October 2, 2017

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.

-Winston Churchill

We must not let the bad guys win. We must not let them instill fear in our spirit to the point we fear doing the simplest tasks. We must stay strong and have courage to show the bad guys we will not be taken down easily. We will prevail.

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Love Thy Neighbor

There’s a wonderful French cafe and bakery in Bee Caves. They’ve been in business for several years and serve the most delicious desserts. I recommend the 3 Chocolats. It’s a sweet treat that uses white, milk, and dark chocolate mousse. It’s a chocolate heaven. Think that’s too much chocolate? Try the Versailles! It’s dark chocolate mousse and raspberry jelly…oh and a praline feuilletine. If you want more savory flavors, check out their crepes and paninis (pst! The Parisien Brie is to die for!).

The place is small. It’s very quaint and the staff is super friendly. They close on Mondays, which when you first hear about this place you find it odd. But when you really think about it, who doesn’t want Monday off? 🙂

This is more than a food review. This is a call for support. My sister sent over these screenshots that she took of Baguette et Chocolat’s Facebook page. I am not political and if you want to comment political shenanigans, please think thoroughly or don’t comment at all.

My thought process is use common sense. This below drives me nuts. Why would anyone try to ruin an establishment? Especially a lovely establishment as Baguette et Chocolat. I will let the rest speak for itself. If you are an Austinite or a tourist who has visited this place and loved this place, please support them. Please give them rave reviews on yelp. Please tell your friends and neighbors and family and that odd cousin in Idaho about this lovely staff who work in the cutest joint in Bee Caves and who serve the best French food you’ll ever get in Austin, maybe even in Texas.

Love thy neighbor. That’s all I ask.

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STUDIUM Fall 2017 Edition

My dream has always been to be a published writer. I’m so excited to announce that dream has come true.

This past March, I submitted my undergraduate Honors thesis, “Little Complaint, Much Grievance: The Failure of the French Directory (1795-1799)” to a journal called STUDIUM, which is published by the Faculty of History, Philosophy and Theology – “The Lower Danube” University of Galiti, located in Romaina. I had been rejected by Duke and U of Chicago, never received word back from West Point and the folks at Oxford, though they saw the passion in my writing pretty much said to come back when I have my PhD. Hearing about STUDIUM, I was hesitant for five seconds before jumping right in. I mean, it couldn’t get any worse than Oxford telling me to get a PhD. xD Going on a tangent now. Focus!

Almost two months passed by and I hadn’t received word. I was a little discouraged. It was West Point all over again! Siddiqi, the logical one, advised I inquire about it, so I did. Two days later, I got it: the acceptance letter. I was going to be published. Pretty much floated on cloud nine for a week.

Okay present day: Yes, STUDIUM came out with the Fall 2017 edition of their journal. The best part of all this, besides getting published, is the fact I got published in the same edition as Siddiqi. #TexasTakeOver

“Little Complaint, Much Grievance”

“Little Complaint” focuses on the final four years of the French Revolution before Napoleon establishes the Consulate. The Directory (Le Directoire) is not really a high focus since it’s sandwiched between the violent Reign of Terror and the fascinating Napoleonic Era. I focus on how the Directory was established, how they managed the following sectors: Royalism, Terrorism (different from our current definition), Finance, the Catholic Church, War and Napoleon; and an analysis on why they failed.

I spent all of my senior year working on this project. It was the most fun project I have ever embarked on and I love that I can now share my hard work and passion with the world. I would like to thank my family for supporting me, Siddiqi for recommending the journal to me/being my editor, Dr. Austin for being my thesis advisor (and an awesome one at that!), Dr. Lowe the thesis prep adviser for the Fall 2015 semester who helped during the panicky moments of deadlines and research topic mayhem, and Oana-Maria Mitu, the Editor in Chief of STUDIUM, as well as the staff for accepting my submission.

Little Complaint Comic Book Cover
From my undergrad thesis comic book. Yes, there was a paper AND a comic book. 🙂

Please read my article, Siddiqi’s article and all the other published writers’ articles here: http://www.studium.ugal.ro/index.html

#HurricaneHarvey

Please send your thoughts and prayers to everyone affected by Hurricane Harvey. It made landfall about an hour ago on the Texas Gulf and has no intention of going away anytime soon. Buildings have collapsed and trees have been knocked down.

Also, help the local shelters! Major influxes of animals are coming in. Please help out and foster! Austinites, Austin Pets Alive! can use your help, hint hint cough cough.

Fellow Texans: follow your local news channels for live updates.

Everyone else: #hurricaneharvey will give you a load of updates, live Tweets, etc.

 

Steve the Robot

Humans have always been fascinated by robots and artificial intelligence. I mean, there’s R2-D2, Wall-E, the Terminator, and our fellas the Mars rovers.

You would think with technology advancing so fast we’d get used to robots doing the rather mundane jobs like being a security guard. Very, very, very wrong.

My friend John sent me a link to an NPR article about Steve the Knightscope robot who works in Washington, D.C. Steve would patrol the grounds near the Georgetown waterfront, handing out citations or tickets, and making sure everything was okay.

Unfortunately, the robot met its demise when, according to Forbes, Steve missed a step and fell down into its rival: a water fountain. Forbes and NPR both agree it was not foul play. They disagree on the motive. Forbes claims it was sensory issues. NPR had much more fun, saying Steve began questioning its existence and saw the water fountain as a comforting way to end things.

I was much more entertained reading the NPR story and the heart strings really got pulled as Scott Simon, the writer, toyed with the idea of Steve, and robots in general, genuinely feel the void of true emotion as they saw humans experience love, happiness and purpose. That’s not to say the Forbes article, written by Kalev Leetaru, was not entertaining. It provided a realistic possible situation that could have happened to Steve (what is realistic these days?), before going into the question of robotic rights. Yes, you read that correctly: robots have rights.

A good point Leetaru brought up is the scenario of a security guard robot patrolling the streets filled with late-night spots and bars. The bars close and the drunkards fill the streets causing chaos. The security robot films the illegal acts such as vandalism as evidence, or tries to calm the drunkard down. Drunkard doesn’t like the robot and gives it a punch, or worse: destroys the thing. Can the robot’s buddies get together and ask for criminal charges against the drunkard? Would the manufacturer or company who hired the robot provide the necessary tools and resources to fix him (or her? it?) up? Do they get paid to be guards and punching bags? Would they have the right to fight back? What are their rights?? Or if one of their functions fail because the manufacturer was negligent, could they sue their creator? What if they go Frankenstein on their creators? What if they do process human emotion and feel it but feel the negative emotions and try to take over? Would they get the right to vote?

I know all this sounds kind of ridiculous, but I find comfort I am not the only one asking these questions. Considering we are surrounded by new pieces of smarter tech every day, academics, government officials and commercial groups are questioning the same thing. One has to wonder: are robots people too?

Read the full articles here: “The Sad Drowning Of Steve The Robot And The Future Of Robotic Rights” and “I Sink, Therefore I Am: This Robot Wasn’t Programmed For Existential Angst

Amazon to buy WFM for Billions

My phone lights up, spitting out various news sources all saying iterations of the same thing. I stare at it blankly. I couldn’t believe it: Amazon, the online giant, bought Whole Foods Market, the hippie grocery stored turned luxury health nut food store, for $13.7 billion. You read that right. Billion.

Now, I have a soft spot for WFM. I’ve lived in Austin for almost 11 years. WFM is the Austin thing, so the loyalty ran extra deep since I was an Austinite working at an Austin staple during the college days (corn is great 4078! #cashierlife).  I was there when the grand news of WFM’s financial success in late 2013 spread throughout the land. I was there when they came out with their first commercial. I was there when the fancy H-E-B location came along and began to make my WFM store a ghost town(ish). I was there when Trader Joe’s came into Austin and slight pangs of worry hit every manager’s face. I was there when the prison labor controversy was running around causing questions. I was there when they put more fruit inside their Berry Chantilly cake (it’s a disappointing three berries and 99% cream now).  I befriended many fellas from various backgrounds–including the friendliest porter you ever met and the wackiest guests–even met celebrities (Jesse James was kind enough to donate $25 to one of our donation drives one year and Meatloaf is super nice despite his large size). Days spent among friends during the lunch break exchanging gifts of books, food and music were the best. I’ve seen the stock plunge and rise and repeat, staying in the $30 range.

Bakery @ WFM Gateway, ATX

I was gone by the time their financials were not rising, their overprice asparagus water caused uproar, the closing of different extra aspects of the company is other regions, the stepping down of co-CEO Walter Robb in November 2016, and the opening of 365, the “lower-priced” store that follows a Trader Joe’s format.

I’ll be honest, I don’t shop there as often as I do now. You can’t go back when you had a 20% discount card for two and a half years. I still follow the news though. I cheer when they hit a high point and feel a slight pain of sadness when they lose (except for the asparagus water incident. That was just a “raise an eyebrow and face palm” moment).

WFM Original Store
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I do find the timing a little funny. Texas Monthly just came out with an article called “The Shelf Life of John Mackey“. John Mackey, who is regarded as the “animal spirit” of the company (Robb was the business brains), was interviewed by Tom Foster. Mackey pretty much lashed out at NY hedge fund Jana Partners for trying to buy them out without really telling Mackey. He was starting his book tour for The Whole Foods Diet, his second book, so he considered the move “intentional”. The article is well-thought out and details everything from WFM’s inception to the present day conundrum. Foster even plays out what I call the WFM contradiction: as it got bigger, it became more corporate, less healthy and the core values became more….confusing…Was it a hippie store? Was it a rich people store? Was it a rich hippie store? I’ve seen my fair share of both groups at the store I worked at, so honestly I can’t really tell. I just saw happy folks buying kale salad and kombucha. No need for labels.

Anyway, Amazon. Good on you for allowing WFM to operate under their name. Also, good on your for raising the stock price from $33.06 at 9:30 AM on June 16, 2017 to $42.00 twenty minutes later (I knew I should have bought WFM stock three months ago when it was $29). I hope you can keep the spirit of WFM alive and well. As much as I don’t want the online robots to take over and ruin any chance I have at working at Vogue (print is not dead people!) or open my coffeeshop/bookstore, I guess it’s better than having WFM disappear altogether.

(Read the articles here, here, and here, or just Google)

“Meet the Young Roses: The Next Generation of Socially Conscious Socialites” – Vogue, June 2017

It’s that time again. The office around you grows quiet. People are “this can wait until Monday” slow to respond to your emails and phone calls. You just finished your sandwich with a side of fresh fruit and you begin to feel the heaviness in your eyes, trying to fight it before your brain screams to run to the nearest coffee shop. Time pretty much comes to a halt as you beg and plead with the Time gods to make 5 o’clock (or 4 if you have a state-wide rot rally coming to your area of town and causing traffic jams that forces you out of the office early, like me). Yes, it’s the dreaded (or anticipated) Friday afternoon.

I always like to spend at least a tid-bit of time on myself to keep me motivating and not looking at numbers all day. I will go out and take a walk, doodle or catch up on my reading. Since I forgot my copy of Anna Karenina (on the list for the “30 in 3” Book Challenge), I have escaped to my favorite place in the world: Vogue. 

Since I have already read the June 2017 story on Elle Fanning (a beautiful piece that makes you want to be BFFs with Elle), it was time to venture down the list. My eye caught the article titled above. My dream is to be a self-made New York socialite (the casual “nerdy/dorky is cool” type. Not the ditzy type, if those still exist), so I found this article intriguing.

The story, written by a variety of Vogue writers, provides a brief look at five NYC’s latest batch of socialites who are successful, charitable, and, of course, fashionable. I love the theme of red the creators used throughout the article. It gives the element of power, which makes the women all the more grand.

My favorite two are the two that get the biggest pictures on the mosaic below: Nieves ZuberbĂŒhler and Amy Sall.

Nieves is cool for a) her badass name and b) the fact she works at 60 Minutes and interviewed the last surviving Nuremberg prosecutor. How I want to be a fly on that wall! What makes her an extra level of cool is the ease she takes from casual  to over-the-top-glamorous. Halloween wedding with 900+ guests and a Brandon Maxwell wedding dress that is made of over 250 yards of chiffon? And not just any chiffon, but satin-faced chiffon? Girl, you know how to live it up.

I recognized Amy Sall from the pages of my J. Crew catalogs. My favorite aspect of her is the fact she was a former UN intern AND has a Master’s degree in human-rights studies from Columbia University. Her main focus according to Vogue is her work on the SUNU Journal, an outlet “centered on ideas of African cultural expression.” I looked up the journal on the interwebs and came across their website. Their home page has “Coming Soon” above the subscribe box, but fortunately they have a mission statement page, which you can find here. Amy Sall, overall, is graceful and fierce, and ready to take on the world of the socialites and the socially conscious.

(Read the full article to learn about the other Young Roses here http://www.vogue.com/article/new-generation-philanthropists-june-vogue-issue-cleo-wade-cecile-winckler)

#TBT: “She Received 65 Proposals, but Never Married” from NY Times

As I was listening to the hearing, I played around on the New York Times’ website. I know, I should have been doing my work but this was just too good.

I came across an article written in January 2017 by Lesley M. Blume. It’s a short piece on Mary London Baker, a socialite who throughout her life, as the title suggests, received 65 marriage proposals and denied every single one of them. Ironic how this is in the Weddings section of the paper.

She was known as the “shy bride” who denied her first fiance three times in the 1920s and then denied men 62 more times until her death in 1961. “Shy bride”? Really? Highly doubt that. In the article, it mentions that her father confessed Miss Mary was not shy at all but rather a party girl who like to tango with princes and travel the world.

It is interesting to see how her position and status cast her off from the typical role women played in the mid-twentieth century. Her father was a well-known (and very rich) financier, so she lived a very comfortable life. She refused marriage because she could. She didn’t need the support of a man to keep her social status among her fellow socialites or her pampered lifestyle. She was truly free to wander around, fool around and live life to the fullest.

Nowadays, it’s different. If a woman refuses to marry, it’s not because she’s some rich heiress who wants to travel the world and has the privilege (though they may be a few of those still around). A woman can refuse because she wants to focus on her career or because she does not like the idea of being tied down. She wouldn’t be refused by (most) social circles because of her choice. She’d be applauded. She wouldn’t be labeled as a “spinster”. She’d be labeled as a “modern woman”.

Or maybe I’m just stuck in my millennial mindset and trying to justify my choice to not get married anytime soon (or ever).  Hey I’m a busy girl with big plans. 🙂

What do you think? Comment below!

(Read the full article at https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/projects/cp/weddings/165-years-of-wedding-announcements/mary-landon-baker-shy-bride)

#ComeyHearing

I am not one for politics and told myself I would not involve Zelly & Ol Hem’s with political posts. This though, one can argue, isn’t necessarily about politics. It’s about history, live in the making.

One does not usually see a private citizen as a Senate hearing, but never say never. Ex-FBI Director James Comey, who served under three presidents in senior law enforcement positions, was fired by President Trump last month for possibly, though it’s looking more like “definitely” knowing too much about the Russian involvement in the 2016 US Presidential election.

Again, I am not political nor have a Political Science degree, but I am a history nerd. It’s been a long time since something with this scale of scandalous has caught the attention of the public.

There are many conspiracies wandering around if Trump silenced Comey prior to the hearing. Judging by Comey’s body language and his answers, he is providing his sincere honesty. His answers are a sigh of relief for it is clear cut and the truth, but at the same time troubling. Sure we won’t get the full, 100% information as he continuously mentions some topics should be saved for the classified hearing, but he isn’t giving BS. He’s providing everything he knows and even having a little fun as seen by his smiles when he and the Senate joke from time to time.

The whole thing is uneasy but sits well on the mind. It’s confusing but exciting and scary but full of bravery. I don’t know how else to explain it.

Watch the #ComeyHearing here with the New York Times.

Happy viewing and don’t forget to raise your cuvfefe glasses full of coffee (or vodka). Can’t wait until photos from the hearing circulate. Powerful images from a historic and troubling moment in time.

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Doug Mills, New York Times

“Tribute to Eric Theriot” Painting by Ramstedt

This beautiful painting before you is a touching tribute to artist Ramstedt’s friend, Eric Theirot.

Eric Theirot was born in Austin, Texas on New Year’s Day, 1995. He lived in Austin for 16 years before moving to North Carolina with his parents and three siblings. He graduated high school and went to the Univeristy of North Carolina – Charlotte. He graduated this past May with Honors, majoring in Computer Science. Two days after his graduation, he passed in a tragic car accident. Eric is a loved son, brother friend, and young man, whose bright future was cut short.

As mentioned earlier, Ramstedt created a lovely and touching piece of work to dedicate his friend’s life. The colors are vibrate and it is easy to tell they were a pair of great friends.

Ramstedt will be selling prints of the piece to help raise money for Eric’s family. You can message him on Facebook, or call him at +1 (512) 983-7860.

Please also help support the Theirot family by donating to their GoFundMe (https://www.gofundme.com/erictheriot). Their goal is to reach $20,000 to help pay for medical expenses, funeral expenses, etc.

Rest In Peace Eric Theirot.

Curtis Ramstedt

Curtis Ramstedt, local ATX artist and founder of Esplosivoism, is at it again! For those of you who don’t know Ramstedt or Esplosivoism, you are in for a treat as the two go hand in hand. Esplosivoism, in my mind, is taking a pound of Salvador Dali with a couple gallons of modern psychedelic strokes, a pinch of political statements and a whole lot of bold style. For a concrete definition from the founder himself, please read:

“Esplosivoism I describe as [the] pragmatic marraige between the modern and the classical. I use modern techniques such as emphasis on shape and bright color. I do have the same birthday as Henri Matisse [December 31st], but I also use philosophy, symbolism and Renaissance-esque themes like classical art.”

Ramstedt is taking the ATX by storm, even been recently featured in Gorrie’s Perspective.

(For my ol’ Your Way With Words followers, you may know this man by a different name with a different art skill: Curtis Des Marias, the poet. Remember “I, Sisyphus”? How about that villanelle, “Pour Ma Jolie”?)

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The quirky man with a crazy sense of fashion and art has revealed his latest painting, “Catholica Scientiam”, one of the biggest projects he has undertaken. I at first thought it was multiple canvases that he cut up and glued together but boy was I wayyyyyyyy off. It’s a build-able canvas that makes a statement between Catholicism and science.

The cover. (Courtesy of Curtis Ramstedt)

I feel like I’m in 1970s galactic disco with a bunch of floating grapes (this is why I’m the writer/math in the group and not the art curator hahaha).

The right inside flap. (Courtesy of Curtis Ramstedt)

I feel like I’m on the border of three different dimensional wormhole portals. The contrast between the left and the right is quite significant. I wonder if he meant to put the creative side on the left and the logical, black/white side on the right to match the personalities of left-handed and right-handed people. I asked him and he had this to say:

“[It’s a] relation between culture and economic systems and human rights and scientific progress.”

Yep, I’m off. But that’s the joy of art. You can interpret it any way you like.

The inside (Courtesy of Curtis Ramstedt)

When you open it, the relation is made much more clear. Though I still feel like I’m in a fancy palace with naked pregnant lady that is being observed by a bunch of scientists.

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Curtis Ramstedt is an interesting guy. He’s come a long way from his start in 2013. He is inspired by things in his life and, according to Ramstedt, the random “thoughts [he has] at the day…[his] brain never shuts off.”

“Jazz Party” – Ramstedt

Fun little fact: the girl in the paining is moi. Yes, moi. Back in 2014, Ramstedt was looking for something to paint and I told him to paint a jazz party. That was one of the last conversations we had for almost two and a half years (aka my “disappearing act”, a story for another day), so I didn’t get to see the painting until we reconnected in March. A few weeks later, I bought the painting. Don’t go criticizing or judging on vanity. You’d do the same. 😉

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Want to see his art in person? You can check it out at the Kasbah Moroccan Lounge in West Campus.

Like what you saw? Follow/Like Ramstedt on Facebook. Post about it on your Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc. Make sure to use #ramstedt and #z&h when you share. 😀

Want to buy one of his pieces? Check out his website, http://ramstedt-art.com/. Please note he also does custom paintings.

Curtis Ramstedt. Once he’s in your life, no matter how hard you try to disappear, you can’t seem to get rid of him. He adds color to life with a stroke of a paintbrush…and a corny joke or two :).