don’t plan on incorporating a bow tie/tie in my outfits anytime soon, learning how to a tie was useful considering my dad is always asking me to tie his–on the rare occasion that he does wear one. Considering I’ve never tied a bow tie/tie before, I think I did pretty well! Hopefully I can practice my tying skills sometimes soon. Thanks Ty! 

Never get enough of it—-Cornell is truly beautiful

The first time I came in this campus, I was strike by its beauty. Plus, the sun was still out. The buildings were ancient but original. The tour next to Uris library was like a Harry Potter’s movie. In sum I felt in love with the campus. Obviously, I did not yet know what was waiting for me after. One of my plans was to visit the gorges because I heard so much about. I could not for a long time due to the weather and obviously it was colder and not safe there. Then the weather got better, and we had the opportunity to finally visit those gorges.

They are huge and extremely beautiful especially when you stay very close and some of the water falls on you. The gorges are not only located in one place but they are interconnected. I like the one next to Schwartz. There is a place next to the falls where you can sit and takes pictures even though some water can still falls on you.  The gorges are great for morning workout or relaxation. The sound of the falls is loud but peaceful, at least for me.  I think Rose house should plan another visit to the gorges so that everyone can relax and discuss while visiting. Personally, I will sign up again for it.

What we have to go through for a better life.

The movie Bread and Roses is a very interesting movie that recreates the reality of immigrants. Although the entire movie presents important information, I was mostly stroke by the beginning of the movie. Immigrants are working hard to support their family and also to allow their relatives to leave their countries. They deal with traders for the transport. They fight to come to a country with the dream of a better life in a country I am sure they know a lot about. At least me I did not.

Given they come as illegal, they cannot have proper work. Instead, they work for someone who has control over them because of their status. In the movie, there was a women who cries saying that she needs the job after she was fired for a stupid reason. She cries because she has a family that depends on her. Others need those jobs in order to finance their education for a real future. Indeed the difficult transportation and the crappy jobs are just few in the list of all the obstacles that immigrants have to go through. They also have to grow to the expensive education system, if allowed, without any financial support. All these because of a better life for them and their progeny. Sincerely, I GIVE MY RESPECT to all immigrants or family of immigrants!

They Call Me Muslim

The Film *They Call Me Muslim* follows the story of a muslim, Samah, living in France, and a muslim woman living in Iran. Samah is a student who wants the ability to wear a headscarf at a school where it is banned. The woman in Iran does not want to wear a headscarf or any sort of head covering, but is required to by the Iranian regime.

I would like to provide some details regarding the case law of France’s legislation on the wearing of the headscarf in schools.

In 2004 the French government enacted a law banning the wearing of religious symbols in all government elementary and secondary schools. Many felt this law was meant to target muslim students in France. This law was challenged and appealed to the European Court of Human Rights by two muslim students, which uphold the law in 2008: http://www.dw.com/en/french-headscarf-ban-not-discrimination-says-european-court/a-3850797.

However, a Sikh student appealed to the United Nations, which sided against the French law, in 2012: https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/voices/case-watch-new-perspective-france-s-ban-religious-headcoverings-schools. It is not clear to me what the consequences are of France ignoring this ruling.

Speed or Reliability?

Last Wednesday, Jeff Prince, a professor at Indiana University came to talk about the current difficulties involving the pricing of the internet and telecommunications. With technology becoming an integral part of life, service providers (such as Time Warner Cable, Comcast, Verizon, etc.) have changed their marketing tactics about selling internet. Professor Prince gave some much relatable examples, such as how much speed we think we need for our daily internet usage. For instance, if your primary workload on the internet involves watching videos, you would not need as much bandwidth, the amount of bits you can transfer in a second, as someone who streams live events. However, does the general public even understand what it means when providers say 10 Mbps, 20Mbps, or 150Mbps? And even if you get the top Mbps offering from your company, it does not mean that you will get the fastest internet speed. Professor Prince mentioned that the new focus is towards latency, which is the delay on the time data is transferred from servers and back to your computer. The higher the latency, the slower things load. However, much of this is not even marketed towards consumers. All companies do is market what people want to see, how much data can you transfer?

I thought that Professor Prince raised was very interesting since my parents approached me about upgrading the internet plan at home a few years ago. It seemed that despite the high bandwidth we had, our internet was still slow and it took me some digging around on speed tests and technology sites to learn that bandwidth is not the only thing that factors into your internet speed. With that in mind, the research that Professor Prince is involved in is trying to price internet speed. Since technology is ever-growing, how much are people willing to pay in order to get faster speeds? If you price the technology too high, you might not have consumers while if you price too low, you end up losing money. Interestingly enough, I do not have an expected price either. One tactic that the professor mentioned as being effective is to not let people come up with a price. You create different options of the plans and assign your own price and let the consumers decide if they want to take up that plan with that pricing. This way, researches will at least have a way of quantifying the value of internet speed and latency for consumers.

And at home, I have come to understand that bandwidth is not everything. Despite my parents falling victim to the service provider’s claims of “You’ll get 150Mbps with our plan!”, our 50Mbps plan is more than enough for the amount of usage we have at home. However, it was also nice to learn that bandwidth is not everything and it’s a sign to really research what you are buying before you set down your money. Overall, I really enjoyed this talk!

Crashing this plane

I’m not one who is overly familiar with the lore of the world of Mad Max, but this movie served as a standalone without too many references to the larger franchise. I also appreciated how the film didn’t seem “overproduced”  in spite of the many action sequences, with the multitude of stunts serving as a contrast to the CGI-rich action movies of today. Ultimately, I enjoyed Beyond Thunderdome as a return to an older era from the cliches of modern cinema.

In spite of the problems that often occur in movies and TV shows that focus on children in what in clearly a world for adults, Beyond Thunderdome pulled off the parent and kid dynamic. All of them serves to humanize the characters in a way: the reveal that Master Blaster’s symbiosis was intended for survival rather than domination shows off a merciful side in the thug who was presented as a secondary villain to Auntie; Max turns out not to be a callous protagonist in that he grows to care for the stranded children. My one complaint is the complete lack of common sense that the children show is designed to propel the plot rather than result from their naivete.

Gattaca: There’s no gene for fate

I remember watching this movie at a summer program when I was in high school, so I was very excited when I saw this movie again at a Rose event. I generally don’t like sci-fi movies, but this was one of my favorites for a long time. As cheesy as this sounds, the movie sets a very positive message to its viewers and inspired me to work hard for my dreams. In the movie, the main character was born with a birth defect that prevented him from doing space travel. However, his determination and perseverance did not stop him from achieving what he wants. He went through incredible lengths, such as taking someone else’s identity to help him make it past security. This shows that a person’s condition at birth or the resources they’re born with do not necessarily dictate the future. Everything depends on a person’s drive and how much they’re willing to sacrifice in the process.

My favorite quote in the movie:

You want to know how I did it? This is how I did it, Anton: I never saved anything for the swim back.”

-Vincent, Gattaca

Besides the movie’s positive message, it also made me think of the ethical use of eugenics. I know many people have debated over the idea of creating “perfect humans” by manipulating genes, but I thought it was interesting how an old film like this can connect to an issue people are facing in the present. It really brings into question the ethical and moral facets of enhancing genes for “beneficial” purposes.

Bandwidth and Latency in Terms of Internet Speed

This past Wednesday, Professor Jeff Prince from Indiana University spoke to us about the difficulties of pricing the intangible: a.k.a. the Internet. He mainly spoke about two aspects that have the potential to increase internet speed: bandwidth and latency. While I had heard the term “bandwidth” prior to coming to this Rose Café, the term “latency” used in this context was completely new to me. In my heat and mass transfer course last semester, we learned about latent heat, which is the heat required to convert a solid into liquid or vapor, or convert liquid to vapor, without a change of temperature. However, I had trouble relating the term from heat transfer to internet speed.

Professor Blalock provided the analogy of a highway. Bandwidth is the number of lanes on the highway–a greater number of lanes promotes less traffic and thus faster travel. Latency is the length of the highway–if the distance between destinations A and B could somehow decrease, the speed at which you would get from A to B would of course increase. Ideally, you want your bandwidth to be as high as possible and your latency to be as low as possible. It is my understanding now that latency is the time delay between stimulation and response. I found this talk particularly interesting because of this introduction of this completely new concept. In comparison with past Rose Cafés, this talk was definitely had more of a technical basis, which was refreshing to me.

The power of women.

“Hidden figures” is an incredible movie because not only does it say the story of the first ship sent in space, but it also talks about the women behind this invention. The message I got from this movie is that women are very important in this world, and it is about time that we give them the respect they deserve. If those women were not there, space exploration will not be what it is today. They were the bones of NASA. They did not give up instead they demand to be heard by men.

Another important message is the strength behind collaboration. Even though they had the intelligence and perseverance, they became stronger when they allied their force for a common goal. It  was so powerful to see how they progressively changed people opinion and beliefs toward them.

However it is sad to see that despite all these years women still do not get what they deserve. They are still underrepresented in powerful positions. Women are underpaid and disrespected. The government still does not consider women’s issues as real issues. We still have a long way to go because all those injustice are worse for black women.

Hidden figure is a great movie, yet how many of those do we need in order to make society understand the reality about women?

Is this really considered Sanctuary?

After getting an email about Cornell’s sanctuary movement, I was excited to hear that the university would be protecting its undocumented students. I have seen other schools doing this as well after scrolling through my facebook newsfeed. I honestly didn’t think too much of the policy until I had the table talk with Esmerelda. I learned that the term “support and defend” means something completely different. It does not necessarily imply that Cornell will withhold any information about their students if they are asked to give it up. I felt a bit betrayed that Cornell would go back on their word or sound as if they’re doing undocumented students a service, because they certainly weren’t. However, I wasn’t so surprised to learn that this would happen. I think most students on campus are under the false illusion that Cornell is protecting its students, but in reality, that can’t be further from the truth. Apparently, there is a petition going around on campus that demands the university should provide more protection for its students. Although I admire the efforts people make to benefit their peers, I am not sure this would have any effect on how Cornell will deal with its policy. Overall, I hope that more people would be aware of this issue on campus and that we will not have to deal with this problem in the future.

Bandwidth or Latency? Which should you pay up for?

For the final Rose Cafe of the year, we discussed how people pay for different internet services without really knowing the difference in what they are paying for. For instance, people see a higher bandwidth and believe it is reasonable to pay extra for the increased connection. However, they may not know exactly what they are paying for. There is also a factor to consider called latency. Latency is essentially a measure of the time it takes to get the message from one end of the connection to the other, whereas bandwidth is the amount of information you can send at a time. It is beneficial to be able to send larger amounts of information, but if it takes a long time to get the message through to the other end, then it may not be as worthwhile to pay higher. It made me realize that I need to be more aware of what I pay for in the future. As a student we have the luxury of being on Cornell’s WiFi, but eventually I am going to have to decide on an internet service provider on my own. I know from playing games online and streaming movies the perks of each, but I now know to be more cautious and calculated in my decision making process.

Another issue brought up in this conversation was the issue of net neutrality. Essentially this would mean that large companies such as Netflix cannot control how fast their service is distributed in comparison to other services. People have their own opinions, and both sides are very valid. On one hand, small businesses would have no chance in this market, but on the other hand a large corporation who can pay extra to have their service given priority should be allowed to pay for that advantage. My personal opinion on this subject would be to support the small business because it would hurt the market if these large companies were able to eliminate competition from the market by making it impossible to enter. Until their becomes a point where the competitive edge is a small enough advantage that it wouldn’t hurt small businesses, I believe net neutrality should be in effect. Soon enough, this will be the case as we rapidly approach the peak of what internet service we are physically capable to offer.

Pricing the Intangible

What with all the excitement about gig internet, one gets the impression that more bits/second clearly results in a faster internet experience.  However in reality, bandwidth is not the only major factor that goes into determining internet speed: there is also latency.  The speaker made the following analogy: if bandwidth is the number of lanes on the road, then latency is the length of the road.  Bandwidth determines how much data you can transmit at once, and latency determines how long it takes data to travel from your computer to its destination and back.  If the traffic is too heavy for the bandwidth, then speeds will be slower, but even using less bandwidth the speed is constrained by the latency.  The effects of bandwidth can be seen mostly when downloading and streaming in HD — or if there are multiple people trying stream/game/browse at the same time.  For speed of communication in activities like gaming and voice/video calls, though, the latency is much more important.

This leads to the issue at hand in the speaker’s current research: right now, there is no price on latency.  Cable companies advertise and offer plans based on bandwidth, despite the fact that bandwidth is only part of the overall picture of speed.

This leads to an interesting question: How do you price something that has never been marketed before?  You could always just ask people how much they would pay, but money in the hypothetical is never quite the same as real money.  In some scenarios, you can ask everyone to pay a certain amount beforehand, and then use a lottery system to actually buy the item for a small number of respondents and refund the rest.  This adds a sense of reality to the money in question, but unfortunately isn’t feasible when the product is an internet connection.

The other method mentioned was to try to calibrate people’s over or underestimation by also having them make choices about things for which the market prices are known.  For instance, in addition to asking about latency, you might ask how much they would pay for bandwidth and phone storage.  This definitely sounds possible, but at the same time, trying to measure how much people would pay for a thing based on measuring how much they lie sounds a like a bit of a dubious technique.  It isn’t just the money that’s intangible, but also the product.  You can describe loading times and lag to people, but you can’t actually make them experience it.  I’m not sure that you can assume that people would over/underestimate the same with regard to something they know well (like storage) and something they’ve never really thought about before, much less bought.

The speaker said that the only prices on latency so far are “just made up”.  Aren’t all prices, though?  In the end, some company is going to have to just start trying it out.  It might be a risk to go through all the effort to try to improve latency, measure it, maybe come up with tiers, and then figure out which plans people will and won’t buy, but with online gaming and things like Skype only ever becoming more popular, latency is a factor that is only going to become more important.

Given the rate at which internet use, internet business, and internet technology are growing, it’ll be interesting to be able to look back in a few of decades and remember these changes.  I’ll remember the fight for net neutrality, I’ll remember when people dropped television for internet, and I’ll even remember when we were still trying to figure out how to charge for internet plans.

Marketing and the Internet

Last week I attended a Rose Cafe where Jeff Prince, a professor from Indiana University, talked about cutting the cord. Cutting the cord is the phenomenon in which people cancel their cable plan in favor of internet streaming.

He talked a lot about internet speed, one of the biggest concerns in terms of product development and marketing for internet service providers. There are two major components to internet speed, bandwidth and latency. Professor Prince explained that bandwidth is the amount of data that can travel at a time, and latency is the lag between when you click something and when you get a response. Some consumers will care more about latency and some about bandwidth. For example latency is extremely important to online sellers because if a page to purchase something takes too long, the customer might change their mind.

All while Professor Prince was talking about this I couldn’t help but think about net neutrality especially as it is about to be reviewed again by the FCC. And of course it came up later in conversation. Although it was interesting to hear an anti net neutrality viewpoint, I still support net neutrality. There would be some benefits to consumer to ending net neutrality, but I don’t think it’s fair for Walmart’s pages to load faster than Etsy’s because they paid ISPs more.

I realized during his talk that I never gave much thought to internet service providers and marketing internet service products even though I use internet everyday.

Rise Up?

The movie Bread and Roses tells the story of Maya, an illegal immigrant who becomes a janitor at an office building in Los Angeles. The working conditions for Maya and the other janitors are less than ideal. Since some of the employees at her job are also illegal immigrants, the mangement takes advantage of this because they know that without a job, these people cannot survive. One day a labor acitivist, Sam, comes to Maya’s job and tries to get the janitors to unionize. This is great and all but I felt as if this movie played very much into the savior complex. It is great to want to help people rise up and better their situation. However, I think the best way is to empower these marginalized groups and allow them to make their own decisions accordingly. I feel as if this movie was more like, “I’m Sam, and we are going to do it my way.” Whether or not his way works or not, it makes him the “savior of the oppressed” and I do not think this is the best way to make a lasting change in any issue.

Untold Stories

Sometimes Hollywood does a good job and tells a meaningful story. This movie represents one of these times. Before watching Hidden Figures, I did know know about Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson. It was nice to watch a movie which showed the strength and intelligence of black women. Many times black women are over sexualized or shown as being uneducated. It is refreshing to watch a movie which tell the stories of real women who overcame so much just to show people that they were capable of amazing things too. Hidden Figures was very inspiring and highlights one of probably many other stories which go overlooked because of the people who they represent. I hope to see many more movies which celebrate minorites in a different light from what we are used to seeing.

A Beautiful Illusion

A Beautiful Mind is one of my favorite movies. I first watched this film in my high school psychology class. After watching it a second time, I still really like this film. A Beautiful Mind tells the story of John Nash, a mathematics genius, and his struggle with the many delusions that he has throughout his life. During the first half of the film, everything seems to be going well in Nash’s life. He developed his own equilibrium theory which revolutionized economics. However, the twist in the movie is that Nash is schizophrenic and has been having hallucinations all his adult life. One thing that I think the film does really well is showing that mental illness does not have a certain look. Most of the time you cannot tell if a person is suffering from a mental illness. John Nash is probably the last person someone would expect to have schizophrenia. Also, just because someone has a mental illness, that does not mean that they are not intelligent or smart. Nash is a perfect example of this. He is a math genius but suffers from a serious disease. I know some critics have an issue with the way that Nash is portrayed in the film because it made him seem nicer than he actually was; but, I think that film stresses an important point that mental illness can affect anyone.

Ithaca is Gorges

This hike to the Cascadilla Gorge was very beautiful. Since being at Cornell, I have not gone out to see some of the more scenic spots on campus. It was very interesting to hear about the history and geology of this Gorge. One unique fact about the Cascadilla Gorge is the rock formation. The tour guide told us that it is not common in nature for there to be straight lines at 90 degree angles. This type of formation is usually man made. However, the rocks at Cascadilla are all at 90 degree angles and this is because water likes to follow the path of least resistance so that is why the formation is so straight. Another thing that I found interesting was the cost of the upkeep of the Gorge. I did not even know that so much work went into making sure the gorges are safe for exploration and making sure any issues with flooding is accounted for. The tour guide told us that it cost about 2.9 million dollars to maintain the gorge and this is always a changing process which requires constant repair. Learning this fact made me really appreciate the beautiful landscape that surrounds us here in Ithaca.

Final Rose Cafe and Net Neutrality

Last week for the final Rose Cafe we welcomed Jeff Prince who is the Professor of Business Economics and Public Policy at Indiana University to talk about the recent shift from cable to streaming services such as hulu, netflix, youtube, etc. One of the most interesting part of the talks was when we shifted to start talking about net neutrality and its implication for streaming services. I understood Prince’s description of net neutrality as meaning that internet service providers are forced to charge people on the suppliers side evenly for using their internet services. For example, Netflix doesn’t have to pay more than other people despite the fact that they are using so much data to stream video. However, Prince pointed out that we do not have net neutrality on the demand side, since customers have to pay different prices in order to get faster internet. Prince stated that he can see both the merits and detriments of net neutrality, especially so since he has made personal contact with Ajit Pai, the current chairman of the FCC who has vowed to get rid of net neutrality. I personally think that getting rid of net neutrality is really dumb, as I believe it would stifle start-up growth.

Why does torture even exist?

Last week I attended a talk by Nick Cheesman, a fellow at Australian National University and specialist in the use of torture in Thailand. Joining him was Pornpen, a human rights activist.

Since the 2014 coup in Thailand, martial law has been in place throughout the country, marking a strained relationship among law enforcement of all levels in the country. Waves of crime have led to local police using torture in criminal cases to force a confession. While the country’s attorney general rejects the practice, there has been no firm national legislation to stop the practice.

The natural question “Why torture?” arose in the Q&A. Whereas many people would approach this question through the utilitarian perspective of finding the criminal and his tools, Cheesman disagrees that this is the best approach. Rather, he sees torture as a sort of performance art put on the state, perhaps for legitimizing the regime and downplaying criticism. In which case, torture is a means of stifling transparency and proper appeal of criminal cases. Corruption is an ongoing problem in Thailand.

Claymaking

The last time I molded clay was at summer camp when I was a kid, so you cannot believe how excited I was to let out my inner child and go mold clay. The event also provided a nice escape from the typical movie nights I had found myself attending out of necessity due to my schedule with work and class. We got a little history background about the role clay making has played in ancient civilizations and how it changed over time based on the resources available and the culture of the people who sculpted the figurines at the Johnson museum. We were given a block of clay to cut and mold, and were taught bonding techniques to piece the clay together with water. I found my lack of creativity present when given the freedom to turn this block into whatever I desire, so I went with my nerdy instinct and made a small clay model of a Mars rover similar to that of the designs made by my project team in the past. Had I known beforehand what material we were working with I like to believe I could have planned a more elaborate sculpture. Overall I found this activity to be rather relaxing, and a great change from my typical day of classwork and problem sets.

Do the Change

The plight of underpaid workers is something that people love to talk about, but is typically left up to the people stuck in the bad situation to actually do anything about. This movie is a classic example of such a situation. In this case, the workers are janitors and cleaning people for various big buildings in LA. They are also primarily illegal immigrants. Their illegal status complicates the situation because their employers are able to bully them into accepting lower wags under the threat of firing them, or worse, calling ICE and threatening deportation.

The largest enemy of the employer’s will is the Janitor’s union, which in this movie is led by a character named Sam Shapiro. He is fighting to increase the wages of the workers and also to get more people into the union. The people who were in the union were payed about eight and a half dollars per hour, whereas the people who weren’t were only paid about five and a half. The more people that are in the union, the more leverage they would be able to exert on the employers.

Throughout the movie there is a tentative love story between the female protagonist, Maya, and Sam. Their relationship, however, is complicated with the sort of professional relationship that develops between tow colleagues. The director is very careful to make sure that the love story does not eclipse the point of the movie which is to bring to light the plight of janitorial workers. However, the love story does pull a little on the heartstrings and leave the viewer in want of more. It serves to show the presence of love even in difficult situations.

A rift gradually appears between Maya and the rest of her family because she gets caught up in the broad goal of social change whereas her family is more interested in living incognito and simply surviving. They say that life is not good, but at least it is not bad. They don’t want her to get them tangled up in a big mess that could jeopardize all that they had worked for in coming to the united states. As Maya moves more down the activist track, she slowly begins to drift away from her family highlighting the everlasting dichotomy in life between the comfortable and the progressive. Which is better? It is really in the eyes of the beholder.

Similarly, the story ends on an inconclusive but hopeful note. This is the way with progressive change — it is often unknown where the outcome will lie and if it will be an improvement. However, if change is not pursued, then it will never happen. The real life strike that occurred in LA inspired this movie, and thus brought awareness to yet another group of underprivileged city workers that beforehand few had given thought to.

Trust in the Nuclear Era

How do we trust one another as nations? Essentially we hold each other at gunpoint with a bunch of nukes and hope the other doesn’t pull the trigger first. Dr. Strangelove’s satirical presentation of how our nation operated during the Cold War similarly reflects the tensions in the current political world. With world leaders dropping bombs and declaring attacks on other countries, we have to ask ourselves at what point is it too much.

We are already at the point where we could easily bring about mutual destruction, so why tempt fate and continue feeding the aggression between nations. I have expressed in the past my own fault for not taking enough time to read up on current events, but I hear enough to know that we need to find a more peaceful solution rather than rely on our nation’s arsenal to protect us from other nuclear powers. I hope that the time never comes that we need to use this power, and as seen by the movie Dr. Strangelove, it would not end well for any party. It really makes you wonder how far our trust would go with other countries if we weren’t worried about their hands being on the trigger.

Blue pill or Red pill?

I was pretty disappointed in the “Matrix” and I don’t think it deserves the hype it gets. I remember people raving about this movie when I was in middle school, so I expected a lot out of this film. All I knew about this movie before I watched it was that Neo (main character) had to choose either the blue or the red pill. The blue pill allows Neo to live in his current situation, an illusion of the real world. However, Neo decides to take the red pill, which allows him to discover the truth behind the “utopia” he lives in. He learns that the actual world is a computer simulation that is being threatened by Agents (machines) that want to destroy the rebels (humans).

After watching the movie, I realized the pills could be a symbolism to how we approach problems in society. Do we let it stay hidden and fester? Or do we open our eyes and do something about it? Some people choose to stay ignorant by ignoring the issues going on in the world because it doesn’t affect them, or because they would rather turn to reality shows and the kardashians. In some way, I think the message in the movie is to inform us that we should stay vigilant about how people in charge are running our country. We should question and take action instead of staying silent. Although I did not particularly enjoy the movie, it did bring up a serious issue in our society today.

 

The Beauty of Ludicrous

Some dismiss the Marx brother’s form of comedy as ‘low brow’ (just some gags with little substance beneath the buffoonery). I prefer to think of them, however, as masters of the lampoon. Their movies, while not direct social commentaries, speak to the arbitrariness and stupidity of real life, to which we can all relate. I love the Marx brothers’ comedy style. In fact, I probably laugh the hardest I ever laugh when watching their movies. Although my favorite of their movies is “A night at the opera,” Duck Soup is certainly not a disappointment.

Duck Soup has a similar feel to movies like airplane which operate in the ludicrous. Events so random and ridiculous all strung together poke fun at how hectic our lives sometimes feel, because after all, we all have those days where it just feels like nothing is going right. In an ultimate exemplification of Robert Burn’s poem “To a mouse,” the brothers find themselves stuck with an overly simple plan to carry out in an incredibly convoluted situation, culminating in an unexpected and arbitrary end with no particular significance. This plot idea is oddly beautiful, speaking to the fact that life goes not to where we expect, but to a culmination guided by the hand of chance and kismet.

On top of their comedic skills, it often goes unnoticed that Zeppo and Harpo are actually very talented musicians. The usually get a little feature in each of the movies where the happen to stumble upon a harp or piano and begin playing. In each movie Harpo usually played some variation of a beautiful handle piece or older. He has the style and finesse of someone who had been well classically trained on the instrument. Zeppo, by contrast has significant virtuosity on the piano, and has a more “street performer” style when it comes to his instrument. Often times, in the movies, his music scene would come in some bar where his raucous playing style was brought out. He was best known for his musical jokes that he would input in his playing. Whether it was playing with atypical fingers, or quoting parodies of other songs, he demonstrated both technical mastery and comedic excellence in his playing.

A Beautiful mind

I learned about Nash equilibrium as part of a discussion on game theory in one of my freshman year courses. And while I had heard about the movie “A Beautiful Mind”, I hadn’t watch it and knew very little about John Forbes Nash, Jr.. I am really happy that I got a chance to learn more about this brilliant man by getting a chance to watch the movie which also inspired me to read a bit more about him afterwards.

 

The movie starts with Nash’s life from the time he gets into Princeton with a prestigious scholarship, and meets several other promising math and science students. And we see his relationship with his roommate, Charles Herman (literary student), having an influence on him early in his life. Nash’s brilliant ideas lands him an appointment in MIT. A few years later, Nash is approached by the Pentagon to help decipher enemy communication, and he amazes people with his ability to decipher some of the code mentally. Nash turns increasingly obsessive about searching for hidden patterns and also becomes more paranoid about being monitored/followed by the enemy. His obsession and paranoia is clearly demonstrated later in the movie during a guest lecture at Harvard where he suspects Soviet agents are after him and attempts to flee. We see him sedated and sent to a psychiatric facility, on he believes is run by the Soviets. We then learn that he is diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. We witness his struggles with this devastating condition, and what is impressive is that he ultimately succeeds in sufficiently grappling with his condition and in utilizing his brilliant mind towards his game theory ideas. At the end, we witness Nash receiving the Nobel Prize in Economics for his revolutionary work in game theory.
I researched more about Nash after watching the movie, and read a lot of details that were left out about his life. Despite the fact that the movie was not an entirely accurate exposition of Nash’s life, I greatly enjoyed it. And the movie did an excellent job of depicting how Nash’s motivation to apply his brain power towards progress in mathematical thought helped him partly overcome a devastating mental condition.

 

 

Discrimination: Will it ever be gone?

I had the opportunity to watch “ I Am Not Your Negro” at the Cornell Cinema, and I thought it was an extremely moving film. It was about how African Americans in America had to struggle for their civil rights in the past. Baldwin talks about his anger towards the white community because of what they did to suppress his people. The film brings up Martin Luther King’s and Malcolm X’s fight for equality. However, they were murdered for speaking up about what they believed in. Baldwin also narrated the experience of Dorothy Counts, a 15 year who was harassed by her peers for going to a predominantly white school. He also described how the media demonizes African Americans using the example of Sidney Poitier. However, even though Baldwin had to endure all of the injustices due to his skin color, he still hopes that people would reflect on their actions for a more fruitful future ahead.

As the film is ending, it showed snapshots of how the black community is still being targeted and discriminated today. An example would be the police brutality that is happening all over the country. Even statistics show that African Americans are more likely to be stopped and frisked, or pulled over by a police officer. Although slavery has long been outlawed and deemed an inhumane practice, the discrimination towards blacks did not disappear with it. It is evident that there is still some hostility towards African Americans today even if people are not as open about it.

Internet Speed: What’s it Worth to You?

For my last Rose event of the year, I listened to Jeff Prince, Professor of Business Economics and Public Policy at Indiana University, talk about his research on cutting the cord. An increasing number of people are cutting cable out of their monthly bill, and using internet to satisfy their entertainment needs. A major criteria for choosing internet providers and packages is internet speed with relation to price. This is where Professor Prince’s latest research is focused. It is very difficult for internet providers to quantify the value of varying degrees of internet speed to the average consumer. Professor Prince is attempting to do so by presenting different packages to consumers and asking them which package they would prefer, and then using that information to determine an accurate value on internet speed. In addition, Professor Prince explained the different components of internet speed, which consists of bandwidth and latency. Basically, bandwidth consists of how much information can be transported at the same time, while latency concerns how fast the information gets from one place to another. For example, the number of lanes on a highway would be the bandwidth, while the speed at which a car is moving on said highway is the latency. With these components of internet speed in mind, high bandwidth or high latency may be more valuable to a particular consumer based on their specific internet habits. Personally, I was aware of bandwidth, but was not familiar with the concept of latency before this talk. In addition, now that I understand what makes up internet speed, and the ideas of the pricing behind it, I feel more comfortable choosing a plan that best suits me in the future.

Religious Discrimination in France and Iran

I watched a short documentary ,“They Call Me Muslim”, about women’s perspective on wearing a hijab in public. In France and Tehran, women are restricted from their freedom of choice. Muslims in France are not allowed to wear their hijab in public or in universities. The law also prohibited people from wearing other religious attire. However, Jews were allowed to wear their yamakas (round caps) and Christians were still allowed to wear their crosses. This shows that the law specifically targets Muslims and their religious values. I also came across an article awhile back about a Muslim woman being arrested for wearing long sleeved shirt and pants to a beach. It seems that wearing a hijab is not the only problem in France. The country is targeting a whole group of people based on their religious affiliation. Going back to the documentary, the woman in Tehran was forced to wear the hijab. Her resistance to wearing the headscarf has caused her to get in trouble with the law several times. Although this law would be favored for those that are serious about their religion, it can be extremely frustrating for those who are coerced to wear it to avoid charges and arrests. Religious discrimination is still such a prevalent problem today, especially towards Muslims due to the misconceptions about their religion.

Coffee and Conversation

Last week, I, along with a few other rose scholars, went to Gimme Coffee and just… talked. This Rose event was different from most Rose events that I’ve attended in that there wasn’t a planned discussion. We had an organic conversation over a cup of coffee. To my surprise, I enjoyed it very much. During our discussion, we covered a variety of topics, ranging from coffee stories to Harry Potter. I really liked the style of this Rose event because I got to connect with my fellow Rose Scholars directly. I learned new things about my fellow scholars, and was exposed to different points of view on different concepts. A majority of our Rose Events, although informative and interesting, do not really allow for direct interaction with other scholars. As a Rose scholar next near I will personally try to attend more events like this one, because I liked the natural conversation and interation with other Scholars.

Shakespeare’s Imagination on Sexuality

This Thursday, I watched a pseudo-theater based on William Shakespeare’s Twelfth night. I said “pseudo” because the theater was actually done at National Theater in London; we watched the recorded version at Cinemapolis. In my opinion, the Twelfth night is far ahead of its time in term of the idea it presented in relation to sexuality. We are in the 21st century and yet this issue still raises controversy among the wider society. I was amazed to see that Shakespeare’s imagination was four hundred years ahead of his time. However, this doesn’t mean that homosexuality did not exist at the time, but it was not acceptable in the society as it was presented in the theater. It was also a romantic comedy theater which made it fun to watch.

Viola was the main character who pretended to be a boy like her twin brother Sebastian, whom she thought had died in a shipwreck, to work for the Duke she loved.  She became the Duke’s messenger to the Countess he loved, Olivia. Ironically, both Oliva and the Duke fell in love with the messenger. The Duke is confused as he finds out that he was attracted to a “boy” (Viola). It turned out that Sebastian was alive, and he later comes and marries the Countess while the Duke marries Viola. My favorite and most fun character to watch was Malvolia, the steward of Olivia’s household. It was interesting to see how she emerged from being a very strict and perfectionist woman to someone who is vulnerable when she found out from a fake letter that Olivia loved her. The letter was written by Maria who also worked for Olivia to take revenge on her. During Shakespeare’s time, it was men who played both the women’s and the men’s part. This theater was different because some of the characters from the original theater changed their gender.

The Perfect Specimen

Another movie set in the future, Gattaca tells the story of a man predetermined to die young who changes his fate by cheating the system. Vincent was born with a genetic defect that determined he would not live long enough, and therefore has been shorted on job opportunities and never has the chance to pursue his dreams of space travel. He instead used the DNA of a man named Jerome, who is essentially the perfect candidate for space travel. Through hard work and intensive trials, Vincent is able to beat the system and make his way into space.

This movie serves as an inspiration to those who have ever been told they aren’t good enough or can’t overcome their challenges. When we look at students with disabilities and how hard they work to overcome their disability and rise above what society believed was ever possible, that is when we can see how wrong a dystopian future such as that of which is presented in Gattaca would be. We should never judge someone’s success based on how they were born or where they come from. We should never hold someone back from pursuing their dreams, and I believe as a society we are getting even better at making it possible for anyone to achieve what they want to achieve in life.

Going Beyond Small Talk

How may times have we experienced it? The smile, handshake, talks about majors and career aspirations, and leaving conversations thinking you will try but ultimately, you won’t remember their faces the next day. You leave the conversation learning almost nothing the person you just met, nothing about the world, and nothing new about yourselves.

I am always sad when I think about these conversations, not because they went poorly, or that I felt awkward. I feel sad because I know that I missed the opportunity to get to know a person with a whole different set of ideas, experiences, and stories than me. I know I missed the opportunity to meet a person who can provide their inputs on topics that impact all of us, who can suggest a new way of looking at things.

For some reason, I personally need more “in depth” conversations at least once a week. If I don’t get my fair share, sometimes I dip into feeling loneliness, like my brain is being restricted to my day to day responsibilities, without the ability to think broadly and creatively. Last semester, I got caught up with the grind and often times would not take the time to talk about things that weren’t related to my immediate tasks. What I didn’t realize at the time, was that that was a huge part of why I dipped into the “sophomore slump”.

Last week’s coffee chats weren’t usual meet and greets. We did not merely  talk about our career dreams and majors, but we delved into talks about what we believe is literature, what made authors come up with their ideas. I ended up learning a lot about the stories of Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and JK Rowling that I have never known before. I also had the opportunity to hear heartfelt stories about peoples lives through a mutual connection of incorporating coffee shops into the story line.

I wish we can have more of these talks with strangers more often. I hope to find those who are like me, who want to talk about subjects more than just what they are going to do tonight, what parties they went to last night. Sure, sometimes reminiscing about good times is needed, but it’s important to give ourselves a dose of these conversations as well.

In the end, I met two new friends, and hopefully we can grab lunch soon.

 

Human nature as portrayed in City of God

City of God impacted me greatly not only because it portrayed the vicious, never-ending cycle of gang violence in Brazil, but also because of how it portrayed the gang leaders as humans. These grown men showed the exact characteristics of small, petty children, on a larger scale: when Li’l Ze is turned down by a girl, he throws a childish tantrum–in the form of holding the girl’s boyfriend at gunpoint and making him strip. This analogy is made prominent by the filmmakers during the last scene, when Li’l Ze is dead, and the focus is on the “Runts,” who are only elementary-school age, making plans for who to kill next.

This reminded me of a major theme of Lord of the Flies, a novel in which a group of school-age boys becomes stranded on an island. Without the laws of society, the boys quickly turn savage. Indeed, we as human beings are only as “human” as the laws that guide us and the morals that tie us to other humans.

After the Apocalypse

Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome is the the third film in the Mad Max series, so it has already been established that the world is post-apocalyptic. In this film, he meets with a group of hopeful children searching for a captain to pilot their salvaged plane and bring them back to the world before. Max has to take it upon himself to break the news to these children that the world they have been waiting to return to no longer exists. He instead brings them to Bartertown and works to overthrow the people in charge so that it is no longer a dog eat dog environment.

These post-apocalyptic movies always make me think about how people can change so quickly. I like to believe that they are a gross exaggeration of how humans would react, and that we would instead begin rebuilding rather than turn into savages. It also makes you appreciate the society we have formed. It is not perfect and in many places it is far below ideal, but at least we don’t have a universal terror. Even if these are just movies, I hope the thought of a fallout of this magnitude would deter the majority from allowing nuclear destruction to occur in the modern era.

A Beautiful Mind or Not?

I got the chance to watch “A Beautiful Mind” on Friday in the Rose Dining Hall. I’ve been meaning to watch this film when my friend brought it up a few weeks ago. This film focuses on John Nash’s (a prolific mathematician) personal and academic life. I thought some parts of the film were a bit cheesy and overdramatic, especially the scenes where they would focus in on his face and show how he is mentally calculating arbitrary letters on a newspaper. The film had a nice twist towards the end when they revealed Nash’s condition because I would never expect him to have schizophrenia. Although the main part of the film was to celebrate Nash’s life as a mathematician and show how his illness affected his family, it also gave a very important message to its viewers. A brilliant man like Nash is not immune to mental illnesses; illness does not discriminate. Any ordinary person or award winning mathematician can become a victim to it. As the film comes to an end, I looked up John Nash on wikipedia because I was so fascinated about how he was able to deal with such a crippling illness while contributing extraordinary feats in game theory. I learned that his personality and personal life were not accurately captured in the film, and it was apparently what most of the critics were complaining about. However, the movie did a great job of portraying what it was like for him to deal with schizophrenia despite some inaccuracies in depicting his actual character.

Hidden Figures: Genius has no race. Strength has no gender.

I was fortunate enough to get the chance to watch “Hidden Figures” at Cornell Cinema. I’ve seen the trailer of this movie a while ago and I’m glad I got the chance to see it at a Rose event. Overall, I thought the film was incredible. The acting and cinematography was amazing, and it really captured the frustrations colored women had to go through just to prove their worth. The soundtrack that went along with the film showed how empowering these women were, especially the scene where they march down to the computer room because they were the only ones who were able to program it.

After the movie ended, we had a discussion with a Cornell professor about why very few women graduate with a computer science degree compared to other STEM disciplines like biology, engineering, chemistry, etc. Personally, I think the main reason is that programming has always been predominantly a male field. There is the geek culture and the love of video gaming that comes along with it, which further reinforces the perception. Although a lot more women are pursuing CS as a major recently, I hope that the preconceived notion that computer science is exclusive to men will wear off over time.

Interviews: Should answers be scripted?

It’s spring semester, and most of us have already either gotten internship offers for the summer or are undergoing the interview process. As I was applying to a few software and web development internships in NYC, I got a couple offers for an interview. I’m glad I attended this small informational seminar by Sara and was able to get some feedback on how others approached their interviews. Generally, I like to prepare my questions and answers beforehand because I’m not very good at thinking on my feet, or improvising my answers at the spot. I always thought this was the only way I could prepare for my interviews to optimize my experience, but some might think formulated answers might sound robotic or not as genuine. Some of my peers in the seminar agreed that they felt their interviews went well if they prepared their answers in advance because they did not want to stutter or seem unconfident. However, a few people in the room thought their interview experience resulted in a better outcome if they answered the questions without preparing because it made them seem more sincere. Although I can see why this can be a better approach for some people, I have always felt more comfortable if my answers were a bit scripted. I tend to stutter when I can’t think of an answer right away and that small slip up would make me nervous throughout the entire interview. Overall, I thought this seminar was useful for helping people decide their own personal approach on how to interview with potential employers and gain perspective on how they can improve their experience.

Question Reality

The Matrix has always been one of those classic movies that I tell myself I plan to see, yet never actually find the time to sit down and watch. And now that I finally have seen the Matrix, it made me think about the contrast between fantasy and reality. We all fantasize about living the perfect life, where everything goes right in the world, everything is good. The movie is based on this idea that the mass population lives inside a virtual reality, in a dream world where life is good. These few humans decide to fight back against the artificial intelligence running this program, and the main character Neo is given the choice to leave the Matrix and fight or stay and live in a fantasy.

When presented with this idea, we assume we would all make the heroic choice and follow Neo’s path. But honestly, when I really think about how life has unfolded I wonder how willing I would be to give up an artificial reality where things were normal again. I imagine with the buzz in VR technology these days, we aren’t too far away from full immersion in a virtual world. I don’t think it would get to the level of the matrix, but I can see people wanting to escape their reality and live in a virtual world. I look forward to seeing just how far our technology will take us, but I am confident it will never elevate to the level of the Matrix.

Coffee moments

I arrived at Gimme! Coffee earlier than the rest of the group that Saturday. I had just gone to the Ithaca Friends of the Library Book Sale [A success; I bought all of the Haruki Murakami books on the shelves], and I sat alone in the coffee shop for a good 15-20 minutes waiting for everyone to arrive by bus.

The moments before they arrived:

  1. I sat by the window and read my book, a rare and peaceful instant; time was calm, faded.
  2. Well, now that I remember: I walked in and I saw someone who went to my high school working at the counter. This was not too surprising; I went to high school 45 minutes away from here.
  3. The little girl next to me asked the man on the other side of me how he was doing, to which he replied, “Alright.” They had a nice conversation which I half listened to. [I tried not to eavesdrop but it was quite hard not to seeing as I was sitting right in between them.]

When everyone finally walked into the coffee shop, we all sat at a long table and wrote down our coffee orders. I ordered a small latte, perfect for a rainy day. We made small talk, but I hate small talk, so I mainly listened to everyone else’s stories and blurbs about themselves.

In the Era of Trump, Anything Goes

When did the news become fake? In the Era of Trump, anything goes. For news watchers, that means our news is anything Trump declares it is. And we can expect for the next four years, that in the era of Trump, fake news is one of them. There used to be a time in society, when our politicians were head to the highest standard of truth and morality. That simply isn’t the case anymore and we are a time when even the most simple truths are up for debate. While many people are discouraged by this new normal, others are looking for ways to seek the truth.

Like most millennials watching the news has become a struggle. We crave authenticity and news anchors and commentators haven’t always provided the hard hitting answers that we long for. In a world filled with “fake news” who is telling the truth? The short answer is Angela Rye. Unlike most political pundits, she is unapologetic in her nature of truth. In an age of political correctness, many people fear shaming others for their clearly offensive comments, Angela Rye isn’t. Racism, sexism, misogyny and misogynoir, whatever it may be Angela Rye is ready to make sure our news is not only factually correct but  for what it is.

One thing Angela Rye is clear on is that Trump is fake news. In the video posted above, Rye discusses how she finds Donald Trump’s words to have no authority. This is an issue. How can we live in a society, where we can’t trust the words of the leader of the free world. However, Trump shouldn’t be surprised. It seems like a case of boy who cried wolf….

13 Reasons Too Many…

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to join a group of young students middle and high school aged at the south side community center. Working with the organization LFDS, I hoped to listen to these girls and hear what type of mentorship and support they could offer. However the he business talk quickly became a discussion of culture and how a simple 10 years has managed to make my understanding of culture vastly different.

The new Netflix drama 13 Reasons Why came up. And every young girl in that room had watch the series in entirety. Part of me wasn’t surprised. In my opinion, parents today have little to no control over the type of content their children consume. Today, youth have incredible access to information, but extremely crude content. From an endless streaming for R rated movies to violent and misogynist porn. I grew up with little supervision over my media continent. But that was the age were the internet wasn’t at my figure tips with smart devices. It was the TV that exposed me to difficult topics, whether my parents knew it or not.

  • My first understanding of sex was some Lifetime movie…
  • My first encounter with love was in Cory and Topanga in Boy Meets World…
  • My first understanding of sarcasm was from Rory and Lorelei in  Gilmore Girls…
  • My first understanding of Black America was the Huxtables from Cosby Show…
  • And the list goes on….

While I know that my introduction to these ideas weren’t complete, they have still shaped the my interactions with the world. And to some extent, my understanding of the previous topics are disillusioned and not fully accurate.  I wonder how different my understanding of suicide would be, if I this Netflix series was “my first”?

Hidden Stories

To be honest with you all, I’ve been holding off on watching Hidden Figures until I could go see it in theaters. I’m so proud of myself, for choosing to see this movie in person and not stream it illegally off the internet. While I typically have no qualms about doing so, something about this film demanded that I give my money. Maybe because it was a cast of black women, maybe it was because it was a beautiful story of perseverance and resilience. Or maybe it was because a movie made by black people, for black people requires my fiscal contribution*

While this movie accomplished its mission to normalize black women in stem fields, it always reminded me of the joys of sisterhood and elevated friendships. Over the course of my three years at Cornell, I’ve been privileged to surround myself with accomplished, intelligent and resourceful black women. There were too many moments, in this movie were I understood the struggle of being thought of as inadequate but thankfully I had the sisterhood to uplift me and remind me of my place at this predominately white university.

This movie should act as a call for the film industry to write more stories that highlight the hidden story of those who’ve greatly contributed to this country and to movements. I often wonder what other stories aren’t being told. I look at the movie, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. A movie like this shed enormous light on the race and class ethics of medical research.

I truly believe that great movies will always ;look to highlight the hidden life of a figure. Just recently discussing with a friend the logistics of the civil rights movement. While I know that the leaders civil rights activists and black power groups were competent to organize strategy, but who was the person drew the maps for the civil rights movement?  At a time when you couldn’t use google maps to coordinate the marches or the walkouts. Who was she or he? Who was the person that understood the city so well that they could chart a march that would bring the city to a halt, garner the most attention, and out the least amount of lives at risk.

It’s time we re-evaluate those who are writing the history of the world and why they highlight some stories over others. I hope that going forward we begin to take a critical eye to the histories we’ve come to accept as true.

*Rose actually paid for this movie. But regardless, money was going towards this movie compared to a free streaming.

Let’s Talk about Stress

As the school year comes to a close, it seems as if I am balancing – rather juggling – more than ever.  From persistent friend drama, inter-organization conflict, separation anxiety (from family and senior friends who are graduating) and hopelessness. So I was very thankful for the opportunity to join a group of Rose Scholars to discuss the Cornell’s favorite buzzword: stress management. But part of me is always skeptical to ask other stressed students for relaxation advice…

At this dinner, many students expressed the lack of resources available on this campus for combatting stress and hopelessness. Since I walked onto Cornell’s campus nearly three years ago, I heard from upperclassmen that CAPS lacked the ability to provide all students with adequate counseling services. So I find it ironic to see the university build a new health center. I, along with many other Cornell students, are curious to know who will be utilizing the space, since there are little to no CAPS professionals to compensate the students on this campus. A student should never wait for over two weeks to find an appointment.

However, the bulk of the conversation was dedicated to how Cornell University should look to improve their services to prevent the high rate of suicide and hopelessness on this campus. So together a group of Rose Scholars and I drafted a list of concerns and demands we hope the university and Rose House will listen to:

  • Free gym membership for all students. Or at least a small gym unit in resident halls.
  • Free bus pass for all students
  • A weekly large campus event – from movie on the quad, to concerts, to recess, to free ice cream
  • Free merchandise and  Cornell Swag
  • The Cornell mascot should be more present on campus (walking around giving people high fives, etc)
  • There needs to be more university traditions for students to partake in.
  • Also, there should be a more coordinated effort to ensure students are engaged. I think the university should publish a monthly booklet with opportunities and events to attend (similar to the orientation packet).

While theses are just a small list of actions. I look forward to working with the Rose community and the University to address and tackle these issues.

Why I need to start dating my recruiters….

Interviews are an opportunity to reveal who you are, but also a space for companies to reveal who they are and what they value. I think you should approach an interview like a first date. While I don’t date, I would imagine that the same principles such as: leave a lasting remark, never address controversial topics, leave things to be desired, be authentic. You want to show that you can add value, for some that by showing you can an analytical side and by showing that you  add cultural and workplace value.

I love interviews. For me interviews have always been a way for me to test my emotional intelligence. Interviews are my chance to challenge myself is tailoring my skills and experiences to organizations or missions that I find intriguing.

I think the key to doing well at interviews is knowing what interviewees want you to say/think. If you know that your interviewer wants excitement, then look for ways to incorporate that. If your future employer or organization values creativity and innovation, look to highlight stories and experiences that speak to those experiences.

Similarly, if you know the guy or girl you are seeing for dinner appreciates a love for arts, then you should cater your conversation to topics of creativity, reflection and artistic qualities. And the best interviewees will look for ways to connect the arts or artistic skills into the passions they do. For example, someone could easily make the case the football is an art that takes training and practice but at the end of the day requires you to see the field as a canvas with many “plays” display for an audience to enjoy.

In the discussion, I think that there were varying points on how to prepare for interviews. It’s a time to be reflective and for me, the reflective piece comes prior. And an interview is a time to preform. Its about striking the right balance between prepared and authentic. I spend a remarkable amount of time prepping for interviews (unfortunately, its typically the night of). But because of the amount of time I’ve spent prepping for interviews, I know how easy it is to fall into a script. That’s why its important to leave room for spontaneity and authenticity. I agreed with the majority of the people in the room that you don’t want to come off as formulaic, and over preparation and memorization can contribute to that. But for me that has never been the case.  A technique I use are to prevent this from happening is recording my elevator pitch and responses to typically asked questions and building excited into my pre-scripted remarks. This is what makes the difference between a quality and a mediocre interviewer.

Like I mentioned before, I don’t really date. I don’t think Cornell dating culture encourages typically dates but if I ever do I hope that I can incorporate so of these interviewing techniques to stimulate conversation and learn more about the other person.

Eh Another Love Story

I’m usually not a huge fan of romantic movies and I watched Shakespeare in Love several times so far. I didn’t quite like it but, I decided to give the movie another shot. I really did love the concept of the movie in that it portrayed William Shakespeare as a man with a real life instead of the great literary master that he is. Although we don’t know quite a lot about him concerning his private life, I think this movie was a great way to show how he came up with his ideas, just like everyone else. The movie depicted Viola as Shakespeare’s muse in writing Romeo and Juliet. It’s lovely how the movie foreshadows the doomed romance of William and Viola and I like it when movies don’t necessarily have a happy ending. The bittersweet ending kind of made the story better even if it was purely fiction.

Viola’s character made me wonder how many women would have dressed up as men to venture into the theatrical world. In fact, there must have been a lot of women who dressed as men to do things they would not be allowed to do. For some odd reason, Deborah Sampson comes to mind each time I think of a crossdressing women and then I think of dear old Mulan. Regardless, both of the women I have mentioned were in the military and it’s striking to think of which occupations did women have to disguise themselves in.

Bread and Roses and Some Background Info?

Recently, Rose hosted the movie Bread and Roses which was about this pair of sisters who work as janitors in horrible conditions under an awful boss. The boss, Perez, fires people on a whim and is extremely corrupt, feeding off of the vulnerable nature of these undocumented people. It’s terrible that they couldn’t speak up against his atrocities as they are helpless which is why they do not respond to Sam. It’s upsetting Rosa’s weakness, her ailing husband, is the reason she is pitted against her sister. Its just terrible that she has to maximize her benefits by harming her co-workers and her sister. I think the scene that strikes me the most was right at the beginning when Maya is “won” and almost raped by the one of the men who smuggled her in. Actually, that might not be true. I think when Rosa admits to Maya what she has been doing to help Maya and their family may be the most moving scene. You can see the defeat and tiredness in Rosa’s eyes and now that she has her own family to care for, it makes sense why she is reluctant to help her sister. The sacrifice that Rosa made for her family is absolutely demeaning and I can see why she’s just tired of all of her sacrifices. It is a noble deed that she was willing to demean herself to help her family and, to a point, I see that it is her turn to be selfish. Regardless, it was very sad that Maya was deported and the janitors were able to gain the right to unionize. It was the bittersweet sending.

Although the story was very moving and made me start thinking of unionization and the wages that janitors made at the time, I was also wondering why bread and roses. I know that Sam Shapiro explains that the term originated in 1912 by striking textile workers in Lowell. Actually, just as I typed that, I recalled that bread is for food and sustenance while roses is for beauty? I think I’m starting to forget. Maybe roses was a metaphor for the working conditions which would make sense as the janitors were working in terrible conditions.

Understanding the “Net”

This past week, Professor Jeff Prince from Indiana University discussed a topic in which we often don’t think about deeply, but we utilize in our daily lives religiously: the Internet. I thought it was interesting how Professor Prince shared his research on the development of the internet and the future growth and implications it will have on the market.

The internet is often caught in this constant debate in regards to free market and free regulation. Many argue that current regulation serves as a barrier for large companies who would take over the free market of the internet. Professor Prince talked about how moving away from net neutrality could actually serve as a benefit for both businesses and consumers by lowering prices because of increased competition.

I’ve never really thought about putting the internet in the perspective of the economy and the markets so it was interesting to hear that side of the story. I think it would be interesting if I could learn more about this topic and understand the concerns behind net neutrality as well as the benefits of ending it. Seeing how reliant we are on the internet throughout our daily lives today makes me hesitant to end net neutrality because so many parties could attempt to abuse and take advantage of it, but I think one would first have to examine the real costs and benefits of doing so first.

From Book to Film and From Lecture to Life

I read the book A Beautiful Mind at some point in high school but I was refraining from watching the movie only because I never really liked biographical dramas. I didn’t really like how they decide to exaggerate certain life events or how there are inconsistencies in the stories. If it was remotely nonfiction in nature, I’d rather watch a documentary which would try it’s best to be as objective as possible. I thought that even docudramas would warp the story.Or at least I thought that way until I got a bit older and saw The Theory of Everything which I really liked. I guess that softened me to finally watching A Beautiful Mind which featured another prominent member of society,  John Nash. Unfortunately, the movie did omit another major fact about Nash’s life.  The movie excluded Nash’s relationship with Eleanor Stier and the birth of his son, John David Stier.

However, I liked how the film kind of showed how schizophrenia can effect the different aspects of life, whether that be personal or professional. I am currently taking a course on psychopathology and I recently watched the movie once more since I thought it might help me relax.  Since it is finals season and the information is new, I’m kind of surprised how Nash’s symptoms started to become obvious at age 31.Usually, if I remember correctly, schizophrenic symptoms start to arise in males around mid-adolescent and early adulthood. I do recall that Nash was somewhat impulsive as a young man and i wonder if that was somewhat of a manifestation of what would later. Since he passed away recently, there is a Times article on him that describes his early life as well. The Times article reported him to be an odd child which is characteristic of children who are at risk of developing schizophrenia. Even at Princeton, he was described as having odd habits and being a little arrogant. Perhaps, I’m looking way too into this but, his break shouldn’t have been very surprising or at least that’s what most people say in retrospect. I liked how the movie depicted that Nash decided to stop his medication because it was making him sick as most antipsychotics can. This is fairly common with people with these kinds of breaks and it resulted in another schizophrenic break which is sad. I guess another aspect to this film is that it is kind of a morale booster in that you can be in an incredibly awful situation and it may just work out. Nash was able to teach again and he remarried his wife.  I have attached the article on him just in case anyone wanted to take a look.

The future of advertising?

I was never much of a sports fan. Nor was my family or friends. I didn’t grow up watching the super bowl, and I don’t particularly have a favorite team.

Despite all of that, the commercials for the Super Bowl have transcended the sport. I can still remember a few of them off the top of my head. Even though the popularity of the NFL has drastically declined, the hype over Super Bowl commercials is still tangible every time a Super Bowl rolls around.

And yet, despite the seeming importance of these commercials, one has to wonder if the companies even get their money’s worth from each one. A thirty second segment surely wouldn’t sell very much product, yet, companies desperately vie to grab each time slot, paying up to five million for precious air time. It is a risky gamble, and most Super Bowl commercials are forgettable and have already been long forgotten.

As the internet becomes more and more widespread, entertainment surely will speed up. The maximum allowed commercial time on Youtube is thirty seconds, and most people would want to skip through even those paltry thirty seconds of advertisement. Ads would have to become more interesting, more relevant, or simply more “out there” in order to seize the increasingly short attention span of those who entertain themselves on the internet.

Perhaps companies will have to resort to unconventional measures. Memes– widespread internet jokes– have often featured popular commercial products, such as 7up or Doritos. The cost of making a meme is nearly nonexistent, but once a meme is created, it rages across social media like a wildfire, potentially spreading a brand name faster than any commercial ever could. Perhaps, one day, memes will become the ideal way to advertise a product?

It sounds ridiculous, I know… but spending five million dollars for thirty seconds on a slowly hemorrhaging sports event also sounds ridiculous to me.

Women, Societies, Definitions, and Religion

Last week, Ashley’s Flora’s Friday Films event featured the movie “They Call Me Muslim” and it led to one of the most interesting conversations I’ve had with my floor-mates. I somewhat liked the movie in that it portrayed types of women with an Islamic background and the idea that there are alway choices. Unfortunately, the movie had sparked an entire discussion on how societies have been manipulated by men. Perhaps, it was just the angry ranting of a couple of annoyed girls late on a Friday in the middle of prelim season. However, we realized that no matter what you do, a woman almost never fits the idea of the ideal. If she’s quiet, they find a flaw in her quiet nature but at the same time if she’s loud and wants to be heard,  they need a way to keep her quiet. Decency is cited as a way to keep women who do not want to cover up to cover everything up yet, other times, when other women are following that definition of decency, that manner is critiqued as well.

There is almost no way out. In our rant, we decided that the movie opened up the idea of freedom. It should be a choice. Wearing a hijab and deciding how religious you are should be left up to you. Who is to judge what type of faith will be accepted? The fact that your choice will be taken away from is extremely disappointing and it has been a feature of life for many women. I’m trying not to write up a feminist rant but, it’s unfortunate how we can’t have control over decisions that affect us directly. For example, in the movie, a professor was discussing how men would see girls hijab and started to pressurize their female relations to do the same. Why is that a trend? How would forcing your daughter to wear a hijab help you accomplish anything? Similarly, why would you force your daughter to take off her hijab if that is what she identifies with?

I have had friends in both positions and, to speak my truth, the girls who are forced have and will take off the hijab the moment they are out of sight.  Likewise, the girls who believe in the hijab and that definition of modesty will cover up in the ways they can.  If it was just the issue of a hijab, a burking, and clothing in general, I might be able to see how men would try to cover up women. I mean we all know how distracting spaghetti straps and naked shoulders are to the male population. However, the issue of decision-making does not end at clothing.  Others are always making decisions for women whether it be for marriage or healthcare.  Regardless of how progressive we think our beloved country is, we treat our women based on the same principles that other societies do but we cover it up by giving examples of countries that have very obvious wrongdoings.

http://blogs.cornell.edu/rosescholarsfall16/2017/03/04/women-societies-…ons-and-religion/

I had this blog post in the fall area by accident. oops!

Entitlement

It’d be easy for me to write something about how I sympathize with the union worker’s plight. I could write about how, having grown up in California, these issues are near and relevant to me.

I’m unable to do that, though.

My house was one of the houses the cleaning ladies would clean. My Mom, who was (and probably still is) constantly filling her schedule with commitments, felt unnerved by how she was unable to clean the house once every week. She hired some cleaning ladies, who happened to be Mexican. She paid them well, and often gave them bonuses. But to me, they weren’t under me, and they weren’t over me. They were just people doing their jobs, and they were damn good at it, too.

My neighborhood mostly consisted of middle class Asians– Chinese and Indians comprised the vast majority. I would often hear little snippets of Mandarin disparaging the Mexican immigrants, claiming that they have it easy with Social Security. I heard of a Mexican family who was evicted after not paying rent for half a year. Once the house was reclaimed by the worried landlords, they had to spend more money than they gained cleaning and repairing furniture in order to make it sell-able.

Why did I say all this? I said all that to let you know that I’ve lived an entitled life surrounded by people who subtly encouraged my feelings of entitlement.

However, while I can’t relate to the union worker’s plight, I can relate to humanity.

Humanity is something most everyone has, and most everyone holds dear. A concept of Good or Bad might be influenced by upbringing or society, but love and hate, tears and laughter, these are all universally relatable things, human things. This is why the film made me think about why I’m entitled, and why I should worry about the unions and the people in those unions, even though I might never be on the receiving end. They risk and sacrifice everything for what they feel is right, like Robin Hood and his band of merry men.

Though it sounds cliche to say it, this film opened my eyes to the struggle of these people. And, though the film may have taken place a long time ago, the sermon it preaches remain painfully relevant.

A Sobering Film

I read an interesting article recently about the future of BMIs. You can see the article below, if you want.

 

Neuralink and the Brain’s Magical Future

You might ask, “David, why is this relevant?” I doubt anyone is willing to read through that 30,000 word monster, but the article does discuss a lot of things about the future of the BMI industry, and how, through the power of increasingly advanced technology, we will be able to transcend inefficient “communication by words.”

It also discusses many fixes for current brain and spine-based problems, such as deafness or blindness. Current technologies to alleviate blindness and deafness are primitive, but you can sure bet that they’ll improve in the future.

Having watched A Beautiful Mind, I’ve come to realize that these incredible innovations– things that will make quadriplegics skip and jump again, things that will make painters out of blind men and composers out of the deaf– cannot necessarily fix what is truly deep down in our mind. If something goes wrong in there, well, it’ll still be wrong.

The article discusses how if complete knowledge of the brain equates to travelling a mile, we’ve only discovered about three inches of that mile. We might know which neurons trigger which parts of the brain, or which chemicals cause happiness or sadness, but we cannot give instructions to the brain to activate those specific neurons. Even if we did, we simply don’t possess the proper “programming language,” and if we did, it would take an absurd amount of resources to implement.

The article also mentions that we might be able to change how certain sensations feel. In the far future, with super-advanced BMIs, people can even relegate pain to something far less pleasant– like an alert, or a noise. “STOP USING THAT LEG, IT HAS BEEN SEVERED,” might pop up in the corner of your eye, far preferable to white-hot lances of pain rocketing across your spine. But the affliction Nash had was one of perception. To him, nothing seemed wrong, so even with this super advanced tech, he would not be able to fix himself. The only cure was to battle against the most powerful enemy– one’s own brain.

It’s a sobering thought, and it encourages solipsism as much as the Matrix did. What if I had been suffering similar ailments? Would anyone know? Because I certainly wouldn’t.

Score, THEN Slip!

Art has always had an interesting place in my life. When I was younger, I was forced into it by my parents, thinking that art is something to be appended onto a resume. I withdrew from art for a long period of time, focusing on sciences and subconsciously deriding those who would appreciate and practice art.

From a strictly money-based perspective, art isn’t really too practical. Many people I know like to tout the statistic that only the top 10% of professional artists can live comfortably. I hear stories from my parents of impoverished, yet talented, Chinese artists, willing to sell some admittedly nice looking paintings for a pittance.

As I grew, I started to wonder why people would make themselves undergo such struggles for such superficial benefit. The second time I explored art, I did it on my own volition. Some art classes and orchestra rehearsals later, I think I have a bit of a better idea about art than I did in the days of yore.

Despite my newfound interest in art, I still find traversing museums more onerous than fascinating. Perhaps a few pieces would strike my fancy, and I could appreciate the effort and creativity that went into making said pieces. But, once I’ve seen a hundred or a thousand pieces of similar quality requiring similar skill,  I begin to lose interest. I lose my appreciation for beauty once I’m surrounded by it, constantly, for hours on end.

When I visited the small exhibition in the storage room of the Johnson, this was no sprawling expanse of reputable artworks; it was a handpicked collection of relics, practical and realistic articles from central America. The tour guide pointed out things that were, on one hand, obvious, but on the other hand, easy to miss on the first glance. This was especially proven by the “jelly doughnut” teapot, which was actually an oil spill.

I can’t say that I truly appreciate ceramics anymore than I did before, and nor can I say that I was dazzled by the art collection I saw. As I struggled to mold the clay into something that looked more meaningful than an oblong grey lump, however, I did start to understand how much of an endeavor it was to create something practical and nice looking.

Mulan: Shakespeare’s Parody

Never having been exposed to  Twelfth Night prior to Slope Day, seeing it for the first time that day was a truly eye-opening experience. The play deftly handled topics on gender identity and sexuality, and even though I’d never had a personal connection with these topics, I was able to quite easily have an emotional connection with the characters and their struggles.

According to Sara, the GRF sponsoring the event, older men at that time would be a sexual mentor, of sorts, to younger men, who would have these initial sexual encounters but would end up marrying women. Gay sex was usually emotionally detached, and in this way homosexuality was relatively de-stigmatized during Shakespeare’s time. In the Twelfth Night, I was shocked that homosexuality was discussed so openly and explicitly, especially for this time period. In an interesting parallel, a male (Cesario) and female (Malvolia) servant were both in love with their master (Orsino) and mistress (Olivia), respectively, although the attraction is only returned by the master.

Introduced at The Elephant, a drag queen made a quick appearance by way of a conversation with Sebastian. Drag queens have an interesting gender identity because they typically identify as men, but also have a persona who is female and referred to with female pronouns. This persona is almost seen as a separate human, a character they play, one that shares a body with the drag queen but is not the same person and at the end of the day they often still identify as male (although there are also plenty of drag queens who come out later as trans*). This is another parallel, albeit inverted, because Viola has a very similar experience in the play where she identifies as a woman but has a male persona (Cesario) who is a distinct character that she doesn’t wish to become.

I really enjoyed how this play handled sexuality and gender identity, because it was written and performed in such a way that these characteristics did not seem to affect a person’s intrinsic self. Someone can have any loyalties, interests, moral inclinations, etc. – the things that make up someone’s intrinsic self – and these aspects will be unaffected by their sexuality or gender identity.

I’ll leave you with one final, poignant question: WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH CHRISTMAS????

Cut the “Cord”

I’ll be honest, I assumed this Rose Cafe would be about assisted suicide based on the title. So I was very surprised when Jeff Prince started talking about cutting cable and switching to other forms of media. Probably the most interesting thing that I learned from this talk was the difference between latency and bandwidth, and when each would be most important. Professor Blalock provided the best analogy–he said you should imagine them as a highway, where bandwidth is the number of lanes on the highway and latency is the length of the highway. So at a certain point, high bandwidth loses its relevance because there are already enough lanes, but latency can always be reduced. I would have to agree with Professor Prince that latency is the future, and that putting your money into smaller latency would result in faster internet than higher bandwidth. I also really enjoyed Prince’s discussion of his research, because he discussed selection biases as well as difficulties with surveys. It was a reminder to always question the statistics you see day to day, because almost all data can be skewed due to some sort of bias or inaccuracy inherent in the experiment. Honestly, I didn’t think I would enjoy a talk that was so tech-y, but I was fascinated by the subject. Cornell really pushes you to specialize early and stop exploring new subjects, but this was a good reminder to keep trying to push the boundaries of what you already know interests you–because you never know what might pull you in!

City of Stars

La La Land had all the workings of a cheesy, fun musical. I enjoyed some of the songs throughout the film, especially “City of Stars.” When I went to watch this film, I was not sure about what to expect. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone would be the last people I would cast for a musical. Therefore, in the beginning I did not expect much from them musically. However, I was pleasantly surprised that they sounded okay. The plot of this musical was the typical story of two struggling entertainers trying to make it in a world that does not really appreciate their craft. Eventually, they both succeed and become the top of their game. This however comes with a trade off. Throughout the movie Mia (Emma Stone) and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) were involved in a whirlwind romance however, they do not end up together in the end. Overall, this movie was good, not oscar nominating worthy but I guess with the lack of musicals these days it has to suffice.

Alternative Facts

The Matrix has been on my “movies to watch” list for a long time. This movie has been hyped up for me for a long time and I must say, I fininshed this movie feeling disappointed. The message of this movie seemed to be “rebel just because you can.” It seemed as the main character, Neo, wanted to live in a world without rules and things just happened because they could. He was so quick to escape the Matrix to be free from the rule of the machines in order to be “free” in the “real” world. However, I did not understand what was so bad about the Matrix. If Neo wanted to choose to live in the “real” world, that is good for him but what is so bad about wanting to stay in the Matrix? In the “real” world Neo would be fighting a pointless fight. Personally, I feel that the machines are just like Neo and his whole gang. They want people to live in the world they deem as acceptable. Neo and his people are trying to convince people that the “real world” is great and that they should break free from their chains in the matrix and become a different type of slave in the “real world.” Sure you’ll know that you are living a lie if you go into the real world but knowing that does not really change the fact that no matter which reality you choose, you can shape it to what you want it to be. I think that the fight between the machines and Neo is pointless because at they end of the day I think that they are just trying to take the power for themselves and convince people that their choice of life is the best. If I had a choice, I would choose the Matrix simply because it has better food.

Illusion of Sanctuary

Earlier this semester, interim president Hunter Rawlings claimed Cornell as a “sancutary campus.” Due to the current climate with immigration rights and undocumented students, many students on campus felt at ease when this message came out because it seemed to ensure the safety of their friends. I too was very happy with this declaration. However, after this table talk, I learned that “sancutary” means different things across different campuses. Prior to attending this table talk, I thought sancutary meant that the campus would protect the identity of all undocumented students and not allow any immigration officers on campus to question students. To my surprise, Esmeralda told us that Cornell would comply with any petition submitted by an official and release the name of the student in question. Upon learning this, I felt as if I had been led to believe that Cornell would protect the identities of undocumented students. This just shows that as students, we have to read between the lines and do our own research to uncover the truth of these matters. One statement that resonated with me at this table talk was when Esmeralda urged us all to “stay vigilant.” This is very important because actual lives are at stake. It is important that we are involved in conversations among students and faculty. Cornell students must stand in solidarity with our fellow students and let them know that we support them wholeheartedly. It is easy to get comfortable with issues which do not pertain to us however, the poet Martin Niemoeller said it best:

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

 

Mad MAX

Like any other action movie, Mad Max 3 does not disappoint us with its intense action scenes. The movie title includes the phrase: Beyond Thunderdome, which is the name of the fighting arena. The fighters are on elastic bands in a small upside down dome-like arena where they can jump at each other and use weapons such as crossbows and axes. Some of the best fight scenes in the movie occur in this dome.

The Thunderdome is notorious for a quote: “Two man enter, one man leaves.” Max faces one of his strongest opponents here, named Blaster who he is able to beat but refuses to kill. This upsets the leader of Bartertown, Aunty, where the Thunderdome is located, and she casts Max into the desert. Max is found and saved and brought to a community with only children and teenagers, who had crashed there in a plane. Initially, Max does not want to help them leave, but he ends up being a hero, crashing through Aunty’s men and helping the children escape. Max is left to wander the desert, looking for new journeys and adventures to take on.

I had seen the newer Mad Max before this movie and I thought it was interesting how the two are set in Australia, depicting the world as a nuclear wasteland. This movie seemed to have a better plot and richer characters than the newer movie which is mostly just an endless series of action scenes.

What Do People Really Want

This week, the Rose Scholars had the pleasure of being visited by Jeff Prince, a professor of Business Economics and Public Policy from Indiana University. He spoke to us about the difficulties of really understanding what the consumer is looking for in products. Whether it be efficiency, portability, content, the only way to really figure out what the consumer wants is to collect data and from there make deductions. When you survey someone, usually people either don’t take it seriously or they are not honest in their responses. For this reason, “free” online websites collect viewership data in order to calculate what is the best way to keep the user engaged and target their needs through computer programming. It was interesting to learn about the issues consumers face with frequency versus bandwidth. Personally, both concepts were unfamiliar to me at the time, but basically, it involves the length of time it takes for a signal to reach a satellite, bounce off, arrive at its destination, and return a response. 

A topic that is of great concern involving the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) nowadays is the issue of net neutrality. This principle states that Internet service providers and governments regulating the Internet will treat all data the same not charging differently for any circumstances. However, if we were to eliminate this, dominant communication companies would monopolize the entire system of communications by being able to afford the fastest services to the most people. Prince spoke about the issues with this and how the new FCC has made strides in eliminating this policy. If such a policy were to be eliminated completely, then we would be forced to trust either three or four organization in informing us of the truth. Though technically people would still be able to express their opinions online, accessing this information could be costly and in some people’s opinions, impractical. 

Though it is still uncertain as to the future of online access, the fact of the matter is that people are always looking for two things, practicality, and efficiency. If you can say the message in thirty words instead of one hundred, people will choose to read the shorter article. If you can access information in two seconds instead of two minutes, people will choose that as well. Seeing as to how technology continues to innovate with each coming year, there is already talk about there being four main monopolies that govern all social media the public has access to. However, with this in mind, there are still rules in place to make sure they do not obtain too much power, which would be harmful to all everyone’s privacy and knowledge. It was really great having an experienced professor such as Prince come and speak with us, and I hope to apply to their business program in the future if possible.

A Strange Love for Distrust

A perfectly executed satire, “Dr. Strangelove” offers an all to necessary reflection in political modes and thoughts of countries and generations. By following three separate stories before the mutual destruction of the world’s greatest superpowers, and as a consequence the destruction of the world, we see as political correctness of the president coupled with the war-crazed nature of the general leads to the classic slow moving bureaucratic nature of the government allows the world to come to an end. Every party seems so determined to fulfilling their role, even down to the Russian who continues spying as bombs are dropping, that we begin to see how nonsensical the nature of our actions in real life can be when we too adhere more to a role than common sense.

It might be overdone and a little too easy a target to relate Kubrick’s political satire to current events, but I believe it is necessary for change even if futile. From the Red Scare of the 50’s to today’s fear of Russian electoral sabotage, it seems people crave conflict despite the consequences. “Dr. Strangelove” showed a more extreme consequence of distrust, but a very possible reality for that time. In our times, the fear of destruction has subsided, but still existent is an opposition to working with possible allies. It seems both political parties are too busy again filling their roles instead of objectively looking at facts and acting on them. When it comes to cyber infiltration, Democrats may be correct and if they are, then Republicans and any supported of democratic systems should oppose Russian meddling. Similarly, a large body of proof is needed to support their claims before we begin blaming a possible ally and again putting ourselves in a position of political distrust just so one can appease their constituents. For the most parts these fears are nonsensical, no crazier that the idea that people are trying to steal “our precious bodily fluids.”

Our world is filled with violent interactions between people and countries, that it becomes hard to imagine what we could achieve if we all worked towards common goals we can agree on. Certain universal goals that all people could strive for like a cleaner planet or pushing space exploration. Instead we’re stuck dumping money into defense in fear that people with different ideas are trying to kill us when at the base level people just want to live and let live.

The State of the Net with Dr. Jeff Prince

The Rose Cafe featuring Indiana University economics professor Jeff Prince was my first experience with Rose Cafes and I was honestly surprised at the thought provoking nature of the discussion we had regarding internet adoption, marketing, and neutrality of the internet. Dr. Jeff Prince is an experienced economist who has had the opportunity to research and experience the growth of the internet to its current state and brought interesting case studies and insight into the future of the market. His background in marketing allowed for a more nuanced discussion concerning the popular topic of net neutrality that I highly appreciated.

When net neutrality is discussed in media, think comedy shows and magazines, the debate is pretty one sided with the opposition bringing up very valid arguments against the idea of placing the internet in a more free market environment. The common argument that has been the foundation for current regulation was the opposition towards innovation stifling by larger companies who could dominate the free-market of the internet should net neutrality end. The Rose Cafe helped discuss what proponents of ceasing net neutrality don’t often get to communicate to customers. In essence, ending net neutrality could theoretically aid everyone from business to consumers by allowing the usual benefits of the free market, which would be competition leading to better products for lower prices. The idea of ending net neutrality never really entered my mind, but when put into a market perspective, I am a supporter of competition and relaxing regulations for certain businesses and this Rose Cafe helped me see the internet more as a business waiting to flourish. It’s a lot to trust companies with serving consumers if net neutrality is ended which is why I still side with net neutrality, but there are definitely arguments to be made against that shouldn’t be overlooked just because supporting net neutrality is popular.

Also in the discussion was some good dialogue concerning certain internet terms and how exactly the internet is priced. The very necessary distinction between the supply and demand side of the internet in the net neutrality debate was also mentioned and possibly soothed some misplaced worries that some people may have had when imagining the end of net neutrality. Consuming information from the media has helped in understanding the broader details, but I definitely believe some type of internet literacy course that touches on regulations is necessary for everyone considering that this age is defined by the connectivity of the internet.

Review of “A Beautiful Mind”

The film “A Beautiful Mind” follows the life of John Nash, a genius mathematician and economist, who lives a high stakes life code breaking and escaping soviets during  the Cold War era only to realize his life is a collection of schizophrenic thoughts that he must try and overcome. John Nash’s life offers an inspiring story of willpower and a terrifying glimpse into the reality of mental illness. John’s life as portrayed in film invites a deeper inspection into just how strange the brain is and how we perceive the world around us.

After viewing the film, I had to question just how accurately the hallucinations were depicted as John’s behavior was noticeably out of the ordinary, yet it seems he was only stopped very late in his illness. He had an imaginary roommate that any friend would have noticed as a the beginning of his condition, yet he was able to go through college and work for what seemed to be a good amount of time for an imaginary task force before finally being diagnosed. While I’m certain his life was portrayed in this manner for good cinema and a more serious reading into this would give a more accurate timeline, it definitely makes you question how long certain symptoms can go unnoticed. It’s a horrifying thought that what you believe to be true could be a fabrication and, even worse, that fabrication may seem so real that you refuse to believe it’s in your head. I’m not exactly certain how a regular person would be able to overcome this affliction and that’s perhaps why Nash’s battle with the disease is so inspiring. John Nash had to give up what he thought was part of his life, a courageous decision that I wouldn’t want to ever have to make.

I was also surprised and saddened to find out Nash had just recently passed away. I am glad his struggle was told to a wide audience and I am always reminded after viewing “A Beautiful Mind” to be grateful for good health and be more conscious of diseases that others struggle to combat.

Last Rose Cafe- Netflix and the decline of cable T.V.

This cafe introduced many new words and concepts such as latency and bandwidth. These concepts are extremely important, affecting the speed of the internet are serving as determining factors for people’s choice of internet/cable providers. I thought the speaker brought up an interesting point when he noted that we have become so accustomed to the fast loading of the internet. It is very true that if a page takes even a minute to load, we will close the page and not even bother. This can result in loss of profit for companies such as Amazon, for example if the buying page is not loading then customers will just decide not to buy or choose a different source for their purchase. I also thought it was interesting to hear about the rise of netflix and the decline in cable television. With the internet and netflix where various sources of movies and shows are readily available, cable television becomes less desired. We have slowly seen the effects of netflix with companies such as blockbuster. Blockbuster was everyone’s source for renting movies, but slowly ran out of business with the popularity of netflix on the rise. It will be interesting to see the directions that netflix will take and the effect it will have on other companies.

Utility of Martial Arts

The film “The Professor: Tai Chi’s Journey West” provided some insightful information concerning the practice of Tai Chi and spread of the art. The professor, Cheng Man-Ching, managed to overcome certain barriers required to spread his ideas beyond China and into America during a time where the U.S was more receptive to spiritual learning. Cheng Man-Ching’s impact on his pupils was impressive as many of them continued the school even after his passing and would relate stories of his teachings or lessons. The film managed to capture this growing society of Tai Chi practitioners and the bonds created, which is really the essence of art, but also gave some considerably distorted views of the capabilities Tai Chi.

I don’t expect everyone who viewed the film to believe the small, aging  Professor was able to launch grown men and women 4 or 5  feet, and even in the film it was stated that the participants in Tai Chi sparring didn’t resist losing, but even then it was exaggerated. I don’t particularly agree with portraying Tai Chi or any martial arts as bestowing some sort of super-human capabilities. I’m reminded of a recent bout in China between an MMA fighter and a Wu Shu master practicing the “Thunder Style” Tai Chi which ended in roughly ten seconds. The result of the fight was as expected and shown in numerous fights before where the brutal form of mixed martial arts with its ground combat aspect typically beats out the grace of martial arts. What was more revealing in that fight was the nation’s response to the display. Multiple news outlets and citizens through social media lambasted the MMA fighter, calling him crazy and denouncing the fight. The picture of the aggressive young fighter ground pounding the master deeply offended the Chinese people because Tai Chi and other martial arts are essential to Chinese culture. This sort of recognition of the historical significance and the respect for the artistic style is what I believe should be the emphasis when discussing martial arts that the film could have focused on.

The film explained the spiritual purpose of Tai Chi as a way to relax and act as a sort of guiding lifestyle where you flow past adversity instead of directly opposing it. If the film could have made more of a mention as to the significance of Tai Chi and martial arts beyond a sort of yoga without implying that it was physically empowering, I believe the film could have steered away from the overly devout clan vibe it was giving off when hippies were being thrown an unreasonable distance.

Neruda

The movie Neruda portrays the political aspects of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda’s life. The movie was more centered around the point in Neruda’s life when he hails communism despite the fact that the president in Chile is against the communist party. The president demands his arrest, turning Neruda into an underground fugitive, with an inspector who is following his trail. Neruda taunts the regime and the inspector on several occasions, where he is intent on making appearances and being in contact with the people. He moves people with his words and speeches about the suffering of the poor and virtues of communism. He makes a few unsuccessful attempts to flee Chile. Ultimately, Pablo chooses a path through the mountains bordering Argentina. The inspector follows him into the mountains but dies in an attack by locals. The ending was somewhat confusing to me (I may need to watch the movie again.) During his last moments, the inspector could still hear Pablo’s words on how Pablo is the person who created him. And when Pablo hears his name being called in the mountains, he goes towards the inspector and appears to know what is happening. In the end, Pablo manages to leave Chile. The movie portrays Pablo as the protagonist and the inspector as the antagonist, and each is a necessary ingredient in making the other character shine through. It’s almost as if one could not exist without the presence of the other, which may also explain the still confusing ending
Before watching the movie Neruda, I remembered that I had read one of his poems in my literature class and I did not know much about him. I was quite fascinated with how a poet can be remembered in the society for their political influence, and that there were many facets to Pablo’s life besides being a poet. Overall, the movie is a deep and moving portrayal of a window in Pablo’s life and character.

Climate March on Washington

This Saturday, I went to D.C. for the Climate March on Washington with Cornell. This meant packing our bags (with who knows what- would this rally become another Berkeley?), staying up till 2:00 AM, then boarding a bus with dozens of other sleep-deprived Cornell students.

We got driving around 2:30. The main lights went out in the bus, leaving only the pale green emergency lights to keep the bus from being as dark as the night outside the windows. I rested my head against the pane and got a few winks of sleep here and there, mostly tossing and turning until 9:00 AM when we arrived at our destination.

It was my first time in D.C., and I was, with bittersweet gladness, cognizant it was under strange circumstances. On one hand, I was here to exercise my voice as a student, a scholar, and a citizen. On the other, it was to protest against one of the most controversial men in American history and his denial of what is the most pressing matter of our time: climate change.

I remember sitting in a Green Cities class Fall semester and having a guest lecturer tell us his story. He was a successful consultant for big oil and gas companies until, midway through his career, he had a epiphany and decided to quit his job to tell people about the damage oil/gas was doing. He showed us all the graphs and all the research and ended the lecture with, “This is your generation’s problem. You are the last hope”. I became a vegetarian that week.

Standing there, in front of the White House, with hundreds of thousands of other citizens from around the country was empowering. It gave me hope to think that I was not alone in this fight. That I was not crazy, contrary to what my government would have me believe. Though I was frightened by the current possessors of power, as I looked around at the young crowd, I had no doubt that it was only a matter of time before my generation turned this around.

Dr. Strangelove

Before watching this movie, our GRF Ty spoke to us about Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) and how two powers with nuclear weapons can mutually guarantee to destruct each other. We also discussed whether massive retaliation (as advocated by MAD) is more or less effective as a deterrent compared to a flexible and proportionate response.

 

Dr. Strangelove is a satirical movie about the terror and absurdity of US and USSR policies during the cold war era. It is directed by the famed Stanley Kubrick, and casts Peter Sellers in three different roles (a British Air Force Captain, US President, and Dr. Strangelove). His most humorous role is reserved for Dr. Strangelove, an ex-Nazi scientist who serves the President as scientific advisor. The plot involves an insane US General who initiates a bombing attack on Soviet Union, under Plan R (contingency plan that allows a senior office to launch a strike if all superiors have been killed by a first strike by USSR). As part of the intense discussions between US and Soviet Union in war room, the soviet ambassador informs the President that the soviets have created a doomsday device that is set to detonate automatically should any nuclear attack strike their country. The device cannot be untriggered, and will encircle the earth in a radioactive cloud that will wipe out all life on earth and make it uninhabitable for 93 years. Dr. Strangelove points out that such a deterrent would only work if the other side knows about it, and the soviet ambassador responds that the plan was to announce it to the world in a week. The movie ends with one of the US planes dropping a nuclear bomb on USSR, which in turn triggers the doomsday device.
The movie does a wonderful job of using satire to point out the absurdity of using mutual destruction as a workable deterrent. It shows that any protocol or scenario can lead to potentially unforeseen consequences that can be detrimental to our existence. I both enjoyed the entertainment value of the movie, and also developed a better appreciation of a proportional response as a deterrent compared to MAD (which definiitely has an apropos acronym ;-).

Bread, Roses, and the Right to Unionize

In Flora’s Friday Films, we watched the movie Bread and Roses, which follows an undocumented immigrant, named Maya, as she tries to aid her fellow janitorial workers in LA in getting better working conditions. Maya comes to the United States, and lives with her sister Rosa and her family. Rosa gets Maya a job (at a price) with her as a janitor. It quickly becomes apparent that these janitors work in subpar conditions. In one particularly striking scene, we watch as a janitor, who is the breadwinner for her family in El Salvador, gets fired because her bus arrived late to work. Maya herself has to give her first month’s paycheck to her supervisor as payment for getting the job. As Maya gets to know her fellow janitors, and watches as her sister Rosa is unable to pay for proper medical care for her husband despite working overtime, she encourages her fellow workers to fight for unionization with the help of union organizer Sam Shapiro. Despite some setbacks and a personal rift that grows between Rosa and Maya, due to some hard decisions, the Janitors are successful and do earn union rights. The film presented us with a harsh reality of the lives of some undocumented immigrants and custodial workers. One of the janitors sets aside his paycheck to get a deposit on a scholarship. Rosa, in order to pay for her husbands treatment, must sell out her fellow workers to their supervisor in hopes of getting a better paying job. Maya herself is deported after robbing a convenience store to help one of her janitors get enough money for his scholarship deposit, after a majority of the janitors are fired for protesting at a high class party. This film gave me a perspective on the struggles of undocumented immigrants and the working class, and important it is to ensure that all have a proper standard of living.

Getting away from Cornell and serving our Community

For my Rose event this week, I tried out something new: I joined a few people going off campus to Catholic Charities of Ithaca, who was holding a free yard sale for members of the Ithaca community, and helped them set up and organize clothes for a couple of hours. Initially, I had my reservations about doing this particular event, but after it was all said and done, I was very glad I did. Engaging in an event that would positively impact the lives of those in our community was refreshing- I got to meet people I wouldn’t otherwise encounter during my normal day here at Cornell. In addition, it felt good to help other people, and get off campus, and the responsibilities that come with it, for a bit. Although I spent a couple of hours bustling around and attempting to keep some semblance of organization to an ever shifting pile of clothes, I felt more relaxed upon my return than when I left. It reminded me that sometimes it can be helpful, and relaxing to get away from Cornell for a bit and try something different. We even got a nice before and after picture of our table of wares.

Before

…and After

Thoughts on A Beautiful Mind

In Flora’s Friday Films, we watched a movie about the life of John Nash, a brilliant mathematician, and his struggles with schizophrenia thought his life. We first meet John in graduate school at Princeton, as a bright, but socially awkward student, who held a certain disdain some aspects of college life, including attending class. He struggles to find an appropriate subject to research during his time there, but with the encouragement of his roommate, he eventually publishes an article that would later revolutionize economic theory. He becomes a professor, and is approached by the Department of Defense to decode enemy transmissions. He spends a majority of his time doing this and dropping off the decoded messages at a pre-approved drop site. He also gets married, after getting reunited with his old college roommate and meeting his niece. The film takes a surprising turn when viewers learn that all of his work for the Department of Defense was imagined, and his roommate and her niece are all side effects of his schizophrenia. With the help of his wife, he eventually learns to recognize people around him who are imagined, and ignores them, rather than take medication, which dulls his mind. Eventually, he eases himself back into the world of academia, and becomes a Nobel Laureate in the field of Economics. I really enjoyed this movie. It gave me a new perspective on schizophrenia- I was just as shocked as John Nash’s character when he learned that such major aspects of his life were imagined. I was also very impressed with  his determination to overcome his difficulties, and his ability to prevent setbacks from discouraging him. In all, I gained a new perspective on mental illness, and the power of proper motivation.

Dr. Strangelove, and Mutually Assured Destruction

Dr. Strangelove is a 1964 film that takes a satirical stance on a then stressful and serious situation: the Cold War. In the post World War Two Landscape, the United States and the Soviet Union fought to become the premier world power. In that power struggle, both sides worked hard to create an arsenal of Nuclear Weapons in an effort to hold the other in check. Both the United States and the Soviet Union worked under the concept of mutually assured destruction: If one side used their nuclear weapons, which had and incredible amount of destructive power, the other side could retaliate with their own nuclear arsenal, which would ensure the destruction of both sides. In Dr. Strangelove, a United States general orders a strike on the Soviet Union. When the other heads of the military and the President become aware of this, they scramble to undo the damage caused by this general, and prevent the apocalypse. Despite some amusing banter in the War Room, and between the leaders of the United States and the Soviet Union, the bomb reaches an altered destination and detonates. As the President and is leaders attempt to make a plan for saving some of the population in mine shafts, with a “breeding program” (10:1 ratio of females to males) the Soviets’ own weapon detonates, destroying life on earth. Dr. Strangelove presented an alternate, rather morbid view on the arms race: destruction is unavoidable, so stop worrying about it.

Food and Feminism and Microaggressions

Microaggressions are hard to deal with.

I’m familiar the them in regards to race, but as a male, I have obviously never endured the ones used on women.

One girl, sitting across from me at the table mentioned how, in her bio class, during a group project, one man in her group after divying up the tasks to the other men in her group, said something to her the effect of “Don’t worry- we’ll get it done and then you can just copy”. There are two different assumptions this guy could have made: 1) this girl wasn’t smart and could therefore not handle doing any of the work involved in the project or 2) as a man, he was somehow responsible for this helpless girl. Obviously, neither are true, and both are insulting. Particularly the second one, because I think we have grown up with this toxic idea that women are to be cared for, that a true gentleman doesn’t let a girl lift a finger. Though its always nice to be courteous, there is fine line between that and falling into the fallacy that women can’t do things on their own. Men aren’t needed. We don’t have to do a girl’s homework for her.

I walked away a little more concious about how my words could convey these sentiments, and hoped to aware of that going forward.

Coffee deep in the not-Cornell part of Ithaca

The “Leftist” Espresso was on the top of the list. I already liked this place.

The day had been dreary, but the company made up for it. We took a bus from Libe Slope down to the Commons, then proceeded to walk 20 minutes out to Gimme Coffee! This was my first time getting coffee from them, and as a self-pronounced coffee connoisseur, I was quite excited. Since April/May had rolled around, and the mountainous weight of the end of the academic year at Cornell had been pressing upon my shoulders, my coffee intake has skyrocketed. This event was perfectly timed for me.

When we got there, ordered our coffee, and settled in, we all went around in a circle and shared our favorite stories about coffee. I shared mine: when I was out of school and working full time on the comprehensive plan for the City of Laredo, I was tasked with bringing life to our downtown, which was becoming emptier and emptier by the day. We wanted something to appeal to the young college crowd, but not a bar, and a place where people could go to hang out, a place for arts and live music: a coffeeshop! So, for the better part of the year, we worked on getting a coffee shop to open up on our targeted Iturbide street.

The conversation evolved from personal stories to conversations about Artificial Intelligence to the classic Harry Potter vs. Lord of the Rings discussion (Team Tolkien). It was such a great conversation it continued from the coffee shop through the entire walk back and through the bus ride back. This event wasn’t rigorously planned, but it certainly was one of the most fulfilling and memorable.

The Matrix: A Paradigm Shift on Reality

During Flora’s Friday Films, we watched The Mattrix, a movie about machines taking planet Earth over and using humans as power sources, while placing them in an alternate reality. A computer hacker named Neo becomes aware of this fact when he encounters a group of humans who have been fighting the computers, and their control over humans. By becoming aware of the true nature of the world that he lived in and believing in that fact, he and the other rebels can access supernatural abilities otherwise unknown to them. As I watched the matrix, some interesting thoughts on reality came to mind. Is reality as absolute as we really think? Or is it more subjective? Neo and his friends would be considered insane by the other humans , but their assessment of the world would be correct. On the other hand, the computers, could have presented a different reality to them, and they are in fact still sedated, and being harvested on. In addition, one of the rebels betrayed the others, in exchange for a memory wipe so that he could return to the old world. By choosing a reality that he preferred, does that make the original reality the true one for that particular rebel? Or is he just choosing to live in ignorance? The matrix made me rethink my thoughts on reality- and think about the integrity of my own… just a little bit.

Final Rose Café of Spring 2017

The final Rose Café of the semester focused on cutting the cord and using internet based entertainment such as Netflix or other streaming services. The talk was timely because earlier this week I had talked to my parents about canceling our TV service in favor of a service such as YouTube TV. Luckily, my family has internet service that can support streaming services, so we have the opportunity to consider alternate services. However, the speaker stressed the importance of bandwidth and latency in internet services.

The speaker’s research focuses on determining consumer’s willingness to pay for increased bandwidth or decreased latency. This is a difficult problem because many consumers do not understand the differences and even when explained they might give inaccurate information when their money is not on the line.

It seems natural that more and more people will cut the cord and shift towards online options. I can easily foresee never subscribing to cable or landline phone in my life. Besides live sporting events, I almost never miss TV at school with online options such as Netflix. I am excited to see how these online services will enhance the user experience with TV instead of just moving the same content to a new device.

SUN Coffee and Fair Labor

Keith Lemnios, the CEO of Sun Coffee came to speak to us about Sun Coffee’s marketing strategies and the new frontiers they are approaching. As a current marketing student, this Cafe was particularly interesting to me.

Mr. Lemnios spoke about his companies effort to partner with universities. Sun Coffee takes pride in its ability to maintain and practice good labor laws and fair trade practices. Since university students are more concerned about advertising for just labor laws and fair trade practices, this partnership greatly benefits the company.

It was interesting to hear Mr. Lemnios to speak about his insight on marketing. He mentioned that more and more, consumers are concerned about how the products that they consume are being produced. The background of the product is becoming as important as the product itself. It was refreshing to hear the the CEO of such a successful company put so much emphasis on fair labor practices.

Building Brotherhood on West Campus

I really enjoyed this Rose Cafe, because I finally got to sit down with Dr. Hill and discuss his ideas for a developing a better sense of community on west campus housing systems. Students had different ideas that were raised to have a better sense of belonging and unique culture in each house.

One interesting idea was to encourage interhouse sportsmanship. The competitive nature of sports and students at this school would encourage a camaraderie between residents on a team. Another interesting idea was for each of the 5 west campus dorms to “adopt” a dorm on north campus. This way freshman will already know which dorm they will be a part of as sophomores, and maybe juniors or seniors at Cornell.

Sitting with Dr. Hill and discussing these unique ideas was a very fulfilling experience. I felt that he really took our ideas into consideration and genuinely wanted to encourage more brotherhood between residents of each of the main houses.

Age and Liberalism

A touching film telling the story of the struggle in the creation of a union, Bread and Roses had me watery eyed at many scenes. Maya and her sister Rosa reflect two different ways to handle struggle. Maya, a headstrong girl , leads the fight for unionization. On the other hand, Rosa keeps her head down, shies away from trouble, and is happy with being able to put food on. Neither is better or worse, but what interests me is how age plays a role in their actions. Maya is the much younger, more naive, little sister while Rosa is married with two teenage kids. Their personality differences reminded me of how individuals generally become more conservative as they age. When I look upon our liberal campus bubble, I wonder how much of it is permanent. And what makes people change from being liberal to being conservative? Liberalism surely matches the freedom of youth, risk-taking and . The hard-hat riots, alluded to in the movie, were riots consisting of blue-collar construction workers beating youth student protesters as the workers saw the students as ungrateful. The idea of protesting is very much associated with youth and the response of those who are older has overall been seeing us as foolish. It will be interesting to see how our generation changes as we grow older to understand why and how this documented change occurs.

Bread and Roses has a realism that too many movies lack. The ending isn’t a happily ever after–Maya ends up with the troublemaking Sam instead of the sweet, hard-working Luis. But who knows, maybe she’ll change her mind when she’s older.

Fight For Your Dreams

Last Friday, we watched Bread and Roses, a movie that depicted the lives of immigrant workers and the difficulties that they had to go through. Not only had the workers had to go through bad treatment at work, but they also had extremely low wages. Seeing this movie has made me a lot appreciative of my own personal experiences given the opportunities I have with higher education and at the same time made me realize how difficult it really is for people who do not have these chances.

In addition, it was kind of like revisiting all of the history that I’ve learned throughout the years. Sam, one of the protagonists in the movie, helped the social workers to create a movement in order to raise awareness and wages to the janitors. I think this summarizes a lot of what unfair workers have to go through. They’re often too unaware of the change that can happen and they assume that being treated without respect is the way to go because they do not have the education or advantage that everyone else has. They simply take what they have for face value. The movie is a good reminder in that it takes time to improve one’s environment and as long as people are willing to put in the effort and to take the risks, you will ultimately be recognized for your efforts.

small americano please

The event last week was a pleasant and brief getaway from doing end-of-the-semester work. The rainy walk over from the bus stop was appropriate for our afternoon coffee. Our group had some nice conversations during our stay at the Gimme! Coffee, but I didn’t participate too much by saying anything, so I’ll write about my small americano.

I understand the appeal of espresso, but I can’t really enjoy one without reminding myself that this is what real connoisseurs do. I think this is where the americano comes in, as it appeals (not only) to people like me (wannabe connoisseurs). I took the top off my coffee, as it came in a disposable cup; I enjoy looking at the small layer of foam from a just-prepared americano. Also, I think the small slit on the plastic top takes away from the experience of enjoying a coffee.

From my initial taste, a nutty flavor stood out most, blanketing my mouth with a creamy texture. Beyond that, I don’t know what else to take away from my drink, other than that I really enjoyed it.

Morality in Bread and Roses

Bread and Roses depicted the struggle that immigrants face, shedding light on how painfully unfair and difficult it can be for immigrants to make enough money just to eat or to be treated respectfully.

This movie made me wonder where the boundary lies for when the standards of morality begin to change when there seems to be no other choice? For example, the main character, Maya robbed a bank in order obtain money to pay for her friend’s college tuition. The friend had been working for five years attempting to collect his savings, until he lost his job due to coworkers trying to unionize. Should she have felt the guilt of robbing the bank at all given a system where fairness and justice didn’t seem to apply to her and her fellow janitors?

One of the most impactful scenes to me was when Maya confronted her sister Rosa for betraying her union efforts to the supervisor, and by doing so, becoming supervisor herself. Considering their bond, it seemed unconceivable and harsh that Rosa would not only do something like this, but feel no remorse. However, as the scene develops, the audience experiences the cruelty of the situation along with Maya. As Rosa reveals what she had to do in order to get the family where they were, including prostituting herself, Maya is tormented by the guilt, sadness, and loss of naivety she experiences. She experiences guilt and sadness the naivety to what Rosa had been through to get the family to where they were.

This movie was a reminder that desperate times call for sacrifices to be made, even if that dedication to improving what is wrong requires bending what one considers as right and wrong.

The Martial Arts

The film “The Professor: Tai Chi’s Journey West” was interesting to watch. It was nice to know Professor Cheng Man-Ching’s journey and the struggles he faced. I always thought of Tai Chi as a fascinating type of martial arts used for defense and good health. It’s a way to meditate and exercise to maintain a healthy life. In India, people do yoga to relax themselves. I see Tai Chi as a type of yoga that relaxes people. Tai Chi has make people do some extraordinary things like break a wooden board. It can give one powers that otherwise would not be possible.

As Professor Cheng Man-Ching started teaching his students in New York, there was a special bond formed. Despite language barriers, he could connect with his students and teach them well. There are very few things that could be universally understood. Certain body language is understood throughout all cultures, and it was pretty evident in this documentary. Overall, I thought it was a good and an informative documentary to watch.

Coffee Business

Last week, I attended the Rose Cafe with Keith Lemnios. As someone who is interested in business, this cafe was very interesting. At my old school (Fordham) the business school was introducing a new focus on social entrepreneurship, so what Mr. Lemnios was discussing was very familiar. Where something was produced or how it was produced is becoming a big deal for consumers. People feel better about the products that are doing the things that Sun Coffee does. I think it is smart that Sun Coffee has partnered with universities because students are one of the demographics that are becoming more conscious about Fair Trade items.

It is interesting to parallel Sun Coffee with Nike because of the differences in production. Nike is using sweatshops and are still one of the most successful companies in the world. They make a good product. I wonder how the Sun Coffee tastes compared to Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts. All around campus I see people drinking these coffees. I am not a coffee guy so i didn’t try any of the Sun Coffee provided by Mr. Lemnios, but it would be interesting to see the lengths people are willing to go to get their desired coffee. Sun is more available because it is sold on campus, but Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts are just in Collegetown.  I am not familiar with the production practices of Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts, but I dont think they are doing the programs that Sun is doing.

I also liked the Ted talk video that was shown. I think the circle diagram shows why many lifestyle brands are taking off because people want to associate themselves with products that represent what they belief in. It will be interesting to see how these companies perform in the future and what new trends will emerge. All in all, this was one of the more interesting rose cafes this year.

My Coffee Anecdote

At the “Ithaca is for Coffee Lovers” event, the GRF’s asked us each to share an interesting or funny coffee anecdote for our lives. I didn’t end up sharing one, as the conversation got side tracked by a very involved discussion of Harry Potter, so I thought, in fairness to those who did open up, I would share my one coffee anecdote:

I’m not a coffee person. My mother didn’t allow me to drink it growing up. She always said it would stunt my growth (with an average height of five foot even, the Heon women do not have many inches to spare).

I started going to coffee shops only when I started interviewing for colleges, so my experience of Starbucks is tied up with a lot of trauma. I’m going to take a minute here for an unrelated rant about college interviews. Namely, that they are pointless and accomplish nothing. I should mention here that I was waitlisted or rejected by every college that granted me an in-person interview. I probably only made it to Cornell because their interview was by phone, though I somehow managed to direct the conversation to how, specifically, I would build the space elevator (ummm….carbon fiber?? Maybe?)

This particular interview was for Yale. I arrived at our local Starbucks 10 minutes early, as I believed etiquette required, thinking my interviewer would be there too. I looked around for someone of the appropriate age who looked “Yaley”. I finally approached a woman I believed to be my interviewer. After some mumbled introductions, which led me to believe that I had found who I was looking for, we exchanged pleasantries. I thought the interview was going pretty well, until she pulled out and iPad and said something to the effect of “So, about the wedding blog…” At which point it became very apparent that this was not a Yale interview, and I had somehow convinced the woman sitting across from me (apparently also named Elizabeth) that I was the photographer for her wedding blog.

Long story short, I spent my real Yale interview hiding in a corner booth from wedding blog lady, who hopefully did find her photographer.

Bread and Roses

The film Bread and Roses sends a clear message that you must fight for what you want. In fact it is revealed to the audience that the title of the movie is a symbol for this sentiment. In the 1800s workers went on strike demanding better pay and working conditions. Their argument was that while their jobs provided enough for bread (basic survival) they had come to America for the roses too (an enjoyable life). Those workers in the 1800s had to go through sacrifices to get their roses, and this theme is repeated throughout the film.  Nothing comes easy, there is always a struggle for health, safety, and money. Maya, the main character, comes to America to find work but immediately runs into trouble when her sister cannot pay the traffickers enough money.  Maya is forced to find a way out herself. Maya eventually finds work as a janitor but the hardship doesn’t end. The audience also learns later that Maya’s sister was forced to become a prostitute in order to make enough money to send to her family when she was a teenager. Many other characters are shown suffering under the janitor company management, and the only solution seems to be to organize. The filmmakers want us to know that even in America harsh working conditions are prevalent, and that even if the workers try their best to work hard the management will still fire them when they become too old. Success comes from determination and we should learn from this film that resistance against a powerful elite comes at a cost.

The other main character of the film, Sam, arrives to help the janitors organize. His message is relevant today with the many social movements going on in our country: that for change to happen the people in charge need to feel uncomfortable. This is the purpose of protests and civil disobedience, to convince those with power that their lives will be easier if they just give up some of their wealth. The finale of the film shows that eventually dreams can come true, however not everyone will be able to reach the goal. Maya is deported as she is convicted of robbing a store in order to get enough money to help her friend go to college. Sacrifices must be made so that others will receive the roses they dream of.

A Beautiful Mind: A struggle with one’s self

What a powerful movie. The movie depicts the life of John Nash, a brilliant scholar who later in life goes on to win a Nobel Prize in Economics for his work on game theory (Nash Equilibrium among other things). Nash went to MIT, and later was invited to the Pentagon to crack encrypted communications. Nash then gets an assignment from the DOD and begins to work on deciphering soviet clues. After Nash gives a guest lecture at Harvard, he believes that soviet agents are trying to attack him. He ends up sedated after fighting, and is diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. We learn that half of Nash’s life is a lie, completely made up in his head.

Schizophrenia is an incredibly scary disease to think about, it is very difficult (if not impossible) to distinguish what is real and what isn’t. What is even more incredible about this story is that Nash was able to overcome the disease, and realize that the people he was seeing were not real. It is after this that he goes on to receive the Nobel Prize in economics for his works. What an incredible story.

Bread and Roses: Fairness among those will all types of jobs

I did some research on the historical backgrounds of the movie, and found that it was inspired by the slogan of a textile strike in Massachusetts in 1912, in regards to fair wage (bread) and good conditions (roses). It was one of the strikes where workers came together in unity against the company, arguing together for fair conditions. This forms the basis of the 2000 movie “Bread and Roses” in which an illegal immigrant (Maya) finds work as a janitor, and tries to unionize to get fair pay and better conditions.

The movie recounts her struggles with Rosa, her sister, as well as her bosses who know that she is an illegal immigrant and take advantage of it. This movie really got me to think about minimum wage in this country, which is not enough to support a family, especially in an expensive city like Los Angeles, where the movie is set. If minimum wage always came with benefits including health insurance then it wouldn’t be too much of a problem, but often the problem is that minimum wage jobs do not support those types of benefits. Jobs such as janitorial jobs are incredibly important, and someone has to do them, but people don’t want to do them because of how those with those jobs are treated.

People that do the jobs that are important for our society to function on the lowest level should have the same benefits as anyone else who works at a full time job.

Bread/Roses/Gender/Labor/Race

The film Bread and Roses by Ken Loach highlighted the plight of janitorial workers seeking to organize, demand better wages, gain respect from their malicious and exploitative employer. A union organizer named Sam encourages the janitors to demand these things and guides them along the way. There are tensions throughout between the workers, within the family, and attempts from the employer to sabotage the campaign. Though the storyline was less complacent and trite than many others, and somewhat felt more realistic, what I found to be particularly striking was the way in which it was portrayed as a savior narrative. Not only does the union organizer “fall in love” with one of the workers, it is a poor union strategy to have a white male organizer for a group of predominantly women of color. It is also poor strategy to have a romantic relationship with someone who you are working on a difficult campaign with. In fact, I think that these actions are grounds for an immediate termination of a union employee. Of course, the narrative was constructed this way because women (and especially women of color) are rarely centered within a story sans attachment to a male, the development of a romantic relationship, being subject to the ever-present male gaze, and so forth.

In emphasizing the romantic relationship between the organizer and one of the workers, the director loses an opportunity to depict struggles faced by these laborers more accurately and the ways in which a union campaign unfolds. He does this in order to inject a typical and cliche narrative of two people from different worlds becoming involved (the different worlds being their racial/ethnic/class backgrounds). Overall, the director forced a romance where it did not need to be and recreated the white male savior narrative within the realm of a union campaign. This cheapens what could have been a powerful message about collective action and the struggles these workers endure to fight for basic rights. Though this is the case, I would argue that there is still a somewhat nuanced and realistic depiction of the realities janitorial workers face during this process.

Bread and Roses

Last Friday, we watched the movie Bread and Roses directed by Ken Loach, a movie depicting the life that struggling immigrants face in society; Specifically regarding the struggle of poorly paid janitors in Los Angeles.
I was curious about where the name Bread and Roses came from, as it is unique enough to likely posses some significance, and found out that it was derived from a 1911 poem by James Oppenheim, however over time it became associated with the 1912 textile strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts. This perfectly fits with the movie, as it depicts a janitorial strike.
The story is told through Maya’s perspective. She’s an illegal immigrant who has just arrived to Los Angeles with limited English language abilities. She initially is given a job working at a bar, however pushes to become a janitor with her sister.
My favorite scenewas when Rosa (Maya’s sister) is yelling at Maya and telling her to stop being so idealistic, as the real world is not rose-colored. She tells her sister how she was a prostitute in order to get Maya her education, and sleep with her supervisor in order to get Maya her job. This really impacted me, as it really made me think about the privileges that I have in my life compared to others.

Bread and Roses

Ken Loach’s Bread and Roses (2001) attempts to give the average American a different perspective on illegal immigration in the United States through a newly arrived immigrant named Maya. Although there were parts of the film where social critique was well founded and impactful, there were other sections that I found lacking in power. A specific scene that came to mind was one of the first incidences involving Maya when she arrives in the United States. Because Rosa cannot get the entire amount of money that is due to the smugglers who get Maya across the border, Maya is kept against her will by the two men. It is quickly forms into a situation where one of the smugglers attempts to become sexually involved with her. She manages to escape by outsmarting him and stealing his keys, and the scene ends with the smuggler yelling out of the window as Maya waves at him (with his stolen boots as well).

I thought that the scene was done firstly too quickly, and secondly in too lighthearted of a fashion. To be clear on the latter statement, I am not presuming that the director treated the situation of rape lightly, which was not the case. But, to a certain degree, it felt like the scene started and ended far too quickly. It lacked a certain amount of sincerity that could have escalated the tension in the moment to a much higher degree. I can only think of Tarantino when I talk of a situation like this, because it has some very similar characteristics to the scenes Tarantino likes including in his films. The difference in editing, camera placement, and the overall “feel” of the scene underwhelms what I thought could have been the best scene in the film.

Bread and Roses

Bread and Roses clearly depicts the life of the illegal immigrant and the low income community in the United States. People don’t leave their family and home land out of luxury; it is mostly a matter of finding “Bread” that will make their families’ and their own lives better. However, life in the U.S.A is a catch-22 because there are economic, social, educational and language barriers that hinder economic mobility. Minimum or maybe less than minimum wage jobs are the starting point for most immigrant families.

The movie mainly focuses on janitorial workers from the Latino and African American community, who in my opinion are the “invisible” workers in many industries. It also shows how women and illegal immigrants are at risk of being abused in their work environment since their choices are often limited because of their status or family responsibilities. The janitors finally formed a union that will ensure that they get health insurance, holiday pays and sick leave. The union not only ensured that they were receiving the “bread” they deserved, but also restored their “Roses”, dignity as human beings. The most important lesson I learned from the movie is that, as someone who started her life in the U.S with similar jobs and who now has the privilege of being educated, to be observant of my work environment and question any unfair treatment of people based on their identity, economic and social status.

Cold Coffe, Warm Company

A few days ago, I had an opportunity to go to Gimmie coffee! in Ithaca commons. After a long week of assignments and preparations for final, it was a nice getaway from the campus environment and recharge. Although I wasn’t sure how coffee with strangers will go, I was excited what will happen.

One unique thing about Coffee and I is that I always get the iced coffee. It is not like I hate warm coffee. I think it is because I always thought coffee is simply a provider of caffeine, something I will chug through and get going to do work. In order to be ‘time efficient’, I get iced coffee so that I can easily drink and save time.

However, it was so different when I was at the rose event. Like usual, I got iced coffee and sweet to accompany it. We introduced ourselves, our major, and had some unique conversations. Like, unique coffee story, the reality vs. fantasy, meaning of literature, and many more deep thoughts and conversations.

As the event progressed through, I realized that drinking coffee at the moment was so different.  Feelings, flavors, sounds, and all these sensory perceptions I had about coffee, was so so different. I realized at the end of the event that coffee at the moment was beyond a just source of caffeine. It was a moment of memory, warmth of other people, and representation of the moment of peace. The cold coffee wasn’t so cold and bitter. The hour I spent on a cup of coffee meant so much to me, and can never equal all the other cup of coffees I had before. It was so strange to feel this way but now I know is that it is ok to have a break, and enjoy a cup of coffee. There is no need to rush in time. Enjoy given time with peacefulness. And maybe cup of coffe.

The “What” and “Why” of Successful Marketing

Honestly, I don’t even like coffee.  Hate it actually.  Only find it tolerable with sufficient amounts of cream and sugar to effectively make it a milkshake.  So instead of talking about coffee, I will take this opportunity to take umbrage with the Ted Talk that the speaker showed in order to explain his business’s goal.

Said Ted Talk is by Simon Sinek, in which he claims that all truly successful companies start with a belief (“why”) rather than a product (“what”).  He claims that the “common” advertisement goes somewhat like the following: “We make great computers.  They’re sleek and easy to use.  Want to buy one?”  Then, an effective advertisement says: “We believe in challenging the status quo.  We do that by selling sleek and easy to use computers.  Want to buy one?”

I don’t know how to view this claim as anything other than inaccurate.   Nobody tries to sell things by just claiming “They’re great, do you want one?”  That’s ridiculous.  Just about every single advertisement, be it a commercial, an audio clip, or a magazine page, depicts some sort of image along with their product.  The woman using the detergent is a mom in a spotless suburban house with two perfectly groomed children.  The Spotify ad plays the sound of a lively party in the background and uses “cool” slang.   That’s what marketing IS in many contexts: selling a product by way of selling the consumer an image of themselves.

The explicit identification of a company “belief” might be an effective way of creating and communicating that image, but in the end I don’t see how it’s much different from choosing particular models, particular imagery, and particular language to sell a product.  I don’t think people are really buying the idea of saving the rainforest when they buy coffee, because they have no idea whether that label is a reality and I don’t think most people are going to do extensive research to figure it out.  You’re buying the idea that you buy rainforest-friendly coffee.  Just like you might buy the idea that certain shoes will make you a serious athlete, or that a certain brand of peanut butter makes you a good parent.

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”  I would say that people buy the image they like, and sometimes a company’s “why” may factor into that image.  I can come up with plenty of companies that are wildly popular for which I personally can’t identify a “why”.  So Apple’s is (or was) to “challenge the status quo”.  Perhaps Samsung’s is “to challenge Apple”.  Lego’s is “to inspire creativity in children”.  But what about Starbucks?  Or Target?  Or Coke?  Or Microsoft?  They have images, sure, but do those images include some sort of overarching ideological tenets?  If they do, I can’t come up with them.

To describe this mysterious “why”, Sinek uses terms like “the reason you get up in the morning”, and even goes so far as to claim that profit should be an incidental result for a truly influential company.  I am extremely skeptical of the idea that a company’s “why” is a sincere and intrinsic part of the company, as opposed to a deliberate strategy for selling the “what”.  The whole concept seems like an unnecessary and entirely too optimistic abstraction of what is essentially the central idea behind all of brand creation.

More than Coffee

As a busy college student, I have never relied on coffee to help me stay awake, alert, or energized for my day to day work. Everyone around me has an opinion about coffee. From what coffee brands taste the best, to how much milk and sugar should be allowed with coffee, to how coffee beans should be roasted, I have heard it all. The way people like to take their coffee is a reflection of who they are and what qualities look for in the beverage. However, I learned this week that coffee is more than a satisfying brewed drink, it is a source of income for many laborers who work tirelessly to cultivate coffee beans and ground coffee for commercial use. During the last rose café talk, Keith Lemnios, the founder of Sun Coffee Roasters, showed how the best products represent more than their brand, they represent a mission to make the world a better place.

Lemnios told us that he makes coffee in order to support the households and educate the children of families on the Nicaraguan farm that cultivate the Sun Coffee Roasters products. Coffee with a mission is exactly how I would describe Sun Coffee Roasters. It’s a company that believes in giving back to underprivileged communities around the world while making a high quality product. By standing behind socially responsible companies like Sun Coffee and buying their products, consumers can support important causes such as environmental protection, poverty alleviation, and education. Even though buying coffee from Sun Roasters might seem like a small step towards mitigating poverty, each pound of coffee purchased actually takes 3 months of labor from each worker. In those months, the workers get paid to cultivate the coffee and then use the money to feed their families and send their children to school. By purchasing products that impact the world positively, consumers can lend a hand towards saving our planet and its people.

 

happy coffee

From Mr. Lemnios’ picture of him spooning some coffee on the advert for this event, I thought he’d be speaking about how to approach tasting coffee. The talk turned out to be about his coffee company and how it operates with good intentions. His presentation was pleasant and I think he did a great job of conveying his experience as an entrepreneur.

Mr. Lemnios had a presentation of pictures for us of one of the South American coffee plantations that Sun Coffee Roasters sources from. It was nice to see that all the workers seemed happy; he really emphasized how much his company takes this into account when sourcing coffee beans.

Although we were mostly given the bright side of the story, the talk made me realize how bad some of these plantations could be, in terms of the worker’s well-being. I may take this into consideration the next time I buy some beans.

Coffee with a Cause

Last Wednesday I attended the Rose Cafe with Keith Lemnios where he spoke about his company Sun Coffee. This talk enlightened me on the coffee I drink every morning (and often afternoon) at Cornell. This is a company with a mission. It does not just want to create great coffee, it wants to help the people that produce it. The coffee workers who produce the beans that go into my morning cup are paid a fair wage and the company helps to educate their children. In addition, the company uses sustainable production methods, so the company is good for the people and for the environment.

I honestly was very surprised to learn of this. I never thought twice about the coffee I drank at Cornell. I might have questioned if it was fair trade, but nothing past this. I did not expect Cornell to spend extra money on coffee to ensure that it is doing more than caffeinating its students. It is very reassuring and makes me wonder about other similar initiatives the university is taking.  It also makes me feel a little better about how much coffee I drink. I wonder how many workers are employed to help pay for my habit.

Coffee for Education

Last week I went to Keith Lemnios talk on Sun Coffee. I must admit I did not go into this talk with the best mindset. My mind wandered back to daily memories of me frantically chugging this coffee, asking myself if there was even a drop of caffeine in it. I was ready to burst our my complaints until I heard Keith’s moving stories about working with the coffee farmers. Keith did a great job in showing us that he is really trying to take care of the farmers that work for his company. Sun roasters coffee is building schools and making sure farmers kids get an education. I was deeply moved by this after seeing evidence of how hard coffee farming really is. Now instead of complaining about the lack of caffeine in this coffee, I will happily drink it knowing that this coffee is allowing a child to get the education he or she needs. That’s the taste of literacy my friends!

Why?

When I went to hear Mr. Lemnios, the CEO of Sun Coffee, give a talk at Rose House, I thought that most of the talk would be about coffee and its production. Well, a significant portion was, but I appreciated that Mr. Lemnios also discussed being an entrepreneur in general. One of the aspects of the talk that stood out to me the most was how he stressed the importance of having ideals as the key motivating factors for what you do. He showed us part of a TedX presentation video titled “How Great Leaders Inspire Action” done by Simon Sinek. In the video, one of the examples used was Apple. Mr. Sinek pointed out that Apple puts the question of “why?” at the heart of their design implementation. Indeed, for Sun Coffee, Mr. Lemnios put the answers to this question at the heart of his company by making it part of Sun Coffee’s mission to give back to the community and leave a small footprint. I believe this can be applied to all aspects of life, not just entrepreneurship. If we really ask ourselves “why?” we pursue certain goals, I believe the answers to this question can motivate us to achieve them. If we have strong ideals behind us, the path ahead is clearer.

Finding new homes for donated items

Earlier this semester, I had participated in helping out with preparing diaper packages to give away to needy families at Catholic Charities. The expected time commitment was fairly long (about 4 hours) and the turnout was really low (2 residents and the sponsoring GRF). With this chance to volunteer, I thought that the turnout would be higher because not only were the shifts shorter (2 hours), there was one that started later in the day (not before 9 AM). Unfortunately, the turnout was still low this time around, with only 3 residents signing up for the first shift, and none for the second. I strongly encourage those living in Rose next year to sign up for volunteering events too, and not just the ones that are low commitment and impact.

This time around, we weren’t the only group helping out. While we interacted with Liddy again, we were among several other volunteers from organizations like Kohl’s Cares. Instead of walking through the building to get to the basement, we entered from behind the building and brought out bags of clothing. We then folded them on the table and tried to organize the large variety of donated items, despite the warnings from the experienced volunteers that any organization would soon be ruined by people rifling through the many options.

I was surprised by the turnout of the people looking forward to the Free Sale. Liddy mentioned that this has not yet been a long-running event, but with the amount of people looking for clothes and the many donated items they had in the basement, it seems like a good chance to distribute things out to those who need them. A lot of the people were mothers who had brought their children along. It was a little hard to see our somewhat sorted, folded clothes being tossed around, but it was nice to see that people were able to find what they wanted. There were several little kids running around, and there was one little girl who especially liked hugging things (including my leg once) and was really happy to find a cute dress that was her size that she could hug. Another memorable moment was the reaction of one little girl to a sweater that GRF Magdala handed to her, because it was just what she wanted.

The idea of a free sale from a bunch of donated items that are just asking to be given to someone who needs them is great, and it was a concept I hadn’t heard of before. It was a great chance to interact with people around Ithaca who aren’t part of the campus community, especially because the kids there had genuinely excited reactions to something as small as a piece of clothing. To end this, I want to reiterate that the turnout for these volunteering events has been pretty low this semester, but it really isn’t a big time commitment and it’s definitely a good feeling to help others – so in the future, definitely sign up more for Rose House volunteering events!

^ Reasonably well-maintained table of clothes at the end of our volunteer shift

Why Sell Coffee?

Last Wednesday, I attended the talk by Keith Lemnios about his company, Sun Coffee Roasters, which is the company that provides coffee to all of the dining halls here on campus. As a person who does not drink coffee, I did not know what to expect from the talk, but I actually found it to be really interesting and informative. What in particular interested me was the business approach the company had. Instead of focusing on the what that their company did (sell coffee), they focused on the why (to help coffee growers). Mr. Lemnios mentioned that people often buy products for the why, and not the what. For instance, many people insist on buying Apple products, even though there are plenty of alternatives. One of the main ways that Apple is different from those other products is that they market themselves as being a company that focuses on producing high quality products, regardless of what those products are. This idea interested me, since I feel like I would buy a product for the mission of the company, rather than just from any company. This is a way for consumers to show support for certain goals by spending money on products that they would have purchased anyway.

The Ethics of Food Production

Walking into the talk by Keith Lemnios, CEO of Sun Coffee Roasters, I was not expecting a discussion about the ethics of coffee. Mr. Lemnios spoke a lot about the efforts made by his company to ensure that the farmers they worked with were paid fairly, that their children got a fair education and that the company had a low carbon footprint. Every time I got coffee at the dining hall, I never realized the amount of effort that had gone into cups that I often gulped down in a couple of minutes.

Often times, in a relatively food secure area, one does not think too much about the production of food. Agriculture is largely industrialized, to ensure the consistent availability of food. As a result, the production chain is clearly defined and the divisions of labor don’t often blend together: the producers, transporters, retailers are often separated and one can’t always trace the path of food down the entire chain.

The lack of visibility is a factor that influences unsustainable agriculture. In order to meet the demands of consumers, distributors often aim to make the subsequent process of retailing more effective by increasing availability of the product. More often than not, the increased efficiency is at the cost of another link in the production chain, usually the producers. In the case of coffee, this increased demand often results in problems with coffee farms: mostly unfair wages and issues with child labor.

However, this is not only limited to coffee. Unsustainable growth and labor exploitation is also seen in foods that have sharp, and sudden, increases in demand, like in the case of quinoa and other crops like that. These negative side effects are mostly possible due to the lack of transparency of production chains.

Companies have often tried to address these issues by providing alternatives to the conventional products of large food manufacturers. For example, companies like Hampton Creek market their plant-based cookies with statistics about the unsustainable mass production of cookies by large food companies. Other organizations like Fair Trade USA attempt to address the lack of transparency of the food industry by certifying food/food products that were produced ethically. Although this is not an efficient method to address the ethics of food production, it provides consumers with avenues to make responsible food choices.

Root of Coffee

Keith Lemnios, the CEO of Sun Coffee Roasters, visited the Rose Cafe this week and talked about his business and “mission-driven coffee.” It is something that I have not heard of before but it is actually a brilliant idea. Given the relative obscurity for consumers of where exactly we get our food, “mission-driven” products can be something we should try to favor since they specifically go out of their way to give fair conditions to workers and take an active interest in enriching their lives. Lemnios did dedicate a portion of his talk on how coffee was made but the main theme was the vision of his company and what he works for. I appreciated his insight on why companies like Apple were so successful when titans of old failed to succeed where they dominated, e.g., iPod and iPhone. Unlike most, Apple works backwards and establishes their vision and purpose before the actual product. The product they would be selling is the result of their relentless drive and pursuit of that vision and that causes consumers to become attracted to said product if they can see why Apple is doing what it is. Similarly, Lemnios saw that coffee farmers weren’t necessarily getting a fair price for what they were selling and set out to make sure he had a company and supply chain that would allow him to achieve that goal of ensuring fair wages, safe workplace conditions and more.

It was interesting to see how his company affected each part of the typical and well-established coffee manufacturing process in a way that was advantageous to the farmers and the community from which the production of coffee is ensured. He built a preschool for little children so their older siblings could go to school themselves and created opportunities from which the next generation could pursue outside of farming coffee beans. Sustainability was also a key focus according to Lemnios in that parts of the coffee were recycled to serve as fertilizer when combining with earthworms. It was fascinating to hear how a Professor from a university was connected to someone from his coffee farms to collaborate on creating earthworm-based fertilizer and such.

Being an informed buyer was something I took away from this discussion and I appreciated the various things he pointed out I could do to achieve that, such as looking for the Rainforest Alliance logo with a frog. I plan on looking for ways to improve the selection of goods and see if I can’t opt for a product that has guaranteed safe working conditions, fair wages to its workforce and more. Consumers hold a great deal of power in dictating how business is done and favoring products that promote such conditions would inevitably drive the entire industry towards them.

Sun Coffee: Impact and Vision

Last week’s Rose Cafe allowed me to have the great pleasure of meeting Keith Lemnios, the CEO of Sun Coffee Roasters. Through this discussion, I was able to learn more about his company and vision. I thought that one of the most interesting parts of the discussion was really how Mr. Lemnios emphasized the “why” aspect of leadership. Leaders cannot be leaders without answering this question of “why” their product is benefiting others or why they seek to pursue this vision in the first place. Many companies often operate under a mission of serving the greater good when they actually only seek the monetary profits, through this talk, I learned how companies really hold value in themselves beyond the profits.

Mr. Lemnios discussed how he is mission-driven and seeks to provide his employees with the benefits and resources that they need as well as provide his customers with coffee that is fresh and worth the money they paid. I very much admire Mr. Lemnios’s mission-driven attitude and hope that I can apply this type of approach as I seek out my own goals and advance in my professional life as well.

Successful Companies Are Mission-Driven

At the Rose Cafe, it was great to have Keith Lemnios, the CEO of Sun Coffee Roasters, lead a discussion on coffee and his company’s approach. Even though I am actually not a huge fan of coffee myself, I was still excited to hear the leader of a company discuss his beliefs and philosophies. He began the discussion by displaying a clip of a TED talk video, where a speaker stated that what separates the the most prominent and successful individuals and companies, such as Martin Luther King and Apple, is their emphasis on answering the question of “why”: these individuals and companies carry out actions and build products based on their convictions and core beliefs. I actually found this statement to be remarkably profound, since I had always viewed companies as entities that were simply profit-seeking and profit-maximizing by building out as elite of a product as possible. However, I can definitely see how consumers often make decisions based not purely on the product itself, but also the way in which the company’s values and beliefs align with their own.

Mr. Lemnios stated how this mission-driven attitude shapes his approach to running Sun Coffee Roasters. His mission is to provide farmers that the company partners with and their families with quality wages, as well as opportunities in education for individuals to leave the cycle of farming from generation to generation if they so choose. I was deeply impressed by this mission-driven approach, and I feel many companies in today’s era would be better off by having such an attitude.

The Ethics of Consumer Goods

I went to a Rose Cafe last week where we met with the CEO of Sun Coffee Roasters and we talked about the initiatives his company has been taking to make sure that the coffee farmers are paid fairly. He also mentioned that his company advocates for building schools for the children of the farmers that the company buys their coffee from. I think what Sun Coffee is doing is a really great thing and more companies should follow their lead. A lot of our products come from overseas, and a lot of those overseas workers aren’t treated very well. There have been reported cases of child labor, unsafe working conditions, and workers getting paid very little– some pennies a day. I think that we need to realize that we are very fortunate to live in a country with good labour laws, and do our part to ensure that everyone around the world also is treated fairly and safely. There are already a lot of companies that promise that they treat their workers fairly and ensure safe working habits. The one issue with this is that their products often cost more than their competitors because of the increase in operating costs. Many people might only look at the cost of a product before they buy it, rather than think about where it came from, and depending on their circumstances, it might be hard for them to afford the more expensive, but more ethical product. This is a major problem, but if we can get more people who can afford the more ethical product to buy it, then maybe we’ll be able to raise safety standards for consumer products worldwide

Vote With Your Dollar

The Rose Cafe talk this week was given by Mr. Lemnios, the head of the Sun Coffee Roasters. (Sun coffee is served in the dining halls at Cornell.) He talked about how he got into coffee, and after traveling to coffee farms he decided that it was important to pay his coffee growers enough to actually live on, as well as investing in education for their children. Since then he has visited the coffee farms that he’s partnered with and ensured that the growing process is sustainable, that the growers are being paid reasonably, and even built schools for the farms.

Mr Lemnios talked about how companies can make themselves stand out from their competition by having a clear mission, a “why” the are doing what they are doing. Leading with this “why” in marketing can be extremely effective in outselling competitors.

I think that it’s great that Cornell is supporting a company that strives for fair trade and sustainability. I also think that having a mission is not only beneficial to a company but also to consumers. Many people, especially from younger generations are thinking more about where the products they are buying come from and what kind of impact they have. I think it’s important to remember that we have great power over the market with our purchases. If we decide to put our money towards things that we believe in those things will become more prevalent. And if collectively we can stop supporting practices that we don’t believe in, companies will either die out or change. We really can vote with our dollar.

A Perfect Sunday Morning

Last Sunday I joined the Rose Scholars on a trip to the Ithaca Farmers Market. I’ve been several times before and could not pass up the opportunity to go again. Along with having an excellent selection of produce stands, there are also craft stands and several food and beverage stands. The breakfast burrito and Cambodian food stalls always have long lines. The maple syrup stand however is one you can’t miss. I’ve often picked up a bag of maple cotton candy there and finished it in the same day.

This particular Sunday, after browsing all the stalls I picked up some corn fritters with spicy mayo from Macro Mama’s and some hot apple cider from the apple donut stall. I sat out on the landing enjoying my finds and watching the lake. It was a little chillier than I would have liked, but it made the hot cider that much sweeter. If you haven’t been to the farmer’s market yet, it’s definitely an Ithaca must. It’s amazing the local treasures that Ithaca provides, and the way the Ithaca community comes together on things like the farmers market to add to its small town flair.

Tips for Managing Exam Stress (4/24)

In the table talk about health and wellness/managing exam stress, we talked about what we (and Cornell) can do better for students. While a lot of the ideas that were presented for how Cornell can do better is very unlikely to be achieved (these ideas included stuff like “get free stuff” and “get free messages”), I think we should all be held accountable for managing our own final exams stress. Finals are stressful, yes, but there are things you can do to make it less stressful for yourself, and there are things that students do that exacerbate the stress.

One tip that I have is to avoid/limit distractions. For most of this semester I have not allowed myself to watch Netflix unless it’s a Friday night, and I mainly stuck to podcasts as my main source of entertainment. I know some people like the mindset of “treat yo self”, but really, one episode of Netflix can turn into 3 or 4 or 5 very very fast.

Another tip is to prioritize. There was a study done that said that if you had 1-3 priorities that day, you will accomplish 1-3. If you have 4-6, then you’ll accomplish 1-2. More than that, and it’s likely you won’t accomplish any at all. This was something that one of my professors shared with me at the beginning of this semester and I really took the advice in trying to prioritize my day. Yes, sometimes you have several important things that you have to accomplish, but if you could only accomplish ONE, which one would it be? I think someone at the table talk (because I brought this up) asked me what I’d do if I had multiple things due the next day. Truth is, that has actually never happened to me because I end up staggering every assignment out over the course of a week/month so I’m always early in turning in my assignments and studying for my exams. This method will get you way ahead of your coursework (and this is coming from me, a stats/premed taking 22 credits this semester, working almost 20 hours a week, and still getting 8 hours of sleep a night, have a social life, and doing well!) so I recommend you giving it a try (or at least a thought) if you haven’t.

I think the last piece of advice for managing your exam stress is to take care of yourself. Don’t skip meals, and sleep is really more important than people give it credit for. I cannot count the number of times this semester where I went to bed late after being stuck on a programming problem–but when I wake up refreshed, the solution would come to me very quickly.

Hopefully everyone has a successful exam season! But I know we are all looking forward to the summer 🙂

“Try new things” doesn’t apply to juice

Last Saturday afternoon, I was finally able to check off something that’s been on my to-do list since the beginning of last semester: visit the Ithaca Farmer’s Market. I walked in thinking two-hours was more than enough time and I’d be ready to leave much earlier. After a quick stroll around all the booths and making the difficult but blissful decision to get a burrito for lunch, I realized that an hour had already passed!

My good purchases included the chicken lunch burrito, a raspberry scone with berries baked so fresh they easily burst open, and a large, fluffy cinnamon bun. One purchase I won’t be making again? The summer cooler–a juice that had already sold out once which I was told was made with a base of orange juice, hibiscus tea, and hints of peppermint and rose hips. I should have realized from the extensive list of ingredients that it was a bit too hipster and much for me. Roses have hips? I made the mistake of underrating freshly made, simple orange juice, and will be sure not to make the same mistake next time.

If the farmer’s market was enjoyable on a rather gloomy, cold day, I can only imagine how great it would be in nicer weather. Hopefully next semester will be better weather and more trips to the farmers market.

Thoughts on bean juice

Many of us here in the states have the luxury of not knowing where our food, or any other commodity for that matter, comes from. It is very easy to live in this country and operate as if all the food in the grocery store just materializes there everyday. I know for me personally, my perception of where food comes from falls somewhere in the middle. There were plenty of small, local farms in my area who sold their products independently at farmer’s markets or their own farm stands, but large commercial farms that supply grocery store chains have never been on my radar. It was really interesting to hear Mr. Lemnios speak about some of the farms where Sun Coffee Roasters gets its coffee, but also how he came to develop Sun Coffee Roasters.

I really liked how honest he was about how when he initially got into coffee roasting, he was not so interested in sustainability or making sure the farmers supplying his company were paid fairly but after learning more about the industry he decided to make sustainability and fair trade the center of his company. It really demonstrated what he was talking about when he said that people don’t care what you’re selling, they care about why you’re selling it. To me it seems like Mr. Lemnios has a pretty good why. He very clearly cares deeply about the farms and farmers who supply his roaster, and on top of that cares enough about the environment to invest in developing a zero emission roasting plant. To me it really shows that it is entirely possible as a businessman to be interested in both ethical sources and sustainability without compromising profits or success. This is why I think it is so important to be an informed buyer, whether that buyer is an individual or an institution, and whenever possible buy from ethical and sustainable companies. We know that such businesses are possible, so it is important for the buyer to demand these business models to be the norm.

 

The Cost of Being Brilliant

If you are so good at doing something, that means that you are really good at doing a lot of things that utilizes that special skill set. However, it doesn’t meant that they are all beneficial.

The Brilliant Mind displays this fact really well and it allows the audience understand the “dark side” of being brilliant.

However, the movie only highlighted a few struggles of brilliance. Schizophrenia and social struggles are two of them however, I think there are a lot of other “costs” of being smart.

Looking back at my life I can draw a couple of examples. I had a really good friend of mine who was of higher intelligence compared to those around her. At year two she could read harry potter books and her professor parents taught her advanced topics in grade school. Her older brother went to Columbia and she was always on the top of her class. However, school was always boring to her and she rarely felt invigorated through the traditional learning system. She ended up establishing distance between herself and a lot of her classmates and ended up finishing high school early.

Not that there is anything negative to that, however I think it is just interesting to see how different gifts always, not necessarily have “costs”, but imply other consequences.

For those who skip grades, they miss out with going to school with people of their own age. Are they able to establish meaningful relationships, learn social norms, find out more about themselves as quickly as their intellectual knowledge is growing?

Is there a way for us to establish educational systems that can both satisfy the “geniuses” of the world without having to compromise the rest of their lives? However, what would that type of institution entail for inequality and segregation?

 

schizophrenia

It often seems that a generic explanation of schizophrenia is the symptom of seeing or hearing imaginary people. I always wondered how vivid such hallucinations were, as people who experience them must have a heavily distorted perception of what is and isn’t real. As I’m writing this, I’m wondering how cognizant of my symptoms I’d be if I were to develop schizophrenia. If someone were to walk in to my room right now and introduce himself as someone on my floor, I likely wouldn’t think twice of whether or not he was real. However, I can’t imagine that if this was a hallucination, it would be too realistic if it was the first time I was experiencing one. So maybe my mental state would’ve gradually gotten worse before I first experienced my imaginary floor-mate, enough so that I’d be convinced that he was real when I first met him.

I vaguely recall watching ‘A Beautiful Mind’ in one of my high school classes, so I remembered most of the scenes as I re-watched it. As I thought about the film and it’s depiction of Nash’s schizophrenia, I appreciated how his condition is revealed to the viewer as the people around him discover it. I can’t remember my reaction when I first watched it, but I wish I could re-experience my realization that Nash was hallucinating certain people in his life. As this revelation was unfolding, I had a feeling that I was watching some kind of psychological horror film. There wasn’t actually a horror element (beyond maybe the hallucinations), so I think the fact that these imaginary people and events seemed so real to Nash was what was slightly frightening.