All posts by scruzbc

Simple Ways to Eat and Live Healthier

 

One of the most quintessentially “January” things in our culture is the “New Years’ Resolution”. For most people, this means coming up with a goal that they want to accomplish in the coming year. While these range anywhere from “Saving more money” to “quitting smoking” to “give back more”, by far the most common resolution Americans make is to lose weight according to the Statistics Brain Research Institute.

I know that weight has been something I’ve struggled with throughout my college career, and it’s the resolution I made this year.

I know, I know— it’s February now. But I know that, personally, sometimes I’ve messed up and ‘lost my groove’ concerning my new years resolution after a month or two. But that doesn’t mean you should give up!

While it is a relatively simple concept, it can be daunting to actually formulate healthy habits and stick with them. Especially when there is so much disinformation (one of my biggest pet peeves in advertising is products that purport themselves to be ‘healthy’ when they really actually -aren’t-, such as the ever-popular ‘organic’ label on foods. French fries can be organic, after all).

So, I’ll share some of the things that have worked for me in the past that I’m planning to use in the coming year.

Don’t eat any form of junk food

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Now, I know this one is pretty obvious. Clearly, you shouldn’t be eating potato chips or candy bars if you want to eat healthier.

However, as I mentioned earlier— food companies have gotten pretty savvy with their marketing to fool people into thinking their foods are healthy.

For example, let’s look at chips. Everyone knows that Doritos or Lay’s Classic chips are obviously “junk food”. But what about supposed-healthier alternatives? Popchips claim to be a healthier option to traditional chips— and they aren’t even subtle about it. With marketing slogans such as “love without the handles” and “spare me the guilt chip”, Popchips are very brazenly suggesting their chips are better for you than those “other” chips. However, Popchips actually have more calories per gram than potato chips. They mask this by claiming that since they are bigger in size, you are getting “more flavor and more chips”. But no one actually measures their chip intake by number— they just eat as many as they want until they feel satisfied.

Pop Chips are made with potato flakes, potato starch, oil, rice flour, and salt. Despite the fact that they are “real ingredients” these ingredients are still not ‘good’ for you. According to Dr. Walter Willett of Harvard University, “these kinds of starches— white bread, white rice, potatoes— are starches that are very rapidly converted to glucose, really pure sugar, and almost instantly absorbed into the bloodstream. And these are the kinds of carbohydrates that we really should be minimizing in our diets.

As the saying goes, “you can’t have your cake and eat it too”. This is true of all junk foods. There is no alternative that will mimic the taste while magically being healthy for you.

Stick to a few basic staples— even if it seems boring

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A running trend in the difficulties of switching your diet to a healthy one is that of finding those secret dishes that tastes just as “good” as the burgers, pizza, burritos, etc.

The harsh truth is that there just isn’t any. Now, don’t think that I’m saying that there’s no way to make healthy food that “tastes good”. That isn’t true. But you cannot use the same barometer of “taste” as you do for the high-fat, high-sodium, caloric-dense foods you’re trying to avoid.

A big reason these foods taste “so good” is due to the way in which they are made (like frying) or ingredients (butter) that you’re going to have to just avoid altogether.

An easy way to minimize attempting to make and/or eat “healthy” food that ends up not being so health is to stick to tried and true basic staples.

Grilled chicken and fish. Boiled brown rice. Grilled/boiled vegetables. I know this sounds horribly boring and/or taste-less. But it doesn’t have to be— grilled chicken or fish can taste fantastic. Brown rice really isn’t so bad.

Something that really helped me when making these foods is using seasonings— Mrs. Dash is a range of seasonings that do not contain salt (so avoiding making your food too high in sodium in attempt to make it taste better).

There are also a wide variety of ways to “spice up” these seemingly-boring foods, like lemon-grilled chicken.

Another big benefit to eating simple staple foods is that it can save you a lot of money— chicken, rice and vegetables can be very inexpensive.

Be active— it doesn’t have to be at a gym or with an expensive workout program

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One of the other annoying ways that companies try to squeeze money out of people trying to become healthier is by making it seem like the only way to exercise is by going to an extreme. Whether this is by making people think they need to sign up for expensive gym memberships or purchase $200 worth of DVDs where bulgingly-muscular people scream angrily at them.

While a gym membership can certainly be useful and cost-effective (Planet Fitness is very cheap) and some people may really respond to DVD workouts, it definitely isn’t necessary. Especially if you’re just starting (or re-starting) to exercise regularly, these things can be overwhelming and could potentially cause people to give up. I know that, personally, I’ve often used the excuse of “well I don’t have time to go to the gym today” or “I didn’t make it to the gym today” to forego exercising.

A much simpler way to incorporate exercise when starting out is to be active throughout the day using what you already have: Go for a walk in the morning or during lunch. Ride your bike to school or work (I will admit this one only works if you don’t live too far from either). Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Take the dog for a longer walk— heck, take him on multiple walks throughout the day. Park farther away from the front of the store. Clean your home or backyard much more thoroughly than you usually do. Do simple “body-only” exercises while you watch TV.

There are a multitude of simple things you can incorporate into your day that can make you immediately much more active without going very-much out of your way.

Make achievable goals and track them reasonably

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It’s easy to make big goals that can seem daunting— especially if you’re frustrated with yourself. While it may be tempting to say “I need to lose 40 pounds!”, it can do you more harm than good in the long run.

While you may be making progress, you could end up discouraging yourself because you aren’t making the progress you’d like fast enough.

The truth is, there is no way to change your lifestyle and health in an instant. It takes time— but this shouldn’t be something you need to stress about it. Think about it this way: sure, 6 months may seem a long time right now. But think about where you were 6 months ago— does it seem like that long of a time?

Instead of thinking too much on the long-term goal, make small goals that you can feel good about meeting. Instead of the whole 40 pounds, make your goal 5 pounds. Then 5 more pounds. Then 10 pounds.

Better yet— don’t use pounds at all! Sometimes, depending on your individual body type and the sort of exercising you’ve been doing— you may not be “losing” weight, despite the fact you are making progress. Using measurements, pictures, or your own clothing are great alternatives to the scale in measuring your fitness goals.

Whatever sort of measurement you use to keep track of your goals, don’t obsesses about it and track it too often— our bodies can fluctuate wildly from day-to-day. A much better time-span for measuring yourself is once a week rather than once a day.

Remember— health is not always measured by weight or size

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World Champion Athletes!
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World Champion Athletes!

Try to consult your doctor before you jump to any conclusions about your health or fitness. While it is always a good thing to want to become more active and eat better foods, it can be possible to obsess too much about trying to meet an ideal that can actually be bad for your health.

If you think that you or anyone you know may be suffering from an eating disorder, please reach out to the National Eating Disorders Association at 1-800-931-2237 or on their website.


 

Good luck with your Resolutions, Renegades! Fitness-related or otherwise!

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How Social Media Makes You Smarter

 

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Most of us use social media.

According to the Pew Research Center, 64% of U.S. adults use Facebook.

That number is even higher for college students— 95%.

Most of us may use it to keep touch with our friends, sharing funny pictures and videos, and posting things to show the world how cool we are. But, social media has a lot of “constructive” uses too.

It makes me read

Now, you’ve probably heard this before. It’s because it’s very true— one of the best ways to become “smarter” is by reading.

Traditionally, I have known this to mean that you should habitually read a lot of books. However, I don’t think this is the case.

I read all the time. I read every single day. Now, I can’t tell you the last time I read a whole book cover-to-cover. The truth is although I try my best to read books, I honestly have a hard time staying consistent. Either I lose interest, or I get busy with something else and then find it hard to go back to the book. It probably has a lot to do with my ADHD, but that isn’t important.

The point is I still read everyday. What am I reading, you ask?                                               Blogs. Forum posts. FACEBOOK POSTS.

Yeah, you heard me right— Facebook posts.

I know it may seem a little irresponsible of me to suggest that spending hours on Facebook will have the same positive effect on your critical thinking and comprehension skills as reading books or newspapers. But that isn’t what I’m saying. Of course I’m not talking about my friends’ posts about how they are sick of studying for their test and can’t wait to “turnup #yolo”, my cousin’s posts about the new world order, or the endless meme pages.

I’ve read essays on Facebook. Op-ed pieces on Facebook. Greatly constructed arguments on Facebook. Really interesting facts on Facebook. You name it.

Every single person-of-note and influential website, organization, etc has a Facebook page. Facebook has become, essentially, the springboard from which to discover information on the internet.

This post has a few good examples of pages on Facebook that share things that are educational.

It Keeps Me Informed

Although people like to chastise the use of social media as collectively “dumbing down the masses”, it really isn’t true in such a blanket sense. Considering Facebook is the second most visited website in the world, traditional media has had to shift accordingly. I’ve probably received over 70% of my news on Facebook. I’ve read essays on Facebook. Op-ed pieces on Facebook. You name it.

I’m not alone. According to the Pew Research Center, 30% of the general population receive their news through Facebook.

It Makes Me Think Critically

I know my close friends would probably say that it is a bad habit of mine, but I tend to get in a lot of Facebook “debates”. I’m sure they’d probably appreciate it if I wasn’t furiously typing away at my phone while they were trying to talk to me— but I definitely don’t believe it to be as much of a “waste of time” as I’m told it is.

Studies have shown that debating can improve reading comprehension and is an effective method of teaching critical thinking.

While not everyone I argue with on Facebook makes very good points (we’ve all come across those people who just restate their opinions blindly without actually trying to make valid arguments), It still engages me to think critically and formulate my opinions. I don’t know about you all, but I tend to not like to argue with my friends— especially not in person. In-person arguments/debates tend to devolve into who can talk faster or louder quickly. This is something that is avoided through debating on social media— most of the time, I don’t even know the person I’m arguing with. Also, forcing each party to fully form and write down their points serves for a much better-paced back-and-forth discussion.


 

So, next time someone complains to you about “kids these days” spending “all their time on facebook”, just let them know— “well, it actually makes you smarter”! 😉

Talk to you later, Renegades!

Restaurant Review: Firestone Grill

The day finally came. After much anticipation (especially from yours truly), Firestone Grill Bakersfield opened its doors to customers on January 5th, 2016.

You may remember my article last year, where I was the first to break the news that Firestone Grill had moved forward with alcohol licensing on the old Wavelengths building on California Ave and Real Rd.

This was big news at the time, because it had been a whole year prior to that that they had announced on Facebook that they planned to come to Bakersfield. I am very proud of that post— it’s on the front page of Google when you search “firestone grill bakersfield” and is still our number one article on the blog.

Moving on— I was finally able to visit Firestone Grill two weeks ago to try out the food and experienced. Armed with my trusty camera and stomach, I headed over on a Sunday afternoon with my younger brother to see if the reality matched up my hype.


 

My brother and I arrived to Firestone Grill on a Saturday around 5:15 PM. We actually got a pretty good parking spot close to the front door and there wasn’t that much of a line to the counter. I’d say it was just the right amount of “busy”— clearly people like this place, but it wasn’t so packed that getting your food would be a stressful experience.

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picture from the counter service line

We sat at a table towards the “back” of the restaurant— the section closest to the windows facing California Ave. After waiting around 5 minutes or so, I realized something must be wrong. So I got up and went to speak to one of the employees— it turns out that the section of the restaurant that has table service was on the south side, closest to the front door (the two “halves” of the restaurant are separated by a bar in the middle). So, I moved us to a seat close to the entrance. Throughout the night, I noticed that a server would explain the seating situation to people coming in— I suppose we just had bad luck coming in. I would suggest that a simple sign on the door or inside the entrance would both help customers and lighten the servers’ responsibilities.

Once we had sat down at our new table, a very nice young woman came to take our order. We ordered a couple appetizers and drinks, and asked her if we could put in our orders for our main entrees once the apps had come. She made a note of this and left. A food runner brought us our drinks very quickly after ordering them, and my brother and I proceeded to converse and catch up.

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found the right table

After about 20 minutes passing, I realized something isn’t right— there’s no way a basket of fries and a basket of onion rings would take this long. I tried to wait for our server to pass by, but she didn’t. I managed to flag down the other server, and she came up to our table. I told her we had ordered our appetizers 20 minutes ago, as well as needed to add our sandwiches to the meal. She said she would check on it right away. Although they weren’t super packed (like I said earlier) I now thought to myself that with only two servers they were perhaps stretching themselves a bit thin. She came back and apologized profusely, saying that the other server had completely forgotten to enter our order. She said the appetizers would be on the house, and that we would get our food right away.

Now, you might be thinking ‘Geez, what’s going on with the service?’. I thought this for a second, too, but then I realized it was more due to the aforementioned short-staffing than the servers themselves not being “on top of it”. For a restaurant that’s only been open for a couple of weekends, I suppose I can’t blame them for not having their scheduling down pat. Also, I always appreciate it when a place fully owns up to their mistakes— it never feels good to have to ‘ask for the manager’.

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fries amazingness in fried potato strip form

Sure enough, our appetizers came out straight away. Now, I’ve probably talked about this before but let me just say— these fries are amazing. I’ve seriously never had better fries. They’re just the right amount of crispy-on-the-outside-fluffy-on-the-inside. Their most shining feature, though, is the seasoning. I’m not sure what kind of seasoning they use, but I want some for my personal cooking. It’s salty but with a slight hint of sweet, which creates the perfect storm of flavor that makes me “can’t eat just one”.

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iPhone 6+ for size reference

 

Something I truly appreciate about Firestone is that their “basket of fries” is actually is actually deserving of the name “basket”. I’ve been annoyed in the past with restaurants using this term and completely failing to deliver (like a certain buffalo wing place that claims to be ‘wild’). These suckers come IN A BASKET, as you can see in the picture above.

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a ring fit for a king

The onion rings don’t slack of either. They are humongous— both in diameter and thickness. In my opinion, an onion ring fails to deliver if at any point you take a bite and (because the batter is so loose around the onion) you take the whole string with you. Not a problem with these guys— the batter is thick and crumbly, creating a great mix of crunch and gooey-onion-inside.

After we virtually devour these, the server comes back with our two main orders. I had ordered the classic Tri-Tip Sandwich, while my brother ordered the Monster Burger.

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a monster of a burger

I’d never had a burger from the Firestone family of restaurants (meaning Doghouse in Fresno). I’ve always stuck to tri-tip or chicken strips. Always striving to adhere to negative Big Brother stereotypes, I made my younger brother let me try it first.

This burger was GREAT. Two thick beef patties separated by strips of American and Jack Cheddar cheese— that first bite was juicy and magnificent. I usually like to order burgers with extra toppings (avocado, guacamole, bacon, sauce, etc) but I can honestly say that this burger didn’t need it. I don’t know what I expected, considering they’ve proven to me to be great at seasoning and grilling before, but I was very much pleased.

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the main attraction

Now, the main attraction. This sandwich was my first introduction to Firestone Grill (called Doghouse Grill in Fresno). Once, I had an extra credit assignment for Jonathan “H” Hernandez’s Small Group Communication class at Reedley College— I drove the extra 40 minutes to Fresno State just for this. It is, very sincerely, the best tri-tip sandwich I’ve ever had. I know Bakersfield doesn’t slack on barbecue. We’ve got Jake’s Tex-Mex, Fred’s Barbecue Factory, and of course (featured on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives) Salty’s BBQ. I’ve been to all of those places and have good things to say about every single one. But there’s just something about Firestone’s Tri-Tip sandwich that is without compare.

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thick tri-tip piled high

The tri-tip is so soft it almost melts in your mouth— never a piece of grit or fat. The french roll is buttered and toasted just the right amount. But what is probably my absolute favorite thing about it is the barbecue sauce. Made in-house, the caramel-colored sauce is thick and sticky. I’d say it’s mostly sweet, but not quite. It is so good, I always ask for extra cups to take home.


 

I definitely left the restaurant that evening very satisfied. Despite a couple of hiccups and confusions at the beginning, it was an overall pleasant dining experience. The food was wonderful and the ambience was good.  The pricing is what you’d expect from a barbecue place (and the quality truly speaks for it).

Overall, I’d say I rate my experience a 4/5 stars.

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the menu

 

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non-meat options too!

 

Overall, I’d say I rate my experience a 4.5/5 stars.

Tips for Online Classes

Good morning, Renegades!

Hope you all had a great first week of class and a nice weekend.  I know I did— I enjoyed the pleasant weather we had this weekend after all the rain lately (though, I guess rain is ‘good weather’ considering the drought).

Last semester, I posted some tips for starting up a new semester of school. However, most of the tips were specific to “real life” classes. This semester, I’d like to give some tips on taking (and succeeding in) online classes. I’ve taken multiple online courses throughout my time at BC, and this semester I’m taking two! They can be very convenient— but they can also very easy to underestimate.


 

Put important dates in your calendar

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This is something that may seem like a “no-brainer”, but it’s also something that is very easy to forget about or to fall behind on and the repercussions can be dire. You might say “well, isn’t keeping a schedule an important part of succeeding in every class?” Well, yes— but it is especially important in online classes. Because you aren’t physically attending a class multiple times a week, you don’t have the professor physically reminding you about upcoming due dates. So, you have to take more precautions to ensure you don’t miss deadlines!

Some professors create a calendar on Moodle that you can “export” to your native calendar app (wether that is iCloud Calendar, Google Calendar, or Microsoft Mail & Calendar). This is really convenient and something I love seeing.

Here’s a brief tutorial:

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On the main page of your class Moodle, there will be a box that says “Upcoming events” on the right-hand side. Click the “Go to calendar” text in this box.

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On the next page, make sure you bubble-in the “This month” section (most teachers don’t schedule farther in advanced than this in my experience). Then, click the “Export” button.

This will download a “.ics” file that will have different names depending on your OS— on my Mac, they are called “iCalExport.ics”. Either way, if you have a default calendar app on your device, opening this will take you to it and give you the option to add it to your calendar.

Not all professors do, though. Only one of mine did— the other did not. But she did post all the assignments and their due dates on Moodle. So, in this case (obviously) just input the dates manually in your calendar of choice. Yes, it may seem like a bit of tedious work, but in the end it will be worth it. Trust me.

REMEMBER TO ADD ALERTS/REMINDERS.

This is important— it doesn’t do you much good to have your assignments in your calendar if you forget to check it before the due date. Make sure you set up a multiple alerts/reminders. I usually give myself two— one the “day before” and another one “two hours before” to make sure I don’t forget to have them turned in.


 

DON’T PROCRASTINATE

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I know this is easier said than done— trust me, I know…But, still something that needs to be said and  done. I actually once failed a class I was taking over the summer because I put off taking one of the exams until the last day it was due. Unfortunately, I also happened to be camping at the beach with absolutely zero internet connection. Oops.

Another time (yes, this happened multiple times- I told you I knew about procrastination) I left the test to the last minute and realized that I had accidentally mixed up the time a test was closing because I thought it was going to be the same as homework had always been (due Sunday nights at 11 PM). Instead, he had given us three days to take the test from when he opened it Thursday morning to Saturday night. Oops again.

Turn things in early. ESPECIALLY exams. Tests are always worth the biggest chunk of points in most classes, but it appears to be especially true for online ones (since there is really no way for professors to give participation points or pop-quizzes when you aren’t actually physically attending a class.) Trust me, the last thing you want is to have to retake a class because you missed the deadline for an exam.


 

Set aside a time and place to do your work

 

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One of the best things about online classes is that they work around your own personal schedule. No need to be at school at a specific time on this day and that day. That’s super convenient!

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that that means you don’t have to actually set aside a time and place to do your work. You may think that you can just squeeze in time between/after/before work/other classes/other commitments, but that’ll just cause you stress and risk you missing points on assignments & tests from rushing them or being distracted.

Treat your online homework and tests the same way you would treat “normal” homework and tests— don’t try to complete your weekly quiz on your smartphone during your break at work. Don’t try to take your test while making dinner and soothing a crying baby. It may not be easy, but it’s in your best interest to set aside a time and place to do your work. Schedule some time once or twice a week (depending on how often you have assignments due) where you’re free from distractions and can focus on completing your work. If you have a test, block out the time for it (the max time allowed for tests is always posted next to the test on Moodle) and go take it at the library or somewhere else quiet. Remember that while all the other things in your life are very important, so is doing well in school. We wouldn’t be enrolled otherwise!


 

That’s all for now, Renegades. Hope you have a fantastic second week back at school!

Keep a look out for my next post this weekend, where I review a new restaurant that opened in town! (If you know this blog, you probably know which one I’m talking about ;))

See you soon!

-Sal

 

 

 

Last-Minute and Cheap Gift Ideas

So, you messed up.

You either waited too long to shop or order something online or spent all your holiday money already or that gift exchange you signed up for is literally tomorrow. The point is, you need to get something for someone. You need to get it fast and you need to get it cheap. Fortunately for you, help has arrived.

Handmade Mug

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Channel your inner second-grader with some handmade drinkware. I actually did this earlier this month as part of a group activity. While I didn’t actually end up making one as a gift, a lot of my friends did. Basically, you get some of these oil-paint sharpie markers and a blank white mug (this one is $3 and available at Bakersfield WScreen Shot 2015-12-23 at 2.16.52 PMalmarts, but I’m sure the dollar store has them too). Then, you decorate it however you want to! Or, as many of my friends ended up doing— you can rip off get inspiration from other people’s ideas on Pinterest. Then, you let it dry overnight. Finally, you “bake” it in the oven at 350°F for 30 minutes….and there you have it! You have a cheap last-minute gift that seems so special and heartfelt that the other person won’t even think it was last-minute!

 

Scented Candles

CandlesAlright, listen up. It’s okay if you totally spaced on buying your mom/other-important-lady-in-your-life a christmas present. I’ll level you— It’s happened to me. No judgements. Sometimes you’re just busy. BUT, it is not okay if you don’t get her anything at all. Now, everyone is different of course. You can’t just generalize people based on their ages and genders. But in my personal experiences, moms/aunts/grandmas/other-special-gals LOVE candles. I mean, seriously— what’s not to love? If I cared more, I’d probably have candles around my place too. They smell great, they’re fun, they create some nice mood lighting. Seriously, candles are awesome. Lucky for you, they can be pretty inexpensive. Bath and Body Works has a sale on their really nice winter-themed candles right now for $12.50. You can probably find some that are even cheaper at HomeGoods or a store like Target or Walmart, too.

Christmas Tree Ornament

The classic cheap low-pressure “I thought of you” christmas gift. The great thing about this is that so many people are really into the whole christmas tree thing that this can be a pretty exciting gift. Also, it serves as a general gift to the whole household. Cha-ching. You have two options here— 1. Make your own DIY-style, or 2. Buy one.

I’m not a very “crafty” person myself, so I would peScreen Shot 2015-12-23 at 3.01.20 PMrsonally go with number two. Especially because they make so many cool pop-culture themed ornaments these days. Your giftee a star wars fan? Get her a Darth Vader or BB-8 one. They a Frozen freak? You got an Olaf ornament for ’em. They even have THE DINOSAUR FROM THE NEW JURASSIC PARK MOVIE. There are literally tons of super cool ornaments. I would not mind one bit receiving these as gifts.

 

Framed Photograph

Now, this is something a parent, significant other, or BFF can all enjoy. Nothing is a sweeter gift than a picture of the two of you together in a nice frame. Especially these days, with digital photography being how we take and share pictures the most, a printed photograph can really be7c5fc7f4117ea37966095c528a306d3b special. You can print the picture yourself with a decent printer and some photo paper— or, if you don’t have that option, you can find a photo kiosk in Rite Aid or visit FedEx Office to have one printed. Frames are relatively cheap, I’ve even seem some nice-looking ones at Dollar Tree. Maybe add some personal touches like decorations on the edges of the frame and VIOLA! A truly touching gift that the other person can treasure. Again, Pinterest appears to be a good source of inspiration for this sort of thing. Here’s a really cool one I found that uses smaller printed pictures as the frame decoration.

 

Winter Accessories

While Bakersfield winters aren’t too bad, things can still get pretty chilly. Now, this may be an unnecessary thing to bring up as I’m sure it’s probablyScreen Shot 2015-12-23 at 6.56.09 PM a common-sense gift idea, but I thought I would anyway. I know a lot of people who don’t really like buying themselves things to be more comfortable, because they’d rather “deal with it” than spend the money. So, it introduces a great opportunity to give as a gift! Scarves, hats, and gloves are available at all price points and for all genders and tastes! Something that would be a very cool gift in this category is (you’ll never guess it)…SOCKS!

I know, I know. It’s the stereotypical joke about a “bad present” but hear me out— there are a LOT of cool socks out there. I personally bought these on the left here for myself. They have bells on them. They are seriously dope as heck.

 

Gift Cards

A selection of gift cards in a store in New York on Wednesday, November 2, 2011. (© Richard B. Levine)

So, this is the last one on the list for a reason. While gift cards are pretty easy, quick and cheap (usually the smallest amount seems to be about $15) they’re also pretty low-scoring in the “thoughtfulness” category. Gift cards are a good choice for someone you aren’t that close to, or someone who really doesn’t care (I know my brother would personally probably LOVE a gift card to Best Buy or Gamestop or something). You can spruce it up by buying some dollar wrapping paper and  wrapping it up— some places even give you boxes for the cards during the holidays!

 

Well, I hope this list was useful (or at least entertaining). I hope you all have a Happy Holiday and a relaxing Winter Break! Talk to you soon, Renegades!

-Sal

 

 

Best Free Trials and Deals for Students

Hello, Renegades!

I hope you’re all having a great week. Thanksgiving was this past weekend, which meant a long weekend, food, and friends/family! I know I had a great time. (Though the scale probably won’t…)

It also means that the Winter Holidays are here! I know that a lot of people have a lot of expenses during this period of time (gifts, travel, etc). So, I thought it was the perfect time for me to come out with this article I’ve been thinking about for a little bit.

There are a lot of services and websites that have trials that can be really beneficial, especially for students. There are also a lot of services and websites that have special pricing when you use your student email.

Disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with any of these services, products or websites. Any and all codes given are the default offer codes given by the website, I am not receiving any referral incentives from any of them. 

So, without further adieu—

Audible

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There are a number of classes that assign novels as part of the curriculum. I’ve personally had to read novels for an Intro to Biology course (The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks) and a Philosophy class (multiple books related to art) . Sometimes, devoting all my time to reading a book just isn’t feasible (or ideal). That’s where the beauty of audiobooks really shines. You can listen to them when driving, doing chores, working out, etc.

Audible.com is a website owned by Amazon that works as a sort-of “Netflix of audiobooks”. You pay a monthly subscription and in turn receive credits for downloading audiobooks. As a new subscriber, you receive a FREE 30 Day Trial— what this means is that you get one free credit that you can use to download any audiobook in their catalog (some of the audiobooks cost upwards of $40!). Even if you cancel your trial before the 30 days, you get to keep the book! (They also offer you 3 months for $8/month when you cancel, which I actually agreed to).

FREE 30 DAY TRIAL (1 BOOK CREDIT)

Amazon Prime Student

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Oh, Amazon. What a love-hate relationship we have. I love you for your good prices, great selection, and super-fast shipping. But I hate you because you make impulse online shopping so easy (and in turn, my bank account goes down!)

Amazon truly is a great place to buy things, especially for students. They have great prices on textbooks (and even rent them!). I pretty much only buy my electronics, books, accessories and (yes, really) shoes from them. With Prime, you get free TWO DAY shipping on things sold by Amazon and their partners. You also get access to their TV and movie streaming service, which is like Netflix except they have exclusives from partners such as HBO and their own Amazon Studios content.

Amazon Prime Student gives you a FREE 6-month trial of Amazon Prime, after which you can sign up for a year of Prime at a FIFTY PERCENT discount off regular price ($50/year vs $100). All you need is your .edu BC email address!

FREE 6 MONTH TRIAL

Apple Music

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Apple’s new streaming service launched this summer, and was one of the two reasons Apple purchased Beats for $3 Billion last year. It has about any song you’d want (including Taylor Swift, which no other streaming service does) as well as music videos (Hotline Bling’s viral meme-bearing music video was released exclusively on Apple Music). They have a 24-hour commercial-free radio station called Beats 1, and have a LOT of curated playlists that become better recommendations the more you rate songs. My favorite thing about it is that it integrates Siri voice control, so I can tell Siri “Play ‘Zombies’ by The Cranberries” and she does it.

Apple Music is available on all Apple products (iPhone, iPad, Apple TV) as well as any computer that runs iTunes (yes, including Windows PCs). They even have a beta app for Android! It includes a free 3-month trial for new users. Afterwards, it is $9.99 a month.

FREE 3 MONTH TRIAL

Unfortunately, they do not have a student discount. However, our next entry does..

Spotify Premium

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The original, the classic, the OG. Spotify was the trailblazer when it came to ad-free unlimited music streaming services. The seasoned veteran to Apple Music’s fresh-faced rookie. While they have a free ad-supported service that let’s you stream music on “shuffle”, their full service (Premium) is the true gem.

Just like Apple Music, they have almost-every song you’d want (but no T. Swift. Which may be a deal-breaker for some, I know). They also have a lot of playlists (a lot of my friends really love their “study music” playlists).

The number-one thing that Spotify Premium has over Apple Music is the price. Although their free trial is only 30 Days, they have a really great student discount. With your .edu student email, you get 50% off the regular price— for a total of only $4.99 a month. This is a really, really good deal in my opinion. You get on-demand unlimited music streaming for less than the cost of a Venti frappuccino. The bang for your buck is amazing.

SPOTIFY STUDENT

 

Uber & Lyft

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These services are technically different, but for simplicity’s sake I’m including them in the same entry. They are both car service apps, which solve every single negative aspect of traditional car services and taxi companies. You hail the car through an app, track their location to you, and pay for your ride through the app using your credit/debit card. No cash required.

They both also offer a lot more ease-of-mind than traditional taxi cabs. Drivers are vetted using background checks. Cars must be 10 years old or younger (but most of them are only a few years old, in my experience) and pass a multi-point inspection. Like I mentioned, you have proof of how long they’ll take to get to you (the worst thing I’ve ever experienced with a taxi cab is them lying about how far they are and waiting forever).

As for which one is better— well, I use them both. Sometimes an Uber driver will be too far away, while Lyft will have a closer one. Some of my friends swear by Lyft, others swear by Uber. I will say that Lyft seems to have more “discounts” on rides than Uber (they will send you an email sometimes saying that rides are currently __% off for a certain time).

Uber and Lyft are GREAT services to use to ensure that you and your friends stay safe when going out. There’s no need to stress out about who is driving or if you have a ride, because there is a professional and easy-to-use service at your disposal. They both also have great first-time-user offers:

Uber: FIRST RIDE FREE UP TO $22 (Use code FEELIN22)

Lyft: $20 RIDING CREDIT FOR FIRST-TIME USERS

will say that you should check with your friends first in case they have an Uber or Lyft account first. Using one of their referral codes, both of you end up getting ride credits (rather than just you).

Again, I’d like to reiterate: the offers I am advertising are default offers. I am receiving no benefit.

Adobe Creative Cloud

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Now, this one is really great. It’s also really useful for a lot of students who are into graphic design, photography, media arts, etc.

Creative Cloud is Adobe’s new service (also released just this summer) that includes all of their creative applications— and I mean all. You name it—

  • After Effects
  • Audition
  • Bridge
  • Dreamweaver
  • Flash
  • Illustrator
  • InDesign
  • Photoshop
  • Premiere Pro
  • and more

The price is usually $19.99/month for one app or $49.99/month for all. They have a free 30-day trial for their “all” membership, but what is really great is their special student pricing. With your .edu student email, you can get their All Apps membership for only $19.99/month. This is absolutely the best deal on this whole list. It does not apply to everyone, but for those of us who do creative things as a job or hobby, it really is an invaluable resource.

And for Black Friday, from now until November 27, it is only $15.99/month. So, even GREATER savings.

Adobe Creative Cloud Student

I hope that this list helped some of you! As always, set a reminder to yourself to cancel a trial in case you don’t end up using it that much or didn’t like it. What I usually do is set up a reminder on my phone for 28 days from the day I sign up.

 

Happy Holidays, talk to you soon!

-Sal

Introducing Bakersfield College’s Financial Aid Lab

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Hello, Renegades!

I hope you all did well on your midterms and papers (if you had any). We’re less than halfway done with the semester now, so good luck and work hard so that you can keep or improve those grades!

Today I want to share some info with you all about the new Financial Aid Lab! Located in the second floor of the Students Services building (next to the Financial Aid counter), the Financial Aid is a new addition to campus this Fall, taking up the old Work Placement offices (which are now located in the Administration building).

The Financial Aid Lab (or “FA Lab”) is a great new tool for student success. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 76 percent of students at two-year colleges receive financial aid. In order to be eligible for any kind of financial aid, students must fill out a a Free Application for Federal Student Aid every year. The process can be an overwhelming one, especially for new students. The FA Lab seeks to solve this problem by providing students with hands-on assistance with filling out their FAFSAs.

“Many students have problems with their FAFSA, and their FAFSA is held up by something as simple as not having one piece of information match,” says Tucker Clerico, a student worker in the FA Lab, “here we can help you identify and solve those problems in the blink of an eye.”

One of the steps that students can especially have trouble with is the verification process. Some students are chosen at random, by the Department of Education, to provide documentation to verify that the information on their FAFSA is correct. “We can help you find out if you need to turn in extra documents, and which ones [they are],” said Clerico.

Students are definitely appreciating the benefits. “I had a great experience in the FA Lab. [The student worker] was very helpful,” said Priscilla Padilla, “I finished my FAFSA quickly and all of my questions were well answered. He was very patient throughout the entire process”

Clerico says it best: “In the Financial Aid Lab, we go full circle. Whether you’re in the beginning, middle, or very end we can make sure you walk out of the Lab completely finished with the process and fully prepared.”

Check out the Financial Aid Lab today!

Thanks to my fellow blogger Belen Martinez (@bmartbc) for the video.