Author: Caroline Bressman

Do-it-yourself holiday crafts inspire seasonal merriment

Being away from home during the holiday season can create mixed feelings of homesickness and nostalgia. Tiny dorm rooms can seem like frozen cells in the middle of Siberia, despite the excitement of upcoming festivities. So why not brighten up your dorm room with these fun holiday crafts? The following ideas are simple ways to add charm and winter cheer to your room and kickstart some new holiday traditions.

No. 1: The Christmas Tree

Although an eight-foot evergreen tree is not realistic in a campus dorm room, you don’t need to ditch the idea entirely. A downsized version still creates a festive and personal touch.


One wooden stick of desired length

Pipe cleaners try a sparkling white color for a snowy effect


One small drill or screwdriver to bore holes

One small candle holder

How-to: Drill tiny holes into the wooden stick and insert pipe cleaners as “branches,” placing shorter lengths at the top and longer lengths at the bottom. Slide beads onto the pipe cleaners as ornaments. Mount the tree in a small candle holder and fill with beads, coffee beans or anything else appropriate.

Via Better Homes and Gardens

No. 2: The Ornaments

Want to bring the outdoors inside, but don’t want to deal with the mess? These tiny nature ornaments do just the trick. You can take creative license with these globes and fill them with other arrangements, too.


Clear glass ornaments

Natural sprigs, leaves, holly, etc.

Craft glue


How-to: Remove the cap from a clear ornament. Use craft glue to adhere sprigs inside the cap and let dry. Carefully screw the cap back onto the ornament. Tie a length of ribbon around the cap top to hang from your dorm window, lofted bed or doorknob.

Via Better Homes and Gardens

No. 3: The Wreath

This wreath adds a great touch to the front of your dorm door. You can use ornaments according to your own taste and easily switch out shapes.


One wire hanger

Assorted metal ornaments approximately 80

Hot glue gun


How-to: Bend the wire hanger into a large circle, leaving the hook at the top. Secure the metal caps of the ornaments by applying hot glue to the closures. Untwist the end of the hanger and string ornaments one at a time. Use various sizes to fill in gaps and distribute colors. Tie a ribbon around the hanger hook and then hang on your dorm door.

Via Eddie Ross

No. 4: The Lights

Most college students already have the standard Christmas light strings in their dorm rooms. Containing them in vases adds a soft glow, and they can be used year-round. Best of all, you can cluster assorted vase sizes together to add more light.


Assorted frosted glass vases or other vase varieties

Christmas light strands one per vase


Double-sided tape

How-to: Affix a length of ribbon around the bottom of each vase with double-sided tape. Loosely arrange one light strand in each vase, allowing the plug to poke out of the back end. To add variety, try lining tissue paper on the inside of each vase to add a different-colored glow.

Via Martha Stewart

No. 5: The Snowflakes

The oldest decoration in the book is the paper snowflake. However, these pipe cleaner snowflakes add durability and simplicity to the traditional decoration.


Wire cutter or scissors

White pipe cleaners

Needlenose pliers


Craft glue

How-to: Use wire cutter or scissors to cut three 6-inch, six 2.5-inch, six 2-inch and six 1.5-inch pieces of pipe cleaner. Twist the 6-inch pieces together at the midpoints to create a spoke. Tighten twists with pliers. Twist 2.5-inch pieces at the center of each spoke and tighten with pliers. Toward each of the last spoke’s tip, twist a 2-inch piece and tighten with pliers. Toward the end of the 2-inch piece spokes, twist a 1.5-inch piece and tighten. Use craft glue to adhere a piece of ribbon onto a snowflake end to hang.

Via Martha Stewart

Check out the Manitou Messenger website, for links to these projects!

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Two worlds collide with release of Windows 8

As Americans’ lives become more hectic and complicated, technology is expected to keep pace. Keeping this notion in mind, Microsoft recently launched Windows 8, a system that seeks to bring a personalized format to the traditional PC. One of the major changes heralded in this launch was the improvement of its tablet system, which includes a touch screen and a convertible body. Other upgrades feature a sleeker user interface and user-friendly applications.

According to the Microsoft News Center, CEO Steve Ballmer stated, “We have reimagined Windows and the result is a stunning lineup of new PCs. Windows 8 brings together the best of the PC and the tablet. It works perfect [sic] for work and play, and it is alive with your world.”

Although these updates seem innovative, Microsoft has been working on this technology for years. At my all-girls Catholic high school in Nebraska, sophomores through seniors were required to own or rent a laptop. Each year, the technology department strongly recommended a model to be purchased through the school, and my year had an HP tablet laptop model circa 2008. These computers were some of the earliest models for tablet systems, and although they didn’t have a touch screen, one could write with a stylus after swiveling the screen onto the keyboard.

After the initial shock of the innovative technology, the problems of the system quickly became apparent. Even for the most careful users, the flimsy hinge connecting the screen and the keyboard easily broke when converting to tablet mode. The laptop had difficulty changing screen orientations when converted to the tablet or upright position. The stylus could be fickle, and OneNote, the program that held handwritten notes and allowed stylus activity, was not very compatible with Microsoft Word and other essential software. Needless to say, my high school graduation gift was a MacBook Pro.

Several years later, Microsoft has corrected these glitches and abandoned the stylus for touch-controlled technology. Now, the laptop screen can completely separate from the keyboard, allowing a distinct boundary between those who prefer tablets and those who prefer traditional laptops. The best of both worlds is available to the pickiest of laptop users.

The tablet form for portable computers is not only creative, but also practical; it has a user-friendly and accessible interface in a form that is perfect for on-the-go businesspeople or students. If one is just using a laptop to read and complete some light writing, then the tablet form is definitely a convenient option.

However, this is not to say that traditional laptops, or even home computers, are obsolete. Extensive writing, photo editing and other daily computer activities are often incompatible, or impossible, with a tablet form. When using a tablet, one is at the mercy of a website’s ability to function smoothly on a touch screen, or one needs to find the appropriate app. Many popular websites and software programs are offering app versions, but using them requires a loss of flexibility.

Traditional laptop computers are far from becoming obsolete. Tablets and laptops offer different possibilities for a wider consumer range. In today’s economy, the American people are selective about what they are buying, and they want the most personalized product for the best price. One can only imagine how technology will transform in the next five years.

Caroline Bressman ’15 is from Omaha, Neb. She majors in English.

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Lyric Theater showcases American opera

On the evenings of Oct. 19 and 20, the St. Olaf music department presented Kurt Weill’s “Street Scene” in Urness. Directed by Associate Professor of Music Janis Hardy and Associate Dean of Fine Arts Dan Dressen, the opera was selected for the Lyric Theater program’s annual fall show.

Kerry Auer ’13, Chris Mode ’13, Katie Miller ’14, Devin Hair ’13, Annie Deering ’13, Maria Coyne ’15 and Alice Berry ’14 were featured in leading roles alongside a live orchestra.

The 1946 show is an “American opera” in two acts. It may not be a traditional German or French opera, but the plot tackles heavy themes intermixed with scenes of comic relief. Focused on a multi-ethnic Manhattan neighborhood during a hot spell, characters clash when confronted with gossip and become entangled in love affairs. The jarringly realistic imagery addresses extramarital affairs, the role of family, alienation in the modern world and liberty.

The score, with lyrics by Langston Hughes, includes challenging melodies that require vocal endurance. It gracefully intermixes poignantly deep pieces such as “Lonely House” and playful tunes such as “Ice Cream Sextet.” Although they require trained operatic voices, the songs are inspired by the jazz music of the early 20th century.

“Kurt Weill took operatic arias and other ‘foreign’ musical characteristics and referenced them throughout the show,” Hair said. “Not only does he reference them, but he then uses blues and jazz ideas to color and mix those cultural pieces.”

The performance was well-received by the student body. Memorable performances included sassy, expressive child actors and gossipy middle-aged women.

Hair said that “Street Scene” was a great choice for St. Olaf. “I think it was about time that St. Olaf produced a true American opera,” he said. “The Italian, German and French operas are wonderful and many Americans can connect to them, but ‘Street Scene’ was written to connect with the American people and not just opera enthusiasts.”

The show included such diverse themes and musical elements that it was enjoyable for music students and non-music students alike.

Coyne agreed that the show plays on diverse elements, which added an extra challenge for the performers. “The music for this show is really tricky because it doesn’t quite fit into one category: opera, jazz, musical theatre. It’s sort of a collage of all the genres, which is very unique. However, it made learning the music pretty difficult because of the combination of crazy jazz harmonies and operatic-level difficulty to begin with.”

Despite the many struggles that come with producing an opera, the show proved to be as enjoyable for the actors as the audience.

“It is no secret to the rest of the cast that I absolutely adore the Ice Cream Sextet,” Hair said. “Even though I’m not in the song I find it to be one of the most creative and fun pieces of the show.”

Coyne enjoyed her role as well. “I’d say my favorite part of the show was the fact that I got to eat ice cream on stage and play with a puppy on and off stage. What could be better?” she said.

All of the actors performed exceptionally and appreciated the opportunity to bond with other music students. Besides being a wonderful way to improve musically, the performers formed strong friendships.

“It is rare that you are able to have a cast of such talent and amazing personalities,” Hair said. “Everyone really gave it all to this production, and I can’t imagine doing the performance again without one of them.”

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Football dominates Hamline in 48-14 win

The St. Olaf football team defeated Hamline University 48-14 at Hamline’s Klas Field on Oct. 6. The Oles are currently 5-1 overall and 4-1 in MIAC play.

In the first quarter, running back Michael Thai ’14 ran for a 49-yard touchdown that set the tone for the rest of the game. Ben Dobson ’13, Reggie Woods ’13 and Chad Curry ’16 each made interceptions in the second quarter. Woods set up the final score in the second quarter with a 32-yard return. At 14 seconds left in the first half, quarterback Dan Dobson ’13 connected with Jake Schmiesing ’13 to place the Oles above the Pipers 31-7.

Throughout the game, Stephen Asp ’14 had two catches, each touchdowns, and Schmiesing had three. Dobson played impressively with three touchdowns on 10-of-13 passing. He also rushed for 84 yards on seven carries, a season record. Lucas Wainman ’16 made two successful field goals, including the Oles’ final score.

Although the victory was expected, the Oles still worked hard for a significant lead.

“The lead allowed some of our younger players to get [the ball] which is always fun to see,” Ben Dobson said.

Also, the team strived to rely on each other and “trust that each member of the defensive and the offensive did his job,” Woods said.

Head Coach Jerry Olszewski was pleased with what the team brought to the game. The offense brought enough pressure and worked on getting the ball out of its hands as quickly as possible, he said. Similarly, the defense worked to bring an option game.

“The boys were on task and never looked back. They’re getting better week by week,” Olszewski said.

Olszewski urged St. Olaf students to represent their school and be more engaged in sporting events. “Every week is the biggest game of the year,” he said.

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Kim Potowski urges attitude change toward language diversity

On Thursday, Sept. 27, St. Olaf hosted Dr. Kim Potowski of the University of Illinois at Chicago to speak in Viking Theater. Potowski has a long list of outstanding credentials, including her titles as associate professor of linguistics at the university, executive editor of Spanish In Context and director of the Heritage Language Cooperative in Chicago. She has advocated for Multilingual Chicago, a grassroots effort to symbolically declare the city as multilingual, despite Illinois’s official status as an English-only state. Additionally, Potowski received a Fulbright Teaching Grant for the academic year 2011-2012 in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Potowski’s talk, titled “When ‘Foreign’ Languages Aren’t Foreign: The Value of Heritage Speakers in the United States,” centered on the importance of a multilingual community. Potowski argued that linguistic diversity in this nation is not a problem; rather, it is a resource. She recognizes the need for English proficiency in minority groups, but asserts that the U.S. should preserve the right to maintain heritage languages.

To begin her argument, Potowski defined a “heritage speaker” as a person who “grew up in a household with exposure to a minority language,” which Potowski referred to as a Language Other Than English LOTE. To give the audience a grasp of the United States’s multilingual richness, Potowski cited a few statistics, noting that approximately 330 different languages are spoken in U.S. homes today. Not surprisingly, English is the primary language spoken at home for 82 percent of Americans. Spanish is second at 12 percent. Subsequent languages, in order of frequency, are Chinese, Tagalog, French and Vietnamese.

Potowski explained that many Americans are not aware that no law requires that English is the official language of the U.S. Instead, local and regional law dictates an official language, if any. By 2010, 28 states had declared English as their official language, and only Hawaii, Louisiana and New Mexico legally protected bilingualism.

Potowski then argued that declaring English as an official national language is “unnecessary, punitive, useless, divisive, inconsistent and self-defeating.” She said that the English language is not in danger, and that the act of declaring it the official language only restricts the government’s ability to communicate effectively. Furthermore, Potowski believes that such a sanction is a violation of the freedom of speech.

Many Americans complain that immigrants “refuse” to learn English or that they simply are not learning it quickly enough to integrate into American society. In fact, immigrants are learning English at a faster pace than ever, and no other country has been able to shift as quickly to monolingualism as the U.S.

Potowski used more statistics to prove her point – after zero to five years, 20 percent of children age 14 or younger have learned English. Sixty-five percent of foreign-born LOTE speakers are proficient in English and 35 percent of similar LOTE speakers have limited proficiency. Many LOTE speakers know more English than they realize, though.

“I think that if people hear an accent, they assume that someone can’t speak English,” Potowski said.

Many English as a Second Language programs are available in the U.S., but according to Potowski there are inherent problems in the system. Sixty percent of these programs in 12 states have waiting lists that last from a couple of months to several years. Additionally, conflicts with work, childcare or cultural traditions may stand in the way of attending classes.

Potowski even cited President Obama’s remark that Americans shouldn’t worry about immigrants learning English but rather ensure that American children learn foreign languages. ABC News reported Obama saying, “All we can say is ‘merci beaucoup.’ We should be emphasizing foreign languages in our schools from an early age.” According to Potowski, who wrote a letter to President Obama after he made these remarks, it is essential that the government appoint a cabinet member whose sole job is to implement effective second-language learning in schools.

How can the U.S. help new immigrants learn English while preserving their heritage? Potowski outlined three methods: the use of a truly bilingual immersion program for kindergarten through eighth graders, the offering of courses specifically for heritage speakers in high schools and universities and community programs such as Saturday heritage schools. Studies show that if LOTE speakers are immersed in both their native tongues and in English, their English skills actually improve more than if they only learn English.

“It is in our best interest that these individuals be well-educated,” Potowski said. As questions opened after the talk, students were curious as to which government officials were listening to this information. When Potowski admitted that no special advocacy groups were formed to tackle this issue, one student responded, “That’s awkward.”

Perhaps St. Olaf students can carry the torch to achieve concrete progress in this important issue.

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