Macaulay Honors College Seminar 2, IDC 3001H

Category: Week 14

Designing the Halal Cart Website

There weren’t really any significant discussions this week as we primarily focused on creating the halal cart website for the class. However, as we worked through the steps, I realized that making an appealing website is not as easy as it seems, and sometimes more people work on it hinders the process, rather than helping it. For example, on Monday, we experienced a lot of difficulties trying to add widgets to the website. When we tried to remove the excess widgets that were added, some useful widgets were also remove as there were not enough communications between us and everyone just tried to remove the widgets. This struck me as similar to how there are often only one or two workers working in each halal cart. In high school, I learned from my economics class how the overabundance of workers in restaurants will lead to inefficient work because there is only so much space in the restaurants and so much work for each worker to do. Similarly, there are only so much tasks for all of us to do when designing the website; and when all of us tried to do the same tasks at the same time, it was much harder compared to just one person from each group doing the task.

Regional Preferences — The Halal Guys and their Competitors

I pass by 6th Ave and 53rd Street on a daily basis after classes. It’s not an unfamiliar sight to see the six The Halal Guys halal carts (and one The Halal Guys catering van) with lines of hungry New Yorkers on their lunch break. Neighboring hot dog stands and nearby parked food trucks cannot compete with the loyalty New Yorkers have given to The Halal Guys and those street vendors often find themselves looking down on their phones much more often than on the grill. It’s heart breaking to see other street vendors including competing halal carts attempt the impossible of perhaps snagging one customer from the long lines for they not only sacrifice a more profitable location for the exclusive spot to be near The Halal Guys node, but also their permit usage which is constantly ticking down until its expiration date.

However, once I leave the busy streets of Manhattan, I found an interesting discovery. Bordering LaGuardia Community College located on Thomson Ave is another chain of various halal carts and other food carts waiting to serve hungry college kids. To my surprise there is another The Halal Guys cart located within this chain of food carts but it was the least popular one! There was not a single customer ordering  and the vendor manning the cart at that time even had the grill turned off. Students and other pedestrians were lining up at other neighboring carts varying in names and products, but The Halal Carts had their popularity turned against them.

Having the tables turned upon this realization, I recall there are other well known halal carts within their own respective region. For example, Shah’s Halal Cart and Sammy’s are some of the most dominant halal carts in Queens. Shah’s also has recently expanded to Long Island with a cart located in Hicksville! Although the name “The Halal Guys” is often the first one we think of, given their popularity and success that allowed them to branch into catering and a brick-and-mortar store, New Yorkers will always save a space in their stomachs for local favorites. I cannot say on behalf of New York that this is present in other remaining boroughs such as Brooklyn or the Bronx, but according to online reviews, Queens residents seem to have their hearts (and stomachs) set on Shah’s over The Halal Guys.

Politics and the English Language

We didn’t really have any significant discussions this week, so it was really tough for me to come up with a topic for this post. Although it didn’t have anything to do with immigration, I did hear one small conversation that came up on Wednesday in which we discussed the use of language. Some claim that in word choice using the simpler word is always the better option. One of the main proponents of this view was George Orwell. Orwell is a writer most famous for his works 1984 and Animal Farm. He also explored his view on language itself in his essay called “Politics and the English Language.” He claims that our use of language is the result of the political climate of the time. Politics he claims is what dictates the use of language which ultimately influences how we think. Some political bodies, like Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany, used big words and euphemisms to cover up lies and make atrocities sound moral. This would cause the people of those countries to use the same unclear language by believing those lies. In of the most telling passages Orwell writes:

“In our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics’. All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia. When the general atmosphere is bad, language must suffer. I should expect to find — this is a guess which I have not sufficient knowledge to verify — that the German, Russian and Italian languages have all deteriorated in the last ten or fifteen years, as a result of dictatorship.”

Orwell makes a really interesting side point that everything is a political issue.  He was writing in 1946 and it seems to be even more truthful now. Every argument now seems to have a political undertone.

The other point he made was that politics is a “mass of lies…”. This seems to be one of the prevailing reasons why Donald Trump won the presidency. People became fed up with the typical political establishment viewing them as a mass of lies, and Trump represented a change from that. Although, he may not be so innocent as we have learned in the news.

Works Cited

Behind the Scenes of the Blog

What I found extremely interesting during this week’s discussions was how much thought needs to go into creating a visually appealing and functional blog, or any website for that matter. When visiting a website for daily use, we rarely notice anything about it unless something is not working correctly. For example, when we first reach the homepage and are easily able to transition between various topics on the site, it is nothing out of the ordinary. On the other hand, if we reach a website and struggle to find the links to reach different pages or see minor mistakes in functionality, we are quick to judge. As we have been creating our Halal Carts website and collaborating with one another, it has become more and more clear to me that such a project is no easy task. In order to have the format of the blog look as we wanted it to, we needed to communicate with all of the members of the class and come to a consensus. After we figured out the theme, our ideas needed to be compiled into the website and we’ve been lucky enough to have had Jake do much of the heavy lifting in this area. Even today, when we are less than a week away from announcing our website as complete, we realized there are issues that need to be resolved such as the arrows at the bottom of posts which lead to different categories.

I think this type of a project really forces us to think about all of the work that goes into the websites we use every day, and how many people are involved in making them look as they do. Websites are clearly not created overnight and take the hard work of people skilled in technology, something that many of us have had no experience with until now. Regardless of the difficulty of such a task, I’ve found it extremely exciting to see our ideas and edits come to life on the blog. Even though Jake has been largely responsible for making this happen, we’ve had the opportunity to see the backend of the website and learn about the different widgets needed to make it something unique. It has definitely made me even more appreciative of websites that are aesthetically pleasing and functional, but also more sympathetic to those which are lacking in such areas. Web design is a process of trial and error, as we have experienced with our own site.