• Your one stop for college news and resources!

Jen Thames

I enjoy writing articles that inform, as well as entertain students. I have a background in SEO, as well.

Harry Potter Castle Tour May Trump Olympics

Harry Potter Tour in London sure to be a Success

Now, did your high school look anything like Harry’s? Does your college dorm room resemble Harry’s in any way? Even with new college bedding and a parakeet I still haven’t captured the look myself.

Well it’s no wonder- the Harry Potter Castle is actually a model that was built by Warner Bros not a Scottish boarding school located somewhere north of Edinburgh. The castle is a 50-foot Lego-like masterpiece and it is going up for view this month near London.

The Hogwarts model will be part of the “Making of Harry Potter Tour.” The three hour long tour promises to reveal many of the secrets behind the making of the Harry Potter films. The tour will include interactive games, displays and props used in the original Harry Potter films. Hopefully Dobby will be on display! Tickets must be purchased in advance to take the tour that is located at Warner Bros. Studios, Leavesden a short ways outside of London.

No less than 86 artists and builders designed and built the castle model that is the jewel of the tour. How they ever managed to agree on anything is a magical feat unto itself. The castle went through successive versions throughout the next 7 films and it was used for the castle aerial cinematography. No doubt there will be a new “spot the castle changes” game for all the Pottersville addicts out there. The castle model includes 2,500 working fibre optic lights and attention to the smallest details. For example, there are even small owls located in the Owlery.

In addition to the castle, visitors get to walk into the Great Hall, explore Dumbledore’s office and weave down Diagon Alley. Gringott’s Bank and Hagrid’s Hut are also on display. Now how is Olympic rowing going to compete with this? Best guess, Harry’s Castle becomes the #1 most visited venue this summer in Olympic London!

College and High School Shootings: When is Enough, Enough?

Shootings Need to Stop

The latest shooting of young people by young people in Chardon, Ohio adds yet another school, town and group of kids to the list of people whose lives will never be the same thanks to one angry kid with a gun. How many times must this happen before college and high school students say enough is enough and do something to change the fundamental nature of the social dynamics on high school and university campuses?

These shootings are instigated by meanness and by a culture and society that condones and promotes clicks, groups and Facebook Friends. What happens to the kids that don’t have Friends but still want to play online games? How many of us have ever stopped to think about that problem? I know a kid who has it and he explained to me that there are whole websites that provide fake friends for the friendless that want to play games. Great, so all the isolated geeks can stay isolated.


Each and every person has the power to choose to include or exclude others from their wall and from their lives. We all have the power to choose. However, we also have the same power to be gentle when we exclude.

Bullying exists on so many levels in both college and high school. Most bullying doesn’t involve fists or guns. Bullying often manifests itself in snide remarks about clothing, “You aren’t going to wear that are you?” Schoolwork, “You don’t understand that problem, you’re so LAME!” Decorating, “So did your mom choose your college bedding ?” Once in awhile bully remarks can be funny but they can also pile up like logs on a fire. It’s anyone’s guess as to when the person on the other end might just light a match and explode. Then who pays? We all do.

From today I’m going to try to live by my mother’s words:

“Before you say anything, check it in your mind and ask yourself: Is it honest, is it necessary and is it kind.”

Top 10 Ways to Beat Spring Fever and Stay in Class

Spring in on the Way: Keep Grades Great!

It’s only February but already there are signs of college Spring Fever everywhere. It’s starting to get lighter; some of the trees are starting to look more cheerful. The first small little bulbs are peaking out of the melting snow. It takes mammoth amounts of WILL Power to stay in class and study once it warms up. Here are 10 tips to beat Spring Fever in college.

1. Ignore Spring as long as possible. Stock up on hot chocolate and turn down the heat. Study under the covers of a really cool college bedding and stay cocooned in bliss. Ignore it entirely.

2. Live a little! Run around like a banshee outside at least once a day enjoying the sunshine and the new warmer weather. Set the cell phone for 1 hour of fun and then go back to work.

3. Volunteer at a homeless shelter. Nothing makes staying in class look like such a good idea.

4. Hire a Budget Rent a Car and take a quick spring break somewhere south. This one proves motivating for some and counter-productive for others. Driving back IS part of the equation.

5. Put on a bathing suit in front of a really big mirror. Makes studying absolutely preferable to anything that might include wearing less clothing.

6. Move you deadlines forward and finish those papers now while it is still cold. Once all the work is done you can relax and enjoy spring. Huge hint: Don’t turn papers in early. No need to give the professor extra time to find fault with what you have written and give you a chance to improve on it.

7. No caffeine, cold turkey. Cuts the wonderful right out of Spring- and everything else.

8. Join a Zumba class. Many cute girls to impress and it’s indoors.

9. Open the windows and air out your dorm room at least once a week. It improves the air somehow and makes it easier to focus.

10. Give in to pass/no pass. Just sign up in time!

The Scientific and Technical Awards and Hugo’s Oscars

What is Fame?

This year no one paid any attention to the cast off Cinderella of Hollywood, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Scientific and Technical Awards. The death of Whitney Houston certainly didn’t help give these awards any press. Held this year on Feb. 11 in Beverly Hills at the Beverly Wilshire in Los Angeles and hosted by Milla Jovovich, these awards honored many of the technical innovators in filmmaking. The George Méliès of our time. 8 Oscars were given out to almost 30 participants. These awards are given out two weeks before the official Oscars ceremony on February 26th.

The Scientific and Technical Awards Honor FUJIFILM

Ironically, the Scientific and Technical Awards this year honored FUJIFILM Corporation for the development of ETERNA-RDS 4791 (PET), a movie film that is substantially responsible for advancing the archival preservation of film and digital images- the same topic of the Oscar nominated film Hugo that is nominated for 11 Academy Awards. The Academy Award honored in particular the work of Dr. Katsuhisa Oozeki, Hiroshi Hirano and Hideyuki Shirai for the creation of the high-resolution recording film ETERNA-RDS 4791 designed for film and digital image preservation.

Introduced in 2010 ETERNA 4791 has several advancements that set it apart including the Polyester base (PET) that is common in many of the ETERNA series films. This particular film allows for recording digital separation (RDS) of the black and whites from the color digital masters. The development means that 50 years from now you will be able to play today’s movies on your 3D LED wall mount television. The film also allows for increased image quality, reduced flare and greater latitude and linearity. It is designed to be used with Kodak D96 and D97.

How is it that the story of a great film innovator from the past is respected so highly by the Academy and yet the innovators that are responsible for the preservation of film itself are relegated to the Beverly Wilshire two weeks prior to the Academy Awards?

The History of the Scientific and Technical Achievement Awards

The Scientific and Technical Achievement Awards themselves were added very early in the Academy’s history. They were introduced into the awards ceremony in three classes in 1930-31 honoring basic achievements (class 1), high technical or engineering merit (class II) and accomplishments that provide valuable progress to the industry (class III). These awards continued to be given out along with the other Academy Awards until 1974 with the exception of 1959 when the awards were presented at the Governor’s Ball held after the ceremonies. In 1974 (the 47th) awards the Scientific and Technical Awards were moved to a 4 pm press call at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. In 1977 the Scientific and Technical Awards were finally given their own dinner. The practice has continued ever since.

Back in 1974 when the scientific awards were separated from the main event the United States was battle weary with the Vietnam War. The Watergate Scandal was at its height and it consumed the nation. Throughout American culture there were rifts between young vs. old, avant-garde vs. establishment and also artist vs. scientist. Perhaps it made sense to separate the Awards out at this point to emphasize the artistic merits of leading actors, screenwriters, and musicians from the engineers who designed the film, processes and cameras that made Hollywood possible.

Is Science Art?

However, today, not unlike during the time of George Méliès, the lines between technical and artistic achievements are blurring. For example, on February 11th, Ian Cavén, John Lowry, Ian Godin, Tim Connolly and Kimball Thurston received an award “for the development of a unique and efficient system for the reduction of noise and other artifacts, thereby providing high-quality images required by the filmmaking process”. The system was used on both 3D Avatar, and Journey to the Center of the Earth. Similarly, E.F. Nettmann, Fred Miller Michael Sayovitz and Brad Fritzel were honored for compact stabilizing heads that have made it possible to effectively shoot action footage in an open structure. Without these contributions and many more, film as we know would be substantially different.

Everyone is a Star

Interestingly, just as changes are happening in film because of technical achievements the people that design these types of industry advancements might become increasingly famous. Perhaps like Music, TV and Modeling, the complete democratization of film is right around the corner. What exactly constitutes fame and celebrity in today’s world? Is Streep any more of a draw than Zuckerberg and all that he embraces and stands for? The mystique that has always made the Academy Awards and in turn Hollywood so special has been protected since Méliès time by limited access and barriers to entry.

Technical advancements including cameras and software are removing the walls. Almost anyone can make a fairly decent film today. Distribution is available on Youtube and marketing is free for the liking on Facebook. College students throughout the country are making brilliant films in their dorm rooms.

Martin Scorsese, who seems to have always possessed an uncanny ability to understand our country’s interests, has another hit with Hugo. Box office sales to date are at $62,080,174. This is a current subject matter that strikes a cord with viewers who see themselves as film makers. It is not a simple historical recount of the life of George Méliès.

At the very end of movie Hugo we, the audience, see Méliès receiving an achievement award. Removed finally from the total obscurity of a normal life he stands tall to the clapping hands of adoring fans. His art is recognized as valuable and he achieves stardom. When the Scientific and Technical Awards were presented on the 11th it was hard not to compare the presentations to the movie Hugo as these “ordinary” people stood up to be honored.

Joining a Gym: College Student Skinny on Dumbbells

Join the right gym

Starting to pucker the seams on your jeans or poochie-poochie over the front a bit? Most likely it isn’t the addition of your Under Armour 2.0 base layer (a great excuse); no, this it the beginning of the college 10,15, 25 or 50lbs. It is very tempting to just crawl back into bed and stay there with a bag of chips. But Wait! In college it is easy to stop weight gain before it becomes a big problem. One of the best ways to beat the bulge is to get into a gym habit. Trips to the gym are as necessary to college survival as dorm supplies or a good cell phone plan. The question isn’t whether you should work out but where should you work out and how often.

Look into Your School’s Gym Facilities

Most colleges have at least one gym on campus. Often you can use the gym and take classes for very little just by being a student. This is often the best alternative because college gyms are cheap, clean and full of innovative machines that are used to keep the football and basketball teams happy. Moreover, the gyms are on campus so you can schedule gym time between other classes. The downside of college gyms is that sometimes the hours are limited and certain facilities like the pool can be closed when they are in use by various classes and teams.

Check Out National Gym Chains and Promotions

National gym chains like 24 Hour Fitness and Gold’s Gym are also an alternative. These gyms are usually inexpensive and they have very generous hours. Another advantage to national gym chains is that the membership dues can lock in at the current rate and continue at this rate for as long as you are a member. These gyms usually offer a variety of free classes and services and the machinery is up to date. Look for 7-day trial memberships to try out these gyms for free before joining.

The downside of these gyms is that they can be very crowded at peak hours and the classes can be so full you can hardly get into them. In addition, check out the amenities such as the stream, sauna and showers carefully even if you aren’t planning to use them. Sometimes these can be downright horrible and there isn’t anything worse than needing a shower and being faced with a tiny trickle of cold water.

Local Community Centers Have Gyms and Classes

Many local community centers also have gym facilities and classes available at very reasonable rates. Private community groups such as the YMCA and JCC  have gyms and facilities that are often excellent and available to anyone who wants to join.

Things to Look for in a Gym Membership

Amenities, spa, pool, sauna, showers, lockers, basketball courts, etc.
Cost, savings available for yearly plans
Student discounts
Locations, convenience
Gym hours
Classes and class schedules
Certified trainers and instructors
Sports therapists available
Busy, overcrowded
Extra curricular activities and programs
Quality and variety of machines and weights, and their maintenance
Weights and machinery for women

A College Student’s 5 Best Winter Friends

Small Things Matter!

After the holidays are over in most of the country it is just cold and gloomy. Trudging to and from classes takes on the romance of a novel about Russian peasants. The best classes are usually bearable but the worst ones have turned into mammoth gargoyle creatures that seem bent on your personal destruction. Here are five favorite things to use everyday to beat the winter blues.

1. Agloves. Without a doubt the best pieces of clothing ever invented. Agloves are woven with silver so that they transfer the body’s electrical current to the tips of all ten fingers. The silver threads make the gloves thin and warm because they are conductive. It’s possible to use your smart phone and touch devices with them on. Unlike some other gloves that only have fingertip conductivity, Agloves aren’t bulky and they don’t look weird. It’s also possible to text and scroll with any of your fingers.

2. A comfortable set of dorm room bedding. There isn’t anything as nice as a warm comforter when you come back to your dorm room exhausted and cold.

3. L-Lysine Ointment with Vitamin A, D & E plus Cocoa Butter by Basic Organics. Cheap and unassuming this little jar of clear lip balm makes winter cold sores a thing of the past. The amino acid lysine has been used for years as a dietary supplement to boost the immune system and prevent the outbreak of cold sores. Putting it into an ointment is a brilliant move. An added bonus is that the ointment is flavorless and odorless.

4. Xobhats. Made out of recycled sweatshirt material these hats are soft and they don’t itch. The company is the brainchild of a bunch of college kids out of Colorado. Cute and stylish these hats are also warm, unisex and durable. They crush into a backpack or purse easily and always look great.

5. REI base layer long sleeve T-shirts. Base layers are used by serious athletes and hikers to beat the cold. Most college students should have a few to get to and from class on really cold days. The materials are engineered to beat the cold by wicking moisture away from your body while retaining heat. Several companies make base layers including Under Armour. The ones from REI are uncommonly soft and they wear like iron looking great wash after wash.

Panties and Dorm Room Bedding: How to Save Money and Stay Set

Underwear and buying dorm room bedding have a devilish thing in common: Part of the set wears out faster than the rest. When this happens you have to start all over again. This is time consuming and it can eat up your budget. Here are some sensible pointers to help you stay put together.

What to Look for when Buying College Bedding

The first key thing when buying college bedding is to realize that most dorm room beds are longer than a standard twin. Bottom sheets are the only sheets that matter in this case. Instead of just buying the extra long sheets in the set also look into purchasing at least one additional bottom sheet in a regular size. Doing this will mean that if you move out of the dorm you still have a matching bottom sheet to use on a standard size bed. Purchasing additional pillowcases is another wise move. Pillowcases are subjected to makeup, pen marks, drool, acne medications and a whole host of other things. Buying an additional set when you purchase your bedding means that when you lose one (and you probably will) your bedding set is still intact.

Keeping Bra and Panty Sets Set

Whenever buying bras and panties buy at least two pairs of matching panties for every bra. Preferably buy underwear in one or two styles. Inevitably you will like one style of underwear more. If possible then go back and buy a few more pairs. Bras wear out much more slowly than underwear especially if you air-dry them.

Wild Colors are Fun But Neutrals are Practical

In both bedding and underwear it’s a blast to have leopard print but do you really want to live with it every day? Add style and individuality with throw pillows and accessories. If you are decorating around neutral bedding it’s much easier to change the mood of the entire room on a budget. In the underwear department who wants to worry about prints clashing and showing through your clothing? Sure it’s fun but there is a reason loud bra and panty sets are always on sale.

Should Handguns be Part of Dorm Room Supplies?

Packing for College Takes on a Whole New Meaning

Believe it or not, they are in Utah. Utah is the only state where students may legally carry a concealed weapon on any public college or university campus at anytime with a permit. Currently they are the only state to allow college students to carry. However, Texas and Missouri have both toyed with the idea and there is currently pending legislation in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and Tennessee that would allow students to carry weapons on campus.

Think about it, you’re packing for college and you call out to your mom in the next room, “Hey mom, make sure I have my T-shirts, my shampoo caddy, my college bedding and my ammo.” This is just plain weird.

According to students for Concealed Carry on Campus, shootings on college campuses like the one at Virginia Tech on 12/08/2011 prove that students should have the right to carry guns on campus for self-defense. Proponents for carry laws on campus also believe that allowing concealed weapons would act as a deterrent to anyone thinking about opening fire in a college environment.

Opponents to carrying firearms on campuses point out that more weapons is not the answer. Opponents site the greater likelihood of gun injuries and the logistical problems of securing handguns properly in a dorm room. They also quote statistics that show gun-carry laws lead to increases in weapon-related crimes.

As the Iowa Caucus draws near, this is an issue that could affect college and university students throughout the country. Rick Perry is an avid proponent of allowing students to carry guns on campus and he is currently running for the Republican nomination.

Moreover, this is an issue that stands for much more than just gun rights on college campuses. It has to do with student rights and how students are treated compared to the general population. Does the general mistrust of university students that existed in the 1960’s still exist? Are young American soldiers in Afghanistan any more responsible than their college brethren at home? How do students feel? Do they have a voice about whether or not that tall guy in chem. lab should be packing?

Car Rentals in College

Renting a car in college: when will we grow up?

Thinking of going home for the holidays or want to go skiing in the mountains? Think you can just rent a car and head on home for a blissful bit of R&R? Well, think again. Car rental companies usually won’t rent to students who are between the ages of 18-21 and under the age of 25 you will have to pay higher fees and rates to rent a car. College kids are old enough to go to school, pay their bills, hold a job, go to war and own a car. Now why doesn’t that extend to rent a car? Only two states in the Union, Michigan and New York, require rent a car companies to rent to college kids. In these states the companies will rent to you but they will also charge you a large underage surcharge each day.

Car rental companies in other countries have similar rules. For example, to rent a car in Australia a person must be at least 21 years of age and there is usually a daily surcharge until the age of 25. In the UK a young visitor must have had a license for at least a year. In many cases the requirement is two years before being able to hire a car. Like AU and the United States most rental companies will not easily rent to people younger than 25.

Some smaller UK companies will rent to people at ages 21 and 23. Similar to the USA there are a few smaller companies who specialize in the 18-21 age group. In Europe the car rental age restrictions are confusing and stricter. Moreover, in many of these countries it is illegal to drive a rented car under the age limit even if you rent it in another country. The borders are easily crossed but if you are stopped you could be in big trouble. To give you can idea: If you rent a car in the UK and then drive it across to France the age limit in France is 21. The limit is 23 in Luxembourg, 18 in Sweden but 20 in Norway and 21 again in Italy. 18 is fine for the Autobahn in Germany but not for the dirt roads of Crete where the limit is 21.

In addition to the confusing rules, high underage surcharges are usually added and in Germany you are required to also buy a collision damage policy between the ages of 18-22. In most of Europe it is also a good idea to pay about $15.00 and get an IDP permit that verifies that your license from your home country is valid. Think of this as just another excuse to charge you a big fine if you get stopped for doing anything wrong.

Alternatives to Renting a Car

Many times public transportation just won’t get you where you want to go. There are some alternatives. You could rent a wreck. Seriously, this is a car rental company in Pasadena that specializes in renting cars to younger people. Smaller car rental companies like this exist throughout the United States. You could also try renting a friend. Post an ad at your college for sharing the costs with a graduate student or medical student headed in the same direction. For longer trips you might consider actually buying a wreck and then selling it back. Car sharing programs are also sometimes an alternative. Borrowing Dad’s car has its merits too if you can swing that one!

College Covered

Tips to stay warm and cozy this winter

Staying cozy in college this winter starts with good college bedding and a warm coat. There are a variety of other ways to stay warm and healthy throughout the winter months. Here are some solid tips to help you love rather than hate the cold weather that lies ahead.

Layer, Layer, Layer to Stay Warm

Layer your clothing and layer your dorm room bedding. Air is one of the best insulators so trapping air is a key way to improve warmth and enjoy the cold weather season. Layering your clothing should include a T-shirt or thermal underwear, a long-sleeve shirt and/or a turtleneck, a sweater and a jacket. An added bonus in layering your clothing is that it can also prevent you from getting too hot and sweating. Sweat freezes making the body colder after the overheating wears off. There are a variety of outdoor clothing companies that specialize in warm weather gear that is engineered to prevent overheating. Incorporating some of this outdoor wear into your wardrobe will greatly increase your comfort levels. Layering doesn’t stop with clothing; buy good bedding and layer bedding in the same way and for the same reasons. One added bonus to layering your dorm room bedding is that you can then turn down the thermostat. This saves energy and it helps to prevent winter colds and flu.

Watch Your Back

Wearing low cut jeans in cold weather is just asking for a urinary track infection. The kidneys are located in the retroperitoneum area near the back and consistent exposure to cold just isn’t a good idea. Rather than change your pants, buy longer t-shirts and sports shirts to tuck into pants. Opt for a longer jacket rather than a shorter one. Usually just being aware that you need to keep this area warm to stay healthy will improve matters dramatically.

Old German Wives’ Tale: Keep Your Feet Warm

There isn’t any proof that this works but who wants to fight with generations of mothers in a land where winter is the longest season of the year? Make an effort to keep your feet dry, comfortable and warm throughout the day. This includes while you are studying and hanging out in the dorm. A pair of warm slippers is a wise and easy investment. Another old Chinese wives’ tale says that you shouldn’t eat spicy food when it is cold and dry. According to legend this causes sore throats, colds and all manner of havoc on your body’s Qi.

Cover Your Head: Smart Idea!

Your head is covered with hair for a reason. Enhance those locks with a hat. Covering your head is one of the best ways to stay warm and healthy throughout the winter season.

Get out there and throw a few snowballs. It’s a winter wonderland once you know how to cope with it!