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“You Want Fries with That?” One Professor’s Insight into why English is still One of Academia’s Most Valuable Degrees

As one of my final assignments for my college career, I was asked (okay, commanded) to interview one of the newest literary professors at my university.  Thankfully, I had already taken one of her classes, so I was more enthusiastic than usual about having to find time for another fun “real world writing experience” (a.k.a., an unpaid brochure-filler for incoming freshmen).  But after sitting down to write up the profile on my old professor, I was struck with how inspiring the interview had actually been.  As one of the countless college students who chose to major in the stereotypical English degree (let’s not even get started on my other major, which few Americans actually understand), I’m constantly braced for the barrage of employers and well-meaning parents who ask that oh-so-uncomfortable question: “how is this degree going to get you a job?”

because we all love hearing about how unmarketable we are after going into our own private recessions.

because we all love hearing about how unmarketable we are after going into our own private recessions.

Assuming that we actually HAVE given a thought to our futures and aren’t just killing time or draining Daddy’s wallet majoring in theater or underwater basket weaving, questions like this are still disconcerting to the almost-college grad.  In an economy still suffering from major borrowing backlash, it’s tough to know what we’ll end up doing in the next five years.  It doesn’t really help that most of our teachers seem to reside in a fantasy-land of perpetual academia, where you can actually make a living off of memorizing Renaissance poetry.

So when Dr. Furaha Norton, newly-hired professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Cincinnati, actually gave me some real-life wisdom, I felt it was my duty as a writer to share it with all my fellow English majors who dare to follow their dreams.  After all, Norton’s no stranger to these types of questions.  After spending the majority of her professional life advocating for the continued embracement of literature, she’s quite enthusiastic about the matter.

“You are constantly asked to justify the existence of the humanities,” Norton explains, surrounded by books in her campus office.  “I don’t ever feel like studying literature is not relevant.  As the world gets more complex, it is important to recognize how language can expand our understanding of the world, even change our perception of reality.”

When she joined UC’s staff in the spring of 2010, Norton was new to teaching, but not the academic lifestyle.  Her own mother being a professor of psychology, Norton grew up on a college campus.  Constantly exposed to the culture of dedicated learning and “the infectious energy of young people,” it comes as little surprise that by the age of thirteen, she had decided to become a professor herself.

After attending the University of Chicago for her undergraduate degree, Norton received her Masters and PhD at Cornell University.  While some consider Ivy League schools unattainable to all but the cream of the crop, Norton stresses that the “caliber of education you get is a combination of the focus and determination of curiosity you bring as a student.  Looking back, I was lucky to have some of the best professors in literature studies and literary criticism.  They set a standard of excellence in terms of writing, teaching, and research, and it’s a privilege for me to try to get halfway to where they were.”

It is this academic curiosity and ambition to rise above that set Norton apart when she made the transition from student to working professional.  After her time at Cornell, she was employed as an editor at the Oxford University Press, the largest and perhaps most prestigious university press in the world.  When interviewing for the position, she made it clear that no part of the job was beneath her.  “Even when I was copying a manuscript after I had earned a graduate degree I still learned something.  Seeing every part of the job you are applying for as an opportunity to learn and absorb is advantageous.  You can be the best at what you do, but there is a fine line between selling yourself and projecting arrogance.”

As a professor of American Ethnic Literature, Norton is all too aware of this fine line.  Hailing from an upper middle class family of teachers, it would be easy for her to take education for granted.  However, because her family is African American, she is aware just how important the opportunity for academic prestige is to her community.

“Since it was a crime for slaves to read, African Americans have always hungered for knowledge, and my family was no exception.  Being African American has influenced my professional development, because there is this idea that when you are black, you have to be twice as good as everyone else.  This was always the message conveyed to me by my ethnic identity.”

Unfortunately, many young people today don’t see the true value of an education.  Norton stresses the importance of having the discipline to finish school, especially those students choosing to pursue the subjects of literature, simply because it is empowering.  “If you can convey your ideas in writing, that is something that will make you stand out from the vast majority of people in the workforce, and will determine whether you spend your working life executing other people’s ideas because yours aren’t persuasive, or becoming someone whose ideas are heard.  Learning how to write is essential to expressing your ideas.”

But students can learn how to write through studying business models or scientific papers- so why study literature?

“The ultimate reason why we read literature is to create empathy.” Norton continues. “Our own experiences are reflected back to us, and we enjoy when we can understand someone else’s experience.  A lot of things follow from empathy: honesty, integrity, and perhaps most importantly in our changing world, seeing other people as friends and collaborators rather than being afraid of them because you don’t understand.  This is why I love teaching ethnic literature.”

Regardless of the many students she influences, Norton continues to advocate for literacy in her wider community.  Recently, she was elected to the board of the Mercantile Library, Cincinnati’s beautiful cultural and literary center.  As the predecessor to modern public libraries, mercantile libraries hold a collection of historic and eclectic volumes that are available exclusively to members and UC students, as well as holds events like book discussions and author readings which are open to the public.  As a director on the Mercantile Library board, she advises the executive director on finances, events, and most importantly, how they can grow their membership base to include more young people.

Norton is unapologetically passionate about drawing more students to literature-based careers.  “Don’t let people tell you that having an english degree is impractical, because it gives you a broader context of the world you live in, no matter what job you ultimately choose,” she advises.  “Stick to your guns because the basic preparation you receive from studying literature makes you a better writer.”

Words to live by the next time some smirking, communications-challenged engineer questions your “useless” major.

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Budget-Friendly Gifts for Real Men

It’s November ladies and gentlemen, which means the santas are in the stores and the lights are up at the zoo in my backyard.  No, really, I live right next to the Cincinnati Zoo.  Sometimes, the lions are my alarm clock.

Jealous?  Yes you are.

But with all those wonderful Christmas advertisements going around, it’s time to tackle the tough side of our gift-giving lists.  The male side.  Search “Christmas Gifts for Men” on google and you’ll find a sad assortment of ideas clearly written by some misguided skymall executive.  No man I know wants a traveling toothbrush sanitizer or another sad holiday-themed sweater.

“I could hang myself with all the bad Christmas neckties I found at the dump!”

So after lots of research and optimal price searching, I decided to gift the internet with a list of my own.

You’ll probably notice that this list is mostly free from any video games, movies, or cds.  At least in my experience, when a man likes a certain film, band, or series of first-person-shooters, they tend to buy these things for themselves the moment they come out in stores.  I laughed when I saw Halo 4 on Internet gift lists- I think every guy I know who’s serious about Halo raced out at midnight on November 6th to get their hands on it.  For the most part, unless you’re buying them an old-school arcade game or a classic movie series you know they don’t have, try to be more creative with your entertainment gifts.  Hence the absence of any lame “Beer of the Month” club cop-outs.

I’ve tried to find gifts for all price points, ranging anywhere from $5-$99.  As this list comes from the perspective of an almost college grad trying to get by in a still-shitty economy, I certainly won’t be wrapping up anything too expensive this year.

Just a disclaimer: I’m not getting paid to write any of these reviews (but if anyone would like to start, let me know!).  I’ve done my best to showcase products and companies that are genuinely awesome, affordable, and treat their customers and the environment right.  I think companies with good business values deserve to be well-frequented, especially during the holiday season.

Stocking Stuffers for any man:

PowerGen Mobile Juice Pack

Perfect for any man with a smartphone, camera, tablet, or other handheld electronic device who wants extra security away from an outlet, this juice pack can hold enough charge for several devices or multiple charges.  Simply charge the battery at home, then take it along wherever you go.  It even includes an LED flashlight.  Perfect for emergencies or long car trips.  Find it on Amazon for $30.

Astronaut Ice Cream

What little boy didn’t want to be an astronaut?  Whether they’re five or fifty, they’ll love these little packets of awesome.  Freeze-dried ice cream= a three year shelf-life and major cool points.  And surprisingly?  It’s very tasty!  Choose from three different flavors for $4 each.

Maybe You Touched Your Genitals Hand Sanitizer

Because it’s funny.  And sadly, with boys, it’s probably true.  Perpetualkid, $6.

Shawnimals Pocket Plush

These adorable plushies come from the totes-cool website shawnimals.com, which specializes in stuffed ninjas (including zombie ninjas!), mustaches, and adorable anthropomorphic foods.  Search their website for just the perfectly sized friend for your recipient.  I’ve had my mustache and ninja plushies for almost two years now and they’re still adorable (even after getting mauled by my cat).  I think the ones pictured here would make excellent off-the-wall ornaments.

Robo Keys key covers

Awesome rubber key covers in a manly robot finish.  Amazon, $6.

For the sexy nerd:

Star Wars Jedi Fleece Bathrobe

All I can say is, I bought this for my boyfriend a while ago and he still wears it for gaming, lounging, and the odd impromptu lightsaber-fight.  It’s super warm and comfortable and should fit any guy from about 5’8”- over 6 ft., and the hood looks freaking badass.  Just be careful, as your girlfriend may end up stealing it.  Buy it on Amazon for about $60.

Tetris desk lamp

Seven very familiar shapes from a nostalgically awesome game team up to make one seriously sweet piece of furniture.  A tetris-shaped light would be cool enough, but what’s really bangin’ about this lamp is that the pieces can be stacked any way you want: the LED light turns on when the tetriminos are put together, and stays off when the lamp is disassembled.  Plugs into a standard outlet.  Get it at ThinkGeek.com, $40.

For the sports fan:

A hoodie of their favorite team

“Officially licensed” team apparel tends to get a little expensive, so if you can afford to give your sports fan a hoodie of their favorite NFL, NBA, or MLB team, it makes a thoughtful and lasting gift you know they’ll actually use.  Because unlike a jersey, they can keep wearing it even after their favorite player becomes a total douchemonkey and leaves for a better team.

Engraved Pet ID tag

Because man’s best friend needs to show his love of football too.  Fanatics, $12.

For the Fix-it Man:

Cardsharp 2

A utility knife that’s ultra-strong and folds into the shape and size of a credit card, so it’s easily storable in your everyday wallet.  Yeah, this thing is pretty cool.  Of course, it won’t saw through a metal pipe, but the stainless steel surgical blade is sharp, stylish, and incredibly durable.  The newest version boasts a childproof lock and a built-in protective sheath.  Iain Sinclair, $25.

LED Lighted Safety Glasses

Chances are your DIY guy already has a good amount of tools.  Beware when buying the serious handyman a new powerdrill or set of screwdrivers, as he’s probably loyal to one particular brand.  Try to focus on accessories to his toolbox he might not have- or even think about- like these LED safety glasses.  With polycarbonate lenses, adjustable lights, and the dependable Craftsman lifetime warranty, this is a cool little gadget he never knew he needed.  $20, Craftsman.

For the baby:

The Peter Rabbit Hat

Yeah, I did the advertising for this one, so you KNOW it’s not only adorable, but a great, eco-friendly company too.  Cutie Bees is an organic baby clothes company that makes its products from all-natural cotton that won’t make sensitive skin uncomfortable.  If your friends are suddenly reproducing like rabbits and you have no idea what an appropriate gift for their mini-them is, you can’t go wrong with this $12 floppy eared snow hat.  Plus, it will be WAY more creative than the dozens of diapers, onesies, and stuffed animals they’re bound to get from their other aunts and uncles.

Mustache pacifier

Speaking of creative, anyone familiar with this blog knows that one of my favorite gift-giving sites is Perpetualkid.  Their customer service is spot-on, their packaging is biodegradable, and their products are 100% awesome and unique!  I love their stock of Fred and Friends merchandise, including this $12 hilarious pacifier.

I mean, just look at how happy it makes his clearly mustache-deprived daddy!

For the young nephew:

The Pocket Sized Fart Machine

is it just me, or does this look like a chocolate bar?

If you haven’t been blessed yet with your own little pile of spawn, you are in the “cool aunt/uncle” territory.  This means that you can get your siblings’/friends’ children the “fun” (read: annoying) gifts with no fear of immediate retaliation.  Hence the pocket sized fart machine.  Because what little boy doesn’t want to amuse himself with a bountiful arsenal of flatulence at his fingertips?  Whoopie cushions are SO last year.  Perpetualkid, $7.

Bananagrams

Parents: want an educational game that’s not a total bummer to give to your kids?  Bananagrams is faster than Scrabble and way more fun to play, yet still teaches spelling.  The object of the game is to be the first to use all your letters to build a crossword grid using anagrams.  It’s a great way to spend some time playing together on something other than a t.v. screen, plus it comes in a cool, portable banana carrying case.  $15, Amazon.

For the teen son:

Skullcandy Pipe iPod Station

This docking station and speaker for iPod and iPhone looks sleek and delivers decent sound for a decent price (but won’t blow your eardrums out). Charges your device while you play your music and even doubles as an alarm clock.  Its compact design allows for easier portability than the older iHome model and comes with a remote, so you know it’s male-friendly.  Another benefit?  A two-year replacement plan can be purchased with the speaker for only an additional $7, good news for parents who also bought their less-than-careful boys nerf guns.  Get it at Target for $63.

Five-tier Media Rack

Tired of yelling at your teenager to clean up his video games?  Give him a stylish, modern media rack to store all his games, movies, and CDs.  Atlantic, $20.

For the college-bound:

Faux Leather Jacket

Real leather’s expensive, and let’s face it, he’s probably going to spill cheap beer on it at some point.  But with this faux leather trucker jacket with knit lining he’ll look great AND stay warm while running all over campus.  J.C. Penny’s, $65.

Star Wars: the complete saga

With Darth Vader going Disney, you’ll need to preserve the “original” storyline for future generations.  At almost $90 for all six blu-ray discs, I’d relegate this to the “big gift” category.  Still, when you consider the price of buying all the movies separately and the hours of extras and deleted scenes, it’s actually a pretty great bargain.  Instead of avoiding his homework by watching lame Youtube videos, he can procrastinate by indulging in a pop-culture classic.  Plus, all sensible college girls will think your son’s good taste in movie references is sexy.

For the young professional:

The Fold Flat Grill

Small apartment living can be a challenge.  It’s hard to devote lots of dedicated space to a cooking device you use 2 seasons out of the year.  But what if you could fold that sucker to a slick 1 inch thick panel?  Meet the Fold Flat Grill, the portable charcoal grill with enough cooking space to sear six juicy steaks, yet takes advantage of the compact size of a folding chair.  Comes with a lifetime guarantee and serious awesome points.  Hammacher Schlemmer, $60.

Grant Leather Watch (in Black)

A young aspiring businessman needs a watch that fits serious style in a budget-friendly package.  Secured on a genuine leather band, water-resistant, and under limited warranty for 11 years, this Fossil-brand watch is classically cool.  Fossil, $95.

For dads:

Wolverine Boots

No, not the X-Men character, but your dad will probably feel like a superhero in the popular Gold outdoorsman Wolverine boot.  Waterproof, insulated, and slip-resistant, these are the perfect shoes for the serious workman or a weekend of camping.  When it comes to winter boots, several of my menfolk won’t wear anything else.  All-leather uppers and rubber soles, $90.

ResQMe Car Escape Tool

Every driver should have one of these babies stored away in their glove compartment and on their car keys.  Show dad you care by gifting him the two-in-one ResQMe multi-tool, a small spring-loaded do-hickey that smashes windows and a razor that cuts through stuck seatbelts.  It’s easy to use and it’s made in the USA!  Buy it on Amazon, $12.

For the mancave:

Egyptian hookah

Smoking your tobacco this way is cleaner, cooler, and so very, very relaxing.  No mancave is complete without a well-built Egyptian-style hookah- and besides, it doubles as the manlier version of a scented candle.  Prices vary depending on what size, color, and company you buy from, but quality products can be found for as low as $40, so do your research.  I personally recommend a hookah with only one hose valve, as the double valves tend to give a less-than-full hit.  Obviously, this gift is only for the smokers on your list.

Cool Shooters Shot Glass Mold

For a cool twist on the typical shot, freeze these molds and enjoy a quick drink before smashing them in the driveway like the manly man you are.  Or fill with melted candy for gummy shots!  Fred and Friends, $9.

For the man who has everything (but a girlfriend):

The Icerack boob ice mold

Cleverly marketed to young frat boys everywhere, the proud owner of this ice mold can “take some shooters from the hooters” with style.  Just freeze this ice luge up and fill with your favorite liquor for a delicious regression into infancy feeding.  I can see this luge being a big hit at a bachelor party or college rager.  At $17, this gift is for the single party boy who wants to stay that way.

The Artemis Woman Nail Catcher:

Yup, it says woman in the title, probably because we females are all sick of stepping on your gross toenail clippings.  Contrary to popular belief, carpeting is NOT the best place for all your unwanted body shavings.  At just $5, use of this product may just help you get a girl to stay the night. Or maybe you just need to look into manscaping.

For the man with a girlfriend:

Shower Squids

Whoever made these deserves a chocolate bar, because these little guys are cute and useful (a delightfully dangerous combination).  No man wants clutter in his shower.  Girlfriends, as Jenna Marbles confesses, like to “goo hoard” lots of it.  Gift one of these four shampoo-touting, soap-holding shower-buddies, and watch in wonder as the battle of the bathroom is instantly (and cleverly) solved.  I currently own one of these squids and they really are an awesome addition to my cephalopod-themed decor.  Available for $35 in black, red, or blue.

Victorias Secret Lingerie

Because you will be the best girlfriend ever if you enthusiastically spoil him.  Victorias Secret, $48.

For the coworker:

The Butt Station Assistant

Ever been invited to one of those awkward office gift-swap parties and didn’t know what to bring?  Forced to participate in an HR-mandated Secret Santa?  For about $15 you can gift Chip from IT the most envy-inducing office product ever.  I have one of these little guys chilling on my desk right now (in orange, of course, though it comes in blue and green as well).  The only “con” that I’ve found about the design is the body doesn’t stay firmly attached to his toilet bowl, so when you go to reach for a piece of tape just be sure that you hold him in place.  The fact that it combines functionality with poop-humor makes it a win in any corporate-minded male’s mind.

Chocolate Covered Bacon

Appropriately listed after the toilet-shaped office supplies, a $12 box of delicious chocolate covered bacon is a manly gift for any lucky coworker on your list. I’ve also taken the liberty of finding you the perfect non-sappy giftcard to go with it:

For the pet-lover:

DJ Cat Scratch Turntable

Because pet furniture should be stylish and perhaps slightly hilarious too.  Perpetualkid, $42.

Mustache Dog Collar

Instead of your typical collar clasp, this dog collar closes with a seatbelt-like button.  Muttropolis, $25.

Want to save even more money this holiday season (and give your loved ones awesome, one-of-a-kind-presents)?  Tune in next time for handmade gifts!

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The Power of Words

People wonder why one of my majors is in professional writing.  Studying words and the effect they have on others is a powerful thing.  We cannot forget how precious our humanity is.

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How to save money in College

Today’s generation will have an average of seven careers throughout their working lifetime.

Sometimes, I feel like I’ll need all seven just to pay off my student loans.

Yeah, college is expensive.  Hell, LIFE is expensive.  Bill after bill after bill after bill.  But that’s just the way of the world, nowadays.  Nothing to do but bend over and take it with a big ol’ smile on our faces, right?

Not necessarily.

The past four years of my college education have been instrumental in teaching me, not just about gene inheritance and copywriting, but how to work with what you have to get by, get ahead, and get focused on becoming an adult.  With a little bit of effort (and yes, some Saturday nights spent [gasp!] sitting at home), you can end your years at university with a diploma in your hand and money in the bank.

1. Learn to cook.  I’m going to be starting things off with food, because 1. it tends to be the thing college students spend most on besides textbooks and alcohol, and 2. even the main-stream act of eating is still necessary for college hipsters.

We all know you spent $99 dollars on that ironic granny shirt and don’t have any lenses in your glasses.  I wore glasses back before it was cool.

anatomy of a hipster

Moving on…..

If you weren’t raised by an Italian, you might not already have advanced culinary skills.  Or ANY culinary skills, for that matter.  There was a girl in my dorm freshman year who made all 700 of us evacuate for a “fire” at five in the morning because she burned ramen.  As in, microwavable ramen noodles.  She forgot to add water.

If you also fall into the “dumbass with food” category, make some effort to learn how to whip up simple meals.  Fried eggs.  Mashed potatoes.  Spaghetti.  Trust me, eating out all the time adds up to a full waistline and an empty wallet- and your girlfriend is gonna get damn tired of those PB&J’s you “cooked” her.  Any idiot can throw together a healthy and inexpensive dinner that covers most of the essential food groups (for tips on how, read my “Adventures in Cooking” posts!)

And no, beer is not an essential food group.  Which brings us to numero dos:

2. Be smart with your alcohol.  Don’t be one of those people who bums beers and cigarettes off of people.  It’s just sad and reminds everyone of when they were in high school and had to beg their older sisters to buy them the cheapest, nastiest bottle of nail-polish-remover they sold.  If you can’t afford to purchase your own beer/wine/whiskey, then don’t drink.  Friends will treat you once in a while, but if you get the reputation of a booze-mooch, don’t be surprised when you are no longer welcome to the weekend bar-hops.

That being said, when you do choose to imbibe, do so with dignity and class.  I really don’t respect people who buy the cheapest beer just because they want to get drunk.  If you like drinking a less expensive brand, that’s totally cool!  But don’t force it down just because you’re broke and Natty Light is the only thing that will get you wasted off of the change in your pocket.  It’s just repacked frat-house piss-water and everyone knows it.  The truth is, alcohol can be a fun and delicious addition to a night out, but it should be viewed as an extra and not a necessity.  Drinking beer should never take precedence over buying groceries or paying your electric bill, as I’ve seen happen all too many times.  That leads down a very bad road, my friend.

Oh, and don’t be stingy on the tips because your drinks cost more than you planned!  Your waitress or bartender is probably also a student who makes their living off your generosity- if you can’t tip them decently, you’re just perpetuating the college stereotype (though when I was a pizza cook, most of the people who didn’t tip were wealthy businessmen!)  If you can’t afford to go out responsibly, just buy beer and have a party at home.  That’s the smarter, safer way to do it, anyways.

bad tippers don’t deserve good service.  Or air.

3. Buy in-season fruits and vegetables.  They are cheaper, fresher, and oh-so-tasty.  Buying in-season, even in the large chain grocery stores, means you will probably be supporting a local farmer vs. a foreign one, ensuring that less fuel is spent schlepping the goods across the continent and less illegal chemicals are used in your food.  Look at you, saving money and avoiding e. coli poisoning from unwashed vegetables!

4. Figure out which foods can be bought “off-brand” and which ones you should splurge for.  This may take some trial-and-error, but it’s well-worth a few meal experiments to see what you can substitute.  Many of your grocery store’s own brands taste just as good as some of the pricer ones your mom always buys (once you start making $27/hr., you can afford to eat fancy cheese again).  For instance, Kroger brand crackers taste just like Ritz, and their lunchmeats are more-or-less the same pressed-together pig innards as Oscar Mayer sells.  Valu Time Duplex cookies, which sound more like an apartment than a snack food, are friggin’ delicious, try to convince me otherwise.  Off-brand mac-and-cheese, however, is to be avoided at ALL COSTS.  I remember having to suffer through an entire five packages of disappointing Kroger Easy-Mac before I gave the rest away to the boys next door.  Even they wouldn’t eat it, and I know for a fact that one of them survived on a lone jar of peanut butter for three days before his mom sent him some pity cash.  A dire example of how ignoring rule number 2. will bite you in the ass.

5. Stay away from the frozen foods aisle.  This pretty much goes along with the “learn to cook” tip, but even I fall into this trap every so often (though since I gravitate towards the ice cream, it usually tends to derail my diet, not my wallet).  All those hot pockets, Marie Callender’s lasagnas, and frisbee-disc pizzas are EXPENSIVE.  I mean, have you ever noticed how the portion sizes look bigger on the box?  Or how even the foods that were around when we were younger are getting smaller and smaller as companies cut corners?  I’m fully convinced that the size of a Toaster Strudel is directly proportionate to how many kids still know who Hey Arnold! is (i.e., by next year they’ll be about as big as a postage stamp).  And next time you reach for that T.V. dinner, take a gander at how much bleeping sodium is in there.  Enough to bloat up a bleeping cactus.

6. Consider living off campus.  If you’re not in your freshman year, grab a few roommate-material friends and get an apartment!  I will always treasure those crazy nights partying with half of my dorm floor, but as an upperclassman I get so tired of dealing with the newbies’ antics.  And talk about expensive.  My dorm fees?  Around $4,000 a quarter.  My rent and utilities?  Around $4,000 a year.  Not only does living off campus save me a butt-load of money, it’s taught me some real-world responsibility and given me a taste of the true adult-life, sans parents helping me with my tuition payments.  Just make sure you and your roomies are fully up to paying the bills.

Nothing like an early eviction to put a serious dent in your semester o’ fun.

7. Watch your energy use.  While living at home, your parents probably gave you flack for not turning off the lights or running the air conditioning in November.  Now that you’re on your own and paying each utility bill, you understand why: each gallon of wasted water adds up by the end of the month.  Be smart with your appliances; it’s better for the environment and will save you money!  Turn off the t.v., lower the heat, throw on an extra blanket (or six).  And unplug those charging devices from the wall- they call them “vampire drains” for a reason.

8. Search the internet, newspapers, and campus bulletin boards for free food and events.  The awesome thing about going to college is the insane amount of activities your university will offer you, most of them costing nothing but your time.  Joining clubs is a good way to meet new people with similar interests and score some free pizza.  I get the neighborhood newspaper delivered for free, and it always has lots of articles on upcoming street fairs, art festivals, and new business openings within walking distance from my apartment.  With a little more effort, it’s pretty easy to come up with more creative [read: awesome] dates and outings that don’t drain your savings.

9. Get a job with fringe benefits.  Two years ago I worked as a night cook making pizzas in the city’s best pizza shop.  I walked to work (in hindsight, not the best idea considering I worked till the wee hours in the inner city), took home extra, unwanted, or “messed-up” pies, and saved all my tips in a big olive jar for a rainy day.  As a result, I was not only making a paycheck, but saving money on all those dinners and cold pizza breakfasts I would have otherwise had to buy.  Most college towns have tons of late-night food joints for the double-duty student; just make sure you’re not choosing work over the reason you went to college in the first place: good grades.

the Turtles know how to save money- and stay out of federal prison!

10. Create a budget.  This is probably the single best thing I ever did for my finances during college.  Most computers come pre-loaded with an Excel or Numbers program and budgeting templates, or you can easily download free apps for your iPhone.  Plug in each receipt as-you-go to track your spending habits; or, if you’re lazy like me, just record your average expense per month to see if you’re being wallet-sensible.  You’ll be surprised to see exactly how much those lunchtime fast-food runs are actually costing you.

11. Carpool, carpool, carpool- or take public transportation.  There is no real need to own a car in college if you live in a bigger city.  Make a Facebook group for everyone at your university who lives near your hometown, and split the gas equally.  Sometimes I have no choice but to use Greyhound or MegaBus, but their tickets are significantly cheaper if you plan your trip farther in advance.  Don’t be afraid to take advantage of the low student rates for the city buses.  My university even has a free shuttle that runs until 3:00 a.m. on weekends; just in time to cater to all the drunk barflies at last call.

12. Skip the student bookstore and purchase all your textbooks online.  Seriously, screw the campus bookstore.  Check out sites like Amazon, Chegg.com, or Abebooks.com for reliable, high-quality, and usually much cheaper textbook sources.  I’ve gotten slightly older versions of the books I need for as low as three dollars, when the bookstore would have me pay five times as much.

13. Resist the temptation to own a pet.  This is one temptation I sadly fail at.  Throughout my four years of college, I have been suckered into providing free room and board for a cat named Lucy; five mice: Ping-Pong, Pinky, Flower, Quentin, and Cinnamon; and a fish named Spike (though he doesn’t do much besides poop and make faces at me).  Anyone who’s familiar with this blog knows that I had no choice but to save the cat from my selfish former roommate (and really, I’m glad I did), but the rest of the animals are a product of my incessant Italian need to feed things.  Things whose poop I now have to clean.

Speaking of poop- oh Lord, I don’t ever want to own another rodent again.  Yeah, they’re cute when they run on their little wheels or squeeze through their little play-tubes or peek out at you from their little modified aquarium, but DAMN those little butts make so much freaking poop.  Poop that smells.  Poop that gets everywhere.  Just a hellhole of freaking. little. poops.  And their frequent demises are really depressing.  One died of old age, another died a week after I got her, and one, I’m sad to say, was coerced out of her cage by my evilly intelligent kitty and gobbled up like a furry little Cheeto (I’m blaming the toxoplasma mind-control).  The fourth one was lucky- she turned out to be a he, and had to be returned for trying to impregnate his unwilling cage-mate.  Now I’m impatiently waiting for his very old girlfriend to croak, but she’s still going strong.  At least she’s proved Cosmo right that having sex really does make you live longer!

Seriously, having pets is great for the company, the responsibility, and the overwhelming desire to cuddle and smother it with unconditional love, but be realistic: if you can’t afford to pay your landlord extra rent for your cat, don’t get one.  Get a freaking bamboo plant from IKEA, those things are REALLY hard to kill.

Man’s best friend: aiding in our laziness since the caveman days.

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The Glamorization of Teenage Pregnancy and Selfish Parenting: why the MTV mentality is destroying proper parenthood

I admit it.  I love watching MTV.

And TLC and HGTV and all those other house-wifey networks.

But why are we (and therefore, the big t.v. executives funding these shows) so obsessed with televising the meltdown of the parent-child dynamic?  Why in Mr. Roger’s neighborhood do we give shows like 16 and Pregnant or (dear Neptune) Here comes Honey-Boo-Boo more than a disparaging glance?

Perhaps it’s because these relationship trainwrecks hit a little too close to home.

Unfortunately, one of the most pervasive trends I’ve noticed in today’s parenting is the lack of consistent authority.  Before everyone jumps down my throat- no, I don’t have children of my own.  Though I fully admit that there are some things I will never understand about kids until I become a mommy, I think it’s pretty entitled to assume that only those who’ve taken legal responsibility for a child have the right to speak on it.  As the eldest of four children, the past go-to babysitter of four young neighborhood toddlers, and a present part-time nanny to two adorable twin girls, I know a little something about raising children.  I’ve treated bloody noses, weathered tantrums, and yes, even cleaned up the (not-so-occassional) accidental poo.  And as more and more of my own friends start to reproduce (when did THAT happen?!), I’ve been there to see the entire parenting process with fresh, grown-up eyes.  So it’s fair to say that I’ve been around the baby block.

And in my years dealing with little one’s upbringings, I’ve seen the typical helicopter parenting of my youth morph into this weird half ‘fuck-it’, half ‘fuck-YOU’ hybrid.  I’m referring to the legions of oblivious nazi-breeders whose whole lives seem to revolve around their child, and yet when it comes to discipline, they haven’t got a clue.  They’re the ones I always seem to to be seated next to when my boyfriend and I scrape together the money for a nice night out, the ones with the designer diaper bags and insufferable attitudes, the “my child can do no wrong,” parents.  They’re the ones who swear that their five year old “CAN’T be punished for screaming his head off in the fancy, over-priced restaurant ruining your fancy, over-priced dinner, and SO WHAT if you can only afford to go out once a month as a special treat, I deserve to be here and so does my adorable offspring, though he’s bored to tears in this clearly adult environment.  He’s just expressing himself, and anyways YOU WOULDN’T UNDERSTAND because you’re not a parent, so fuck you and your child-free life.”  These kinds of people are what we call many four-lettered words, but here we’ll refer to them simply as Selfish Parents.

Yes, hypothetical clueless caretakers.  You deserve this internet side-eye.  Because while I don’t understand what it’s truly like to have kids, I have a pretty damn good idea at this point.  And guess what?  I remember what it was like when WE were kids, and our parents made us sit and behave in public, not throw our spaghetti across the room.  Being a good parent is not impossible, it just requires actually paying attention to your children and how they are affecting the rest of the world around them, not ignoring your child while he makes a nuisance of himself and an ass out of you.

But are Selfish Parents themselves to blame, or are they an unwelcome by-product of our Teen Mom media?  After all, most of these girls are the poster-children for shitty guardian behavior, and do they get penalized for it?  Hell no, they get payed, and rather handsomely at that.  Jenelle, yes, that’s right, JENELLE, possibly the worst example of a mother PERIOD, reportedly earns over 75,000 dollars per year for being on the show, according to starcasm.  In order to keep the cash payouts down, MTV also gives the girls off-the-grid perks like valuable gift cards.

But the outrage doesn’t stop there.  Not only are these young women cashing out on their surprise pregnancies, they are thriving on them.  Maci Bookout bought a house AND A BOOB JOB with her piece of the pie.  Farrah’s also sporting some new silicone accessories.  I’d say those are definitely some obvious perks that most real teen moms don’t have access to.

This kind of payout may seem innocuous enough based on the series’ high number of views, but it’s not just the money that twists my panties.  What gets to me the most is girls like Amber Portwood, who seem to revel in the glamor of their downward spirals.  As a t.v. personality, I absolutely hate her.  She’s a rude, angry bitch who constantly puts her young daughter in tough situations because of her temper and drug addiction.  She went to rehab for anger management.  She has no job and nothing feasibly positive to offer the world.

And what’s her reward?

Stevebeans from teenmomjunkies.com states that Amber “was forced to reveal her salary in court, and she’s pulling in $140,000 per six-month season; between the speaking tours and Teen Mom salary, she’ll probably see upwards of half a million.”

What.

That’s far beyond what I expect to make per year AS A LAWYER.  You know, money earned from years of schooling, hard work, and lucky breaks, not by sitting pretty on easy street.  I’m not saying that young moms don’t deserve to make some good cash; hell my friend got pregnant at 18 and is set to be earning a nurse’s salary soon.  But that’s after putting in the time to get her nursing degree and scrimping on the basics in order to pay for it.  She is home most nights taking care of her adorable little girl, not vying for a modeling job and popping pills.  It irks me that honest people like her will probably never see the kind of money that these celebrity moms make and spend frivolously- not exactly the best kind of role-models for the rest of the fame-hungry, horny high school girls.

While many people maintain that a. all reality stars should get paid for their work, and b. it’s none of our business what these t.v. stars make or do with their money, I’d like to point out a couple of glaring counterarguments.  Yeah, okay, I would be pretty pissed if I put my life on display for the public and didn’t get paid.  It is definitely fitting that these girls get compensated for their baby drama; I’m sure MTV makes a huge killing off of the episodes and the moms all deserve their cut.  Babies aren’t cheap.  But the question is, when do these real-life “struggling teen mom” stories become more like scripted reality t.v. bull shit?  Are these girls really forced to wait for their MTV salaries until after the season?  Because if they can’t touch their fun money while the show’s being aired, it’s pretty obvious that MTV pays for all of their new cars, hefty apartments, and fake-ass hair extensions.  Instead of living within their means, these moms are clearly flaunting their expensive tastes and exploiting their children.  And now that the show is starting to get called out for their shameful exaggeration of the girls’ “poor” economic statuses, they’re over-compensating with painfully staged restaurant fights and phone conversations.  When it becomes more about the ratings than about their babies’ well-being, I have to conclude that most of these teen moms aren’t fit to be parents at all.

I think the majority of viewers understand the “un-reality” of reality t.v.  Teen Mom and other shows like it portray a lifestyle that is both unattainably materialistic and sadly self-destructive, and there is no doubt that the bulk of society’s Selfish Parents have no excuse for their bad behavior.  I guess as a twenty-something woman rapidly approaching her “acceptable” child-bearing years, the reason I get so worked up about this MTV original is the thought of regular struggling young mothers getting sidelined by irresponsible, immature girls.  Stevebeans sums up the insanity of our new parenting culture best when he says:

“You and I both know when it comes time to balance budgets, most single and/or teen mothers would give their right arm to have the same budget as Maci does.”

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Modern Wedding Etiquette: How to be a Rude Wedding Guest (and an embarrassment to your species)

if only all terrible wedding guests actually looked the way they acted…..they’d be a hell of a lot easier for security to find!

Ahhh, the end of summer.  Smack dab in the middle of wedding season.

As a poor twenty-something just finishing up with college, I’m relatively new to the whole wedding scene.  Thankfully, it’s no longer 1952, and society expects more of us than finding a suitable man, producing his brood of children, and perfecting our mother-in-law’s meatloaf recipe.  My friends and I have just started exhibiting the signs of “settling down” within our relationships- going on major couples vacations, moving in together, getting a puppy.  But it wasn’t until last week that someone actually started the barroom conversation of which of us would beat the others to the altar.

And weirdly, it was a guy who brought this up.  One of our single male friends, no less.  Huh.

It should be unsurprisingly, really.  With a growing number of old high school friends posting endless pictures of their newborn babies or engagement rings on my Facebook wall, it’s hard to ignore the signs of hard-ball adulthood looming my way.  I suppose it’s kind of weird to think that the girl who stole my 11th grade boyfriend is now getting married (no, not to that particular clueless dude), but the reality is that most of us are now “grown up.”  Eww.

At least wedding territory comes with the excitement of attending an all-night party with an open bar, right?

All kidding aside, the sappy romantic in me really does love weddings.  But with all the talk of upcoming nuptials, I’ve been reminded of why marriage ceremonies are so often a source of stress instead of joy.  And while lots of it comes from greedy bridezillas or unscrupulous venders, a good large chunk of the problems come from the guests themselves.  Sometimes the wine and petty jealousy get to people’s heads, reverting them back to their third-grade, primeval instincts.

Regardless of the media buying into the whole “bridezillas” franchise, I tend to think most weddings aren’t really ruined by MIL hissy fits or unexpected torrential downpours.  Rather, with any wedding there seems to be that one (or two, or ten) guests whose shenanigans turn an otherwise classy event into a day that’s less about the couple’s new lives together and more about “that one time drunk Uncle Irving got piledrived by the whole town’s police force.”  In order to spare the poor bride and groom some embarrassment, tears, or a trip to the hospital room (yes, it’s happened), I’ve created a simple etiquette guide that every guest should read before attending a couple’s special day.  While I’m certainly no expert, I’ve attempted to fill in any knowledge gaps with plenty of entertaining internet research on wedding disasters.  Unfortunately, a lot of these stories come straight from personal experience.

How to be a Rude Wedding Guest:

1. Getting engaged on someone else’s wedding day.

Now, this “transgression” comes with a bit of leeway.  IF the hopeful partner planning to propose during the wedding talks to the bride and groom BEFORE the big day and gets BOTH of their approvals, then go for it.  I was just recently at a wedding where the couple looking to get engaged were good friends of the bride & groom, and had planned that when the girlfriend caught the bride’s throwaway bouquet, her boyfriend would propose.  Cute right?  Yeah, I guess…..but bear in mind that no matter how “okay” it is with the newlyweds, this is THEIR special day.  They’ve most likely spent months planning it and thousands of dollars to make sure their wedding reflects the love they share for each other, (including free dinner and booze for, you, their guest).  So I would think twice about upstaging the new couple at their own party- and just my opinion, but the whole “wedding marriage proposal thing” lacks in originality as well as tact.

2. Expecting the bride and groom to be responsible for your accommodations and entertainment.

While (considerate) brides and grooms obviously plan their wedding with their guests in mind, there’s obviously a limit to what they can or should be expected to do.  Just because you flew across the country to be with them on their big day does not mean the day becomes all about you.  Make a real effort to arrange your own rides and recognize that the couple will most likely not be able to pay for your hotel room.  I’ve read so many stories where out-of-town guests actually demand that the bride drop everything and drive them to hair appointments, pay for their meals, or be available every night to keep them occupied.  While it is certainly polite of the to-be-weds to offer to help with travel expenses or treat their guests to dinner, be realistic.  If you’ve ever been married, you know how stressful and time-consuming planning a wedding can be.  Most brides will be busy dealing with last minute touches the week of their wedding- you are probably not high on her list.  Also, recognize that you had the opportunity to decline the invitation if you could not afford it.

3. Being irresponsible.

This kind of goes along with number two; however, I think it’s even worse because these are things I’ve seen happen on the actual wedding day.  Unfortunately, the combination of extended family and an open bar never seems to bode well in most situations.  Just because you are a guest and don’t have to worry about the day going smoothly does not give you license to get totally plastered and cause a huge scene.  In fact, if you decide to badmouth the in-laws or punch the bride (yes, this happened!) at a loved one’s wedding day, I’d say you don’t really love them as much as you think.

And allowing your children to run wild at the reception because “I’m a guest and I should be enjoying myself” is one of my personal pet peeves.  If you decide to bring small children to the event, don’t ignore them while they scream through the ceremony or try to pull down the cake table.  I’m not sure what it is with parents these days, but I can promise you that everyone does not think your little hell-beast is simply adooooraaable.  You CHOSE to have them.  You and only you are responsible for their behavior.

it seemed like a good idea at the time…..

4. This also reminds me of bitch-move number four: bringing along uninvited guests.

Again, it astounds me that the majority of these transgressors seem to be those who have already had a wedding- namely parents and older relatives.  Weddings are EXPENSIVE, and the price-per-plate usually hovers around $35-50 dollars at a typical reception.  Additionally, most venues have maximum capacity limits based on fire codes.  So why in heavens name do people think it’s okay to “write in a guest” on their RSVP’s, or bring their six children and their out-of-town friend along without even asking the couple first?  Is it nice to be able to take the kids somewhere fancy or bring a date?  Absolutely.  Should you be doing it without permission on someone else’s dime?  Hell no!  Again, the world does not revolve around you.  Unless this was Beyonce’s wedding, the bride and groom most likely had to cut their list down to include only those they could afford.  If you made the cut, great!  Feel special!  But don’t feel entitled to drag your snotty six year old to an adults-only reception because “you can’t bear to leave them with a STRANGER!!!!!”- please, we all survived having the local teenage girl babysit for a few hours.  And don’t feel surprised when the bride has to scramble for another seat to try and accommodate your uninvited spawn.

This is why other people chose to remain childless and throw child-free weddings:

5. RSVP-ing for yourself or extra people and then not showing up.

Calling the bride to ask if you can bring four extra people she doesn’t know is rude.  Guilting her into budgeting for those four extras, and then not showing up at all, is INFURIATING!  You made it on the list, others did not.  Saying you’ll be there and then flaking out without any warning is like a slap in the face to her hospitality (obviously, it goes without saying that medical emergencies and the like are an exception).  If life were fair, you would be forced to pay for all the uneaten dinners.

6. Being a diva.

This category includes arriving significantly late, answering your phone during the service, monopolizing the couple’s time, and wearing white on someone else’s wedding day.  C’mon people.  I refuse to believe that any woman don’t know that wearing white- unless specifically asked to by the bride- is a big no-no.  Even at my boyfriend’s mom’s wedding, where she had requested that guests wear black or white, I was unsurprised to see that only one woman actually chose the latter.  Most of us wore beautiful dresses in varying shades of black or grey, because the “no-white” rule is so heavily engrained on our psyches.  And to all the mothers-in-law out there who break this rule- or wear head-to-toe funereal black because you’re “mourning” for the “loss” of your “baby” boy- stop it.  Somehow I think you were the type of parent who brought your “baby” to every single function because you couldn’t handle being apart.  You will be forever immortalized in the wedding album as “ridiculous.”  Now go cry in the corner about how you’re loooosing your baaaaaaby and can’t wait for grandchildren.

you can tell she’s all about giving the new couple their space

7. Stealing the leftover decorations, food, or booze at the end of the night.

I don’t know what it is about weddings that bring out the worst in people, but this is just sad.  Sure, the reception was a party meant to thank all the guests- but there is no sane reason you need to stuff your salad fork and two bottles of champagne in your oversized purse.  If you’re asked to take a centerpiece or extra favors home- please do!  But don’t take mementos that obviously aren’t yours, or worse, rental equipment the bride and groom will have to pay for later.  They just treated you to a night of free hors d’oeuvres and top-shelf liquor.  Be nice.  Ask first.  There was even one story I read about a couple who- GASP!- stole a wedding gift from the bride and groom’s table.  There are no words.

8. This brings us to our next point, not giving a wedding gift- or giving one meant to hurt.

As a guest of previous weddings myself, I completely understand how quickly the costs of attending a ceremony add up.  Buying the appropriate attire, travel expenses, hotel fees, requesting time off work- all of these can add up to hundreds of dollars for you to be present during a couple’s big day, especially if you’re in the wedding party.  So why bother adding a pricey registry gift into the mix?

The short answer is, you don’t have to.  There is nothing wrong with buying the couple something else you think they’d like, if you know them well enough to guess what they would want or need.  I have seen some truly awful presents from well-meaning, misguided relatives, who think the bride is still into Barbie Dolls and Disney Princess underwear like she was twenty years ago.  (In fact, this should really be a rule unto itself- don’t give an adult underwear, ever, unless you are their significant other or superclose best friend).  It’s fine to give a thoughtful store-bought or homemade gift!  When done correctly, these are the most treasured and meaningful.  Just recognize that if you deviate from their registry, you do run the risk of giving them something they will never use or need.

just…..why?

And I’m all for re-gifting when the situation is appropriate- i.e., the item is either new and unused or properly “antique,” the item is something that fits the couple’s needs and personalities well, and perhaps most importantly, the person receiving the gift didn’t see you get it in the first place and doesn’t know the person who gave it to you.  Don’t be like these stingy wedding guests, called out by the brides on theknot.com:

“We received a regifted set of wine glasses we’d given our cousin.”

“A regifted tray (with the original card to the regifter included with the present).”

or, horror of horrors:

“My mother-in-law gave me the yellowed nightgown she had worn on HER wedding night- do you really want your SON to see me in your old sexy clothes?!”

Yeah…..

The point is, when it comes to the wedding registry, think long and hard about your relationship with the couple before you go get them that old attic cookie jar from Aunt Mavis shaped like an elephant’s ass (yup, that’s a real one too).  And please, don’t get all passive-agressive like some mothers-in-law who buy off the registry but in a different color, because “their baaaby looks so much better in maroon and hunter green and their stupid wife should know better than to try and pick out her own color scheme.”  If the bride and groom have their heads on straight, they have spent a lot of time picking out things they will use for their home together, making sure there are items at lower price points to fit any reasonable budget.  If not, then hey, get them that garage-sale butter curler or fertility idol!  Nothing can be worse though, than not giving a gift at all because “you forgot.”  If you can’t afford one, fine, then make them something- cookies, a quilt, a heartfelt card- or decline the invitation.  Attending a wedding without giving a gift is definitely rude.

9. Using someone’s wedding for your backstabbing or petty “revenge” agenda.

It makes me sad that this has to be on the list.  Whether its a mother-of-the-bride trying to relive the wedding she always wanted, the rich grandfather trying to “show up” his deadbeat, black sheep cousin, or the mother-of-the-groom impersonating the bride and calling the venue to say they had cancelled (who the hell DOES this kind of stuff?!), this stuff happens all. the. time.  Selfish people using what is supposed to be a day about love and family for their own twisted means.  But as I witnessed myself, nothing is gained by hurting people this way, and (the smart relatives) will inform the troublemakers that they can either get with the program or risk burning important family bridges forever.

10. Wedding Crashing.

I would argue that this is slightly different than being an “extra” because in this case you either don’t know anyone there, or worse, you were purposefully unwanted for a reason.  This list includes total strangers, estranged family, and psycho ex-girlfriends or boyfriends who have a hard time taking the hint that your former significant other is now over you.  Whether you’re a desperate Facebook friend who “assumed they were invited,” or a guest attending another wedding at the same venue and decide to cash in at the other wedding’s open bar, you are a very, very rude guest.  Yes, your presence is expensive, but more importantly, you are purposefully using a couple’s first day as husband and wife for your own ends.

And that, my friends, is simply bad etiquette.

the ultimate wedding crashers

If you want to read far more horrifying (and entertaining!) stories of giant egos, money-grubbers, and even drunk guests peeing under their table, check out etiquettehell.com or theknot.com.

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Whose Farts Smell Worse?: the meat or beans dilemma

darth fart

Recently, I began a new diet aimed at eating healthier, omega-3 rich “superfoods” (to see how awesome the anti-inflammatory diet is, see my post here)  I’m proud to say that the diet seems to have given me more energy and has definitely toned down this year’s winter weight gain.

But have we ever considered a diet aimed at- to put it politely- healthier smelling emissions?

The question first came to me after learning that my cousin had recently gone the way of a weird vegan-vegetarian hybrid.  As an obsessive foodie, I cannot myself imagine giving up all the deliciously unhealthy animal products out there (Giada de Laurentiis’ bacon-wrapped pork roast, anyone?).  To me, most of the marketed “vegan-food” out there either tastes or looks like cardboard, or is hypocritically impossible as an animal-free product.  I’m sorry, but true vegans should not be eating “ice cream” and “sausage.”  Don’t even get me started on the honey issue.

Nevertheless, I was curious about her new lifestyle.  I had heard about recently christened vegetarians getting “the meat sweats”- like a heroine addict going through withdrawal.  Apparently, that’s just an urban myth.  However, she did say that her un-ladylike moments were smoother and fresher smelling then when she used to eat meat, and that after a while, even the thought of ingesting it would make her sick.

I can’t say I’d ever be disciplined enough to test her theory on myself; however, I must admit that my boyfriend, who eats a substantially larger amount of animal products and fast or processed foods than me, certainly seems to support this logic.  His butt-bombs sometimes have me worried about his intestinal health.

But how could I truly see whether meat or veggies creates a better smelling fart without having to gross myself out?

Lucky for me, you can find almost anything you need on the internet, even experiments on fart-smelling.  In “Whose Farts Smell Worse: carnivores or herbivores?” from Vice magazine, written by Anita Crapper (I-need-a Crapper), which I sincerely pray is a sophomoric attempt at humor and not some unfortunate girl’s real name, a male model in the UK was payed to sniff at two porn stars’ intestinal emissions and rate which one smelled worse.

Payed to sniff farts.  Really.

I guess male modeling jobs are in short supply across the pond.

During the course of the experiment, the discerning man was blindfolded and smelled each girl’s farts twice, once with and once without pants.  In both categories, the vegetarian won out as being the “nicer” smell.  In fact, he maintained that the veggie ones “might not have been farts at all.  It could have been what I described it as—autumn leaves. It could have been a scented candle.  Like I say, neither were unpleasant but the meat ones were a… less nice smell.”

As an added bonus, when the ladies were asked to provide more “solid” proof that one diet was better than the other, the vegetarian produced a pale, almost non-smelling little piece of evidence, while the meat eater found herself unable to contribute.  Perhaps a greater validation of a vegetarian’s healthier digestive system?

I suppose I was somewhat surprised by the results.  Sure, a diet rich in Taco Bell and chicken-fried steak is going to give anyone a serious case of backed-up tailpipe.  But without any meat at all, healthy, balanced vegetarians are forced to eat things like broccoli, bean sprouts, and lots and lots of that musical fruit, canned beans.  So who’s diet wins the digestive battle?

The world may (thankfully) never know.

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The creation of a Professional Mermaid

Yes, that’s right.  I said PROFESSIONAL MERMAID.

What.

At first, I wasn’t sure whether to take this seriously.  After all, the only professional mermaid I know of is a fictional character that died for her douchebaggy prince (sorry Disney, Ariel doesn’t actually marry her boring human beau).

Good thing we’re talking about Hannah here, not the red-headed undersea princess.

hipster ariel

Meet Hannah Fraser, a.k.a. Hannah Mermaid, the famous ocean-environmentalist turned marine-model:

I first saw a video of her on Youtube and was instantly hooked.  Not only can this Los Angelos performer freedive (diving without a breathing apparatus), she has swum with whales, stingrays, dolpins, and even sharks, all in the open ocean with just her homemade tail for protection.  She has spent most of her life perfecting her underwater movements, dancing through the sea as easily as if she were on land.

One of the reasons Hannah is so famous is because of her awesome homemade tails.  They are not only beautiful, but completely functional too, serving the purpose of a true “monofin” that actually helps propel her through the water.  She makes each tail herself, spending hours sewing on each individual iridescent scale.  It’s clear why her tails are far superior to the other “mermaids” that have followed in her footsteps.

In fact, they look so real that one of them was bitten by a shark that mistook her for an oddly-shaped fish.

While she is a dedicated environmentalist and a beautiful mermaid, I think the thing people like most about Hannah is the pure joy she exudes when she’s in the ocean.

I should have gone to college to be a professional mermaid.

If you want to see more videos and pictures of Hannah, you can (and totally should!) visit her site at hannahmermaid.com or her Facebook page.

All photos taken from the Hannah Mermaid official site, hannahmermaid.com.

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A little feline modeling

Hey guys,

So it’s getting pretty intense down here in the depths of my final full year in college.  I’m busy finishing up final projects, papers, and preparing to take final exams- and to top it all off, my LSAT is LESS THAN A MONTH AWAY [shivers in fear].  Apologizes for neglecting my regular posting schedule :/

I will be back on track soon with new recipes, stories, and random imaginings.  For now, I wanted to share a few photos from the modeling session my roommate had with my adorable kitty Lucy:

These photos were all taken unposed on the floor of our apartment in the early morning with the sun coming through the window.  And yet they turned out so completely gorgeous!  My cat was must have been in an obliging mood.

my beautiful kitty Lucy

She looks like a sleek little model for a cat litter commercial.  What a natural ham.

Mommy’s so proud!

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