Interview Assignment: details

Interview list:

[ Michael Greshko  will interview Léa Steinacker ]
[ Léa Steinacker  will interview David Jimenez ]
[ David Jimenez  will interview Vladimir Radomirovic ]
[ Vladimir Radomirovic  will interview Stewart, Alicia ]
[ Stewart, Alicia  will interview Sophie Chou ]
[ Sophie Chou  will interview Celeste LeCompte ]
[ Celeste LeCompte  will interview Laurie Penny ]
[ Laurie Penny  will interview Savannah Niles ]
[ Savannah Niles  will interview Liam Andrew ]
[ Liam Andrew  will interview Bianca Datta ]
[ Bianca Datta  will interview Melissa Clark ]
[ Melissa Clark  will interview Wahyu Dhyatmika ]
[ Wahyu Dhyatmika  will interview Kathleen McLaughlin ]
[ Kathleen McLaughlin  will interview Giovana Girardi ]
[ Giovana Girardi  will interview Amy Zhang ]
[ Amy Zhang  will interview Austin Hess ]
[ Austin Hess  will interview Miguel Paz ]
[ Miguel Paz  will interview Ellery Biddle ]
[ Ellery Biddle  will interview Thariq Shihipar ]
[ Thariq Shihipar  will interview Irina Gordienko ]
[ Irina Gordienko  will interview Vivian Diep ]
[ Vivian Diep  will interview Kitty Eisele ]
[ Kitty Eisele  will interview Gideon Gil ]
[ Gideon Gil  will interview Jieqi Luo ]
[ Jieqi Luo  will interview Melissa Bailey ]
[ Melissa Bailey  will interview Elaine Diaz ]
[ Elaine Diaz  will interview Pau Kung ]
[ Pau Kung  will interview Anna Nowogrodzki ]
[ Anna Nowogrodzki  will interview Phillip D Gara ]
[ Phillip D Gara  will interview Charles Kaioun ]
[ Charles Kaioun  will interview Michael Greshko ]

Assignment, due March 4: Classmate Profile / Personal Data
You will be randomly assigned another student in the class and someone else will be assigned to you. Your job is to thoroughly research your subject online and discover as much information as possible about them on the Internet to create a detailed profile. Then you may choose to use a 30-minute interview with your subject as fact-checking. Your research and interview will be the basis for a profile of the subject.
Please let us know if you will be participating in the assignment by tomorrow morning! We will send the matches by the end of the day tomorrow.
Prior year examples:
Reading for March 4:
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A new Ramen in town


Cambridge is not an exciting culinary city. With an abundance of burger joints and cafes catering for students, a few high end bistros and the occasional hipster eatery (I’m looking at you Live Alive) there is much left to be desired in the mid-range restaurant scene. It’s astonishing how difficult it is to find a warm exciting meal in Cambridge without paying a premium fine.

It’s not a surprise then that a new Ramen restaurant gets so much attention. Hokkaido Ramen Santouka, opened only two weeks ago near Harvard Square, was completely packed on a frozen weekday evening. The lack of a reservation system and a waiting list of forty five to sixty minutes does not seem to deter the potential diners away.

The first thing you will notice after surviving the long wait is the fine attention to details. The space is well lit, the music is at exactly the right volume and the pleasant acoustics are idle for conversation. These would all be taken for granted if not for the current trend of flashy and loud restaurants which also try to act as a cafe, a pickup bar or a sports bar.

The menu is currently limited for a soft opening period. It includes only 6 ramen dishes all based on the signature “Tonkutsu” broth. Personally, choice makes me nervous so a limited menu is right up my alley and I hope they won’t extend it too much in the future. I ordered the signature dish “Tonkotsu Shio Ramen” with a topping of corn and butter. My partner ordered the “Tonkotsu Shoyu Ramen”, which is the same dish with added soy sauce, and a soft boiled egg topping. Happiness was less than 10 minutes away.

ramen2It’s all about the broth. Oh, the broth. Thickness that can only be obtained through endless hours of braising pork bones. Flavorful yet subtle. Layers of taste, all living in harmony, reveal themselves one after the other without creating interference or over complexity. A Ramen dish is carried on the shoulder of it’s broth. And this one delivers. The juicy pork belly, fresh vegetables, and the cooked to perfection noodles were only there to compliment the holy broth in which they roam.

To put the final seal of approval on the attention to details one must only examine the soft boiled egg: Fully cooked egg white with thick running yolk. So simple yet so hard to find in this level precision.

The Hokkaido Ramen Santouka provides a unique experience in the Cambridge culinary landscape. One can only hope this level of simplicity and precision will persist.

Cheque please:

Tonkotsu Shio Ramen : 11.25$

Tonkotsu Shoyu Ramen: 11.25$

Aji Tama (soft boiled egg) : 2$

Corn & Butter: 2.80$

Total: 27.3$

Hokkaido Ramen Santouka, 1 Bow St Cambridge, Massachusetts

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“How to Talk to Strangers” : A French Figures Out

The very American concept of “networking” makes my French soul cry. So Monday afternoon, I decided to attend a workshop at MIT (“How to talk to strangers”), in order to understand it all better — and who knows, maybe start liking it.

In terms of format, I tried something I never did : a first person audio piece. It cost me not to take any pictures, but I did it. The whole thing took me a little more than 4 hours.


All Smiles in Somerville: The Many Dentists of College Avenue

Dental offices on College Avenue. Photos by Ellery Roberts Biddle.

Dental offices on College Avenue. Photos by Ellery Roberts Biddle.

Why Are There So Many Dentists’ Offices on Somerville’s College Avenue?

Walking on College Avenue, from the Davis Square T stop to the main campus of Tufts University, one cannot help but notice that nearly half of the businesses from Davis to Powderhouse Square are dental practices. Is Somerville just a smile-conscious city, or is there something more to it?

“It used to be called Doctor’s Row,” says Carol, the administrative lead at the offices of Anthony Parella. “I knew a lady who was about 100 years old. Her husband was a doctor, and his practice was in their house, on the first floor. It went on like that for decades.” Parella, who specializes in cosmetic dentistry and periodontics, has a small private practice on the main floor of what was once a single-family home. The second and third floors of the building have since been converted into apartments.

“It’s very rare to see a practice just disintegrate,” Carol explains. “When someone retires, a new doctor usually comes in and takes up the practice.”

Somerville dental offices, according to Google Maps.

Somerville dental offices, via Google Maps.

As with other types of businesses, the city maintains specific zoning and licensing requirements for privately-owned healthcare practices — while not impossible, dental office staff say that licenses aren’t easy to come by. Rather than filing for new permissions when starting a new practice, many of the dentists in the area have established their practices using pre-existing infrastructure that has made it easier for them to move in, change the window dressing, and get to work.

But is it really practical to have so many dentists in such a concentrated area? Like a fabric district or jeweler’s row, dentists in Somerville look a bit like a real-life illustration of the economic theorem developed by Harold Hoteling which suggests that when located next to one another, stores offering similar goods, pricing and services can generally expect to evenly split their surrounding clientele.

“It’s all about what the patient’s looking for,” said Deanna, who works as a receptionist at Somerville Dental Associates. “Most want the exam, the x-rays, and the cleaning. Some people just want a cleaning, like a one-time deal. But not all practices will do that for you.” Deanna pointed out that larger corporate practices in the area often can’t guarantee that a patient will see the same dentist at each visit.

She also spoke to the question of referrals, explaining that some practices offer specialist services, while others do not. “We regularly refer patients to our neighbors, when we can’t give them the services they need.” If your dentist can’t provide you with periodontic treatment, she can easily refer you to a colleague down the street.

This seemed due in part to the unique services each practice offers, and to the distinct patient populations they tended to serve.

Private practices like those of Lorna Lally and Anthony Parella reported that families and Tufts students made up the majority of their clientele, and that nearly all of their patients either had dental insurance through an employer or parent, or that they paid for services out-of-pocket. Both practices offer both general and pediatric services.

Outdoor wall advertisement for the Braces Place, part of Dental Associates of Davis Square. Photo by Ellery Roberts Biddle.

Outdoor wall advertisement for the Braces Place, part of Dental Associates of Davis Square. Photo by Ellery Roberts Biddle.

Dental Associates of Davis Square, a corporate practice with orthodontics, periodontics, cosmetic and general dentistry all under one roof, sees patients from throughout the surrounding area. Although they have fewer student patients than other nearby practices, office manager Kayann explained that their model attracts families with growing children, particularly given the offering of orthodontic services. Most clients had some kind of dental insurance, ranging from private plans to MassHealth.

When asked about competition with other businesses in the area, Kayann described their marketing strategy, which targets both older and younger audiences through both print and online advertising, and television commercials mainly on Spanish and Portuguese channels. Patients could request a Spanish or Portuguese-speaking doctor if they wished to do so.

Every staff person I spoke with emphasized the value of being located next to a major public transit stop. Deanna pointed out that most people don’t visit the dentist more than two or three times a year. “So they’re willing to travel for it. And the T makes it easy.”

None of the staff at the five practices that I visited seemed concerned about competition with other nearby offices. “It’s a diverse enough area with a high population density, ” said Deanna. So we all manage to do all right.”

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Exhibition: Drawing apart

Since I was not confident about writing a lengthy article in a language that is not my native one, I decided to explore the format and presentation.

I am not at all a professional photographer, as you will notice, but as I visited the very small exhibition I wondered how I could make the format of the report express a bit of the experience of being there. So I chose to take close-up, non revealing pictures of the works exhibited, and to fragment those pictures as the artist chose to fragment her scale models. If you click on a block, it rebuilds the correspondent image.


I cheated slightly, to be honest. My camera battery died right after I went to the exhibition, so I had to buy a charger before I could finish the assignment.

Click here to see the result

The small happy challenge in a cold Feb Day


Even In The Morning Mist The House is needed

Is it stormy outside?  You can’t find your way in the snowdrifts and the north wind makes you felling freezed stiff?  The key sticks in your cars lock and you are lazy to cook even for your dearest one? Than you are welcomed here: small, cozy, charming place, straight on the Mass Ave.

The Pho House  –  a delightful mix of Thai and Vietnamese Kitchen –  is a small business running by a local family. The menu may looks like common, but the Pho House is above average, to be sure. The secret is the way of cooking. It is a special one. Recipes were preserved carefully in the the family generation by generation. Thats why the taste of the dishes are so exquisite and simple products create the taste you’ve never thought it would be.


Tai Pho



The hot fifteen-hour beef-bone broth and butter like pats of beef-jowl (spice or not – its totally your choice) is almost laughably rich as the fresh flesh of soy beans served along side. It will melted your frozen blood and makes you happily staring people outside through the wall-large windows of the place.




The warm and tender Crispy Rolls with chicken, vegetables and special sauce will get you the sense of relaxation and  the world will blossom around you. New feelings, new emotions. Suddenly you’d noitice a charming jazz surrounding you.





They say, that there is no such notion like an American Cuisine. Im not agree. Places like these with its peculiar and unrepeatable way of cooking are made the American Cuisine, one of the most outstanding mixtures in the world.

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Making Amends and Building Bridges: the New Ed Portal Contributed By Harvard for the Allston-Brighton Community


The new Ed Portal

Despite the freezing temperatures and light snow on the afternoon of Saturday, February 23rd, the grand opening of the Harvard Ed Portal in the Boston neighborhood of Allston was a lively and cheerful affair. Well over 200 people attended the event from 1-4pm, along with several members of the Harvard and local city press, with organizers and students from Harvard University mingling with families from the Allston-Brighton community.



The new Science Room at the Ed Portal

Both Harvard President Drew Faust and Mayor of Boston Martin J. Walsh were in attendance and gave short speeches in recognition of the event. The afternoon also featured musical performances and dances by various student groups, and an enthralling lecture on the piece “The Rite of Spring” by Harvard Professor Tom Kelley from his upcoming HarvardX course. For the children, there were painting exercises, fun science experiments, and other activities led by Harvard student volunteers.


There were lots of children and many activities for them to take part in.


Professor Tom Kelley gives a lively demonstration of the dances and music in the Rite of Spring.

The Harvard Ed Portal is a brand new 12,000-square-foot space at the corner of Western Ave and North Harvard Street in Allston intended to serve as a community center and place of learning for the residents of Allston and Brighton. The space contains a theater space for performances as well as many smaller rooms for workshops and activities for children.


Entrance to the new Ed Portal in Allston.

This grand unveiling was the latest in a series of efforts from a task force led by Professor Rob Lue, faculty director of the Ed Portal, to extend the many resources available at Harvard University to members of the Allston community. In total, Harvard has allotted $8.3 million towards the building of the Ed Portal and other projects aimed at the local community. Many Harvard students have also taken on roles as organizers to carry out community projects and serve as mentors to children.


President Drew Faust addresses the packed audience.

At the new theater podium, speaking to a mostly standing audience, President Faust asked attendees to consider the question, “What is a Harvard? How do we think about what Harvard is?” She then went on to paint a picture of Harvard as “the unending pursuit of knowledge” and the Ed Portal as a place where the community around Harvard could take part in this pursuit as well.


A sign welcoming President Faust and Mayor Walsh.

Mayor Walsh echoed the question again in his speech and stated, “To me growing up, Harvard was someplace that very, very smart people went to, got a good education, and went on to do great things…went on to become presidents, and kings, and prime ministers. Today, what is a Harvard to a lot of people in this room is that Harvard is in reach of every person in this room.”

In his speech, Mayor Walsh acknowledged the sometimes-strained relationship between Harvard University and its neighboring communities as well as the city of Boston when he said, “I want to thank Harvard. I know that sometimes there’s been a bit of bickering back and forth. But this is one of the things that come out of bickering. It’s a great opportunity.” The frank statements elicited a lot of knowing chuckles and applause from the audience, many of whom were residents of the neighborhood.

The statements alluded to a long history between Harvard and Allston reaching back a quarter of a century when Harvard began buying up land in Allston across from the Charles River. While Harvard Business School and the new Innovation Lab are already in Allston, many new developments are planned as Harvard expands into the neighborhood, including a new home for the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and potentially new residential spaces for students.

Many residents of Allston have been upset about this encroachment of Harvard into their community and concerned about what the continuous march of development means for them. Many have complained of how this has resulted in higher living costs for current residents, pricing many of them out of the neighborhood.


One sign of this was seen in an advertisement found outside the Ed Portal promoting the Continuum, a brand new retail and apartment complex across the street. It had the word “gentrification” scrawled across the front. It remains to be seen how Harvard’s plans will continue to change the face of Allston and its residents in the coming years. However, the Ed Portal, as Mayor Walsh stated, has been one good outcome of the tensions between the university and the city and will hopefully be a entertaining and inspiring place for the community for years to come.



My Takeaways from this experience:

Attending the event was a somewhat stressful experience, as I tried to juggle food and drinks in one hand and my phone in the other, which I was using to both record audio and take pictures. My audio quality was terrible as I couldn’t get close enough to the stage and was too close to the rooms of children. I think being an actual journalist may be difficult for me as I am by nature quite non-confrontational. Although, I imagine some credentials and a badge could make me a lot more willing to push past crowds and even try to interview folks. I did not attempt to interview anyone for this piece.

I also didn’t have time directly after the event to write up the article and so cheated and wrote it several days later (still taking up only 4 hours in total for event + writing). Trying to coordinate WordPress and images on my iPhone turned out to be extremely frustrating due to the opaqueness that is iPhoto Library app. It’s amazing to me, even as someone who does UX and usability, how much anger something like poor or purposefully obfuscated application design can elicit.











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Rafters, Border-crossers and Spanish citizens: Faces of Cuban Immigrants in United States

More than 6,500 Cubans arrived in the United States crossing the border of Mexico since October 1st, 2014, in a context where uncertainty about the privileges granted by the Cuban Adjustment Act deepens.

Others entered using airports with passports of a third country and applied for political asylum.

Between 2005 and 2014 more than 15,000 people arrived on rafts and managed to touch land. In the same period, 17,503 Cubans were intercepted in the Straits of Florida and repatriated to the island, says Cafe Fuerte.

Cuban Immigration in US (2005-2014)

Cuban Immigration in US (2005-2014)

The Cuban Adjustment Act (CAA) is a law approved by the Congress on 1966 that allows Cuban immigrants to stay legally in the United States after physically being in the country for one year and one day. Immigrants from other countries need to have a sponsor which could be a family member or an employer to apply to come to the United States legally.

Statistics provided to the website Café Fuerte by the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) show an alarming increase in the number of Cubans immigrants, specifically after the Cuban immigration reform approved in 2013 eliminated the “exit permit”. This was an expensive mechanism that that previously controlled the citizens’ right to travel out of the island.

After President Obama announced a change in the relationship with Cuba on December, 17th, 2014, many people on the island grew “worried that America’s long-standing immigration benefits for Cubans are now in jeopardy,” says the Washington Post.

When the border is the sea

Rafters (Photo courtesy of the Public Affairs Office, 7th Coast Guard District, Miami, Florida)

Rafters (Photo courtesy of the Public Affairs Office, 7th Coast Guard District, Miami, Florida)

“Between 1959 and 1994, in defiance of the law, more than 63.000 citizens left Cuba by sea in small groups and reached the United States alive,” says the website Balseros, a digital archive to explore the experiences of Cubans who left the country in small boats, homemade rafts and other unusual crafts. At least 16.000 additional rafters did not survive the crossing.

“My name is Inés Brooks,” says someone who claims to be from Camagüey, Cuba, in the website Cuban Rafters. During the last years, this website has been publishing life stories from people who came to United States during the crisis of 1994.

We built the floor of the raft with wood and put large gas tanks and high rebar to protect ourselves. Although we move slow at sea, we did not have to paddle. We arrived to Guantánamo on September 3rd, 1994. I was there until January 31st, 1995. I didn’t work at the base, but I do know a lot of people who worked in the hospital, while others worked in warehouses or distributing food.

The number of people leaving Cuba in rafts declined since the last decade, specially compared to the crisis of 1994. Many of these rafters are intercepted at sea and returned to Cuba by the Coast Guard. However, in December, 2014, “the Coast Guard intercepted 481 Cubans in rickety boats and rafts, a 117 percent increase from December 2013,” said the Washington Post.

God bless Spain

In the fiscal year 2013, 9.700 Cubans arrived at Miami International Airport (MIA) with Spanish or other European nationality passports and qualified as refugees under the Cuban Adjustment Act (CAA), says Café Fuerte. More than 180.000 Cubans have become Spanish citizens under the Historic Memory Law (also known as the Grandchildren Law), which came into effect in December of 2007.

The Historical Memory Law recognizes the right to Spanish nationality to persons whose father or mother was originally Spanish and grandchildren of those who lost or had to renounce to their Spanish nationality as a result of exile.

“The number of Cubans holding a Spanish passport tripled between 2009 and 2011, when it hit 108,000. Many of those Cubans fly to Mexico or the US on their Spanish passports, then present their Cuban passports to US officials,” says The Guardian.

But some of them are living in the United States with Spanish passports, as it is the case of Daniel Hernandez, who never applied for the Cuban Adjustment Law.


Mexico: crossing the border

Osvaldo Perez is the director of the Score At The Top’s Wellington school. Conveniently located on Southshore Boulevard in the heart of Wellington, Florida. Perez has managed this learning center for years, which sole purpose is to serve students from Wellington and equestrians from across the world. The staff includes over twenty professional teachers and tutors that provide SAT/ACT test prep, college and school guidance, and private schooling.

Osvaldo Perez

Osvaldo Perez

People calls him just “Offi.” When someone dare to call him Osvaldo, he answers: “That’s my father”. This can be read in the school website, but it doesn’t tell the entire story. “I came to the US through Mexico,” says Perez. “I got a visa to participate in a religious event (…) then we flew to Ciudad Juárez where the immigration authorities detained us for two days and forced us to come back to Mexico City. At that point, they gave us three days to leave Mexico either back to Cuba or any other country.”

What did Osvaldo do? You can listen to his story here


From Canada to Mexico with Love

In recent years, many highly skilled Cuban professionals in Cuba have left the country. After the Cuban migratory reform was approved, some of them apply for fellowships. The main international destinations are Mexico, Canada, and Brazil, among others. The fellows receive good stipends compared with the average salary in Cuba. And, it is also a safer and more expedite way to come to United States.

Rolando Marin and Thais Pineda

Rolando Marin and Thais Pineda

“A month ago, my wife and I came to United States”, says young programmer Rolando Marin.

I applied for a fellowship in Mexico and she applied for another one in Canada (…) She spent like 50 minutes at the border of Canada. But my history was more difficult. I took a flight from Mexico City to Chihuahua City and after that I went to Ciudad Juarez. I spent almost six hours at the border point.

You can listen to the rest of the story here


Even in a context of political détente with the United States, the causes behind the Cuban migration have not disappeared. Low wages, lack of profesional opportunities for young people, difficulties with housing, public transportation, and food shortages are among the reasons mentioned by Cuban immigrants. On the other hand, the United States has been perceived historically as a prosperous country where you can get what you want if you work hard enough. This is, of course, another misrepresentation of a more complex reality.