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Watch, Read, Make: Maru, Jobs, and Baking Soda Pits

Welcome to Watch, Read, Make, our weekly list of cool things to start off your weekend.

Watch: It's been a bummer couple of days. You know what will cheer you up if you have a soul? Maru the cat sliding into things in boxes, that's what. For an extra dose of fun, play this video in a room with another cat. It freaks them out in ways that are pretty truly excellent. (If you don't have a cat, a drunk roommate substitutes in pretty well.)

Read: This Wired obituary for Steve Jobs is good on a couple of levels. On the surface, it's a well-written, moving tribute to a man who--despite his avid fan base--was harsh. It's great long-form personal journalism. However, even if you don't want to read another tribute to the man, it's worth checking out for the detail that the author lavishes onto how Jobs got to where he is and how he managed to be an abrasive person to work for and still rise to the top. Reading biographies of remarkable people is always an interesting experience, particularly if they're someone who's human enough that you feel a personal connection to them. If nothing else, it will give you an idea of how you, too, can become a computer-company-founding-wunderkind.

Make: Georgia is currently in the middle of that delightful autumnal weather transition where it's too cold to go outside in the morning sans coat, but it's too hot by the middle of the day for my punky hippie deodorant to really be doing much for me. If you are in the same predicament, check out this XOJane piece on DIY deodorants. She concluded that baking soda applied to your pits after a shower does a freaky-good job of warding off odor. Try it and let me know how it goes! (I'm curious if I can quit paying redonculous prices for deodorant, because that shiz is way more expensive than it needs to be.)


Dos and Don'ts of Working at a Coffee Shop

Make sure you follow the proper etiquette of coffee shop studying. Photo courtesy of Kevin McShane. Licensed under CC BY-2.0.When you're working on huge paper or studying for that insane midterm, sometimes you need to put yourself in a new environment in order to stimulate your brain cells. I usually go to the library for peace and quiet, but there is a growing trend of students venturing off campus to local coffee shops to do their work. This seems like a pretty good deal. You camp out at your favorite table, are close to delicious drinks, and get to escape campus for a little while.

This is all well and good, but Mashable brings up a good point-- if you're going to study in a coffee shop, you need to be aware of the proper etiquette of doing so. The last thing that you want is to be that horribly obnoxious person who everyone is throwing death glares. So brush up on the correct behavior and make sure that you're not an unwelcome guest at your favorite hang out.

Here are some things you should do:

  • Buy a drink every hour and a half to two hours. A coffee shop is still a business even if you've found it a convenient study spot. If you're hogging up a table, you'd better be giving them business in return for taking up one of their tables.
  • If it's lunch or dinner time, you should buy food. Again, don't be rude by taking up a table and not giving the coffee shop business.
  • If you simply don't want to buy drinks, you should tip well.
  • And this is the thing that I would like to stress: keep your stuff in a very compact space. It's really quite annoying to see someone using up a larger space than necessary, especially when it's busy.

And here are some things you should not do:

  • Don't hog a table if the store is busy. If business starts to pick up, be a nice person and find another place to finish your work, especially if you're not eating or drinking anything at the moment. If you don't move, you might be asked by management to move, which is embarrassing and awkward.
  • Don't have group meetings for projects at a coffee shop if they're going to last for a long time (over two hours) and be noisy. Those meetings need to be held on campus where you're not going to distract other patrons.
  • Don't stay the entire day. It's not your personal office or desk. If you really don't want to go back to campus, relocate to another coffee shop.
  • Don't hog a lot of bandwidth on the Wi-Fi. If you need more bandwidth, it's time to go back to campus.

More a more detailed list of things you should and shouldn't do while working at a coffee shop, check out Mashable's article here. For a more-to-the-point list, check out Lifehacker's take on the article, complete with reader comments who have added their own rules.



College 101: Beating Burnout

Burnout is better for cars than your body. Photo courtesy of Flickr user AleGranholm. Licensed under CC BY-2.0.Welcome to College 101, a weekly series HackCollege will be providing with how-to's and what-not-to-do's for incoming college freshmen, and those who think they need a refresher course. This week - the topic that's literally plagued me for the past month - burnout.

We often romanticize college. We all know about the social side, but most of us here on HackCollege focus more on the productivity side: getting things done, earning internships, and putting ourselves in the best position possibly for our dream jobs.

But, there is a dark side to college as well. Sometimes that student involvement position you really enjoy trumps your academic pursuits or your on-campus job takes up more time than you'd like to admit.

That's been me for the past month. I've finally admitted to myself that I've reached burnout with my academics, physical fitness and appearance, and religious life taking a backseat for the panaceas of student involvement, employment, and my social life. I still use my to-do list daily, and track my goals but the same goals remain unchecked and the same tasks become overdue.

When I calculated my GPA this week and found it at an all-time low - granted, it's early in the semester but still - my wake-up call had come. It was time to stop using what I enjoyed as an excuse and a time to allot time more effectively. I made the decision to beat burnout, and with the tips below, you can prevent it from ever happening to you.

Click to read more ...


TweetMemeFace+: Making Stuff and Doing Things

So, that happened.

And it was sad. And it blew up my twitter stream to a degree that was sort of unprecedented. And it completely dwarfed Sarah Palin's news. This says something, I think, about the value people place on quality content, even in an era of overshare and personal branding.

Steve Jobs' personal brand was, in part, distinctly impersonal--he didn't talk about his home life much, and only shared news about his illness when his company made him. What the people on my news feed are talking about, instead, are the products he created and the ways that he changed his industry. People respect people who build quality things.

Remember that when you're building your personal brand or rocking the social media yacht that for most people social media is a tool. It helps you get out news and build relationships around the cool things that you do. But, in order for that to happen, you have to actually do things. You have to give life to whatever ideas you're interested in pursuing, rather than reblogging what folks have said about them.

You have to do the work.

You will probably not be Steve Jobs. But, you might do something cool. You might even make life a little bit more awesome for someone. At the very least, you can put a dent in the universe.

So, go make some things. Dash out of your midsemester slump, go for a walk. Make stuff and do things. (If nothing else, use that book's recipe for wine.)

Social media isn't an end. It's a tool. Make something cool with it.


Create a Meal Library to Help You When You're Short on Time and Creativity

My mom's meatloaf is better than your mom's meatloaf. Photo courtesy of interpunct. Licensed under CC BY-2.0.When you start cooking for yourself after living for a couple of semesters on dorm food, it's as if heaven opened up and a chorus of angels is singing. You have freedom. You can cook whatever the freaking hell you want. You want a burger? Cook a burger! You want a gourmet quesadilla with cheese and chipotle sauce at 2:00 after you finished a term paper? You make that quesadilla! You want pancakes? For dinner? Cook pancakes and throw in some eggs for kicks.

It's a time to experiment the cooking skills you inherited, and it's pretty freaking awesome. However, after a few weeks of making every thing you can think of, you might realize that cooking actually requires a lot of planning ahead of time. Maybe you get out of class at 7:00 and you don't have time to think of some crazy awesome meal. Maybe you're in the middle of your hell week and you have no brain power to spend an hour making an elaborate dish.

The financial blog The Simple Dollar has a solution for on-the-go chefs-- come up with a meal library. In this library, there are several reasonably healthy and inexpensive meals that you can prepare easily. For instance, my meal library includes meatloaf, chicken tacos, Bisquik chicken thighs, spaghetti and meatballs, and tuna melts. If I'm absolutely beat and have no energy, I know that I can come home, put my brain on autopilot and make one of these easy meals.

Having a meal library is good for several reasons. Firstly, you'll actually have something to eat on those hellish days when your brain has quit working. Sure, you could just go out and grab something fast to eat, but that's usually going to be unhealthy and expensive. It's much better to prepare something yourself and have leftovers.

Secondly, if you know your meal library well enough, you know to pre-stock up on these items in bulk. This will save you time and money from always having to run to the grocery to get an ingredient that you need for a library meal. I always have a box of pasta, meatballs, and spaghetti sauce in my kitchen. 

Thirdly, by having several meals in this meal library, you won't be stuck with the same dish over and over again whenever you have no energy. Sometimes when I'm tired I just pick up an already cooked chicken and make some pasta. Sometimes I make a tuna melt (open faced tuna sandwich with melted cheese). By having choices, I ensure that I don't get tired of these backup plans.

To get your meal library started, think of three or four meals that you can prepare in under half an hour. If they run longer than that in preparation time, you're not going to want to actually make them when you're in a pinch for time. Make sure you know the exact way you like the meal so you're not stressed about if you need to add more of one ingredient or another.

Meal libraries can work great if you live with multiple roommates as well. If you can work out a system where certain nights out of the week, one roommate cook a large, rather easy meal, it can help everyone out during weeks where stress is running high.

Do you like the idea of a meal library? What meals would you put in your meal library? Let us know in the comments!

[via The Simple Dollar]


We'll Miss You Steve

This may be outside the realm of what you normally see on HackCollege, but I'll make an exception tonight.

It's not hyperbolic to say that Steve Jobs was the greatest inventor of his generation; a modern day Thomas Edison. It would be remarkable enough for anyone to play the role he did in inventing the personal computer. Or in redefining the music industry. Or in bringing mobile technology to the masses. Or in ushering in a new era of tablet computing. Any of these alone would be a superlative achievement for any mere human being. Steve Jobs did them all.

Whether you're reading this on a Mac or a PC, an iPhone or an Android phone, a gaming desktop or a cheap netbook, the device you're using was influenced in no small part by Steve Jobs. A friend of mine texted me tonight and said that nearly everything that's happened in the tech industry over the last 30 years has been in response to Steve Jobs' work, and looking back, it's hard to find flaw in this statement.

Genius often exacts a toll in what we might call social norms, and there's no doubt that Steve was a polarizing figure in many ways. However, any criticisms (or accolades) we may have for how he conducted himself and his business are ancillary to his lifelong accomplishments. Steve, his products, and the competitors they spawned have affected all of our lives in a very tangible way, and the world is undoubtedly a better place for his efforts. 

I don't mourn his death as much as I mourn what he could have accomplished had he not left us so soon. Steve had been innovating for 30 years, and had he been a healthier man he could have gone for 20 more. After his passing, we can only hope that someone, whether they work for Apple, Microsoft, Google, Amazon, or any other tech company, can fill the void and steer the industry for the next 30 years with the same vision, creativity, and love that Steve so consistently demonstrated throughout his life. 

Thanks for everything, Steve. We'll all miss you. 


Transform a Wii Into the Ultimate Dorm-Friendly Entertainment Machine (Part 2)

This is a Wii emulating a Commodore 64. Your argument is invalid. Photo by Andrew Mason and licensed under CC BY-2.0

Note - if you missed Monday's Part 1 guide to unlocking your Wii's potential, you'll need to catch up here for this post to make any sense.

By now you've had a few days to unlock your Wii and install the Homebrew Channel and Homebrew Browser, so now it's time to stop working and start having fun! So start by firing up the Homebrew Browser and I'll show you what to download.

Read on to find out how to play DVDs, video files, and old-school video games on your newly-unlocked Wii.

Click to read more ...


Better Browsing: Automatically Find the Lowest Price Shopping Online with InvisibleHand

Even though it only pops up when you need it, InvisibleHand looks pretty slick when it does show.

While you can always go on Google Shopping and go through a few clicks to find the lowest price on whatever you’re buying, why deal with the hassle of even a couple clicks when you can just let an extension do the work for you? With that cue, allow me to introduce you to InvisibleHand. InvisibleHand is a free browser extension available for Safari, Firefox, Chrome, and even Internet Explorer (although why would you want to use IE?). Download it here! There really aren’t many preferences to fiddle around with – just four checkboxes that are entirely self-explanatory. InvisibleHand just does the rest on its own: whenever you search for an item on the search engine of your choice, or if you go to a product page on a company’s website, InvisibleHand will automatically compare the prices for that item on other stores to ensure you always get the lowest price on whatever you’re buying. When it appears, you’ll see a yellow toolbar at the top of your page with all the information intuitively laid out for you. Best of all, InvisibleHand only pops up whenever you need it, making your browsing experience as unobtrusive and clutter-free as possible.

In addition to aggregating and filtering pricing data, InvisibleHand also lets you see Amazon customer reviews at a quick glance, along with buttons to quickly share the deal with your friends! The extension even works for flights too! In fact, the only real weakness I’ve found is that InvisibleHand doesn’t scour the web for used or refurbished products, which are generally of the same quality but 20-30% cheaper. However, if you’ve just got to have that new-in-box smell, use InvisibleHand to make online shopping just that little bit more convenient.

Do you like InvisibleHand? What do you think of its competitors, like PriceBlink? Let us know in the comments!