Why You Should Get A Cat

By Abby Hudson, sophomore writing coach

Cats. Everyone knows them, and most love them. Except for some Europeans during a moment in the Middle Ages who decided cats were evil and should be killed (which, funnily enough, potentially helped to spread the Black Plague when the rat population subsequently skyrocketed). But are cats really all that wonderful? Yes. Yes they are. And here is why.

Pet? No. Strange friend thing? Yes.

If you decide to have a cat as a pet, instead of getting an animal that’s as cute as a baby—but also as high-maintenance as one—you’re getting an animal that acts like a teenager, mostly capable of taking care of itself while also disappearing into its own personal pocket dimension at random times. Each cat has a unique personality that it won’t hesitate to show you by performing new hit songs in the bathroom for the massive audience consisting of you and yourself, or intently staring into the corner in a way that makes you wonder if there are ghosts on the ceiling. Cats are happy to ignore you all day until they hear that tell-tale sound of a can opening, and then you’re suddenly their bestest friend and how could you not know that? If you attempt to capture their adorable-ness in a pic, they’ll undoubtedly move the second before you snap that perfect shot, which I know from many, many failed attempts (curse you, Pharaoh the housecat!), but will eventually grace your photo collection with immeasurable cute ones such as this. 

Even though cats hardly bat an eye when you leave for your day of school or work, strangely enough, they’re always there at the door when you come back. They’ll be happy to lend an ear when you rave about your favorite show or need to rant about life’s injustices. When there’s a spider on your wall, you won’t need to summon up the courage to squish it, because your feline roommate’s already been stalking it and will eventually eat it (they did this years ago too when the pest was rats and cats were guarding food sources) (Zax, 2007). And don’t worry—cats will warm up your favorite spot on the couch, or maybe settle for sitting on your lap instead as a compromise, keeping you both cozy in the dead of winter.

They want affection…just when you least expect it

Imagine this: it’s a Tuesday night, you’re swamped with homework, you have two tests to study for tomorrow and a paper due on Thursday that you still need to start (you realize the Writing Center would be a great place to seek help with that and promptly go to set up an appointment during MAST), and you can feel the stress slowly building up. Soon enough, you’re tense enough to snap at anything and everything that does the smallest thing to set you off. It’s infuriating. You promised yourself it was just going to be five more minutes before you took a break—but that was half an hour ago when you first started your chemistry homework.

Then, suddenly, you get a face full of fur. Lo and behold, it’s the feline that you tried to pet three hours ago, but who just walked away when you tried. And now, while you’re busy and stressed and not in the mood, your roommate wants attention. They won’t leave until you scratch that place behind their ears they oh-so-love, and you begrudgingly oblige. It’ll only take two seconds, right?

And then your cat starts purring. When you move your hand away, she looks so sad, so you sigh and keep petting her. Two seconds turns into a minute, which turns into five, and you only realize it’s been fifteen minutes when you laugh at how your cat just batted the toy she’d somehow procured. You still have that math test to study for. But now, as you go to sit back down at your desk, you find that strangely…your stress is gone. And you can focus more than when you were lamenting about how to get this and this and all those things done. 

Did your cat just make you relax? Without you knowing? Yes, yes they did. Do they also help to lower your risk of a heart attack and boost your immune system? Yep (B.V. Center, 2019).

So many memes it’s a cat-tastrophe

We were all children once. We all had that weird obsession with Nyan Cat and Pusheen. Don’t even get me started with Bongo Cat. This cat obsession wasn’t only in our own generation—even in the late 1800s and 1900s, some of the first cat memes were getting started thanks to Louis Wain and his hilarious illustrations (Bryll, 2020). 

Getting a cat not only reintroduces you to all the wonders of that extremely popular side of the internet but also gives you 24/7 access to your own personal cat memes. It’s wonderful to have that little spark of unexpected happiness. You will be constantly laughing when your cats think that it’s very smart to sleep in the sink and then blame you when they’re wet and keep doing so for all the time you’ve had them. I use these two pictures of Vivaldi to measure how much he’s grown since he started sleeping in my sink.

In conclusion, not only are cats the best animal ever, but they are also the most amazing form of matter to ever exist. Yes, I have a love-hate relationship with my two ginger-furred sons when they conspire to steal my dinner off my plate. But, no, I would never give them up for anything. And if you like felines as much as I do, then maybe you should consider trading those pictures of cats on your screen for a new friend of your own.


Bryll, M. W. (2020, November 9). Louis Wain and His Weird Cats | DailyArt Magazine.
DailyArtMagazine.com – Art History Stories.

Center, B. V. (2019, April 17). Meow! Benefits of Owning A Cat. Berkeley Veterinary Center.
https://www.berkeleyvetcenter.com/blog/meow-benefits-of-owning-a- cat/#:~:text=Cats%20improve%20your%20physical%20health

Zax, D. (2007, June 30). A Brief History of House Cats. Smithsonian Magazine.

Sticky Speech Prompts

By Ellie Stroh, sophomore writing coach

The speech season has officially started!! What is speech? Speech is an intensive after-school activity that can best be described as a mix-up between theater and public speaking. There are mannnyy different formats and types of speech; however, the type I do is extemporaneous (extemp) speaking. In extemp, you get 30 minutes of prep to come up with a 7-minute speech about recent events, either surrounding United States politics or international politics. In light of the start-up of the speech season, I will be ranking the WORST speaking topics that I have, sadly, suffered through. 

3.      Should progressive make a campaign finance reform amendment to the US Constitution a priority? 

A bit of background first. The idea behind the campaign finance reform amendment is to ensure that private companies and foreign governments cannot pour their life’s savings into making Bob the senator of Iowa. But, it also covers rich future representatives, senators, etc, and ensures that they do not over “donate” money to their campaigns. On paper, this topic sounds lovely; however, what does the word “priority” mean?? Does it mean that progressives should do it or just think about it? Incredibly confusing when you are stressed and in a time crunch.

2.      Will China address Zambia’s need for debt relief? 

A lovely topic in terms of finding sources and different discussion points; yet, it is incredibly sad and pessimistic. During my research time, I could not find a single point that leaned toward China giving Zambia ANY debt relief. I had to talk about how the population in Zambia will only spiral into further poverty and economic decline for 7 minutes… joy…

1.      How will the EU green hydrogen regulations affect the green technology push in Europe? 

While I love talking about Europe (mainly because the words are easy to pronounce), I do NOT want to give a seven-minute speech about regulations on green hydrogen production! Even though during and after my speech I researched what green hydrogen is and how it is produced, I still don’t understand it (and I’m sure my judge did not either). I’m not an energy expert!!! Please, no more regulations. 

Even though some of my speech topics are difficult and tricky, speech is still my favorite pastime! I have gained so many lifelong friends and explored a new world of politics through speech. As the speech season is starting, now is never a better time to join!

5 ways to get (and stay) motivated at the start of a new semester 

By Sarah Erickson, sophomore writing coach

It’s that time of year: a new semester has begun and all the new habits you told yourself you would stick to this semester are starting to slip. Next thing you know you’re staying up till 3 am frantically note-taking and trying to cram all new information into your head the night before the big test. We’ve all been there. Lucky for you, there are strategies to help you get motivated for a stress-free semester. 

  1. Clean your room

You’ve all heard this one before: a cluttered space means a cluttered mind, but there’s a reason you hear this whenever the conversation of motivation comes up! Not only have studies shown that disorganization and clutter are directly connected to a general sense of feeling overwhelmed, but the act of cleaning itself can actually be a stress-reducing activity. Cleaning forces you to step away from all distractions and focus on repetitive motions like vacuuming, organizing, or simply taking the trash out of your workspace, and in turn has a calming effect. A short 10 minutes is enough to clear your mind and prepare your space to get some work done!

  1. Keep a planner

Keeping a planner is one of the best ways to get organized and help visualize what you need to get done. At the beginning of the week, start planning out each day. Consider your extracurriculars, sports, and your job. Next, figure out what your goals are for the week, and the steps you need to take to achieve those goals. Now you can plan out your schoolwork around your other activities and have a good idea of how the week will go. That being said, be sure to leave time to relax and for unexpected activities! Being able to look at what you need to do each day will help you stay motivated to stick to your schedule and avoid getting overwhelmed.

  1. Break down your tasks into smaller steps

Nobody said all your assignments have to be done all at once. For example, if you have a big research paper due, try not to think of it as one big project with a million things to do in one go. Approach it as a few smaller tasks. For a research paper, you could approach it like this:

  • Draft research question
  • Find sources
  • Read sources 
  • Make an outline
  • Draft the paper
  • Refine and submit

If you approach these steps over a few days or weeks and plan out how many days each step will take, suddenly it seems much more manageable and easy to start. 

  1. Tell people about your goals

When you tell people about the tasks you want to complete, you are significantly more likely to actually complete them. You inherently want to seem like someone who is hardworking keeps their word, so telling people about your goals introduces a sense of accountability, and gives you a reason to stay motivated. 

  1. Spend time with motivated people

If you hang out with people who constantly push things to the last minute and have no intention to change that, you’ll become more like them and lead a stressful academic life. Similarly, if you hang out with people who are hardworking and motivated, you’ll become more like them too. Find homework buddies who will influence you positively to become a straight-A student who leads a stress-free life. You can also talk to people who also struggle with procrastination, and figure out ways to overcome it together.  Let the relationships in your life promote your success, not hinder it.

Motivation is something we’ve all struggled with. Whether you’re a motivation expert or a chronic procrastinator, try implementing a few of these tips into your routine. Soon all the goals you set for the new semester will be achieved and you will be happier than ever.

Valentine’s Day; fun facts roses and their significance

By Sonya Hendrickson, sophomore writing coach

With Valentine’s Day approaching, love and admiration is in the air! Gifts are exchanged between loved ones and friends, fun activities and parties are planned, and one of my favorite parts, the giving and receiving of the beautiful flower – the rose.

What does the rose symbolize?

The rose is a symbol of love, romance, and passion. The significance and name comes from the Greek, God of Love, Eros. Roses are gifted on special occasions, as well as just a nice living decoration for the house. The rose scent is very popular among lotions, perfumes, and candles.

What do specific colors of roses mean?

Red – love, romance, beauty, passion, desire

Pink – joy, gratitude, grace, elegance, sweetness

Yellow – friendship, joy, pride

White – purity, innocence, hope, new beginnings

Black – death, change, courage

Red and white – unity

Fun Facts!  

  1. Some cultures always give bouquets of roses in odd numbers (11 instead of 12) because giving in even numbers is considered rude and only given at funerals. 
  2. The rose is the National flower of Bulgaria.
  3. The rose is one of the oldest flowers! 

Be sure to get yourself some roses for this Valentine’s Day and share the love!

Birthday Cakes!

By Sophie Larson, senior writing coach

For some, the month of January may seem like a long and never ending month, but for me, I celebrate my birthday on January 31st. Every year my parents buy me a different birthday cake to celebrate another year. With 18 years of experiencing different birthday cakes I have come to a conclusion on the best and worst birthday cakes. So if you have a birthday or a loved ones birthday coming up, here are the top three birthday cakes that are perfect for celebrating.

Cookie Cake

The classic cookie cake was a childhood favorite of mine and continues to be one of my favorites. I have never been the biggest fan of frosting, so the cookie cake was perfect. The warm (or cold) cookie is absolutely delicious and is a true staple in the cake community. This cake also has a lot of nostalgia attached to it as I would have this cake at my birthday party every year in elementary school. Although I haven’t had it in a while, this cake will always hold a special place in my heart. 10/10.

Ice Cream Cake!

Ice cream cake is amazing!!!! The Dairy Queen ice cream cake is the best one. 

 In the ice cream cake you get the best of both worlds, and more. The fudge and cookie crunch center makes it addictive, and the ice cream and cake creates the perfect combination. This is more of a traditional looking cake, but it’s so good and has so many unique qualities. Although it may be messy if not kept in the freezer, the ice cream cake is perfect for any occasion and will please anyone and everyone! 10/10!

Bundt Cakes!

Bundt cakes are a newer favorite of mine. I first discovered them at my cousin’s wedding, and really grew to appreciate them. Bundt cakes come in so many different flavors and I feel like I’m always craving them. This cake also doesn’t have too much frosting, so the balance is perfect. These Bundt cakes can be adjusted to any occasion and they come in many different sizes and quantities. I love Bundt cakes and I will never forget the first time I tried them. 10/10!

How Cretaceous Seashores in North America Drew Maps of Southern County Election Results

By Jos Buffington, sophomore writing coach

It is once again: Groundhog Day, Black History Month, and the beginning of announced bids for the 2024 elections. So—in the spirit of things that repeat themselves, black people, and politics—I couldn’t not take the opportunity to share one of my favorite geology facts.  

I love maps a lot. But, while living in Memphis, I had very little interest in the latest election forecast maps. Because (just like in Minnesota) they look the exact same every time. One of those consistent features of election results in the southeast U.S. is an almost perfectly continuous blue band of counties. This line was not unnoticed by political analysts. However, it was actually a geologist, Steve Dutch, who recognized the shape of North America’s Cretaceous seashore in the shape of the stretch of counties voting for democrats in the South.

To understand why these election results look like the Cretaceous seashore, we have to start very, very small. 100 million years ago, my childhood home would have been a shallow portion of the Western Interior Seaway. Over millions of years along the coast, ancient single-cell plankton did plankton things and died plankton deaths. The calcium carbonate in their organic remains accumulated on the seafloor and formed limestone chalk. By the time North America looked like the continent we know today, these shallow coastlines had left behind super fertile dirt.

When European American settlers gradually covered the Deep South with plantations, the plantations on the plankton dirt had significantly higher cotton yields. With that greater production, the populations of enslaved Africans in these southern states were concentrated on this stretch. Looking at recent census data- most African Americans in the south still live along the old Cretaceous shoreline.

Okay but really this section of counties voting democratic is a relatively recent trend. It’s definitely not as old as a majority black support for the Democratic Party. In the results of the 1964 presidential election below, the seashore is unidentifiable. The Cretaceous sealine doesn’t appear in election results from over a few decades ago because of the poor state of voting rights for African Americans before the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Black people were systemically prevented from voting by laws in Southern states for a whole 100 years after the 15th amendment gave black men the right to vote. Because of this, their democrat-leaning ballots didn’t create the distinctive political geography we can observe in more recent election cycles. The fact that the squiggly sealine only appears in election results after Johnson’s Voting Rights Act gives additional confirmation to Steve Dutch’s theory that all this is thanks to plankton.

Even when history is epochs long and a little convoluted, I always appreciate understanding why things continue to happen the way they do. It’s power even over things set in stone. (Or dirt). 

Image sources:

The New York Times 2020 election results


Geology and Election 2000 by Steve Dutch

NHGIS 1964 election results by county

Meme courtesy of Hershey Prajapati

Trophic Cascades – Beyond the 1995 Wolf Reintroduction in Yellowstone National Park

By Savanna, sophomore writing coach

How Wolves Change Rivers by the channel Sustainable Human blew my mind as a fifth grader when I was introduced to the idea of a trophic cascade. I think I must have watched that video at least five times, each time becoming equally parts more intrigued and bewildered. Each time, wondering: how in the world could a single species transform an entire ecosystem, let alone the physical geography of a national park? It was an incredibly cool and mind blowing thought. 

Over the years, I have become even more intrigued with the effect of trophic cascades, especially the possibility of trophic cascades in Minnesota with one of our ecosystem’s top predators: the Canada Lynx. 

Firstly, to roughly define a trophic cascade, it is a large-scale event triggered by some new factor that is introduced to the ecosystem, ultimately altering it in the process, most often with predator-prey relationships. The most famous example of this is the 1995 reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone national park. This was when the most public attention was given to the idea of trophic cascades; with the concept also being a very new idea, having been coined in the 1980s, twenty years after the rise of environmentalism in research and culture (slay, Rachel Carson). To summarize the events of this reintroduction, the elk of Yellowstone National Park were so numerous in numbers that they ate a large majority of the vegetation in the park, leading to less vegetation and other animal life prior to 1995. Wolves were then reintroduced to Yellowstone and began to change this by regulating the population of elk in the park. This led to increased vegetation and indeed a huge boom in biodiversity as more animals could share the resources the elk had been hogging before. With more vegetation, erosion decreased, and the structure of the river changed. 

However, the existence of trophic cascades is not exclusive to Yellowstone. Trophic cascades theoretically exist in any ecosystem where there is an apex predator. This includes of course, some of the natural ecosystems in Minnesota where the elusive Canada lynx roams. 

Canada lynx are apex predators whose range spans from Canada, of course, and the Northern United States. Canada lynx have vanished from many ecosystems in Minnesota due to housing/urban development, climate change, and correspondingly competition from bobcats who like warmer climates. 

However, lynx are crucial to the ecosystems of Minnesota in similar ways to how the wolves are important to Yellowstone. Lynx are the apex predator of many of the ecosystems here, especially in the northern part of the state. Lynx, along with wolves, another apex predator, control the population of coyotes by establishing large ranges that can not support more than one predator, being an umbrella species to a wide variety of wildlife. This benefits the general ecosystem because coyotes tend to unbalance the ecosystem as mesopredators, whereas the populations of lynx and snowshoe hares, lynx’s main prey, rises and declines together. 

In general, this is a very interesting topic that definitely needs further research! The general ecology of lynx and the ecosystems in Minnesota they ultimately benefit is an unfortunately under-researched topic. Additionally, there are, as with all good scientific topics, debates over the roles of lynx in their ecosystems. In the future, I hope to contribute to this research so we can all continue to live in a world shared by the majestic (and also adorable) Canada lynx.


Marcotty, Josephine. “Who’s on Top Shifts the Balance of Nature.” Star Tribune, 30 Aug. 2011, http://www.startribune.com/who-s-on-top-shifts-the-balance-of-nature/128705138/.

Peterson, Christine. “25 Years after Returning to Yellowstone, Wolves Have Helped Stabilize the Ecosystem.” National Geographic, 10 July 2020, http://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/article/yellowstone-wolves-reintroduction-helped-stabilize-ecosystem.

Sandraabisror. “Lynx Du Canada .Jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, 26 Oct. 2020, commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lynx_du_Canada_.jpg.

Sustainable Human. “How Wolves Change Rivers.” YouTube, 13 Feb. 2014, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ysa5OBhXz-Q.

My Vendetta Against Boxelder Bugs 

by Naomi, sophomore writing coach

Boxelder bugs: the flat, black oval bug with reddish orange markings on their back. Boxelder bugs are a North American species that get their name from primarily being around boxelder trees. As an overwintering pest, they invade homes during the fall and emerge in the spring at the end of winter. 

The root of my vendetta against boxelder bugs started pretty early on in my life. Anytime it’s warm and sunny, they will completely take over the south and west sides of my house. They also infiltrate the inside of my house and crawl over everything, so it’s extremely annoying to have them everywhere. My biggest issue with them is I think they are the most useless insects, and I don’t understand why they exist. 

First of all, boxelder bugs serve no real purpose other than being nuisance pests. Do they cause harm or transmit diseases to humans, pets, or plants? No. Do they like to eat human food and mess with people’s stuff? No. Do they bite? Also no. Are they even that important to nature?? No, they are not! According to Dr. Alyssa Anderson with WebMD, boxelder bugs are “seemingly useless. They don’t act as pollinators. They’re not — as far as we know — an absolutely necessary food source for any other animals in the food chain. In fact, large infestations can actually disrupt the lives of important pollinators and other useful insects.” So I personally don’t really see the point of them existing. When you squish them, they sometimes stain too, which is an added reason why boxelder bugs are technically an invasion of little villains sent by aliens. 

Second of all, they don’t have anything influential in society attributed to them. Ladybugs and spiders have nursery rhymes about them, and as terrible as The Bee Movie is, at least there’s that for bee representation. As for boxelder bugs, they have nothing going for them. They have no societal recognition, so generally I think they’re less important, and categorized as just annoying. 

Lastly, getting rid of boxelder bugs can be an entirely hectic process no one wants to go through. For basic prevention, you can repair and seal holes to windows and exterior entrances. However during infestations, dermestid beetles can be attracted by dead insect dovies so you should not kill them in wall voids. Sealing up entryways and electrical and light fixtures will also need to be done. If infestation is suspected, pest control should probably be called. When a call to pest control is needed, you know the situation is bad. 

So despite my intense hatred towards boxelder bugs, did I decide to dedicate my entire blog post to rant about them? Yes, ironically I did. All of my above points add to my conviction that boxelder bugs are pointless, and contribute to why I have a vendetta against them. 

Sources Referenced:

Alyssa Anderson. “What to Know about Boxelder Bugs.” WebMD, http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/what-to-know-boxelder-bugs#091e9c5e823c7a21-2-5.

“Box Elder Bugs Facts, Information, & Control.” http://www.pestworld.org, www.pestworld.org/pest-guide/occasional-invaders/boxelder-bugs/.

Potentially New Facts About New Years Eve

By Sophia Prondzinski, senior writing coach

Well, it’s almost the New Year, which means New Years Eve is even sooner! Personally, I love New Year’s Eve. It’s such a fun time that can be spent with friends and family with good food, hopeful mindsets, and lots of sparkles. Therefore, because it’s so soon, I’m gonna share some facts about New Years Eve that you can wow everyone with while you’re celebrating. 

  • Did you know that New Years celebrations date back over 4,000 years? Its large celebrations began in ancient Babylon, where large groups of people would gather, much like we do today, and set off fireworks. The goal was to bring in the New Year in an exciting way. 
  • Between 1800 and 1850, the sales for bottles of champagne increased from 300 thousand to 20 Million as it became a popular tradition to drink champagne to ring it the New Year. 
  • The ball drop in New York became the celebration in 1907, when the original celebration of fireworks was banned. 
  • In North Carolina, the Mt. Oliver Fire Department drops a 3 and half foot pickle (Picture from CBS, 2021). 
  • It’s tradition in Spain to eat 12 grapes before the New Year, one for each month. So, make sure to eat some grapes this year (but don’t give any to your dogs)! 
  • To start or change a new habit, it takes at least 66 days. However, most people who make New Year’s Resolutions quit by the end of January, which is only 31 days and therefore it ends up being un effective. Because of this, it is recommended that people start their resolutions in December so that they spend closer to 60 days forming the new habit, and they will be more motivated to continue it in the harder second half because everyone will be doing them. 
  • Cakes are another New Year’s Eve tradition, which are frequently used as a celebration in Greece, Mexico, and the Netherlands. Round cakes are meant to symbolize the year coming full circle. Some people will also put trinkets in the cake and if you’re lucky enough to get a slice with one in it, it’s meant to mean you will have good luck in the New Year. 
  • Though it’s a little cold to do this here in Minnesota, in the Philippines, on New Years Eve they open all the windows and doors to rid the house of negative energy so they can begin the New Year on a positive note. 

So there you have it! Some information about New Years Eve that you can whip out at whatever celebration you attend. You also now have a cool version of the “ball” drop to watch. And if those don’t work, you can always use the classic “See you next year!” and leave early.

Mr. Claus’s Crimes

By Joey Martinez, junior writing coach

As the legend has it, every year late on Christmas Eve, a fat jolly fellow dubbed Santa Claus delivers presents to children who finished out the year on his “nice list.” While the presents are nice, they obscure the fact that this program that Mr. Claus has been running is illegal. So illegal, in fact, that I have compromised a list of Santa’s worst crimes:

  • Human Trafficking

Even before Christmas even starts, Santa Claus already has a criminal record. It is well known that there is a colony of elves that live with Santa and create the presents. However, there is no indication that the elves’ get paid well, are able to leave the North Pole freely, or have basic human rights.

  • Flying in Restricted Airspace

Once Christmas Eve rolls around and it is time for Santa to deliver presents, he utilizes a sleigh that travels through the air. In order to reach everyone’s houses, Santa would be flying in multiple countries’ restricted airspace as an unidentified flying object.

  • Animal Cruelty

To pull his sleigh, Santa utilizes a band of eight reindeer. During the flight, these reindeer have to fly through different extreme weather conditions to reach every nice kid’s house.

  • Trespassing

For those who want presents, Santa sliding down the chimney and entering homes may not be a crime. However, it can be argued that parents and kids alike on the naughty list do not want a stranger breaking in to deliver them coal, thus making Mr. Claus a trespasser.

  • Stalking

Speaking of the naughty list, keeping a watchful eye on every child, unbeknownst to them, is illegal. It’s also arguably even worse that his stalking involves minors.