Issues Brief Idea

For our Issue Brief, Elliot and I are going to be considering the widespread prevalence of food deserts and unequal access to healthy food choices. Food deserts are defined by the USDA as “parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas.” These are typically seen in low-income, urban areas, where residents primarily have access to fast food restaurants, rather than fresh foods and produce from adequate supermarkets. This is so problematic because of the distinct link between food deserts and obesity. As distance from a supermarket increases, the risk of obesity also rises. Likewise, at-risk families within these regions are also receiving less nutrients, which would commonly be found in the fruits and vegetables they are unable to acquire. Therefore, poor food choices can ultimately be the difference between a well-lived life and potentially fatal health concerns.

Part of our inspiration for this topic came after an in-class activity this past fall. When considering public speaking practices, we watched the TedTalk, “A Guerilla Gardener in South Central LA”, by Ron Finley, which sparked our interest in small, yet tangible impacts that can be made to alleviate the problem of food deserts. The talk stressed that a solution will need to rely on community participation. Food deserts are found to be intrinsically tied to urban areas. Therefore, one of the best ways to fix the problem is implementing urban gardens in areas classified as food deserts. This holistic approach is a simple way to bring fresh produce to underserved populations, while also providing the opportunity for economic growth for local farmers. Even more, urban gardens can help to educate future generations about healthy lifestyles, and increase community pride. In discussing both food deserts and urban gardens, we hope to bring an alternative to the current scene of unhealthy eating, and demonstrate our knowledge and experience of food insecurity issues.

TIB First Draft

One fall afternoon, I walk over to the courts, and grip my racquet. The sun is beating down, and joining my team, I sense the nervous heat of competition in the air. We stretch and mentally prepare for our matches, formulating individual plans for achieving success. After huddling together for a cheer, we split up to face our opponents, and the spectators begin to arrive.

I believe that sports are honest. They honestly depict who a person is, and prod us to act with honesty. Watching someone compete puts him or her under a microscope, as the true reflection of a person is in a high-pressure situation. All of the athlete’s qualities are more pronounced. Through sporting events, I unearth more about myself.

I warm up with my opponent, taking time to reflect. Three years ago, I would never have seen myself in this position. I played volleyball throughout middle school, and as a freshman, I tried out for my high school team. After being cut, I was disheartened. I readjusted my focus, worked throughout the winter, and come August of my sophomore year, I made the JV tennis team. Numerous challenge matches later, I stand at the net, hitting volleys as the first singles tennis player.

I win the first set six games to three. But there is no guarantee in tennis, or a time clock. Anything is possible. My opponent comes back and wins the second set. I stand, talking through the fence to my coach, as we strategize for the final set. “You will outlast her,” she says. I nod, automatically, but then realize she is right. I frequently play all three sets, and never give in. My style is not one of extreme strength (believe me), but of grit. I will dig in, and grind this match out until the end.

I believe in sportsmanship, maybe too much. By this time, both teams have gathered around our court; it is four games to four in the final set. I am losing fifteen to forty within the game. We rally, hitting back and forth, and I see my opening. I run towards the net, slamming an overhead shot perfectly onto her side. My team cheers, but I turn, visibly upset. I had hit the net. The loss of this point will put me down four games to five, allowing her an opening for the win. This illegal accident goes unnoticed by my fellow player, though, and as I turn to go the other side, she tells me the ball was good, I had won the point. I let her know that I had hit the net, and she is shocked by my admission. I could have easily kept my mistake to myself, but that is not who I am. I act with a sense of integrity, and would rather lose than forget my morals. I go to the side of the court, wipe the sweat off my forehead, and take a breath.

As an observer, yes, it is just a sporting event. On the other hand, it is a representation of myself. I do not let obstacles stop me from achieving success; they simply direct me towards another path. I am unrelenting, and always put forth my best effort. I hold strong morals, and care more about who I am than what I do. But, just so you know, I did get the win that day.

Semester 2 Blogs

For the “This I Believe” podcast, I am still tossing around a few ideas, and searching for that spark of inspiration. I may recount the story of a heated tennis match from my high school career, in which I upheld my belief in sportsmanship in a surprising way. I called myself on an error I had made, and thereby put myself in line for a possible defeat. This alarmed my coach, but strengthened my own sense of fairness.

Another idea I am considering is the value of repose, and getting out of one’s routine. This past summer, I spent the summer primarily with my grandparents at the shore. I made this decision on my own, knowing it could be one of the few times in my life I would be able to take this time. By doing little but working and soaking up rays in a place where most people do little to nothing but relax, I gained so much. I might also change my belief into creating and making opportunities as they appear.

For my passion blog, I intend to change my topic this semester for a fresh start. I am a big proponent of the idea that typically, the book version of a story is much better than the movie. My blog will reflect on this notion by providing examples of novels and their corresponding films. Rather than taking a stance on which is better, I will compare and contrast the value of the different stylistic devices of both, so as to give both forms a fair shake.

For my Civic Issues Blog, I intend to have an Education theme. With this in mind, I wish to examine the changing landscape of the education system. I plan to consider the ramifications of the charter school system, particularly in lower income, urban areas. I also am thinking of delving into the technological advances in education, and how public schools are often giving students laptops and iPads, while others struggle to receive funding for textbooks. I may also consider technical, subject based high schools, such as S.T.E.M. academies, and Leadership high schools like those seen in the New York City school system.



Ted Talk Outline

Outline for Ted Talk

Introduction- Starting with 2 different slogans

  1. Slogan of McDonald’s (I’m Lovin’ It) v. Slogan of Chipotle (Food with Integrity)
  2. Overriding question of how did we get to this point, this new focus in choosing our food?
  3. Historical Facts

First fast food restaurants

  1. White Castle 1921
  2. McDonald’s 1940
  3. Burger King

What was the draw?

  1. Cheap price and efficiency
  2. Success
  3. New Wave of Restaurants
    1. Saladworks 198
    2. Panera 1980s
    3. Chipotle

Fast Casual

  1. Define the term “fast casual”
  2. Examples of
  3. Economically- what we perceive as a loss (time/$) for a greater gain (health)

Socioeconomic Trends

  1. Fast food was once a special occasion for all
  2. Then shifted to lower socioeconomic classes, impoverished areas
  3. Fast casual restaurants largely middle class
    1. Cultural ask any college student


  1. Back to slogans: New slogans stress that food was once less than ideal, not “as it should be” as Panera says
  2. White Castle/McDonald’s stress enjoyment and pleasure
  3. As a culture, we still want efficiency, but are willing to lose for bigger gains
  4. Consider whether our new options are actually healthier, or just us justifying our cravings for fast food in tidier, more welcoming restaurant packages.
    1. Health fact examples

What Now?

  1. Reaction of “traditional” fast food. Therefore, new restaurants are upping the status quo in this competitive market
    1. Gimmicks like “all day breakfast”
    2. Changing standards like Wendy’s “fresh, never frozen”.
  2. With more choices, let’s give everyone better, healthier choices
  3. Could this model expand to supermarkets, produce, etc.?



Historic/Traditional Fast Food

Fast Food in 1950s and 60s

The Chipotle Effect

The Rise of Chipotle Nation


Paradigm Shift Brainstorming

For my Paradigm Shift Essay, I plan on examining the change from a prevalent fast food industry to a “quick” food industry. My time span would be from the first fast food restaurant, White Castle, opening in 1921 to the present, and include the creation of perceived healthier fare such as the opening of Saladworks in 1986, Panera in the 1980s, and then Chipotle, Qdoba, and Cosi later on. This shift applies to most Americans, but I would like to focus on the initial boom of fast food across all socioeconomic classes, to its shift toward more impoverished communities. Now, the quicker, healthier foods are more of a middle to upper class phenomenon, leaving standard fast food corporations struggling to keep up. These companies have been required to add new options to their menus, and focus on new gimmicks in marketing strategies (ex. McDonald’s All Day Breakfast).

New vocabulary, such as “fast casual” has appeared to describe the later businesses. The worldview has changed in that an emphasis on efficiency has given way to acceptance for slightly sower service, and greater monetary cost, given the ultimate gain of better food. As Americans, though, a degree of speed is still appreciated, and even these “nicer” restaurant chains are far from sit-down. I would also like to consider whether our new options are actually healthier, or just us justifying our cravings for fast food in tidier, more welcoming restaurant packages. This can be seen in the advertising slogans of the various companies, such as Panera’s “Food as it Should Be”, or Chipotle’s “Food With Integrity”. Both show a response to past food service ideologies, stressing that food was once less than ideal, not as it is supposedly intended to be. White Castle and McDonald’s, on the other hand, stress enjoyment and pleasure, with words such as “lovin” and “crave”.


Mae irks me, and I am sure she is meant to do so to the readers. All along, you relate to her in her struggle between living the life you think she wants, one of privacy in intimate relationships, and freedom to travel, kayak, and simply exist, against the harsh, suffocating bubble of the Circle. Then, she begins to adjust to the environment and give into its ideologies. She stresses the importance of connectivity to her paretns, and in the process, publicly humiliates them. As Annie, once an ardent Circler, begins to whither away, Mae only increases in enthusiasm. Yet we still trust her, and so does Kalden. This is his downfall, and ours, as well.

In the end, Mae brings it upon herself to reveal Kalden’s plans to prevent the closing of the Circle. She is so entrenched in the community, and to me, I see her as a weak villain. She does not truly act alone, of her own accord, but is a glorified henchman. She admires her own role in the Circle and pats herself on the back, citing “her integrity… her strength, her resolve, and her loyalty” (Eggers 495). But don’t villains normally know what they are doing to be evil? I know the Joker surely did, and so did Darth Vader, and Hannibal Lecter. They had malicious intents. Maybe this is why The New York Times defined Mae as “dull”. She is not vengefully minded, but her mindset can surely be detrimental to many. In the final pages of the book, we find her watching over a comatose Annie, and struggling with the idea that something could be private: “What precisely was happening in [Annie’s] mind was unknown to all, and Mae couldn’t help feeling some annoyance about this” (496). I think this is what is most threatening about Mae. She is not only sucked in by the Circle, but influenced to the point of action.

Why does Egger’s try to anger us (or surprise us, whichever way you interpret it)? Maybe he is taking us down off our metaphorical high horse. Here we sit, reading this novel, judging a character and thinking about just how much better we would react given this situation. Would we really, though? If you were offered a job at Google, or some other global corporation with significant influence, great benefits, and all we think we would ever need for day-to-day living, would we question their ethics? I would like to say I would, and I think we can all say that from a moral standpoint, we would hope for this, too. There is a possibly that we would not, though, and Eggers reminds us of this. He shows us that it is possible to just sit back and watch our world and culture change. We can watch our society become frighteningly transparent and technologically savvy, but through our disappointment with someone we once perceived as a heroine, he reminds us that this is not what we want for our future.

Circle Post #4

We, along with Mae, are always “on”. Be it online, on camera, or on a physical or metaphorical stage. The Internet is our readily available antidote for boredom, and rarely are we out of a zone with Wi-Fi connection. Security cameras are everywhere, following almost each and every step we take. Our own phones, through the use of such applications as Maps, we can pinpoint our locations, or we share our locations with others through the use of Snapchat filters. We are constantly on stage, not typically in a theatrical performance (although those are all well and good), but in that we always have a part to play, a role to fulfill. Our responsibilities as students, and Mae’s positions as a Circler extend far beyond a classroom or workplace.

WE ARE always Penn State students. We are told to be cognizant of the way we present ourselves to employers or to visitors of our campus. On social media, especially, we know that wearing a Happy Valley t-shirt is more than significant, as we represent the entire student body, and the institution as whole. A few weeks ago, even when I travelled off-campus to New Jersey for a THON canning weekend, I was told to be aware of how I speak to donors, and how I carry myself. Barely anyone knew my name that day as they walked by excitable volunteer and I, but they knew our university and our cause. I could even see in the reactions of passersby how they felt about my school. For some, upon seeing us, their eyes would light up and they would tell a story about their niece attending Penn State back in ‘05. Others, however, might have made some side comment about scandal and abuse, despite the fact that we were merely raising money for pediatric cancer research. Nonetheless, the differing reputations of our school preceded us, and therefore superseded our individual identities.

Mae is so recognizable that she need not a wear an emblem or a uniform. Her constant presence online makes her an undeniable force, but one under incessant scrutiny. Her mere support of a product validates for thousands that it is worth considering, and in many cases, purchasing. One day, she notes her success in “work[ing] on her PartiRank for forty-five minutes… and [bringing] her Retail Raw [to] $24,050” (Eggers 279). Notably, she still describes these actions as “work”, even when not officially on the clock. Her obligations, and ability to represent her employer, encompass much more than a 9-5 job. This holds within her daily life, too, as she adventures outside of campus. After illegally borrowing a kayak one evening, she is unsurprised that her superiors automatically know her misstep: “He knew. God, he knew. In some recess of her mind Mae realized that the Circle must have some web alert to notify them anytime a staff member was charged or questioned by the police. It only made sense” (275). Mae is never off the clock, and to her, this becomes commonplace, a working hazard. This exhausting, high pressure way to live leaves her needing more than just a day off.

Circle Post #3

Mae is dull, but so have we become. As Mercer stated, she is ‘boring’ in that she can no longer truly be present or satisfied with her family and friends. Although they are initially proud of her new career accomplishments, they have become frustrated with her. When all she can contribute to a conversation is something they have no grasp of, or experience with, she is unable to interact. Likewise, her constant engagement with her phone disallows her from noticing social cues as she “scrolls through her messages, looking for one that she [is] sure would impress [Mercer]” (259). All the time, however, he attempts to voice his displeasure with her, until angrily fleeing her presence. Someone she once valued is second place to her device, and he sees the sadness in the regression of her humanity as technology evolves. She becomes boring to him, as she is not more than a robot.

On the other hand, Mae’s focus on numbers to determine her activity level in social life is telling. She continues to note the effects of her perceived help for Mercer, not just on him, but on herself: “At the same time it occurred to Mae that this kind of activity would surely get her PartiRank into the 1,800s” (259). She considers what she is doing to be truly influential and even ‘active’ as she refers to her unrequited posts for Mercer’s product. It could even be comparable to online social movement petitions. Does signing a bill online, versus petitioning outside a government building make more of a difference? It is debatable, but nonetheless thought provoking. Likewise, I find it ironic that sitting behind a screen can augment a ‘PartiRank’, something that describes your participation and social life.

With this idea in mind, one clear correlation between Mae and our social media use can be seen on Instagram. I often fall into the same trap of watching my own “likes” roll upward after I share a picture I enjoy on social media. In a way, it brings me pleasure to know that others supposedly appreciate what I am sharing with them, and what I am doing in my life. Is this truly an active way to establish and hold friendships? Are we really that much happier, or feel we did something, participated in something that is actually real that day? We hold onto the numbers, something that appears tangible and numerical, to give us reassurance of intangible factors. These are factors that we need to feel, not just see as data points that justify our having fun. We are boring by relying on numbers, and we too struggle to pick up on social cues right before us as we cannot look up from our screens. As said in one of the speeches in class, how often do we miss what is going on right in front of us by blocking on our own view with our tablets? Let’s just hope we do not become as robotic as Mae.

Rhetorical Analysis Essay Rough Draft

Here is a very rough draft and partial outline of my essay. I am comparing and contrasting the messages and rhetorical strategies of both the “Coexist” and “Exist” bumper stickers.


Introduction: Everyone has an opinion; we have known this since the beginning of time. In the realm of civil liberties and religious views, many do not agree with one another. We groups are at odds, though, how is one to combat opposing views and promote their own in their lives? Often, citizens are taking it to the streets. Yes, you guessed it, bumper stickers. Bumper stickers, specifically the “Coexist” and corresponding “Exist” bumper stickers both challenge varying aspects of civil liberties and freedom through creative imagery and far-reaching, timely messages.

Description of Coexist sticker/ideology:The Coexist bumper sticker campaign calls forth the concept of religious freedom beyond a merely legal sense. The faithful of disparate religions often feel marginalized, be they Jewish, Christian, Muslim, or otherwise although they are technically allowed to worship as they see fit. Many wish for acceptance and cohesion with groups across the spectrum of beliefs. Promotes an ideology of acceptance and religion, without the constraints of a certain form of worship

Description of Exist Sticker/Ideology: The Exist bumper sticker campaign came partially in response to the Coexist idea. The users of this sticker are not looking to dance around issues, and allow for any way of life to be accepted, they want their voices, and their specific attitudes to be heard.

Kairos of 9/11 (Coexist): The value of messages such as “Coexist” and “Exist” are clearly in conjunction with the current events of the times. The rise of Al Qaeda, and terrorist attacks such as those on September 11, 2001, brought may to discriminate against the Islamic community in the United States. In more recent times, the actions of ISIS have brought increased skepticism upon many Muslims throughout the country and the world. Some politicians have even called for extensive measures to be taken to prevent immigrants of Islamic backgrounds from entering our country. These occurrences make the sentiment behind “Coexist” more relevant than ever. Driving behind a bumper-stickered Sedan on the Pennsylvania turnpike after hearing the news of the latest racially discriminatory statement by a political candidate, one can be reminded of the inherently American values of accepting all, regardless of race or creed.

Kairos of Mass Shootings: In a similar way, mass shootings, such as that of Sandy Hook in 2012 increase the interest in the issue of the right to bear arms. After witnessing such bloodshed and atrocities, especially against children, many feel an emotional connection to gun legislation for a period of time. In the wake of such events, lawmakers are frequently prompted to adapt gun legislation laws. In the case of Sandy Hook, heated debates followed the violence during which background checks and the passing of new bans on assault weapons and high capacity gun magazines were discussed. Pro-gun groups view moments like these as necessary to mind the government and its citizens of their legal right to