Tag Archives: food

Keeping America Ugly

Now that healthcare reform has been passed into law, we’ve seen full-blown outrage from conservative commentators, teabaggers, and unnaturally orange-skinned people (…a tax on indoor tanning??  How will we keep the Jersey economy afloat?).  This trifecta has argued that as healthcare poison gets jammed down our throats, the country will almost certainly spiral into a welfare state of doom.

Even though I can’t identify with teabagging, Beck-watching fist pumpers, I do have some concerns about the healthcare reform.  On the whole, I agree with the concept: everyone should have access to healthcare.  But like any government plan, this reform is riddled with unintended consequences.  By forcing insurance on the 46 million who are currently uninsured, we also introduce moral hazard into the system: now that those people have insurance, they may be more likely to do stupid things, like give birth to octuplets or get the (golf) clap from Tiger Woods.

To solve this problem, there should be a greater focus on preventative measures.  For example, I am a rather repulsive high-volume eater.  When we go out to eat, my family often orders 7 entrees for 4 people.  One time, we were asked to move to a bigger table so that the restaurant could accommodate all the food.  A few months ago, a friend and I went out to dinner in Union Square, where we split a fried appetizer, each ate a huge entree (I got a pork chop), and then ordered a bread pudding to share… but the dessert was so good that we ordered another one (and ate it all).  That night, I had to sleep sitting up in my bed.

I never count calories, I rarely exercise, and I’ve been known to unbutton my pants at the dinner table.  Essentially, I am a rather disgusting example of American excess, flying in the face of our mission to Keep America Beautiful.  But even with all that, I’m not (yet) a blubbery whale.  I can still fit into clothes that I wore in high school, and I can wear skinny jeans without being ironic.  At the same time, I’m totally testing the system.  Eventually, nature and logic will have its way with me, and I’ll end up ferrying my fat self around on a scooter that you will pay for through your taxes.  So in order for you to make me change my atrocious ways now, you need the system to punish me.  Because unless it’s costing me something  significant today, I won’t stop eating mac and cheese in bed.

There are promising preventative statutes included in the plan now (like the tanning tax), but we could use more of these so-called Pigovian taxes: cigarette taxes, alcohol taxes, soda taxes, candy taxes, etc.  I’m sure that the ultra-conservative Pigou Club would argue that the negative externalities associated with unhealthy people is minimal… but now that we have a universal healthcare system, perhaps they’ll reconsider.

Punishing bad behavior is controversial, yes.  But I ate 3 steaks in 3 days this past weekend, and I think we can all agree — that’s not just bad, it’s ugly.

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I Want Them to Like Me For Who I Am… But, I Also Need a Job!

Last night, I decided to update my resume, which I hadn’t touched in over a year and a half.  The idealistic side of me hates the concept of a resume: after all, this one piece of paper is supposed to define who you are, how well you work, and whether or not you’d be interesting if stuck in an elevator.  Or, in summary, if we [the hiring firm] should even give you [the person with the pink, perfumed resume] a chance.

fibresume

Click on this image to get a (potentially helpful) resume template

So in principle, I hate resumes, just because of my romantic belief that a person’s job fate should not be defined by a single piece of paper.  At the same time, I hate all the other alternatives to getting a job as well.  At Harvard, we used to have handfuls of networking events once recruiting season started in the fall.  These events were all invariably the same.  There were always drinks, a gaggle of suited representatives, piles of promotional materials, and the usual giveaways, like Nalgene bottles and mouse pads.  The best networking events also had food: typically an assortment of cheeses, fruits, and before the recession, finger food.

There were three distinct groups of people at networking events.  The first group was the Hustlers.  The Hustlers got business cards, kissed up to the senior representatives, and pounded out thank-you notes by the time they got back to their dorm room.  The second group was the Legacies.  The Legacies already had their job secured, whether it was because they’d interned at the firm last summer, or because their daddy was very powerful.  The Legacies would spend most of their time drinking free wine in the corner and talking about how many goldfish they’d ice-luged the night before.  The last group was the Eaters, of which I was mostly a part.  The Eaters were only at the event for the food.  Eaters had been to so many networking events that we had become connoisseurs of cheese.  We would gather near the kitchen door, position ourselves for the crab cakes to come out, and only talk to reps if we could score an invitation to a company-sponsored dinner.

cheeseplateOverall, networking at Harvard was what I imagine speed dating is like: you talk to a lot of people who try to make their job sound more exciting than it actually is, and you eat a lot of cheese.  The ultimate goal of a networking event?  To impress someone so much that you get a second date: an interview.

So, this is my advice to college graduates hoping to land a job.  In order to get your foot in the door, all you need to do is: a) Deliver a kick-ass resume, with perfect formatting and lots of action verbs, or b) Act like a Hustler at a networking event.  Again, while my idealistic self would like to add in c) Just be yourself, I think that probably works about as well in recruitment circles as it does in speed dating.  That is, it doesn’t.

Happy job/woman/man huntin’!

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Random Thoughts on… Writing

I started writing at age six, with my short story “The Chilly Penguin”. My mother tacked it up on the refrigerator, with my drawing of a penguin, and dreams of a writing career took off. In elementary school, I wrote such masterpieces as “Ananse the Spider-Dog” and “Life or Death”. In those pieces, I admit the punctuation was a little hazy, the adjectives were limited to “scary” and “happy,” and the text suffered from phrases like “his eyes literally popped out of his head” (from “Life or Death,” age 12). But I kept on going.

In middle school, writing was just venting in the form of prose. While cleaning out my room a few years ago, I found a journal that I don’t remember keeping. On the cover, it said: “Keep Out. You are invading my privacy.” I felt like I was actually invading my own privacy when I started reading it, because my voice sounded so unfamiliar. Staying true to my OCD-ness, apparently I used to rate days on a graded scale (some things never change). I also kept my journal entries in sections. For example, every day I had the following sections to write about: events, guys, news, rating, crisis, quote to remember, reminders. I only kept the journal for 6 days though, because there were no entries after Tuesday, November 3: “Events/crisis: Mike asked me out online. Rating: 92.5 A.” A note from my friend Maura was also attached, folded into a paper football:

“Hey, what’s up? N2MH. I’m in History now and I just finished my test. I’m sure that u care!? I didn’t know what #16 or 17 (one of those) was. It was easy though. So whats happenin? anything new? Who do u like? Or is it still Sean…or who? U know the 2 people I like right? don’t tell anyone though cuz not a lot of people know. Only like u, Laurie, Danielle, Shauna, Steph, and Devon know…”

The note was signed: “WB, LYLAS, 26611” …I have no idea what 26611 means, but I’m glad that I left “LYLAS” behind in the ’90s.

Even though my unintelligible notes from middle school may have had something to do with it, the ultimate downfall in my writing ambition began in high school, with my ninth grade English teacher, Ms. Bailey. A large and commanding woman, Ms. Bailey instilled upon us the impervious system of punctuation and grammar. We studied only examples of flawless writing, where a ‘who’ was different from a ‘whom’ and abbreviations such as “they’re” and “it’s” were always written out in their long form: they are, it is. I could no longer end a sentence with a preposition. I could no longer put in dashes without counting the words in between the dashes (they must not exceed eight).

“You are high school writers now,” Ms. Bailey would say. “You are adults, and you are writing for adults. Where is your topic sentence!”

I also learned that in high school, there were many more rules for writing that weren’t written in The Elements of Style. Just like our dress code, which stipulated a no-jeans policy, the social code stipulated a no-emotional-crap policy about writing. People didn’t like reading about “my best friend” dogs or “and now she’s dead” grandmothers. The awkward silences during class made it evident that no one quite knew how to respond to Brian’s essay on his uncle’s debilitating illness. It felt wildly inappropriate to point out that he needed a better transition from his third paragraph to his fourth. After that, everyone wrote about happy things, like baseball games and carnivals. Like Ms. Bailey said, in high school, the adult audience was very particular.

It seemed that as I got older, writing became less about what I wanted, and more about what everyone else wanted. Frivolous days of writing about spider-dogs and cold, tuxedoed fowl were way in the past. Instead, the audience became the ultimate judge. “Serious” work was shunned in high school, then embraced in college. As a person first and a writer second, I could not help but be influenced by my readers’ expectations. I learned this the hard way when I passed in my first essay in college, which I titled “Shit Happens”. I felt that the title was rather meaningful, as I was analyzing Tim O’Brien’s experiences in the mud fields from The Things They Carried. However, the title was not so received well by the expository writing professor.

Rejected. Bad grade. Humiliation.

Ouch.

Throughout college, the inner writer in me died a bit. I forgot all the reasons why I started writing, and I went on to study economics and go into corporate finance instead. I’d like to think that my entrance into the finance world has singlehandedly ushered in the recent crisis, but I am probably giving myself too much credit (if only the markets could pick up some of this credit… Ha. Ha.).

In September, I started this blog with the intention of getting back into writing. Through the past few weeks, I’ve been going back and reading some of the writing I did when I was young, from old stories like “Life or Death,” to my middle school notes adorned with doodles of flowers. There is something about the pure, unadulterated voice that makes these pieces fun to read–it’s the knowledge that my writing then had been true, natural, and unfazed by matters of practicality and rules in writing and life in general. I wrote then simply to tell a story that I wanted to tell.

Today, the punctuation has become routine and easy, and the writing has become hard. I guess if you’re solely writing for the approbation of critics and professors then you forget why you started writing in the first place. So now, I’ve tried to take a different approach. I no longer worry about whether I used too many parentheses (though arguably, yes, I could cut down), or whether I threw in the litter too many clichés (is it a cliché to use a cliché to discourage clichés? Or is that irony?). I no longer worry about adhering to writing rules and expectations. I’ve learned from my ongoing, love-hate relationship with writing that I’d rather share with others those issues that matter most to me. I’d rather write for fun, for the pure enjoyment of telling a story I care about, because I want to.

I want to write about the smog in LA, the nightlife in New York, and my great, great hometown sports teams in Boston. I want to write about how strange I think parents are when they name their children after fruits. I want to write about chilly penguins, sweaty ostriches, uncensored mud fields, middle school dramas, and the achingly mundane world of accounting. I want to write about rising ambitions, falling stocks, my wavering opinions, my undetermined priorities, tacking stories up on the refrigerator, love, true love, ironic love, clichéd, sentimental love, love for people with good intentions, love for loving what you do, writing, imagining, constructing, creating, how I enjoy it all, and how much fun I have with all of it… this is what I want to write about, and this is why I started writing.

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Anger Management With a Side of French Fries

I’m in a fighting mood today. As we have already determined, Tuesdays suck, and I’m barely treading above 40%. So, what to do with all this anger?

Some may suggest such therapeutic activities as punching a pillow, going to the driving range, or letting it all out with an Alanis Morissette CD. Others may just sit around and mope, or vent to anyone who will listen. Still others may decide to go hunting and kick puppies.

My anger management technique of choice? I’m going for the food. I’m thinking fajitas, guacamole, mac and cheese, and mashed potatoes. Cornbread and apple crisp, topped off with Cool Whip. Hot fudge sundaes. Bacon. Cookie dough. Pie. You can sit there with your stress ball, yoga mat, and meditation exercises, and I will eat my strawberry shortcake.

The sage Elle Woods once told us that, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people don’t kill their husbands.” This might seem contradictory to using food as a stress reliever, but, isn’t eating just an exercise for our gastrointestinal tract? Aren’t we working our kidneys and jawbones? Isn’t the act of deciding what to eat (Taco Bell or Wendy’s?) an exercise of the mind? If so, I am raking in the endorphins.

Yes, over time, consumption of copious amounts of mac and cheese may harden my arteries, enlarge my love handles, and hasten my path towards obesity. I could end up bed-ridden and immobile at old age, a beached whale pining for the days of my limber youth. In the short term, however, a little bit of Velveeta may save me from belting out “Ironic” and letting cocker spaniels fly. So, there is a tradeoff.

There may come the day when, in fact, I have developed a surplus of chins, and the whale analogy has become less and less funny. Perhaps then I’ll stop depending on cupcakes and fries to broker my inner peace treaty. But right now, I’m still young, limber, sole-chinned, and more dolphin than whale. So, if I’m mad, I’m getting out the frying pan… to make pancakes, not to kill my husband.

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