RSS Feed

Western debates high price of ‘required’ textbooks

Posted on

After four years of paying for tuition, student fees, supply fees and textbooks, the bill senior printmaking major Ali Dalsing regrets paying most is the $200 for a textbook her freshman year.

Dalsing expected to use the textbook for four semesters of art history classes, but never used it once.

“I think she assigned us to buy the book, and then she never spoke about it again,” she said.

Dalsing bought the textbook for Dr. Allison Sauls’ art history class. Sauls cancelled the only project assigned that would have required students to use the textbook, and tests were based solely on lecture and slides posted to the O:drive. Dalsing said she did well in the class without using the textbook and knows that many other students did so as well. Many of the people in her class didn’t buy the textbook at all.

“A lot of people that did buy it are still mad about it,” Dalsing said, reflecting on a class she took four years ago.

Dalsing said the book, “Janson’s History of Art,” was about $180 used and about $200 new. According to the Missouri Western Barnes & Noble website, the textbook is now $179 new and $134.25 used.

Sauls, chair of the art department, could not disagree more strongly with Dalsing’s opinion about the textbook.

Sauls studied an earlier edition of the same text she asks her students to buy when she was an undergraduate. She has this original textbook in her office: it’s falling apart and has her dorm address and a stamp with her maiden name on an end page.

“To an artist, this is the Bible,” Sauls said. “They’ve got their brush, their canvas, and they’ve got their Janson.”

The art department is not the only place on Western’s campus where students and instructors disagree about the value of textbooks. Across the disciplines, students complain about required textbooks that end up not being necessary in order to pass a class. Textbooks are a major investment, and sometimes that investment doesn’t pay off in class.

 

Background reading

Faculty members agree that textbooks are best used as supplementary materials for in-class lecture. Students should use the texts in order to prepare for lecture; reading allows students to gain a basic understanding of the concepts before learning from their instructor’s expertise.

Dr. Dan Trifan of the history department said that he can definitely tell which students have prepared for lecture and which have not.

“If you’re talking about Napoleon for half an hour and someone raises their hand and says ‘You are talking about France, right?’, you can say they didn’t keep up,” he said.

Trifan said his lectures highlight the details which he feels are important, but it is crucial for students to have an understanding of the historical period overall.

Jesse Bowe, a junior nursing major, is in Trifan’s Modern Europe: 1789 to Present class this semester. He hasn’t done the reading for the first two tests, and believes he is doing well in the class. He said that he pays close attention in class, follows the study guide before tests and uses Google to supplement his lecture notes.

“I’m not planning on reading for the third test, to tell you the truth,” he said.

Trifan agrees that his tests are more lecture-based than text-based.

“Those things which I feel are more important to illustrate are going to find their way onto the exams more frequently,” he said.

Dr. Jeff Poet of the math department said in an email he uses textbooks in his courses to supplement his own instruction and problem sets.

Morgan Russell, a junior math major, started off buying all the books for her math classes, but soon felt that wasn’t necessary.

“If you feel like you need the extra instruction, then get the book,” she said.

Poet feels students could get more from their classes if they studied their textbooks outside of class.

“I am only half-joking when I suggest that students may find more value in their textbooks if they would actually read them,” Poet said.

Dr. Cindy Heider, associate provost and associate vice president for Academic Affairs, believes that students are not inclined to read their texts because they may be stuck in a high school mindset. Higher education, as Heider said, is a very different medium.

“You’re not sitting in class from eight to three every day. You have the opportunity to get some expert advice for fifty to ninety minutes during a class period,” she said. “The intent of that structure is to support reading and study outside of class.”

Professional library

When students reach their upper-level classes, they are often required to purchase textbooks that will help build their professional library.

Sauls still refers to her Janson art history book frequently, and believes her students will do the same if they are serious about art.

“I’m not asking for them to buy something just for the course; I’m asking them to buy something that will enrich them as an artist for life,” she said.

She said that if students break down the cost of the book over their lifetime, it will cost just fractions of a penny each day.

Heider said she still refers to some education texts she used while earning her degrees.

Senior history and sociology major Gary Weidemann doesn’t mind the professional library building.

“I buy the books because I’m a history major, but I rarely used them for lower-level classes,” he said.

Amanda Johnson, a senior double major in political science and sociology, doesn’t think that instructors should require texts if they are just being used for library-building purposes.

“I wish instructors would use more consideration when choosing textbooks,” she said. “It’s important for us to gain a library for our major, but there’s a lot of them I wouldn’t use again.”

 

High prices 

No matter who is speaking about textbooks, the issue of high prices comes up over and over again.

Poet encourages students to use money-saving tactics when getting their textbooks for the semester.

“I don’t care if students share books, check them out from a library, use an older edition or even another author,” he said.

He said if instructors are using the textbooks simply for problem sets, there are cheaper ways to supply those problems to their students.

“Texts are great things if used to the full extent that they can be used,” he said.

Trifan also considers the book’s cost when assigning a class text.

“Textbooks are way too expensive. I would dispense with them if I could, to just give students a break,” he said.

Heider said that administration encourages faculty to make conscientious decisions regarding textbook selection.

“The ways that we can control textbooks’ cost are to ask our faculty to very carefully select textbooks that are absolutely targeted towards the class,” she said.

She encourages students who are dissatisfied with textbook use to let their instructor, the head of the department or administration know.

“We certainly don’t want things like that to happen,” she said. “Textbooks are very expensive.”

Even the bookstore works to make sure students are getting the best deal possible. Greg Nikes, bookstore manager, encourages students to check each title on their booklist to see which format is cheaper: buying a new or used print text, renting a book from the bookstore or purchasing a digital copy.

Students who sell back their books will get the best buy-back price if the text they are selling back is being used the next semester on campus. Sometimes this means holding on to a book for a semester or two before selling it back, Nikes said.

“My goal would be to have nothing but used books and to be able to sell used books and have them all reused so we could buy them all back for the best buy-back price,” he said.

 

Required reading

Dalsing is not the only student that has been disappointed by a textbook purchase.

Adam Bailey, a management major from the Craig School of Business, remembers buying an $80 textbook for his English 104 class. He said that the instructor never assigned any readings from the text.

Bailey pointed out that he sees this problem as more of an issue in general education classes.

“In Music 101, we had to buy this packet of CDs, and we never used them once,” he said. “Once you opened it, you couldn’t sell it back. It was pointless.”

In major-specific classes like Sauls’ art history courses, only declared majors can enroll. Because of this, Sauls feels it is fair to require a book for class even if it is not directly used in the course.

“Students should have a book like this,” she said. “Janson is the foremost authority on art history, period.”

Students like Johnson and Dalsing argue that they shouldn’t be made to buy a book if it will not be used in the class.

Sauls claims that assigning a “required” book is not the same as forcing a student to purchase the text.

“I do not make them buy the book; they don’t have to buy the book,” Sauls said.

Dalsing said that since the text was “required,” students felt as if they had to buy it. She was sorely disappointed by the texts’ fate as a coffee table decoration.

“It’s a nice book,” she said. “If we used it, it would be worth the $200 that you pay to get it.”

 

Egg-in-a-hole

Posted on

I love eggs, don’t you? They’re so flexible: they can be breakfast; they can be dinner. They can top a pancake or a salad (or a burger if you’re really lucky). I eat eggs a lot: in stir fries, poached in tomato sauce, soft-scrambled and served in a warm tortilla or, my very favorite, egg-in-a-hole!

I first had egg-in-a-hole at Cracker Barrel (where I believe it’s called egg-in-a-basket.  They serve you a perfect egg (set whites, thick, runny yolk) in buttery, crispy sourdough bread. You also get that ridiculous potato casserole on the side. It’s the most perfect hangover breakfast ever (not that I would know anything about that).

But, until recently, it never occurred to me that I could make this wonderful dish at home. Pioneer Woman (who else?) showed me the way. Her egg-in-a-hole tutorial is easy to follow and includes a lot of butter.

On a separate note, her Huevos Ree-os are to die for. Check it out.

Ingredients:

Bread (I use whatever I have on hand. Once that was a leftover hamburger bun. It was delish.)

Egg

Butter

  1. Heat a few tbsps of butter over med-low heat (you want to cook the egg but also toast the bread, so a low-ish temp is important.)
  2. Cut a hole in the bread with a glass you stole from a hotel. (It must be a stolen hotel glass or this recipe won’t work. Kidding.)
  3. Once the butter is melted and sizzling, place the bread in the pan. Push it around a little to make sure it’s coated in butter.
  4. Wait and few minutes and crack the egg into hole in the bread. Make sure there’s some butter under the egg so it doesn’t stick!

    That yolk on the right broke. I cried a little.

  5. Let the egg cook until the bottom is set, and flip! (Eat the holes once they’re crisped up as a pre-meal snack.)
  6. Cook until the bread is crispy and the egg is as done as you like.

Ricotta red sauce

Posted on

I said in a previous post that I love pasta and eat it a few times a week. There’s just something about the perfect carby bite that comes in tons of fun little shapes: farfalle (bowties), penne rigate, linguine and radiatore are some of my favorites. Oh, and shells. I love me some shells—small, medium and the large kind that you get to stuff with all kinds of fillings. Yum. You’ll also never catch me saying no to plain ol’ spaghetti either, especially angel hair. Okay, you get it. I love pasta.

Variety.

Today, I thought I’d show you some of the sauces I use to dress up my favorite meal component. Pioneer Woman’s  stuffed shells are super delicious, but they’re not exactly cheap or fast. But for a special dinner (like Christmas Eve in my house), they’re a great idea. On the other hand, this creamy zucchini orechiette is definitely quick and cheap, and will have your roommates stealing bites while your back is turned. And this. This macaroni and cheese is just wonderful. It’s a one-pot recipe, so there are almost no dishes (and I usually eat out of the pot too). You cook the pasta IN THE MILK, which makes a sauce of the milk and the pasta starch. Then you stir in so, so, SO much cheese. Yuuuuuuuum.

For last night’s dinner, I decided fancy-up some basic red sauce. I added green bell pepper to the regular onion and garlic and stirred in some ricotta cheese at the end. I served it over some spaghetti, and it was just perfect.

Ricotta Red Sauce

¼ large onion

3 cloves of garlic

1 green bell pepper

14.5 oz fire-roasted diced tomatoes

8 oz tomato sauce

2 tbsp ricotta cheese

Ingredients, with Friends on in the background.

Serves 2 with some leftovers. (And if you share with your fabulous roommate, she just might do the dishes!)

Saute the onion and garlic over med heat until golden. Add the green peppers, and just stir them around a minute (they will finish cooking while the sauce simmers.)

Add the diced tomatoes and the tomato sauce. Simmer the sauce over low heat for about 10 minutes. It’ll thicken up a little bit.

Looks like Christmas!

In the meantime, boil whatever pasta you’re using. When the pasta is about 1 minute from being done, stir the ricotta into the sauce. It’ll turn a pretty orange color! Serve over the pasta and eat.

Green smoothies

Posted on

When I’m grocery shopping, I always try to buy the brand that is the cheapest per ounce. Doing this usually means that you end up with a LOT of whatever it is: yogurt, beans, rice, whatever. Some things, like beans and rice, keep for almost forever, so it’s fine to have extra. But perishable things, like yogurt, need to be eaten by a certain date. And, from my experience, that date usually sneaks up on you if you don’t plan out how you’ll use that item.

Spinach is another ingredient that I love that is usually much cheaper in a big bag. Unfortunately, fresh spinach is even more perishable than yogurt. You have a week, tops, with pre-washed baby spinach leaves. So, to use up that bag of spinach all by myself, I’ll make spinach salads and sauté spinach as a side dish AND make GREEN SMOOTHIES.

$0.18/oz, baby!

Before you get grossed out and run screaming from the room, let me promise you: no matter how much spinach you add to a smoothie, all you’ll taste is the sweet, yummy fruit. I drink one of these smoothies almost every morning, and I feel healthier when I do. All of the spinach nutrients with none of the vegetable taste? Sign me up!

Ingredientses.

Green smoothie
(this “recipe” is super-duper flexible. Just add whatever combo of fruit, yogurt, liquid and spinach that sounds good to you!)

1 banana

Frozen peaches

¼ c plain Greek yogurt

2 tbsp water

2 ice cubes

1 tsp honey

1 c spinach (or more!)

Magic bullets are super-convenient for smoothie purposes.

Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend it up. Drink. Feel healthy.

Yes, it's really green. But it's so, so yummy.

Using strawberries is a good choice, too. Your final smoothie won't be a bright green... It will actually be kind of brown. But! It will taste yummy, promise.

Johnson expands her horizons

Posted on

Amanda Johnson’s world is about to expand by 4,325 miles. The senior political science and sociology double major will travel to London in September to begin graduate school at University College London.

Johnson plans to study social and cultural anthropology. This area of study is not offered at very many universities; UCL’s program is one of the biggest in the world, and absolutely the biggest in the U.K., Johnson said. The university’s academics is not the only reason Johnson chose to study there, however.

“One of my bucket list items has always been to study in the U.K., so I thought that going there for a grad degree would be a really neat experience,” Johnson said. “I’ve had a traveler’s heart for as long as I can remember.”

Anthropology is the study of people and human behaviors, and the program at UCL will allow Johnson to focus on a more specific area of this incredibly broad field.

Johnson said that she plans to focus on the democratization and development of third world countries. She will add a research emphasis to her degree so she can someday possibly be an analyst for the U.S. state department, the UN or a non-governmental organization.

“They have libraries like nobody’s business where I can do extensive research,” she said.

To give an idea of how prestigious UCL is as a university, their collaborative university partner is Yale. And just as American Ivy League schools are expensive, so are esteemed British schools. Johnson has applied for scholarships, but is willing to live on loans to make her dream of studying abroad come true.

“This university is just incredibly prestigious. It’s currently ranked number 7 in the U.K., so I’m just thankful that I got in. I’m not really worried about getting any scholarships,” she said.

While in London, Johnson plans to work to support herself, in addition to asking for some financial support from her father.

“He’s very excited for me to go to London, and I know how to play the Daddy card,” she said.

Johnson is no stranger to working on campus, and she wishes to explore that option at UCL. She has worked as an English 100 writing workshop leader, a CAS writing tutor and a Student Success student academic mentor during her time at Western. She has also served as Parliamentarian for SGA’s senate and founder and president of University Democrat. She plans to be just as involved on the UCL campus.

Johnson said that she’d like to tutor, do secretarial work for departments or participate in an assistanceship program.

“I’d like to make around 50 pounds a week for going-out purposes,” Johnson said.

Johnson recognizes that London has a reputation for being a “party” city, and she plans to take advantage of that.

“There is a bit of a party scene there. You know, that’s the stigma of going to London and partying,” she said. “It’s not the same idea of partying here; after you get off work or it’s late in the evening, you go out with your ‘mates’ and you have a few drinks. That’s just kind of standard. It’s very much part of the culture. “

Johnson has lived in London before, albeit briefly. She spent 6 weeks studying in London in the summer of 2011.

“I fell in love with the city; it’s the best city in the world,” she said.

Johnson cites several pieces of evidence for this claim, including the city’s safety. She says that the most dangerous thing a student has to worry about is pickpocketers.

The cleanliness of the city really separates it from American cities, Johnson said.

“It’s so amazingly clean. Of course, I was out this late, so I would know, but at 3 a.m. every night they have hundreds of street cleaners that come out and clean up all the trash every day. You know, people have a lot more respect for the city there.”

UCL is spread all over this clean city, while the main building is located directly behind the British Museum in central London. Johnson plans to live on campus, but residence halls in the U.K. are a bit different than in America. She will have her own bedroom and bathroom, but will share a fully-furnished kitchen with a whole wing of residents and a living area with the whole building.

Johnson lived in a similar dorm during her summer experience in London, so she knows approximately what to expect. She is looking forward to having her own bathroom this time around. A communal, co-ed restroom was an issue she had to face last summer.

“It was seriously two toilet stalls and three shower stalls that were separated by a curtain, and there were times that I was showering next to some guy with just a curtain separating us. I got used to that, but I feel like, having my own bathroom, I’ll be able to transition a little better,” Johnson said.

Johnson has lived on campus during her time at Western, so she has plenty of experience with dorm life. She knows that this experience will be different, however.

“Europeans have a different idea of space, so it’ll be a lot smaller,” Johnson said. “I will probably have problems with it at first.”

Johnson has an enormous wardrobe, which is easily evidenced by anyone that has seen her around campus. She is always clad in a layered, colorful outfit and several accessories. She credits two walk-in closets and multiple dressers and bins to this stylish wardrobe.

“I’m going to have to condense significantly,” she said. “I just have to realize that my wardrobe can’t be as colorful as I want it to be. And, oh my gosh, shoes. I don’t even want to think about shoes.”

Johnson plans to ship some of her belongings, like bedding and coats, to the U.K. before her departure.

“I am six months away from leaving, and I’m already making lists,” she said.

Style is important to Johnson, and it is very important to the average Londoner as well.

“Suit is standard. I think I saw one person in sweatpants the entire time I was in London,” she said. “Even the hobos are well-dressed. Even they are in some sort of suit.”

Johnson credits this stylishness to a difference in the culture and also a difference in manners.

“British people are so much more polite, it’s not even funny.”

When first in London, Johnson tested the stereotype of polite Britons by purposefully bumping into several people on the street.”

“It was very obvious that I did something rude, but they’re like ‘So sorry, love.’ When I was in a pub, I did that to two gentlemen, and they offered to buy me drinks! ‘Oh, so sorry, love. Can I get you a drink?’”

Johnson said that this polite nature is surely linked the much more communal British culture.

“You walk in to the pubs there, and the goal is to go meet new people. It’s not like closed-off booths; tables are pushed together. You’re going to meet new people every time you go out.”

While Johnson’s knowledge of British culture comes partially from her personal experiences in London, she also credits the Harry Potter series as starting her fascination with the country. The fact that the studios where the movie adaptations were filmed are to open soon is absolutely an additional reason that Johnson is excited for her experience abroad.

“They have Severus Snape’s robes on display! I will need to see this!” she said.

Johnson does seem to love all facets of British culture, but she will miss some things about life in America. Number one? Mexican food.

“There was one (restaurant) called La Mexicana; I’m pretty sure it was run by Russians. I ordered a tequila sunrise, and I’m pretty sure it was vodka,” she said.

There is a Chipotle in London where she can get her burrito fix: she discovered a hole-in-the-wall franchise location last summer.

“I GPS-ed it and turned like twenty Londoners on to Chipotle.”

Johnson will also miss some personal milestones like friends’ weddings while overseas. Most importantly, her mother will turn 50.

“I’ll miss her fiftieth birthday, which I’m really sad about. I’ve been planning this party for like three years,” she said.

Johnson said that the opportunities that she’s gaining by going to London definitely outweighs the personal events she’ll miss while gone.

“I’ve never been away from home for longer than that 6 weeks I studied abroad, so I’m really interested to test myself and see what kind of person I grow in to.”

Johnson works hard for Western, shown here going over a bill she authored at an SGA senate meeting. Photo by Jason Brown

Banana-chocolate bread

Posted on

Food is an expensive hobby: every time I see a new recipe, I immediately begin planning when I’ll try it. For someone that spends as much time as I do browsing food blogs and cookbooks as I do, the grocery budget can be blown fast. Baked goods are a great solution for this: I’ll often have all the ingredients needed for simple cookies and cakes on hand. Joy the Baker’s Brown Sugar Cookies and Simple Vegan Chocolate Cake are good examples. As long as I have flour, sugar, butter and eggs on hand, I’m pretty close to delicious cooking satisfaction. A Cozy Kitchen’s Honey Bee cookies are a good throw-together snack too.

Now, there’s a big problem with this cheap snack plan: once you make a sweet treat, someone has to eat it. I usually have no problem polishing off cookies or cake, or sharing them with roommates or my boyfriend. Another option for getting rid of sweets is taking them to work. Everyone will love you, and you’ll get to bake to your heart’s content without having to invest in new pants.

Banana bread is an always delicious, fairly inexpensive option for the bring-to-work snack. The loaf is a good way to use up bananas that are going bad, and you can dress it up any way that you like. The variations of banana bread out there are endless, but my favorite option is to add chocolate. Of course.

Banana-chocolate bread

The middle fell a little bit... If you're patient (unlike me) and let it cool all the way, this shouldn't be an issue.

Adapted slightly from Everyday Food magazine

10 servings

Ingredients:

Wonderful mess! (My roommates are very understanding. Or they just really wanted banana bread.)

1 2/3 c all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

½ tsp fine salt

½ c room-temp butter

1 ¼ c sugar

2 large room-temp eggs

1 ½ c mashed overripe bananas (3 or 4 bananas)

2 tbsp plain Greek yogurt

1 tsp vanilla

6 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Chocolate mountain.

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Butter and flour and 5×9 in loaf pan.
  3. In a med bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.
  4. In a lg bowl, beat butter and sugar on med-high till fluffy, 3 mins.

    Don't accidentally eat some of this. You'll die and want to smear it on a pancake and eat some more.

  5. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down bowl as needed. Beat in bananas, yogurt and vanilla. Beat in flour mixture and chocolate on med.

    This batter is just as good as the finished product. If you taste it and then kind of don't want to bother pouring it in a pan and baking it, then you made it right.

  6. Pour batter into pan. Bake till skewer inserted into center of pan comes out clean, 50-60 mins.

    Before.

    After.

  7. Let bread cool in pan 10 mins. Remove and let cool on wire rack.

    Or, if you don't have a wire rack, an inverted bowl with a plate on top.

  8. Store tightly wrapped for 3 days or freeze 3 months. If you bring it to work, it definitely won’t last 3 days!

    Look at all the CHOCOLATE.

Come for the hockey; stay for the crowd

Posted on

After my boyfriend and I power-walk through the crowded parking lot, our heads bowed against the wind, we enter the Independence Events Center expecting the welcoming heat most buildings offer in the winter. And, yes, we do get to enjoy this heat for a minute, but only a minute. The second we walk up the steps and enter the Missouri Mavericks hockey arena, a chill permeates everything, numbing my toes. I pull my jacket tighter around myself and stare openly at the spectators lounging in only T-shirts.

The rink is unusually bright—every fluorescent light and glaring ad reflect off of the pure white ice. The game has already started, and the whole arena vibrates. Fans shout, applauding a move that I don’t really understand. As we take our seats, a player is tripped. His skates slip out from underneath him, and his momentum causes him to skid 20 feet. “AAAAAAHHHHHHH!” The crowd screams collectively; some rise to their feet. Apparently tripping is not a foul in hockey, because play continues as if nothing has happened.

The rest of the period passes without incident, at least none that I notice. The best part of the whole game, in my inexperienced opinion, is the Red Panda Acrobat. She is a tiny Asian woman in a highlighter-yellow, hambock-inspired figure skating dress. It is barely long enough to cover her bottom, and matching kickpants are clearly visible. She minces her way across the ice; her high heels make the passage risky. She is slightly hunchbacked and carrying a tall stack of white cereal bowls.  When she gets to center ice, a skid-proof mat and a handler with a six-foot tall unicycle are waiting. Red Panda climbs a ladder, perches her tiny behind on the seat, and begins pedaling. Music plays, the kind you’d hear at a Chinese buffet owned by white people: so “Asian” that you know it can’t be actually genuine. The acrobat pedals, gaining momentum, and reaches out her hands, signifying that she’s ready to be thrown the first bowl. The Mavericks’ mascot, Mac the horse, is supplying the bowls. He is absolutely terrifying; I wonder why the kids around the stadium even want to meet him. The pupils of his eyes are set on swivels, meaning that they spiral sickeningly every time he moves his head, like googly eyes on drugs. Mac tosses the acrobat her first bowl, and she catches it easily. She displays it to the audience, pedaling in a circle to show off the bowl in a Vanna-like fashion. She bends her knee, raising it waist-high. She places the bowl on her shoe, her toes where the cereal should be. She pedals in a circle again, allowing the entire crowd to see where she’s placed the bowl. She lowers her knee once, twice, three times, as if prepping for a major move. The fourth time she raises her knee it is sudden and swift, causing the bowl to fly off her foot, arc through the air, and land right-side up on the top of her head. The few members of the crowd that aren’t getting snacks or checking their phones or otherwise not paying attention cheer. Red Panda isn’t done: she repeats her bowl move seven times, building up to the big finale. By this point, the entire crowd is rapt. The acrobat stacks five bowls on the tip of her toes and flips them in the air. One, two, three, four land, but the fifth rims around the fourth like a disappointing buzzer shot at a basketball game. It flies off and skids across the ice. “OOOOOOOOOHHHHHH!” Red Panda reacts to the audiences’ exclamation and looks at the bowl disappointedly. She claps at Mac, and he tosses her five more bowls. She repeats her move, and all five bowls land on her head. The audience explodes, more united now than they were during the hockey game they paid to see.

The rest of the game passes in a blur. I am too busy laughing at those around me (I hope they think my seat-mates are just especially funny) to really pay attention to the game. A muscled cowboy sitting to my right alternately sips from endless beers and spits brown tobacco juice into an empty Mountain Dew bottle. A woman across the rink dominates the Jumbotron, appearing nearly every time audience shots are shown. She is in her sixties, sporting a simple outfit of jeans and T-shirt. Her exuberant dancing is surely what’s attracting the video cameras: she waves her arms in the air, jumps up and down and screams. Her low-hanging belly spills over the waistband of her jeans, jiggling to the beat of the music. An elderly man sitting below me jumps to his feet continually, adjusting his bright orange clown wig every time. Between the characters at the stadium and the endless, ridiculous giveaways – like Pizza in your Seatza – it seems as if no one is watching the hockey game.

I’m told the Mavericks lost, but I can’t say that affected my experience. I couldn’t care less about a dozen men in identical uniforms skating (or running or dribbling) across a rink (or field or court); people-watching is the hobby that gets me through these endless games. The Independence Events Center is a perfect place to see some of the best specimens an avid people-watcher could ask for.