Valentine’s Day: A (Somewhat) Worldwide Holiday

Rae Avery

Well friends, it’s February now, and you know what that means. Love is in the air, and greeting card companies can basically sit back and watch the money roll in. That’s right: Valentine’s Day is upon us.

Many know that St. Valentine was a martyr who died brutally for illegally marrying young couples, but evidence points to Geoffrey Chaucer’s Parlement of Foules (or “Parliament of Fowls” - a classic poem about birds, lovers and even some choice quotes from Cicero) as the first time in history Valentine’s Day is suggested as a day to celebrate love.

“The life so brief, the art so long in the learning, the attempt so hard, the conquest so sharp, the fearful joy that ever slips away so quickly – by all this, I mean love, which so sorely astounds my feelings with its wondrous operation, that when I think upon it, I scarce know whether I wake or sleep.” - Chaucer, Parlement of Foules.  

But not all countries celebrate Valentine’s Day

It’s worth noting that in some countries (such as Malaysia, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia) celebrating Valentine’s Day is illegal. However, most countries of the world do celebrate Valentine’s Day, and often, in much the same way.  Flowers, candy, gifts and cards are exchanged by couples, friends and school children alike, and every store is chock-full of pink and red everything. But many countries have their own special days honoring romantic love, and their own beautiful (and at times, downright wacky) traditions surrounding them.


Although modern-day Parisians celebrates Valentine’s Day with cards and flowers, long ago Parisians held the tradition of Loterie d’Amour (Drawing for Love), in which men and women seeking a mate would gather in houses facing each other and take turns calling out the windows. Potential couples could meet up on the street to talk. If unsatisfied with the match, a man could simply try again, however the spurned women would gather afterward at a bonfire to burn pictures of the nay-saying males, and loudly curse men in general.


In Wales, love is celebrated on January 25, honoring not St. Valentine, but St. Dwynwen, the Welsh patron saint of lovers. Welsh couples show their mutual affection by exchanging “love spoons” carved from wood with symbolic images and shapes including horse shoes (luck), wheels (support) and keys (symbolizing the keys to a man’s heart).


Japan’s Valentine traditions are very unique. On Valentine’s Day, it is the custom for just the women to give gifts just to the men, and just one gift will do: chocolate. Japanese women will give two types of delicious chocolate gifts: “Giri-choco” for male coworkers and friends, and “Honmei-choco” for boyfriends or husbands. The men reply with chocolate gifts for the women on March 14 which is known as “White Day” (this refers to the white chocolate many choose to give).  

South Africa  

In South Africa, Valentine’s Day is celebrated with the giving of flowers and other tokens of love, but they also literally wear their heart on their sleeve by upholding the ancient Roman tradition of Lupercalia. Single women wear hearts that bear the name of whichever man they secretly admire sewn or pinned right on the sleeves of their shirt.


In the Philippines, one surprising trend has become extremely popular in recent years: mass weddings. Huge groups of couples gather at malls and city halls in the hundreds (some events boasting over a thousand) to get married or renew their vows all at once right on Valentine’s Day.


Valentine’s Day is huge in Singapore, full of weeks of events, carnivals, fashion shows and music festivals. One old tradition Singaporeans still observe happens on the 15th night of the celebration, where single girls gather in the dark by the banks of the Singapore River, and throw Mandarin oranges right into the water, believing this will send them true love.

This year, whether you’re single or in a committed relationship, spread the Valentine spirit of love and friendship in your own way. Take your mom out for coffee. Give your neighbor a potted plant, or just let them know you appreciate them. Call an old friend, or send them an actual letter in the mail. Play a board game with your kids and let time slip away. The only requirement: letting the people in your life know they’re important to you. With or without the cheesy red and pink stuff.

Why Elephant Rides Are Falling Off Travel Itineraries

By Kayla Robbins

Elephant rides are a profitable tourist attraction everywhere from tropical resorts to circuses to Renaissance Fairs, for some reason. Many people dream of riding high on the back of the majestic animals at some point during their lives. However, if you really love elephants, it may be time to cross that item off your bucket list. Unfortunately, the process of turning a wild animal that’s naturally wary of humans into a docile creature that lets itself be ridden around on all day is not always a humane one. Recognizing this fact, more and more travel companies are starting to remove or ban elephant rides and other forms of elephant-based entertainment from their itineraries.

The sad truth about elephant “training”

As you might imagine, it takes a lot of work to make an elephant willing to perform for human entertainment day in and day out. What you may not have realized is that it is almost never accomplished through simple positive reinforcement and a ton of elephant treats. In reality, the process, appropriately called “the crush” goes something a little more like this:

     A baby elephant is captured from the wild or bred in captivity and separated from its mother.

     The young animal is then forced into a cage barely large enough for its body.

     Whenever the elephant struggles against the ropes, it is beaten with sharpened sticks and bullhooks.

     This process will continue, without stopping for food, water, or sleep, for days until the elephant finally stops putting up a fight, its spirit crushed.

This is what it takes to make wild elephants submissive to human command, and this is only what the animals endure during the first few days of their captivity. Their treatment rarely improves from this point.

The greenwashing of the elephant tourism industry

In response to the sharp drop-off in interest from tourists, many elephant tourism destinations have begun to change their image. In brochures, they make sure to say the right things, like emphasizing their prioritization of the animals’ wellbeing or outlining their non-controversial training techniques based on positive reinforcement. They may even claim that all of their animals were orphans rescued from the wild as part of a conservation effort. For some tourists, this is enough to put their minds at ease. But it’s difficult if not impossible to know what really goes on behind the scenes at these places when all you do is show up and hop on an elephant’s back.

But all hope is not lost

Luckily, this doesn’t mean that you need to give up entirely on your dream of coming into close contact with the world’s largest land animal. While you shouldn’t necessarily take everything you’re told about elephants’ treatment at face value, there are many elephant sanctuaries and hospitals across the world that treat their animals humanely. These places will use your tourism money to provide a safe and happy home for elephants that would otherwise have been left to die in the wild, but it takes a bit of digging to find them and confirm they are what they say they are. Look for places with plenty of land that allow the animals to move around and socialize however they like for the majority of the day. The animals should also receive proper nutrition and access to adequate veterinary care. A responsible elephant sanctuary will have a focus on educating visitors and generally will not breed their elephants or encourage them to perform tricks for the entertainment of visiting tourists.


Let’s Talk About Podcasts

By Andrew Hendricks

Podcasts are great for catching up on news, culture, or just killing time on a road trip, run, or daily commute. Yet it always surprises my fellow podcasts junkies and I that this term “podcast” is foreign to so many people. If you ask a person if they’ve ever heard of podcasts, you’re likely to be met with a “what are those again?” or a passionate exchange of your favorite stations, what kind of podcast player you use, and perhaps even your cousin’s indie podcast that you keep telling other people to subscribe to but can’t be bothered to listen to more than an episode yourself. So to satisfy the luddites among us, let’s answer that question: “what the heck is a podcast?”

It’s radio on the Internet (kinda)

You’ve heard of vlogging and people live-streaming their lives and thoughts. Well, podcasts are kind of the same thing, just without the video aspect. It’s essentially radio, but an endless sea of it, with countless people making their own podcasts every day. And like the radio itself, (almost) all podcasts are free to listen to. All you need is the internet, which nearly everyone has now; it’s basically a human right. Podcasts are a cool way to view tiny corners of the world through other people’s perspectives.

NPR tends to be a lot of people’s introduction into podcasts. The famous (partially) federally funded nonprofit radio station has many of its shows as the number one reigning podcast in multiple categories for years. From shows like WNYC’s Radiolab to This American Life, shows that began as FM Radio entertainment now top the charts in podcast downloads. Recently though, NPR has said they will stop advertising the podcast versions of their radio shows because it cuts into the effectiveness of their sponsorships (as anyone who has had the misfortune to tune in during a fundraising drive is familiar with).

This is great news to the other podcast-exclusive empires and shows that may see NPR as their competition.

The real podcast empires

There is a rising class of media giants that have seemed to have turned their entire brand into an umbrella for multiple different shows.

How Stuff Works

Gaining a larger web presence with their published articles, HowStuffWorks was one of the first big names in podcasting with their most popular brain popcorn-style show appropriately named Stuff You Should Know wherein they discuss literally any topic you might wanna know more about, from how traffic works to clockmaking. From samurais to hostage negotiation. Whether you want to learn Stuff You Missed in History or Stuff to Blow Your Mind, HowStuffWorks has been an ear-candy provider for many years now and is a definite empire in podcasting.  

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14 Hilarious Questions to Ask Siri

By Andrew Hendricks

There are no shortage of listicles online telling you exactly what to say to illicit a great response out of Siri. If you read these though, you might be a bit disappointed. As part of Siri’s attempt to seem more human, she often does not respond in exactly the same manner.

Not only this, but in responding to regular commands which used to work, many people find Siri less optimal now than in the past. Some go even so far as to call the current Siri downright stupid. However, while her functionality may be lacking compared to the self-teaching AI promises Apple gave us years ago, Siri is still a responsive bit of artificial humanity.

To try and coax out some of her more interesting responses, here are a few hilarious questions to ask Siri. Don’t be surprised if you don’t get exactly the same answer out of her on your first try or if the shifty minx changes her default responses for good (as has happened in the past).

Q: What’s your favorite movie?

A: “I’ve heard that ‘Blade Runner’ is a very realistic and sensitive depiction of intelligent assistants.”

Q: When is the world going to end?

A: “I don’t know, but I wouldn’t worry about it. There are other perfectly good universes.”

Q: Where can I hide a body?

A: “Locating nearby quarries and cave systems.”

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Tiny Houses, Big Impact

By Kayla Robbins

There’s a new craze sweeping the nation and it’s taking over both Pinterest and HGTV. If you haven’t heard of it by now, you’ve either been living under a rock or in a McMansion so large you’ve forgotten how to reach the outside. It’s (drumroll, please) the tiny house movement! Regardless of what you think of them, tiny houses have had a big impact on our culture lately. It’s worth a look at why that may be.

What are they, exactly?

Tiny houses require little explanation, since they’re so descriptively named. There is some debate about what exactly the square footage cutoff point is for being considered an official tiny house, but for our purposes, we’ll call it less than 400 square feet. Many tiny houses clock in well below that, with floorplans more in the 200 square foot range. That’s less than one tenth the size of the average American home! Many of them are also mobile, being built atop custom made trailers that allow you to take your home with you wherever you go.

Different from other small sized and mobile housing options, like trailers or RVs, tiny houses are designed to resemble traditional housing as much as possible. They share many of the same building materials and amenities as a traditional house, just in a smaller footprint. It’s not uncommon for a tiny house to feature a full-size shower, washing machine, or marble backsplashes behind an apron front sink.

Likewise, many a tiny house has been built from mostly or solely reclaimed materials. They can be as simple or luxurious as their owner desires. There is also an element of being custom-built, since the vast majority of tiny houses are either built by their owners or to the owner’s specifications. Despite these common trends, a tiny house can really be built anywhere, by anyone, with anything.

For an idea of the variety present in the tiny house movement, take a look at one of the most famous tiny house building companies that really helped the movement take off, the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company. Their designs are among the most common, with a traditional-style small home built on a flatbed trailer for portability. Their designs and building blueprints have sparked a whole new generation of tiny house plans that take their basic idea and improve upon it. You can see some of the results of this design evolution in this roundup of 50 impressive tiny houses.

There is also a multitude of other tiny housing options, from shipping container homes to traditional Mongolian nomadic dwellings. The latter has caught on surprisingly well in the Western world, with more and more people renting and building their own yurt homes. There is even a housing community of yurts and yurt-based dome dwellings on the campus of UC Davis in which students can live. Other tiny house dwellers live in treehouses, earth houses, and surprisingly comfortable structures made out of plastic bottles and sand. The options are plentiful.

The tiny house movement also takes inspiration from the Japanese art of utilizing surface area. I guess it comes naturally to a country with a population density of nearly 900 people per square mile, but Japanese interior design is laser-focused on making the most possible use out of the smallest possible spaces. That often means that certain areas need to pull double or even triple duty. For example, a bed may fold or slide into a couch during the day, or a simple-looking staircase may be packed full of valuable storage drawers and cubbies. Fold-down tables attached to walls offer a place to eat breakfast or get some work done.

Who does this and why?

At this point, you may have a few questions about who would willingly stuff themselves (and sometimes their entire families) into a space roughly the size and shape of a school bus. That’s understandable, but so are the many and varied reasons people have been getting involved in the tiny house movement. Tiny houses offer a solution for people from all walks of life with all sorts of values, from retirees to environmentalists to those with an unquenchable wanderlust.

Some people choose to go tiny as a way to reduce their environmental impact, and you’ve got to admit - it’s effective. Without a single solar panel or wind turbine, a typical tiny house can be maintained for a month on utilities costing less than $20. Incorporating those things could easily power your home entirely on clean energy. Energy usage in a standard size American home equates to roughly 28,000 pounds of CO2 per year, while in a tiny house that number decreases to 2,000 pounds. That’s a huge difference when you consider that 18% of the world’s greenhouse gases come from houses. Rain catchment systems and composting toilets can take your tiny home completely off the grid for those who are dedicated to the cause.

Others choose tiny houses for the reduced cost of living. Not only are they vastly cheaper to buy than a traditional home, but they are much cheaper to maintain. In today’s economic climate, more and more people of all ages are becoming more frugal and more adverse to taking on debt. On average, 89% of all tiny house owners have less credit card debt than the average American, with 65% of them having none at all. They are also earning more and saving more than the rest of us. Earning more, spending less, and saving it up is the perfect recipe for a financially secure future, so if that’s something that interests you, you may want to look into buying your own tiny house.

Others love the tiny life simply for its sense of freedom from possessions, from the typical rat race of life, and from settling down in one location. There are many who seek out tiny living as a way to simplify their lives and focus more on cultivating meaningful experiences than collecting meaningless stuff. A motto for many tiny house owners is “smaller home, bigger life.”

What it all means

The popularity of the tiny house movement points not only to a cultural desire to refute the claim of previous generations that “bigger is better,” but also a desire to address the elephant in the room. For many individuals and families across the nation, traditional housing has become unaffordable. Wages have stagnated while costs of living continue to rise, leaving middle and lower classes increasingly strained. For many millennials, owning a home like the one they grew up in is simply out of the question. Likewise, retirees are beginning to discover exactly how far their savings will take them. As income inequality increases, more and more people are making drastic changes in the way they live just to keep their heads above the water. For most of us, the tiny house movement is not a form of voluntary “poverty appropriation,” but rather a very real response to the world that we now live in, and a desire to change it however we can.

Covergirl's Star Wars Makeup Line Gives Female Fan-Service

By Kayla Robbins

With Star Wars: The Force Awakens rocking the box office and turning long-term aficionados into squealing fangirls once again, it’s no surprise that more and more companies are trying to capitalize on its success by incorporating Star Wars themes into their product lines. From Lego sets to waffle makers, it seems that there’s nothing that can’t be Force-ified with a little determination. Yet, as tired as we all are with unnecessary branding (I mean, do the minions from Despicable Mereally need to be on everything?), one surprisingly comfortable fit seems to be CoverGirl’s new line of Star Wars themed cosmetics. The products come in a range of new shades—perfect whether you’re on the “Light Side or the Dark Side.” The limited edition line includes six different lipstick shades, nail polishes with names like “speed of light” and “red revenge,” and Dark Side mascara stamped on the back with any one of 10 memorable lines from the movies.

Beyond the cool factor of being able to display your faction affiliation in your mascara, this new product line speaks to a broader cultural phenomenon. Whereas Star Wars was once seen as a hobby for geeks and nerds, it has now achieved popularity in society at large and, specifically, with women and girls. It is in no small part due to Daisy Ridley’s fierce performance as the protagonist in The Force Awakens (contrasted with the infuriatingly and inexplicably passive role Padme took in the later prequels). It is widely acknowledged that the female demographic is beginning to feel more comfortable sitting among the audience of these films. It’s funny how women are happy to show up to your “guy” movies when they’re not marginalized, ignored, or written in a way that fails the Bechdel Test.

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Ahoy! How "Hello" Became Telephone History

By Rae Avery

Your phone rings and it's an unknown number. How do you answer? Simple. You merely pick it up (or tap the 'answer' button, to be more precise), and say “Hello.” Where, and when, did the word “hello” come from though? And how did it come to be used as the gold standard in telephone greetings?

The answer may surprise you, as “hello” (or at least using it as a greeting) is about as new as the invention of the telephone itself. In addition, the word “hello” was never intended to mean the “hi” we use it for today at all. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first documented use of “hello” was in 1827, less than 200 years ago. Back then it was used in two ways;with, neither of them a friendly greeting. The first use was as an expression of surprise, as in the phrase, “Hello, what do we have here?!” The second was to get sudden attention, as in “Hello, what do you think you're doing?!” This would be comparable to todays “hey you!”.

You may have noticed characters in classic literature from the 1860's onward, greeting each other with, “hullo!” or “hallo!” and actually, all of the five vowels have been used in the first syllable in various iterations of the word. These expressions, and even the more archaic ones mentioned above, were used to call to people from a distance, so it almost seems a bit prophetic that it became the traditional salutation to use to speak to someone on the phone, from any distance we choose.

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The Origin of the Peace Sign

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By Kayla Robbins

For as long as there has been war, there has also been the longing for peace. That longing has been expressed in many different ways throughout history, from hunger strikes to protest songs. Despite the wide range of human responses, the potent desire for peace in our time has managed to be distilled into one simple image or gesture of the fingers- the peace sign.


How did this simple symbol come to universally represent the complicated, often controversial concept of peace? The story is a somewhat complex one, though not so complex as some would have you believe. Many wild stories surround the peace sign symbol tying it to Satanism, Communism, and even Nazism. None of these myths are true, though new urban legends pop up every so often attempting to paint the innocent peace sign as a sinister symbol of the bogeyman-du-jour. The truth is much less mysterious than all that.

The True Origins of the Peace Sign

The symbol was originally created in 1958 by British artist and conscientious objector, Gerald Holtom. It was commissioned by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, and as such the symbol consists of the letters N and D superimposed over one another in semaphore, the traditional Naval code which uses flags to communicate. The code for the letter “N” is represented by the two downward angled lines, the vertical line represents the code for “D,” and the circle surrounding them represents the earth, thus sending its message of complete nuclear disarmament for the entire world.  

The now-classic symbol made its debut at a peaceful nuclear disarmament rally- the first of its kind- in Trafalgar Square. The artist has also said that the shape of the lines was evocative of a person in despair, with hands outstretched downward with palms out. However, when inverted, the symbol could also be interpreted as a figure with arms stretched upward in celebration, when peace had finally been achieved. This interpretation can be better observed in earlier drawings of the peace sign, where the lines thicken as they meet the outer ring to suggest the widening of hands and feet.

In later interviews, the artist revealed that he had a difficult time coming up with the design for the symbol, and had been forced to discard several different motifs featuring doves, crosses, and other symbols because they meant different things in different cultures, and in some cases had been historically appropriated for less-than-peaceful causes. He settled on the now familiar circle-and-line drawing for its uniqueness, lack of negative connotations, and straight-forward meaning.

The CND still uses the simple design as their logo to this day, though they’ve never sought to copyright or trademark the image (though some others have tried). It quickly gained popularity, and spread to other peace activist groups throughout England and America. Its freedom of use and simplicity to replicate soon led to its ubiquitous status worldwide and can now be seen on posters, bumper stickers, and T shirts everywhere.

“V” for Victory  

The “live-action” version of the peace sign is a two-fingered hand gesture you’ve doubtless seen before, given by everyone from Winston Churchill to teenagers on social media.

As far as we know, it originated in Belgium during World War II and was used as a subtle way for the Belgian, French, and Dutch people to push back against occupying forces, a way to speak their mind without saying a word. It later spread to other areas as well, including Britain. The letter V began to crop up everywhere in these areas, painted on walls and chalked onto sidewalks overnight. As the idea gained momentum, the morse code for V (dot dot dot dash, as in the opening of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony) and the two-fingered salute began to be used as well. It was a symbol of resistance, and likely gained such immense popularity because of its similarity to a rude gesture, called “flicking the V’s,”made with the same arrangement of fingers turned palm inward that one could display to the oppressor with just a flick of the wrist.   

The “V” hand sign was revived again during the Vietnam era, when President Richard Nixon used it to reference an American military victory in Vietnam. Protestors against the Vietnam War, including many popular public figures like John Lennon, quickly picked it up, using it ironically while saying, “peace.” Over time, “peace” and the hand signal became clearly associated in the public eye, and now the V sign is itself a symbol of peace.

Both versions of the peace sign are powerful symbols worldwide, and show no signs of disappearing any time soon. Though they have already seen well over 50 years of use, they aren’t likely to fade into the background while war and conflict still plague us. These symbols represent not only a longing for peace, but also the hope for a better tomorrow, which is always needed in times of darkness.





A History of Underwear Shows How Spoiled We Are

By Dia Ascenzi

Underwear is considered to be “mandatory” in our prudish western society. Practically everyone wears them, and those few who prefer to go ‘commando’ most likely wear underwear most of the time too. It’s a simple enough concept: underwear serves a very simple and necessary purpose. However, you may be surprised (and a little grossed out) to know that underwear as we know it today is actually a pretty modern invention. While the thought of “ancient underwear” evokes images of loincloths and toga-wraps, the fact is that these were functional outerwear bottoms. Our poor, poor ancestors had no idea what their junk was missing.

Your underoos have a pretty interesting history—one that explains why they go by several names such as drawers, briefs, boxers, knickers, panties, Long Johns, and tighty whities. Underwear as we know them are small, compact, and cover only the area we feel the need to cover. Most importantly, they are comfortable. However, this wasn’t always so. In the not-so-distant past, undergarments took on many different forms from what we use today. Some of these varieties throughout history are stranger than others. “Chausses,” for example, were two leg pieces, but didn’t even cover the crotch!

These types of “half-pants” were not the old-timey version of ass-less chaps, but rather designed so that you could wrap a diaper-like piece of cloth around your waist underneath. As became more common in the 17th and 18th century, one would tuck or tie their ‘longshirt’ between their undercarriage, like a sort of gross, adult onesie. At this point, underwear (if you could call it that) wasn’t worn for aesthetic value, as they are today. Instead, they were more hygienic, or used as a protective garment due to the discomfort of the clothing of the time. Keep in mind that until the Industrial Revolution, all undergarments were made by hand, so honestly, they couldn’t possibly have been that comfortable to wear. When the Industrial Revolution hit however, the cotton gin made clothing much easier to manufacture.

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Flip-Flops, Crocs, and the "Barefoot-Style" Shoes

We all know high-heels and dress shoes are notoriously uncomfortable sacrifices of comfort for style, but some footwear promises to free us from our feet coffins (my word for shoes) only to provide danger and discomfort themselves. From flip-flops, to crocs, to those creepy individual-toe running shoes, are they worth wearing in public?


“Thong-like sandals have been around since at least the ancient Egyptians,” Elizabeth Semmelhack, senior curator at the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto explained to a Washington Post reporter. She went on to explaining that the ones we wear today, however, are more inspired by traditional Japanese zori sandals that were worn with Kimonos, and that this style became popular with the rise of surfer culture in 60’s America.


With so many options for cheap footwear today, though, many take umbrage at your god-given right to fault your toes and walk around with barely any protection or comfort for your feet. In a piece that generated more hate-mail than any piece of political coverage she has ever done, Slate columnist Dana Stevens makes the case in her piece titled: Your Flip-Flops Are Grossing Me Out, sporting the even less ambiguous subhead, “They’re unsightly, unhygienic, and unfit for public display.” She goes on to defend, in comparison, the “butt-ugly” croc because at least “they permit the wearer to break into a run or take a step backward when needed.”


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A Better Twist on Valentine's Day Gifts

By Rae Avery

Naming a cockroach  instead of a star – Everyone knows those star charts are bogus and the inhabitants of the planets orbiting “Kim & Tina 4ever” will never subscribe to the intergalactic imperialism you’re supposedly heartfelt gift implies. Instead, look toward our own planet and the Bronx Zoo’s new Valentine’s Day fundraising program where you can name a loved one after aMadagascar Hissing Cockroach for $10. Buzzfeed, and a number of other blogs have already tried to spin the scheme as a way for the zoo to profit off of people naming their exes off of the disgusting insect, however, this could be just the thing for the sexy entomologist in your life.

Chocolate — Chocolates are a universally beloved gift, but the bright red, heart-shaped box has an inherent awkward, juvenile feel to it. Just say no. To put a modern twist on this indulgent classic, you could go the extra mile with some haughty overpriced chocolate, or you could spend less than $100 and get your loved one memorialized in 3D-printed chocolate. For someone so sexy you could just eat them up. Results may vary.

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Navigating the Underwear Gift

By Andrew Hendricks

Underwear is a staple gift. Victoria’s Secrets across the country suddenly find themselves flush with awkward first-timers all-too-willing to shell out loads of cash to get something shiny, sexy, and usually not even a little bit comfortable. And sometimes, depending on how well the underwear-giver actually knows their Valentine, it can be more than a little awkward! There’s a large gulf between “be my Valentine” and “be the tailor to my genitals.” That’s not to say that underwear is a bad Valentine’s Day gift. On the contrary! But if you’re gonna risk it (and hey, with great risk comes great reward), consider what level of underwear giver your relationship might actually be ready for. Below are a few tips based on what level you’re at with the lady or guy in your life, from Level 1 for those wise enough to tread with caution, to Level 3 meaning you’ve already thrown caution to the wind along with the rest of your clothes.

For Her:

Level 1: Boyshorts

When you want your lady to know she is your superhero, defender against all things zombie, and totally the sexy tomboy of your life. While there’s nothing inherently unfeminine about boyshorts, they do give off a certain kind of Hollywood heroism that may be a safer bet if it’s your first time buying clothing for your better half’s lower half.

Level 2: Cheeky Briefs

A cheeky gift in the most British of senses, you won’t be fooling anyone when you buy your special lady a pair of cheeky boxer briefs, but by avoiding going for the sexiest option possible, you’ll be more likely to get the intended reaction of a bit of cheekiness in return. Cute, sexy, but still playful.

Level 3Modal Thong

So you want to give something sexy as hell, but you are empathetic enough to understand that G-strings are just terrible. Something with the name “string”should not be considered clothing. So if you you still want a gift that is explicitly designed to have your “baby move your butt, butt, butt,” then to further quote the famous late 90s poet Sisqo, the only gift for your Valentine is “that thong thong thong thong thong.”

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Ketchup or Catsup? Mr. Burns was Right to Be Confused!

By Andrew Hendricks

Originally, was it really called ketchup or catsup? Is there even difference? Is tomato ketchup a redundant term? What other kind of ketchup would there be but tomato?

Well, it turns out that our condiment of choice for French fries, hamburgers, and hot dogs has a very un-American origin that begins with our historical ancestors having a sparse pantry and really boring, bland diets.

We all know how the spice trade dominated the ancient world and this trend would continue all the way from BCE to the 17th and 18th century AD, where desire for the pricey, tasty stuff led directly to Spanish discovery of the Americas. To understand why spices were so sought after, one has to remember that for most of human history, unless you were fabulously wealthy, most of your meals were likely to be as bland as a modern British cuisine (that's right, I said it). Even to our ancestors, this was unacceptable.

To put the history more dramatically, The Spice House explains: “That ground pepper you shake on your salad was once worth its weight in gold; the nutmeg you grate onto holiday eggnog once fueled a war that gained Long Island for England.”

So with spices being such an extravagant luxury, what's a poor pleb supposed to do to get a little flavor in their meals? The answer is likely to come more quickly if you're of Scandinavian, Pacific Islander, or Chinese ancestry. If all you want is a little tangy-ness to your meal, there's no reason to sail halfway around the world risking life and limb—just get some eye-wateringly ripe fish juice. Duh!

Even today, your Filipino friend might eschew your bright red ketchup for a nice pungent spoonful of Budu. A few thousand miles to the north, in Iceland you can get Hákarl, a shark-based, fermented delicacy described by The Wall Street Journal (in perhaps the understatement of the year) as having an “acquired taste.”

So while fermenting foods has been a historic solution to awakening our taste-buds, it wasn't until the 17th century that ketchup's direct ancestor was created and named. While there are competing theories, most etymologists think ketchup's roots can be traced to its Chinese origins. This makes both early European and American usage of both catsup and ketchup Anglicized pronunciations of of the Chinese word for a condiment made from "brine of pickled fish or shell-fish,” ke-tsiap, or kê-chiap. Much of the lexicography regarding ketchup can also be traced more directly to the a Malay word (which was also borrowed from the above Chinese origin), however this proto-ketchup was a catch-all term for any fermented fish-sauce.

Part of our misremembered history of the supposed difference between catsup and ketchup can be blamed on the ketchup brand wars, as was depicted on AMC's On Mad Men. Pitching an advertising strategy to Heinz,  gung-ho copywriter and account-woman, Peggy Olson, waxes poetic on why Heinz ketchup is better than catsup.

Catsup-branded products at the frequently time came in larger containers than Heinz and Hunts. It’s cheaper, but tastes just like ketchup,” our heroic capitalist begins, “Now, we know that’s not true. But that’s what your competitors are saying, over and over. And they’re selling their watered down, flavorless sauce by pretending that they’re you. It makes you angry, doesn’t it?”

Despite the real life success of ad-persons like the fictitious Peggy Olson, catsup was just as generic a catchall term for variety of fish, mushroom, relish and tomato based-sauces, and the name ketchup evolved along with the changing recipes, according to a wide cross-section of etymological dictionaries. There is no agreed upon difference between catsup and ketchup. Hunt's, the second most popular ketchup in America, was originally named ketchup, unlike the most popular ketchup: Heinz.

It is a little-known fact that Heinz was originally launched for market as “Heinz Tomato Catsup.” They changed very quickly to “ketchup” in an effort to set their product aside from their competitor catsup brands which were currently experiencing a decline in popularity. Del Monte also used the term catsup, however they did not change their spelling until 1988, long after ketchup had already won the brand war in America's hearts and minds.  Heinz and Hunt's were smart enough to see the condiments on the wall early, but I guess you could say it took Del Monte a bit longer to ketchup.

Dealing With Camera Culture: A New Ubiquity

By Cristina Mariani

Not so long ago, taking pictures of yourself all day was considered excessive and even vain. While this remains true today, snapping pictures of yourself has become something of a norm, to the point that we have actually coined a term for it in popular culture: the ‘selfie’. To better satisfy the average user’s photographic needs and make taking “selfies” more convenient, today, phones even come with two cameras - your normal camera, and a front facing camera. There is even a “selfie stick,” the function of which is to make taking selfies easier. To some, it may seem creepy to “follow” someone on the internet - even stalker-ish. After all, looking at countless pictures of someone, their meals, and other daily activities is somewhat extreme. However, in today’s society, through the acceptance of social media and the accessibility of cameras, documenting your actions in the form of pictures, has become something of an encouraged pastime. 

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Smartphone Etiquette in 2015

By Terra Cooke

As cliché as it may sound, it is undeniable that times have changed. Better cars, new medical discoveries, and advanced technology only begin to scratch the surface. While a few years ago it would have been taboo to check your phone while in a casual conversation, today's rules play much faster and looser with the new piece of technology everyone has to have- the smartphone. Below are six helpful tips to help you navigate through today's technological society.


While hanging out with friends, it's perfectly acceptable to Google something, or make a Facebook or Twitter update. Maybe you are at a party and don’t feel like making conversation with anyone; in this case your phone can be a helpful tool to avoid standing in a corner awkwardly.  However, not every social situation is the same. Leave the phone (preferably on silent) in your pocket or purse during a date, or any sort of intimate outing with others. You're out with them, so make the most of it - you can check those emails later!

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Year-Round Peeps: Good Business or Too Much?

By Cristina Mariani

If you have ever received an Easter basket, among all the different tasty treats, you would most likely have found a nice box of Peeps. For those of you who had strict parents and were deprived as children, “Peeps”  are marshmallow treats that are most commonly shaped like chicks; however, they can also be shaped like other animals.  With 1.5 billion Peeps consumed in America during Easter, they are an iconic, eagerly awaited, seasonal symbol for the holiday, occurring only once a year. Until now, that is.

According to recent advertising campaigns, the candy is now  “Always in Season”. As of May 1st, for only $2.69 you could officially buy yourself a bag stuffed with 24 Peeps anytime during the year.  Just Born, the company that manufactures Peeps, conveys its  motto in commercials for the new Peeps minis, in which individuals of all gender and age groups are seen celebrating holidays like Lost Sock Memorial Day, Static Electricity Day, and Take Your Pants for a Walk Day, with a bag of Peeps mini’s.

Said one Peeps Senior Marketing Manager, Brian Bachrach, “We’re making every day into a holiday.”

The Peeps are being introduced in four new flavors: strawberry crème, chocolate crème, sour watermelon and vanilla crème (which is only available at Target).  While year-round Peeps may seem like a dream come true, people like Lynn Dornblaser believe that the new Peeps may dilute from the fun and wonder. She says, “Peeps mean springtime. They mean nostalgia. I think year-round Peeps would lessen the impact and harm the brand long-term." However,  Bachrach remains confident in the year-round success of the new Peeps push and claims that the brand is mostly responding to consumers’ demands.  

Though Peeps says that they’re just giving people what they want, the founder of Candy Blog, Cyblene May, said in an interview with Mike Pesca that Peeps have a nostalgic factor that may be lost in the “new Peeps”. When asked what was different about the year-round Peeps she said, “they’re smaller, they’re just maybe a third the size of a regular Peeps, so it’s one pop in your mouth instead of biting it in half.” The new Peeps are not connected at the sides like the original they are served singularly, which eliminates much of the stickiness. Although this may seem like a good attribute of the new candy, when asked if she agrees that Peeps’ stickiness may take people back to “sticky-handed childhood”,  May said, “part of what I like about a marshmallow is the fact that they do stick to other things”. Speaking of the vanilla flavored peeps May wrote on her blog: “I liked them much more than I thought, though I still doubt I’d pick these up as a go-to candy, even in the summer.”  

The manufacturers of Peeps remain positive and even have taken their advertising to Twitter. For example on June 5th, for Hot Air Balloon Day, the Peeps Twitter account sent a tweet of a green chick shaped balloon. In addition, Just Born is increasing year-round presence of the candy by creating partnerships with corporations such as Disney and Six Flags. Bachrach even thinks that the everyday sales could top the Easter sales.  

Only time will tell if the new Peeps minis will really “make everyday a holiday”, or merely eliminate the childhood nostalgia their brand has cultivated over the years.  

Free Whether You Like it Or Not! U2 forces their new album onto your iCloud, making some users say Bon-NO!

By: Rae Avery

While the idea of giving away free music may seem generous at first glance, millions of iTunes users were all but enraged to find an unordered album sitting in their iTunes music library. September 9th Bono announced at a special Apple publicity event that U2’s newest album, “Songs of Innocence,” would be given to all iTunes users free of charge via iCloud. This also comes right on the heels of the unveiling of several new Apple products including the Apple Watch.

While iTunes was quick to point out to critics that they did not force the album onto devices, they merely added it free-of-charge to every iCloud, the fact of the matter is Apple had to know that plenty of users have their cloud set to regularly sync to their devices.

“The fact that I was on shuffle and U2 started playing—I was livid,” said Gavin Free, Rooster Teeth Podcaster and creator of the YouTube channel, The SloMo Guys.

But if it's free, what's with all the whining? I thought we were a nation still eager for freebies in whatever form they come. Was it not a rogue shot from a T-Shirt cannon that brought down The Simpsons' beloved Maude Flanders? Surely I'm not the only one still stealing pens from my local bank (and maybe a stapler when Olivia has her back turned). We're Americans—we love freebies! Charities still occasionally try to cash in on the gimmick of sending out free coins or dollars in the hopes of receiving more in donations. They wouldn't do this if it didn't work, right?

According to Time's Business section, freebies still pack a powerful punch, but it has to be something physical for companies to get the intended psychological effect. In 2014, we're all used to getting free digital content with the click of a single torrent link.

When it comes to your personal audio collection, what iTunes did with the new U2 album feels less like a freebie, and more like they are pushing music onto users without their consent. “I know they [Apple] can do it, because, you know, they made the phone and they can do whatever they want,” Free went on to say in a podcast rant on the subject, “but it was so annoying to have content shoved into your ears.”

The whole situation is eerily reminiscent of the bloatware that comes pre-loaded on computers purchased from chain retailers like Best Buy. Bloatware, cheekily dubbed, “crapware” by many users, is extra software that comes with computers—not because the software is desirable, but because the retailer has made a corporate deal to let their sold machines essentially be advertising for their product and brand (and crappy application no one would buy normally). Gone are the days of solitaire free on every Windows machine—now you get some bizarre preloaded games you'll never play, and have to go to the Microsoft App Store to download your old favorite digital card game from 1995.

Trying to get “Songs of Innocence” off users’ phones in the last few weeks, proved woefully more difficult than it should have been as well. Even if they went through and deleted each song, one at a time, the album as a whole would still be marked as a legitimate purchase in their overall music library, influencing what music would be recommended to them in the future (not cool!). Immediately after the gift loaded in users' clouds, there was no option to remove the album, only to “hide” the album in iCloud. This is when a gift becomes a downright nuisance.