How Much is it Going to Cost to DO Europe Right?

This is not your typical travel blog showing you hacks on how to save or make money while traveling. This is a budgeted plan for traveling Europe. I will show you where to go where to stay, how to travel, and an outline fo what sights to see. A little over a year from now, I plan to head to Europe for two weeks after I graduate from college celebration and last hurrah before I go to work my big kid job. This will be my own travel plans, sights I’m seeing, and where I’m staying. This will be a general estimation of how much the trip is going to cost so you too can plan for your own European excursion.

My trip is going to be for about two weeks starting June 22nd and coming back on July 5th. I’ll be starting in southern Europe where the weather is a bit nicer and ending in Dublin for the 4th of July.

The first major cost will be buying the plane tickets so I definitely recommend buying as far in advance as possible. I’m personally estimating at least $1,400 in air fair just to go to and from the United States to Europe.

DAY ONE ATHENS:

The first stop and day one of this trip is Athens! I found a great Air BnB right in the city center the apartment is located 50m from the Acropolis metro station and 150m from the Acropolis museum. This apartment is extremely affordable costing only about $40 a night so $20 a person for two people. To get to this apartment you will take the X95 shuttle from the airport which is 6 euros this shuttle will drop you in Syntagma Square, from there you can either walk the 10 to 15 minutes to the Acropolis Museum and on to your Ari BnB or you can catch a bus, tram, or subway all of which will cost you 2 euros. I personally would recommend the walk it allows you to get accustomed to the city so you are better able to find your way around. Once you are settled into your apartment I suggest you walk around to get familiar with the neighborhood and maybe find a place to eat and go to a market to pick up snacks for day two which will involve a lot of sightseeing and walking around. When budgeting out this trip I’m estimating around 40 euros to get to the apartment and for the cost of the apartment, I’m also adding on an additional 40 euros for dinner and snack for tomorrow coming to a grand total of 80 euros for day one.

DAY TWO ATHENS:

Day two will be starting bright and early with you getting to the Acropolis Museum by 8 AM so you don’t have to wait in line. The Museum will cost about 10 euros and a visit will usually last about two hours. I highly recommend getting The Combination Ticket For €30, you can purchase a combination ticket that gets you admission into the Acropolis, Kerameikos, Ancient Agora, Roman Agora, Hadrian’s Library, Temple of Olympian Zeus, and Aristotle’s Lyceum. If you plan to visit the Acropolis and two additional sites, the ticket pays for itself. It costs €20 for summer admission into the Acropolis. For just 10 more euros, you get admission into six additional sites. The real bonus is that the combination ticket allows you to skip the ticket line at each of these sites (except at your first site, where you purchase the ticket). This can literally save you up to an hour at the Acropolis and 10 to 20 minutes at each additional site. You can buy your combination ticket at the first site you visit or you can purchase it online in advance. The combination ticket is valid for 5 days. After all the sightseeing head back to your apartment and get ready for dinner and a night on the town. I would plan for another 100 euros for day two which includes all the sightseeing, the cost of your Ari BnB, and a fun night in the town.

DAY THREE ROME:

Head back to the airport to catch a flight to Rome which will cost about 30 euros for a flight once in Rome, head to your Air BnB to drop off your thing then go and see the sights starting at the Colosseum which will cost you 12 euros, then heading over to the Trevi Fountain for lunch ending at the Pantheon. Now the Air BnB I found is over by the train station and costs about $43 a night so about $22 a person. The Air BnB it’s about a half an hour walk from the Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon, so once you leave for the day you probably aren’t going to be back till bedtime so make sure you have everything you need. Day three I would plan on spending about 10 euros on breakfast, maybe 12 to 15 euros for a sitdown lunch over by the Trevi Fountain, and a nice dinner on the heart of Rome costing about 20 to 25 euros. This brings our total for day three to 114 euros.

DAY FOUR VENICE:

Wake up bright and early to head to the train station to hop on the first train at 6:50 AM to head to Venice and get there by 10:50 AM (this will be 44 euros). Once in Venice head to St.Marco square to take in some of the sights, grab a bite to eat, and find a gondola. I would be prepared to spend around 12 euros to make a small picnic to take with you for a ride on a gondola this rides typically run about 30 to 40 euros. Day four excursion will run about 98 euros so if that’s not in your budget you can continue on the train to your next destination. If this excursion is for you then after you have had your fill of Venice head back to the bus station to catch the 10 PM bus go to Munich Germany for 31 euros and will get you into Munich at 6:15 AM ready to start your next day of fun. Day four will be either cost 129 euros or 50 euros to get from Rome to Munich.

DAY FIVE MUNICH:

Now if you opted out of the excursions to Venice then you will have an extra day on this trip so make sure you plan accordingly. Upon arriving in Munich, you will need to find your Air BnB in Old Town (49 euros a night or 25 euros each) which is right in the heart of Munich. Once you have found your Air BnB then you can head out and get your feel for Old Town by going shopping and getting ready for a night on the town since it is a Saturday night you might as well as really live it up and go to the dance clubs in Munich. I would plan on spending around 75 euros for this evening in Munich and you Air BnB.

DAY SIX MUNICH:

After your night on the town take in all the sights Old Town has to offer by going on this free do it your self walking tour. Day six is looking to be about 25 euros for night two at the Air BnB and about 50 euros for your food, drink, and walking tour coming to about 75 euros for the day.

DAY SEVEN AMSTERDAM:

Monday will be traveling to Amsterdam now you can either spend the whole day on a bus, or you can take a train and spend half a day on that, or you can fly which oddly enough comes out to be cheaper than taking a train and faster than a bus(about 60 euros for a flight). Once in Amsterdam, I recommend finding the drop and go luggage storage facility so you don’t have a big backpack getting in your way during your explorations (7 euros for 24 hours). The bag storage opens at 9 AM which is perfect since there is a flight which will get you into Amsterdam at 8:15 AM leaving you just enough time to grab a bite to eat and head over to the bag drop. After dropping off your bag head right over to the Anne Frank House (10,50 euros) a line developed pretty quickly so you don’t want to be too late getting the museum which opens at 9 AM. After the Anne Franke House it will be the perfect time for a nice cold beer so go take a tour of the Heineken Brewery,  make sure you go online and purchase your tutor package before you go and enjoy a nice cold beer (18-55 euros depending on your tutor). After all the touring you will have worked up an appetite so go find your self some lunch then feel free to wander around Amsterdam enjoying the sights and beauty of the city. Make sure you keep an eye on the time since your flight to Paris takes off at 7:45 PM (42 euros). Your Amsterdam adventure will cost about 200 euros but the memories you make will be priceless.

NIGHT SEVEN PARIS:

Your flight will get you into Paris around 9 PM which you will then go catch the 9:30 PM 13 metro (2 euros) which will take you to the 7th arrondissement where you Air BnB is located (40 euros a night 20 euros each). If you are hungry feel free to grab a bite to eat or head to bead and get a good night’s sleep to prepare yourself for a full day of tourist fun. Night seven will be around 22 euros for the first night at your Air BnB.

DAY EIGHT PARIS:

Day eight wake up bright and early to get to  The Louvre (17 euros) by 9 AM to avoid some of the lines and crowds. I personally am wanting to save the Eifel Tower for the evening to see the night sky lit from the town below. After the Louvre take a walk along Champs-Elyees, this is one of the most recognizable streets in the world, running from Place de la Concorde to the Arc de Triomphe. Along the way, pop into Laduree for macarons, another must-do while in Paris. Sitting at the top of the Champs-Elysees is the Arc de Triomphe. From the top of the Arc, you get one of the best views of Paris. Look down the Champs-Elysees to the Louvre, out to La Defense, and over the rooftops to the Eiffel Tower. At night, you can watch Paris (and the Eiffel Tower) sparkle…quite the sight to see. After the Arc head on over to Notre Dame Cathedral is one of the oldest and grandest cathedrals in the world. Unfortunately ever since April 15, 2019, Notre Dame suffered a devastating fire. The cathedral and the towers will be closed until further notice, so make sure you keep an eye out to see if tours are allowed when you make your trip to Paris. Don’t feel too bad though because just a short walk from Notre Dame is Sainte Chapelle, another gorgeous cathedral and one of the world’s best displays of stained glass. Lines to get into Sainte Chapelle are usually long, but it’s worth the wait. The Conciergerie can also be combined with a visit to Sainte Chapelle since they sit beside one another. This is the place where Marie Antoinette and others were imprisoned before being taken to Place de la Concorde to be executed(about 13 euros). Finally, end the night on the Eiffel Tower (17 euros) taking the elevator all the way up to the third floor for a nice champagne toast at the iconic monument while at the summit’s Champagne bar (12 euros). Once down from the Eiffel Tower head over to the Seine for a nightcap with a bottle of your favorite French wine and a nice fresh beget and cheese which you can get earlier that day and keep in your Air BnB till your ready for it. Day Eight will be around 130 euros for all the tours, food, and the last night in your Air BnB.

DAY NINE PARIS & LONDON:

You can spend this day in one of two ways. The first of which is being very lazy sleeping in till check out and then heading over to the train station to go under the English channel to go to London. The second being getting up and at them to see any last sight of Paris before you head on over to London this afternoon. Depending on when you would like to leave Paris the train can cost you between 81 euros and 67 pounds. Once in London, you will need to find your Air BnB (87 pounds a night so 45 pounds per person) I found one near the London Eye and Big Ben right by Waterloo station so to get there your will need to take the Piccadilly line Westbound to Leicester Square. Change at Leicester Square and then take the Northern line Southbound to Waterloo station (2 to 3 Pounds). Once settled into your Air BnB start wandering around the city to get yourself familiarized feel free to talk to the locals to see if they have any suggestions or tips for you. Day nine is probably going to be around 150 Pounds between getting to London, paying for the first night at the Air BnB, and any sort of food and drink you would also like.

DAY TEN LONDON:

Today is going to be full of sightseeing and getting all you can out of London. First, we will start walking over to Big Ben around 9:30 to take some of the typical tourist photos of yourself and Big Ben. Then you need to head over to Buckingham Palace for the Changing of the guard which happens every day in June and July and starts at 10:45 AM and lasts about 45 minutes. After BuckinghamPalace head over to St. James’s Park for a nice picnic the park is also right next to Westminster Abbey. So once you finish your picnic head on over to Westminster for a tour (20 pounds) make sure you book ahead if you are wanting a guided tour of Westminster Abbey. After Westminster head over to Tower Bridge then end the day with a rid in the London Eye (40 pounds) make sure to buy your tickets before to skip the lines. After the London Eye head back to your Air BnB and get ready for a Friday night out on the town. Day ten is probably going to be around 170 pounds between your Air BnB, food, tours, and your night on the town.

DAY ELEVEN DUBLIN:

Wake up early to get your last view of London before flying to Dublin at 12:30 PM (26 pounds). Once in Dublin, you can either take the bus service, route 16 from the airport to the College Green area. The cost is about 2.60 euros. There are dedicated airport express bus services – Airlink 747 and Aircoach at respective fares of 6 and 7 euros per person. Both serve Grafton Street / Trinity College / College Green adjacent to Temple Bar. Once in the Temple Bar area, it’s time to find your Air BnB (49 euros a night so 25 euros each) which is just outside the famous Pantibar and across the bridge from the Temple Bar area. After you have checked into you Air BnB its time to familiarize your self with the area and go check out some of the landmarks Like St Stephen’s Green and Ha’Penny Bridge, also don’t forget to find the spire that’s the best landmark to use to find your way around Dublin if you get lost. After you have explored a bit go get ready for a night on the town in the famous Temple Bar Area. Day eleven is probably going to be around 100 to 150 euros depending on how much fun you plan to have in the Temple Bar Area.

DAY TWELVE DUBLIN:

Start your day off with a walk through Trinty College then head over to Dublin Castel for a tour (8.50 euros) at 9:45 AM. After a nice walk through Dublin Castel head over to the Guinness Factory for a tour(19.50 euros) buy your tickets early to ensure you receive any discounts available. After a lovely pint of Guinness go grab some lunch before heading over to the Jameson Factory for a tour there as well. Make sure you buy your tickets online before you head over to the Jameson Factory since they have many different types of tours. After your tours feel free to see some cathedrals if you’re interested or go for a hike around Dublin bay. To hike around Dublin Bay you will need to take a train to a town called Howth. You can reach Howth using the northbound DART, a fast train service, from Dublin’s city center a day-return ticket costs 6.25 euros. After your hike head back to Dublin and enjoy your last night on the town before you head back to the states. Day twelve will be around 145 euros for your last night at the Air BnB, your tours, the train to Howth, and your last night out in Dublin.

DAY THIRTEEN HOME:

Depending on when you booked your return flight home you might have some time to do some last-minute sightseeing, but for the most part, I hope you got your fill of Europe on this two-week adventure through seven different countries. The total cost of this trip will come out to being around 3,000 dollars. If you are planning to buy any sort of souvenirs, go to a nice restaurant, or shop in the least bit I would add on at least another 1,000 to 1,500 dollars.

ADDITIONAL NOTES:

  • All methods of transportation should be bought ahead of time to ensure the best prices. I found Omi0 and Skyscanner found the best deals for traveling on the European continent.
    • Rome2Rio also had some great information regarding trains as did trainline.
    • The Eurorail is a great source if you have the Eurorail pass which I don’t.
  • I used Air BnB as my preferred method for places to stay because I wanted to have my own private room and bathroom as well as the option for a laundry facility so I wouldn’t have to wash my clothes by hand.
    • If you wanted to save even more on room and board you can use the Couchsurfing sight or even look for hostels in the cities you are planning to stay.
  • Please note that the sights I’m choosing to see are not all that’s out there so make sure you do your own research before going to be certain you are not missing anything on this amazing adventure.

 

A Simpeltons Guide to Roasting Coffee

By Nick Chaussee

400 Million. That is a staggering number. Even more staggering? 2.25 Billion. Americans consume nearly 400 million cups of coffee per day, making the United States the leading consumer of coffee in the world. The world as a whole consumes nearly 2.25 billion cups of coffee in a day. (Streetdirectory.com) The world and especially Americans are hooked on coffee. The addiction is so real that consumers are willing to spend on average $1.38 per cup of coffee, that is over a half of a Billion dollars a day on coffee! I’ll let you in on a little secret though, most of that coffee isn’t worth the money spent to make it.

 

Fantastic quality coffee can be produced at home for a fraction of the price of a can of stale Foldgers found on the back of the shelf at your local supermarket. If you are like me and are in a quest for better coffee, you have come to the right place. This a guide on how to roast amazing quality coffee for cheaper than you can buy at the store, but it all starts with the beans.

 

Got the Beans?

There are four main types of coffee beans grown in the world; almost all of them are grown in what is called the “coffee bean belt.” The coffee belt is essentially a band along the equator and produces the best environment for coffee plants to grow. The climate in this belt maintains a year-round temperature of 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit along with sufficient amounts of rain favorable to the conditions required needed for coffee plants to grow.

Arabica Coffee Beans

Arabica beans comprise most of the world’s coffee consumption. Arabica beans are almost exclusively found in Latin America, but depending where they are grown can have very different flavor profiles. Arabicas are also the most fragile type of coffee bean and must be grown in a cooler subtropical climate. Arabica beans are widely considered higher quality and therefore demand a higher price. Familiar flavor profiles include a range from sweet and mellow to tangy sharpness. Unroasted “green” beans often have a berry-like smell similar to that of blueberries. Visually, Arabica beans are slightly larger than the other bean variants distinguished by a more oval shape and lighter color. (theroasterie.com

Robusta Coffee Beans

Robusta coffee beans are second in line behind the Arabica beans with regard to the quantity of consumption. Robusta beans are also a lot more “robust” than Arabica beans lending to a more resilient plant that can be grown in harsher lower attitude environments. Robusta beans also yield a lot more beans per acre than Arabica beans, ultimately resulting in a lower production cost. Visually, Robusta beans are smaller and rounder than Arabica beans. The flavor profile tends to be harsher than that of the Arabica with a taste resembling oatmeal and peanutty smell. (coffee-channel.com) Robusta coffee beans also contain the most caffeine of all of the coffee types, with twice as much caffeine as Arabica beans.

 

Liberica Coffee Beans

Liberica Coffee beans are primarily grown in the Philippines but are native to western and central Africa. Liberia’s are unique in the coffee heritage of the world as the United States started importing the beans in the 1890s from the Philippines due to a global shortage of Arabica beans. (coffee-channel.com) Visually, the beans are almond-shaped and can be described as having a “floral and fruity aroma.” The Liberica flavor profile is full-bodied with a slightly smokey accent.
Farming of Liberica beans has been decreasing in exchange for heartier hybrid beans that are better suited to grow in varying climates causing Liberica beans to be quite rare and demand a premium price when they can be sourced.

 

Excelsa Coffee Beans

Excelsa coffee beans are not commonly used at all and only makeup around 7% of the coffee bean consumption around the world. Excelsa beans have been re-classified as a genus of Liberica beans. This is due in part to the climate in which they grow and tall coffee plant that produces the beans in conjunction with their almond shape. Almost entirely grown in Southeast Asia, Exclesa beans are often added to different blends to heighten the flavor of the blend. Exclesa beans have a flavor profile that has been described as “tart, but with a fruity body.” (club.atlascoffeeclub.com)

 

Roasting 101 – “You suck Beans!!”

 

So now that I have bored you out of your mind with the different types of beans and the potential flavor profiles you can achieve, you need green coffee beans! I highly recommend either Sweetmarias.com, coffeebeancoral.com, or sonofresco.com. I have had success and received a quality product from each of these companies, although there are tons and tons of coffee importers out there, take your pick.

 

How are you going to roast your beans?

There are numerous different methods and equipment for roasting coffee beans, ranging from free to thousands upon thousands of dollars. The cheapest is an oven or cast iron pan, and the expensive end being a drum style roaster similar to this for $2,800. For all intents and purposes I recommend using a popcorn air popper for beginners and veterans alike, they can be had for extremely cheap, I have found them for less than $20. Here is a link to the one I have been using for over six months.

Beans? Check…..Green Coffee? Check

The Method

There are many different methods out there that all achieve great results. This method is tailored to using a hot air popcorn popper. It is straightforward, and in no time at all, you will be producing amazing quality coffee that is sure to ruin you from going to the big chain coffee shops ever again!

  1.  Setup your roaster in a well ventilated and well-lit area such as your stove vent hood, or next to an open window. The light will help you judge the color of the beans, and the vent of the window will help with the smoke. (There will be a lot of smoke and coffee smoke doesn’t smell terrible, but it can be overpowering)
  2.  Measure out coffee beans the same way the manufacture suggests for popcorn, usually ½ cup or 3.0± ounces. Roasters vary and so do the size of beans, so some guess and check may need to take place in order to get the perfect amount for your current setup.
  3. Pour beans into popcorn maker. Place lid on maker and position chute over sink or chaff container and turn on popcorn maker. NEVER LEAVE THE ROSTER ALONE! They pose a fire danger to your coffee beans and house.
  4.  Variables come into play, ambient temperature, humidity, roaster type, beans, etc, but as a rule of thumb, one should have roasted coffee in about 5-10 minutes. The first couple of batches may need supervision throughout the entire process, allowing for the different stages to be learned and the different smells, colors, and sounds. After a few batches the roast indicators will become easy to recognize.
  5.  Listen for cracks. First crack should occur around the 3-5 minute mark, second crack occurs after, which is a softer less audible crack in shorter intervals. The beans are perfectly suitable to use for coffee anywhere in between the cracks and little beyond. The level of roast and corresponding time needed to achieve is entirely based on preference, so play around until you find what you like.
  6.  A few seconds before you think the roast is done, pour the beans out into a metal colander. CAREFUL HOT! Stir, shake, mix, whatever you can to cool the beans down as quick as possible. I like to use an aluminum cooking sheet to pour the beans out onto after stirring them in the colander. This helps pull the last little bit of heat out of the beans.
  7.  REJOICE, YOU HAVE SUCCESSFULLY ROASTED COFFEE!

**Note that coffee can be brewed right after roasting. However, better results can be achieved by placing beans in a non-air tight container for 24-36 hours. This will allow for the CO2 to off-gas and the beans will fully develop that pleasant coffee smell we all love.

It should also be noted that when stored in an air-tight container after the first 24-36 hours, roasted coffee tends to remain fresh for up to 2 weeks. After 2 weeks, there is a noticeable loss in quality and taste. I do have a sneaking suspicion that the coffee won’t last that long and will require that you have a fresh batch pretty regularly.

Now what?

That is it; that is how fantastic quality coffee can be produced at home with a little effort and desire for a better morning cup. I have consistently been able to make coffee for around $.033 a cup, with often far superior results than what can be purchased in the supermarket. Regardless of your preferred brewing method, pour-over, Aeropress, traditional coffee pot, or espresso, the most important thing to achieving a quality cup is to store the beans whole and grind them right before brewing. With that consideration, you are destined to brew fantastic coffee each and every time successfully.

 

 

Basics to Capturing Media

Most modern Marketing requires a fluent understanding of multimedia. That includes being at least modestly savvy with photo, video, and audio formats. I hope to compile a crash course of concepts so if you ever have the opportunity to create a piece of media, you at least have a grip on the fundamentals. I’ve taken years of experience and dozens of hours of my own research on YouTube along with blog and magazine articles to come to my level of understanding. I’ve always wanted there to be a concise collection of information that would speed up the learning process. So I’m going to attempt to do that with this 10x guide post. 

In this article, I will be going over photography, video, and audio. The photography will be understanding how to create a good image and acquire a desired effect. This will take up the bulk of the guide because it applies heavily into the video section as well. In the video I’ll go over simple techniques that highlight what’s important in creating a video. And with audio, talk about how to capture clear audio and when to implement it.

 

Photography – Understanding and using Manual settings

It is such a waste when people have expensive cameras and only use the auto mode. Auto setting on your camera can take some great pictures but it’s only tapping into a small fraction of its potential. 

Benefits 

  • Control of Light 
    • Whether it’s really bright or dark you can still get results
  • Control of Focus
    • Do you want the whole image to be sharp like a landscape or action shot? Or do you want to have sharp eyes and a blurry background for a portrait?

Manual Components and Explanations 

  • Aperture
    • The size of the “eye” of the lens that controls how much light hits the camera sensor
    • The numbering is counter intuitive, f/1.8 is wide open and f/22 is tiny
    • Wide Aperture – 
      • Lets in a ton of light
      • Creates a shallow “depth of field”
        • One point of the image is sharp and the rest is blurry 
        • Bokeh – is the level of blurriness 
    • Pros
      • Helps capture in low light
      • Dramatic close ups
      • Great when you want to focus on a specific subject
      • You can lower your ISO
      • You can Speed up your shutter speed
    • Cons
      • Over exposing pictures making them too bright
      • Shallow depth of field can cause you to miss the subject 
  • Shutter speed
    • Controls how fast the shutter remains open allowing light to enter the senor
    • Faster the shutter the darker the image
      • Example: 1/60 is the open for 1/60 of a second
    • Usually ranges from 20 seconds to 1/2000 of a second
    • Fast shutter – allows less light to enter which makes a darker image
      • Freezes the image
      • If your hands are shaky, the image will still be crisp
      • Great for bright, action scenes
    • Slow shutter – allow more light to enter making images brighter
      • Great for low light photos
      • Movement becomes smudged
      • Use a tripod
    • Use this in tandem with Aperture
  • ISO – digitally increasing the exposure of an image
    • Ranges from 100 to 2000
    • Usually you want to keep this as low as possible at 100
    • The higher the ISO the grainier the image will be
    • Pros
      • Compensates when High shutter speed and High Aperture make images darker
      • If you’re shooting action shots in low light, this is when ISO will come in handy
      • Example: Concerts, parties
    • Cons
      • Most cameras get pretty grainy above 1000 ISO

Putting it all together – How Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO work together

Each of these settings you can control independently and each of them feed into the other one to balance a good image. I will give some scenarios on which combinations you should use. But for the most part you want to keep ISO as low as possible which makes things easy. And these numbers are just ballpark estimates and not exact. You’ll have to assess each scene and make small adjustments to get the light just right. As you will soon find out, it becomes a little complicated but I guarantee the results will be better than if you use auto mode.

Group of People Outside

  • Aperture f/3.5
  • Shutter Speed 1/800
  • ISO 100

Explanation: If it is outdoors, it is most likely a very bright scene. So you don’t want your shutter speed or aperture too low because your image will become too bright.  Aperture of 3.5 opens up and allows for a little bit of bokeh in the background but still gets all the faces of the subjects sharp. If it was any lower some faces might be out of focus and only one face would be sharp. You want the people’s faces to be the main attention of the image. The fast shutter speed of 1/800 compensates for the brightness brought in by the low aperture by making it darker. Not only does it make the image darker, but also is fast enough to freeze any motion from the  individual people if they can’t hold still. 

One Person

  • Aperture f/1.8
  • Shutter Speed 1/1200
  • ISO 100

Explanation: As the only focus of the image, you want the lowest aperture in order to produce the sharpest focus on the eyes. Because a picture is so low you’ll have to darken the image somehow. The higher shutter speed prevents the picture from becoming too bright.

Stars

  • Aperture f/12
  • Shutter Speed 10”
  • ISO 100

Explanation: Stars are very dim and very far away. The aperture of 12 allows us to make sure everything is in focus. On the downside the image will be darker, so we have to brighten the image some other way. By slowing down the shutter speed to 10 seconds, the shuttle will be open for 10 seconds letting light hit the sensor for the whole time. You could also increase the ISO but with a black sky, the graininess of the digital enhancement will be more apparent. 

Football Player

  • Aperture f/8
  • Shutter Speed 1/2000
  • ISO 400

Explanation: In order to capture a fast-moving athlete, you have to move your camera around quickly. That means it’ll be difficult to lock in the focus while tracking the subject. The aperture I used of 8 will increase the chances of the subject being in focus while still absorbing as much light as possible. If it were at 10, the image might be too dark to work with and if it was too low like 3 it would be hard to keep the subject in focus while they were running around. The high shutter speed of 1/2000 will make the image darker but it will properly freeze the athlete in motion. Assuming this image is outdoors in bright sunlight, it would be acceptable to increase your ISO slightly to compensate for the darkness provided by the high aperture and high shutter speed. 

Lenses – Focal Lengths range from 8 mm to 500 mm

  • Image compression
    • The longer the focal length the closer the background will appear 
  • Distortion 
    • Anything smaller than 35 mm is not flattering for portraits
  • 8-10 mm – fisheye lense
    • Extremely wide angle 
    • Good for landscape to capture vastness
    • Good for capturing a wider field of view in smaller spaces
    • POV and immersion 
    • Cons
      • Bad for flattering people due to high distortion 
      • Background becomes smaller or stretched along the edges
  • 15-20 mm
    • Wide enough for landscapes and documentary styles without too much distortion
  • 35 mm
    • You can still be close to the subject and get a flattering image
  • 55 mm >
    • This is where compression becomes a factor
      • Your subject can fill the same amount of the frame while the background appears larger or closer

    • Increase the depth of field
      • Example: If you had an aperture of f/2.8 and focal length of 300mm the background would be super blurry

Editing and Basic Color correction

First ask yourself: does the color to be improved or are you adjusting just because you can? A lot of times I see beginner photographers over edit their pictures. Just because you can boost the saturation and contrast doesn’t mean you should. What I’m going to describe is very basic and only the tip of the iceberg. A lot of color corrections are subjective but there still are some guidelines if you simply want to get by. The goal is to have the image look natural but enhanced. 

  • Add depth
    • Blacken black so they’re crispy and sharp
    • Contrast
  • Detail – 
    • Expose for highlights
      • Too bright and you can’t recover detail
    • Raise Shadows to show hidden detail
  • Color
    • Make the whites match natural white
    • Match warmth with mood
    • Lean toward teal for shadow
    • Lean toward towards orange or yellow for skin

Video

When getting a good image on video shares a lot of similarities as photography. A key difference is frame rate. If you want a natural frame rate 30 fps is the standard play back for most movies. The only reason you would want to record at 60 fps or more is for slow motion editing or fast pace recording like sports. If you’re just starting off, have your camera set to 30 fps. 

Now video is much more dynamic than just photography. That means the lighting situation could possibly be always changing. To keep up with these changing settings there are automated features on your camera that will assist. 

Controlling the image

  • Stationary Subject
    • Fixed ISO
    • Fixed focus
    • If ISO and focus are set to automatic, they can have a tendency to flux and change with the slightest movement. If your subject is stationary, set the focus on them and keep the ISO text as well to prevent the image I’m trying to correct for nothing. 
    • In a marketing situation, you usually have full control over the environment. So you should be able to have the focus dialed in exactly where your subjects should be and be able to predict where they will be next and have the focus set to them manually. 
  • Moving Subject
    • Keep the aperture open (example: f/7) so that the focus tracking in the camera does not have to work as hard 
    • Automatic ISO –  this should help when the moving subject switches from bright light to shadows 
  • Mount the Camera
    • Shaky hands are very distracting to a video
    • As a beginner, using a simply tripod will help with 90% of your production

Editing

  • One simple tip is to keep scenes short
    • People absorb more information and detail than you would realize
    • You don’t want to bore the person watching
    • In the era of instant gratification, people want you to get to the point

Audio

People don’t notice when audio is good, they only notice it when it’s bad. So it’s really important to have good audio to help with immersion and reduce distractions. So spend at least $30 on an external microphone if you want to substantially increase the quality of your videos. 

  • Types of microphones 
    • Lapel – clips onto your collar, great for recording on the go, isolates the voice and greatly reduces ambient sounds
      • Noises like traffic, crunching gravel
    • Shotgun – focuses sound from one direction so noise behind and to the side of you are not recorded
    • USB – plugs into your computer and a million times better than using the built in microphones
    • Handheld Recorder – very versatile and portable, great for interviews and travel 
  • Remove background noise 
    • Windscreen flash or pop filter 
      • Pop filter reduces the harsh thumping sound when you use a hard “P” sound
    • Turn off AC or fans – reducing any outside noise while recording makes it easier to edit later
    • Minimize Echo – if you can record in a closet with clothes or under a blanket to reduce echo
  • Editing
    • Cut out “umm” and other weird mouth noises you made while recording
    • Basic video editing software has filters that remove humming and buzzing. 
  • Recording
    • When recording in a controlled environment, I get the best results when I turn off all humming sounds coming from my apartment. I also have a blanket over myself and the microphone to remove any echo. 
    • Syncing with video – Clapping your hands before recording creates a visual spike in the frequency data, so you can visually see where the recording started with accuracy

 

How to Make the Perfect Birthday Cake

Almost everyone has or will make a birthday cake. But, not everyone is as prepared for all that making a cake entails. Here, I will detail all the steps involved in making the perfect birthday cake.

This step by step guide will provide all the recipes, instructions, and tips for making a great tasting and great looking cake. I am by no means a professional baker, but some of the equipment and skills aren’t things I would expect everyone to have so I will be sure to provide beginners modifications for those with less baking skills.

Before gathering any supplies or ingredients, you must make a couple decisions about flavors and design. This will help you with two things: making a cake the birthday boy/girl will love and preventing a second store trip.

There are infinite cake and frosting flavors and combinations. The best way to decide is to just ask the birthday boy/girl what they want. If it’s a surprise you can never go wrong with a chocolate/vanilla combo. I use the chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream frosting recipes below and it’s always a hit.

Once you’ve come up with your flavors, find a recipe (I will detail the one I use below and link some others) and write out a detailed shopping list. When making a cake all from scratch, it is easy to overlook ingredients and having to make an emergency shopping trip is the worst! That’s the last thing you want to do when you are elbow deep in frosting with cakes in the oven so BE PREPARED! Also, make sure to consider how you will decorate before doing your shopping run. Do you need candles? Sprinkles? Piping bags/tips? Food dye? Consider all this before hand and hopefully you can avoid any stress later!

Now that you’ve made all your decisions and bought all your ingredients it’s time to bake! Below is a step by step tutorial for how I make the perfect birthday cake.

Full recipe and how-to video at the end.

Here are the ingredients you will need for the cake:

Flour*, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt, eggs, buttermilk, warm water, vegetable or canola oil, and vanilla extract

*I’m using gluten free flour because my mom is gluten intolerant. If you are making a GF cake I highly suggest this Namaste brand. It doesn’t get super crumbly and the texture is great.

If you’re looking for a vanilla cake recipe, this one is super fluffy and delicious! Vanilla cake is fun for birthday cake because you can add sprinkles to it and make confetti cake. Very festive!

Here is the equipment you will need:

Stand mixer with whisk attachment, medium bowl, whisk, three 9 inch cake pans, parchment paper, and cooking spray

You will also need the specified measuring utensils in the recipe below. If you don’t have a stand mixer, a hand mixer will work just fine. If you are a frequent baker I highly encourage investing in a Kitchenaid. It really does make all the difference in the world (and look how pretty!)

Before you start mixing ingredients, do these 4 things:

  1. Cut out parchment paper to cover the bottom of your pans. This may seem like an unnecessary precaution, but it only takes 5 minutes to do and eliminates any chance that your cakes will get stuck to the pan and ruin your perfect cake. With this technique your cakes will slide out beautifully, I promise.
  2. Make sure your racks are set in the oven. If you won’t be able to put all your pans on one middle rack, place a second rack in the top third of the oven.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  4. Set out all the butter for the frosting and allow it to reach room temperature by the time you start the buttercream. I will not allow you to microwave your butter! Don’t even try!

Now it’s time to mix your cake ingredients:

There is one key rule when it comes to mixing cake batter: mix the dry and wet ingredients separately! If you don’t, you will end up with a cake with flour lumps and nobody wants that.

So, mix the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a stand mixer, or large bowl if using a hand mixer, and combine using a low speed. If your speed is too high, you will lose ingredients over the side and in the air. In a separate bowl combine eggs, buttermilk, warm water, oil, and vanilla. Then, add this mixture to the dry mixture and beat on a medium speed until smooth (just a couple of minutes). Make sure to scrape down the sides and bottom of the pan so that all the ingredients are fully mixed in.

Now, and I can’t stress this enough, SPRAY YOUR PANS! Don’t forget it! Do it! Right now! For easiest removal, spray the pan without the parchment then place the parchment on the bottom and spray a bit on top of that. With this technique your cakes will slide out of the pans with total ease and the parchment will pull off the cake just as easy. Divide all the batter evenly among the three pans. I use a measuring cup and find just about 3 cups into each pan should do it, but if you want to live on the wild side and eyeball it, be my guest. Place your cakes into the preheated oven. Set a timer for 30 minutes. Take a load off.

When your timer goes off check your cakes with a toothpick. Take into consideration that all ovens are not created equal and yours might take a little longer to cook. So, check your cakes at 30 minutes by inserting a toothpick. If it does not come out clean do not worry, give them another 5 minutes. However, know the difference between uncooked batter and soft, squishy, delicious cake crumbs on your toothpick. Only add time if the toothpick has batter, otherwise your cakes will turn out dry, but no pressure.

Once you take out your cakes set them on a cooling rack and leave them alone! Allow your cakes to cool completely before you try to remove them or, god forbid, try to frost them.

Since your cakes will take a little while to cool, now is the time to start your frosting.

Here are the ingredients and equipment you will need for the frosting:

Cleaned stand mixer with paddle attachment, powdered sugar, salt, cream cheese, butter, vanilla extract, and heavy cream

This buttercream recipe is so tasty and really easy to work with. I also love this Oreo buttercream recipe and this peanut butter buttercream recipe. The recipe I am using today is super simple and can be used as a base for almost any other flavor. Try using almond or mint extract instead of vanilla, or finely blend up your favorite candy and mix it in. For our purposes today we want a smooth frosting with a simple flavor to compliment the chocolate, so I will not be adding anything extra.

I usually double this recipe, because who doesn’t like a lot of frosting? For the decorating technique I will show you below I always run out if I don’t double. If you double it and have extra you can freeze it, which is actually awesome to have frosting on hand for any frosting emergencies you might run into!  If you aren’t trying to get fancy with the decorating you can probably get away with one, but really who ever benefited from less frosting, right?

First, place all your softened butter and cream cheese (this can come straight out of the fridge) in your stand mixer/bowl and mix until smooth. If you want your frosting to be white let the butter and cream cheese mix a little longer, it will lighten up the longer it mixes. This next part is going to get messy no matter what you do, it’s a baking rite of passage. On a low setting, slowly incorporate the powdered sugar which will then fly everywhere, but just push through. The recipe calls for 3 lbs of powdered sugar and a regular bag of powdered sugar is 2 lbs so I use 1 and a half bags. If you have a splash guard that can help with the mess. Once you have it all mixed in you will add the cream and vanilla. If you’re going for extra white frosting, using a clear vanilla extract will help. The heavy cream is where you can adjust the consistency. The recipe calls for 3-6 TBSP, so if you were using the frosting to pipe or detail you might add less cream and keep the stiff consistency. For our purposes we want it to be smooth and easy to work with so start with 3 TBSP of cream and work up from there. I usually find I need the full 6, but it can vary. Top if off with a little Salt Bae action and your frosting is good to go.

Decorating:

Now this is the fun part and where I encourage you to take some creative license. For this cake there are two “parts” we need to consider the color of: the base layer of the cake and the decorative boarders. I chose to leave the base layer white and did a rainbow boarder. You decide what colors the birthday boy/girl would want and divide and add food dye accordingly. I have found that these Wilton food dyes work better than anything else I’ve tried and from one of these packs you can mix and create any number of other colors. They are a gel and not liquid which prevents the frosting from changing consistency and they are super vibrant. If you can, try to avoid over mixing when adding the dye. Extra mixing changes the consistency and will make your smoothing process harder.

Here is what you need for decorating:

Cake round, frosting bag, piping tip, cake smoother, food dye, decorating turn table, bowls for mixing colors

Some of this is stuff I wouldn’t expect everyone to have. If you don’t have an icing smoother you can use an icing spatula or just a regular spatula. The icing smoother helps get flat edges, but its not completely necessary. Also, if you don’t have a turntable that’s ok too. It just helps when smoothing the edges. If you’re a frequent baker I encourage you purchase both these items because they are super helpful in the frosting process.

Before you start, make sure you have a place in the fridge for the cake. You will be putting the cake in and out of the fridge throughout the decorating process. Now, start by putting a small dollop of frosting on your cake round and placing your first layer of cake on top of it. This will keep the cake from sliding around on the cake round while you frost. Next, layer frosting on top of this layer. Get down to eye level and make sure that it is level. Place the next layer on top and repeat this same process. For the last cake layer, flip it upside down so that the more squared off edges are on top.

Now, you will do your crumb coat. When you frost the first layer of the cake, crumbs will come off with the frosting. That’s why this layer is called the crumb coat. Frost the whole cake, using your smoother and/or spatula. Don’t worry about it being pretty because you will do one or two more layers on top of this layer and those will be your pretty layers. Once your crumb coat is done, place the cake in the fridge for about 10 minutes. This will allow the layer to harden so that your next layer wont mix with the first.

Your next two layers you will repeat the same steps, but this time pay attention to the evenness and smoothness of the cake. I usually use an icing spatula to layer on frosting and then use the icing smoother to flatten it out. If you have “holes” in the frosting just add more frosting there and go over again with your smoother. I also frost near the sink and rinse off my smoother when it gets too messy. After each layer make sure to refrigerate and allow the frosting to harden before moving on. Here is a more detailed video about how to frost a super smooth cake.

You can see how I did the rainbow boarder in the video below. If you don’t want to get fancy, you can mix any color and use a piping bag and tip to frost a boarder. Here is a link for how to do a few different kinds of boarders.

Finally, I found a cute set of candles and a happy birthday sign that matched my cake. If you want to pipe on lettering you can totally do that too.

Yay! Happy birthday to us all!

How to video:

Cake recipe:

Ingredients

Cooking spray for cake pans

3 cups all-purpose flour

3 cups granulated sugar

1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tablespoon baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

4 large eggs

1 1/2 cups buttermilk (for whipping cream/heavy cream)

1 1/2 cups warm water

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a stand mixer or a hand mixer using a low speed until fully combined.
  3. In another bowl mix eggs, buttermilk, warm water, oil, and vanilla.
  4. Mix together the wet and fry ingredients and beat on a medium speed until smooth. This should take just a couple of minutes.
  5. Spray your pans and place parchment on the bottom. Divide batter among the three pans.
  6. Bake for 30-35 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  7. Cool on wire racks for 15 minutes and then turn out the cakes onto the racks and allow to cool completely

 

Frosting recipe:

Ingredients

4 sticks or 2 cups unsalted butter (452 grams)

8 oz cream cheese

3 lbs powdered sugar (One and a half 2lb bags)

3-6 tablespoons heavy cream or double cream (45-90 g)

3-4 teaspoons vanilla (15-20 g)

Pinch of salt

Instructions

  1. Mix together the softened butter and cream cheese until smooth.
  2. Slowly incorporate the powdered sugar.
  3. Add vanilla, heavy cream, and salt to desired taste and consistency.
  4. Add food dye as desired.
  5. Frost!

Hope this helps. Happy Baking!

By: Zuzu Rudio

 

Call of Duty Warzone: A Beginners Guide

Call of Duty Warzone: A Beginners Guide

With the majority of the world stuck at home, more and more people are hopping online to play Call of Duty’s free to play battle royal game, Warzone. With this influx of new people, a lot of them are playing Warzone for the first time. It can be frustrating learning the controls and going up against the seasoned veterans of the franchise. But rage no more! Over the next couple minutes, I will show you some of the best ways to get better at Warzone. These various tips and tricks will help you survive longer and win more games.

Before You Drop In: The Basics

Bump Up Your Sensitivity:

If you want to succeed in Warzone, you’re going to need a higher sensitivity. I know a lot of people that like to set their sensitivity around 3-5 which is just too slow. I strongly recommend a sensitivity between 7-10. This will help you scan the environment and switch between enemies in the blink of an eye. If you’re up for it and have the time to practice, you can go up to 15. Anything higher than that will most likely make you worse at the game.

If you’re used to using a lower sensitivity, you’re going to need to practice. The best way to practice is to create a private match with bots as your enemies. Set them to whichever difficulty you see fit and get to work.

Changing Your Button Layout:

Similar to sensitivity, this is all about personal preference, but it can make a huge difference in your gameplay. I like to play on tactical button layout so it’s easier to drop shot. I also changed my interact settings from holding square to just tapping, which is called Contextual Tap. While playing Warzone, you’ll have to pick up a lot of items. This new setting will make that much more efficient.

Customize your Loadouts:

The weapons that you get from supply boxes in Warzone aren’t the best, but they’ll work. The best way to increase your chances of winning is to get a Loot Crate and select one of your custom loadouts.

The great thing about getting your custom loadout is that you can make it whatever you want. Personally, I like to use a SMG like the MP7 or MP5 and a sniper like the AX50 or Kar98. With a loadout like this, you have the opportunity to hit your enemies from range before pushing to a close quarters battle with your SMG.

My Favorite Weapon Loadout:

My favorite loadouts switch almost every game, but one of my favorites right now is the Kar98 with the MP5.

Obviously, you should pick the weapons that you are the most comfortable with. Having two weapons at your disposal can be the difference between wiping a squad and getting sent to the Gulag.

Along with weapons customized to your preferences, picking up your loadout gives you perks and equipment.

Perks:

There are 6 options in each of the 3 perk categories. These perks can give you an upper hand against your enemies if you select the right combination.

Perk 1:

I recommend using Cold-Blooded so you’re invisible to thermal sights and can’t get tagged by recon drones. Kill Chain is another good option because it gives you a higher chance of finding a killstreak in supply boxes. This is extremely helpful if you find it hard to get money to buy killstreaks at buy stations.

Perk 2:

If you’re running a loadout with two primary weapons, you’re forced to use Overkill. However, if you don’t want two primary weapons, the options in the Perk 2 section are by far the most helpful for yourself and your team. Hardline gives you a 25% discount at the buy station. This includes killstreaks, field upgrades, and armor plates. High Alert will let you know if an enemy is looking at you. This helps avoid getting randomly headshot by some guy laying on a roof top 500 meters away. Ghost makes you undetectable by UAVs, Radar Drones, and Heartbeat Sensors so you’re invisible to the enemy. And finally, Pointman gives your team more money when you complete missions in Warzone.

Perk 3:

The third set of perks is really all up to personal preference. I like to use Amped so I can switch weapons faster. Overall, the perks in this set won’t have a huge impact on your game. Tune Up makes you revive teammates faster, and Shrapnel gives you an extra lethal. Battle Hardened reduces the effects of flashbangs and other equipment, and Spotter shows you where enemy equipment is. Finally, Tracker shows you enemies footsteps.

Equipment:

There are two categories for equipment which are Lethal and Tactical, and they mean exactly what their names are. The Lethal category is for equipment that does damage to enemies. Tactical equipment is either used to disorientate, confuse, or to find the enemy.

Lethal:

The items in the Lethal category are Claymore, Frag Grenade, Molotov Cocktail, C4, Semtex, Throwing Knife, Proximity Mine, and Thermite. All of these items are very useful in Warzone except for the Throwing Knife because you have to be extremely precise and it doesn’t do much damage. It is important to pick the item that best fits your play style. For example, if you are more into pushing enemies, you’re going to want an item that you can throw. These items are the Frag, Molotov, C4, Semtex, and Thermite. If you want to sit and camp in a spot for a while, then I recommend using the Claymore or Proximity Mine.

Tactical:

Similar to the Lethal items, your choice of Tactical equipment depends on your play style. Your options for Tactical equipment are Flash Grenade, Stun Grenade, Smoke Grenade, Snapshot Grenade, Heartbeat Sensor, Gas Grenade, Stim, and Decoy Grenade.

Aggressive:

If you’re more into pushing enemies, then the Flash, Stun, and Gas Grenades are your best fit. Each of these items disorientates your enemy in a different way which allows you to bust in and gun them down.

Passive:

If you’re more tactical, then I recommend using the Smoke and Decoy Grenades. The Smoke Grenade will create a wall of smoke that can be used to block off vision from your enemies. If you’re smart, you can attach a Thermal Scope to one of your weapons so you can see through your smoke. The Decoy Grenade will mimic gun fire which will cause enemies to look in that direction. This will give you the opportunity to flank them.

Finally, the Snapshot Grenade and Heartbeat Sensor will show you where enemies are which is very useful when you’re entering a new building or area.

My Perks and Equipment:

Warzone Tactics

Whether you’re playing Warzone in Solos, Doubles, Trios, or Quads, you’re going to need some kind of game plan. If you try to go into a game guns blazing, you’re going to get lit up. I’m going to break this up into three sections. Picking a landing zone, early game, and late game.

Picking a Landing Zone:

Where you land on the warzone will determine how your entire game goes. If you land somewhere “hot”, which is usually somewhere close to the beginning of the drop or a popular location on the map, there will be a lot of people. Be prepared to fight the moment your boots touch the ground. These “hot drops” usually have the best loot. If you’re able to find a spot that has good weapons, you should be alright as long as you can hit your shots.

Luckily, not all the drops in Warzone are as popular and hectic as hot drops. There are a lot of other places to land that will give you time to get settled in and prepared to take everyone out. However, no matter what, you have to remember that wherever the beginning of the drop is, is usually the most popular place to land. Beware of dropping early.

The Map:

Below, I have highlighted places on the map that are “hot” (red), places that you’ll be able to land at relatively easily (green), and zones that are in-between (yellow).

With that in mind, another thing to account for is how far your selected landing area is from the first circle. If you pick a landing zone that is far away from the first circle, you’ll have to loot fast and get on your way towards the safe zone. But don’t worry, you can loot along the way.

In the example above, Farmland, Prison, Port, Lumber, Hills, Prominade West, along with the already designated red drops would be hot because they are close to the beginning of the drop.

Another tip is that once you deploy your chute, you can cut it for a little speed boost. This will cause you to lose altitude fast, but it will also help you get to your location faster. And yes, you can redeploy your shoot after you cut it.

Early Game:

There are five main things to focus on in the beginning of your game. Loot as much as you can, find contracts to complete, buy killstreaks and a loadout drop, and position yourself in a good spot.

The fifth and final thing to focus on in the early game, and throughout the entire game, is to keep an eye out for enemies. They can come from anywhere so keep your head on a swivel.

Loot, Loot, Loot:

Looting at the beginning of the game is essential towards your survival. Opening supply boxes and finding weapons on the ground can give you an upper hand against your enemies. Not only do weapons pop out of supply boxes, but so does money and ammo. Creating a stockpile of both of these will help you throughout the entire game. Grabbing as much money as you can will allow you to purchase killstreaks and other items from the buy stations.

Finding and Completing Contracts:

Completing contracts will give you money, experience, and items and will help you travel around the map. There are three contracts that you can complete which are Bounty, Scavenger, and Recon Contracts.

Bounty Contracts:

Bounties are by far my favorite contract to complete. Once you find a Bounty Contract, an enemy team will be highlighted on your map with a yellow circle. Your objective is to find the person the bounty has selected in that squad and eliminate them. You have three minutes to find that person before the contract expires and the other team gets money and experience. The enemy team will be alerted whenever someone in their squad has a bounty on them. They will also have a proximity marker as to how close you are to them. If you are able to eliminate the player with the bounty on them, and most likely the rest of their squad, you will be awarded with money which can be used at buy stations.

Scavenger Contracts:

Scavenger Contracts highlight three loot boxes that have special loot in them. This is one of the best ways to start your game and to get money quickly. One thing to be aware of, and I’m not sure if this is an actual mechanic, is that the loot boxes bring you closer to another enemy team. I could be completely wrong here but that is something to keep in mind.

Recon Contracts:

Once completed, these domination esque contracts will show you where the next circle is going to be. They also drop loot at the center. The position is secured faster with more people inside its zone. Make sure to get your team in there because when it starts, a massive flare is shot into the sky notifying other teams of your location.

Buy Killstreaks, Loadouts, and Other Items:

Before heading into battle, it is a good idea to pool your squad’s money together to buy items from the Buy Station. This will better prepare you for the enemies that lie ahead. But no matter what, please don’t buy the Shield Turret.

Positioning:

It’s always a good idea to stick close to the circle. But, you don’t necessarily always want to be in the center. Your position in the circle can help you get more eliminations, set you up for the next circle, or get your entire squad eliminated. If you’re more of a passive player, rotate to the short side of the circle. The short side of the circle is the side that is closest to the edge of the map. You’ll want to rotate there because there is a lower chance of it being populated by enemies. If you want to get some more action, head to the biggest part of the circle. This is the area that has the most map behind it. This area will have a lot more players so be ready to fight if you go there.

Late Game:

There is no need to panic once the circles start getting smaller. All you have to remember is that there are enemies everywhere closing in with the same goal as you. The final circles are the most hectic part of the game. Without somewhat of a plan, you will undoubtably lose. The problem with this, is that there is no one tactic to surviving the second half of the game. All I can give you is recommendations.

Buy UAVs and Other Killstreaks:

Buying UAVs and Killstreaks will give you an advantage against your enemies. With the UAV, you will be able to see everyone around you that doesn’t have the Ghost Perk equipped. You have a couple options with this information. You can  go between squads and position yourself in the circle, or push a squad, take them out, replenish supplies, and repeat the cycle. Other killstreaks such as Precision Airstrike and Cluster Strike will deal damage to enemies in the area that you marked. These are especially useful when enemies decide to sit on top of roofs. Calling in one of these kill streaks will either knock the squad or cause them to spread. Making it easier to pick them off.

Pick Up Bounty Contracts:

If you don’t have the money for a UAV or can’t find a buy station, pick up a bounty contract. Once you pick this up, you’ll be able to see where one of the squads is on the map. This won’t tell you where everyone is, but it will show you where one of the teams are.

Positioning in The Circle:

Your positioning in the final circles is everything. If you’re constantly  making it into the circle with short time, you’ll be at a disadvantage. I recommend getting into the circle at least 30 seconds after it appears. This way you and your team can find a safe spot to hang out before moving to the next circle. Being this early to the circle will also help you see other teams coming into the circle behind you. You can either take note of their position or pick them off and make them pay for being late.

Another great idea is to get as far as you can to the back side of the circle. You should find a place in the circle that has the least amount of map behind it. Hopefully, this means it has a lower chance of being populated by enemies. But beware, a lot of other people have the same idea so be prepared to fight for your spot.

Cover:

Sadly, you won’t always have buildings and barriers to hide behind when it eventually comes down to a fire fight. While you’re moving from circle to circle, keep an eye out for places to take cover. This could be walls, trees, rocks, laying on the other side of a hill, or even placing a Deployable Cover. Without cover, you’re just a sitting duck waiting to get hit.

Gas Masks:

Gas Masks will give you some extra time in the gas which can help you reposition around enemies. The gas mask will save you five ticks of damage, which is roughly 8-10 seconds. One thing to keep in mind is that when your character uses the gas mask, you can’t do anything else. This means that you can’t shoot, put on shields, or call in killstreaks. This is an extremely frustrating mechanic, but gas masks will help when it comes to the final circle.

Communicate and Stick Together:

Arguably one of the most important parts of Warzone is communication and staying with your squad. If you don’t have a mic for your gaming system, I highly recommend getting one. I have a $25 headset that I’ve had for years and I have absolutely no complaints. Communication is essential throughout the entire match but becomes much more important in the late game. Use the ping system to show your team where enemies are, where you want to go, and where items are. Especially in Warzone, there is power in numbers. If your entire team is working together, you can eliminate teams in the blink of an eye.

Misc. Advice:

  • Use Heartbeat Sensors to find enemies in nearby buildings
  • The RPG is way more useful than you think
  • Same goes for C4
  • Put a Thermal Scope on your sniper
  • Share everything with your teammates
    • Money
    • Armor Plates
    • Ammo
    • Kill Streaks
  • Don’t play scared in the Gulag – confidence is key

If you follow these basic guidelines I have set forth, you’ll see your performance in Warzone improve immensely. Don’t be afraid to put your own twist on things, everyone plays differently. Good luck Soldier.

Fondue Functions and You

Say you’re hosting a dinner party and you have your friends and/or family coming over, the biggest and most important question people will ask is “what are you going to serve for dinner?” so what will you serve? Will it be steaks, salmon, shrimp cocktails, or will you go and make sometime out of the ordinary, something that makes your guests go “Wow this is fancy” but actually comes from peasant roots, well then why not have a fondue party, or as it should be known, a Fondue Function. Fondue will not only impress the guests you bring over but will also be a fun an interactive way for everyone to hangout versus the traditional dinner party. Fondue Functions make great dinner parties for friends and family, but they also give your guests a unique dining experience that could only be copied by going to a fondue restaurant, and those aren’t cheap, so having this dining experience in the comfort of your own house is a truly special event.

 

Origin:

Fondue came out of Switzerland in the 18th century, when many Swiss families didn’t have access to many fresh foods and had to stretch out their food supplies during the cold winter months. Many people in Switzerland at the time combined their cheeses with wine and garlic to create what we know now-a-days to be fondue. The word fondue comes from a French word “fondre” which means “to melt”. Fondue is traditionally served with various breads such as a baguette or any old bread with Glugg to drink. Glugg, also known as mulled wine which is made with wine, raisins, alcohol (gin, vodka or, aquavit), sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, cardamom, and almonds. These two combine into making one of the most iconic Swiss dishes, however it wouldn’t be until 1964 at the New York World Fair by the Swiss Pavilion Alpine restaurant. This is often regarded as America’s introduction to fondue as it is one of the first times many people were able to try fondue without having to travel to Switzerland to try it. Ever since the 1964 New York World’s Fair, the United States and its people have fallen in love with fondue, the classic chocolate dessert although of American origin actually comes from Konrad Egli, a Swiss. By combining chocolate, heavy cream, and cherry brandy he was able to make the original chocolate fondue that people all over the world today. (https://www.alpenwild.com/staticpage/fondue-history-and-tradition/) (https://everythingfondue.wordpress.com/history/)

 

 

 

 

Ingredients:

Fondue comes in endless varieties but for this fondue function we are going to look at five different ways to create fondue, one traditional, one that is American based, one that is German based, and two dessert fondue’s one that’s a mix between milk chocolate and semisweet chocolate with the final fondue pot being white chocolate.

For our first fondue pot, the traditional fondue you will need a cup and a half of gruyere, a cup and a half of emmental cheese, half a cup of appenzeller cheese, 2-3 table spoons of flour, 1 halved garlic clove, one cup of dry white wine, a teaspoon of lemon juice, a dash of liquor either gin or vodka, a pinch of pepper and nutmeg. (https://www.food.com/recipe/authentic-original-traditional-swiss-fondue-old-world-recipe-53057)

The next fondue pot will hold the American based fondue that will consist of, a cup and a half of American cheese, a cup and a fourth of milk, two tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce, a table spoon of flour, one half table spoon of ground mustard, a cup and a half of Colby cheese, and a cup of either and amber/brown ale or a pilsner lager. (https://www.thespruceeats.com/american-cheese-fondue-recipe-481632)

To round out the final savory fondue pot we will be the German based one, and the ingredients for this one will be: Two-and one-half cups of shredded sharp cheddar, four to six ounces of gruyere, one tablespoon of flour, one cup of a German lager, two table spoons of spicy brown mustard, a dash of hot sauce, and a dash of Worcestershire sauce. (https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/rachael-ray/german-cheddar-and-beer-fondue-recipe-1952095)

Now for the dessert-based fondue’s the one we will start with is the chocolate blend and the ingredients are pretty simple: six ounces of semisweet chocolate, 4 ounces of milk chocolate, one half cup of whole milk, one and a half of unsalted butter, half a teaspoon of vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt and a cup of alcohol (brandy usually flavored, a nice dessert wine, or a chocolate liquor). (https://www.chelseasmessyapron.com/chocolate-fondue/)

For our final fondue it is going to be a little unorthodox but will make your guests have no doubts in your cooking skills even for a simple dish like white chocolate fondue, the ingredients you will need are: one cup of heavy cream, one half stick of unsalted butter and, two twelve-ounce packages of white chocolate morsels. (https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/sandra-lee/white-chocolate-fondue-recipe-1942164)

Cooking instructions:

The cooking instructions are very similar between all of the savory fondue’s, but they have enough differences to need separate the cooking instructions for the three.

For the traditional fondue you want to take all of your cheeses and mix them in a bowl with flour to ensure it will be coated and melt properly, then you want to rub the interior of the pot with garlic for flavor, next you add the wine to the fondue pot, heating it up but make sure to not bring it to a boil, next you add the lemon juice and the hard alcohol to the pot, then once that gets all warm then you slowly start adding the cheese and flour blend a handful at a time and once all of the cheese has been added you’re looking for a light creamy cheese sauce and once it’s there you want to add the pepper and nutmeg to the mixture, finally move the fondue from the stove top and into a fondue pot with a constant flame underneath that keeps the fondue slightly boiling, and that is how to make our traditional fondue. For traditional fondue you can really dip just about anything to it and it will be tasty, but some classical options are: cubed bread, leeks, turnips, bacon, broccoli, and baby potatoes to name a few items that are more original.

The American-based fondue’s cooking instructions are as follows; You want to mix American cheese and flour together in a bowl, add a cup of amber/brown ale or the pilsner lager into the pot bringing it to just under a boil, once it is warm add the cheese/flour mix, milk, Worcestershire sauce and ground mustard to the mix, once it starts getting a smooth consistency slowly add the Colby cheese only a handful of a time, and that’s how you make the American-based fondue. American-based fondue has a lot of different foods you can dip into it such as: apples, cubed bread, meatballs, tortilla chips, chicken, steak, and pretzel bites just to name a few options for dipping.

The final savory fondue pot is the German-based fondue (which is my personal favorite) the cooking instructions are as follows; Combine the cheeses (sharp cheddar and gruyere) in a bowl with flour, add the German lager to a pot and bring it to a light bubble, then reduce the heat and slowly add handfuls of cheese to the pot, and once the cheese has been melted then you can incorporate the spicy brown mustard, hot sauce, and Worcestershire sauce, once it gets to a nice smooth consistency transfer it to a fondue pot. With this fondue you can dip many things inside of it such as but not limited to: pickles, cubed bread, salami, German sausage, and cauliflower just to name a few dipping options.

Moving onto the dessert fondue’s we will start with the mixed chocolate fondue and the instructions are pretty simple: you want to take all of the chocolate (semisweet and milk) and chop it into small pieces, then take the chocolate put it in a small bowl with a half cup of milk and the butter and you can either put it in the microwave until its melted or (the preferred way) put the bowl over a boiling pot of water and let the steam from the water melt all of it together, once it’s all melted you then want to add the vanilla and salt, then put it into a fondue pot for serving. The dipping options for this fondue is only limited by what you to dip in it such as: bananas, strawberries, cookies, Oreo’s, raspberries, potato chips, apples, pretzels, cake, popcorn, cherries, and tangerines. These are just a few suggestions but again do not limit yourself to the list I compiled, its chocolate so if you think it will taste good, then go for it.

Finally, we round out our fondues with one that will surely surprise your guests with and that is the white chocolate fondue, which is a lot easier than you may think: First you want to combine the heavy cream and butter in a medium pan bringing the combination to a simmer, then you want to remove the pan and add the white chocolate chips, and stir until it is all melted together, and once it is let it cool slightly and move it to a fondue pot. Similarly, to the mixed chocolate fondue you can dip a lot of the same ingredients as: strawberries, cherries, Oreo’s cake, etc. but again, if you think it will be good to dip in then dip it in.

These are the basic yet essential steps to take when making fondue, most of the dipping options can be used between the three savory fondue’s and for the two savory ones a lot of the dipping options can be interchanged between the two, so do not be afraid to mix and match different flavor combinations together.

 

Fondue Function:

So now that you know what ingredients you’ll need and how to make all five different fondue’s now you can get to my favorite party of any fondue function and that is the hosting, specifically the prep that comes before anyone arrives. First step is to make sure that before anyone shows up to your house or apartment for eating that it is clean and tidy. Next all of the savory fondues will take about 25-30 minutes in total for the prep and cook time, so make sure to plan accordingly when cooking and cut up all of the dipping ingredients so you do not have to do it while cooking the fondue as there will not be enough time. Lastly, on the prep you should have all of your beverages (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic) available before dinner is served, which includes our Glugg or mulled wine. This drink is a bit more complex than it seems but makes the experience of a fondue function feel that much more authentic. First you want to warm the wine, raisins, alcohol, and sugar in a pan on low heat. Next you want to mix the cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, and ginger in a cheesecloth and put it in the sauce pan with the wine, raisins, alcohol, and sugar. You then want to let it simmer but not boil for at least 3 minutes (enough to get warm and stay warm in its cup) then serve it in a mug where the heat will not penetrate the outside. Lastly you want to add a few almonds and raisins to the drink and make sure to serve with a spoon so those drinking it can get the soaked almonds and raisins. (https://www.frontiercoop.com/community/recipe/glugg)

Once the drinks are made and the setting it clean you are now ready for people to show up. Here is where you have some creative freedom for your party as in do you start cooking when everyone shows up, prior to everyone shows up or do you have your guests coming over help you cook the fondue? For me personally I enjoy cooking a little bit before everyone gets there so I can be finishing up the dish while people are showing up however, for this fondue function, I think the best way to get your guests involved with the process is to not cook until everyone shows up and make the dinner with everyone involved. Not only will it give your guests a unique dining experience that will hopefully last with them for a long time. Once you get your fondues going on cooking, I recommend making them in this order: Traditional, American, German, and make both dessert chocolate fondues at the same time if possible. When making the savory fondues this is your time to show off all of your knowledge and expertise of the Swiss food. After you cook the savory fondue’s but before moving on to make the dessert ones, make sure to cook the cheese that gets stuck on the bottom till it creates a dark crust. This is called ‘religieuse’, which is considered a delicacy for fondue as it is the last best bit and there are a few ways you go about consuming this last tasty bite. As assumed you could eat it straight up off the pan, you can crack an egg on it and consume it with the egg raw or let it cook in the pan before eating it, or as I like to do, save it for the following day and use it for breakfast in the morning with bacon and eggs or in a sausage and egg sandwich. There are some customs that come with having a fondue function such as if you drop whatever you are dipping in the fondue you have to do some sort of light-hearted punishment such as drinking or cleaning the dishes or having to speak in the third person until it happens to the next person and so on and so forth. Hosting your own fondue function has the ability to bring friends and family together in ways that having a dinner party of steak or chicken simply cannot do, since those dinner options offer a lack of interactivity comparatively.

 

In Conclusion:

Fondue has its humble beginnings from the 18th century as a dish families would make during the winter months to draw out the shelf life of the foods that they had. From that moment moving forward the culinary world would change forever, there would be fondue specific restaurants, people would have chocolate fondue fountain at weddings and even one of America’s largest buffet chains, Golden Corral, advertised the fact that they had a chocolate fountain for at-least a six months, America itself is often referred to as “Melting pot” which is another term for fondue. So, the next time someone offers to have a get-together you could offer to host a fondue function and blow everyone away with a simple yet uncommon dinner party. And remember if you think something would go well to dip into a fondue pot, then try it out who knows, maybe that is the next big food combination discovery simply because you held a fondue function with some friends and/or family just when you do remember to have a good time and everything else will fall into place.

Best Method for Baking Bread

Photo by Marianna OLE from Pexels

So, you are thinking about making bread at home and you are wondering if you should invest in a bread machine or start with making bread in the oven you currently own. You may be wondering how the bread quality is different in either of the scenarios. Let me help you to decide which option may work best for your needs.

We are going to begin by discussing the pros and cons of both the bread maker and baking bread in an oven.

First, one of the major positive in using a bread machine is the time savings. You add your ingredients in five minutes, you press a few buttons and it takes it from there. Three hours or so you have lovely, warm bread without having to do anything but add the ingredients.

Next, the learning curve is very gentle which is less intimidating for new bakers. The only thing to remember is to be consistent and precise with your ingredients, but even less than stellar precision can be overcome by a bread machine. If you are precise, however, you are sure to have the same bread every time you use your bread maker.

Another positive is that you aren’t limited just to making one type of bread, you can make anything from gluten free bread to cinnamon raisin bread. You can also make dough for rolls or pizza.

Lastly, you can do more than just make bread. The versatility of the bread maker is that it will allow you to make cakes, jams and sweet breads.

One of the negative things about making bread in a bread maker is that it limits the size and shape of your bread or cake. The size and shape are restricted to the size of the pan inside of your bread maker. This can be an issue if you want a larger loaf than can be accommodated in the bread machine or you do not want a cake in the shape of the bread maker pan. You are also limited to having a denser compact bread, this could be a negative, but it may not be if you prefer a little more complex flavor in a denser bread.

Another draw back is the appliance itself. Storing or keeping the machine on the counter can be a factor that should not be ignored. If you have a limited storage or limited counter space, this appliance can take up a premium amount of real estate and if you do not use it a lot, it may not be worth the effort to keep it stored or on your countertop.

Lastly, this is a small problem but one that may be a turn off for some people, the bread machine has a paddle or two that help to mix the ingredients, the paddle is always stuck in the bread when you take it out of the machine. This means that your bread always has a hole in the bottom because you must remove the paddle from the bread. If you are looking to do this as a career, using a bread machine probably is not for you. Also, if you just do not like having a hole in your loaf of bread, that is a genuinely valid annoyance.

Now let us talk about the pros and cons of baking bread in the oven. To start, making bread in the oven is very simple and requires less equipment. You can knead dough by hand, though I prefer my stand mixer, and as long as you have an oven in your kitchen, you are good to go.

You can also make any size or shape loaf that you would like, you are only limited by the size of your oven and imagination. I know in San Francisco there is a sour dough bread company that makes breads in the shape of animals, so seriously, any shape can be made in your oven. Check them out: https://store.boudinbakery.com/sourdough-turtle-bread-2-758-p30.aspx aren’t they so adorable!?!

You can also make flavor swirls or striations through your breads made in an oven, so if you want cinnamon bread with a swirl of cinnamon throughout, you can totally do it. The bread machine will completely incorporate the cinnamon so that is not an option for that way of baking bread. These loaves will also be lighter and have a softer texture than its counterpart made in the bread machine.

One of the disadvantages of making bread in an oven is that of time. You cannot walk away after adding the ingredients and expect to get bread. You need to make sure that you are there when the dough is mixing to make sure the dough is the right texture and consistency. You need to proof your dough which requires checking on it every sixty to ninety minutes, making sure the dough has risen but not too much (over proofing). Even baking the bread may require some intervention by the baker. The bread may need to have foil tented over it half way through baking, so the bread does not brown too quickly.

Lastly, another negative is that the learning curve can be steep depending on the bread you are wanting to make. This can also be translated into even basic bread making skills may require practice to get right, for example knowing how much liquid you need to get the correct consistency for your dough.

With all the above stated, I wanted to test how the process for making the same bread recipe in both methods to see how the bread would turn out. I decided to start with a pretty solid bread recipe. I went with King Arthur Flour’s white bread recipe found here. I have used their recipes in the past and have never been disappointed. I did need to make an adjustment to this recipe because the grocery stores are completely out of dry powdered milk, so I substituted whole milk in place of water and powdered milk.

I think that including the ingredients and how they affect the quality of the bread produced may be helpful. Also, as an aside being really consistent in how you measure really makes a huge difference in your finished product. So, without further ado the ingredients and their features:

Flour- this is the base of your bread, but you can change the bread tremendously just by the type of flour used. This is because each type of wheat is going to give you a different level of gluten production. I am using an all-purpose flour for my bread testing which is a combination of soft wheat and hard wheat. There are bread flours that are made with hard wheat that have a higher protein content which translates into gluten that make a better yeast bread however all-purpose will still produce a good loaf of bread.

Milk-powdered or otherwise gives your loaf a richer flavor

Yeast- this is what will give your bread that lovely height and make it so it is more bread than flatbread.

Salt- this is added for flavor, but it also helps to control fermentation and limit the bloom of the yeast

Honey (or really any sweetener)- this is added for flavor but also helps manufacture or feed your yeast to help the rise of the bread by creating carbon dioxide and alcohol. It also helps the crust to turn a golden color. Honey will make the crust darker than sugar.

Butter (Fats)- a small amount of this ingredient is used to give richness and moisture making a loaf more tender. Too much of this ingredient will slow down or stop the yeast fermentation.

I have included a video of me making both loaves to do a visual comparison.

As you can see, the loaf I made to go into the oven has more steps than the bread made in the bread machine. This isn’t really a huge problem though as both are simple processes to get through. As I stated above, the bread made in the bread machine is denser and more compact albeit taller than the bread made in the oven. The bread made in the oven is light and airy.

I hope that seeing the comparisons between the breads helped you decide about whether to purchase a bread machine or not. Mainly, don’t overthink it, just enjoy the process of making bread regardless of what method you choose. I am including this picture of my daughter as she is about to enjoy a grilled cheese sandwich made with the bread I made for this post because it just makes my heart happy. Happy Baking!

Adopt or Foster a New Best Friend, It Might Just Be the Best Thing for Your Mental Health in These Times.

Delaney Slade
Most everyone’s lives have been altered in some way due to COVID-19, one of the demographics of people that have been uniquely impacted are current university students. While everyone is going through changes and shifts in their work and everyday lives, students’ whole plans have been changed. In an already anxiety-inducing time for many students, classes were switched to online, people kicked out of residence halls, finals changed, job interviews cancelled, internships stopped, and start dates pushed back. There is also the fact that students returning to school in the fall do not know if these classes will be online or in person. Many students feel that paying their full tuition is not fair when receiving an online education. These factors have hit some students harder, especially those who possibly don’t have a stable place to retreat to from their college towns or already struggle with their mental health. The inability to control what is going on around us in a transitioning time of life has been a huge challenge for sure.
Anxiety and stress is through the roof for college students at the moment. Classes are switching grading policies which is stressful, many students are still participating in group projects, their college career is now dependent on strong internet connection, and many of us aren’t receiving any funding even though people have lost their jobs and are possibly unable to live in their prior housing. International students may not have been able to travel home in time due to logistical or financial reasons, and many of these people are not in incredibly difficult situations with group living closing. Many of my friends are studying hospitality management at Washington State University. Three of these people have had their job offers retracted and the rest of them have had all interviews canceled or postponed indefinitely at the time. While many of us are fortunate enough to have our parents homes to return to, there is also a large group of people who don’t have this option due to a variety of circumstances. Students across the board, even the ones with the best circumstances, have had their lives and futures flipped upside down at the moment.
Below is an example of one of my friends who has had their future put on pause and has been put in a difficult decision.
* her name has been changed for privacy reasons
Rachel* is graduating from Washington State University this spring with a degree in Hospitality Management. She has worked two summers at a prestigious golf course doing food, beverage, and event management. Because of this great experience she has under her belt, she had interviews at some of the best golf courses in San Diego for positions starting June 15th. All three of her interviews got cancelled in March. Two of them said the position will no longer be available due to budget cuts after this is all over, and one said they will interview her as soon as they are able to fully reopen. As much as this is hard, many people are facing difficult decisions, it can be especially hard for college students like Rachel whose future industries have completely stopped because of covid-19. Additionally, Rachel is in a situation where she cant return home to either of her divorced parents households and because her mom still claims her as a dependent, does not receive a stimulus check. She also wasn’t working enough hours at her part time job to receive unemployment, and almost no businesses in Pullman, Washington are hiring where she is able to live.
Everyone is dealing with hardships and that is important to acknowledge, this is just highlighting an example of someone who is dealing with a lot of stress and anxiety at the moment because of coronavirus. Should Rachel seek out other employment in case her job opportunities don’t open up for months? Most likely yes, but on the other hand with so much information circulating there’s a chance she could be interviewing with that company in June. I believe one of the biggest stressors in this situation is the amount of things up in the air and unknown. No one has security anymore in any of their plans and it can be extremely anxiety-inducing.
Before these external changes happened, many university students across the world struggled with anxiety and mental health issues. College is an extremely demanding and stressful time full of unknowns and self doubt for many people, partnering this with a global pandemic shockingly doesn’t help most people’s stress. According to the American College Health Association Fall 2018 National College Health Assessment, 63% of college students in the US felt overwhelming anxiety in the past year. This problem is nothing new, but I feel that students who weren’t previously affected by anxiety may also now be experiencing some of the symptoms.
One of the biggest reasons for this I believe is the sense of normalcy and the ability to have a routine that has been taken away from many. Establishing healthy routines, seeing loved ones, and being productive have all been proven in reducing stress and anxiety. Yet many of these coping mechanisms are unavailable to people now. One of the other ways people can reduce anxiety is by interacting with animals.
I’ve heard the expression of pets “saving” their owners who are going through struggles countless times. And according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, there are some serious facts to back up these statements.  A 2016 study explored the role of pets in the social networks of people managing a long-term mental health problem and found that pets provide a sense of security and routine that provide emotional and social support. “Specifically, pets and therapy animals can help alleviate stress, anxiety, depression, and feelings of loneliness and social isolation.” Social isolation is something many people feel in college while actually being surrounded by people, so to actually be socially isolated from friends and family can take a serious toll on mental health.
So what are people doing with all this extra time? Well most of us college students are still finishing out school. Speaking for myself, I’ve still been incredibly stressed about my course load and partner that with graduating, my anxieties have definitely gone up. One of the things that has helped me the most in these times of stress have been my pets here at home. They have absolutely zero idea what’s going on or what a global pandemic is. They are so happy to have their humans home more and be getting far more love and attention. Attention is something that puppies, kittens, and any new furry addition to your household needs. And even if someone was still working full time from their home, without the time spent commuting, seeing friends, going out to eat, or any other really fun things that I miss doing, we almost all have a few more hours on our hands. That being said, now would be a really great time for a college student to adopt or even foster a dog or cat from a shelter.
Animal shelters and animal control are still considered an essential business which means the shelters are still filling up with animals who need homes. “Approximately 6.5 million companion animals enter U.S. animal shelters nationwide every year. Of those, approximately 3.3 million are dogs and 3.2 million are cats.” Adopting or fostering a shelter animal is an extremely beneficial thing to do for both the owner and the animal. When adopting through the shelter that animal will be updated on shots, vaccines, spayed or neutered (if they’re old enough), and ready for a home. Buying a pet from a breeder or a petshop doesn’t ensure that animal is up to date on its medical needs and can cost you a lot of money in the long run. Shelter fees include these medical processes and are often considerably cheaper than buying a dog or cat from an individual or store.
Many of us already have pets at home, they have been some of the best ways to diffuse any stress or negativity that I have. Pets provide us with unconditional love and a distraction from the day to day stresses of life. Especially now when these stressors are multiplied and we can’t leave our houses to practice our normal stress relieving habits. Taking my dog on a walk is beneficial to the both of us. It gives me a sense of responsibility, accomplishment for doing something beneficial to another life, a little bit of endorphins from exercise, and is a great break from my homework and job hunt that are stressing me out immensely. My cat is mostly a great provider of comedic relief, and I truly believe that if you’re not a cat person that will change once you’ve had one purring on your lap. Being around living beings that are not stressed or worried is extremely relieving in these times. It seems like all anyone does at the moment is talk about the coronavirus and how much it’s negatively affecting everything. While having pets doesnt fix any of this, it is a well needed break from reality.
One of the few pieces of good news is that many animal shelters have had a far quicker adoption turn around on the animals that come in. People are wanting to adopt more now that they have the time to love and train an animal. The Riverside County animal shelter in California has been empty for a couple days now, “The reason why is no mystery: As people are practicing social distancing to curb the spread of Covid-19, many have come to the conclusion that now is the perfect time to bring a pet into their homes.” This is great news and showing that people understand the benefits pets can bring to people during these times. And anyone who’s had a puppy knows how much work they are, and most of us will probably never have this much free time again. However, not everyone should be adopting animals. People need to understand that this situation (thankfully) is temporary. If once your work and life resumes you cannot give an animal the proper attention you shouldn’t be permanently adopting one. A great alternative to this that still allows both parties to benefit is fostering an animal.
Fostering an animal is taking care of that animal while either nursing it back to health, allowing it to reach an adoptable age, or while actively searching for its forever home. Fostering puppies and kittens is very popular, because of course, who doesn’t love baby animals. It allows the pets to be in someone’s home versus an animal shelter. This provides personalized and almost constant care, they become familiar with people and what living in a home is like, and become much more socialized. Foster pet parents learn the behaviors and personalities of the animal much more than an animal shelter worker/volunteer that interacts with 50+ animals a day. This way, these people can find the best future homes for their fostered animals. Many dogs and cats also need medical care that cannot be adequately provided for them in a shelter environment so staying with someone at their home is their best option for healing and finding a home. Finally, many dogs and cats are just happier and act more like themselves when in a real home vs a shelter. This allows fosters to see these animals personalities and potential adopters can see how they act in a home instead of being possibly scared or nervous at a shelter. Some of the best parts of fostering is that most of the time the shelter or organization sponsoring the foster, pays for all supplies and medical needs for that animal so it doesn’t cost the foster any money.
Fostering can be a great way to ease into possible ownership before taking the plunge yourself, in these times it’s also great to have a temporary animal companion that won’t be a forever responsibility once life returns to a more normal routine. Whether its adoption or fostering or just continuing to love the pet(s) you currently have, animals clearly have a way of making us happier. This next story I am going to share is not my own or even a friends, this comes from Kathryn Oda, a social worker, who shared her story of how adopting a dog helped her overcome anxiety and depression on the Huffington Post in 2016.
Kathryn had dealt with anxiety and depression her whole life since her early teenage years. Like many of us feel now in our current circumstances, she had huge amounts of stress about what the future brings, “more and more of my days started to be spent paralyzed by endless thoughts of regrets of the past and worries for the future.” Even though Kathryn studied psychology and mental health in both her undergraduate and graduate school, she had never found an effective way to manage her own struggles. Over the course of 10 years post grad, she tried every anxiety combating strategy there was. Exercise, medication, herbal/holistic remedies, special teas, self help books, and more. Nothing was working for her and it wasn’t until she herself read an article from Psychology Today (linked below), about the health and psychological benefits of bonding with a dog. This was when she adopted a Corgi from her local dog rescue association.
Kathryn herself admitted that it was not the quick and instant fix she was hoping for, but what her dog did for her was give her a sense of responsibility and confirmation that life would go on even during her worst and most stressful days as well as the companionship when she wasn’t able to see friends and family in her life.
“I finally realized the answer to my decade long question of how to manage anxiety and depression – exercise, laughter and love – all things that were unattainable for me before, were achieved by getting a dog. The reason these three things are so key is they all trigger the release of the chemical serotonin – the feel-good chemical in our brains. By having increased levels of serotonin every day, symptoms of anxiety and depression can dramatically decrease.”
Although Kathryn might be on the more extreme end of how many college students are feeling, we can all relate to feelings of uncertainty and stress about the future. We all are being isolated from at least some of our friends and family at the moment, and I’m sure we could all use a great distraction from the current circumstances in our world. While I’m not saying everyone should go out this instance and adopt or foster a dog or cat, it is something that should be considered if you’re really struggling during this time. Adopting can also be reassuring in the sense, that no matter what happens or where you end up, you can bring your pet and have a sense of familiarity and comfort wherever.
Before making any of these decisions, proper research is necessary on both the animal and if your living situation allows you to adopt or foster an animal. This is an unprecedented time where we are living in and I hope everyone, college students included, finds effective and positive ways to deal with the struggles we’re facing.
My two girls who have provided a lot of comfort and comedic relief during these times

 

Below I’ve linked some great local and national websites/social media to look at if you’re serious about adopting or fostering.
Animal Shelters/Organizations:
In Spokane: https://www.rescue4all.org  – an AMAZING non-profit animal rescue that focuses on finding dogs the best (and most sustainable) fosters and permanent homes
In Missoula: http://myhswm.org
National: https://www.petfinder.com – take precautions in order to ensure that you are adopting from a foster or shelter not a backyard breeder
Look for your local animal shelter or animal control in your area
References:
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The Supposed Growth of Alternative Media

The Supposed Growth of Alternative Media

The internet has been reshaping our society since its earliest days.  Perhaps the most dramatic and significant change is that of media consumption.  Consumers increasingly rely on online content for both their entertainment and news.  I, Steve Lauder, will try to show the shape this trend has taken over time and what it could mean for the future.  First I will define what can be classified as alternative media, examine where it is heading, and theorize what this could mean for the future.

What is Alternative Media?

Alternative media is a blanket term that could be at least somewhat valid for many different forms of content.  Throughout this piece I will differentiate between media delivery method and media production.  Delivery method would refer to how it is consumed i.e. cable, streaming, print. Etc.  Production refers to how it is made i.e. Hollywood studio, Cable Newsroom, or some guy in his garage.  A single media piece can be traditionally produced and delivered through a traditional method, traditional produced and delivered through a non-traditional method, or non-traditionally produced delivered through a non-traditional method, with only this last example truly deserving of the title of “Alternative Media”.  Theoretically media could also be non-traditional content delivered through a traditional method, but being that traditional media is so well established it is hard if not impossible for an independent content producer to break into that space.   Cable television, cinema, radio, and nearly all print media are obvious examples of content sources that are well established and so are best classified as traditional delivery methods.  These delivery methods have been consistent with their business model since before the internet, it is unlikely that they will be able to make any significant pivot towards a different structure in the future.  An example of traditional media content delivered through a non-traditional source would include Cable News’ creation of their own individual news channel, or newspapers development of their own websites.  Netflix, for example, may have once been firmly in the camp of alternative media, but I would posit that any company that is owned by a massive corporation such as Disney should cease to be considered separate from more traditional societal structures.  What this leaves us with is independent video producers, most notably on YouTube but on other platforms as well, newer and so less established independent publications, blogs, and even individuals freely expressing their opinions or creativity without a significant fiscal incentive.  Media like this is not made in a large Hollywood or New York studio and do not benefit from the help of a large payroll for staff and technology.  A trend emerges with these truly alternative sources, they are to a large degree reliant on larger platforms, like YouTube or social media, to get their content to their audience, but are however separate from these publications.  It is wrong to describe the current entirety of YouTube as alternative media when CNN and Fox News have YouTube channels, YouTube is simply a place where alternative media can be found. This definition of alternative media, as in media that is truly independently owned and produced, as opposed to simply calling all digital media alternative, may not match the lingo used within the industry.  However, I believe it is the correct definition to understand the real change that is going on within the media landscape.

How to see the trend

The proper definition of alternative media given in above is vital to understanding the true societal movement away from a few massive content sources and towards many smaller ones.  The challenge is that it makes this trend difficult to track over time.  This is because as viewership scatters across smaller independent sources, the viewer’s habitual data scatters with it, making it hard to aggregate.  So, the best way to understand this trend is to look at traditional media’s statistics.  By assuming that the relationship between traditional viewership and alternative is negatively correlated, in aggregate and over time, this can be used to extrapolate the growth or decline of alternative media. Here it is important to consider overall media consumption trends as well as population growth.

The rate of overall media consumption in America continues to grow, with a major boom in the last few weeks due to the major societal changes.  However, this growth was beginning to decelerate before the pandemic hit.  The chart below from eMarketer.com shows this trend from 2012 to 2018, with the years seeing a 16 minute and only 1 minute increase in overall consumption respectively.

American Overall Media Consumption 2012 – 2018

Going off the same years, the US population is estimated to be about 314 million in 2012 and 326 million in 2018 according to census.gov.  This is about 4% growth at a steady rate of about .66% each year.  Putting the population growth and the overall consumption together, this means that, for example, any content producer that saw greater than 3% growth from 2012 to 2018 beat the average and so can be assumed to have gained a higher portion of market share.  This is opposed to, as another example, just 1.5% overall growth in 2016.  8.5% growth would just edge out the industry average for the entire 6 year span.  According to Nielsen, the total monthly hours of cable TV usage went down from 148 hours in 2012 to 141 in 2014.  A 4.73% decrease against an overall growth of 2.58% within the industry (Nielsens study did not account for population growth).  So while media consumption was growing, cable news viewership was declining.  This is hardly a revelation for anyone in the industry, but it is a helpful quantification to use to start further analysis.

My next step in analysis is where the distinction between defining alternative media as independent media, as opposed to alternative media as digital media, becomes important.  We know that the decline in cable left as much as 7% of market share up for grabs from 2012 to 2014.  What is less clear is how much of this market share fell to truly alternative media and how much was eaten up by traditional media’s growth into non-traditional platforms.  In 2014 Netflix users watched a total of 29 billion hours a content, which grew over 46% to 42.5 billion hours in 2015.  This massive number means that Netflix isn’t just growing off increased overall consumption and cables decline, it is also likely capitalizing off moves away from all traditional delivery methods including radio and print.  This leaves independent content producers in a bind.  At first glance an aspiring YouTuber may think the current times present a great opportunity to take advantage of the trend of those cutting cable, but in reality right now is an incredibly challenging time to produce content without massive backing.  Someone trying to create content is now competing with the rise of Netflix as well as other traditional sources moving online.  CNN has 9.44 million subscribers on YouTube, and has the funding necessary to acquire many more if they decide to.  Those that do not have their notoriety or credibility have huge bars from attaining it.  The disproportionate growth of Netflix show that creativity outside of massive corporate structures is being strangled by those that can afford to crush their competition.  In order to understand the mechanisms behind this one must understand the platforms used by independent producers of both past and present.

Exposing the Myth

The myth of growing alternative media has been beneficial to new digital platforms like YouTube and Netflix.  Netflix positioned themselves as a contrast to media style of previous generations.  YouTube has long been seen as a place where someone can consider new viewpoints or be entertained in ways unique to them.  If either of these things were ever true, they are certainly ceasing to be.  Instead, these companies and those like them hold themselves up as new and different to the public while acting in sync with previous media powerhouses in private. Since its acquisition, the most popular show on Netflix by a wide margin has been The Office.  Netflix pays over $100 million a year to retain the rights.

The Office first aired on NBC in 2005 and today is the most popular piece of media anywhere. Yet streaming is still qualifies is “alternative” to many media professionals.

Now, I like The Office, but the idea that many media professionals classify the millions hours of it streamed as “alternative” strikes me as ridiculous.  The Office is basically Seinfeld updated for the 21st century.  Many different shows in the style of The Office are available on cable.  What really is the difference between these two platforms?  The minor changes like access through wifi or different advertising structure (that is beginning to look more like Cable every day) mean very little if the quality of the content is the same.  The battle between cable, Netflix, and a variety of other players like Hulu or Amazon Video is almost entirely based around who has the money to buy the show that people want to watch.  A small television producer that wants to make a new show have almost no other option to reach their audience besides these massive monopolies with no incentive to pay a fair rate for an obscure show with little chance to catch on.  The production of content on YouTube is similar.  YouTube, through manipulating their search algorithms, recommendation, or outright banning possesses the power to control the voices on their platform.  YouTube’s incentives is to funnel viewers towards massive corporate entities with proven viewership’s and huge advertising budgets.  It is accurate to summarize this overall trend by saying that YouTube is becoming Netflix and Netflix is becoming Cable.  This trend is also observable with the growth of major news corporations on other platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and others that used to be separate from these massive household names.

One obvious but flawed argument against the idea that, as of late, independent voices are being stifled as opposed to amplified, is a comparison of now to times before the internet.  “Be happy that you can make or watch a YouTube video at all” a naysayer might suggest.  The flaw in this argument lies in misconceptions about the previous media landscape and its level of corporatization.  When what is now classified as traditional media was new and emergent there were few corporate monopolies with enough weight to impact the entire industries.   Local newspapers were not owned by conglomerates located in urban hubs and so an aspiring writer could more easily gain access to them in order to put forth his ideas, as opposed to a newspaper today.  Maybe there were only three channels on TV for a time, but that was when most people did not even own TVs.  This argument may have enough merit to suggest the levels of alternative media in each respective time is no less today than before the internet.  But the prevailing sentiment, among both media professionals and indeed the American public, seems to be that some massive shift towards independent content production is occurring.  I believe that this is incorrect and that levels of alternative media production are at most equal to what they had been.

What’s Next

The trend away from cable and towards digital is undeniable and will likely continue.  The recent developments with Covid-19 might accelerate this trend and will likely lead to increased media viewership rates for the foreseeable future.  But the future of what I have defined as truly alternative media is very much up in the air.  There is little reason to think that YouTube will change its ways, allow independent streamers a higher portion of their fans donations, and recommend their videos over financially backed channels.  Netflix will not start taking gambles on smaller shows when they can continue to renew The Office and stay profitable.  Facebook still won’t want you to see your crazy Uncle’s flat earth theory, and so you won’t see it.  However there is the possibility that new platforms and services may begin to emerge.  Streamers or smaller scale film studios may risk giving their rights to places with smaller or more niche audiences if they are given better rates.  Streaming websites such as Twitch show an emerging profitable example of this.  Your Uncle might realize Facebook is hiding his posts and so start his own blog.  If the earth does turn out to be flat he will receive massive traffic that Facebook will be missing out on.

Internet celebrity Alex Jones shows the potential for both directions of the trend. Banned from Twitter and Facebook in 2018, Jones viewership took a hit but continues to survive on his personal website.

 

The most likely scenario is that independent content production shrinks in the short term but sees a renaissance at some point in the future.  For those of us wise enough to differentiate between media production and it’s delivery this trend will prove interesting to track, as it has potential for huge cultural impacts across our society.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Important factors to consider when looking at this trend is population demographics, the contrast between traditional and alternative media, and global trends that impact behavior.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10X How to Fish Catalina Island, CA

10X Guide to Fishing Santa Catalina Island, California

Tanner Boston

LOCATION

Catalina Island is located 26 nautical miles across the sea from Orange County, California. The island is home to many people as well as many different types of fish. Catalina’s waters consist of mostly kelp and deep rock structures. Every year thousands of weekend warriors and charter fishing boats take the trip across the Pacific Ocean to fish the beautiful waters of the island. There are three main harbors on Catalina. On the East end of the island is the city of Avalon. Home to about 3,000 people, Avalon is a tourist paradise. The calm beautiful water in the harbor houses a special type of fish, called a Garibaldi and it is an ocean goldfish. They are bright orange and swim in shallow water. As beautiful as they are, Garibaldi are an endangered species and are protected in California waters. Avalon is also home to a vibrant bar scene, with an amazing board walk that is packed 24/7. To the East we would find Two Harbors. Two Harbors got its name because it is the thinnest part of the island; only half a mile of land separates Two Harbors and Catalina Harbor. There are very few restaurants on this side of the island. However, this side of the island is home to an unnatural heard of buffalo. Movie produces back in the day brought the buffalo over to film a movie and never brought them back. Catalina Island is one of my favorite places to fish as well as party.

BAIT

  • Mackerel
    • The largest of the baitfish used at Catalina. Most anglers use mackerel for Marlin, Swordfish, and Yellowtail.
  • Sardine
    • Sardine’s can range in size from 3 inches to 8 inches. They are the most abundant bait in the Southern California waters. On the right day you can find schools of millions up on the surface being chased by other fish, dolphins, and birds. The baits can be used whole alive, stripped out (filleting the fish), or chunked.
  • Anchovies
    • These are the smallest of the fin bait in Southern California. They range in size of 3-5 inches and only weigh as much as a paper clip. Calico Bass and Rockfish love anchovies because of their size.
  • Squid
    • Squid are the absolute bottom of the food chain. Everything in the ocean easts squid. You can target and fish at Catalina with squid. They are the candy bar of the ocean.
  • Soft Plastics (fake baits)
    • Soft plastics are exactly what they sound like. They are molded out of rubber to look like other baits that are found in the water. People who fish with plastics like the challenge of making their fake bait look real.
  • Hard Plastics/Iron Jigs
    • These are some of my favorite baits to fish. My number one reason is because they do not have to be rebaited or re-attached. There are a million different colors and shapes to use. My tip is to find the one that you like and fish it until it either works or fails. Pick a new color/shape and get back out there!

TYPES OF FISH

            There are a lot of different species of fish in the water surrounding Catalina Island. Yellowtail, White Sea Bass, Calico Bass and many, many more. I am going to break down a couple fish as to their habitat, feeding patterns and types of rigs you can use to target them. The one thing that is the same for every fish is that I always fish 40lb line because you never know what is going to grab that bait.

CALICO BASS

That said, I will start small with the Calico Bass. They are called this because their skin has a brown and green plaid pattern. They range in size from 6 inches to 25 inches. The biggest I have ever seen caught weighed 8 pounds. They are a very ferocious fish that hits the line harder than you would think. Calicos are one of the most common fish at Catalina. My captain and I have an inside joke calling them “elusive” because they are so easy to catch. I say that with a bit of caution because when you are not targeting a species, they seem to bite every cast, but the fish you want to catch never shows up. Calico Bass eat pretty much everything they can. From very small sand worms to 8-inch swim baits. This is a type of fish that eats fish way bigger than its mouth. They are technically called Kelp Bass because they live mostly in kelp beds. You can find them just about anywhere there is kelp or rock cover on the bottom. My go to setup for catching Calico Bass is called a dropper loop. To tie a dropper loop you take your hook and slide it up the line about a foot. You then double the line behind the hook, and then double it again. Twist the line three times and pull the hook through the loop you just made. Wet the line with some spit and pull the knot tight. They key to being successful is leaving a 3 to 4-inch loop between the knot and the hook. This allows the bait float around more naturally on the bottom. To finish it off you tie a torpedo weight to the tag line of the knot. (The tag line is the part of the line that comes out of the knot.) Typically, the tag line is very short, but in the case of the dropper loop we want it to be long so that the weight sits on the bottom and the bait is floating above. The knot that I prefer for the weight on the tag line is the basic Fisherman’s knot. This is a very simple knot to tie. To explain, you run the line through the eye hole of the weight and wrap it around the main line 5-7 times. You then take the tag end and bring it through the loop closest to the eye of the weight. Wet the line and pull the knot down to the eye of the weight. I typically don’t cut the tag end of the weight knot because it does not affect the chance of getting a bite. A shortcut to tying this knot is once you bring the line through the eye, bring it up about 3 inches and spin the weight. Spinning the weight does the same thing as wrapping it around by hand. The best bait use, in my opinion, on your dropper loop is anchovies. You’ll want to use a smaller hook for anchovies because they are very fragile and small. If you have a lot of anchovies, you can chum them (throw a lot into the water) and get the bass more excited to eat. If you can start a feeding frenzy, I would ditch the dropper loop and tie a fly line. Just line and hook. Toss your ‘chovie out there and you’re pretty much guaranteed to catch a fish.

YELLOWTAIL

The next fish I will discuss is the California Yellowtail. This is my absolute favorite fish to catch. Pound for pound they fight harder than almost any other fish in the ocean. In my opinion, they are the tastiest fish too. They range is size from 6 oz to 90lbs. If you are to read anything about California Yellowtail fishing it will talk about their fighting ability. This is the reason I said in the beginning that you should never fish anything lighter than 40 lb test when you are at Catalina Island. These fish do not nibble on your bait. When a Yellowtail bites they inhale. Typically, the smaller fish around the island nibble on the bait and then it will feel like your bait got stuck on a rock or kelp. When you set the hook, you’ll know immediately that you have a yellowtail on the line. The rod will double over (bend hard) and the fish will immediately run towards cover. They do this to attempt to break your line. Yellowtail also live around the kelp beds and deep rock cover. Unlike Calicos, Yellowtail tend to make rounds around the island or the cove. This is very dependent on the current around the island. Fish swim up current looking for food that is moving down current. Catalina has many different spots around the island that are famous for Yellowtail. A very popular one is the Farnsworth Bank on the backside of the island. It is about a 2-mile long reef, about a mile off the island, that is only 60 ft under the surface. This spot is very particular because it is illegal to catch Calico Bass here. It is illegal because a marine survey found that the Calico Bass population in the area was dwindling. One of my favorite ways to catch Yellowtail is to throw an iron. When I say throw, I mean cast. A piece of iron shaped into a long diamond and painted different colors. When fishing for Yellowtail I like to fish with 65lb braided line and an 8ft 40lb fluorocarbon leader. Fluorocarbon is very important because it is a sinking line that is almost invisible in the water. The invisibility is very important because Yellowtail have very good eyesight.

The knot that I tie to attach the braid and the fluorocarbon is called a Tony Pena knot. I will try my best to describe this with words because it is a difficult knot to tie. To start the knot, I tie a double over hand knot in the fluorocarbon. This is simple. Make a loop and wrap the tag end around the loop twice. You then pull the braided line through the loop about 8 inches and pull the overhand knot tight to the braided line. The next portion is more complicated. You bring the braided line backup the main line and make a small loop next to the overhand knot. This loop is very important because it is what makes the knot as tight as possible. After making a loop with the braided line, you want to wrap the braid up the fluorocarbon 12 times. It is very important to make sure that the original loop stays loose from the fluorocarbon. Once you have gone up the line with 12 wraps, you wrap back down towards the loop 12 more times. To make this knot successful, the 12 wraps down should fall in the spaces between the 12 wraps up. When you get to the 11th wrap (coming back down) you bring the tag end around and the 12th wrap ends through the loop created at the beginning. This next step is the most important when tying a strong Tony Pena knot. Wet the line, as always, wrap the braided line and the fluorocarbon around different hands. This allows you to get a grip on the line when pulling it tight. Personally, I put both the tag end of the fluorocarbon and the braided line in my teeth. Biting down hard on the line and pulling in opposite directions with both hands, the knot should slide down and come tight around the double overhand knot. Once the knot is tight, I re-wrap the line around both hands and pull as hard as I can to see if the line is going to break. Once the knot is tight and tested you must cut the tag ends as small as possible to ensure the knot does not catch on any guides that are on the rod. After tying  your leader, you must tie on the iron. My go-to knot for irons (or any jig for that matter) is called a uni knot. This knot is much simpler than the Tony Pena. To tie this knot, you bring the line through the eye and bring it back up the main line. You make a loop in the tag end of the line and make sure the tag end of the loop is still running up the main line. You then take both the loop and the main line and wrap the tag end around the main line and loop 5 times. Unlike other knots, the uni knot gets pulled tight away from the hook. Once tight, you wet the rest of the line, between the knot and hook, and pull the knot down tight. We cut the tag end short on this knot because the tag end can be visible on the bait. As soon as you are rigged you are ready to catch fish. I try to cast the iron as far as possible up current. Yellowtail like to chase their food so after letting the iron sink for 5-10 seconds crank the iron back in at a moderately-fast pace. If you get a bite, it will feel like you snagged something because the bait will just stop. Set the hook and prepare for one of the most fun fights you will ever encounter with Pelagic fish. This is just my personal favorite way to target Yellowtail. You will cast more times than you will hook up, but if you do hook up, it will be a bite like no other.

Other ways to target Yellowtail are very similar to Calico’s. Dropper loops work very well, the only difference is that you want about 5 feet between the weight and the bait. Also, you want to use a whole sardine hooked through the nose. They are hooked through the nose because yellowtail eat the bait headfirst.  You can also fly line for Yellowtail. There are many ways to hook a sardine or small mackerel to the hook. My favorite way to hook a bait fish for fly lining is through the “shoulders” of the fish. The “shoulder” is part of the fish that meets the gill plate and head. Sardine have a large green stripe that goes head to tail. In order to bait the hook without killing the fish is to put the hook a little more than halfway up that green stripe. Gently work the hook through the fish and make sure there is enough meat between the hook and skin so that the bait does not come off when casting. You will want to let this bait swim as far away from the boat as possible. They key to being successful is to keep the line tight enough to feel a bite but loose enough to let the bait swim naturally. In most cases, you will feel the bite in the reel. This means that the line will start coming off the reel very fast. A rule of thumb when fly lining is that if you cannot stop the line with your thumb, click the reel in gear and set that hook! You don’t even have to land a Yellowtail to get hooked on Yellowtail fishing, the fight and excitement of the hook set are enough to get anyone addicted. I know I am!