Blog Wars: If you could go one place for winter break, where would it be?

Christian Holt:

One place? Sigh.

I think if I could go one place it would be … California. I know, I know — how typical! But, let me explain before you start criticizing me, please. Thank you.

You see, one of my best friends lives there and it has been about a year since I have seen him. And frankly — I miss him. Besides, it would be nice to be at least kind of warm :).

Amanda Renner :

If I could travel anywhere for Christmas break it would be to the Keys … but only under certain conditions.

First, it would be by car and it would be with my boyfriend.  We road tripped to the Keys for Spring Break in 2007 and it was perfect. Therefore, I do not think I would be able to go there any other way, with anyone else.

Second, it would be at the same campground we stayed at on the first trip.  Who doesn’t like mingling with a bunch of retirees who migrate south for the winter? Well, probably not a lot of people, but I can’t wait to be old, so I love it.

Third, Atlanta traffic would be tolerable.  Last time I made the trip it took almost 10 hours to get from one side of the city to the other; enough said.

Now to the most important part: Why?  Well, island time is my favorite time and the relaxed atmosphere is exactly what I am craving after the craziness that was this semester.

Also, because the only pavement my long board has tasted has been that of Carbondale. And since I bought the board I’ve dreamt of cruising Duvall Street, with a beer in my hand and the wind in my hair.

Alexis Boudreau:

Puerto Rico.  Which I am leaving for on Sunday.  Be jealous; be very, very jealous.

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Blog Wars: Worst job you have ever had?

Audra Ord:

Two summers ago, I worked maintenance at a factory. My job was to clean out air conditioning units. Seven hours a day. On a metal roof. In the middle of summer. No joke.

Here’s how it worked: pick a unit. Shut off the power. Take off the panels. Spray it with cleaning solution out of a weed sprayer. (But be sure to wear gloves because that stuff will eat your skin.) Let it foam and sit for a few minutes. Spray it down with a high-pressure gardening hose. Watch the gunk and nasties flow out of it. Spray it again with high-pressure gardening hose. Repeat gunk watching. Spray again. Watch nasties again. Repeat until the water runs clear. Depending on the size of the unit, this process could take anywhere from three to six hours. There were nearly 150 of these units. Do the math.

One day, one of my colleagues and I shared an elevator with a woman on our way to the roof. The woman has the audacity to say, “Why in the world is the air conditioning shut off? It is SO hot in here!” I wanted to punch her. She was complaining because it was 80 degrees instead of 75 in her nice little cubicle, while I was on the METAL roof on a 105-degree day. The nerve.

On the rare occasion that we ran out of units to clean or didn’t have time to start a new unit in the afternoon, we were supposed to comb fins. Ever looked at an air conditioner? There are these super-thin metal fins that are usually all flattened against the unit. I had to comb them straight with a tiny comb. Most boring job ever.

On rainy days we stayed in the maintenance shop cleaning up oil spills. I can’t even fathom how many times I mopped that floor. It had probably never been done before. When the supervisor decided the concrete floor was clean enough, he had us spray paint weight load warnings on the catwalks. I also changed air filters, carried hundreds of boxes up and down stairs, cut and threaded metal pipe, and patched the roof (the absolute WORST part of the job. The patch was awful and thick, kind of like taffy, and it smelled horrible.).

Although it was painful, uncomfortable, boring, etc., I’m glad I did it because it gave me a better appreciation for why I was in school studying to become a journalist. I think I’ll write a book about my experience, probably titled “Maintenance and Mascara: Audra’s story.” Look for it in bookstores in December 2010.

Sean McGahan:

In high school I had a short stint as a Chinese food delivery boy. The biggest perk was a free order of pork fried rice at the end of the night. The biggest flaws were the lousy tips and constant trips to the ER.

The nearby hospital was a breeding ground for expecting parents, concerned relatives and angry insurance holders with two things in common — a tremendous hunger for Chinese food and other things to think about than a 16-year-old delivery boy’s income.

Regardless of the amount of times I delivered to the hospital, I never quite figured out the layout. I was constantly lost, and several times found myself in areas I had no business being in. Without getting too specific, there were some nights that the complimentary pork fried rice just didn’t taste as good and really didn’t seem worth the hassle.

And I do realize how fortunate I am that this was my worst job.

Blog Wars: Brokest you have ever been?

Madeleine Leroux:

The stereotype college student that I am, I have been beyond broke way too many times to count. I guess the brokest I have ever been was probably last year when it got to the point where I did almost anything for anyone if they offered cash reward (anything outside of prostitution that is) and I was surviving on croutons for weeks at a time.

Although, for at least one week before Thanksgiving break this year, I survived solely on Smarties that I found at work.

I’ve done laundry and housecleaning, ran errands, helped with people’s homework, you name it and I’ve probably done it for cash. Or for the promise of food. Mmmmmm.

Never do you realize how important it can be to have money than when you have none to your name.

Alexis Boudreau:

I’m going to have to go ahead and say every Christmas season ever. I mean, I love my family and friends, but spending money on them hurts my wallet sometimes.

Amber Fijolek:

Christmas always takes its toll on me. I like to give expensive gifts. Last holiday season, however, was my first after turning 21, so I had a lot of bar-hopping to catch up on. With gift-buying being my first priority, I was forced to dig into couch cushions for the change needed to compensate for my drinks. Paying for drinks with quarters from my pockets was definitely one of my broke-est moments, but probably not my classiest.

Blog Wars: What are you doing to be green?

Shaneika Booker:

In order to be green I am using those really expensive light bulbs. I really don’t understand why they are so helpful; I am actually only using the light bulbs because they came with my lamp. I would like to do things to go greener but i don’t really know what to do and most of the things that I do know, I don’t really have the patience for. However, i will eventually catch on to the whole “going green” fad.

Audra Ord:

In my effort to save the world and some precious H2O, I am now using an outhouse and I have completely forgone showering.

Okay, so not really. I’m still as hygienic as I was before Al Gore warned us all that the earth is going to collapse on itself. But after living in Boulder, Colo., for a summer and developing a hippie mindset, I have altered a few things in my routine to save a little energy here and there. Here are some simple suggestions that you can implement in your life.

1. Recycle. Honestly, there is no excuse for not taking a few seconds to separate your papers and your plastics. If you don’t want to get a bin to collect recyclables in, use a cardboard box.

2. Ride your bike/walk/skate/unicycle to work and school. You’ll get exercise and save a some fossil fuels — it’s like killing saving two birds with one stone.

3. Unplug electronics when you’re not using them. You’d be surprised at how much phantom energy a cell phone charger uses, even when your phone’s not connected to it.

Alexis Boudreau:

It’s the little things, really. Turn off the light when I leave the room. Unplug the cell phone charger when I’m not charging the phone. Don’t run the water the entire time I’m brushing my teeth.

Coincidentally, these are also the things that save me money on my monthly bills.

Amber Fijolek:

I feel like we can do more to be green. When I was studying abroad in Spain, it was stressed by my program liaison, my landlord, and my Spanish host family that I need to conserve. I lived very differently there for the duration of three months, but there were three distinct reasons for which I consider Spaniards to be more green:

Propane was stressed to be turned off when it wasn’t being used (something my roommates and I in my apartment struggled with because most of us were used to having gas available at the twirl of our hot-water faucets).
Showers were stressed to be short. I was yelled at by my spanish host mother when she thought I had left the water running while I shampooed, loofah-ed and conditioned (something I struggled with because I tend to get cold while standing wet in a shower stall with no water running).
There were no such things as clothes-dryers. Everything was hung in a patio-area out-side to dry (something I struggled with because I lost about a third of the wardrobe I had brought there to the neighbors that lived below me in my apartment building.)
Now that I’m back, I don’t light up a gas tank before I jump in the shower or turn on the stove, nor do I risk not seeing my favorite shirts again by letting them sway in the wind attached to string by  flimsy clothespins, but the shower thing stuck, making my green contributions considerable. My showers are limited as it is because I don’t have the time to take them as often or for as long as I’d like to, but what I lack in cleanliness, i make up for in the good-sense-of-self I feel for turning off the water when I’m not rinsing.
AND I recycle, too.

Blog Wars: Favorite Magic Trick

Shaneika Booker:

My favorite magic trick is any card trick, simply because I want to learn them all.

However, the trick I want to know the secret to is how the lady gets sewn in half and her feet and upper body still move. Someone? Anyone?

Genna Ord:

As a child, I had a tendency to lump magicians in the same category as mimes, clowns and other creepers, so my knowledge of magic tricks is pretty low.

After seeing Josh Sucherman’s magic, though, my respect and awe for the business has grown. I consider myself pretty observant, so anything with effective sleight-of-hand amazes me.

My favorite magic trick, however, has nothing to do with cards, top hats, foam balls, or bunnies. It involves a pencil, a nameless and luckless lackey character, and Heath Ledger acting as The Joker.

I think we all know what scene from The Dark Knight I’m referring to.

Amber Fijolek:

I once pulled the most amazing magic trick. During my sophomore year, I learned a card trick that made me famous — it only lasted one night, but I still get warm feelings thinking about it.
For this trick, you need an accomplice, so I taught it to my best friend Joe. We’d been casually practicing it on people in the dorm, but on Halloween night, we were at a party that became the perfect opportunity to really show our magic.
One person we hadn’t pulled the trick on yet was Scott, a close friend of ours.
The trick was supposed to lead Scott to believe that I was magical, and even with my leaving the room, I could magically guess a card upon the table that he had proved to the room that he had chosen.
The game went on for an entire hour, which wasn’t surprising, because that’s about how long we had been fooling our dorm mates before they gave up. When the game ended that Halloween night, it wasn’t because Scott gave up, it was because Scott BLEW up. Scott has a terrible temper, and each time I, the magician, “guessed” his card correctly, he grew angrier — until he slammed the table so hard that he broke it!
Now, I’m not magical enough to wave a magic wand and fix a broken table, but I am magical enough to please a crowd! Everyone claimed it was the best prank they had seen and that it had without a doubt made their Halloween night memorable.

Blog Wars: Favorite foreign film?

Madeleine Leroux:

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly recently came out on DVD and ondemand HBO networks all over, so watch it. It is a french film based on a true story of man reduced to communicating through blinks alone and writing a novel about his experience – through blinking it. It’s a beautiful, amazing film that will really get to you, so please give it a shot and check it out. It’s worth the subtitles.

Sean McGahan

Films from other countries are great because they expose sheltered U.S. viewers to things they likely have never experienced. Never was this more true for me than when I stumbled into a movie theater to watch a film I didn’t even know was in a different language.

Before seeing “City of God” as a high school student in 2003, my limited knowledge of Rio de Janeiro was the postcard images the film talks about early on. Roughly 130 minutes later, I was hooked to an alternate version as told through the eyes of young slum dweller Buscapé, or Rocket as the subtitles call him.

The film is perfect in every way. Words cannot do it justice. Watch it now.

Amber Fijolek:

So, today, being late for my Spanish class, I printed the questions that I needed to bring and ripped them out of the printer. In doing so, I caught a glance of the words atop of the page: “Laberinto del fauno”. Because I am a Spanish major, I recognized most of what that phrase meant at first glance: I knew the first word meant labyrinth.

It wasn’t until I creaked the door open of the dark and quiet classroom to hear the soundtrack of my one of my favorite movies that I realized that “Laberinto del fauno” translates to English as “Pan’s Labyrinth”.
Could it really be true that my Spanish class would devote its entire last week to watch my favorite foreign film? How lucky. Or maybe I should say “que suerte”.

Blog Wars: Favorite fighting style?

Jeff Engelhardt:

With the rise of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, ju-jitsu has become a very popular martial art and for good reason. Ju-jitsu, when done properly, can completely stop any opponent in their tracks no matter the size or strength. For any fans of UFC, I would highly suggest checking out videos of Marcelo Garcia, Shinya Aoki and Renato Verrisimo. There are plenty of other great ju-jitsu players, but its a beautiful sport to watch when it is done on a world-class level.

Amber Fijolek:

I grew up on the “malicious sister” fighting style. This included hair pulling, rubber-band snapping, nail digging, door-slamming and evil name-calling. I owe all my fighting tactics to having grown up in a house of all girls and consider myself to be pretty specialized at this fighting style. I should actually probably warn anyone thinking about confronting me in any way that may make me feel threatened enough to use such tactics on them.

Believe me, the last thing you want is nail marks in your arm and a clump of hair missing in the aftermath of a sisterly brawl.