Shortbeard Cookies

Tis the season, and you decide to go back to your hometown to celebrate the Holidays. You have a red-eye flight tonight and a few hours to spare before you need to call an Uber to the airport. You are excited to see your parents, siblings, and childhood friends again at the huge annual Christmas party that your family organizes, but there is a lump of anxiety eating away at the bottom of your stomach. You haven’t been home in three years. Your dad warned you about that before you left for grad school. He said that you would rarely see him again, only coming home for short visits that would become increasingly sporadic as you grew older. At the time, you swore that you would visit every few months and always stay by mommy’s and daddy’s side. 

Dad was right, as usual. You drifted away from your family, floating up into a whole new world of adulting. Before you lose yourself in these new heights, you want to visit the ground at least one more time. So you’re going back home with an anchor dangling down, determined to reform a connection with your family.   

It’s easy to be up in the sky by yourself, not having to care about others. Your only obligation is to be in the lab every day for eight hours. At work, there is always another email to write or a new issue to debug. You tackle one to-do after the other until your desk is surrounded by a dark silence. You sit in an empty subway and trek through the darkness before arriving back at your apartment. It’s already close to 9 pm, so you quickly heat up some leftover mushroom pizza from yesterday. Repeating this day in and day out is easy, but it’s boring, like drifting through the same clouds over and over again. At this point, you tried all of Trader Joe’s frozen dinner options a million times.   

You miss those times when you spent the entire day with your brother testing out a “simple” Julia Child French recipe. Beef bourguignon, a rustic farmer’s dish that required every pot and pan in the kitchen. Pêches cardinal, a light summer dessert of poached peaches covered in raspberry puree, which wrecked the Vitamix blender. The two of you would argue about different recipe interpretations, while mom and dad constantly poked their noses into the kitchen, taking pictures and asking for samples. You don’t know if you can get that again when you come home. Your brother just became a father, which puts him on a whole nother level in the family hierarchy. Even so, the closeness and warmth of being home is more than enough to cure your loneliness.  

However, you can’t go back home empty-handed. Mom taught you to always prepare a gift when you are a guest, and until you arrive back home, you feel like a guest, an outsider. It’s taboo to grab something random sitting in your apartment, and your savings are dangerously close to the “will I be able to afford next month’s rent?” threshold. Souvenirs at the airport are so ridiculously overpriced. You chastise yourself for not thinking about this sooner. Maybe you can make something within the next five hours? Parents always like getting handmade gifts from their children even if they are in their late 20s. The living room back home is covered in paintings of flowers and wine bottles, even though your art teacher technically did most of them. Dad constantly shows you the Father’s Day card you drew him when you were five with a sloppily written “I love you” next to a stick figure. The typical “shoot I forgot that I have to make a card” kind of gift. Unfortunately, that tactic no longer flies. You forfeited your position as the family’s cutie pie three years ago. You have to make something that a grown-up lady would. You step into your kitchen and start rummaging through the cabinets.   

You used to bake like crazy, claiming it was your greatest passion. Watching The Great British Bake Off, flipping through baking science textbooks, scrolling through a million ASMR baking videos on YouTube, and scavenging the internet for recipes that you could mash together. You did all of these while dreaming that one day you could make something that looked and tasted just as amazing. Unfortunately, you weren’t super talented. You rarely got a recipe right on the first try. Most of the time, you screwed up a little thing and ended up with a subpar dessert. Accidentally forgetting to peel the apples before making apple butter and ending up with an apple sauce pie instead of a smooth and thick berry apple butter pie. You totally freaked out when the peels refused to dissolve with the pulp, and dad had to fix the blender so you could patch up your mistake. Over proofing your matcha sesame babka, resulting in a nearly burnt bake. Mom claimed that she loved the hard and slightly bitter crust because it reminded her of a treat from her childhood. Doing who knows what wrong with a Japanese cheesecake and having to cover up a large crack on the surface with blueberries. Your parents thought your blueberry decoration was intentional and wanted to take a bunch of photos before cutting the cake. Each mistake weighed down on you, but your parents were always there to encourage you to keep trying. You worked hard, got better, even worked at a cafe for a summer. But baking takes time, especially if you want to do it well, so once grad school started and you lost your cheerleaders, you put away your apron and redirected your determination to your research.

It’s been months since you baked something. Your pantry is quite diminished, but the essential ingredients are still there: all-purpose flour, sugar, baking powder, butter, and eggs. What should you make? Muffins? You don’t have a muffin tin. A sponge cake? How are you going to fit that in your backpack? Cookies? Yes, shortbread cookies are an option! Before your brother left for college, he would bake your grandmother’s shortbread cookies every Christmas. Sometimes, you would help him sift the flour, dig through the cookie cutter box, and coat the tops of the cookies with egg wash before baking them. Your brother constantly forgot to write down the recipe, so every year, the cookies tasted a bit different. Some years were too dry, others tasted like mini cakes. Baking shortbread cookies seemed like the most complicated recipe in the world, especially the part where you roll out the dough into a uniformly thin sheet. Eventually, he stopped baking cookies, and the family tradition went on hiatus. 


When you were back home for Christmas near the end of college, you stumbled upon your grandmother’s original recipe written in German. Your dad helped you translate the instructions, and you adapted your grandmother’s shortbread recipe to your own tastes, cutting down as much sugar as possible without impacting the chemistry. You experimented with different baking conditions and made the recipe your own. After two tries, you were able to reproduce the best versions of your brother’s cookies. Your parents love those cookies, so you decide to go for it. You open your fridge to fish out the butter and eggs. It’s important to have cold ingredients at room temperature, so they would more easily bond together, creating a seamless and evenly textured batter. Additionally, butter and eggs trap more air at room temperature, which would result in a more tender cookie. You pull out a few sticks of unsalted butter and a couple of eggs, leaving them to warm up on the counter while you dig out your little baking notebook. 

The softcover notebook is smaller than the palm of your hand. The pages are stained and wrinkled from various ingredients that escaped from measuring spoons or bowls. You flip to the page with your shortbread cookie recipe and start measuring out the ingredients using a $10 kitchen scale from Amazon. The measuring ingredients game is still as vexing as always. You weigh 250 grams of butter and 180 grams of sugar in two separate bowls. In a slightly larger mixing bowl, you measure out the dry ingredients, 500 grams of all-purpose flour and 1 tsp of baking powder. The baking powder is tricky since it’s even more powdery than flour. You can’t just stick a teaspoon into the container and expect to scoop out exactly 1 tsp. The natural alternative would be to weigh baking powder, but 1 tsp is 4.8 grams, and your scale doesn’t have that many significant digits. So you slowly add baking powder into the mixing bowl and watch the scale hit 4 grams. You add a tiny bit more and then the weight shoots to 6 grams. Urgh! The baking powder is already camouflaged among the flour. You try to scrape off the topmost layer, but the scale stubbornly stays at 6 grams. Ahh! Whatever! You’re out of practice and don’t have all day. You whisk together the flour and baking powder, finalizing the measurements. Your mom would have stuck the teaspoon right in the container and saved all that trouble, but accuracy is needed to create the perfect cookies. 

The last ingredients to prepare are lemon zest and juice. You grew up with a huge lemon tree in the backyard that provided an endless supply of large yellow lemons year round, which meant that all your recipes contain some form of lemon. In Boston, lemons are expensive, but old habits die hard, and you pay the extra few dollars to always have 1-2 lemons in your fridge. You take out your last lemon. The skin is smooth and light yellow, unlike the rough and darker skin of lemons back home. You cut the lemon in half and squeeze each half over a small bowl, carefully removing the seeds. Before throwing away the hollowed-out shells, you harvest the yellow skin with a microplane grater, tightly gripping one side of the lemon as you slide it back and forth.   

With all the ingredients, you follow the recipe step by step, making sure the butter is malleable to the touch before creaming it with the sugar, 2 eggs, lemon, a sprinkle of sea salt, and a dash of vanilla powder. From there, you slowly sift in the flour and baking powder. After dusting the batter with a thick layer of white snow, you force the hand mixer through the thickening mixture at a crawling pace. Sift and then mix. Eventually, the batter becomes a clay-like dough, and you abandon the mixer in favor of your hands, gently kneading until the dry powder disappears without a trace.

To firm up the butter and create shortbread’s crumbly texture, you chill the dough in the fridge. After two hours, you take out the hardened dough and roll it out until it is 1 cm thick. Having made thousands of pie crusts at La Terra cafe, rolling dough into a flat plain is almost second nature. You take a small metal ruler and measure the height of the edges, making sure they are very close to 1 cm. All your fancy Christmas cookie cutters are at home, but you have a practical 12-piece round cookie cutter set, which you use to cut a diverse range of circular shapes. You cover two parchment-lined baking sheets with circles and coat the tops with whisked egg yolk before sliding the trays into an oven preheated to 350°F. You close the heavy oven door with a thud and wait for the cookies to finish in around 15 minutes.

After freezing the leftover dough and washing the bowls, you hover around the oven. You can’t focus your attention on another task, just like when you were a little kid and sat on a stool in the front of the oven, watching the timer countdown. You keep wondering if the cookies will turn out okay and whether you accidentally messed up. Maybe the 1.2 grams of extra baking powder will make the cookies expand too much? Could there be egg shells hiding in the dough? You turn on the oven light and peek through the blurry glass window. You can barely make out clumps of dough on the baking sheet. What’s happening in the oven is completely out of your command. The measuring, mixing, chilling, and cutting that you spent hours on were just preliminary stages to prepare for these 15 minutes in the oven. You did all the hard work setting the stage, but it all comes down to the bake.

Butter melts and releases trapped air and water, which expands air pockets formed during the mixing process. This gas expansion needs to be carefully timed with protein coagulation to create a cookie with both structure and lightness. Egg and flour proteins trap water and form a continuous network that surrounds the expanding air pockets, creating a home that protects the gases from the outside world as they mature. A cozy home with a large lemon tree, cornflower blue walls, and a narrow kitchen filled with enticing flavors. A home with a thousand books, a well-stocked pantry, and a million baking supplies. But children can’t stay inside forever. They have to leave the house to go to college and then find their own air pockets to protect.     

Once the gases grow up, the air pockets are no longer able to contain them, and the support structure ruptures, forming a porous sponge-like texture where gases freely pass in and out. When the dough becomes a sponge, its shape is finalized, and the excited gases surge out of their nests and go on their own adventures outside of the cookie world. The structure builders are left behind in a home covered in doors that are always open for their children. Some gases will calm down and eventually remember to visit their homes. Others will forever remain outside the cookies, even escaping the oven into a whole new universe. With all the empty nests, the cookies lose a lot of moisture and weight. The lack of water forms a dry and hard crust on the surface, a network of scars on the proteins that are left behind. The crust eventually browns from sugar caramelization and maillard browning, forming a sugary lemon scent that spreads throughout the apartment. The cookies are almost ready.

The timer on the oven starts blaring, and you quickly shove on bright-red oven mitts and crack open the oven door. The orderly rows of cookies have a bright orange shine on the surface and a light brown complexion on the bottom. They look perfect. You extract the trays and place them on a towel to cool for a few minutes. The cookies will continue to bake for a while longer. You call an Uber and then rummage through your closet to find the new pack of tupperware you bought from Target but never opened.

To test the quality of your cookies, you eat one of the smallest cookies. The cookie is still warm and part of it melts on your tongue. The sweetness from the sugar and sourness from the lemon dissolves to reach your taste buds. The more complex aromas of vanilla, citrus, and caramelized sugar drift to your olfactory cells. The texture perfectly complements the flavors, a crumbly but soft base with a hint of denseness from a thin layer of egg wash. Flawless, as far as you could tell. You pack the rest of the cookies in the container. You can’t wait for your parents and brother to taste them. With some shortbread cookies, there’s no way they wouldn’t invite you home with open arms.

Mailänderli Cookies

The cookie is still warm and part of it melts on your tongue. The sweetness from the sugar and sourness from the lemon dissolves to reach your taste buds. The more complex aromas of vanilla, citrus, and caramelized sugar drift to your olfactory cells. The texture perfectly complements the flavors, a crumbly but soft base with a hint of denseness from a thin layer of egg wash. Flawless, as far as you could tell.

This recipe is matched with “Shortbread Cookies”. It’s the recipe that I follow throughout the story. Mailänderli is the German word for butter biscuits. My grandmother gave this recipe to my brother and eventually to me. I bake Mailänderli cookies for Christmas and Easter since they make amazing gifts!

Recipe makes around 40 cookies 

Ingredients

Equipment

  • Two mixing bowls (one large, one medium)
  • Scale and/or measuring cups1
  • Electric mixer
  • Rubber spatula 
  • Sifter 
  • Rolling pin
  • Cookie cutters
  • Ruler to measure cookie height
  • Baking trays and parchment paper
  • Pastry brush
  • Cooling rack

Cookie Dough

  • 17 1/2 tbsps (250 grams) butter at room temperature2
  • 3/4 cup (180 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs at room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract/vanilla powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp lemon zest
  • 3 tbsps lemon juice3
  • 4 cups (500 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp (4.8 grams) baking powder

Egg Wash

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tbsp heavy cream (optional)4

Instructions

  1. Preheat: preheat oven to 350°F 
  2. Mix the dry ingredients: in the medium mixing bowl, combine the flour and baking powder. Stir until ingredients are well distributed
  3. Cream butter: in the large mixing bowl, cream the butter on medium speed until smooth. Usually this takes around 5 minutes
  4. Add the sugar: add granulated sugar and cream on medium speed until mixture is pale yellow, light, and fluffy. Takes around another 5 minutes. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl one or twice while mixing  
  5. Add in remaining wet ingredients: add in the eggs one at a time, mixing on medium-low speed until incorporated. Add in the vanilla extract/powder, salt, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Mix until evenly combined
  6. Add dry to wet: in several batches, sift the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. For each batch, mix the dough together until most of the flour disappears5. After adding in the last batch, knead/mix the dough until all traces of flour disappear. The dough should feel like soft clay
  7. Refrigerate dough: chill the dough in the fridge for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days
  8. Cut out cookies: roll the dough to 1 cm thick6. Use cookie cutters to cut out shapes. Transfer the cookies to baking trays lined with parchment paper  
  9. Final touches before baking: coat the tops of each cookie with egg wash
  10. Bake: bake cookies at 350°F for 15 minutes. When cookies are slightly brown on the bottom, then they are ready 
  11. Cool: cool cookies on baking trays for 10-20 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack. At this point, you can start eating them! :)

Tips and Tricks

  1. I like to use a scale for dry ingredients and measuring cups for liquids
  2. It’s important for the butter to be at room temperature before creaming it. You can tell that butter is at room temperature if it’s malleable to the touch. Microwaving to soften the butter isn’t the same since it won’t trap enough air
  3. The amount of lemon you add is up to you. If you want a stronger lemony scent, then add more. You can also just add the zest and juice from one lemon to keep things easier
  4. If you want the cookies to have an orange top, then skip the heavy cream. If you want a more pale, golden color, then add the heavy cream
  5. Eventually, the dough might become too thick to mix with the electric mixer, so knead the dough with your hands
  6. The thickness is also adaptable. If you want crispier cookies, make them thinner. If you want them to be more moist and cakey, then make them thicker. I would recommend 1-1.5 cm as a good starting range

Madlibs

Instructions: Fill out the following list, on your own or with a friend. Do not peek past the list until you have finished, or you will miss out on the surprise! 

  1. Noun: ___________________________________________
  2. Plural Noun: ______________________________________
  3. Verb Ending in “ing”: ________________________________
  4. Noun: ___________________________________________
  5. Verb Ending in “ing”: _______________________________
  6. Verb: ___________________________________________
  7. Direction: ________________________________________
  8. Verb: ___________________________________________
  9. Verb: ___________________________________________
  10. Verb: ___________________________________________
  11. Olin Professor: ___________________________________
  12. Exclamation: _____________________________________
  13. Noun: __________________________________________
  14. Verb: ___________________________________________
  15. Proper Noun: ____________________________________
  16. Body Part: ______________________________________
  17. Adjective: _______________________________________
  18. Verb: ___________________________________________
  19. Noun: ___________________________________________
  20. Verb: ___________________________________________
  21. Verb Ending in “ing”: _______________________________
  22. Adjective: _______________________________________
  23. Person in Room: __________________________________

Dear Dean of Harvard Admissions, 

We’re no strangers to ___1___. You know the ___2___ and so do I. A full commitment’s what I’m ___3___. You wouldn’t get this from any other __4__. I just wanna tell you how I’m __5__. Gotta make you __6__. 

Never gonna give you __7__. Never gonna let you __8__. Never gonna __9__ around and __10__ you. Never gonna make  __11__ cry. Never gonna say __12__. Never gonna tell a __13__ and __14__ you.

We’ve known __15__ for so long. Your __16__’s been aching, but you’re too __17__ to say it. Inside, we both know what’s been going on. We __18__ the __19__ and we’re gonna __20__ it.

And if you ask me how I’m __21__. Don’t tell me you’re too __22__ to see it!

Thank you for your consideration.

Best,

__23__

Credits to Pete Waterman, Matt Aitken, & Mike Stock for writing the lyrics to “Never Gonna Give You Up”, which we altered for this Madlibs!

Seuss-isms

Growing up, my parents bought me a small book titled “Seuss-isms: Wise and Witty Prescriptions for Living from the Good Doctor.” Full of small quotes from Dr. Seuss, there are enough to apply them to many different circumstances. Going forward, I will share a monthly Seuss-ism with you all. Hopefully, they can guide you all, just like they have guided me!

On equality and justice:

“I’m quite happy to say

That the Sneetches got really

quite smart on that day,

The day they decided that 

Sneetches are Sneetches

And no kind of Sneetch is the best

On the beaches.”

-The Sneetches and Other Stories

California Jones and the Golden Egg

Barreling down at high speed, the intense sound of the dry road making contact with the decently used all-season tires was covered up by the blaring of “Oye Mi Amor” by Mexico’s finest, Maná. California Jones at the wheel, no one could have been better equipped to keep the golden egg safer than him. Some say that he had been trained by the ancient Mayans on what is now the ruins of Chichén Itzá in evasive maneuvers. Others claim to have seen him alongside Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson at the gym, training to be strong enough to fight off any enemies in his pursuit of protection. California Jones has never been in the game for the fame, fortune, or thrill. No, he prefers to know that he was able to protect those who needed his help.

With a quick, yet gentle pull of the wheel, C.J. changed the course he was on, hoping that the advice from the ever reliable compass, “Ways,” that he kept on him was right. It was absolutely vital that every move he made was calculated in advance because any sudden movements could and would damage the egg. Looking in the rear-view mirror, California Jones noticed that not more than 5 car lengths behind approached “The Sickos,” the evil people that seek to infect the golden egg. As his foot applied more force on the accelerator, the engine roared louder, motivating C.J. to carry on as if he had a tiger in the back instead of just the golden egg.

The exit was now in sight. Pointing the beast in the direction, he waited until the very last second to hit the brakes and make a sharp right turn. Though it allowed him to gain some space on “The Sickos,” he had now put the golden egg in jeopardy as it had now moved under the belt buckle and sat unprotected in the backseat. At this moment, C.J.’s training with seal team 6 came into full use as he seemingly managed to get time to stop. Jamming his foot on the gas pedal, he fought the momentum of the vehicle to lunge himself into the backseat and reach for the golden egg. Palming it, California Jones returned to the captain’s seat to navigate them through what seemed like a planned field of obstacles in his way. Weaving in and out of the “traffic” that plagued those small streets, he was able to lose “The Sickos” just in time. 

Approaching the destination, the previously paved, straight road had turned into an uphill battle on rock and dirt. With the egg in one hand, the steering wheel in the other, and all of his effort into propelling the vehicle up the rough terrain; C.J. knew that he would not lose this fight. Though it sounded like the entire animal kingdom was screaming at the top of its’ lungs, he jeered the wheel back and forth, slowly making it up the steep “road.” One last push before the engine was to blow and the vehicle steadied out, no longer being on an incline instead having made it to the top. Here, the palace of Sylmar, was to be the safehouse for the golden egg as predetermined by California Jones. No “Sicko” could ever make it up there. Without a single scratch on it, C.J. handed the golden egg to its caretakers, where they would later watch the first golden bald eagle hatch. Once again, the evermore talented California Jones stunned the world with his determination, loyalty, and skill.

ARC Tips for the Start of 2nd Semester!

Editors’ Note: A version of this was printed November 2020, the content is the same, minus the intro paragraph. 

Happy start of second semester! As we settle into the semester, now is the perfect time to evaluate how virtual learning is going for you and if there is anything you want to change. As we all know, virtual learning asks a lot of all of us and it can be challenging to change  things up.. This is where the ARCs can come in!

We aren’t going to list here all the reasons each of us has to be stressed and anxious right now. But we are going to acknowledge that there is still a lot. Amidst everything though, we are also all students, meaning we have classes, and homework, and projects to think about — and that is exactly what we write to talk to you about today.

 ARCs have collected the following tips and tricks from other Oliners on what has been helping them navigate learning during this period of virtual school which are listed below. 

Task Management / Calendar

  • Post-it notes : A simple physical post-it note on your laptop or near your desk is an easy access way to track tasks and it is super satisfying to cross things out. 
  • Todo list examples : If you are looking for a Todo list that is electronic and simple to set up, consider a custom google sheets template!
    • Option 1: This option features a column for each class and a column for the random tasks like email with a due date and a checkbox to tick off tasks as you complete them
    • Option 2: This option is set up for a planning out your work week and assigning different academic/personal tasks to each day of week 
  • Schedule it! : In addition to adding classes and meeting to your personal calendar, try scheduling “do not disturb time” to get focused work done. 
  • Track Canvas assignments: Try adding canvas deadlines to your email!  Here are tutorials for adding your canvas calendar feed to outlook and gmail

Getting into a Workflow

  • Create a Commute – Before you hop on the computer for class or team meetings take a walk around the block , go for a run, or an activity that helps you to create space between school life and personal life.  
  • Bookmarks  – When you sit down to get working, try bookmarking things like calendar, class websites, and other commonly visited websites.  Having these links on hand means you can get to work quickly and not get distracted while trying to find the link to the zoom room!
  • Find where work is happening – If you are living with other students, doing work together is a great way to build momentum towards getting things done while adding a little friendly accountability.  
  • Focused Work? This time technique comes highly recommended by a number of Oliners! The Pomodoro method involves 25 minutes of focused work with 5 minute breaks.  This is a great way to build-in breaks while still being able to focus.
  • Hide your Phone  – Notifications on phones were designed to distract so moving your phone away from your work area or even out of the room helps to limit distractions.  This tip can also be great when trying to get to bed on time! **Also try flora for a little extra motivation to stay off your phone!

If you find yourself wanting help implementing any of these strategies, or needing more options, feel free to reach out to Adva (adva.waranyuwat@olin.edu) to get connected with an ARC. For various reasons, getting work done right now can be challenging, but the ARCs are here to help you figure out how to get through these barriers as much as possible! 

We hope that your semester  is as engaging, well-focused, organized, and restful as possible!  You are not alone! 

Love,

The ARCs 

Abby Fry, Grace Montagnino, Jocelyn Jimenez, Mark Goldwater, Reid Bowen, Riya Aggarwal, Sabrina Pereira

What to Watch

Here’s what Oliners recommended you watch or otherwise consume! Note that Frankly Speaking and its editors do not necessarily endorse any of this content; its just an anonymous collection of tips from fellow Oliners!

TV Series

Avatar the Last Airbender, a feel good show that’s full of complex characters and wonderfully good for the heart. Currently on Netflix!

The Midnight Gospel – netflix, very trippy and they talk about death a lot but you can’t look away, incredible dialogue

THE OFFICE ????

 Blood of Zeus: perfect if you like greek mythology and epic music. It’s available on Netflix

The Good Place: hilarious and very thought-provoking (Netflix)

Dash & Lily: adorable and screams CHRISTMAS! (Netflix)

Orphan Black (TW: suicide, addiction)

Los Espookys is a show about a fictional Halloween VFX small business growing in success despite its employees dealing with personal problems including juggling part time jobs, a cult-like pyramid scheme, being the heir to a chocolate empire, and just wanting to be left alone to do your spooky stuff. Produced by Fred Armisen, who also plays the best valet parker in the world. My all-time favorite tv show. Available on HBO.

Netflix: Pose – such amazing genderqueer stories of suffering and love and hard work and dreams

Selena: The Series – if you love music and a beautiful story and strong gender dynamics lol

Altered Carbon – why rich people are literally evil

Hulu: Westworld – dystopian, robots, *let it change you*

Daria, my highest recommendation, deadpan, real, alternative, Jane Lane is my animated crush, but Hulu got rid of it, so idk Amazon Prime?

The Good Place— there was a celestial bureaucratic mixup and the wrong person gets sent to heaven, it’s very entertaining. There’s also a genderless Siri-like sentience named Janet who has just the best lines. It’s also worth noting that beyond the idea that there’s an afterlife with “a good place” and “a bad place,” it’s not a religious tv show.

Boy Meets World- wholesome wholesome wholesome <3 Started as a story of friendship, wound up becoming a love story over 7 seasons

The Middle- lots of solid, relatable humor. Does its job as a sitcom

Stranger Things- stellar production, leads to excellent discussions with Rob Martello

Dash and Lily is a super cute short holiday romcom on Netflix ! Mindhunter is also on Netflix and a cool serial killer show that evolves really well.

Queens gambit. TW: addiction, drugs/alcohol, suicide. You’ve probably already heard about this show, but if you haven’t, here’s a blurb I blatantly stole from google: “Set during the Cold War era, orphaned chess prodigy Beth Harmon struggles with addiction in a quest to become the greatest chess player in world.” I think y’all will love this show. Given that you (the reader) go to Olin, imma assume you’re a nerd. So chess might be up your alley. Either way, what’s not to love about chess, passion, sacrifice, and copious quantities of drugs and alcohol?

The Newsroom: what should an ideal news outlet look like

The Witcher: Toss a bitcoin to your Witcher

The Americans: Soviet spies living in the US during cold war

Great British Baking Show – funny, relaxing, motivation to bake

Great Pretender – TW: child soldiers, sexual assault, child sex trafficing. This might be anime, but it’s a really good show that constantly surprises you. The TW are heavy (especially in season 2), but they are not portrayed in a good light or as normal. 

Goosebumps is really good. I watched it heavily with my household this semester and it’s scarier than most scary movies. 

Anime recs

Bungo Stray Dogs; very good and aesthetic supernatural anime placed in modern japan. All the characters are names after real authors and their abilities are named after their pieces.

Your Lie in April: super beautiful and has lots of classical music (Netflix)

The Promised Neverland: very suspenseful. I can almost guarantee that you will binge this show after watching the first episode (Netflix)

Mob Psycho 100! A young psychic learns to control his powers. Available on crunchyroll.

Erased. 

Puella Magi Madoka Magica – pretty animation and great soundtrack, I think it’s on Netflix

Attack on Titan. It here! The final season. This show is absolute insane! I’m not even sure how to describe the pure lunacy of this show, so imma just say, look up the synopsis for yourself. But I will say that every season thus far has been a STRAIGHT BANGER! Now that the final season is airing, why not go back and watch from the start. You won’t regret it!

Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-Kun – comedy, slice of life, one of my favorite animes

Haikyu! My first year roommate watched it over and over and I finally understand why. It also provides a really interesting perspective on teaming that I think many can benefit from.

Movies

Ali Wong’s comedy specials on Netflix. Just so worth it. She is hysterically funny

Three Idiots – Netflix – Amazing Bollywood Comedy about engineering students,

Dangal – Netflix – Another great Bollywood movie about female wrestlers

HARRY POTTAAA

I, robot; haven’t watched it in a bit and really want to

The Brainwashing Of My Dad is a documentary about how the director’s formerly liberal and kindly father gets sucked into conservative media, starting with Rush Limbaugh and going to  Fox News and Alex Jones and how that transformed him into this bitter, cruel, and just angry man. When outside circumstances cut off his access to these pundits, he started turning back into his old self again. It truly followed the cycle that many cults use to brainwash their members, and the director Jen Senko got it all on camera.

Nightmare Before Christmas

Coraline

Tangled

Airplane!, Top Secret: hilarious plot-optional comedies, a joke a minute.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead: surreal tragicomedy about two minor characters from 

Hamlet. I hear the play is even better, but the movie is a great experience.

The Big Lebowski: Weird, fun characters, kinda complex plot, kinda surreal. Quite an experience.

Hillbilly Elegy was a great recreation of the book, super interesting and about a lot of very real problems that people in America face (on Netflix).

Hunt for the Wilderpeople. You’ve probably never heard of this movie, but you may recognize it’s director Taika Waititi as the mastermind behind classics such as Thor Ragnarok and JoJo Rabbit. Anyways, this movie is a hilarious journey as we follow a boy and his reluctant foster father as they become the center of a nationwide manhunt when they become lost in the New Zealand outback. Watch them escape the authorities, make terrible mistakes, and so much more. Definitely one of the funniest movies I’ve seen recently. Also who doesn’t love a good old kiwi accent. Check it out on Netflix! An absolute hidden gem!

The Lighthouse

Jingle Jangle was very cute and was STEM heavy with a POC heavy cast. It was something I would have really wanted as a kid. 

Klaus is another really good christmas movie that incorporated fun Christmas traditions into the story line.

Audiobooks/Podcasts

Reply All – available everywhere and through Gimlet Media. These people dig into some very niche stuff and boy do they commit, especially recommend the “Snapchat Thief” episode

ITS THE FINAL COUNTDOWN!

Finding Fred; very compelling look at the life of Mr. Rogers, the type of person he was, and what we could apply to our own lives

The Adventure Zone!! Three comedians who are brothers play D&D with their dad. Hilarious and eventually deeply heartwarming storytelling.

If you’re a fan of horror, I highly recommend The Black Tapes and Tanis. Tanis is a little more *out there* than The Black Tapes, but is also (imo) scarier. I binged both of them in a week and regretted it in the moment bc nightmares but loved it in the long run. I think both are available where most podcasts are but I’ve listened to both through Spotify.

1619 – history is wrong, everything in America is about slavery

Sincerely, X – such compelling stories, this one is amazing from a storytelling perspective, will expose you to new perspectives; Jemele Hill is Unbothered – because she’s funny and cool and talks about real shit

Behind the Bastards is a podcast about evil people and organizations through history and their rise to power. It’s fascinating, horrifying, informative, and often has parallels or adds context to a lot of current events. Be aware that you’ll get angry listening to most episodes though, this is not a calming podcast. I highly recommend “How Nice, Normal People Made The Holocaust Possible” and “The U.S. Border Patrol Is A Nightmare That Never Ends.” Also, all the trigger warnings are attached to this, they talk about some really dark stuff.

Ghosts in the Burbs is a podcast that interviews people from Wellesley (yes, our Wellesley!) who claim to have seen ghosts or paranormal happenings. Fun stuff.

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer – super good book about indigenous practice and the environment that really helped me rethink my approach to conservation/climate action, I listened on Hoopla through my public library

If you’re interested in psychology, sociology, rational thinking, game theory, and hallucinatory cactus-people: The Slate Star Codex podcast. I can’t recommend this enough, it’s thought-provoking and a joy to listen to.

Revisiting American History: Early African Resistance

Warning: The following article wrestles with a difficult topic in American history, a topic contains some horrid depictions of human suffering

Note from the Author: Sorry I missed November! As classes and grad school applications began ramping up, I didn’t have time to write. I know we’re all short on time as finals ramp up, so I’m going to keep this brief. I hope you can still take something away from this snapshot of America’s past.

This article is a continuation of the Revisiting American History Series, where each article revisists a section of American history with a critical eye for the different groups of people involved in that history. In October, we learned about the origins of slavery in America, and now we’re going to continue that thread by learning more about African resistance and how closely early policing in America was tied to race.

When African people were ripped away from their homes and forced into slavery, they resisted. On the voyage from Africa to America, many African people decided they would rather drown than be forced into slavery, and they jumped into the ocean, killing themselves to end their suffering. Those who made it to America found subtler ways of resisting. They would find ways to sabotage their plantation, or work together to participate in slowdowns. Some were courageous enough to run away altogether, either establishing villages on the frontier, or attempting to pass off as free with skills they learned on the plantation.

Gerald Mullin, author of Flight and Rebellion, studied slave resistance in Virginia in the eighteenth century. He studied plantation and county records, as well as newspaper advertisements for runaway slaves. According to his work, “The slaves described were lazy and thieving: they feigned illnesses, destroyed crops, stores, tools, and sometimes attacked or killed overseers. They operated blackmarkets in stolen goods. Runaways were… men who visited relatives, went to town to pass as free, or tried to escape slavery completely, either by boarding ships and leaving the colony, or banding together in cooperative efforts to establish villages or hide-outs in the frontier.” 

This spirit of African resistance was truly admirable. Landon Carter, a slave owner from the early 1700s, complained that his slaves were so uncooperative that he began to question whether keeping them was worthwhile. I believe that is a feat worth congratulating. Even more impressive, when the first African slaves were forced to work in Hispaniola in 1503, the governor of Hispaniola complained to the Spanish court that the African slaves were teaching disobedience to their Native American counterparts. Not only were African slaves able to hold on to their roots and resist as individuals – they were able to inspire other enslaved and disenfranchised people to resist with them.

Of course, not all of this resistance was so subtle or non-violent. Many African people decided to take matters into their own hands, and fight for their freedom. In 1739, in Stono, South Carolina, a group of twenty slaves killed two warehouse guards to steal guns and gunpowder. Once armed, they headed south, killing people in their way, and burning buildings. They inspired other slaves along their path to join them until they reached about eighty slaves in total. According to one account at the time, “they called out Liberty, marched on with Colours displayer, and two Drums beating”. These slaves were ready to rise out of their condition. Unfortunately, the militia found and attacked them. The slaves defended themselves. By the time the battle was over, about fifty slaves and twenty five whites were killed. Stono’s Rebellion had just been crushed.

America’s ruling class, composed of landowning white men, was fearful of exactly this kind of outright revolt. As Governor Alexander Spotswood warned in a speech to the 1710 Virginia Assembly, “… freedom wears a cap which can without a tongue call together all those who long to shake off the fetters of slavery and as such an insuerection would surely be attended with the most dreadful consequences so I think we cannot be too early in providing against it, both by putting our selves in a better posture of defense and by making a law to prevent the consultions of those Negroes.” In an attempt to keep African slaves from rebelling, the ruling class broke up family ties amongst the slaves, disciplined them with hard labor, lulled them into adopting new religious beliefs, and even created separation amongst the slaves by splitting them into either more privileged house slaves or less privileged field slaves.

The ruling class was especially fearful of what might happen if slaves were to work together with the lower classes of white freemen to overthrow the ruling class. As early as 1705, Virginia’s ruling class was making attempts to draw a clear color line between white and Black. Virginia’s ruling class proclaimed that all white men were superior to Black, and required that masters must provide their white servants whose indenture time was up with ten bushels of corn, thirty shillings, a gun, and 50 acres of land. Their Black counterparts were to receive nothing. The purpose of laws like this was clear: Give the lower class white people just enough privileges that they will see the ruling class as an important defender of those privileges, and maintain the status quo against the further disenfranchised Black slaves. 

As Edmung Morgan, a specialist in American colonial history, describes it, “Once the small planter felt less exploited by taxation and began to prosper a little, he became less turbulent, less dangerous, more respectable. He could begin to see his big neighbor not as an extortionist but as a powerful protector of their common interests.”

This led to a form of early policing in America known as “Slave Patrols”. White men were legally mandated to serve as patrollers for up to a year. They were paid for fulfilling their duty to police Black people, and were fined if they chose not to show up to patrol. These patrollers had very few restraints, and could even forcefully enter anyone’s home based on alleged suspicions that they were sheltering escaped slaves. As historian Gary Potter explains, these slave patrols served three primary functions.

“(1) to chase down, apprehend, and return to their owners, runaway slaves

(2) to provide a form of organized terror to deter slave revolts

(3) to maintain a form of discipline for slave-workers who were subject to summary justice, outside the law.”

Slave patrollers considered it their civic duty to beat and terrorize America’s enslaved population. In fact, they were legally compelled to do so. They enforced curfew, checked travelers for a permission pass, and broke up any assemblies that were held without permission, explicitly preventing any form of organized resistance.

While this wasn’t the origin of policing in the entire world, it was the origin of policing in America. When you think about American policing and it’s modern day controversies, remember that this is where it started: America’s ruling class uniting with disenfranchised white people to oppress an even more disenfranchised Black population.

I feel that oftentimes, when people are confronted with controversies in current events, they hide their opinion behind the question of, “What’s the legal precedent? What does the law say about this?” While it may be easy to hide behind the supposed objectivity of the law and its legal precedents, we must remember that our laws were not written by some objective arbitrators of moral justice. They were in fact written by people, and we need to be cognisant of what their motives were. Were we never to question and rewrite our laws through new legislation, we might never move towards a more just and equal America. Next time you come face to face with an important issue, I invite you to ask why the current laws and social norms are set the way they are. Who do they benefit? And who created them? I believe that this is key to promoting change in a healthy democracy.

I haven’t yet decided whether I will continue this series next semester. We’ll see how much work I have to do. Regardless, I hope these articles have opened your minds to the tremendous insight we can gain from historical context. Good luck with finals!

Sources:

  1.  A People’s History Of The United States by Howard Zinn

Many pieces of this article are either direct quotes or paraphrased paragraphs from Zinn that aren’t explicitly called out. Part of this is due to his unique style of writing I hope to capture in this article, how well he articulates certain ideas, so that I can be certain I’m not misrepresenting any facts presented by Zinn, and to not disrupt the flow of the writing.

  1. NPR Throughline on American Police: https://www.npr.org/2020/06/03/869046127/american-police

By Rund Abdelfatah, Ramtin Arablouei, Khalil Gibran Muhammad

This was an incredible recollection of the history of policing in America, starting out with some of the podcast guest’s personal experiences, and then exploring the history from slave patrols to the Harlem riots.

Anonymous Compliments

The F. W. Olin Family™ is wonderful, and these anonymously-submitted compliments provide a small and sweet sampling of some of the reasons why. Much love!

audrey lee – thanks for always relating to me and nerding out together

jules brettle – you are such a kind person with a warm heart

Thank you Meg K for being an amazing friend <3

kristtiya – meme queen of olin ’22

james davis has the best hair. hands down. you can fight me on this one. not to mention being super friendly and a mega talented dude.

Meg, you’re one of the most genuinely kind-hearted people I’ve ever met. I’m constantly amazed by your compassion and empathy–in addition to, obviously, how frickin smart and cool you are. You’re such a good person and I’m so lucky to know you!

Sam D, you are such an incredible and inspiring person. How do you walk around with such a ginormous heart full of so much love and care??? I love all your incredibly niche STS memes and your lovely laugh. Truly honored to be your friend <3

Cali has really positive vibes and I’ve loved seeing her creativity in her paintings and baking!

quinn kelley is one of the kindest, most supportive people I am lucky enough to call a friend

Prisha, you’re one of the sweetest people I know. thanks for always making me laugh you cutie <3

Carlos has the meats

Francine- you’re the best at covering all my frequently asked questions

Adva. Adva. Adva. We would be lost without her.

Gilda’s story at Convocation was so powerful! (As were the stories that MarCom posted after!)

julia chomowicz is the best. julia is SO SWEET and livens up any occasion. she always says hi to you with a big smile and it’s a very special thing to behold. we stan julia

Serna, you are always there for your friends and you do everything you can to make Olin a

better place.

Shout out to Rachel Won and Alex Frye for coming to talk with our Advising Family about registration even though they’re on LOA. You rock!

kate mackowiak is a loving friend and she is so cool and wow I am just so lucky to know her

nathan faber is a cool dude. the man gives great hugs and loves his bikes like they are his children. gotta love him

scoleman is so fun to be around

Jon Stolk, you are an amazing professor. Thank you for truly and genuinely supporting and caring about your students.

thank you alana huitric for helping me with my homework and everything in between <3

Luke M has been such a ray of light in my life this semester. if he sees this, keep being you!! so endlessly grateful for you.

cara has the most comforting presence :)

Eriel makes me laugh. Always.

the modsim teaching team is the best!

prisha sadhwani is absolutely gorgeous and has the most infectious laugh ever. wow. she is just the best

Casey May (Lil Flex) is just one of my favorite people. He is so cheerful and always knows the kindest thing to say in any circumstance. Plus, I love having a friend that I can send cute dog pics and memes to.

Jeremy Skoler has an inspiring amount of confidence to try new things.

Maeve you’re the best thanks for being an awesome friend!!! Keep being your gay, trans, badass self <3 <3

ally bell is *the* kindest soul

Himanshu is so positive and kind

annie tor is so sweet and so hard working

To the Koala Tea Friends- thanks for everything! <3 I hope we will get to be all together again

Jules, I so appreciate how out of your way you’ll go to make tools for other peoples’ organization or learning. They’re always so elegant and well-thought-out!

emma mack – a loyal friend with giving and fun energy!

Skagglioli has got the ravioli

nicola van moon is awesome. she is great to work with and even better to talk to. I think nicola is the most relatable person around and an excellent source of friendship

Han Vakil was a great negotiator when trading for black market supplies in our candidates

weekend design challenge.

Taylor Swift, thank you for saving me while writing my SCOPE midyear report <3 Wouldn’t have made it through the assignment without your jams

Kristin Aoki, you never fail to make my day better, and my hopeless romantic heart has found kin in your hopeless romantic heart. Thank you for being you <3

Jason Woodard is a 10/10 SCOPE adviser

Lynn, you’re the best advisor in the whole world. You always know exactly the right questions to ask. Thank you for your tireless dedication to your students!

3OH!3, thank you for recognizing us! It’s pretty rare for a community college to get shout outs like that ;)

Leon Santen is always tirelessly trying to make the Woodland experience work for everyone. He deserves so much appreciation.

Emma Pan and Erika Lu bring me joy with their cute, bright personalities and creativity

Leon Santen – You have such interesting perspective on the world and open my mind with every conversation.

Lydia H is so hard working and positive, and has one of the best smiles ever!

Vivian from the registrar is so sweet

Erhardt is one of the most passionate professors I know. His knowledge is boundless and I’m so privileged to learn from him.

Meg K. you inspire me every day!

katie foster, i love hanging out and doing homework with you!

Cassandra is a thoughtful, positive, and really supportive friend. She was always able to notice when I wasn’t in the best mental state and really makes me feel like she has my back

clark pohl – thanks for being lively and hard-working

Alison Wood, thank you for being a professor at Olin! You make Olin a better place. I promise, I’ll find some way to make you queen

Serna, thank you for all of the things you do for the community <3

Camille, you have so much compassion and patience. I’m so thankful for your presence at Olin

The Frankly Speaking team has put a lot of work into keeping an awesome part of Olin alive during a chaotic time. Thank you for that!

Grace, you’re one of the most empathetic and caring people I know. I’m constantly blown away by your capacity to care for people even when they’re going through really, really hard things. You’re amazing and I’m so glad we’re friends <3

Looking into Anya’s eyes is like looking into the galaxy

I’m really thankful for the Community Connections Storytelling Workshops. I went to most of them and found it a time to connect with faculty and staff (and alumni!) who I wouldn’t normally get to just chat with. Thanks for doing these!

Rajiv, I enjoy all of our conversations and you make AMAZING cookies. Definitely friendship-earning-worthy cookies! <3

Arla, you’re a natural-born leader and you’re gonna take over the world, and I can’t wait to see

what you do. Cheering you on always <3

Anna Commers is always up to something unique and awesome.

Meg Ku makes everything work. More Meg, please

Maia M is a sweet pea

Erhardt, I am so fortunate to have you as a professor and mentor. You’ve taught me so much about how to be an effective teacher, especially in the way that you care and believe so much in your students. Your constant support and belief in me makes me believe in myself. Thank you so much!

gail romer, such a kind-hearted soul

Sara Hendren. Review in the m-f’ing NEW YORKER and NPR’s Best Books of 2020. Could we be any luckier to have her at Olin?

Our sketch model artist in residence Arlene really encourages us to think about society and making in different ways and stretch our worldview

Max, I’m really glad that we’ve become friends this semester!

Julian saved our scope team with TLC

scoleman, I’ve never met such a giving yet fun person before

Declan – Talking to you always makes me feel so much better about my self and the world

Reid – I super appreciate your perfect blend of compassion and honesty

Leon: little nail, thick head

Mia Skaggs is always ready with the right mode – joke mode, sweet mode, party mode. They’re all awesome

shoutout to SG and SLAC and Frankly Speaking and Catalyst and everyone else trying to make things happen

Sabrina, you have the sweetest smile and the coolest sense of style. I’m so glad we got closer this semester <3

I live, laugh, and love solely because of Anusha’s reminders

someday. I wouldn’t have made it through Olin without you.

caitlin kantor is such a gem. she is so sweet and so cool and so much fun to be around. you should consider yourself lucky if you get the chance to hang with caitlin

Riya, you’re one of the most Mom Friend people I know and also one of the most adorable. I love when you interrupt yourself mid-text, it brings me so much joy. Loved working with you this semester <3

Class of ‘21, y’all bring me so much joy. I’m pretty crushed that we won’t be spending our spring semester together. Keep being your unique selves and go out into the world and do strange, marvelous things!

I want to be Jadelin’s friend really badly