Articles by

<Ashleigh Lewis>

04/28/10 4:00am

Maybe losing your job is a sign that you shouldn’t dive back into that rat race. Maybe you just weren’t cut out for it, buddy. Maybe it’s time to go back to school, get your Master’s, and switch careers?


Jazz Studies

Do your hobbies include running Dee Dee Bridgewater’s official fan club? Do you even know who Dee Dee Bridgewater is? If so, you can finally let loose with the best and the brightest in Columbia’s Jazz Studies graduate program.

most notable course:

“Utter Negrocity: Black Art and Consciousness” uses music, writing, film, dance, speech, and visual art to tell the story of black protest and performance from the 18th century to the present.

Polish Studies

After the recent plane crash in Russia, Poland now finds itself in dire need of government officials. After a quick turn around Columbia’s Polish Studies program (with a few electives in political science thrown in for good measure), you’ll be ready to fly hop a ship over and exercise your newfound skills.
most notable course:
“Elementary Polish I” is offered at the graduate level, so you know it’s never too late to start.


Individualized Study

With NYU’s M.A. program through their Gallatin School, you can literally study whatever the fuck you want. Seriously, you get to name your major and everything. The possibilities are endless: Rocket Science Theory, Extreme Tightrope Crocheting, David Bowie Studies… anything your heart desires! (Even “Heart Desires”!)

most notable course:
The ballots are in, and there is no clear winner. How could there be with titles like “The Thingliness of Things”, “Tragic Visions”, “Thinking about Seeing”, “Critically Queer”, and “Perversion”?

Sports Business
NYU’s most unlikely M.S. program is in Sports Business. The school, which doesn’t have a football team and whose teams are called the “Violets”, finds itself qualified to teach others how to manage sporting events? Well, if they can dream, so can you!

most notable course:
“Planning and Development of Major Sporting Events” will teach you how to choose a site and organize volunteers in a timely manner.

Historical and Sustainable Architecture
NYU’s Historical and Sustainable Architecture program is essentially Ultimate Recycling Studies. It teaches you how to turn old, decrepit buildings into supah-sweet, shiny, new green buildings using most of the same materials. Sort of like how you can turn your old, decrepit, unemployed life into a shiny, new green one!

most notable course:
“Practical Experience”, the aptly named course guarantees students professional experience before they’re out of the gate.

Religious Studies
Religious Studies might just be the answer to your prayers. (See what we did there?) After studying up on the history of religion, analyzing the ideas and actions that influenced and effected various religions, and examining stacks of holy books, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a church administrator or religious writer/zealot.

most notable course:
“Mystical Elements of Twentieth Century Jewish Philosophy” is a weekly three-hour course with no discernable course description. Is that the first lesson?

New School

Nonprofit Management
You tried your hand in the private sector, and look where that got you: reading The L Magazine‘s continuing education supplement, probably in some one night stand’s bathroom or waiting for an F train at three in the morning. If you’re tired of living in your parent’s basement with Fluffy’s litter box a short reach from your bed, you can join the ten percent of Americans already toiling in the nonprofit industry with New School’s M.A. program in Nonprofit Management. This program teaches you how to go straight to the top, skipping all that painful volunteer work and community service most people who are passionate about a cause foolishly undergo.

most notable course:
“Advanced Seminar in Nonprofit Management.” Yes, the titles really are that boring.

Organizational Change Management
New School’s website says that the program “is designed for those who wish to broaden and expand on their experience in organizational change management.” After a few downward swipes of the spinny-mouse-wheel thing, we find out that it teaches students to “support senior management’s strategic change initiative,” or basically to be minions for The Man. If your spirit has already been broken, this is the program for you.

most notable course:
“Management and Organizational Behavior.” New School needs to hire more creative course-namers. Is that program offered anywhere?


Remember when you were in high school and so zonked out on drugs that you were all like, “fine mom and dad, I’ll go to college, but then I’m gonna study pharmacology and be high forever and then you’ll see” but then you forgot what it was they were supposed to see and studied English lit instead? That “you” misses You; plus, there’s no better cure for the unemployment blues than being high forever. (Oh, and people are always going to need pharmaceuticals, especially after Obamacare!)

most notable course:
“Health Care Ethics and Pharmacy Law.” We were just kidding, you can’t just steal pills for you and your friends and be high forever. There’s a lot of buzz-killing chemistry for you to learn!


Disability Studies
Think you have it bad? CUNY’s M.A. program in Disability Studies will teach you to be grateful for what you have, even if it isn’t a job. The program teaches that disabilities are a set of barriers that constrain people; sounds awfully familiar, huh, Mr. Unemployed?

most notable course:
The ostensibly oxymoronic “Embodiment and Disability” discusses the importance and potential of non-verbal communication to improve the quality of life for people with sensory disabilities.

If you’re just waiting to cash in on all those episodes of CSI you’ve gluttonously consumed during your “time off,” here’s your chance. (Your grandparents will be so proud!) John Jay College of Criminal Justice offers M.A. programs in just about everything a normal school would, except they stick the word “forensics ” in front of it: forensic accounting, forensic computing, forensic mental health counseling, forensic psychology, and forensic science.

most notable course:
“Psychopathology.” Words can’t even describe how kick-ass that class sounds.

Remember how painful and confusing it was to file your taxes? Next time the IRS tries to screw you over, know exactly how to weasel out of it with Baruch’s M.S. in Taxation. The good news is that any academic background qualifies you for this program, no previous number-crunching required. The bad news is that students are churned out as oil-slicked, briefcase-wielding drones.

most notable course:
“Corporate Taxation I and II” just sound plain evil.

04/21/10 10:16am

old bike

Ok, sure, eighth is fine… but come on, people, Minneapolis was ranked number one on Bicycling Magazine‘s Top-50 Bike-Friendly Cities in America, and they can only ride their bikes outside for like three months out of the whole year. Also, this is the city that’s home to America’s largest mall. Boo.

So what makes Minneapolis so special, anyway? According to Bike Mag, “120 miles of on- and off-street bicycle facilities, plus indoor bike parking and other cycling-friendly facilities” pretty much did the trick (seriously, indoor bike parking? Yes, please). As for New York, Central Park was praised for its lack of cars, as was commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan for her efforts to turn NYC into a “world-class bike city.”

So what can we do to get that big #1? Well, we could start with a bike to work week (like Minneapolis!), or we could just give in and do everything on this list (dedicated bicycle traffic lights!).

04/14/10 4:00am

This is the story of Frankie, the complimentary fork that came with your order of take out food.

Frankie is better traveled than most. He started out as petroleum sitting deep below the surface of the Middle East, was conceived in India, birthed in China, visited sunny California, and the swamps of New Jersey before he found a temporary home in your hand and your heart (because the way to every red-blooded American’s heart is through his or her stomach).

1. Frankie starts as crude oil, which gets sucked up out of the ground somewhere in the Middle East (a process which destroys the environment and destabilizes governments!)

2. In a refinery in India, science happens. The crude oil is turned into shippable plastic pellets. It’s like magic, except for the part where plastic workers in India have dramatically higher rates of lymphatic cancer than the rest of us.

3. Buyers in China melt the pellets down, inject the plastic soup into four-pronged molds, run them through a cold shower to harden, and pop’em out. Tada, Frankie is born!

4. Bunches of Frankies and Francescas are packed snuggly into boxes and sent bobbling across the Pacific for their first journey to the Americas.

5. Frankie’s ship is received in a port on the west coast, where a truck whisks him away to a distribution facility in New Jersey. From there, your favorite restaurant buys him, and he’s loaded back onto a truck and trundled along into the city. More trucks, more exhaust, more badness.

6. This is the part where you come in: hungry city folk call in take-out orders until finally little Frankie is picked up out of his box and placed into some lucky diner’s (yours!) to-go bag.

7. Now begins the 20-odd useful minutes of Frankie’s life, as he’s used to shovel slightly greasy pad thai into your mouth, before you drop him unceremoniously into the trashcan.

8. From the garbage heap in front of your apartment, an NYC Department of Sanitation vehicle will pick up Frankie. It will dump him at a transfer site, where trash and recyclables are sorted before being sent to exotic destinations like Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Virginia.

9. The standard plastic fork is made of polystyrene, labeled PS 6 inside the little triangular symbol stamped into most plastic products. Polystyrene is put in the garbage not because it’s entirely non-recyclable, as is the case with some plastic resins; it just doesn’t make economic sense to recycle it. So, into the garbage Frankie goes. Whee!

10. Polystyrene doesn’t biodegrade, which would be a sad fact if it weren’t for the even sadder fact that landfills are—ehrm—supposed to be hermetically lined and capped upon their closure. Without oxygen, not a damn thing in that landfill will biodegrade. Landfill doctors do this to prevent things from leaching into the soil and the groundwater, which, for whatever reason, they still do.

11. One of these things is bisphenol-a (BPA), the plastic additive that has been making big news for its cancer-causing properties. BPA is added to certain plastics to harden them for uses as the worst things you can add a carcinogen to: food containers and disposable cutlery, among others.

12. Eventually, Frankie will end up in the same spot as most plastic cutlery: a semi-putrefied landfill, oozing small amounts of toxic chemicals into the back yards of people who never had anything to do with him in the first place.

So, no offense to Frankie, but the plastic fork is destroying our world. To take a small stance, just remember that if you are taking your food home, or someplace else where real forks are readily available, get in the habit of asking for your food without the throwaway extras.

Learn to forget plastic cutlery when you can, and half the world will thank you.

04/09/10 11:36am

For the first time in five years, the United States has been dethroned from top spot in clean energy investment. The surprise, though, is which country beat us… China!

green china

  • A magical green land.

China managed to shrug off the fat green target on its back and surpass us in clean energy investment by nearly twofold. Chinese investment was $34.6 billion last year, which is more than a 50% increase from the previous year. America, with a GDP almost twice that of China’s, scraped up a paltry $18.6 billion.

This probably has something to do with our prioritization of energy production over protecting the environment for the first time ever, as charted by a recent Gallup poll.

For the past three years, public opinion has been less and less concerned with the environment and more concerned with energy production; opinion converged in March of last year, with the environment ahead by one frail percentage point. This year’s data put energy production ahead by seven percent.

But what are the implications? Obama’s recent announcement regarding new offshore drilling initiatives stems from this very data, and it likely won’t be the last that prioritizes energy production over the environment. And considering the two oil spills leaking 19,870 gallons of crude oil into the ocean just this week, threatening hundreds of miles of coastal wildlife, this is maybe not such a good thing.

Way to go, America… We finally have a president who listens to us, and we tell him we want to kill dolphins.

04/02/10 1:29pm

Spring is in the air, which means the neurosis should be setting in right about… NOW! It’s spring-cleaning time, bitches! Here’s a list of tips for a minty fresh apartment sans chemicals.

spring cleaning

Natural window cleaners are important to use because the aerosol spray from chemical ones is harmful to inhale. You can make your own for cheap by mixing three teaspoons of white vinegar with a quart of warm water in a reusable spray bottle, or in a regular bowl to dip your reusable rag into (no paper towels, which just end up in a landfill). For a streak-free clean, wipe your windows dry with crumpled newspaper pages, which micro-buffer away residual cleaner and dirt.

Kick mold and soap scum in the hoo-hah with baking soda made into a paste with just enough water. Just coop up some paste with a reusable rag, and rub the effected areas in small circles to loosen the scum. Rinse when done, and watch it shine! Best of all, there’s no bleach smell, accidental bleach spots on clothes and bathroom rugs, and it’s completely safe to work with! And eat! If that’s what you’re into!

You know how Listerine kills 99.9% of germs in your mouth? Well, the same philosophy applies to your toilet. A capful or two of alcohol-based mouthwash has the same effect as commercial toilet bowl cleaner, but without the petrochemicals (chemicals made from crude oil) and poisoned waterways. For best results, pour it in, let it soak for 30 minutes, scrub around in there with a toilet brush, and flush. Or, if you want to be even greener, save some water and don’t flush until you’ve used the toilet and really need to.

Take the time to give your refrigerator a once-through and compost any old leftovers (providing they get the ok from the compost police). If it looks a little barren when you’re through, fill it back up! A full fridge uses less electricity than an empty one. While you’re at it, give the condenser coils good dusting to increase it’s efficiency even more.

The best way to avoid a six-legged roommate is to prevent it from wanting to move in in the first place. Take precautionary measure like doing your dishes before you go to sleep, sweeping up crumbs and food spills right after they happen, and storing food in airtight containers (better yet, keep it in the fridge to fill it up a little more). If it’s too late for that, fill a reusable spray bottle with 1 cup water, 1 teaspoon salt, 20 drops of peppermint essential oil, 10 drops of cypress essential oil, and spray around the floor and in cupboards. You’ll be living in a single again before you know it.

Skip the Febreeze (who wants to stick their nose into a chemical-soaked carpet, anyway?) and use a tip my friend gave me: an orange in the garbage disposal! It makes the whole apartment smell like citrus and sunshine. Unfortunately, I have never been a proud owner of a garbage disposal, so I can only take her word for it. We low-tech folk can breathe easy by putting a pot of water to boil filled with spices or scented oils. A great recipe for a DIY Lemon Vanilla Spice air freshener can be found here.

Happy spring cleaning!

03/17/10 11:51am

Chemical factories

  • Where your food gets made.

Dear America, today we’re going to take a closer look at some of the nice ingredients in foods that the Food-Industrial Complex tries to get you to eat every day. This may get sciencey.

You probably already know that Cheez Whiz more closely resembles the latter than the former, but here’s why: It’s made with trisodium phosphate, an industrial-strength cleaner which for some reason is also a “food” additive. tells us to “try trisodium phosphate for a thorough clean before painting!” To use Cheez Whiz as a pre-wash for your laundry, work a glop of it into the stained area and let it sit for ten minutes before washing. Presto, grease stains gone!

Another fun food to pick apart—literally and figuratively—is Spam, which uses sodium nitrate (a bastardization of table salt) as a preservative. Sodium nitrate is what keeps pink meats pink, even after they’ve been cooked. Although it can’t be used as a cleaning agent, Spam can be stealthily deployed against enemies. One homemade gift basket of Spam products and your nemesis will be well on his or her way to colorectal, kidney, and stomach cancer.

Pomegranate-flavored Lifewater uses the natural red dye called “cochineal.” Cochineal turns out to be a parasitic beetle that lives on cacti in South America and Mexico. When boiled, they turn into a soupy red liquid that can be used to dye clothes and food. YOU’RE DRINKING BEETLES PEOPLE.

So where to turn for acceptable alimentation? Try one of Steve “Wildman” Brill’s foraging tours through Central Park, where you can dig up your own scrumptious grub (and maybe grubs?) from the fat of the land.

02/24/10 2:16pm

tofu makes you gay

  • “One bite of me and your sense of style will improve, along with your earning power!”

Tofu has been said to do a lot of bad things to the male body: everything from enhancing manboobs, to decreasing libido and increasing the chances of shooting blanks.

Jim Rutz, spokesman for the House Church Community and self-described health-food guy, claims that because of high amounts of phytoestrogen, soy “use” leads to “a decrease in the size of the penis, sexual confusion, and homosexuality.” That’s right, Jim Rutz says tofu turns you gay.

What Jim and people who make similar claims are ignoring is that the same phytoestrogens found in soybeans are also found in a ton of other plants, like onions, beans, grains and hops.

Yup, that’s right, hops. So, according to Rutz, drinking beer will also make you gay and shrink your manparts. And that hotdog bun at the baseball game? Estrogen. The baked beans at your summer BBQ?
Estrogen. Onion blossoms at the steakhouse? Estrogen, estrogen, estrogen!

Fortunately for all the scrupulously heteronormative dudes out there, the phytoestrogen found in plants is very weak compared to the hormone found in humans, as little as 1/1000th as powerful. This study concluded that ingesting high quantities of plant estrogens had little to no effect on the male
participants, and that the effects shown are actually beneficial. (Women, plant estrogen turns out to be pretty good for you, too.)

02/04/10 2:07pm

drity water

As New Yorkers, we take pride in our tap water. Well, we should. Mayor Bloomberg called it “the lifeblood of our city” after it rated first in statewide quality in 2008. But that might not last forever, if Governor Paterson has his way.

It would seem the Gov’ is still considering authorizing drilling for natural gas in the Catskills, the watershed that provides us with our delicious, delicious tap water. Extracting natural gas like this would very likely lead to toxic wastewater seeping right into the watershed; the price tag for filtering out these chemicals would be $10 billion for a filtration plant, plus another $100 million per year to keep it up and running. Shockingly, no one has come forward offering to pay for this.

So drink it while you can, fellow citizens.

01/28/10 1:17pm

ipod bra


These would be “green” gadgets and gizmos that seem really cool and fun, but maybe aren’t entirely useful when it comes to the whole “saving the planet” thing (like, perhaps, the Dragonfly farm towers proposed for Roosevelt Island).

To bring a little common sense to green gadget reporting, David Mackay of the Guardian suggests a one percent rule for reporting on green tech: if it’s not offsetting more than one percent of the energy expended by conventional machinery, it’s not worth the valuable media coverage that could be focusing on real impact.

For example, wind turbines are definitely worthwhile, while “kinetic road plates,” which harness a superfluous amount of the energy cars expend when entering a parking lot, aren’t.

Topping the list of awesomely ridiculous is a proposed sports bra designed to harness the energy of bouncing boobs to power an iPod. Adrienne So, the brainpower behind this innovative undergarment, feels that three years of lactation is not enough practical application for bouncy breasts. Fancy energy bra or not, at least fifty percent of the population (straight men and lesbians, I’m looking at you) can cite as many alternate uses for them as there are letters in this sentence.

01/27/10 12:01pm

Electric cars are quiet like ninjas and ten times as deadly. But mainly, just superquiet. This study found that people can generally hear conventional cars from 28 feet away, but can only detect hybrid cars in battery mode at 7 feet—or one second—away. To prevent happy-go-lucky new hybrid owners from indiscriminately crushing cyclists and passersby, some models are now being outfitted with artificial motor noises to alert people of their presence.

Mechanical noises aren’t the only sounds available for download and application. “Cartones” are customizable sounds you can purchase for your eco-ride to let people know something heavy is heading their way. Some legal kinks—like debate over whether the sound should be playing all the time—still need to be ironed out before they can be made available to the public. Congress is currently working on a Pedestrian Safety Act that would set a minimum and maximum noise level for all motor vehicles.

We look forward to having a car that plays nothing but William Shatner covers (just watch the video below, ok? You won’t be sorry).