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Today's word on journalism

May 8, 2009

The Last WORD

The Fat Lady Sings, Off-Key, Drools

At about this time every year, like the swallows to Capistrano or the buzzards to Hinckley, Ohio, the WORD migrates to its summer musing grounds at the sanitarium —St. Mumbles Home for the Terminally Verbose.

The reason is clear, and never moreso than as this season —the WORD's 13th —peters out.

It's been a fraught year of high palaver and eye-popping transition, both good and not-so-much. An interminable presidential campaign saga finally did end, and in extraordinary and historic fashion. Meanwhile, the bottom and everything that's below the bottom fell out of the economy, with families, homes, entire industries and —of particular interest to WORDsters and the civic-minded —dozens of daily newspapers ("I don't so much mind that newspapers are dying--it's watching them commit suicide that pisses me off." --Molly Ivins). . . all evaporating. What replaces them, from the individual to the institutional to the societal? Are we looking at a future of in-depth Tweeting?

As any newsperson or firehorse knows, it's hard to turn your back on day-to-day catastrophe --we just have to look at the car wreck. But even the most deranged and driven need a rest. As philosopher Lilly Tomlin once observed, "No matter how cynical you become, it's never enough to keep up."

So this morning, as a near-frost hovered over northern Utah, the unmarked van pulled into the driveway and the gentle, soft-spoken men in the white coats rolled the WORD out of bed and into a straitjacket for the usual summer trip to St. Mumbles, where the blathering one will be assigned a hammock and fed soothing, healthy foods --like tapioca, dog biscuits and salmon --while recharging the essential muscles of cynicism, outrage, sarcasm, social engagement and high-mindedness, in preparation for the next edition.
Summer well, friends.

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Feedback and suggestions--printable and otherwise--always welcome. "There are no false opinions."

Aggies, here's how to house-hunt like a pro

By Kelly Greenwood

April 29, 2009 | For a lot of incoming USU freshmen, college can be quite an adjustment. Physically, socially and mentally, your world changes at the very moment you wave good-bye to Mom and Dad. With all the changes you encounter in your college years, there is one thing you should be able to count on -- home. That is, a home away from home.

Finding a good place to live during college can be challenging if you don't know where, or how, to look. Some students end up moving a few times before finding the "right" place. Some USU students I know have slept on their friends' couches for a summer. It's all part of the college experience, some might say. However, to make the most out of your college experience, it helps to live in a place that suits you and all those wonderful facets that got you into college in the first place.

As a single student who has lived in six (count 'em, six) different places throughout her prolonged college career (on the fifth year here, folks), I can offer some seasoned advice to single USU students who are house-hunting. Here are some things to consider on your quest.

1. Living in on-campus housing your first year is a good idea. Face it, if you're a freshman, you're probably feeling pretty clueless and lost. Living in close quarters with a bunch of diverse people will introduce you to new things, expand your knowledge, help you build friendships and help you become involved in school activities. USU offers a lot of different on-campus housing arrangements.

2. Consider what kind of housemate you are and the kind of roommates you'd prefer. Think about this before throwing a group together to rent a house. If you're very studious and can't stand loud noise, you might not want to live in what could turn into a party house. I experienced this first-hand. Though I don't regret it now, I had a hard time with it at first. All I'm saying is, be prepared for the unexpected if you don't know who you're living with before you move in with them.

3. Get to know your potential landlord a little. This is more important than you might think. Are they humorless and will fine you $50 if the doorknob breaks off accidentally? Are they unreliable or are they accommodating? If they are with a realty company, do some research on that company before you seal the deal. I once had a really ditzy landlord (seriously) who never gave me a straight answer about anything. On several occasions, I woke up to construction workers at my door at 8 a.m. without any warning. Not good, my friends.

4. Beware of scams. If you're trying to buy or sell a rental contract online, be very wary of transactions outside the U.S. There are a lot of people in cyberspace who want large sums of your money. You know those e-mails you get from Fifi from the Ivory Coast whose father is dying and needs your help transferring his money to U.S. banks? Yeah, I once came very close to being scammed by Fifi.

5. One question: Can you afford the place? Living within your means is a lot better than being evicted because you're trying to live outside of them.

6. Safety first! You're a grown-up now, so you have to watch your own back. When touring a house or apartment, look for working smoke detectors, gas and CO monitors, working door and window locks, and non-explosive-looking appliances. (I was electrocuted by turning on an old stove once. Trust me.) Also, check out the breaker system—the ones with glass knobs often appear in older houses and are dangerous if you're not an electrician.

7. Cleanliness is good. Don't live in a cheap dump if you can help it. Things like mold in the bathroom and asbestos in the ceiling will make you very sick, so look for these things. Also check for signs of rodent and insect infestation.

8. Think of the amenities you like. Will lack of a dishwasher cause you to throw dirty dishes out the window? Do you have your own furnishings, or do you need a place that's furnished? Can you live without the Internet?

9. Remember to have fun. College should be a great experience, so try and make the best of it wherever you end up living. Just don't get electrocuted.




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