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Live, take on debt

(05/03/10 4:00am)

It's here again — the best and worst time of year — summer. If you are like me, you love the weather, the extra time on your hands and the fact that there are no long-term assignments looming over you. But, unfortunately, many of us live in this paradoxical world where, as college students, we have three solid months to do what we want, but do not have the funds to make it happen.

Culture of obscene expanding

(04/04/10 4:00am)

How much is too much? This is an inquiry we reserve for only a few key decisions, like the number of credits to pile on for a semester. It rarely comes to mind in the midst of ordering fast food, during a lengthy rant about your hatred for your boss or when letting loose to celebrate a milestone birthday. But it seems as if not asking this question of ourselves often enough has rendered us all poor judges of that crucial line between the appropriate and the inappropriate.

Olympic tragedy questions safety

(02/14/10 5:00am)

While I expected to watch NBC's coverage of the Vancouver Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony Friday evening, I was confronted by the horrific stop-motion images of 21-year-old Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili's death. During a morning practice run on the Whistler Mountain Olympic luge track, Kumaritashvili, coming out of the 16th curve at approximately 90 mph, launched over the track wall and collided with an exposed steel beam. NBC televised it all.

Good grammar, good graces

(12/02/09 5:00am)

Everyday the proverbial naughty and nice list is growing. This is not a reference to Santa's famed inventory of children but rather, the positives and negatives of our international Internet addiction. The advantages of Internet research databases, social networking Web sites and online shopping markets definitely seem to outweigh the cons of the big, bad World Wide Web. But let us not forget that in an emotional or stressful or inebriated moment, our e-mail can be our worst enemy. Unfortunately, it is often our professors on the receiving end of a poorly constructed, ill-timed message.

From excuses to practical uses

(11/11/09 5:00am)

It's here. The signs are everywhere: Santa is at the mall and you're in search of some Adderall. The end of the semester stress of papers, group projects and exams often precludes the joy of the holiday season. Face it, this is college, and the procrastinators far outnumber those syllabus-loving, calm, happy-go-lucky individuals who are on top of all their assignments. Maybe next semester — or the semester after that or the semester after that — we'll finally have the foresight to prevent this frantic sprint to finish mounds of work, but for now we'll have to settle for finding a workable methodology for getting through the next several weeks of horror.

If you write it, they will read

(10/28/09 4:00am)

The column is just the lucky piece of print that has managed to find its way onto the back of the Diversions page. On days when the crossword puzzle gets extracted from the rest of the paper as the only hope of salvation from your tedious classes, there too remains some hope for the column. Maybe you'll finish your "Wonderword" and your crossword puzzle or become hopelessly stuck on both and go in search of another distraction, which brings you to unfold the sheet and turn over to the column.

Computers are not people

(09/23/09 4:00am)

I think we can finally admit it is coming: the impending event referred to by some affectionately and others callously as the "virtual revolution." It has been predicted time and time again — usually resulting in a Terminator-esque, post-apocalyptic world where humanity is taken over by the machine. More realistic though than the risk of losing our lives to freethinking robotic weaponry, is the potential for a growing number of individuals to lose their livelihoods.

Computers are not people

(09/23/09 4:00am)

I think we can finally admit it is coming: the impending event referred to by some affectionately and others callously as the "virtual revolution." It has been predicted time and time again — usually resulting in a Terminator-esque, post-apocalyptic world where humanity is taken over by the machine. More realistic though than the risk of losing our lives to freethinking robotic weaponry, is the potential for a growing number of individuals to lose their livelihoods. The Ridgewood, N.J., school district replaced its three Spanish elementary educators with the computer language learning software, Rosetta Stone. Debra Anderson, a representative from the district, said that "this was a good solution in view of the financial constraints," seeing as the switch cost only $70,000, which is less than half the combined salaries of the three teachers, according to The New York Times. Ridgewood is only one in a number of school districts in the tri-state area who are cutting back on foreign language instruction. Certainly, saving money has become the driving force behind most decisions made in the wake of the economic crisis, but does the reduction in cost offset other losses? Almost a decade ago we became preoccupied with the threat of Y2K. The belief was that we were already so immersed in technology that potential new-millennium computer data failures would have ramifications in every sphere of our lives, beginning with banking errors and extending as far as mass chaos. Of course, we did not appear to learn from the Y2K scare that we could be more cautious when it comes to the power we give our technology. Nor did the four "Terminator" films, "The Matrix" and its sequels, "I-Robot," "Wall-E," or the newly released "9" seem to get across that point. Perhaps it is too much to expect fantastical films to be taken seriously enough to motivate real-world change. It would be a definite shame for this planet to be populated solely by nine stuffed-animal-like beings, but I cannot really blame you for not taking action against that highly unlikely risk. However overblown they may seem, these on-screen scenarios may merit some consideration, especially in an era where decisions to go hi-tech are made without good reason. Originally, technological advancement was based on the idea that it was making things easier for people — communication, production, day-to-day household activities. Even when technology resulted in layoffs, it could be justified for the greater good it helped achieve. When mechanized parts replaced the human assembly line, the shift was accepted because it was more than simply cost effective, but it also sped up production. There appears to be big changes of this nature approaching. The day is looming when major newspapers will be forced to close their doors once and for all because Internet publications allow for wider readership. Many people in this industry will lose their jobs. Online colleges are causing the same ramifications as online newspapers. As with print media, academia may have to one day admit that their technological counterparts are simply more effective. You may feel, as I do, that attending a college class in the flesh is an experience you could not possibly trade for a course behind your computer screen. Those who love the feeling of a newspaper crinkling in their hands and the black ink residue on their fingers could say the same thing about print media. I am fairly sure that the men and women who lost their places on the assembly line due to technological advances were equally opposed to making the change. But it is hard to deny the perks that come along with trading our commonplace way of getting the news and attending a university for the modern, mechanized alternatives. Likewise, I can imagine it may have been difficult to justify keeping factory workers over installing machines to do the work.Online colleges are significantly more affordable for the student and allow you to complete your degree without compromising your ability to work and see to other responsibilities. It also permits more students than you can cram into a lecture hall the ability to receive the same standard of education.However, the arguments that may apply to computerizing education for the college-aged student differ tremendously from the arguments for changing K-12 education. According to The New York Times, "some educators said they were re-evaluating foreign-language programs not just because of finances but to update them and incorporate new technology." Yet, aside from the fact that they are money-saving, what advantages do these technological programs provide for the children who will now be forced to use them? One explanation that has been offered is that Rosetta Stone will allow the children to "learn at their own pace." With students expected to keep to their teacher's pace in Mathematics, English, Social Studies, Science, Health, Music, Art and Physical Education classes, why would we view learning a foreign language at their "own pace" as constructive? If indeed this could be construed as a necessary change in education, then surely the way we are teaching all other subjects must be unsuitable. I think, however, the school district may have some difficulty dismissing all their staff in favor of electronic learning.Replacing a teacher with a computer program will only prevent students from getting their questions answered, and it will cause them to lose elements like positive reinforcement and a motivational tone that only a person can provide. Not to mention that it will eliminate a critical element to learning a language: conversation.I think our fears may be misplaced. As "The Terminator" suggested, there is real reason to be careful with how we use our technology. Yet, it seems as if it will not be the machines that will turn against us, but rather people that are working as impediments to their peers and as allies of the machines. Rather than guarding against a takeover of self-motivated, murderous robots, maybe we should adjust our focus and avoid choosing technology over humanity just because we can.  Larissa Klein is a School of Arts and Sciences junior. Her column "Definition of Insanity" runs on alternate Thursdays. She welcomes feedback at [email protected] 

Selling your parents, pay for housing

(09/01/09 4:00am)

 For some of us, the start of the new semester did not mean cramming all of our belongings into an oversized grey laundry cart and squeezing into a residence hall elevator. We few were spared a miserable morning of sanitizing every inch of a new living space, hooking up what seems like miles of Internet cables and meticulously adhering a cache of posters to cover 20 square feet of bare white walls. For escaping the aforementioned horrors of moving day, I feel grateful that I am a commuter.Late night and early morning fire alarms, hall mate powwows over last minute assignments, as well as countless all-nighters — not just to study or crank out a ten page paper for a 10 a.m. class, but sometimes because of an unexplained compulsion to watch a marathon of "The Hills" — are all basic elements of campus living. Commuters are often pegged as missing out on this "college experience." I cannot say, though, that I feel disadvantaged by my off-campus status.Life lessons learned from living in dormitories at the University are undeniable — how to manage your time, the value of having and defending your own opinions, as well as understanding how to compromise in order to keep the peace with your roommates. Yet I too have learned some important lessons while living under my parents' roof. As a first-year student, I lived in a residence hall and participated in on-campus activities, despite my family home being less than a 15-minute drive away. Returning home one year later gave me a new perspective, not on my place or involvement at Rutgers, as I had anticipated it would, but rather on my relationship with my family. Being at home did not make me feel totally removed from what was going on on-campus or with my friends, but being in my parents' house did make me feel more connected to them.Last weekend, a Connecticut man, Michael Amatrudo, listed his parents on the classifieds site Craigslist, advertising "Will consider trade for newer model, hot blonde under age 40 or an Erector Set in good condition. MUST SEE! Please e-mail or call Michael for additional details and pics. $155.00," according to NBC New York.51-year-old Amatrudo was simply bored or looking to play a practical joke on his loving parents; but, at one time or another, the desire to get rid of one's parents has been a prevalent feeling for most individuals. Residence hall living is seen by many as an opportunity to finally escape the overbearing, overprotective eyes of parents and gain some much needed independence.I am watching my brother, a high school senior, prepare his college applications with this exact mentality playing into some very heavy decisions. As for many others in his position, the State University of New Jersey is not even on a list of schools to consider, simply because it is seen as being too close to home.Certainly, Rutgers is not for everyone, nor is spending one's college years living with their parents. But for me, being at home I feel farther than I ever have from needing independence, and while the urge to sell my parents has almost completely gone, my 12-year-old brother is a different story. One year since moving back in with my parents, it is clear what has changed from my high school years. Albert Einstein defined insanity as "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result." Earlier I would have said that simply removing myself from my parents' control would be the necessary action to ease the tensions between us. If living with them hadn't been a pleasant experience before going off to college, how could things possibly be different now? Although I was doing the same thing — surrendering to life in my parents' home — what was different was me. Yet if you truly find it impossible to tolerate your parents' presence, you may want to go ahead and take a cue from Amatrudo. He received a high number of phone and e-mail inquiries on his offer. Maybe while you're carefully crafting an advertisement that highlights your parents' assets, like your mom's superb brisket or your dad's occasional whit, you'll realize the mistake you're making. If you have the guts to go ahead with it for two "gently used" parents, you may just make a profit enough to finance your room and board, or at least cover the cost of a few textbooks. Larissa Klein is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in art history. Her column, "The Definition of Insanity," runs on alternate Thursdays. 

Becoming "recession-ista"

(04/06/09 4:00am)

Whereas the gossip in most Central New Jersey Parent Teacher Association meetings may have long been about vacations, hair stylists and shoes, suburb dwellers like PTA moms and Manhattan commuting dads are now singing a different tune. If you open up the Home News Tribune you are bound to find an article on how to reduce spending by taking cooking lessons and gearing up for a long hiatus from restaurant dining. The "Today Show" on NBC has a continual barrage of experts on double coupons and how to plant your own vegetable gardens. "Live with Regis and Kelly" even had Seventeen Magazine Editor-in-Chief Ann Shoket present a lesson on how prom goers can make the shift from being "fashionistas to ‘recession-istas.'"

Kublai Khan's vision on the turnpike

(03/25/09 4:00am)

We could all use some reassurance these days, and President Barack Obama's appearance on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" last week seemed to be a small attempt to comfort the public amidst the chaos of the financial climate. By hitting the late night talk show circuit, the president helped to bridge the gap between the C-SPAN junkies and the rest of America. Despite all the face time and calming talk from our head of state, we continue to be rocked by one disappointment after another. While the entire nation was shocked by the news of American International Group's bonuses, here on exit nine, we have an interesting dilemma of our own.

A word to the wise that applies

(03/04/09 5:00am)

I am a complete advocate for thinking for yourself but there is something to be said for doing what you are told. You never know when the lucky numbers on the back of a fortune from the Chinese restaurant will win you the Mega Millions jackpot or when the nonsense instructions for cooking, cleaning and maintaining relationships your mother imparted to you will come in handy. Guidance can be a precious thing, and those who are willing to put aside their pride and admit that someone else just might know better could be gaining an advantage. But I certainly hope that those who haven't been accepting help and direction, those like me, have not completely lost the ability to recognize that at least some advice is worth heeding.

The era of mind your own business

(02/04/09 5:00am)

On Tuesday, the Denny's Corporation became the nation's most generous, genuine and beloved breakfast joint in the United States for eight short hours. Denny's, the champion of middle America and the longstanding supporter of the family meal, offered the Grand Slam breakfast free to every customer from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. According to the Associated Press, their campaign was an attempt to "reacquaint customers with the brand" that they can afford, even in these tough economic times.