Tag Archives: UMN

Think and Save; How to Never Buy Textbooks Again.

Obviously this getting textbooks at the library thing isn’t some sort of secret raved-about genius way to save money on required course texts, but in some ways it is.

Let me express my sheer love for getting textbooks and other resources, digital and print, through the library systems briefly, so you can think about how you might do the same—and save money, save time, and save face.

When I started out as a CLA transfer student at the University of Minnesota, I had no idea how the library worked. I didn’t understand the importance of this resource—I had an idea, but it was vague, and that’s an understatement.

After being a student lead worker at St. Paul campus university libraries for 2 years, I have come to realize and utilize the advantages of the libraries (their branches), and the incentives that their lending service affords.

Perhaps you think: I can’t find a title, I won’t be able to get the required course materials, or I searched and that edition or exact title is not available.

Sure, you did one really impressive search (by your standards)… Well, try again. Remember: If you think you can, I know you will.

Maybe the library search engine you were perusing didn’t have it on the first try, or the first page; however, other catalogs may possess what you wish to attain.

Have your first try here: www.lib.umn.edu

A first try is good if you like not getting useful results, though a first try is a good start to something great…

So, try again.

Are you going to give up after one try and spend your hard-borrowed student loan money on things you don’t really care about/need, or are you going to search for 5 more minutes and find what you want for free?

It’s really all about your level of persistence, your level of creativity, and what you will do to attain what you desire: how bad do you want to be frugal and save? Use that thing inside your head, be like a thoughtful individual.

This year my level of wanting to save and be thrifty was high, so I found all of my books through inter-library loans, or other services provided by the library, and it took less than 10 minutes. This process took less time than it takes to send an email, or scroll through Instagram.

Last year my level was not so high. Last year I spent all sorts of what would have been beer or fun money on overpriced books which I did not read, and then at the end of the semester I sold them back at less than half price. I was lazy anyway. But, what a fucking racket. To my utter disdain I regret the decision to buy at the campus bookstore.

Mid-semester I did a quick search and found most of my textbooks here:
http://uborrow.relaisd2d.com/login.html

U Borrow is my favorite resource for any book, always. You can get new books, old books, rare books, from some great universities throughout the United States. The best part is they get delivered to whichever library you choose to pick them up at.

Everyone talks about half.com, or amazon.com, or other places where a student can buy books online and “save”. Sure… How about “save” by not purchasing top-dollar subpar products from places that drastically mark-up their selling price?

In most cases, a specific new edition book is no better than the old edition that you can obtain at a local used bookstore… Same author, same words, different year of printing and edited by different people, wow.

The new edition just has the backing of new people getting paid for rights—each year for a few extra words, for their titles and their names to adorn these improved editions. And this costs you more money, but you want to pay for it, right??? No.

Likewise, these publications and institutions are paying bucks for agency, authority, and placement, big names at pinnacle levels have their materials located in expensive bookstores.

The best, and easiest, marketing they do is by putting their product on your required texts next to your class schedule on the university website, the campus bookstore wouldn’t stock them otherwise—wouldn’t pull an immense profit off of their student body.

Each name of the editor, or publisher, or corporation (and their ideology, and what they sanction) within that book, you pay for. Your teacher, the bookstore, and the school, perhaps makes a commission on these required texts.

Think about it: Do they want you to get the newest edition of Shakespeare because it is of far superior quality, or because certain entities belong to an institution which pays for a mention, for cheap product at increased prices?

Obviate this silly scheme by getting all, or a majority of your materials through the library system. You already pay for it in student fees, and you may have the access you need at your fingertips.

When you buy from the bookstore you are paying for that bookstore’s existence: utilities, workers, facilities; moreover you pay for the interest of your professor and the university, in what they make from these institutions and agencies, from their publications, for their specific interests: profit.

Okay, breathe…

Now say you want to actually own the book, great. Great, you are an outlier on the verge of pariah! So what?

Get it at the library first—give it a try, and if you really enjoy what you’ve read—or you need it for personal use, then buy it.

I personally wouldn’t buy a car without test driving the vehicle first (or having someone else I trust test try it for me). So, why would you buy a textbook without assessing the quality first?

College is no longer affordable, any scholar with an inkling of responsibility will do anything to save money. One of those anythings is avoid the bookstore and utilize a service which is offered with no additional cost. Do it! Save yourself time and money in lines and in overpriced materials.

I’ll be honest, I’m partial to this concept because I work at a library. I love it. I am also partial because I enjoy saving money when necessary/possible. I’m smart.

I knew I needed a change when I bought the latest addition of Moby-Dick (Norton Edition, No. 9) at an incredible price ($23.00 +-), because the teacher expressed how we all needed it.

I thought on that for a moment: how much could they possibly alter or make critical improvements on this American classic? WTF?! Melville was rolling in his grave. I was completely baffled… Just think about that. I paid, and truly I paid.

I will leave you with this, the next time you think you need to get a book at the bookstore, count it out. Scratch that idea… Give it up and try something different, try a new search, give it one more minute on the browser—you can do anything. I believe in you.

Truly, get your books through a public or university library system, they are priceless and don’t carry a heavy price.

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Book Review: The Right-Hook of The Big Smoke

The Big Smoke, Cover.

The Big Smoke, Cover.

Right-Hook of The Big Smoke

In the collection of poetry, The Big Smoke, Adrian Matejka sets up an all-American underdog in that of historical boxing legend Jack Johnson. With skillful form and rich language, Matejka highlights a determination to keep his protagonist fighting for his life, to keep the heavy weight champion going, and to show the effects his character has on those near him. Matejka uses mechanical allegories and aggressive metaphors to describe a man as being similar to a well-oiled machine or animal. Whether for violence in the ring, or violence in domestic life, his gears are always spinning. The power within The Big Smoke stems from questions that it asks the reader. These questions of race, of segregation, of violence, and of gender, bring to mind an oppressive time in our not-so-distance past. The inquiries come in the densely compact prose and terse lines. This fictional history of collected poems graphically details the trials and tribulations of Jack Johnson, while it asks the reader provocative questions of racism, violence, and gender in American culture. The poems also ponder the worth of a man, in relation to his identity and appearance, while showcasing the consequence of action upon a person’s character. Adrian draws from the historical fiction based on the real-life boxer Jack Johnson. Johnson’s persona and attitude come out with Matejka’s voice. Pulling no punches, The Big Smoke reads as a how-to in boxing wins, and gives fresh perspective on the vantage point of another human, a person rooted in American history, from a completely different culture, and an antiquated time.

The Big Smoke focuses on topics of racism, the All-American rise to the top, physicality of a man, sexuality, and a violence driven sport. Themes put forward throughout his collection carry over from the distant past to shed light on topics still relevant today. Racism appears to be a key emphasis with Matejka’s African American protagonist, Jack Johnson. The Big Smoke starts out by detailing a man who is not afraid to fight to prove his worth, whether he is black or white. Jack appears as an everyman’s man. He is a deeply forthcoming and challenged individual who sets out in the world with odds against him—because of the color of his skin. He knows he must use his physical strength to get what he wants. Not only is Jack aware of his predicament, he faces it head on in physical bouts. Constant reference to fighters drawing the “colored line” shows the intense oppression that existed in American history, and in Jack’s professional life. Not only was Jack subject to being denied the opportunity to fight for his living, he was antagonized by those in the crowd while he fought. Matejka makes art of describing fight scenes of high pomp and lavish fashion. A man’s dream of success and fortune is seen through the eyes of Johnson, though the inverse is also shown. With violence, racism, and sexuality comes the idea of a dangerous living. Matejka maps out a precarious world. Jack Johnson is at times his best friend and his own worst enemy. Ego from being a champion overtakes his senses and draws him closer to his demise. When Jack has everything, the cars, the money, the champagne, the women, the sex, and the victories—even with the negative aspects of the racial strife, he still wants more. His insatiable drive within American culture is a play on the society’s lust for possession and power, and what a person will go through to get it.

The detailed setting of The Big Smoke adds unique framing the feel of the poems. Though the setting of The Big Smoke appears to exist in the south, or on the west coast, it may better reflect America as a whole. Valuable aspects throughout this collection of poetry are the greatness in details given. At times these details come off-handedly, in relation to motor vehicles, hotel rooms, intimate settings, and hot midday boxing matches where men are beaten to pulps—as detailed props of the locale. Matejka uses sharp imagery to show intense struggle and pain. In many of his poems he describes a man being torn apart physically with language so elegant and so commonplace that the reader will hardly bat an eye, only to realize the power of the line thereafter. A good author can create amazing works with the simplest words. Matejka does this masterfully, yet not without throwing hints of French, Latin, and early Modern English language into the mix. When foreign lines come up in The Big Smoke, the reader may be somewhat confused at the placement or idea of such phrases. However, these spirts and fragments show the intelligence of the main character. It sheds light on his mentality. Jack Johnson can relate to these classics—Shakespeare and the unfamiliar, he is well read black man in a southern American setting. This detail is telling. It allows for the reader to have empathy, to see eye to eye with the struggle. Jack Johnson this successful individual is only being oppressed by the color of his skin. He has been placed in the unfortunate setting of racial tension. Though it seems an odd pairing, Jack Johnson and Southern United States, it alludes to America’s melting pot makeup. We are all characters in the fight of life trying to get ahead, trying to prevail on those around us, to make it. The American South is a hotbed of controversy, steeped in oppression. The setting and language keeps the reader engaged while on edge, and this defines Matejkas talent for creating fiction of a real-life hero.

Voice, aggression, cocky confidence, self-assured prize fighter, forget the race, swagger, these are the authors tools for creating a violent machine of a man, a man on the verge of becoming a veritable monster, and a master of his sport. Matejka challenges the reader with such pointed topics by using straightforward words and dialogue. Jack Johnson as the subject is not a timid creature, but iron-fisted boxer with his assertions. He is explosive. His dead-pan humor is either that to be laughed at, or completely serious and not at all. He is not an individual to tango with. If he wants something, a woman, a hit, a win in a fight, he takes it without asking. The way he eggs his opponents on is textbook bully. His nature is captured by referencing animals and machines. Matejka has created a working Goliath of a man in his beginnings, in his prime, and in his relative demise. Jack Johnson may tell the other fighter how to take a punch, or how to go down, tell his love interest that he will choke her, or buy her jewelry, but he is foretelling of his action, and this creates the intrigue. He has thoughtful meaning about him. While some aspects of his personality may be hidden in brief breaks for correspondence between Jack and his companions, the lack of information given provides a natural tension to ensure the reader’s locked into the story. Matejka’s words work as tools to produce a dangerous man partial to violence. Jack is an interesting example of a product of his own environment. He gets violence and he gives it back. He is the champion of boxing, yet he is the champion of a violent and barbaric sport. And those bold attributes carry over into both aspects of his life, sport and personal. Jack Johnson’s larger than life persona is Matejka’s Goliath in print.

Matejka gives you the visual, the historical background. In the opening of The Big Smoke while he discusses Shakespeare and Bear fights. The world his poems create is one of old—yet still relevant. He sets up Jack as an animal, a monster, yet with an empathetic quality of which the reader can relate to. His barbaric nature is countered always with luxury, or education, or elegance in style of the day. To quote Shakespeare is to know of Shakespeare. To ride in fancy car, buy expensive jewelry, and pop fine champagne in bathtubs, is to understand luxury. Jack’s life is setup up so that the reader can be carried into the success and failure. This gives feeling of closeness of relation to the reader. Jack’s voice is seen through with Matejka’s language. Matejka cleverly uses colloquialisms and low-demotic dialogue to push the reader into a caste system and to show where the fighter came from. This place in society is painted perfectly. Human nature is reflected within the subject’s needs. Jack needs money, he needs women, and later in the book he needs a high society lifestyle. Matejka’s voice, given to Jack, is one of many facets, a history of the man. The way that Matejka creates the quality of each character draws the reader into the collection emotionally.

Historical America, and its oppression, is shown within Matejka’s collection of poems. The question of historical oppression comes to the fore especially in the boxing ring. When Johnson is to fight someone outside of his race the intensity within the poem is turned up, this intensity creates excitement of the material. Aspects of life become more vivid. Reflecting on Jack’s fight, Matejka will focus on minute aspects such as sweat, or the sun, or the insides of a person being pulverized. Even the colors within the poems appear brighter. The glint of Johnson’s gold teeth and the biting language come out, at times tragically so. Adrian’s tone and tenor create a landscape in his poetry that is easy for a reader to agree with, even if the topic itself is difficult, melancholy, or traumatizing. The historical presence throughout brings the collection closer to home, and offers insight to our country in earlier historical times. Matejka’s ability to imagine and relate appear on each page.

The readability of The Big Smoke comes from the theme and the text itself. This by no means suggests that the topics and themes of this collection of poetry are not without significance. The topics within are American made. The All-American rise is at hand. Jack Johnson starts out by declaring his mother is a slave. He comes from this environment. His inspiration is getting ahead, essentially following the American Dream. He rises by fighting for necessity and eventually gaining a reputation as a fighter. The fame and fortune which comes is desirable to the reader. Having a constant underdog lends to the framework of a story immensely. Even while Jack is at the top his internal struggle, with women, with race, with caste systems, create problems for him, by his problems he is easily relatable. This theme would also be less readable had it not come with clever language. Matejka avoids being lumped into a category of poets who use big words to please the pretentious, though he does at times throw in flashy demotic. He also avoids objective history, because what is that? The way he manipulates tenor reflects in the language of Jack Johnson. Jack is clearly beyond the ordinary man, he is powerful, almost super-human, and intelligent. Matejka proves this by alluding to his literary repertoire. He also makes this visible through powerful dialogue, dialogue between Jack and the women in his life, and italicized words which are either assumed direct quotes or mere quick thinking. The Big Smoke allows the reader a mix of close imagery and insightful thought through the use of risqué topics and lean prose.

The Big Smoke presents diverse language on a diverse and difficult topic, racism in America, violence between humans, and the ever pressing framework of a hierarchy. These elements are presented with Matejka’s artful prose. The storytelling and smart verse keeps the reader entrenched and imagining. Realism in imagery and description make a fictional story seem as the real thing. The idea of Jack Johnson as an American underdog, starting with nothing and rising to the top, is one rooted in the American Dream, no matter race. Jack Johnson as a character embodies the trials and tribulations set forth by an oppressive and judgmental society. He goes on to prove that he is the man in charge, though he is the person who ruins himself in the end. This espouses that Jack Johnson was in control, no one controlled him—but he himself. Throughout Matejka’s collection of poetry Jack Johnson is a force to be reckoned with. The Big Smoke is an inspiring and gritty book of poems rooted in the clashes of American history and culture, which speak to the essence of the American Dream.

Work Cited
Matejka, Adrian. The Big Smoke. New York: Penguin Group, 2013. Print.

Crime Alerts at the University of Minnesota: Enabling Crime?

At times I wonder why the University of Minnesota even tells us anything at all about crimes. Is it a scare-tactic to be vague with details, not giving crucial information to the general public/student body, while allowing those to speculate, while criminals run at large? Is it to show they (campus police and administration) are on it… they have an idea of what is going on—control, perhaps? How useful are these “crime alert” emails? What purpose do they serve?

Recently, because of issues with defining distinct aspects of an individual’s appearance, make-up, within crime reports: assumed generalizations, problematic language, suggested stereotypes, and the political correctness of the University etc., the student body no longer has access to pertinent and informative accounts/descriptions of suspects who commit crimes on victims at gunpoint, near or around campus.

Not only is the act of ambiguity within these emails confusing, it, perhaps, enables more crime. Perchance, if a criminal were under the impression that said criminal’s description were forbidden from being released to the general public/student body, then why would that criminal be apprehensive about committing the same crime again? It appears to me that if there are no repercussions to committing a crime, why would a criminal not do it again? Sharing the identity, description, appearance of a suspect is imperative to creating a safe community, and particularly a safe and informed campus.

To be straightforward, if a person commits a crime, the gender, sex, attire, and physical appearance witnessed, of that person, comes into play as that person’s identity. That unique identity, make-up, appearance, description, and those characteristics of a person, do not have the right to be protected or withheld from the general public by the administration, specifically for the safety of the law abiding citizen. If I walk outside, my identity is visible—I am visibly unique as an individual, as most. A victim should have the right to be able to use and share that information to help identify a suspect, while informing others of this information.

These aimless emails, “crime alerts”, do nothing to create community awareness, they only act as vague warnings to those who venture out into society, while shielding actual criminals. Perhaps “crime alerts” should say: be afraid, stay inside, and fear the unknown. Have people not seen No Country for Old Men? In the film protagonists are searching for a suspect, an amateur sheriff suggest they radio a description of the suspect, the wise sheriff counters by suggesting, “Well, what are we searching at… looking for a man who has recently drunk milk?” The wise sheriff does this as he takes a sip from a glass of milk. At least give some form of description, or these emails serve no purpose whatsoever.

One thing I have learned at the University of Minnesota is that if you want to write something, anything, have a purpose for writing, declare an idea/concept, and make an attempt to prove that idea/concept. My idea/concept is that these alerts/reports are essentially useless, unless they give detailed descriptions of the perpetrator.

Moreover, the student body receives emails of this type evermore frequently (especially in the warm months), with little to no detail of the culprit. I say, let someone else write these emails, someone with more imagination, if you want to keep them vague. Perhaps have a sketch artist come in, draw a cartoon, I don’t know. I say, give me the opportunity to write the email. Every email would be the same, non-descriptive and useless, and go something like this: A human being robbed another human being. I thought you should know. Try to be safe out there.

Here is an example, unedited, of the emails the University of Minnesota student body receives when a crime occurs:

Crime Alert: Twin Cities Campus
“On Wednesday, April 15 at approximately 12:25 a.m., a robbery occurred off campus near the intersection of 27th Avenue SE and Talmage Avenue SE. The incident occurred in close proximity to the Como Student Community Cooperative. One of the two victims is a University of Minnesota student. The second victim is not affiliated with the University.

The victims were talking outside one of their vehicles when two suspects approached, threatened them with a gun, and demanded their valuables. The suspects took the victims’ wallet, cell phone and purse. The cell phone was later recovered after the suspects threw it into a nearby yard. Neither victim was injured.

The suspects fled to a car waiting on Talmage Avenue with a third suspect in the driver’s seat and the vehicle drove away westbound on Como Avenue. Detailed suspect descriptions are not available at this time.

Minneapolis Police are investigating this off-campus crime. Anyone with information is asked to call the Minneapolis Police Tip Line at 612-692-8477 and reference case number MP-15-132388.”

A Safer Campus Commute? I think not…

          Day one on campus; nothing has changed in respect to commuting.  Well, if there was any change at all it was in the increased number of dangerous pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists on campus.  As the U stated last year there would be changes on and around campus, still I see inattentive pedestrians, still I see people biking where they are not supposed to, and still I see people in cars, buses, and semis intimidating other commuters.  Little has changed since the idea contest for making traveling around campus safer, and the only thing it takes to notice this event is your eyeballs. 

          Let me explain: some people at campus have been in rodeos before; trying to bike, attempting to walk, and potentially driving safely around campus.  Others just got on their way this morning, and have amassed little concern with the rules of the road.  The latter have never been to their first rodeo. 

          First rodeo situation:  if you haven’t biked on or around campus in the midst of thousands of excited students on the first day of fall semester, it would be your first rodeo.  Watch out, be mindful, and know your role.  Put your stupid smartphone away and make it from point A to point B.  -Safely.   

          Upon biking to the university this morning for class, I took extra precaution, mentally preparing myself as I do regularly, as I suggested in my concept for a safer campus commute, as the U has so generously used in their emails/slogans:  be aware of your surroundings.  I’ll take the credit, but I won’t win the award, or be cited, (an award that was presumably never given out- how shrewd).   

          Arriving on campus, past the new Target, and the face-lifted Dinkytown, how economic- (oh) progressive, I found a vast amount of amateur bicyclists mingling in packs, not following the paths, wearing helmets on handlebars- abrasive, while generally having small regard for their surroundings.  I took note of a driver maneuvering a car while texting, and an aimless young athletic male (BRO) biking, weaving his way through the bike lane and into the street while on his phone, fedora affixed atop his blond hair streaming back, held down by a bandana. 

          I have no positive words for the kind of idiocy I have seen on campus when it comes to getting around.  I predict a record number of transit related accidents, injuries, and worse (other euphemisms here), this year, 2014.  This is not because people genuinely like putting themselves in danger, or under buses so to speak, but because the life within their phone is evidently more important than the life in front of their bodies. 

          I am not being pessimistic, I am being honest.  Whoever won the contest to make the campus safer deserves a gold star, because they persuaded it/sort of didn’t win it, and slyly.  I applaud you.  I would have done the same but I am more of an outsider when it comes to making friends high up; I won’t do the photo shoot if I don’t like the cameraman (metaphor). 

           The U is no safer now for commuters than it was a year ago.  As a matter of thought, it is most likely more dangerous because people feel that it is safer.  Telling individuals this and that without actually having them observe the act does not prove a point.  Take a seat in the grass and watch.  In time one will see this conundrum acted out over and over again.  The situation is somewhat entertaining, if you aren’t involved with it.

          When I sat taking in the sun between classes, near Coffman Union, I noticed one obvious sign of the times; something that’s been there, but seemed more prevalent today, people were engaged more with their electronics than anything else, they were living in a virtual world which exists in their hands.  They seldom took in the views before them, they noticed little in their path.  On such a beautiful day it was sad and dangerous, heads down; stuck in a box- dangerously isolated.   

          If the campus wants change they must cite people for walking brazenly down the center of the bike lanes, while texting, or not- just being ignorant.  They must position public safety attendants at problem areas, to direct students, until they can finally read signage and adhere to the brightly painted traffic instructions.  They, the university, must do their best to capture the attention of those on the go. 

          When I left this morning, I was nervous for the first day of school, as are most.  That exhilarating feeling of taking in knowledge, and expanding my experience with education had me trepid, something I live for.  Yet when I came to campus I was more shaken because of my safety and the safety of others, the safety directly related to the lack of attention and ignorance/apathy people put into their movements.  A safe campus requires thoughtfulness, and a conscious mindset.  If I am worried about selfies and notifications I am not worried about crosswalks and lines on the ground; appropriate signals, on my inevitable journey to and fro. 

Which is more important? 

Also see:  Woman fatally struck by Green Line train was Mpls. attorney

ON: Amid Rising College Costs, A Defense Of The Liberal Arts

NPR: Amid Rising College Costs, A Defense Of The Liberal Arts
“Wesleyan University President Michael Roth argues that a liberal arts education is more important than ever.”

Liberal Arts education is necessary in 2014, as it has been, especially in a world with ubiquitous problematic language; the modern episteme and such.

The study of fine arts and language is the key to history, society, and culture.  If we lack these we lose our fundamental difference from mere animals.  If you have an English Language major in the room you can better decipher written text, legal documentation, and law; you can make the ambivalent understandable.

People don’t see this though…  They see math and science as poignant, in the forefront and irreplaceable, which they are, and respectively offer immensely to the greater good, but what’s the worth if a specialist cannot convey a new invention, or breakthrough, and its meaning?

We use language everyday, but what do we really say?