Amherst Life Blog

Welcome to the Amherst Life Blog! Here we will be posting information on activities, events, arts, community concerns, local business, and a variety of other topics related to life in Amherst, Massachusetts. If you are new to the area and looking for housing, please check out our other blog too ------------>> Amherst Housing Blog ::.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

UMass Abuses its Email System (again)

This morning the following email was sent out to what appears to be every graduate and undergraduate student at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst:

May 28, 2008


This is your last chance to take advantage of the 20% discount available for the new 8gb Apple iPod nano video. Orders will be accepted at this special price until next Friday. Shipments can be delivered to either your home or school address. You also have the option to have this product sent as a gift to friends or family members. Orders are limited to 3 iPods per person. Please visit the online shopping system below before next Friday if you wish to take advantage of this offer. Have a great summer!


Carly R.
Student Rep


The ANSWER: whoever is getting paid to allow it, whoever is getting a commission based on clicks to the site ("Carly R." had a url address under "her" name that we decided to not include ), whoever is getting a commission on the total sales. Are we really to believe that UMass officials are simply "looking out for the students"?

--Mr. D, look, what a great deal on ipods! We should just let the students know so they can get that great deal. Oh how they love their ipods so! Such a beautiful discount to mark the beginning of their summer.

--Mr. Y [excuse the gender construct], why, what a thoughtful idea. Splendid indeed. They will adore it!

WE THINK NOT. Rather, we think it goes something like:

--Mr. D, if we disseminate this information to 35,000 people and make sure that the email arrives in their INBOX and not their SPAM folders that are designed to catch this kind of sleezy marketing strategy (imagine "Carly R." doesn't even get a last-name!!) we have the possibility of earning 10% on sales, $2/click to "Carly R.'s" webpage, and we can track who clicks when so we know who to send future ads to. That's nearly a million dollars in revenue.


So who is to blame for this? Someone high up at UMass. Who is making the money? Obviously not some "Carly R." (and could they at least have the decency to give "her" a last name?) By not giving her a last name they are announcing to the student body that folks on our campus are stupid -- not only are they covering up some UMass scam (we'd be willing to bet that someone in OIT designed the ipod page that "Carly R." represents), we the students are dumb enough to think that 1.) "Carly R." exists, 2.) that "Carly R." is the sleezy marketing trickster who somehow got approved by UMass officials to be able to send out a massive email, 3.) that "Carly R." isn't really "The People in Power at UMass-Amherst"

To summarize: those in power are making money off of the students AND calling them dumb. What should we do about this?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Best Summer Spanish Course Around!!!

Here's your chance to take a course with one of the top language instructors from the UMass Languages. Literatures, and Cultures Department. It is run through Continuing Education at UMass-Amherst.

Learn Spanish and have fun!
Intermediate Spanish I

The Spanish instructor, Carmen Cosme, is
promising a Summer class full of colors and fla-
vors with less book assessments and more real
life situation activities to get you ready for the
real Spanish speaking world. You will learn cul-
ture from the Caribbean and the rest of hispanic
countries. Expect a lot of Music, short films,
games, food and dance.

What: Spanish 230-Session I
Class number: 60745
When: June 2 to July 10
Where: Herter Hall 206-UMass-Amherst
Time: MTUWTHF 9:30 -11:00 AM
Enroll now:

Things to do in Amherst

If you are here for the summer or passing through, here is a list of things to do:

--Robert Frost Trail
--Emily Dickinson Museum
--Amherst Historical Society
--Take the Bike Trail to the Connecticut River
--Jazz on Thursday's at Amherst Coffee
--Tuesday Night Salsa, Merengue, Bachata at the Iron Horse in Northampton
--Friday night Salsa, Merengue, Bachata at the Veteran's Club in Hadley on Route 9
--Puffers Pond

Let us know your favorite spots and hang-outs by posting comments below!

Islam in Amherst

Seeking the Face of Islam in Amherst
by Niina Heikkinen

Sometimes I wonder if I have an FBI file. I wonder if someone monitors my phone and Internet conversations to evaluate how I as a female, 20 year old Catholic college student could be a threat to this nation. You may think that I am having delusions of grandeur. Well, you might be right. But what if I told you that every day I talk online with Muslim friends from Afghanistan? That changes things, doesn’t it? Bring up the words Muslim or Islam in this country and you will get a variety of reactions. Some people will immediately think of war, extremism, terrorists.

For others, these words provide images of comfort, faith and community. I fell somewhere in the middle, slightly wary of a religion in which women appeared to exist in a second tier, but knowing that extremism is exactly that--an extreme part of religion which emphasizes the importance of peace and non-violence.

My own exploration of Islam started on the bookshelves of the Jones Library. I read: My name is Iran, Kite Runner, A Thousand Splendid Suns, Bliss, and Prisoner of Tehran. I plodded through a dense book on early Islamic history to learn about Mohammed, his first followers and to understand the difference between being Sunni or Shia. My reading was eclectic and not strictly about religion. Yet through the stories, both real and fictional I started to build a new picture of what it means to be Muslim.

There is only so much that you can learn from books. I needed to experience Islam. An opportunity to do this presented itself in the middle of October when the Muslim Students Association hosted an Eid celebration at the UMass campus center. Eid marks the end of Ramadan’s forty days of fasting: during Eid, Muslims break their fast together, celebrate with friends and family, and reflect on how the lessons of Ramadan can be carried out throughout the year. Sitting at a candlelit table with a group of Muslim women, I had the unusual feeling of being a minority, this is what it must be like to be Muslim in Christian America.

One day, one of the officers of the Muslim Students Association invited me to attend one of the Friday prayer services that are hosted by the club. What better way to learn about Islam? I felt like I was doing something elicit as I headed to the basement of the campus center. I found the prayer room easily but then I stood frozen for ten minutes before I gathered the courage to go in.

The first thing I noticed as I walked in was the set-up of the room. Men prayed in the front, sitting, standing or kneeling on long strips of white cloth, arranged at a diagonal so that they would be praying east, towards Mecca. I counted thirty men altogether. There were two rows set up towards the back of the room for the eight women present, but most chose to sit against the back wall. Part of the prayer was in Arabic, but everything is translated into English so I could follow what was happening. If I closed my eyes I could imagine myself sitting in the Newman Center, listening to Catholic priest instead of a Muslim student leading the prayer.

Islam is not nearly as foreign as I expected. Attending the Muslim prayer service, I felt the same calm that I do when I attend Mass. How do I reconcile this feeling with the suspicion that Islam generates in this country? My search for the true face of Islam continues.
Niina Heikkinen is a student in the Commonwealth College Honor's Program at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. We are grateful for her contribution to the Amherst Life Blog and look forward to reading more of her work. Please post any comments or questions for Ninna below.

Tai Chi in Amherst!

inner arts
Tai Chi
Internal Kung Fu for Health & Self-Defense
with Jeff Felberbaum

Ongoing classes in Amherst & Hadley
Group & private instruction
Discount for UMass students & employees.
Sliding scale available

(413) 210-0999

inner peace inner strength vibrant health

A need for smaller shuttles in Amherst

We've been away for some time now, but Amherst Life is back and writing. Today's post is about the need for more local transportation: shuttles, affordable taxis, and carpool boards. We need it. Gas is about to hit $4/gallon and will go up during the summer, we are contaminating our air and water supply at an alarming rate, and it is time to make some changes.

We propose the following: cut PVTA service and use the money to invest in hybrid vans. Far too often we see two or three students in one of the enormous PVTA busses.

Some hard-working soul could find funds to subsidize an affordable taxi service so that people don't even NEED to own cars in the Valley.

And last, carpooling boards could go up on masslive and umass sites (end even here on amherst life). The trick is to work in familiar networks so rider safety does not become an issue.

Well, we hope our ideas will help. As always, we welcome your comments!