Jan 10

The Joy of Turking

I recently began “turking” and I’m somewhat ashamed to say I think I’m hooked. Some of you may be wondering, “What the heck is turking?” Turking is the act of doing simple, repetitive tasks for a very small fee, via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk website. It should not be confused with twerking, which can now be defined as an inappropriate dance between a former child star and a 30-something singer dressed as Beetlejuice (thanks Miley!).

Read the rest of this entry »

Aug 08

My First Jazz Improvisation

Check out my first ever jazz improvisation – “What is this thing called love” solo.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I LOVE MOOCs! Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs, for short) enables lots of folks to take online classes with some of the most prestigious colleges in the US, for free. This is a great way for people to pursue hobbies and interests, or brush up on skills required for their current employment.

I’ve completed several classes on Coursera, my favorite MOOC. I’m currently taking “Intro to Jazz Improvisation”, offered by Berklee College of Music, and led by Grammy award winning jazz musician Gary Burton. Although I took a few classical piano lessons when I was younger, I’ve never learned much about jazz or improvisation, so I thought it might be fun to take this class.

The class is a 5 week class in which Gary Burton introduces students to the basic concepts behind improvisation (for ex, knowing how to select the right scale for a particular melody). There is a weekly assignment related to the lecture and students are expected to record themselves playing the instrument of their choice (some students are purely vocalists) and upload the link for other students to critique their understanding of the lecture concepts.

Although I won’t be winning any jazz awards soon, here’s my first attempt at improvisation.  For the assignment we were given a backing track to “What is this thing called love” and asked to solo over it as best we could. Took a few attempts, but in the end I think I came up with something that didn’t sound too terrible. If you’ve never heard the song before, check out this really great version by Ella Fitzgerald. So far I’m really enjoying this class!

Jul 31

Make way for MOOCs

I LOVE MOOCs!

For the past few months I’ve been telling all of my friends about them, and finally I decided to just write a quick overview of what they are and why I love them.

What is a MOOC?

MOOC stands for massive open online course. Although not the best sounding acronym, the name is accurate and effective. MOOCs are online courses that provide open enrollment (read: free) to anyone with access to an internet connection. Because of such ease of enrollment, these classes have attracted large (read: massive) numbers of participants spanning all across the globe, usually in the hundred thousands for many classes.

Read the rest of this entry »

Jan 24

Nicki Minaj, American Idol’s Unlikely Voice of Reason

American Idol entered the second week of its current season. After weeks of media coverage and speculation about the Mariah Carey-Nicki Minaj feud, American Idol promised to reveal their footage of the big showdown that occurred between the two judges, and I must say, it was nothing at all what I expected.

Although I still think the casting of Nicki Minaj was a desperate attempt to draw in ratings and create controversy, I must admit that right now she is actually my favorite judge. Her critiques have been on point, she has good interaction with the contestants, and she lets them down honestly without being overly harsh. Plus she brings a lot of good energy (when she’s not feuding with the other judges) and pizzazz (read: crazy) to the panel.

Regarding the big brouhaha – First off, it was slightly false advertising, as the disagreement was actually between Nicki Minaj and all three of the other judges, not just Mariah. That’s right, Nicki Minaj took on the entire panel. Secondly, she was absolutely, 100% correct, and Keith Urban, Mariah Carey, and Randy Jackson were wrong. This is why I will henceforth think of Nicki Minaj as “Nicki Minaj, unlikely voice of reason”.

In case you missed it, here’s what went down. A contestant chose to sing “Lean on Me” for her audition. She had a very lovely tone and a slight country twang in her voice, and was definitely one of the stronger performances of the night. Nicki Minaj admired the control and texture of her voice and complimented the girl’s performance (after all this is a singing competition, and the judges are there to provide feedback on a contestant’s singing). The next to comment was Keith Urban, who decided to defer his critique until after he’d determined what type of artist the young girl considered herself. She said she had tried the “country thing”, but considered herself more of a “country soul” singer.

Keith immediately took some offense to the phrase “country thing”. Mariah and Randy both jumped on the bandwagon to say that she sounded like she should be a country singer. They’re overall vibe toward the contestant was that if she didn’t consider herself to be a country singer then they could not endorse her because clearly she she didn’t know who she was. WHAT!!!

Since when is this show about forcing contestants into a particular genre of music. As I watched the TV, I could only giggle at the increasing frustration displayed on Nicki Minaj’s face as the other three contestants continued to debate over this girl’s future in country music, without actually discussing her demonstrated singing ability. After several failed attempts to explain to the other judges that in a singing competition the contestant should be judged on his/her singing, she did what any other (sane?) person wearing a pink cotton candy wig and a tutu would do – she threw a semi-tantrum and stormed off the set. And I kinda didn’t blame her.

I’m looking forward to Hollywood week and the live shows. This promises to be an interesting season. Will Nicki Minaj continue to be the unlikely voice of reason? We’ll see.

Jan 17

American Idol Is Back

Welcome back American Idol!

Happy New Year!

American Idol’s 12th season started last night. I am a huge American Idol fan, and although I’m familiar with other singing shows such as The Voice and X Factor, there’s only room for one singing competition on my DVR in my heart. But over the years, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with American Idol. Sometimes it’s been frustrating to watch the antics of the judges take precedence over the talent of the singing contestants. So I wasn’t sure if I’d be tuning in this season.

Who am I kidding!

Every year I’ve planned to stop watching, and every year they pull me back in. Idol, I just don’t know how to quit you. So like a faithful fan, I tuned in last night.  The show started with a 6 minute intro in which the Idol producers reminded us why this show is still a force to be reckoned with. The opening montage showed the latest Idol winner Phillip Phillips playing his hit single, Home, which has had lots of radio play and was featured as one of the theme songs for the last Olympics. They showed us Grammy winners Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood. We saw rock stars like Daughtry and Adam Lambert, Broadway stars such as Fantasia, and the only Oscar winner to have been featured on Idol, Jennifer Hudson. Until The Voice or X Factor can boast such a roster, I will continue to watch American Idol.

And then the actual show started, and it was …

a hot mess!

They reminded me of all the reasons why Idol is losing traction to those other singing shows. There’s been lots of controversy surrounding the new judging panel and the presumed feud between Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey. The producers lost no time showing the women making snide, catty comments back and forth, while occasionally making faces behind each others backs. You’d think with a singing legend, such as Mariah Carey, on a show that’s supposedly about discovering the next best singer, they could find a better use of her time and talent than as a foil to a character in a pink wig speaking in strange tongues and accents. (Back in the day this behavior would be called schizophrenia, but today it’s just called being a “pop star”).

The other big problem with Idol is their tendency to gloss over the talented singers, in favor of showing the tone-deaf, deluded, and complete freak shows. The show devoted about 8 minutes to a young Asian guy with dreams of becoming the next Justin Bieber, but who has a better chance of becoming the next William Hung (if he’s lucky). I did appreciate that the judges tried to let him down easy and Nicki Minaj even gave him a hug, but considering that we know that these folks are pre-screened before they get to the TV judges, this was clearly meant to be a joke at his expense.

When will Idol realize that they don’t need to resort to these gimmicks to get people to watch. The show is not about the judges, it’s not about  the freak shows, it’s about finding the best singer in America, plain and simple. They could easily beat those other singing shows if they would get back to that core principle.

I won’t pretend that I’m not going to watch the rest of Idol. But I’ll do as I did last year, which is to skip the rest of the auditions and tune in again when they get to the live shows. Anyone else watching, or have you guys already jumped ship?

Oct 24

Mentor It Forward

Combine mentoring, speed dating, and the concept of “pay it forward” and you get a cool new initiative sponsored by Mayor Bloomberg called “Mentor It Forward.” The program is part of Women’s History Month and is structured in two parts – students from Barnard College and other NYC colleges receive advice from professionals in a “speed mentoring” structure similar to speed dating; then each of these students will in turn mentor a high school student later in the year.

Click here to see “Mentor It Forward” in action.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to meet with several women from Barnard, Hunter, City, and several other New York City colleges. They asked lots of great questions about my professional background, challenges that I’ve faced, things I enjoy most about my work, and things I’ve learned. Many of them had concerns about how to select the right major, how to decide on a career, and how to know whether they’ve made the right choice - and as we spoke I heard echoes of many of the same questions I had for myself when I was in college. I answered as sincerely and succinctly as I could, and I tried to think about the type of advice that I would give myself at that age if only I had a time machine. I created the below handout as a resource that I thought might be helpful for someone just starting out on the path of navigating her career.

                            The Path to Success

The three main pieces of advice that I would give to anyone still in college or just starting on their career would be:

  1. Learn how to set goals from now. Goal setting is a life-long process. No matter where you are, you should always be thinking about your next step.
  2. Learning is a life-long journey. It doesn’t stop just because you’ve earned a degree. Make sure that you are continually learning and growing. If you feel yourself getting comfortable, then it’s time to start thinking about the next challenge.
  3. You don’t have to do just one thing. Each of us has so many talents and capabilities that it’s a shame to pigeonhole ourselves into just one area. The days where we spend 30+ years doing the same job are over. Now-a-days it’s very common for people to work for multiple companies, and even to transition careers once or twice. This means that a student’s major is only the first step in a journey, it’s not a life sentence.

 

In addition, here are a few books/resources that I highly recommend* :

The last two are books that I tend to reread often because the concepts are so useful.

 

I hope that the young women I spoke today found something useful to take away from the conversations they had today. I wish all of them a very successful and enjoyable journey.

*NOTE: The book links are not affiliate links and I do not get paid for any items recommended on this page.

Oct 15

Toastmasters – Project 7 – Pecking Order and Personality

The 7th Toastmasters speech requires you to select a topic, do some research, and present your finding to the group in a clear and concise manner. For this speech I chose to talk about the links between sibling order and personality. I’d been curious about this topic for a while because everything I read seemed to apply perfectly to my siblings and me. It made me wonder about how different personality would be if I were the youngest instead of the oldest. Read my speech below, or read my previous speeches here. To read more about Toastmasters, click here.

Read the rest of this entry »

Sep 12

Gone Girl Spoiler Full Review

Yes, another post about the novel Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Earlier this week I posted a spoiler-free review of the novel. This post, however, is chock-full of spoilers and should not be read unless you have already finished the entire novel. You’ve been warned!

 

Do not read further unless you’ve already read the novel Gone Girl.

Read the rest of this entry »

Sep 10

Book Review – Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone GirlGone Girl by Gillian Flynn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nick and Amy are about to celebrate their 5 year anniversary. Nick wakes up the morning of, sees his wife fixing breakfast, and then goes to work. He gets a call from a neighbor that something is amiss at his house and rushes back to find furniture overturned and his wife gone. A missing persons case ensues, and the reader follows Nick and the police as they try to discover what happened to Nick’s wife.

I really liked this book. It’s very well-written and I liked the dual-narrative structure. The husband, Nick, narrates events happening from the day of his wife’s disappearance, forward. His wife, Amy, narrates events via her diary entries, which start from the day they met, up until her disappearance. These chapters are woven together like a patchwork quilt. Or more like a puzzle, in which the pieces don’t quite fit, and more than a few are missing.

Nick is an unreliable narrator. Although he’s telling the story, and the reader is right there with him as events unfold, we find that we don’t really trust him. There are gaps of time at crucial points in his narrative. He sees his wife for breakfast and then goes to work. But the reader later finds that there is a huge chunk of time between which these events occur. So where was he? Also, as Nick narrates, he constantly alludes to the fact that he is lying to the police. As the reader we don’t know why he is lying. Is he guilty? The husband is usually the primary suspect, right? The book takes place in modern day, and the author is aware that many readers are familiar with popular crime shows such as CSI, or real-life cases such as Scott Peterson. It usually is the husband. Gillian Flynn toys with the audience by neither confirming nor denying whether the husband is the killer. He’s the narrator, so the reader immediately wants to identify with him, but Flynn does a great job of planting doubt. Nick certainly isn’t acting like an innocent man. Innocent men don’t normally lie to the police. But it can’t be him because that would be too obvious. Or would it?

The story is told in 3 parts. Part 1 uses the dual narrative structure to describe the events that happen immediately following Amy’s disappearance, as well as tell the story about how a marriage might unravel. Both Nick and Amy talk about their marriage and how it seems to be falling apart. Nick narrates from the present, and talks about the fact that his wife seems to no longer be enchanted with him, always finding fault. Amy narrates through her diary entries, and describes the initial excitement of falling in love and describes trying to please a husband who becomes increasingly aloof. It seems like a classic case of Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, common communication issues that every couple goes through. Except, again, certain things don’t add up. There are conflicts in their narratives about crucial decisions which leave the reader wondering who to believe. Parts 2 and 3 and expand on the story and add quite a few twists and turns.

This is one of the best books I’ve read in a while. There have been some complaints that the ending was a bit too open-ended. I was ok with this. The story ends and it’s up to the reader to draw his own conclusions about what might happen next. I will definitely check out more from this author.

View all my reviews

Sep 05

The Pink Tea Cup

Last week I had brunch with a friend at The Pink Tea Cup on 6th Ave. The decor definitely lives up to the moniker. The walls, the stools, and the very friendly staff were all swathed in pink. Pictures of famous black people adorned the walls, and the mural on the center wall reminded me of the the image that was always shown at the end of Good Times. Various oldies, such as the sounds of Motown, played over the speakers. I arrived early, so I had a few minutes to relax at the bar before my friend arrived. As I sat at the counter listening to Ray Charles, “Mess Around” and admiring the images on the wall, I felt as though I’d been transported through time.

Turns out the nostalgia of the restaurant is definitely on purpose. The Pink Tea Cup originally opened on Bleecker Street in 1954. After over 50 years of serving soul food to The Village, the restaurant closed in 2010 due to increasing rents. Many loyal patrons set up an online petition to try to save the restaurant, and later that year Lawrence Page stepped in and bought the name with the hopes of keeping The Pink Tea Cup legacy alive.

Page is an entrepreneur who has owned other restaurant venues and produced and directed independent films. His plans for The Pink Tea Cup have not been smooth sailing. He was unable to keep the original location but did find another spot in the Village.  However, the new location was closed shortly after and plans were announced to bring the Pink Tea Cup to Harlem. (There were rumors that the restaurant would be renamed the Pink Heifer but that idea was quickly scrapped due to widespread disapproval, as the word “heifer”, in some communities, is considered to be a derogatory term aimed at a woman.) The Harlem plan eventually fell through after Page could not get the correct liquor license for the restaurant. But although the path has been rocky, the Pink Tea Cup did find a home back in the Village and for now seems to be on even ground.

The branding of the restaurant brags of their “Chicken and Waffles.” Unfortunately, I was not in the mood for a very heavy breakfast at 11am, so I opted for the simple 2-egg breakfast, which was good, but nothing special. Reviews on yelp have been mixed. One other downfall is that this place is cash-only.  But I liked the history and the decor and I would give this place another shot if I were in the neighborhood again. But next time I’ll definitely try the chicken and waffles.

Sep 03

3 reasons children learn better than adults

A few weekends ago I took a 6-hour speed reading course. I was already somewhat familiar with the concepts of speed reading, but what I found most enlightening about the course were my observations of the adults in the room. Many of them would not even attempt any of the exercises until the instructor had repeated the instructions several times. Also, it seemed many had false expectations that at the end of the 6 hours they would be able to read “War and Peace” in 30 minutes. This got me thinking about the ways in which adults learn, and why children are actually better learners.

3 reasons why children learn better than adults

1. They are not afraid to fail.

I love watching babies learn to walk. They take one wobbly step, then another, and then **plop**, down they go. But within an instant, they pick themselves up, and take a few more steps. Before we know it, those same babies are running at full speed (with their parents in tow trying to keep up).

We all start out like this, but at some point we get it into our heads that we’re supposed to get things right on the first try. As adults we don’t like failure. Have you ever seen someone just stand a baby up on its legs, let go, and have the baby walk perfectly on the first try? I strongly doubt it! Kids know that they will fail a few times before they get it right.

Even if someone describes for you in perfect detail how to do something, there are some things that we simply learn by doing. Too often we put so much pressure on ourselves to “do it right” the first time, that we listen to the instructions or read multiple sources about HOW to do something, instead of simply trying to do it. Or worse, we might never make the attempt at all.

I don’t have an exact quote, but there’s an old sentiment that says something to the effect that the most successful people are the ones who have learned how to fail, because they never give up until they achieve their result. The observer may only see the success, not the several failures that came before. So embrace failure, and by doing so, you’ll embrace successful.

2. They don’t try to be perfect.

As adults, not only do we want to get it right the first time, but too often we want to be perfect. We set very high expectations for ourselves. A child who can play “Row, row, row your boat” after a week of piano lessons may be very pleased with himself. An adult achieving the same thing in a day may be disappointed that he is not able to play  like Chopin or Billy Joel.

Children don’t really anticipate where they want to be. They just keep practicing at something and in turn keep getting better. Goals are fine, but sometimes as adults we can be unrealistic with our goals. As Malcolm Gladwell determined, it takes about 10,000 hours to truly master a skill. But we shouldn’t let that number deter us from starting something. We should just use it to accept that we won’t achieve perfection right away (or ever), but if we practice a little periodically, we’ll at least keep getting better.

3. They just want to have fun.

Kids remember the most important aspect of life, which is that things should be fun. Kids never say to themselves, it is imperative that I learn how to walk as a viable mode of locomotion. They just do it and enjoy themselves. Obviously, as adults we have our reasons for wanting to lean certain things – for a promotion at work, a hobby,  bragging rights – but we shouldn’t let our reasons prevent us from having fun and simply enjoying the fact that we’re learning something. I really believe that learning can be and should be fun. If there’s no fun to be found in what you’re learning, maybe your attention would be better served elsewhere.

 

I am still learning and working on being a better speed reading. I’m not doing it perfectly and I’m not reading entire novels in a day. But I do try to practice a little everyday on short articles that I find online or in magazines. I’m enjoying the challenge of learning a new skill and feel good knowing that I’m improving a little every day.

Aug 29

Remembering Michael Jackson

Today is the King of Pop’s birthday. Michael Jackson would be 54 years old if he were alive today. I don’t remember exactly when I became a serious fan of Michael Jackson’s. I remember being around 3 or 4 and seeing the Thriller video for the first time (I was slightly nervous). I remember being in first grade and doing morning exercises to the song “Beat It”, which played every morning over the loud speaker. I remember gathering in front of the TV with my family for every Michael Jackson music video premier – Remember the Time, Black or White, You Rock my World. And, somewhere along the way, I became a fan.

I’m sure the radio waves will be blasting all day with all of MJ’s hits. I long ago gave up trying to pick my favorite Michael Jackson tune. Is it disco era Michael (Dancing Machine, Life of the Party), Jackson 5 Michael (Who’s Lovin’ You, Lookin Through the Windows), or superstar Michael (Billie Jean)? Michael truly left behind an impressive legacy of music and despite his passing I have no doubt that he gains new fans every day.

If you’re in the DC area, there will be lots of fans celebrating MJ’s legacy – Click here for a few events happening in that area.

I’m very excited to learn that Spike Lee will be making a documentary called “Bad25″ which describes the making of Michael’s album, “Bad”. Read more about that here.

Check out my Michael Jackson music appreciation site, MJMoment.com.

Jul 31

3 Principles for Education Reform

A lot has been written about how American students lag behind their international counterparts, especially in the areas of reading, math, and science. Most politicians and educators agree that education reform is badly needed, but there seems to be no clear consensus for how to go about it.

I am not an educator nor do I have any professional degree in education. But I am a product of the public school system and my mother is a NYC public school teacher. If I were in charge of education reform, I would use three basic principles to shape my reform efforts.

Read the rest of this entry »

Jul 18

First Business Panel

Last night I hosted my very first business panel/ networking event and I’m pleased to say that it went really well. The goal of the event was to spotlight some of the people from my personal network who are doing interesting and exciting things. The panel featured several entrepreneurs, who were gracious enough to take time from their busy schedules to speak at my event. You can read a recap here.

Once again I’d like to say thank you to everyone who attended and thanks for all of the positive feedback. I’m glad to hear that people found the event useful. In the upcoming days I’ll be posting a more detailed summary of the event.

In the rush of planning things, I inadvertently forgot to thank some of the people who were instrumental in making the event a success. I’d like to thank my boyfriend Latav for listening to me talk about the event for the past few weeks, for allowing me to bounce ideas off of him, and for helping with the set up. Thanks to my cousin Kanika who organized the gift bags and helped spread the word about the event. And thanks to my sister Stephanie for helping with the set-up, clean-up, and tending to any other details that needed to be done during the event.

Of course a big thanks goes to the panelists – Aisha Green (www.hartlynkids.com), Aaron Henry (www.tsurag.com), Ezell Burke (www.spotaplace.com), Nadege Fleurimond (www.fgcatering.com), Nigel Condrington (www.codringtonbusinesslaw.com) – and the moderator Kevin Brooks (www.kevinbrookscomedy.com). Thank you for your time, your raffle donations, and your expertise. Also thank you to Jay Gunder (www.ilovecollegestore.com) for donating I Love College T-shirts to the raffle.

 

 

Jul 13

Today is Friday the 13th

I am not a superstitious person. I have never carried a rabbit’s foot or a “lucky charm.” I did once break a mirror (accidentally dropped it), and I do tend to open umbrellas inside (to verify that they work). I haven’t noticed any change in my fortune since doing either of those things. I do admit that I avoid walking under ladders, but this is more out of common sense rather than superstition. I don’t want something to fall on my head!

But I admit that I was slightly concerned when I opened my apartment door last night and saw a BLACK CAT standing in the hallway, an hour before Friday the 13th. Was I hallucinating? Where did this random cat that I’d never seen before come from? I was about to close my eyes and count to three when another apartment door opened and someone called the cat inside. Phew! This was not a supernatural cat, just an average house pet.

Of course I recognized my silliness, and I laughed at the fact that the first place my mind went upon seeing the cat was toward the supernatural. Growing up with movies and stories that talk about these superstitions, it’s easy to see how they could seep into the subconscious of even the most rational minds.

Yesterday a black cat crossed my path. Today is Friday the 13th. But luckily, I am not a superstitious person. Today I intend to have a very good day. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Older posts «