minute thoughts 2.10.19


Thoughts while longingly window-shopping at the Edible Arrangements next door to my apartment

1. A very on-brand story: I was feeling very anxious about my financial future, because I don’t really know much about investing, I’ve received a lot of conflicting advice, and I have a lot of conspiracy theories about the deliberate obfuscation of financial language (same goes for legal terms). So in that moment I panicked and opened a Wealthfront account. And in that panic, forgot to use my friend’s referral code that he gave me worth $5,000 in free management. Whoops. Also if anyone doesn’t have a Wealthfront account and wants a referral code, here is mine ;).

2. I was talking to my boss about generational purchasing behaviors; she said that Gen X tended to be “hoarders,” and I noted that in theory, millennials like the idea of living a minimalist life, but because we’re perpetually dissatisfied and constantly seeking “the best” razor, toothbrush, mattress, luggage, etc. that’s not only functional but also aesthetically-pleasing and socially valuable, we buy much more than we actually need to (I am especially guilty of this with skincare). Then I found this Vox series called “The Best of Everything,” essentially about why we feel compelled to find something as subjective as “the best” anything, and how brands are capitalizing on it especially in the direct-to-consumer space. It’s a fascinating look at the consumer economy, but particularly the way millennials operate within it.

3. In my last travel blog I mentioned that my uncle and I got in trouble at the Summer Palace in St. Petersburg because we were taking pictures when we weren’t supposed to. I also said it was very typical of us, and here’s why. Another story about my family’s history with compliance: there are strawberry fields in my hometown, and during strawberry season you can pay for a large white paper bucket and pick as many strawberries as you can fit in it. Well, two of my uncles decided that the most economical way to fit as many strawberries as possible was to pick strawberries with really long stems and hang them around the edge of the bucket. The woman that owned the stand confronted them, and an hour-long argument ensued. There was yelling involved. Now, if you go to the Carlsbad U-Pick Strawberry Fields, you’ll notice that there is a sign that says “No Hanging” under rules of conduct, and you have my uncles to thank for that.

4. My mom was in Hallmark a couple of years ago, and randomly found this photo frame with a stock photo of me and my "family" in it from my child modeling days (which at that point was at least a decade old). We keep it on one of our shelves, and I just realized that having a framed stock photo in your house probably looks very strange to anyone who doesn’t know what it is.

5. I recently got a MacBook Pro at work and it’s...so weird. The adjustment period in learning to use a new piece of technology is interesting, because it’s like a crash course in UX design. Is it intuitive? Is it delightful? And yet, a lot of older people find Apple products, which are supposedly the most user-friendly, difficult to adopt, because they weren’t hard-wired to use technology like that. This piece by one of my favorite Medium writers argues that technology is a shared language of universal metaphors—a floppy disk for the “save” action, etc.—one that comes very naturally to people my age, for example, even though most of us have likely never seen a floppy disk. But I love learning to use a new device. I love customizing it, adjusting all the settings to my liking until it feels like mine. It’s immensely satisfying.

6. That was actually a tangent; my original point was that I got a MacBook Pro at work, and now I’m in love with it and I’m considering getting it as my personal laptop when my old one dies. I’m very conflicted. I love the clicky keys and the simple commands and the battery life. But I also love my current laptop, the Dell XPS13, and I hate that Apple makes stupid design decisions (yeah, okay an SD card slot is “cumbersome” but an extra attachment isn’t? Get the hell out) for the sake of being “innovative” (read: planned obsolescence) and a thinly-veiled attempt at upselling. If I’m going to pay over a grand for a laptop, I’d rather not support Apple. But Apple products are practically designed exclusively for people who don’t care about tech specs but appreciate pretty design, which is me. Mac users and PC users, make your cases. I’m listening.

7. This is a really interesting and well-researched longread on Edible Arrangements and the philosophy of gifting. What kind of gifter are you? Do you buy people things they want but would never buy for themselves, or things that they need and would have bought themselves anyway? Tell me in the comments.

Edit: A very poignant piece about the gradual phasing out of meaningful gifting to consider.

8. I’m actually very fascinated by the science of human attraction and sexuality—it’s why I went to Paris last year. Both PornHub (surprisingly very SFW) and OkCupid have very thoroughly-researched data blogs, and it’s interesting to see the contrast between the attraction that people signal publicly and what they watch in the privacy of their own homes. But I think that also opens another debate about whether porn is genuinely reflective of sexual preferences/tastes (i.e. why lesbian porn is the most popular category in the United States, particularly in the South, and yet so many conservatives are still vehemently opposed to gay marriage; hypocrites), or if watching porn is merely a method of voyeuristic dominance and therefore shouldn’t be considered an actual “preference.”

9. People have a lot of polarizing opinions about cooking show hosts, but everyone seems to love Ina Garten and this piece explains why. I was particularly intrigued because I’ve always loved her, but I also never really watched Barefoot Contessa; I was always more partial to Good Eats or Iron Chef. But there’s an undeniable warmth to her that makes her so approachable, coupled with the domestic elegance of a seasoned dinner party host that grows her own vegetables in her backyard garden. Vulture suggests that the new brand of reality TV host, the "Joyful Expert” (Samin Nosrat of Salt Fat Acid Heat, Marie Kondo, Queer Eye’s Fab Five), is a manifestation of the self-care movement, and while it has its flaws, it is a more optimistic take on the makeover show. But I think Ina was the original Joyful Expert, from her accessible recipes to her welcoming of store-bought substitutes to her catchphrase, “how easy is that?”

Edit: It is now my goal to do this with Chrissy Teigen’s books.

10. I adore the idea of a winter soup group! I’m especially excited by this because I think I’ve perfected my homemade clam chowder recipe and I’ve just learned how to make bread with my KitchenAid, but I also just love the concept of a casual dinner party (not all of us can be Ina Garten). My friend and I have been toying with the idea of hosting one, but if anyone else in New York is interested, let me know!

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