The Michigan Daily -- Wednesday, January 9, 2008
THE EDITOR'S NOTEBOOK with GARY GRACA
A look at the big news events this week and how important they really are. Conveniently rated from one-to 10.
Weneda, anar 9 008: heMicignDil
rule 72: Don't use
the Internet to diag-
nose your ailments.
You'll think you have
everything. rule 73:
Incorporate a back-
pack into your party
attire and disguise
your walk of shame
as early morning
74: No matter how
passionately you feel
about the subject,
refrain from debat-
ing over who makes
the best burrito.
- E-mail rule submissions to
In a'California junior high school last month, an unidenti-
fied 12-year-old was suspended for bringing a vodka-filled
chocolate to school, while some parents and administra-
tors are up in arms about degradation ofltoday's youth
and the prevalence of corruptingforces in teenagers' lives,
the more important question is: Since when could you
buy vodka-filled chocolates? Russell Stover is missing a
Valentine's Day opportunity.
BECAUSE DRIVING IS TOO STRENUOUS
Announcing its plans at the Consumer Electronics
Show in Las Vegas, General Motors plans to launch a
consumer-ready, self-driving car within the next decade.
Because American automakers have been predicting the
car market like tarot card readers lately, the driverless
vehicle isexpected todoa"out asmell as and make as
much sense as the hybrid SUV.
SIMPLICITY'S BITTERSWEET RETURN
After a two-month hiatus, Comedy Central's hit shows
"The Colbert Report" and "The Daily Show with Jon
Stewart" returned Monday despite the striking writers
Guild oflAmerica. Americans under the age of 30 are
now expected to know what is going on in the world
AL QAEDA'S NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTION -
If you've ever wondering what self-improvement reso-
lutions terrorists make for the New Year, Al Qaeda
member Adam Gadahn had answers this week. Along
with giving up fast food, getting six-pack abs and quit-
ting smoking, the group will greet President Bush during
visits to the Middle East this month "not with flowers or
clapping but with bombs and booby-trapped vehicles."
Apparently, there were a few renegade terrorists who
weren't on the same page.
MCCAIN'S DEJA VU
with the endorsements of both major Michigan news-
papers, The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press, Repub-
lican presidential candidate John McCain is hoping to
repeat his 2000 win in Michigan's primary next Tuesday
in a follow up to his big finish in New Hampshire. while
the candidate may be mirroring his 2000 campaign
almost exactly, the mighty maverick McCain is forget-
ting one important thing: He lost in 2000.
HERE CHANGES THE L-WORD
After Barack Obama's victory in Iowa on Thursday,
Democrats have a new favorite word: change. Although
Democrats are riding the great wave oftchange through
6 the presidential primaries, Republican strategists are lick-
ing their lips for the general election The last time they
checked, progressive change was a synonym fora dirty
word that gets everyone riled up: liberalism.
PERSON OF THE WEEK
Hillary Clinton won the New Hampshire
primary yesterday after an eight point loss
to Barack Obama in Iowa, earning her the
all-ready-used moniker of the Democratic
primaries 'comeback kid' (See: Bill Clinton,
1992). Letting her eyes glaze over with
patriotic tears in front of supporters and a
few strategic cameras just might have given
Clinton the boost she needed.'The Kid' bet-
ter watch out next week, though. Obama's
allusion to Kennedy's famous inaugural
address in his New Hampshire concession
speech might swing the current of emo-
tionality his way. Remember Hillary, it's not
what winning the primaries will do for you,
but what you can do to win the primaries.
fter a long day of sight-seeing
while traveling in Ireland,
A LSA junior Jacqueline Lantz
did not retreat toa hotel ora hostel,
but to a mattress in the kitchen of
a stranger's floor. Lantz is a mem-
ber of a network of couch surfers -
people who travel the world while
relying solely on the hospitality of
the movement's other adherents.
Once a practice reserved only
for old friends, family and drunken
nights, crashing couches has been
revolutionized by websites like
www.couchsurfing.com - which,
along with adding the convenience
of online planning, introduces a
communal aspect to what would
otherwise just be finding a roof to
cover your head.
The goal of what have been
coined as the "Couch surfing Proj-
ect" by the website's creators is less
to save travelers a few bucks than to
create international bonds between
people who otherwise would never
have met. For some University stu-
dents who seek a "going abroad"
or "crossing the country" experi-
ence for less money in a fraction
of the time, spending a few nights
on the couch of strangers can be an
intensive enounter with another
The couch surfing website is
structured much like a typical
social networking site, but with a
heavy emphasis on travel. Mem-
bers post pictures, their basic
information and extra tidbits like
"missions" (one surfer's mission is
"To get out of the black hole that
is my hometown," while another's
is "To have great people sleep on
my couch, or guest bed if you look
clean enough"), as well as extraor-
dinary things they've seen or done,
languages spoken and a personal
What members dubbed the most
critical component of a couch surf-
ing profile, though, is the references
that other members write to vouch
for (or against) a surfer after either
hosting or being hosted by him or
For Walter Graf, an Engineering
and LSA junior who has used the
website, members' responses to his
couch requests have varied based
on location. When trying to couch
surf in Cologne, Germany, Graf said
he sent out at least 20 requests with
no response, whereas other times
he's only sent out a few and almost
all responded yes.
What makes the Couch Surfing
Project so unique, though, is that
members are rarely just in it for the
"The social aspect is huge,"
It's understood that hosts serve
as their guest's personal tour guide
at least for a short time, giving them
a local look into the city. They go
out to bars and restaurants, see the
sites, and hang out at home togeth-
Graf said that hosts are happy to
spend time with their guests - in
fact, they even expect it.
"It's not just a 'show up late at
night and leave super early in the
morning' thing," he said. "They
want something out of it, too. They
want to meet new people and talk."
The mode of travel offers a purer
and simpler way to experience for-
eign culture than foreign exchange
programs that are tethered by down
payments and obligatory program
events. Often, hosts will intro-
duce their guests to their group of
friends, which could with the right
finesse become the surfer's friends
- a beneficial commodity in the
realm of boundless world travel.
And even though the travel
arrangements are founded on such
limited information, the results as
shown in comments on the website
are overwhelmingly positive for Lantz, who surfed couches in
both surfers and hosts. Rarely are Ireland with her best friend from
negative reviews telling of theft or college, always made dinner for
unsafe situations encountered. her hosts and made sure to leave
"I've gotten along very well with the place spotless. Along with pick-
all the people I've stayed with," ing up the bar or dinner tab, some
Graf said. guests will even help around the
LSA junior Jenny Zhang, who house to say thanks. Lantz and her
couch surfed through eastern friend helped one host paint the
Europe with her boyfriend, said' ceiling.
she thinks the success rate of couch And thanks to the wonders of
surfing is so high because so far e-mail and social networking web-
sites, many hosts and guests contin-
ue to keep in touch with each other
long after the couch has cleared.
A modern-day Lantz exchanges e-mails about
once a week with a group of people
'On the Road' she stayed with in Ireland.
Ann Arbor denizens and Univer-
made easy sity students are opening up their
homes to strange travelers, too. On
with social the couch surfing website, there are
currently 81listings of people in the
Ann Arbor area who are willing to
share a couch.
Zhang and Graf have each
received four requests for a couch.
For Zhang, two of them simply
everyone involved in the project is didn't work out, and one of them
of the same congenial mindset. she rejected because the person
"The people that open up their didn't have enough information on
homes are usually the same type his couch surfing profile.
of people," she said. "They're very "I felt it was kind of creepy," she
warm and welcoming." said.
Lantz echoed that sentiment, But Zhang and her boyfriend
and added that the, fact that the hosted a man from California who
site is relatively under wraps might had an interview with the School of
play a role in its success. While she Dentistry. Thoughhis time here was
encourages more people to par- short, Zhang showed him around
ticipate, she's also concerned that Main Street and State Street. They
couch surfing might get too big for lunched at the iconic Blimpie Burg-
its own good. er and wound up at BD's Mongolian
"So far it's been sort of a closed Barbecue for dinner.
off, sort of a tight-knit community, While the Couch Surfing Proj-
so I'm afraid it might start to attract ect has served to promote the
.the wrong crowd," she said. movement via the Internet, other
In the movement's current mani- . University students still take the
festation, lodgingiswithoutcharge, traditional "mysterious drifter"
but many guests try to show their approach to securing a temporary
host appreciation in whatever ways bed.
they can. Between papers and exams, LSA
senior Zach Shell travels alone to
college campuses across the coun-
try, by Greyhound buses, with no
plans on what to do or where to
sleep. He's been to about 21 cam-
puses to date.
Shell explores the city and cam-
pus during the day, meeting people
along the way, and then goes out at
night. He says he's probably surfed
about SO couches, always by simply
asking a college student he's just
met if he can crash there.
He said it's all about having faith
in the good will of people.
"It's mostly people trying to help
you out. That's the whole theory
behind the whole thing," he said.
"The confidence that I have in doing
this is that if I'm a college student
and you're a college student, you're
going to try to put me up, and if
you're not the next person will."
He's stayed with everyone from
his waitress at Olive Garden to
a group of guys in the Christian
Men's Housing at the University of
"It's just how you deal with it and
who you meet along the way," said
Shell. "I like having no idea where
I'm sleeping that night because I
have to find it somewhere."
Even though Shell has had his
failures - including spending the
night in jail, going to sleep in a park
and waking up in the flatbed of a
pickup truck as well as getting $900
stolen from him by the roommate of
one of his hosts - he says that the
people he meets and the stories he
collects are worth it.
"The point of couch surfing is
to meet people," he said. "If you're
couch surfing with that mental-
ity, you're going to end-up bring-
ing people in. That's just the whole
beauty of it - to meet people you'd
never meet under any other cir-
cumstances in places you'd never
4 StudentUniverse.com I
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