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Entries from September 1, 2009 - September 30, 2009


How to Drag Yourself Out of Bed In the Morning

There’s this funny thing you’re supposed to do every once in a while in college – it’s called “go to class.” I think.

Trouble is, between all the other stuff you’ve got going on, waking up for that first class of the day is an awfully elusive being. The first inclination, every single morning, is to just roll back over and fall right back asleep. But, and I’m just guessing here, that might not be great for your academic career.

So, that in mind, here’s a few tips to make hopping out of bed (or at least stumbling) a little easier.

Have a bedtime

Go to bed at the same time every night (or at least on weeknights). Even if that time is 2am, it’s critical that your body gets used to going to sleep at a particular time – you’ll fall asleep faster, and your body will adjust more easily to your sleep schedule, leaving you much higher functioning on less sleep.

Go Do Something

When you first wake up, go check your email. Or splash some water on your face. Make that part of your waking-up routine, and do it without fail. Always do the same thing, and make sure it’s something that doesn’t require a whole lot of brain power. Do it until you do it without thinking, and it’ll keep you from heading back to bed.

3 Alarms

Set not one, not two, but three alarms. And, if you can pull it off, set them all to exactly the same thing: the same song, or the same tone. Set them to go off about two minutes apart. You, in your sleepy stupor, are going to have to figure out which alarm is going off, and turn it off. Repeat three times, and you’re going to be awake. I put the same song on my iPod, computer, and cell phone, and it’s worked like a charm.

Drink Water

One of the reasons we’re so tired in the morning is that we’re dehydrated, having just gone so many hours without any water. So, first thing, go pound a glass of cold water. You’ll perk up from the cold, and in a few minutes perk up from being hydrated again.

Kill the Snooze

I’ve found that I’m more prone to hit snooze twelve times than I am to just turn off the alarm and fall asleep. So what I’ve done is put duct tape over the snooze button on my alarm. Now, my only option is to turn the alarm off, and even sleepy me knows that’s not a good idea if I’m still in bed. So out of bed I get, if only to make sure I don’t sleep for six more hours because I turned my alarm off.

Waking up’s the worst thing in the world, in my humble opinion, and sleep’s awesome. But sometimes, you’ve got to get up. The key is to get up, and immediately do something  - once you’re active, you’re not likely to fall back into bed.

How do you force yourself out of bed when you don’t want to?

(Image via me and the sysop)


How to Make Killer Iced Coffee (it's easy)

Don't you dare put that pitcher of coffee in the fridge! My summer gets a little more winter-y every time someone does that -- not the nice kind of winter -- the sludgy, crappy part where all the snow is melting and ruining my life.

"Fresh brewed coffee" is a cliche because coffee is so much better when consumed right away. Leave it in the refridgerator for 12 hours and you're losing tons of flavor and risking some staleness along the way. (Ever accidently sipped the mug that's been sitting at your desk since this morning?)

Here's all you do instead -- brew it at double strength, then pour directly over ice. "Double strength" means four tablespoons of coffee per 6-8 ounces. It doesn't matter which brewing method you use.

It's worth noting that there are methods, even very simple ones, for cold-brewing coffee. Though the professional methods can be quite good, I don't stand behind the others when compared to a truly fresh brew. But please leave me your thoughts in the comments!

[image via timparkinson]


How to Super-Suite Your Dorm Room

4 beds, 1 room

Last week, reader Ben Torell submitted his desk setup for our regular Featured Desk Space feature. He also mentioned something in his email I think deserves its own separate post. I had debated about doing this my sophomore year, but never quite got around to it with my roommates. It's called "super-suiting."

Many schools have "suite-style" dorms: two regular dorm rooms connected by a shared bathroom. At LMU, all sophomore housing has a suite-style setup. It's a certain "Congratulations! You don't have to share a shower with 30 other people" from your institution. The budding college hacker will think, Hey, I can optimize this space. And thus, super-suiting was born.

2 desks, other room

Super-suiting your room separates your entire suite into discrete tasks. You move all 4 beds into one room and then leave the now-empty room as a workspace or living room. Moving all 4 beds into one room will inevitably require them to be bunked.

To some, this might just be reorganizing an already-claustrophobia-inducing suite into another claustrophobia-inducing configuration. For others, this might be the solution you have your roommates have been looking for to get some studying done.

There are two potential problems with this setup, though. At many universities, this is strictly prohibited in the community handbook. That's never stopped you before, though. Also, if you're planning on bringing members of the opposite sex (or same, we don't judge) back to the room you could run into some difficulties. Rather than sexiling one person, you would potentially be sexiling three. That's just not cool. But let's face it: we're nerds, so the probably of such an event is negligible.

Have you super-suited your suite or apartment? Send some pictures to!


Google Docs to Blackboard, "Your days are numbered"


Is it true? Did Christmas come early? I read TechCrunch yesterday morning and just about couldn't believe it. Google has launched a home page for students (kind of, see picture). The page is a landing page for Google Docs, with Google Doc templates for RAs, TAs and other student leaders. Even in the first few seconds, Google is much more in tune with the student population than Blackboard.

The simple landing page also points out a few other applications for college living.

Let us not forget that before Facebook, Microsoft Word was the defining software of education. A big part of college life revolves around essay-generating efficiency. Over a few decades, Word became the norm. While Microsoft Word transitions to the online space  to cater to modern students' needs, Google has come in as the sleeper.

Surprisingly, many students still have no idea of the existence of Google Docs. I have a debate tomorrow morning and I insisted that our group use Google Docs to organize ourselves. The other 3 group members had never used nor seen Google Docs, but are already converts.

Google is also taking another tack and attacking from a top-down approach. The tried-and-true GMail system has many universities jumping off their own in-house email servers. LMU recently switched to a Google-controlled backend. Now I can actually check my school email. Notre Dame and other schools are doing the same.

I'm guessing that it's only a matter of time before Google starts stepping on more toes of Blackboard's. Online, concurrent word processing is a difficult task to solve (Google Docs). Providing a database of course documents, a forum and a syllabus is not (Blackboard). Google could turn these things out overnight.

If I were Blackboard, I would be shaking in my boots.

What do you think? Will Google edge out Blackboard? Do you, for one, welcome our new Google overlords?


Commie Coffee - is it a Fair Trade?

Today, we're addressing "fair trade" coffee. Believe it or not, there's a workaround in how you buy your coffee that keeps it truly "fair."

The common misconception is that "fair trade certified" coffee is the best bean to go with from a social perspective. People trash Starbucks for poor Fair Trade support – but buy your coffee just about anywhere that has a billboard and you’ll be a part of similar corporate shenanigans.

First, here’s a little introduction. Before coffee gets into your cup, it’s grown, picked, processed, shipped, roasted and ground, in that order. Usually, a corporation stands in front of everything and just gives you the roasted, pre-ground (or even flavored) beans. And since they’re standing there, blocking the rest of the process, there’s no transparency. You get bags of beans that don’t denote roast levels or region specifics. You need something like “fair trade certification,” or you’d never know what’s going on. The certification guarantees that farmers (way back in the very first step of the process) were paid at least a “fair” price for the coffee – enough to live on. There's essentially a minimum amount of money that the farmers are gauranteed to have been paid.

Click to read more ...


How Some Colleges are Cutting Costs

Below there's an interesting link that was a story in Time Magazine a few weeks back. It shows what some schools are doing to cut costs in this recession. Some of them are pretty interesting. Like Bryn Mawr College and Dickinson College having a swim meet where they each swam at their own pools and compared the times to, thus having a virtual swim meet. Other schools just cut back on gluttony, like Harvard stopped serving hot breakfasts in the dorms.

Colleges Find Creative Ways to Cut Back

Are any of the schools here yours? Is there another way your school is cutting back? Comment below to share!


Roasting Coffee at Home with a Popcorn Popper

Next week, we'll tell you how to track down the best roasted beans in your area. But if your college is out in the boonies, like many are, there's probably no locally-roasted coffee at all. In that case, you might want to treat yourself to some dorm-roasted coffee.

It's actually not that complicated. All you need is a popcorn-popper. Trying some truly fresh-roasted coffee will make it worth buying one of these $20 residence-hall-friendly devices. Finding the green (green coffee beans, that is) can be hard/expensive -- but you have the flexibility of being able to ship them in, which wouldn't work as well for roasted coffee since it goes stale quickly.

You can also get a lot more detail from CoffeeGeek, which initially turned me on to this concept:

Roasting Coffee with a Popcorn Popper


Featured Desk Space: Simple Serenity

Today's featured desk space comes from Jared Catapano, an intern over at the Ology on Campus! blog.

Jared's setup seems focuses around serenity and simplicity. His 1968 Multisonic receiver powers the speakers in his room, while he's rocking the 15" Powerbook G4. He's picked up an iMage webcam to mimick the iSight of the recent MacBooks and MacBook Pros.

He's doubled-up on monitor space with a 19" Acer monitor and a Razer Krait mouse (can someone say TF2?). He stores all of his videos on a 250 Gb hard drive in an Ineo enclosure. Jared says, "Everything works beautifully and I by no means have cutting edge technology." True to that. Why replace what ain't broke?

I've also gotta hand it to him for the George Harrison-Bob Dylan framed picture above his desk. 

If you'd like your desk to be featured on HackCollege, shoot an email over to with a description and pictures of your desk. Don't forget to tell us a little bit about yourself!