Monday, October 27, 2014

Getting Things Done

Until I began my professional life, I was a denier of productivity advice. As an undergrad, productivity to me was asking my roommate for an Adderall and hitting Club Proctor (aka: the Flagler College library) hard. That changed when I was handed the 21-day positive focus project on my first day at the Bailey Group. 

Now, I'm a productivity freak. A few weeks ago, I was exposed to the world of Getting Things Done during training for my new job with Team Up. In the past three weeks, I've seen my productivity level skyrocket. And it's all because of this dude, David Allen:

Photo source:
Now, I'll be honest, I haven't read the book. But James Harwood, a consultant at Next Action Associates, presented to us "the jist" of the book. He outlined the five steps of mastering workflow, or for those of us not presently in a professional environment, managing to do more with less stress. I'm not going to outline them here, but I am going to share the five things that have boosted my productivity after receiving the advice of Mr. Allen and Mr. Harwood.

Hannah Ferris's "five":

  1. Invest in an "in" box: Put all of the physical things you need to do in a special place. You'll know where they are, which for some people, myself sometimes included, is a necessary first step. The second goal is to clear it out from time to time - I try to clear mine out weekly. Right now, I've got two articles to read and an empty box of tea bags in my in box, and I have until Thursday (when the reading is due) to clear it out.
  2. Save social media: This one has easily been the biggest boost to my productivity. For the past two weeks, I have only allowed myself to check social media twice a day; once in the morning, over coffee, and once in the evening, while I'm laying in bed. Of course, it's tempting to look at Instagrams during long lectures, but resisting temptation has done wonders for my ability to focus in class. Plus, I know what a pumpkin spice latte looks like... I already have one on my desk. I highly recommend limiting social media usage. Social media itself can be a source of stress, so simply cutting back can help.
  3. Recognize an "enhancer": An enhancer is something that currently aids your productivity. Mine is yoga. Don't ask me why or how, but a yoga session for me is like a restart button. When ever I get home from a yoga class, I feel energized and ready to take on the world, even if the world is a long reading on African political economy. So find your enhancer, I just don't recommend Adderall...
  4. Collect for five minutes: For three Sundays in a row, I've collected my thoughts, literally, on a piece of paper. This is a lot easier than it sounds. Turn off the computer, iPhone, TV, and write down all the thoughts you have and things you need to do on a piece of paper. This is more than a traditional to-do list. My latest collection of thoughts had things like "E-mail Betty", "I hope the kitchen is clean", "I'm lucky to have such a great boyfriend", and "Apply to exchange program." All thoughts deserve a spot
  5. Classify collections: When you're finished "collecting," you can then classify. Some things will be immediately actionable (I emailed Betty as soon as I'd finished this part of the exercise), some will be "for later" (I can't apply to the exchange program I'm interested in until December, but I marked the date of the application opening in my planner), and some will be "non-actionable"(For example, I just need to be happy about my recognition that I have such a great boyfriend). You can liken this to cleaning up your email inbox (another immensely productive thing to do) - where you put some emails in folders and some in the trash.
I really can't thank these productivity guys enough. I think that my writing tonight is evidence that my productivity has increased. I haven't had "time" to write since September (!!) but now, here I am with a few free hours, on a Monday! If you're really into this, read the book. If not, try at least one of the five things above... I guarantee it will help you if it could help me! 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Emma Watson Is My Hero

Emma Watson gave a powerful speech at the United Nations General Assembly. Miss Watson, AKA: Hermione Granger, is a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador. She spoke to the General Assembly to promote the launch of a new UN Women campaign, the "HeForShe" campaign, which entails the efforts of both men and women to achieve gender equality goals.

I can't outline or summarize the important points of Miss Watson's speech because they are all important. As far as I can tell, there has never been a clearer articulation of the concept of feminism. It's not just about women - it's about men and women - because you can't have equality with only the efforts of one side. Here it is:

If Miss Watson's message struck a chord with you, check these out too:

  • Amy Poehler's "Smart Girls at the Party"
  • Ambassador Samantha Power's White House blog
  • Lego's female scientists
  • Kiva's "ladies' only" micro-lending scheme
    • I've made two $25 loans in the past year. They were both repaid in full and I was immensely proud of the women who I was able to lend to. This an excellent way for anyone to contribute to the effort to empower women in developing countries.
  • Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In
    • Read the book, talk about the book, and get on board with the "Ban Bossy" campaign. When I started my internship with the Bailey Group, my first task was to read Lean In and I will be forever grateful for that task!

P.S. Does anyone else think that Hermione Granger's strong female character influenced Watson's current position? Let me know what you think in the comment section below!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Seriously? Social Policy?

This is what social policy really entails.
I've been back in London for a week. A week is enough time away from the US of A to share a story related to my upcoming studies. That's why I'm in London, after all, to study... And eat Indian food... and do yoga with Chris Martin (though not simultaneously). Those are the only really remarkable things I've done thus far.

I digress - This story for me is a justification - if you know me and my moral compass well enough, you'll understand why quite quickly. I also think that sharing this story is timely for many reasons, including, but not limited to: serious international terror threats, the Ebola crisis in Western Africa, the ending of the NATO summit, just to name a few.

On a terribly stormy Friday evening at the Hyppo, a small, soaking wet family, came in seeking refuge from the ferocious Florida rain. The father commented on the book I'd left lying on the counter to serve them - "The Global Politics of HIV/AIDS." He said "Sad subject," and asked, "Why are you reading that?" I told him that it was summer reading for my master's program. His wife asked what I'd be studying...

Me: "I will be studying for my Masters in Social Policy at the London School of Economics." (And my lovely co-worker, and friend, Tia, proudly smiled in support!)
Her: "Seriously? What even is social policy?"
Me, swallowing throat lump full of rage: "Ever heard of the Affordable Care Act?"

She said yes and I gave a small sigh in relief, but I still didn't think that she fully understood so I continued to decimate her intelligence. And now I'm aiming to do the same for the rest of the world, or at least for those who can't form a general idea from the name "social policy." I told her that a country's social policy is a reflection of its development goals. In the US, the best and most current example is the Affordable Care Act - it's a law that has the end goal of benefiting American society by improving access to health care. 

Health is just one area of social policy - and health just so happens to be the area that I'm most interested in. Social policies may be crafted to deal with urbanization, education, gender equality, poverty, population control, and even the environment. Social policy may be written by international organizations, like the World Bank or the UN, national governments, or local governments. And then, it may be implemented by some, or all of those same actors. The success of a piece of social policy is determined by the impact that it has on the people. Of course, it's difficult to measure this impact without being in the field (which is one of my goals - that I'll get to travel to see what works and what doesn't). But so long as a piece of legislation has in mind the best interests of the people who are the worst off, then it's considered social policy.

I've said this before - there is a lot of ignorance in America, especially when it comes to understanding how other human beings live in places like Cambodia or Lesotho. (Speaking of ignorance, place those two countries on a map, ya'll!) The people who live in such places aren't just statistics or pictures on subway posters. They're people too. And at the very least, everyone should have an interest in social policy, since the goal of social policy is to make the world better for members of your species who are less fortunate than you.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Lusting for London

My return to London is so nearly upon me that I can taste it... literally, I'm having a Pimm's and lemonade right now. I highly recommend that you enjoy one while you read this:

Pimm's Cup:

A very British summer cocktail

Strawberry Pimm's Cup Cocktail by Brown Eyed Baker ::

1 part Pimm's No. 1 (British liqueur)
2 parts fresh lemonade
Splash of club soda
Fresh mint leaves
Cucumber slices
Orange slices

I've been re-writing my London list in preparation for my imminent return. It's also been a great way to procrastinate those important preparatory steps... like asking my ex for my housewares back or doing my summer reading. Over the past year, I've bookmarked London blogs on Feedly, followed entities like TimeOut London on Twitter, stalked HRH Prince George's baby photos, and never missed an episode of Sherlock. All of these very British activities have had a direct impact on the following list.

Things I Can't Miss in London This Time Around

The Museum of Natural History: I'm going to be embarrassingly honest here: I "pinned" a photo of this famous museum to be my reception venue on my Pinterest "Dream Wedding" board. It's a beautiful old building... one that I didn't visit when I was last living in London. New York and DC both have incredible natural history museums, so I figured that I could skip it. Instead I saw the loaner Van Gogh paintings in the National Gallery twelve times. But I will have to check it out sometime before I make it my wedding venue - so why not while I'm living in London this year?

Dinosaur dung stolen from Natural History Museum

A craft beer market: On the Londonist blog, I read a post about a craft beer market in Spitalfields. I promptly instructed my friend to check it out on my behalf. He said that it not only sounded awesome, but that it was actually awesome. I can only hope that they hold another one soon. If not, I'll have to venture out and actually visit some of London's small, independently owned breweries.

Go to Wimbledon: My visa expired before Wimbledon began in 2013. I sobbed and cried, "I should be there!" as watched Andy Murray become the first Brit in ages to win the title at Centre Court last summer. This year, I followed the matches almost obsessively, knowing that next year, I will be there. Hopefully my soul sister, Serena, gets it together before then though...

Duck & Waffle: This restaurant, located on the tippity top floors of the Heron Tower, one of the City of London's tallest buildings, is the Mecca of London brunch. Brunch isn't big in the UK (appalling, I know!), but Duck & Waffle is supposedly having a great deal of success in turning it into a thing there.

Hot tub cinema: I always saw this advertised in TimeOut London last spring and was never really compelled to go, although I know that my flatmates, Will and Thierry, would have easily accompanied me. Essentially, you sit in a hot tub, on a rooftop, in East London, and watch a movie on a big projector. There is, obviously, because this is London, alcohol involved.

Get a chip and pin card: Not having a chip and pin card was the bane of my existence when I studied abroad. Imagine going to Pret for a $0.50 coffee and having to sign a receipt for this $0.50 transaction - it's downright embarrassing, especially if it's a during exams and Pret is slammed. First of all, if you use a swipe card, everyone will know that you are American. Second, the cashier will be judgmental if you have to sign - it's a waste of his time! Third, if you have a chip and pin card, your funds are more secure. I honestly can't fathom why the U.S. hasn't caught onto this - after my debit card was hacked at Target last Christmas, I was outraged and told my Wells Fargo personal banker "I can't wait to bank in Britain." Finally, the only way that I can get a chip and pin card is with a British bank account. Having a British bank account will be important for me this time around because I don't plan on leaving... the established presence of a bank account is an important asset for immigration purposes... and also because being able to earn interest on the pound rather than the dollar is incredibly desirable.

Brixton Market: Brixton is nowhere near as swanky as Bankside, where Borough Market is located, but supposedly, the food scene is just as significant. When Will and I made friends at a pub in Bankside last spring, they suggested that we check out Brixton Market if we loved Borough Market (obviously, we didn't). I've heard that in addition to having fantastic fresh produce stalls, they have a few remarkable curry houses and an annual cupcake baking competition... gaining the "Post-Grad 15" is a distinct possibility.

See a production at The Globe: There's really no excuse for not having gone to see a production at Shakespeare's Globe. My high school English teacher, Mrs. Quick, would be incredibly disappointed in me if she knew that I didn't go. Julius Caesar is currently playing, and I can only hope that the fall and spring line-ups include at least one of my favorites, in case I don't arrive in time to see the current offering. The greatest part about the Globe is that there is a BYOB option - see, I'm just as shocked as you that I haven't been! 

Take a train out of the city - maybe to Brighton, to Oxford, or Cambridge: Again, there's really no excuse for my failing to travel around the UK. Sure, I traveled to some pretty cool places the last time I was abroad - Venice, Amsterdam, Berlin, no big deal. I'd like to see what the UK has to offer as far as getaways - maybe I'll see the White Cliffs of Dover or  love "great hall" at Oxford (what Harry Potter fan would keep herself away?). These are inexpensive little trips I could do when I need to get away from the city, and I'll be keeping them in mind... since the schoolwork will be more demanding, the breaks will need to be more frequent.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Police at the Pop Shop

Last night, the police showed up at my part-time job. Don't worry - I'm not writing from a prison cell. I'm writing to debrief myself after the ridiculous, and totally unnecessary, drama of last evening. What I've come to realize is that this police visit to the popsicle shop has given me a refreshed sense of perspective about people, in general...

People are stupid.

The Events of the Night of 17 July 2014

Yesterday evening, around 7:45 a woman parked illegally outside of my place of business. If you're a St. Augustinian, you know that there is a major construction project happening downtown, and the roads are currently difficult to maneuver. Add an illegally parked car to the downsized street and you get, what is known in the world of people with road rage, a giant clusterf*ck.

Now, as an upstanding citizen, I know better than to park my car illegally. Moreover, in my own crusade to make others upstanding citizens, I refuse to cater to the needs of people who think that they are so entitled to park in a yellow-marked spot. I explained to the police later, that there are two rules when I'm working as the princess of pops: 1. say please, and 2. don't park illegally in front of the pop shop.

The driver of the car and her passenger took off down the road and away from my shop, which was full of customers, so I couldn't catch them to ask them to move the car. I assumed that they would return quickly, but one of the morals of this story is that by assuming, you put the "ass" in you and me.

Now here's where it gets good: just before 8:00 pm I heard a little crunch, and it certainly wasn't a customer biting into a popsicle. At 8:01 pm, the driver of the crunchmobile stormed into the shop and demanded to know whose car was parked illegally. I assured her that I wouldn't let a customer of mine park there, even if they gave me a $100 tip (highly unlikely anyway). She stormed back outside and called the police.

Here's a very official synopsis of what happened after the police arrived at the pop shop:
  • 8:15 pm: A very irritated police officer on a bike showed up to survey the scene;
  • 8:16 pm: I poked my head out the door to tell him that the culprits disappeared;
  • 8:17 pm: My uniformed friend and I realized that the culprit also left her dog in her illegally parked car;
  • 8:20 pm: Some of my customers demanded that I give them water for the dog - they spilled half of it through the cracked and the dog growled at them;
  • 8:21 pm: My uniformed friend, who was in the middle of writing an expensive ticket, decided to call Animal Control to rescue the dog from the hot car;
  • 8:45 pm: Animal Control and another police officer arrived;
  • 8:50 pm: The dog, a little ratty looking thing, was rescued after Animal Control and the city's finest broke into the car (which was not only illegally parked, but now dented and broken into);
  • 9:15-ish pm: A tow truck arrives;
  • 9:30-ish pm: The tow truck attempts to maneuver the construction-laden road when taking the car away;
  • 9:45 pm: All is quiet on the Hyppo front.... for now.

The action unfolding

Just Desserts (but not popsicle desserts!)

At 9:55 pm: the owner of the car returned with a gaggle of friends and a restaurant take-home box. They stormed in demanding to know the whereabouts of the car. This was our exact conversation (side note: I had the smuggest grin on my face the whole time):

Car owner: Did you see a car parked out here?
Me: Yes.
Car owner: Did it get towed?
Car owner's friend: THERE WAS A DOG IN THE CAR.
Me: Yes, it was towed. Animal control took the dog before it was towed.
Car owner and friend: OH MY GOD. WHAT THE F*CK! [Other expletives redacted]
Car owner: DID YOU CALL? [accusatory tone]
Me: No, the woman who hit your illegally parked car did. You should call the city police. I have to close the shop now.

They stormed out and I locked the door behind them, and then thoroughly enjoyed the car owner's absolutely idiotic rant about the disappearing of her car. She yelled at one point "WHO EVEN CARES?"

So, if you're reading this, home girl, I'll tell you who cares that you parked your car illegally (and left your poor pup in the car on a hot night): I care, the owner of the shop cares, the family who lives in the apartment above the shop cares, the police officers and animal control man who had to respond to the scene on an otherwise quiet evening care, the woman whose insurance premium will skyrocket because she dinged your illegally parked car care, PETA would probably care, and well just about everyone except your selfish self cares.

Morals of the Story

The first moral of this story is to get over yourself. Unless you're a police officer, you have no business parking in front of yellow-marked curb space. This girl thought she was the Queen of England apparently - she wasn't - the Queen would never leave her corgis in a hot car.

Speaking of corgis - the second moral of the story is to treat your pets well. No one should ever leave their furry friends in hot cars... especially not for two hours! In case it wasn't obvious enough - I had no sympathy for this girl, only for her dog. Poor pup...

The final moral of the story is to think logically. God forbid there was an emergency on the street - neither a fire truck nor an ambulance could have passed because her car was taking up too much of the already narrow road.

In retrospect, this story is ridiculous (not even in retrospect, I was giggling the whole time this was going on). But on a grander scale, my faith in humanity has taken another hit. I felt compelled to share this story because more often than not, I find myself asking...


Friday, July 11, 2014

Wine and Dine in Washington, DC

As I mentioned in my last post, I discovered more than my political preferences in DC. Per the recommendations of my fellow foodie friends, I happily nommed my way around the nation's capital. And yes, this post is delayed... but I've been very busy trying to burn off all of the calories that I consumed in the capital!

A French Feast Avec Mes Amis at Bistrot du Coin

I've always had an affinity for French food. I blame this largely on my parents: they flat out refused to let us become picky eaters (and you bet that I love them even more for this!). My mom took me to Paris when I was 13 and I was later responsible for dragging all of my brothers to eat at the French restaurant in the Paris hotel in Las Vegas on a family holiday. Needless to say - when Will suggested French food, the rest of the party happily agreed.

This dinner was our little flatmate reunion. Will and Will, both current DC residents, lived in my flat in London, and we got to best know each other in the kitchen (where else?). We started with un petit verre de vin - bien sûr - and a steaming pot of mussels for the table. 

I've never been a fan of les moules. And honestly, I don't know why. I was glad that I gave these ones a chance. They were steamed to perfection in a white wine and tomato sauce - très bon. (Side note the table bread was fantastic soaked in this sauce). The French are all about their sauces - our escargots also had a great garlic and parsley sauce... it properly masked their identity as snails...

For my entree, I had steak frites - a staple French dish. I was far from disappointed, but I wish I'd branched out a little bit more because Bistrot du Coin has a pretty big menu. Speaking of big menus, the dessert menu was also impressive. Taylor and I settled on sharing a pear and custard tarte for dessert, but of course I snuck a bite of everyone else's - c'est magnifique!

A Fat Afternoon at Founding Farmers

Will recommended that my mom and I check out Founding Farmers. This place is essentially the big brother of Moxie or the Ice Plant - two of my favorite Jacksonville area restaurants. The farm-to-table concept is incredibly well executed at Founding Farmers. From the cocktail ingredients, to the beignets (which had to be ordered with a 20 minute "heads up"), everything was organic and prepared freshly in-house.

We sat at a community farm table - where we weren't the only party - and ordered Cucumber Delight cocktails to cool us down on this hot DC summer afternoon. For appetizers we ordered the classic deviled eggs and fried green tomatoes, both "classic American picnic" items. Down here in the South, we pride ourselves on these dishes - but I'm pretty sure the more cosmopolitan Farmers have us beat.

I should've stopped with the cocktail and the picnic snacks. But, if you're a geography buff like I am, you know that DC is just south of Maryland, and that Maryland is best known for crab cakes. So I was tempted, to say the least. I ordered the crab cakes with sides of whipped red potatoes and lemon candied green beans. The crab cakes were glorious - I'm taking more crab than cake. I ate everything on my plate, and again, I should've stopped...

...But the beignets...

Needless to say, we needed to stroll around the National Mall for a little while after this meal.

A Fantastic Trip-Cap at Firefly

Barely recovered from the previous day's lunch, my mom and I made reservations at Firefly, off Dupont Circle. We met my pal Max there and had a great time catching up over some very tasty hand-crafted cocktails and a fantastic charcuterie plate.

Firefly was similar to Founding Farmers when it came to fresh ingredients, a seasonal menu, and handcrafted goodness. These are food trends that I hope will never go out of style.

For my entree I had the fresh catch. It was a pretty basic piece of grouper, but it was very fresh and simply prepared. It was served over a bed of red quinoa and fresh asparagus. It was all topped with a sort of gazpacho like sauce - a cold garbanzo bean sauce with a surprising spicy bite. Something I could totally make at home, but items which I'd never thought to put together! I ate every bite.

Then for dessert we split goat cheese fritters with raspberry sauce and lemon verbena ice cream (yes, that was one dessert) and a strawberry lemon cobbler with vanilla bean ice cream. Each were delicious and incredibly unique - Max insisted that the lemon verbena ice cream tasted like Fruit Loops - and that whole scoop was taste tested meticulously. We also had a French press coffee pot delivered to the table - I love French press and was pleasantly surprised to have a pot to accompany these unique dessert dishes. Again, we were properly stuffed. We walked all the way from DuPont to Logan Circle to hit a pop up beer garden afterwards... A much-needed walk!

Friday, July 4, 2014

10 Things I Learned in Washington

What better day than the 4th of July to sit down and write about my trip to the nation's capital? Two weeks ago, I flew up to Washington, DC. I hadn't ever spent time there, but given my academic and professional interests, I was certainly due for a visit...

10 Things I Learned in Washington

1. The French should stick to cuisine and avoid urban planning... I'm talking about you, Pierre L'Enfant. I'm from New York, so I know a well-planned city when I visit one. DC doesn't make the cut, largely because of its un-navigable traffic circles.

2. You can definitely get away with throwing someone in front of a moving Metro train (a la Frank Underwood) because the Metro stations are strangely dark.

3. The Secret Service isn't that secret. My mom and I were walking down the street when a handsome, uniformed gentleman exited a Starbucks and fell into step on the sidewalk beside us. Right there on his polo shirt was a very official looking emblem with the words "United States Secret Service."

4. I'm a wonk, a health wonk, to be more specific. "Wonk" is the terribly DC word for someone who studies political policy in an obsessive manner. I've read the entire ACA, it's safe to say that the shoe fits.

5. Ronald Reagan changed the course of presidential history. The 40th POTUS destroyed tradition by holding his inauguration on the West steps of the Capitol instead of on the East steps. Of course, he did this to salute his home state of California, but it just goes to show you that those pesky Californians are notorious for being different.

6. The foodie scene in DC is poppin'. I didn't have a single decent meal in Washington - I only had incredible ones! We ate at Bistrot du Coin, Founding Farmer's, and Firefly. Of course, I was visiting friends with fantastic taste: Will set up our little flatmate reunion at Bistrot du Coin, the other Will insisted that we check out Founding Farmers, and Max took us to Firefly. There will certainly be a foodie post to follow this one...

7. Happy Hour is a great American tradition. Or maybe it's just DC thing. Either way, DC is a young city and after a hard day's work, everyone heads to Happy Hour. Thousands of bars and restaurants across the District have specials, and who doesn't like a discounted glass of wine at 5:00 pm?

8. DC is astonishingly clean for a big city. I'm from NYC and I've spent a lot of time in LDN, two of the most preposterously dirty cities in the developed world. Despite the raging happy hours, there was no vomit in the streets!

9. My crush on Bryce Harper is borderline cougar-ish. I hadn't realized, until my mom and I went to Nationals Park to catch a game against the Atlanta Braves, that Bryce Harper was born in 1992. He's younger than me and he's making a few million dollars a year... and also not dating me... not exactly a boost for my confidence.

10. DC-ers are a special breed. Because DC isn't technically a state, or a county, or a normal unit of governing possibility, the citizens are rightfully cheeky. Their license plates read "Taxation Without Representation" because they don't vote for members of Congress. Of course, they are represented by a city council, but in the bigger scheme of things, they got slightly shafted. Their taxes must be largely responsible for the cleanliness of the city, as mentioned above.