Tagged: Amira Francis

Does the future of affordable Boston living lie in miniatures?

An example of what a microunit could be. This one is in the Museum of the City of New York. Cute, right?/ IMAGE VIA mcny.org

An example of what a micro-unit could be. This mock-micro-unit is currently an exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York. Cute, right?/ IMAGE VIA mcny.org

By Amira Francis

According to a story by CBS Boston, Mayor Menino told business leaders he wants to create 30,000 new housing units in the next seven years. He intends for these housing units to be something called micro-units.

Micro-units are defined as small 350-500 square feet living spaces. From what it looks like, they are pretty much one-to-two-room living spaces. And they’re cheap.

What do you think, Boston?

As a student about to emerge into the very expensive life of urban-living while simultaneously trying to jumpstart my career, I heartily applaud the decision to implement these buildings. The ones in East Boston could cost as little as $550 per month. Now, the living spaces themselves are pretty small. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be stylish at the same time. Here  is an example of a New York micro-unit. Cute, right?

I have a feeling that micro-units, despite their small size, won’t feel that much smaller than an apartment. Everything will feel much more…compact, absolutely. But, as you can see from the picture, there is still plenty of room to give the sensation of having space. Since some of the already-existing apartments in Boston are pretty small, I figure micro-units shouldn’t be that much of a change (except in price). And hey! Let’s look at some of the practical benefits of micro-units.

Less room to lose your stuff: It should be pretty easy to find everything that seems to disappear all of the time.

More opportunity to get cozy with your friends: Smaller space, smaller amount of personal room. Prepare to get cozy. (Okay, granted, this can be a plus or a minus, depending on who you have over).

More motivation to clean your place: When you need to leap over the small amount of floor space filled to get to your bed instead of just stepping around it, like in a normal apartment, you probably won’t ignore it for as long.

Less money spent on decoration: You won’t need as much furniture to fill up all of the unwanted space in your apartment. Who needs all of that room anyways?

Overall, micro-units seem like an easy, comfortable way to be able to pay rent while living in the city. For all of us young, soon-to-be professionals who are trying to get on our feet and into the high-paying world we dream of, it gives us an opportunity to live in style while not throwing all of our money away on rent. Thank you, Mayor Menino.


Boston’s response to accusations of “playing ‘big city'”

By Amira Francis

Who says Boston's not a legitimate 'big city'? We even have an awesome skyline/ PHOTO VIA futureboston.wordpress.com

Who says Boston’s not a legitimate ‘big city’? We even have an awesome skyline./ PHOTO VIA futureboston.wordpress.com

“Pretty Cute Watching Boston Residents Play Daily Game of ‘Big City,” is the bold title of a new article  from the satirical news organization, The Onion.

Does this make your blood boil, Bostonians?!

Or are you an original New Yorker who reads the satirical piece with a knowing smile on your face?

The article chuckles at Boston residents, portraying them kind of like little kids in a make-believe playground as the older, more responsible citizens of America watch on. While The Onion is just poking fun, as it usually does, is there a ring of truth behind its words?

You know – maybe the huge cities like New York and Los Angeles just resent us for having all the benefits of a big city while maintaining the lovely coziness of a small town. There are benefits to living in Boston. Okay, okay, our nightlife is no New York City nightlife.  We aren’t constantly abuzz with people, and our streets aren’t filled with celebrities like LA’s streets are. But there are some pretty cool things about Boston. I wouldn’t say we are pretending to be a big city, but rather that we are a unique one, a hybrid of small-town-life and busy-city-thrill. For example:

  1. We have the large buildings and busy streets of a big city, without the filth. In fact, Forbes rated Boston the 10th cleanest city in the world in 2007 (tied with Lexington). Take that, New York.
  2. We have a convenient, easy-to-use subway system that transports you all around Boston with relatively no hassle. It has a color code that’s easy to understand and maps to help you along the way. And soon it may be running past midnight into the wee hours of the morning! (Okay, don’t poke fun. We’re getting there. We’re revamping our nightlife transportation, I promise. Boston will soon have a thriving, busy nightlife.)
  3. The music on Boston’s streets and in the T station is usually great. You never fear being stuck in the T station for too long because there is some pretty fantastic music keeping you entertained, oftentimes by very talented local college students. Which brings me to my last point…
  4. Boston is one of the biggest college cities you will ever come across. I know, you’ve heard it before. But really– the amount of college kids in the city keeps the town abuzz with a crisp energy. Everyone in Boston is learning something, eager to build their future, and excited to meet people and make friends. And while the majority of Boston may seem to fall under a younger demographic, it doesn’t stop it from being any less diverse. You can come across many different cultures in the hub.

So whether you’re a Bostonian who needed a little bit of a pick-me-up because you were down about your favorite city, or a hard New Yorker who needed a bit convincing, read this and know that Boston has some pretty fantastic things about it. For the record, the Onion’s article made me laugh. But I still refuse to admit there’s any truth behind the words.

When food attacks

By Amira Francis

More and more foods are being produced that are safe for those with certain food allergies and intolerances to consume/ PHOTO VIA Flickr user NomadicLass

Have you ever thought about glucose? I have. In fact, for about three months, that’s pretty much all I’ve been thinking about. After displaying several worrisome symptoms for about six months or so, I knew I had to change something. Constant fatigue, on-and-off depression, and brain fog obstructed my ability to function as a freshman in college. I mean, they would probably affect you no matter where you are in life. So I decided to take action.

My doctor took a few blood tests and the results showed slight insulin resistance. It’s a precursor to glucose intolerance, she told me. Which is a precursor to diabetes. Cut out glucose, she said.

Glucose is essentially sugar. It is a main source of energy, and is absorbed directly into your bloodstream, instantly raising your blood sugar levels.

Cutting it out of my diet was even harder than you might think. Do you know how many foods have glucose in it? A lot. No more pasta. No more cake, bread, bagels, muffins. No alcohol and no processed meats. Oh, and no sugar.

Food allergies and intolerances have been getting a lot of media attention lately. Besides glucose, gluten also seems to be becoming a bigger problem as well. Gluten is in fewer things than glucose. It’s primarily found in barley, wheat, rye and their derivative foods. More and more, you find cafeterias with gluten-free stations (Boston University dining halls, anyone?) and restaurants that have gluten-free food options. It’s fantastic that restaurants and other food places are trying to accommodate those with gluten problems, but the fact that they need to do that in order to stay modernized lets you know that gluten really is becoming more of a problem. New York Times published an article on Saturday outlining a couple of studies that startled those who examine gluten autoimmune disorders.

In the study, they focus on Celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder where the gluten in foods causes the body to turn on itself and attack the small intestine. Basically (and you should probably read the study for yourself), the causes of gluten disorders (and other auto-immune disorders, such as diabetes) are becoming more and more convoluted. Is it genetic? Does it have to do with microbes? Bacteria? How often did you come into contact with gluten when you were a baby? Maybe all of the above have some sort of influence on it? It’s a mystery that begs to be solved.

For the time being, those who are lucky enough to have avoided these autoimmune disorders should enjoy the delicious breads and sugars while you can. For those of you who have some sort of glucose or gluten intolerance?  It might be time to lay low on your favorite foods. Or at least, be mindful. That’s what I’m doing. Although, for me, it’s hard to stay away from glucose (which I am supposed to avoid) completely. I’ll still take my pasta and bagels on occasion, thank you very much.

LOL Thursday: Harlem reacts to the ‘Harlem Shake’

By Amira Francis, Staff Writer

I’m sure you’ve heard of the latest dance move gone viral, ‘The Harlem Shake.’ But what’s equally as entertaining as watching thousands of people making dancing fools of themselves on the Internet? Watching Harlem’s reaction to the dance.

Five minutes of pure gold ensue as Harlem residents pick apart all of the wannabe-Harlem shakers. And c’mon… aren’t we all kind of wannabe Harlem-shakers? Even if you haven’t attempted the dance, I’m sure you’ve spent time laughing at all of the remakes.

But back to the reaction video. First of all, their faces give away their distaste for the imitation dance. You don’t even have to listen to what they’re saying. The first screenshot of the guy with the absolutely puzzled face sums up the video perfectly. These residents? They are shocked. Horrified. Disgusted.

Oh, and then there are the consistently annoyed comments:

“Find a new hobby,” said one viewer.

“Stop your bullsh*t,” said another.

Though the video starts with disbelief, it ends in genuine loathing from the residents of Harlem.

They hate us.

And may I say, with good reason. How would Boston residents react if a silly-stupid ‘Boston Shake’ emerged nationwide?

And then the residents describe what this version of the Shake looks like in these homemade videos.

“That’s not the harlem shake at all, that’s humping,” said one alarmed resident.

“No good,” decided another.

One man said it looked like “Zombies going crazy.”

Sooo…do you feel ashamed yet? All I know is: if you’re one of those famous dancers in the ‘Harlem Shake’ YouTube video, you should consider taking the advice of Harlemites and “Stop that sh*t.”

Check out Harlem’s reaction here:


Bullying of LGBTQ students: less frequent in college?

By Amira Francis, Staff Writer

Does bullying of gay and bisexual students diminish after the transition from high school to college? Recent studies discussed by the Associated Press say yes, it does. So my question to a handful of BU students was: what is your experience with this at BU? Hopefully, this video opens the discussion up for more debate:


The T to extend hours

By Amira Francis, Staff Writer

What will a late-night T mean for Boston's many college students?/PHOTO VIA bostinno.com

What will a late-night T mean for Boston’s many college students?/PHOTO VIA bostinno.com

Boston has been clamoring for T changes for quite awhile now and, (hopefully) the Department of Transportation will be making those changes in the near future. Every student’s dream has finally come true: late night T rides back home on the weekends instead of travelling the distance by foot. Finally! No longer will you have to leave the party early so that you can catch the train.

What will this do for Boston? Personally, I think it will mean a huge boost for the quality of Boston’s nightlife. I’m under 21 so I don’t really have any perspective on the clubs and bars of Boston, but I can tell you that walking around the streets of Boston late at night can be not only depressing, but at times, unsettling. There aren’t a lot of people out and about, there aren’t a lot of shops or even food places open. It may be a stretch to say this, but: maybe later T operating hours will encourage all of Boston to stay open late at night. Maybe, someday, Boston will be a thriving nightlife metropolis. Like Chicago. Or New York. (Okay, dream big.)

Not only will late night T hours make Boston more fun to travel through at night, but it will also make Boston a lot safer. Of course, it probably won’t affect criminals in any direct way, but it will give you an opportunity to take the T home rather than wandering through some of the more dangerous streets around. And with all of the stabbings, shootings and robberies – I’m sure everyone will appreciate a chance to avoid getting attacked on the walk home.

In addition to the extended operating hours, the Department of Transportation is also using 2.4 billion dollars over the next 10 years to replace train cars and 850 million dollars to replace buses. I have high hopes for Boston as a changing city. Boston is known as a city marked by its history, but hopefully, within the next 10 years, we can encourage the change needed to help keep Boston up-to-date. Chicago and New York are great, but if Boston has the history, culture, and nightlife? I think there will be no comparison.

Obama’s inauguration speech: important points

By Amira Francis, Staff Writer

If I had to describe Barack Obama’s inauguration speech, one of the first words that comes to mind is: bold (right along with “liberal”). The president addressed many controversial issues in his speech on Monday, including themes such as climate change, gay rights, and immigration. I respect when a president takes more of a forceful stance on issues that he believes in, whatever they may be.
There may be a reason for this sudden forcefulness. There of course will be no re-election for Obama during the next presidential election because of the two-term limit. And – I say this with no judgment – it’s natural for a president to be very cautious of where he stands on some issues if he is angling to get re-elected. It’s the curse of the politician. So I have a feeling that we will start to see the president take stronger standpoints these next four years than the previous ones. His inauguration speech was a taste of that. It did not shy away from the controversial topics that are part of public discourse.

One of the most powerful lines of his speech on Monday might have been this one, addressing gay rights:

“Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.” – President Obama

I’m sure many hearts soared when they heard the president deliver that line on Monday. I’m also sure there were many indignant cries from some conservative . Apparently, it was the first time a president has ever used the word “gay ” in an inaugural address. This reflects the very bold and progressive nature of his speech.

Another surprise was when the president addressed climate change –yet another controversial topic.

“We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult.” -President Obama

I was impressed by his very direct address of the heavily debated issue, especially because there are so many people who reject the notion that it even exists, making it a prime target for ridicule.

Obama also discussed immigration. He made it clear that he is pro-immigration – of course, not illegal immigration – and that he wants to welcome foreigners into America.

“Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country.” – President Obama 

The president addressed yet another interesting point: Equal pay for women, an issue that is often overlooked.

“It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts.” – President Obama 

President Obama’s speech was a strong foreshadowing of what is to come. He aims his words at a younger America and, as a result, it seems likely that there will be change. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing is up for you to decide.


By Amira Francis, Staff Writer

Your college drinking habits could set the stage for the rest of your life.

Your college drinking habits could set the stage for the rest of your life/IMAGE VIA nutritionistics.wordpress.com

Let’s talk alcohol. Sitting in my room, shuffling through article after article on the Internet, I stumble upon a title that shouts the name of my home-away-from-home: “Boston again ranked America’s drunkest city.” 

Drinking. The never-ending quarrel between you and your parents. The  passionate debate between two parties who both feel their ideal regulations must be implemented.  The activity that occupies many a college students’ weekend nights.

After developing a few questions about college drinking culture, I consulted Archie Brodsky. Brodsky is an alcohol specialist who has co-authored several books, including Love and Addiction and The Truth About Addiction and Recovery.

Though drinking is often dismissed as innocent and casual it can also be very damaging.

“America has always had an uneasy relationship with intoxicating substances. In the United States unfortunately, the Northern European model has predominated over the Southern European and Asian model of more sensible drinking and viewing alcohol as one of life’s mild pleasures that may lubricate social interactions, but not something that should be allowed to get out of hand. If we had adapted the latter, we would be better off,” Brodsky said.

What exactly is the Northern European model, you ask? It’s something called a Temperance approach – regulatory actions and attitudes that urge less drinking and promote the idea that drinking is bad. This, however, can actually be detrimental to society in terms of alcohol abuse.

“The cultural attitudes that lead to abusive drinking or abstinence are an all-or-none attitude towards alcohol. People are taken up with the view of alcohol as this all-powerful substance that can just take over your mind and control your behavior.

Now, people may see that in a positive way, that they’re looking for some kind of oblivion or looking for some kind of potion that gives them power in life, and enables them to feel as if they are great, as if they are all-powerful, and naturally if people feel that way or are looking for some kind of escape, like regularly drowning their sorrows, then they get into a cycle where they drink more and more, in seeking this escape or oblivion, and they become addicted,” Brodsky said.

This type of drinking is often reflected in college life. Admit it, you probably don’t look at drinking as a health benefit. As a college student, it’s sometimes easy to get wrapped up in looking forward to the weekend because that’s when you’re going to get “wasted.” That’s when you can finally relax and lose control.

However, these drinking behaviors can easily lead to binge drinking.

“If anything, student binge drinking should show you that we don’t have very healthy or health-promoting views of alcohol. We don’t have ways of teaching young people about drinking that promote responsible behavior, responsible drinking. And instead, what you have is a peer group culture that has developed its own norms of binge drinking.”

So this leaves us pretty close to where we started. Drinking can be good or bad depending on how you approach it. We all know the potential dangers associated with drinking – domestic abuse, drunk driving, violence, crime. Being fully aware of how Americans approach drinking, and the consequences can make us more responsible in the present and in the future.

How to score cheap holiday flights

By Amira Francis, Staff Writer

Cheap holiday flights

Money flies during the holiday season/ IMAGE VIA gizmodo.com

It’s almost Christmas time, and with the comforting allure of cookies and presents beckoning, you’re probably excited to hop on that plane or train and high-tail it out of here. You’ve already purchased your tickets home, right? Well, for those of you who haven’t (and I would be among them, if my parents weren’t such life-savers): you’re not out of luck…yet. There is still some time to redeem your ticket-buying habits and there are still methods you can use to knock down the price. Here’s some advice to ensure that you score the cheapest ride home, and a few tips for buying tickets next holiday season.

Prepare to be uncomfortable: You aren’t going to cut costs by resolving to fly first class, at 1 p.m., from the airport nearest to you. You’re going to have to get ready to tough it out. This means compromising: you’re going to sacrifice some sleep, spend some difficult hours catching the T and transferring to airport shuttles, and devote a good chunk of time scouring the internet for inexpensive flights.

Don’t Count on Sleep: The most inexpensive flights are – guess when! Right smack dab in the awkward hours of the night. Whether you’re waking up at 4 a.m. or staying up until 11 p.m. to catch that dumb plane, you’re going to have to drink your double espresso latte, grit your teeth, and bear it. When you’re searching online, those are the times that you should be looking for.

Dismiss Your Hopes of Buying a Direct Flight: The cheaper flights are the challenging ones. If you could fly straight to your paradise-of-a-home in California, that would be too easy (and expensive). Somewhere along the way, you’re going to have to switch flights and undergo the hassle of sprinting from terminal to terminal in an attempt to catch a close connection.

Compromise on Airport Location: Some of the least expensive flights may be a little ways from your starting point and your ending point. It’s going to take a bit more planning, but it might be cheaper in the long-run if you settle for taking a flight that ends up farther away from your destination. You can then search the web for a train or bus ticket that will take you the extra mile, which leads me to my next point…

Get Ready to Comb the Web: Take your web surfing skills to the next level when looking for a flight. Check all travel and airline sites. Be ready to settle for an airline that you don’t normally take. Look at all options: different dates, different times, different cities – even keep an eye out for buying two one-way tickets instead of a round-trip ticket. When looking for a cheap way home, you can’t afford to be picky. You have to be okay with making this a bit of a research project.

I hope these tips help you hook a ticket home for a refreshing break before second semester. Next holiday season, if you have time, try to book your tickets in advance. That way, you can hopefully get the flights you want for the right price. Safe travels!

One year later, what does BU think of Occupy Boston?

By Amira Francis, Staff Writer

Walking down Commonwealth Avenue, I asked Boston University students what they thought about Occupy Boston. Although the answers vary, the most popular ones I heard were:

“Like, the same thing that happened on Wall Street?”
“Uh … I’m the wrong person to ask.”

Wait – who is the right person to ask? I understand that we all get wrapped up in our own social lives and become very focused on following our own dreams and ambitions. But if we, as adults emerging into the world, don’t understand what’s happening around us, how can we hope to contribute to the society that controls us?

That being said, I am definitely one of those people absorbed in my own little world. It’s hard to juggle getting good grades, pursuing my career and fulfilling my hobbies all while staying informed about what’s going on beyond my immediate surroundings.

For those who aren’t quite sure what Occupy Boston is, it’s a group of protesters who set up their tents on Dewey Square in Boston’s Financial District on September 30, 2011. They call for reforming Wall Street and removing special interests from the government in order to achieve equal treatment for the 99 percent of the population that the government doesn’t favor. Although this happened nearly one year ago, Occupy Boston still holds organized meetings and events today and intends to hold a protest in honor of its one year anniversary on September 30.

For everyone invested in the success (or demise) of Occupy Boston, it is a very heated issue. Students on both sides, however, seem to agree on one thing:

“I feel like a lot of people were protesting and didn’t know what they were protesting about,” said College of Arts and Sciences senior Aubrey Macgill.

College of Fine Arts senior Anteo Fabris said something similar: “at the core, it was really for a sort of a good idealistic purpose, but for some reason it became really quickly corrupted by people who didn’t really know what they were doing or talking about, who sort of were thrilled by the idea of just camping out somewhere and being rebellious.”

Now it’s just a question of who is going to step in and take the lead in order to change it.