Some of the Best Comics on the Web

As finals are quickly approaching, the obvious best decision to make instead of preparing for them is to get into a new form of media: webcomics. I’m sure you’ve read a few before, but webcomics can be more than just your throwaway jokes. A lot of them are quite beautiful, and are an amazing way to admire really cool art along with the really cool stories that accompany them. Below, I’ve detailed a few to start with, just in time for finals season.


 

Hanna Is Not A Boy’s Name

I’m starting off with a particularly controversial choice, only because this comic was the one to make me fall in love with webcomics in general. It’s about a paranormal investigator and the zombie who accompanies him. Its art is absolutely amazing, and has an interesting and dynamic style. The characters and stories are both hilarious and intriguing. The only problem? It was never finished and never will be. In addition, the main website has been taken down, so you’d have to go through the DeviantArt account instead, which is kind of an annoying process. But if you choose to do so, it’s very worth it. You can start reading it here.

Stand Still Stay Silent

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Stand Still Stay Silent is a beautiful story that takes place about 90 years after the end of the world. These characters, born in the “new world” venture out beyond the safe area, ready to rediscover the world. The art is absolutely fantastic, and the artist, Minna Sundberg, is well known for her finished comic A Redtail’s Dream. It’s definitely worth a read, or at least an admiration for the art style. You can start reading it here.

Agents of the Realm

This is a very cute comic about five college girls who find objects that give them magical powers. A rich backstory, fun characters, and a charming art style? Sign me up. This twist on the classic magic girl story is incredibly fun and worth a read if you’re also a girl in college. You can start reading it here.

Mare Internum

A relatively new comic, Mare Internum is from the creator of The Meek, another popular webcomic. It’s about researchers based on Mars, and is super captivating and thrilling. You can start reading it here.

Strong Female Protagonist

Strong Female Protagonist is for people who love superhero stories, but want more focus on the human aspect of it. This comic follows a young ex-superhero who struggles to make a life beyond her powers, and battles questions of morality and ethics. Once again, it’s a perfect comic for college-aged students because the female protagonist is also one; she’s trying to keep up with herself in the chaos of college and being a public figure. You can start reading it here.

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Friends-giving: College Edition

It’s that time of the year again where we find ourselves with hungry stomachs and a nagging tendency to ignore all our responsibilities. The solution for this collective predicament?  Hold a friends-giving dinner! Now that you’re all home with your wonderful families, it may be too late; however, here are some tips for next year.

A week before the event

The first step is to make a Facebook event and invite people who remind you about all the things you have to be thankful for (and the people who won’t judge you as you stuff your face with every potato dish available). Puns and the use of gifs are recommended during this time.

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Next, construct a general (VERY VAGUE) plan on what to make as a host, because in reality, you’ll just end up winging it on the day of. Example: substituting turkey cold-cuts for an actual thanksgiving bird, because this is college after all.

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The morning of the event

The first thing to do is to decorate the house six hours before the event, because you can’t hold in your friends-giving excitement any longer. Candles, streamers, and DIY banners are an excellent place to start. Bring in some real leaves for a real fall aesthetic.

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Two hours before the event

Around this time, remember that this is a dinner and that you have to provide your guests with a real, edible dish. Your kitchen may resemble a battlefield of fallen potato skins and dirty dishes. This is necessary.

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The time of the event

At last, frantically check the oven to make sure your dish is done while simultaneously praying no one rings the doorbell yet because you still haven’t changed out of your stained cooking clothes. Once the first guests start to timidly trickle in and the tables are set, however, you must remember that these are some of the most wonderful people in your life and they have seen you at your best and your worst. Take a deep breath, laugh that you successfully pulled off a functional dinner, and enjoy the rest of the night with the people that matter the most.

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However you choose celebrate, I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving.  🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Tea with the Dean: Cultivating Calm

I went to last week’s Tea with the Dean with the knowledge that by the end of it, I would feel completely calm. I hadn’t expected that I’d be getting more than just a reduction in my stress, and so, I was pleasantly surprised and grateful when I got more than I asked for.

Last week’s Tea with the Dean was called Cultivating Calm with Green Tea, with Nicky Isaacson, who works with Rutgers CAPS. (I really love green tea and to be honest, I think the inclusion of it really sealed the deal of attending for me.) CAPS stands for Counseling, Alcohol & other Drug Assistance Program, and Psychiatry Services. One of the first things I learned was that in recent years, anxiety among students has increased a good deal. Although this is something I assumed, having spoken to my parents numerous times and getting the response of, “It wasn’t like this in the 90s,” I was glad to know that there’s an actual source supporting what I thought was conjecture. Although it’s important to find out why there’s increased stress, it’s also important that we learn how to handle stress in the meantime. So one of the things we can do is gain back some control over ourselves so we can handle it better. And that’s basically what I learned that day.

We started by practicing mindfulness. Greater Good at Berkeley defines it as, “maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment.” We’re supposed to be active in the present and avoid judging things as good or bad. We practiced this with a piece of chocolate. We focused only on opening the chocolate wrapper, hearing the crinkling of the wrapper and feeling the smoothness of the chocolate in our hands, feeling the weight of it resting on our tongue, and feeling the flavor gently flow and increase in richness on our tongues. (This makes me want to eat chocolate right now; if I could, I’d be reaching for my chocolate candy stash.)

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It was a very satisfying experience in that everything was heightened. Even the smell was heightened for me! It’s a small but important lesson to learn, to slow down and actually immerse yourself in your surroundings. That minute could ground you, center you, and prepare you for whatever’s coming next.

We also meditated, in that we lay on the ground and, with the help and guidance of Ms. Isaacson, released all the tension in our limbs. I had no idea how much tension I was holding in my shoulders, to be completely honest, but I found out when I released it all. We progressed from the top of our body to the bottom, giving each main body part its own time. The exercise took 15 to 20 minutes, but it felt much longer. One of the participants also fell asleep, and our speaker joked and said that that’s when she knows the meditation she’s leading works.

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She sent us off with some tips for better sleeping and managing stress (and cool pictures to color to keep the five-year-old within us happy.) She also mentioned a free Mindfulness Meditation group that meets weekly! Take a look at the pictures/flyers below and see if anything interests you!

It’s What’s Inside that Matters

Derek Shepherd. Chuck Bass. Matt Bomer. Blake Lively. Mila Kunis. The Salvatore brothers. All of these names, real or fictional, will make you think one thing immediately: “WOW, THEY ARE HOT!” In a society where–sad to say but unfortunately true–physical appearances dominate, we are all victims of judging a book by its cover. We don’t always scroll down Instagram posts of celebrities, going, “Wow! 10/10 charitable,” but rather, fawn over their jawline. But we all know there’s more to someone than just their face or their body. We all know that what really counts is their personality, their brain, and the way they make you feel. So I guess what I’m really trying to say here is we shouldn’t just judge anything or anyone by outer appearances alone: not our neighbors, not that girl in our calculus class, and most definitely not, absolutely never, a potato.

Potatoes: brown, oblong, rough, and sometimes something a newborn baby is compared to.  1030071_com_potato

We never look at a potato and fawn over it, talking about how lovely it is, or how much joy it brings to us, or how much we appreciate it. But we should. We really should.

Potatoes are versatile, edible forms of art that Picasso would be proud of. The wonders just even one potato can do is uncanny. Let’s think about all of the forms potatoes can take, and all of the happiness they can bring.

There’s mashed potatoes:

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Baked potatoes:twice-baked-potatoes-5

Even sweet potatoes:sweet-potato-nutritional-fact-versus-regular-potato

There’s potato rings:

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and tater tots:

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Potato chips:

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and hash browns:

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Potatoes are in traditional favorites such as latkes:

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but then can be modernized to form bacon-potato wrapped blankets:

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But my favorite form of all… Man’s greatest gift to the world (yes, this is more important than fire)… FRIES:

Curly. Cheesy. Waffled. Regular. Music to my ears.

So next time you feel  unmotivated and lazy and call yourself a potato, know you are actually complimenting yourself. You are telling yourself you are capable of being anything and capable of always making someone’s day. You are wonderful. Just like a potato.

Commuting vs Dorming

I spent my first two years at Rutgers dorming in Brett Hall on College Ave. I imagined living on campus for all four years at Rutgers: after two years in Brett, I would finish the second half of college living in a house on one of the College Ave side streets. Instead, as a junior, I live at home and commute to campus every day. While my situation this year is completely different from the first half of my college career, I wouldn’t change it.

Both commuting and dorming have their pros and cons. The biggest difference between the two living arrangements is the cost. I am saving a lot of money by living at home. My parents gave me a choice: live at home and study abroad or live on campus and don’t study abroad. The money that would have gone toward living in an off-campus house is now going toward my trip abroad next semester.

When I lived in Brett and had a class on College Ave, I would wake up 30 minutes before my class started and walk to the building. The best classes would be those in the Slounge (Brett Hall seminar room/study lounge) because I would just need to walk downstairs. Now that I have to commute, I have to wake up earlier because I have to factor traffic into how long the actual commute takes. This is one of the downsides to being a commuter. While dorming, I would wake up at 9:30 for a 9:50 class. Now I wake up at 8:20 just so I can walk into the classroom right at 9:50. For someone who hates mornings and loves sleep, waking up early is a struggle.

Speaking about sleeping, it’s very very difficult to take naps during the day. Not having a home base to go to limits the places where you can chill in between classes. On the flip side, this forces me to to work during the time when I would have been sleeping if I lived on campus.

The car rides to and from school are a good place to think, second to the shower. I’ll often think about what the day is going to be like or reflect on an event that happened the day before. I can also scream sing as loud as my heart desires, which helps me relax or blow off some steam after encountering a horrible driver. In the dorm, I rarely had the opportunity to belt out a song because I didn’t want to disturb anyone. Even in my room, the walls are thin and my voice would easily penetrate the division.

In Brett, I had the same roommate for two years. She was fantastic and we got along really well. At home, I still have roommates — my parents. My parents are chill; I’m lucky in that regard. They don’t breathe down my neck nor do they constantly ask me what I’m doing or where I’m going. How your parents act really affects the dynamics of living at home. I talked to someone who was considering commuting, but after living at home for the summer, he realized that the idea of living at home was much better than the actual experience of living at home. His parents treated him like he was still in high school and did not give him the freedom he thought he deserved.

One of the hardest adjustments of being a commuter is not being able to see all my friends every day. There would be no need to make plans to get dinner or hang out because you are all in the same area and can just walk over to someone’s room to see if they are free. Now that everyone is spread out around campus, it is more difficult to hang out. Unless I’m lucky enough to be in a class with one of my friends, meeting up requires more effort. Schedules may not match up and plans must be made a couple weeks in advance. The change is so drastic, but you find a way to make it work if you want it to.

At the end of the day, though, nothing beats sleeping on your own cozy mattress after filling up on mom’s home-cooked dinner. Because I was able to live on campus, I made a lot of my friends in my former dorm. If you’re a first year commuter, never fear! You can easily meet people in clubs, class, or at SASHP events, like the coffeehouse or artists collective. There’s also the OCSA, the Off-Campus Students’ Association that holds many events!

 

Friends You Didn’t Know You Had

You may be ready for Thanksgiving, but you have assignments and exams leading up to the last minute of freedom on Wednesday. Winter is coming–and if that isn’t gloomy enough, your friends are all just as stressed.

If you’re ever feeling stressed or lonely, remember: you have a 100 trillion friends in your body. In your whole existence, you have never been alone. Isn’t that a comforting thought?

“What do you mean, Anya?”

Well, consider me your local microbiologist friend. Yes, that picture on the top of this page is one of my slides from the lab.

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For every human cell in your body, there are 10 microbes. However, the bacteria in your body help you in all sorts of ways! Your best friends are germs. To summarize:

  1. Bacteria play a critical role in helping you digest food and may affect your overall metabolism. In fact, when the microbiomes of obese mice were swapped with those of lean mice, the obese mice were found to lose weight.
  2. The bacteria in our bodies help us manufacture certain proteins, neurotransmitters and signaling molecules. Some of these are involved in regulating stress levels, which can affect your temperament and mood.
  3. The microbes in your body help regulate your immune system.  They help you determine when to have an allergic reaction (is this walnut a friend or foe?). Additionally, there are “good” bacteria and “bad” bacteria that are training your immune system. Your immune system has to be on constant alert to determine which is which.
  4. People living in different parts of the world have vastly different microbiota. For example, people living in Japan have a bacterium that is really great at digesting seaweed. Your microbiome is distinguished by the food that you eat–whether you and your ancestors ate a lot of corn, or ate a lot of protein, will be reflected in your gut.

There is one piece of bad news. Our overuse of antibiotics in the food and medical industries may be irrevocably changing our microbiomes. In fact, many scientists speculate that this is leading to an increase in autoimmune diseases in our country. It is hard to predict what this means and it is unclear whether there will be negative consequences. As a general rule, avoid heavily processed foods and eat lots of natural products containing fiber.

Additionally… bacteria can be used for other cool purposes. My personal favorites: making art and restoring art.

Finally, look at these “infectiously cute” stuffed animals. Hope you all have a happy Thanksgiving! Don’t forget to thank your microbes for helping you digest all of that food you’re bound to eat.

Finishing a Novel with NaNoWriMo

This article will resound with all my fellow writers who have also repeatedly started writing a novel but never managed to complete it. Back in high school, it was my goal to write and publish a best-selling novel. The problem was, however, that I never was able to complete one. Every time I would reach half way through writing a novel, I would either get tired of the idea or simply have no time to write. If finishing a novel was difficult for me back in high school, you can just imagine how much harder it is for me to complete in college.

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The other day, I was reflecting on the novels I had begun in high school and regretted not having finished any of them. When you’re writing a novel, you become attached to the worlds and characters you create. In a sense, I felt as though I had given life to all my creations and then completely abandoned them.

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So I went onto Google search and began looking for similar stories of authors not being able to complete their novels. The usual “writer’s block” popped up with several cures on how to treat it. Writer’s block, however, had never been the problem for me. It was more of a lack of pressure or incentive which had led me to procrastinate the completion of the novel. Then suddenly, “NaNoWriMo” caught my eye. NaNoWriMo or “National Novel Writing Month” could finally be the solution I was looking for!

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NaNoWriMo is a writing program that occurs every year during the entire month of November. The goal: complete a 50,000 word novel in just 30 days! At the end of the month, participants who have completed their novel receive a certificate and advice on how to move on with their work in the future.

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Although the month of November is already halfway through, if you think that you can still complete 50,000 words by the end of the month, I would strongly encourage you to try it out and go for it! The NaNoWriMo website offers platforms for competitors to communicate and encourage each other on to reach the end. With the pressure to complete a novel in a month, who knows what kind of creativity can arise! I have already decided and committed myself to participatig in next year’s NaNoWriMo. Until then, I will continue brainstorming and looking for ideas with which to pursue my novel. If you do end up participating this month, I wish you all the best and feel free to comment below and let me know!

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More information concerning NaNoWriMo can be found here or here.

 

A Very Coolfeehouse

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More than once, I’ve been asked by someone I don’t know if I play the ukulele. It’s possible I just look like a person who would play the ukulele (short, vaguely artsy), but the question is usually followed by “I saw you play at the insert open mic location here!” and a half- to three-quarter-hearted compliment. I’m by no means well known, but I like to think I owe these brushes with fame to my experience at my very first college coffeehouse performance. Last year, when I was still a freshman in her first month of college and not sure how to find out about performance opportunities, the SASHP newsletter informed me about the SASHP Artists’ Collective Coffeehouse. I remember being really nervous, unsure if I’d be able to pull off a serious college performance. When I walked in, though, I realized that I knew so many people in the audience, and even if I wasn’t entirely at ease, I did feel comforted. Because the coffeehouse is run through the Honors Program, the audience is composed of the people in your honors classes, who you met at honors events, who live in your dorm. Then they invite their friends, who inevitably want to perform so then they invite their friends. It’s an honors-based community, but it spirals outward into this much larger community of people who love to perform or watch their friends perform. The Artists’ Collective Coffeehouse was my first interaction with this community, and it definitely gave me the confidence boost I needed to be more comfortable playing elsewhere.

That night I made a mental note that I desperately wanted to run the coffeehouse. A year later, I was given that opportunity.

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This past Friday, I had the absolutely incredible honor of co-hosting the Artists’ Collective Coffeehouse. The usual host was unable to attend, and she asked my friend and me if we would be interested in taking over. Interested was an understatement; I was so beyond excited.

I knew it wouldn’t be all fun and games, though. A coffeehouse host has three extremely important responsibilities. The first is to advertise the event. My co-host and I decided that a theme would be the best way to draw people in. We wanted something classic and cool, and we eventually settled on “Scarlet Knights.” I made a cover photo for our Facebook event by collaging various covers of the book Scarlet Nights by Jude Deveraux and adding a K in front of the word Nights. I’ve never read the book, but I am an English major, so I felt that this both represented the theme and me. Step one was complete.

The second is to write down the names of the performers. The first thing I did wrong was forget to bring something to write with and to write on. Luckily, there were special SASHP pens and FIGS booklets just sitting out ready for me to borrow them. Step two was complete.

The third has multiple sub-responsibilities, all of which can be summarized in the phrase human interaction. A coffeehouse host must introduce the performers in a way that is both pleasant and entertaining. My co-host and I definitely at least satisfied the second requirement. My favorite part of hosting, though, is that it’s actually a necessity to talk to everyone. You need to engage with both the performers and the audience, make everyone feel comfortable and welcome in the space. I loved feeling like an essential part of the coffeehouse and even more connected to the audience and other performers than I usually do. That being said, hosts are only as good as their audiences. It really helps to be able to feed off of the energy of those watching, and some crowds are better than others.

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My co-host and I apparently did a mediocre enough job hosting that we were invited to host again at some point next semester. I think we’re going to plan something big. I would recommend attending.

If you’re interested in attending the next Artists’ Collective Coffeehouse, it’s going to be December 11th at 35 College Ave. Hopefully I’ll see you there!

Public Enemy Number One a.k.a Public Speaking

Anyone who knows me can immediately tell you that I am the furthest thing from an introvert. I love talking to people; I don’t shy away from new groups or new conversations, and I am not afraid to share my opinion. I actually talk a lot. I always have and I probably always will (much to the dismay of my family). In kindergarten, by only the second week of school, my bus driver forced me to go sit at the back of the bus because I wouldn’t ever shut up. (Yes, in kindergarten, the front of the bus was actually the cool place to sit). So when most people meet me, they’re surprised to learn that I would rather take my chances swimming with eels than I would giving a presentation in front of a classroom.

According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.” – Jerry Seinfeld

Public Speaking. Oh the beautiful, wonderful, eloquent art that is public speaking, you know, if you are one of the few lucky souls blessed to be able to speak in front of a crowd without shaking, sweating, crying, or passing out. Unfortunately, I am not one of those lucky dozen, and while I am not exactly afraid of public speaking, I do get heavy anxiety from it is. As a sophomore in college, I have had my fair share of giving presentations and speeches all the way since elementary school, and you would think practice makes perfect, but I am nowhere near that stage. Just last week, I had to give a three-minute presentation for my ARESTY Research Group, and even though it was only in front of six people, I was so nervous from the second I woke up until the second it was over. So whether it be in front of three people or 300, giving presentations is something I still have trouble with, and if 74% of the US population actually states that public speaking is their biggest fear, I know that my anxiety is nationally shared. So I thought I would share some tips that I’ve used over the years on how to conquer public speaking, or if you’re like me and don’t think you’ll ever be able to conquer it, how to basically “fake it till you make it.”meet26

 1) Get Organized – Make sure you know your course of action for your presentation well ahead of when you need to get up and present. Whether it be preparing an outline or jotting down notes on some index cards, prepare well in advance so you’re not scavenging through your brain the day of. When you are organized, you will feel much more relaxed and calm.

2) Know your Topic – This might single-handedly be the biggest factor of what makes or breaks you during your presentation. I have learned that I am the most nervous before speaking about things I don’t feel entirely comfortable with. For instance, in high school, I had to give a presentation on a topic that I definitely did not do enough research on, and it showed when my presentation was filled with many awkward pauses and “um’s” as I racked my brain trying to figure out what to say. In contrast, I just gave a presentation on the research I am currently doing, and I was so comfortable speaking about it because I knew that topic like the back of my hand. If you focus on the material, and not the people you are speaking to, you will exude confidence and knowledge.

3) Record Yourself Speaking and/or Practice with a Friend/Family Member – My biggest problem has always been talking too fast. I am a naturally fast speaker, and when I am nervous, I sound like an auctioneer. To avoid talking too fast, I always try to record myself beforehand or practice with a friend or two so they can point out when I need to slow down.

4) Practice Practice Practice – I don’t know where the advice “imagine your audience in their underwear” developed from, because I don’t think it will help you become an effective speaker at all. What will help is continuous practice. Being able to be an effective speaker is a very important skill that will follow you throughout your life, and even though it might make you nervous now, keep taking classes or running for executive positions where you are forced to at least give one oral presentation. You’ll only get better with time, and even if you never become perfect, you will become much more confident in yourself, and confidence is key to beating your fear of public speaking.

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Espresso Yourself

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If no one has convinced you yet that coffee has numerous benefits, read up and rejoice! Many studies have been published illuminating the benefits; you only have to search for them. Here are some highlights:

It is important to remember that we will need to execute many randomized controlled trials with greater numbers of participants before anything is proven for sure. For every study that shows one conclusion, you can probably find another one that proves the opposite.

However, the studies that do exist provide enough evidence (remember: repetition and replication) for our national dietary guidelines to reflect that coffee can be included in a healthy diet. Just don’t add crazy amounts of sugar and syrup.

Now that we have established that coffee can be good for you, I would like to share my personal reasons for loving coffee.

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  1. There is nothing quite like the feeling of a warm coffee cup in your hands on a cold day. Sweaters, hats, and coffee cups make me incredibly happy.
  2. When I’m sleepy and groggy coming into work in the morning, coffee wakes me up and keeps me productive!
  3. Latte art.
  4. Coffee dates. First dates, second dates, etc.
  5. Coffee shops are great for productivity. If you don’t have one around, you can simulate one in your house by using Noisli and turning up the coffee shop handle (it looks like a coffee cup). My personal favorite combination of sound handles = coffee shop, fireplace and rain.
  6. Coffee brings people together! Whether it’s coffee with my friends or coffee with my family, I always have the perfect opportunity to meet with the people I love to talk about the things that come to mind. It is the perfect study break and brainstorming opportunity.