Smart Homes

What is a “Smart Home?” You might be thinking of the 1999 Disney Channel Original movie, Smart House– and you wouldn’t actually be too far off. You might not have an extremely advanced AI to “mom” you and eventually go crazy, but you would have an intricate system of programs and sensors to predict your desires.

Not quite.

For example–you set your alarm to 7:30. As you wake up and turn the alarm off, your clock sends a signal to your coffee maker–which starts to make your daily cup of joe–so that it will be prepared by the time you walk into your kitchen.

While you’re driving to work, sensors in the bridge send a message to your car: it’s icy; slow down. Should you choose not to, the car will slow down for you as you go across the ice. As you near a stoplight, it takes note that you’re the only car at the intersection and turns to green. While you park your car, your office turns on.

This system of programmable sensors interacting with other devices is commonly referred to as the “Internet of Things”… Essentially, everything is connected to the Internet. So many of the simple actions in your life can be reduced to simple “if, then” statements. If I leave the room, then I will turn the lights off. If it starts to rain, then I will close the windows.

If two exams are on the same day, then I will order sushi and get coffee.

These things, in the “Sensor Revolution” as some call it, could easily be automated. That’s where the future is headed–already. As more and more people own smartphones, companies have been searching for innovative ways to incorporate it into their products. Fitbits are already connected to your phone and computer, offering amazing details from everything to your step rates to your sleep cycles. Even certain shoes by Nike include sensors in their soles to give you more accurate information.

So yes, you might not have a hologram mother in your home (spoilers for the end of Smart House), but you’re guaranteed to never lose your keys again–because your smart phone will just find them for you.

So what do you think, readers? Sound cool? Personally, I’m a little more cautious. While this will certainly make life easier, I’m worried about the repercussions of having all our objects connected. Mainly, how will this impact our security?

Take for instance, a case that happened recently. A hacker manipulated a security flaw in baby cameras, and proceeded to yell expletives at the sleeping children, waking them up. Even more alarming is that a recent line of cars were released with a software exploit that allowed hackers to remotely control your car–including your steering and brakes.

We’re leaving ourselves open to catastrophic attacks–and that’s terrifying. As we move forward with the Internet of Things,  we must be far more cautious than we are already. So readers, what do you think? Do you want to be connected and have the ease of access that the Internet of Things will allow us, or do you err on the more cautious side?

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Country Dancing… All the Way in Switzerland

About a month ago, I was walking down the sunny harbor of Lausanne, thinking about ideas for my next blog post…

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I had initially planned to write about something related to coming back to school, but then got distracted as I heard faint clapping in the distance. Curious, I headed after the noise and was surprised to find that a country dancing event was taking place accompanied by a live band. Seeing all the Swiss people dressed in boots and cowboy hats, I almost thought myself back in the States. Tens of people were up on stage dancing synchronously to songs they all apparently seemed to know. What astonished me the most was that although most of them had just recently met, they were still able to Line Dance together to every new song that played. No matter which song the band chose to play, the dancers quickly found the steps and moved as one.

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Walking past the benches of people watching the event, I spotted different vendors selling sombreros, lariats (lassoes), hats, boots, and other various items. I asked one of the vendors what was going on and he replied that the country dancing clubs of Switzerland had come together in Lausanne for the first time to dance together. “C’est magnifique, non?” Magnificent was exactly the word I would use to describe what I was witnessing. Although we like to celebrate in Switzerland, this manifestation was something completely different. The atmosphere was so warm and passionate. I honestly felt as though I had left the country for a while. I immediately called my family to come join me, and sat on one of the benches.

Now of course I knew that country dancing existed outside the United States; that much was no surprise. What really took me, though, was the way an activity of foreign culture could unite crowds of people halfway across the world. Everywhere I looked, I could see families wearing cowboy hats and drinking the night away to beautiful southern tunes. I looked into the eyes of the dancers, and could see the deep passion they had for the dance form.

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As the songs continued playing, some of the dancers stepped aside to grab a drink and refresh from the hot sun. My family had joined me by then, and had likewise become captivated by the performance. My grandmother, who used to love listening to country music whenever she visited America, looked so happy that it truly warmed my heart.

While most dancers took their breaks, the more experienced ones remained on stage. One of the dancers, a young lady, had “Country Girl” tattooed on the back of her neck.

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I wondered whether the lady was from the States or simply just big fan of country-style. My aunt encouraged me to go up to her and ask a few questions. After a while of hesitating, I struck up the courage and walked up to her. I asked where she came from and when she had begun dancing. To my surprise, she came from Fribourg (the German part of Switzerland). She explained that her mother was also a country dancer and had taught her to dance when she was eleven years old. The lady was now the only one in her family who danced, and it was a hobby very close to her heart. She had never visited the States, but hoped that one day she would be able to dance in the real South. I asked her about the tattoo and she replied that they were the two words that best described her.

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My family and I continued watching the dancing late into the night. Eventually, the music died down and the dancers left the stage to find their families. I glanced around as people embraced and celebrated the successful evening. All I could think of was how I wanted to be able to pull on some cowboy boots and join the group.

Unfortunately, I have still to find a country dancing club at Rutgers. The closest I have come to finding one is the Swing Dancing Club which incorporates line dancing in its routines. During my freshman year, I had taken ballroom dancing classes on Sundays and completely adored it. This year, I plan to join the Tango Club that recently formed. Dancing is an activity that is able to unite people no matter where they come from. Who knew that country dancing would be so famous all the way in Switzerland?!?

On a final note, I want to encourage all new coming and continuing students to go out and find a club or activity that truly makes you happy! Try out something new, even if it is something you have never heard of before. Finding something you are passionate about will make your college experience that much more meaningful.

FOOTLOOSE

What to Bring to College

Because there’s just a few weeks left before college starts, the bloggers and I thought it would be a good idea to write a list of what to bring for college for all those freshman and transfers out there who are going to live in dorms. For everyone who already knows the drill, this list has mini stories attached to many of the items, so not only is it amusing, but it can also serve as a reminder of your own experiences with forgetting items. So read down the list for advice on what to bring, or for a trip down memory lane!

Things to Bring that People Forget to Bring:

  • A can opener – I once spent an hour trying to open a can of soup by stabbing it with a spoon. Needless to say, it absolutely did not work. Can openers are small enough that you can just keep it in a drawer without it taking up too much space, and you’ll be glad to have one when you need it (FK).
  • Comfortable slippers to wear when you lounge about the dorm
  • Multiple pairs of flip flops because they will break on you, and not having shoes to shower with is the worst.
  • A pair of scissors (MS)
  • A stapler (NS)
  • Rain boots/Shoes that survive through snow – You’ll thank me when you have to walk in the snow to get to class. (NS).
  • Umbrella – Somehow I forgot to bring this and I have never been so sorry (NS).

What to Bring: A General List:

Bedding

  • Mattress cover
  • Mattress pad XL Twin – The mattress is hard-ish, but if this doesn’t bother you, this item isn’t required (NS).
  • XL Twin sheets, comforter, pillows

Room

  • Desk lamp
  • Lamp for your room – Some rooms look like prisons without more light.
  • Fan(s)- The more the merrier, especially for the first few weeks of school (HW).
  • Scented plugin – It can make an otherwise cramped dorm room feel more inviting and open. I highly recommend the teakwood mahogany scent (HW).
  • Rug – Although not a necessity, this can make your room 1000 times more inviting and cozy (AV).
  • Clothing
  • Hangers
  • Under-bed storage

School

  • A binder, notebooks, pens, pencils, etc.
  • Planner
  • Backpack

Food

  • A big box of granola bars
  • A 24 or 36-pack of water bottles – Buy this from home and then bring it. It will save you from paying ten bucks for a water case at the SAC (FK).
  • A refillable water bottle – The eco-friendly version of above. It’s very useful with fill stations all over campus.
  • You can also buy a Brita pitcher and keep it in your fridge (AV)!
  • Bread, peanut butter, and/or jelly – When I felt lazy and didn’t want to leave the dorm for the dining hall, I quickly made myself a sandwich. It was convenient and allowed me to relax for an extra 15-20 minutes before class (SS).
  • Ramen/easy mac
  • A hot water boiler – Make sure the type is permitted under the University Fire Safety Guidelines.
  • Paper plates/utensils or real utensils and bowl(s)/plate(s)
  • Popcorn – For those movie nights, if you think you’ll have them (NS)!
  • Mug(s)

Kitchen/Cleaning Supplies

  • Lysol Cleaning Wipes
  • A vacuum
  • A sponge
  • Dish detergent
  • Paper towels
  • Laundry Detergent
  • Swiffer/Vacuum/Dustpan

Bathroom

  • Shower caddy
  • Shoes!! (flip flops) – I literally cannot stress how important these are.
  • Towels – Hand towels or body towels, or you could just have one.

Toiletries (like makeup, etc.)

  • Baby wipes
  • Makeup & makeup remover!
  • Nail polish & nail polish remover
  • Q-tips
  • Toothpaste
  • Toothbrush
  • Soap
  • Shampoo and Conditioner
  • Sunscreen – You should be wearing sunscreen every day, no matter what! At least SPF 25 is recommended. But remember to patch test products for any reactions to your skin beforehand (NS).

Medical

  • First Aid Kit – Include lots of bandaids! 
  • Ibuprofen
  • Robitussin – This stuff is MAGIC. It always makes my colds go away much faster (NS).

Technology

Other

  • Command hooks
  • Tissue boxes
  • Laundry basket – You are given a laundry bag but it isn’t fantastic.
  • Important paperwork – Driver’s license, etc.

Things People Bring that They Shouldn’t Bring

  • Printer – There are several computer labs on every campus and you are allotted $30 of printing money (over 700 pages, if black and white). If your printing balance runs out, you can add money to your RUexpress. Unless you absolutely need a printer in the comfort of your room, it isn’t a necessity (AV).
  • Pots and pans – You will think you will turn into a health nut in college and cook every meal in your tiny, communal kitchen to save on your precious meal swipes. Trust me, you won’t. The pots and pans will just take up much needed space under your bed and you will still have plenty of meal swipes left (FK).
  • Trashcans – Almost every dorm room comes with at least two.
  • Mirror – Unless you want to bring additional mirrors, or smaller “face” mirrors, you do not need to bring an additional one. There should be a full sized mirror in your dorm room. (NS: I actually didn’t have a full-sized one that showed the entire body, so we bought one that hung on your door).
  • TV – It may seem tempting, but don’t do it. By spending all your free time in your room watching TV, you wont be able to meet and socialize with all the wonderful people in your dorm. If you really want to watch that show you love, find a group of people to watch it live with in the main lounge. We did that last year in Brett and a bunch of us got together to watch American Horror Story (SS).

As mentioned before, the University Fire Safety Guidelines are helpful in letting you know what you can’t bring! If anyone has any questions or concerns, you can comment underneath or send us an email at sashp.nl@gmail.com.

45 Lessons from my Internship

This summer, I got the amazing opportunity to be an intern at AT&T in their corporate offices in Bedminster, NJ. I worked as an intern in the Sales Execution department, creating and analyzing data pulled from in house databases, and making systems that would automatically do this for me. (Yes a 9-5 job where I sit in a cubicle and tap away at my computer–and I loved it!)

I'm genuinely happy to be sitting here at my desk sifting through emails and working on all my reports.

I’m genuinely happy to be sitting here at my desk sifting through emails and working on all my reports.

For my final evaluation, my boss sat me down and asked, “So Monica, what do you think are the main lessons you’ve learned after working here this summer?” I gave him a few sentences about learning Excel skills and learning about the industry and company. After leaving my evaluation though, I thought about how I’ve learned so much from this internship, both in and out of the office. So then I thought. And then I sat down to my computer. And then this post happened.

Things I’ve learned:

  1. Excel is actually magical (like seriously, EVERYONE needs to learn Excel.)
  2. But it’s also really finnicky (and will anger you for hours when you can’t figure out why it keeps giving you an error message.)

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    This file may or may not have made me want to cry multiple times.

  3. Ctrl-Z is the biggest lifesaver.
  4. You get an indescribable amount of joy when the workbook you’ve been working on for hours refreshes and loads seamlessly.
  5. NO ONE pays attention during telepresence meetings.
  6. Working is really exhausting.
  7. The fact that parents find the energy to work a full time job, commute, and still take care of other human beings is actually amazing.
  8. My parents are freaking awesome and deserve so much more credit than I give them.
  9. Productive summers are more fun.
  10. Doing nothing feels so much better when you’re always doing something.
  11. Traffic is the bane of my existence.

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    Another fun day of sitting in rush hour traffic on Route 18 South (woohoo.)

  12. Making food after driving for an hour and a half in bumper to bumper traffic is torturous but also calming.
  13. People in the Chinese supermarket look at you weirdly when you wear business casual while screaming in Chinese and asking the fisherman to catch you a river bass for dinner.
  14. Business casual is the best and everyone should wear it always.
  15. Giving yourself a bedtime is actually kind of nice.
  16. Your body gets very used to sleeping at 11 p.m.
  17. You learn to hate pop music when you listen to the radio for ~3 hours a day.
  18. Radio talk is great.
  19. It’s easy to develop loyalty to your favorite radio station for absolutely no reason.
  20. Talking (yelling) at the other motorists on the road (to some, called “road rage”) is very entertaining and makes the commute a lot less boring.
  21. Being friendly in the office goes a long way.
  22. Time moves even faster at the office than at school.
  23. Working makes you feel like you’re growing up really fast.
  24. I may have a little too much Rutgers pride sometimes (all the time.)
  25. Office life (pranks, hanging out by the water cooler, and waffle days) is oddly comforting.

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    Waffle Day is a thing, and it’s great.

  26. People in offices don’t actually hang out by the water coolers, but just in the middle of the hallway.
  27. Technology is changing so quickly, and it’s going to change the way we do everything, whether we like it or not.
  28. We all really need to learn how to code because it’s going to be the language of the future.
  29. You quickly get used to reading world and economic news everyday.
  30. Getting important emails is really fun.
  31. Sitting in an office chair for eight hours a day can make you feel like a potato.

    My cubicle- where i slowly became a potato over the summer.

    My cubicle–where I slowly became a potato over the summer.

  32. Work gets you used to a routine really fast.
  33. There’s always time to learn more.
  34. AT&T is actually a really awesome company to work for.

    AT&T's Global Network Operations Center, aka a NJ and technical version of all those scenes in NCIS.

    AT&T’s Global Network Operations Center, a.k.a. a NJ and technical version of all those scenes in NCIS.

  35. It’s very easy to get brainwashed by the company you work for.

    It's hard not to love your company when they serve you company themed cupcakes

    It’s hard not to love your company when they serve your company themed cupcakes (also yes this is a snapchat, sorry I’m basic.)

  36. The AT&T ringtone gets REALLY annoying really fast.
  37. You learn more from the people you work with than from the work itself.
  38. It’s a lot harder to do those things they say in the business magazines like having lunch with a different higher-up executive each week.
  39. You will always feel less prepared or intelligent than your peers but that’s when it’s most important to remember that the company picked you for a reason.
  40. Corporate offices, no matter how liberal or leftist thinking the company is, are still full of conservative white men.
  41. Peer pressure is so much worse in the office than it was in middle school.
  42. You feel instantly classier wearing a watch.
  43. You learn to make the PERFECT sunny side up eggs in three minutes–with whites cooked but yolks perfectly runny.
  44. You start to think about investing the money you make, because you feel like you have to.
  45. Finally, while school is fun, work is also fun, and I that can’t wait to get back to it next summer! Feeling positive for my 2016 summer internship!

Continue Playing

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Anyone who has spent a few hours watching Netflix, a student’s best friend and worst enemy, has seen this message pop up.

During the school year, the constant assignments prevented me from starting the long list of recreational books I want to read. It was also challenging to keep up on my favorite TV shows each week. Summer break provides the perfect opportunity to catch up on reading and shows. As Spring Semester finals were coming to an end, I had this perfect plan of reading classic novels over the break. That plan fell through as soon as I watched the first episode of Parks and Rec. I wasn’t strong enough to walk away from Pawnee, Indiana and my book list remained untouched. If you have your own book list, check out Hina’s post for motivation to help you complete it.

I’ve spent so many hours on Netflix that I like to think of myself as a “Master Binge Watcher.” For those who aren’t familiar with the term “binge-watching,” it’s when you watch multiple episodes of a show one after the other. I’m not an expert…yet. Some may think that binge-watching is a waste of time, but I see it as extreme relaxation. I watched the entire Season 3 of Orange is the New Black–in a day. I don’t regret it because it was a pretty good season. Thanks to binge-watching, I had more time for equally satisfying activities, like going to the beach or going for a walk.

I don’t recommend spending all day, every day in front of your laptop or TV for the whole summer. It’s good to give your eyes a break from the screen and get outside, like Anya’s been doing this summer. After a hectic school year, it’s nice to take some time to relax and do nothing but engross yourself in an entertaining, visual story. With a month left until classes start, now is a good opportunity to watch that show you’ve been dying to start, because you wont have much time for it once classes begin.

Netflix provides limitless possibilities of ways to spend your day on the couch. Before you sit your butt down for the next few hours, here are some tips to help you on your way to becoming an Master Binge-Watcher:

  • Do a little exploring to pick a show that you know you’ll still be committed to finishing even after you’ve made it through three seasons out of seven. If you haven’t already seen it, you should watch Parks and Rec.
  • Make sure your Internet is working well. There is nothing more frustrating than glaring at the screen, waiting for the show to buffer.
  • Get comfortable. Submerge yourself in a mountain of pillows and snuggle up under a cozy blanket. If you’re going to participate in extreme relaxation, you better do it right.
This guy doesn't have enough pillows, in my opinion.

This guy doesn’t have enough pillows, in my opinion.

  • Have snacks but limit the drinks because you don’t want to get up in the middle of an episode. Remember to go to the bathroom and plan bathroom breaks during the transition between episodes. If you really don’t want to waste time in the bathroom, adult diapers are a good alternative.
  • Make sure to stand up and stretch. You want to keep your body loose and limber for all the relaxing you’re about to do.
  • Plan your day accordingly. Do not to schedule anything that will interrupt your Netflix session. You don’t want to have to leave your comfort fortress to go to the grocery store or walk the dog.
  • If your show has multiple seasons, don’t wait longer than a few consecutive days before getting back in it. You lose momentum and might forget the storyline, and you might even lose interest. Freshmen year, some of my friends were really excited to start Breaking Bad. Unfortunately, they would often go weeks before watching another episode. They lost interest in the show and only finished it (I think they did?) because, after taking a long time to watch four seasons, they felt obligated. Completing a show should be enjoyable, not a chore.
  • Finally, accept the fact that you’re going to do nothing but stare at your screen for most/all of the day. And remember to blink. I know how easy it is to get so into a show that you just want to have a staring contest with the characters, but you need to keep your eyes lubricated so that you can watch the next 4 episodes, pain free.

If you have any more binge watching tips, show suggestions, or even if you aren’t really a binge watcher, leave a comment below. I’d love to hear what you have to say. 🙂

So take your pants off, kick your feet up, and continue watching.

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