10

Bwog Finance: Back Of The Envelope Taxes

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May 10, 20183:29 pm 0 Comments

A big pile o’ taxes

Today’s Bwog Finance column meshes a traditional Back Of The Envelope article with our novel Bwog Finance series. We’re going to give you a rough estimate of how to know how much money you’ll *actually* make this summer after taxes are deducted from every paycheck, and how much of a return you *might* get. Remember to send column topics to finance@bwog.com.

Writing this column wasn’t my idea, but I’m gonna give it my best shot: how to know how much taxes will be deducted from your paychecks, and how much \$\$ you might get back come spring 2019, using basic math and some help from the internet.

Let’s say you make \$15/hour and you work 30 hours a week. That’s \$450/week. Woohoo!

Let’s say there are 4 weeks in a month (even though for some months, it might be less!). 4 x \$450 is \$1,800. LIT. That’s just enough for one half of a studio apartment in SoHo. But wait…

If you make \$5,400 for the whole summer (3 months x \$1,800), according to smartasset.com, because of FICA, you will owe \$413 in taxes. FICA, or the Federal Insurance Contributions Act, goes toward social security and Medicare, which Trump hasn’t managed to get rid of (yet).

You’ll also have \$30 withheld each month for federal taxes. You might also have money withheld for New York State taxes, to cover things like NY’s new “Paid Maternity Leave.” But you should get those taxes refunded next spring…

Unless you make more money during the year! This calculation isn’t counting taxes you might owe based on other income you earn throughout the year. So…you may need to re-evaluate that 1/2 of a studio apartment in SoHo and go for something a little closer to MoHi, or else venture into Brooklyn or Queens.

The point is, what you expect to make this summer might end up being a lot less than you thought! Unless you have an under-the-table gig, like babysitting.

Does this apply to things like grants? Yep. If you get a grant from the school, that’s still taxable income. What about stipends? That too.

If this newfound tax knowledge changes your summer plans, have no fear. We’ve composed an easy guide to creating a summer budget.

Good luck!

Photo By 401(K) 2012, via Wikimedia Commons

May

5

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May 05, 20184:28 pm 2 Comments

Our president, bravely facing the adversaries

Bwog Finance does more than just your personal banking–we help explain world phenomena, too! Check out our latest column, offering a digestible overview of Trump’s trade war with China (and other countries). Remember, if you have questions or column topic ideas, email finance@bwog.com.

If you read the news, or follow my twitter account, you may have heard about Trump’s trade war with China. The “war” hasn’t really started yet–it’s just a looming possibility, spurred by Trump’s proposed tariffs on imports from China. Talks between the U.S. and China to avert a trade war began on Wednesday and ended yesterday. The talks were inconclusive, so a trade war is still possible–and China has said it will fight to the end if one breaks out.

What is a trade war, anyway? It’s when two countries go back and forth imposing high tariffs (read: taxes) on each other’s imported stuff. This means there’s less trade between these countries (and maybe proxy countries as well). Read this Vox article to learn more.

Why should you care? Because, even though you’re not directly importing things from China, this could have drastic effects on the stock market. And even if you’re not directly invested in stocks, this is still bad news, because a lagging market will affect all kinds of things–job opportunities, your parents’ retirement funds, even interest rates. Speaking of your parents, you’ll probably be hanging with them again soon since it’s the end of the semester. We’ve compiled a list of six fast facts about the trade war so you can show them you’re learning a lot and are capable of holding an impressive conversation.

1. On May 3, 1,100 economists signed a letter telling Trump not to impose tarrifs.
2. It’s not just China! In March, Trump announced tariffs on all steel and aluminum imports, from any country.
3. Trump wants tariffs for China specifically because of the huge, \$375 billion trade deficit with China.
4. A trade deficit means we’re importing more from China than we’re exporting to them.
5. The dollar is weak right now, compared to a lot of other currencies. That means it’s worth less. But a weak dollar helps companies that want to export to China. So it’s a good and a bad thing.
6. It’s not clear who “won” the U.S.-China talks or if there’s even a winner! Based on your parents’ political leanings, you can say: a) U.S. won. b) China won. c) There is no winner. d) Trade war is imminent.

Happy studying, and maybe try to reinvest your stocks/change your investments to bonds or something less volatile longterm (you didn’t hear it from us!).

Trump pic via Wikimedia Commons, by Michael Vadon [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

Apr

16

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April 16, 20186:49 pm 0 Comments

The official logo of the IRS (Internal Revenue Service)

Now that you’re saving/earning so much money budgeting, using your student checking account, and investing, Bwog Finance is going to teach you how to pay your taxes! Yep, that’s right, you don’t want the federal government auditing you for not paying taxes on all your earnings. You may owe the feds some money, but at least we can tell you how to file your taxes for free (bye, Turbo Tax). Remember: send any questions to finance@bwog.com for our next column!

Doing your taxes is notoriously hard, and you never know if you’re doing it right. Like, somehow, this year, instead of getting a tax return I owe the federal government money? Unreal.

Tomorrow is Tax Day. This column might be coming a little late, but I just learned about a hush-hush government-contracted nonprofit that will literally do your federal taxes for you for free (shoutout to fellow Bwogger Zack Abrams for listening to NPR and keeping me posted on the latest finance info).

If you still haven’t prepared your taxes for tomorrow, this nonprofit could help you out. It’s called Free File Alliance. It’s a coalition of 13 private tax prep companies (like the makers of Turbo Tax and H&R Block) with a contract with the federal government. It’s available to 70% of tax-paying Americans, or anyone making under \$66,000. Even though it’s contracted with the government (or, maybe, because it’s contracted with the government) it’s not well-known: the IRS’ advertising/marketing budget is literally zero dollars, thanks to lobbyists. And the for-profit companies that make up the Free File Alliance have no incentive to offer their products for free, so they don’t. But they’re still there!

You can read more about the nitty-gritty details/politics behind the Free File Alliance here, thanks NPR. You can also learn more about the Free File Alliance from the reputable source howtogeek.com. Here’s how to use the service:

1. Go to this .gov link to see all the free tax software available.
2. Choose one of the software.
3. Make sure you have all the necessary documents handy (social security #s, last year’s tax return, income forms, receipts).
4. You will need to create an account in order to download/use the tax software. And then you can do your taxes for free! I’m not gonna do that part, because my taxes are done, so I’m finishing the how-to list off here. Plus, I feel like from there things are pretty self-explanatory. Good luck!

IRS logo via Wikimedia Commons.

12

Bwog Finance: How To Make A Budget Using Excel

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April 12, 20183:03 pm 2 Comments

Let’s get down to bwsiness.

Bwog Finance is almost a weekly column at this point…Get hype for our latest post, “How To Make A Budget Using Excel.” It might seem kind of obvious, but we know (some) of you will be needing it when allowance money runs out after college. Also, we now have a listserv dedicated to financial problems. Email us your query to finance@bwog.com and we’ll write a column on it.

(Is this column a joke, or is it real? [Not the column as a whole, but the specific topic]). This is a real column. Budgeting is hard without an Excel sheet. And using Excel is hard if your purported knowledge doesn’t extend past your résumé. Today we’re going to learn how to make a basic budget using excel.

First, give Column A the title “Date.” (Remember, a column is the one that goes up-and-down and a row is side-to-side). Second, give Column B the title “Bank Account.” If you have more than one bank account (e.g., savings and checking) you can make subtitles under “Bank Account” with each bank’s name (e.g., Citibank, Bank of America). In the next available column (will vary depending on number of bank accounts you own), write “Total.”

Now, under date, put today’s date. Check the amounts in your bank accounts, and put those amounts under each bank subtitle. Under total, tally together the amounts in each bank account. You can do this by using the SUM function. Enter “=SUM” and you’ll be able to select which cells (i.e., box) to add together. See figure 1 below. Repeat this process at least twice a month, and the beginning and end.

8

Bacchanal Review 2018

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April 08, 20185:00 pm 2 Comments

get lit

Yesterday, Bwog Senior Staffer Sarah Dahl and Deputy Editor Zack Abrams used their press passes for an up-close and personal take on Bacchanal, 2018, whose theme this year was “Pop, Lock, & Bacch it.”

Being able to get close enough to Ty Dolla \$ign yesterday to see the words in his tattoos (the neck one says “dolla \$ign,” if u didn’t already know) was pretty cool! His performance was the most exciting, as he revved up the crowd and got everyone excited to sing along, throw “twos in the air” (peace signs), and, if you were a girl, climb on top of the shoulders of your nearest male friend. The crowd, in two pens on the right and left of the stage, went wild for him.

Let’s begin at the beginning, though. The day started off with a sizzling performance from Soul For Youth, an on-campus band who got their coveted Bacchanal opener spot by winning the Battle of the Bands back in February. Soul For Youth is a huge band, with 11 student members repping all four class years. Barnard sophomore Julia Roche provided a beautiful range of vocals that harmonized nicely with Columbia freshman Mamadou Yattassaye’s deep voiceovers. The band had a strong brass and woodwind section, with a trombonist, two saxophone players, and a trumpeter. The trumpeter, David Acevedo, said confidently that he knew they would win the Battle of the Bands. Trombonist Timoteo Cruz was more humble, saying he knew there was a lot of tough competition. Other members of Soul For Youth said they were stoked to play Bacchanal, and Timoteo added that it was “probably the biggest show we’ll play in a while.”

St. Beauty appeared next; a two-woman band from Atlanta. The duo worked it, rocking along to their songs. They were both incredible dancers, and it was fun to watch them jam musically and physically. They got really into expressing their music through their bodies. “Not Discuss It,” their most popular song on Spotify, was the strongest crowd hit.

5

Bwog Finance: Intro To Investing

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April 05, 20181:01 pm 1 Comments

The New York Stock Exchange

Thought Bwog Finance was a one time thing? You thought too soon! We’re back, and better than ever. Now that you’ve got your checking account covered, we’re back with “Basic Kinds Of Investments” so you have a place to put all that money you’re saving on monthly fees.

This Bwog Finance Column will be a intro to investing for readers who still think a CD is what came after the cassette tape and before the iPod. This is a rundown of different ways to invest, but it’s by no means an advice column on what to invest in.

CD – A CD, or certificate of deposit, is a long-term investment. A CD comes with a term, or how long it lasts, and an APY, or an annual percentage yield, which is basically how much you will earn in a year. For example, a one year CD with a 1.5% APY means that, after one year, the amount of money you put in the CD will have increased by 1.5% of the initial amount. The catch is that, usually, your money is locked away when you put it in a CD, and you’ll be penalized if you try to take it out before the term is over. However, interest rates for CD’s are generally much higher than rates for savings accounts.

If you suck at doing math in your head, like me, you can use this handy calculator to determine how much cash you’ll make based on the APY and term of your CD and how much money you put in initially. Here’s an example to make the concepts simpler:

• Initial investment (how much money you put in CD) = \$1,000
• APY (interest amount, compounding yearly) = 1.5%
• Term = 1 year
• Amount of money you have after one year, when the CD ends = \$1,015

That’s not a huge return on your investment (simple language: you only made \$15, and you didn’t have access to \$1,000 for a whole year). If you’re not good at budgeting or saving, this is a good option for putting money away short-term if you’re sure you won’t need it, and it will give you a higher return than most savings accounts. CD interest rates have also gone up recently, so you can get ones with APY’s as high as 2.75%. Use NerdWallet’s best CD rates tool to see how much money is required and what the terms are of various CDs. Note that the best rates will come with longer terms, so before you get a CD, decide whether it’s worth it to have your money locked away for a year if you could get similar returns by just putting your dough in a high-yield savings account.

31

Housing Reviews 2018: 600

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March 31, 20186:56 pm 0 Comments

Viewssss from suite 12A2!

600 West 116th Street, or the dorm above Shake Shack, is a conveniently located Barnard housing option. But it has a number of inconveniences, too. Read on to weigh the pros and cons.

Location: 600 West 116th Street.

• Nearby dorms: 616, 620, the Quad, Shapiro.
• Stores and restaurants: Shake Shack, Pret à Manger, University Stationary, MoWill, Sweetgreen.
• Cost: The costs for Barnard rooms haven’t been released yet, but last year they were \$9,510 for multiple occupancy and \$11,038 for single occupancy. Next year, single and multiple prices will be the same.

Amenities:
Bathrooms: Each suite has one bathroom. Some are newly renovated/modern.
AC/Heating: Heating but no AC.
Lounge: There’s a lounge on the second floor. Suites have a common dining room space.
Kitchen: Each suite has one kitchen with an oven, fridge, and stove.
Laundry: On the second floor. Requires the Barnard laundry card.
Computers/printers: Down the street, in the lobby of 616.
Gym: None. Go to the Barnard gym, a short walk away.
Intra-transportation: Two elevators that are notoriously slow and constantly break.
Hardwood/carpet: Hardwood throughout. Linoleum in kitchen and tile in bathroom.
WiFi: Yes, Barnard WiFi.

Room variety:

• Mostly doubles, some singles (generally for the RA)
• Check out the floorplans to see suite layouts!

Numbers:

Mostly juniors will get 600, with some sophomores. Seniors generally don’t want to live here because they prefer singles.

Bwog recommendation:

600 is super conveniently located, but it’s also old and some suites have been known to have mice problems. It’s also hard to get a single, if that’s what you want.

On the flip side, some suites have killer views, and if you get one of those, you’ve lucked out! Plus, you can host dinner parties in your dining room if your suite mates are down.

Resident opinions:

• “The elevators are f****** slow. Be prepared to wait a lot, or climb.”
• “Keep clean because there are mice. A lot of them.”
• “Make friends with George, the maintenance guy!”
• “Lots of mice!!”

26

Housing Reviews 2018: 110

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March 26, 20186:17 pm 1 Comments

Whaddup Barnard friends (and Columbia kids if you’re cool enough to room w/ us?)! Housing selection is soon approaching. Bwog is back with our coveted and much anticipated Housing Reviews. Today it’s 110 (more officially called 601 W 110th St), a Barnard dorm that’s very grown-up. Look forward to more great content this week.

Location: 601 West 110th Street

Nearby Dorms: Harmony (Columbia dorm), Carlton Arms kinda (also Columbia), very far from everything else

Stores and Restaurants: 1020, Mel’s, Panda Express, Absolute Bagels, Westside, HMart, Chipotle, Koronet’s, Famiglia, Juice Press, Five Guys, Duane Reade, the Vitamin Shoppe, Garden of Eden. It’s popping over here!

Cost: Singles and doubles will all be the same price next year! wow! Studio singles will still be more expensive. Barnard trustees haven’t released pricing yet, but last year singles cost \$10,712 and studios cost \$16,000.

BathroomsThis is apartment-style living, and each apartment has at least one bathroom. Some have two! They are all old/outdated. Expect cracked tiles, peeling paint, weird irremovable stains, etc. Also, like for all Barnard upperclassmen dorms, you need to clean them yourself.

Amenities:

• AC/Heating: Heating in every room. You can’t control it and it’s often overpowering. No AC.
• Kitchens/Lounges: All apartments have kitchens with fridge, sink, and stove/oven. Studio singles have only kitchenettes, with sink, fridge, and stove but no oven.
• Laundry: All in the basement. Requires a different card than other Barnard dorms.
• Computers/Printers: None.
• Gym: Far from campus…but closer to Yoga to the People?
• Intra-Transporation: Two elevators (constantly breaking), two stairwells.
• WiFi: Yes, but it requires separate login than Barnard secure. (Each apartment has its own router).
• Hardwood or Carpet: Mostly carpet, some hardwood in kitchen. Tile in bathroom.

6

Bwog Finance: Best Bank Account For College Students

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March 06, 201811:34 am 2 Comments

\$\$ money baby

Did you ever think Bwog was gonna give you money advice? Yeah…neither did we…but here we are! Enjoy the first in a series of Bwog Finance columns, where we advise you on how best to save/spend your \$\$\$.

The “best” bank account depends on what you’re looking for. Is the best bank the one that doesn’t invest in fossil fuels (or other bad shit–note: this bank does not exist)? Or is it the one that offers you the best bang for your buck? We’re going to go with the latter.

Most savings accounts offer a measly interest rate of less than 1%, and most checking accounts offer none at all. On top of this, some bank accounts require a minimum monthly balance, or a minimum number of monthly deposits, or they charge a monthly fee. Here’s a lowdown of bank account options for Columbia student. They all offer online/mobile banking, as well as chip-enabled debit cards, and low or no minimum opening deposit.

Santander: The Student Value and Simply Right Checking accounts are both solid options. Santander has ATMs on campus, as well as a small office in Lerner. There’s no monthly fee for the Student Value account, nor for the Simply Right account, as long as you use it once a month. The downside is that neither of these accounts earn interest!

23

Barnard Guest Swipes: The Truth

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February 23, 20187:30 pm 0 Comments

A photo from Columbia Dining’s feedback page

Are you totally confused–and frustrated–by Barnard’s guest swipe policy for Columbia dining halls? So were we. Bwoggers Sarah Dahl and Lucy Danger did some investigating to find out the truth about guest swipes. We hope this information helps you.

Barnard students weren’t allowed to swipe guests into dining halls until this year, when emails from administrators informed us that the policy had changed.

An April 25, 2017 email to Barnard students from interim president Rob Goldberg and Dean Avis Hinkson announcing the tuition and fees for 2017-2018, noted that “in response to student concerns about food insecurity, and to encourage community building, there will be additional ‘guest’ swipes added for all meal plans.”

Another email to Barnard students from Vice President for Campus Services Gail Beltrone on September 8, 2017, announces, “This year, the College added guest swipes onto meal plans.”

But the guest swipes aren’t available on all meal plans. According to barnard.edu/dining:

“Guest Meals are included with certain meal plans and can be used at any on campus location that accepts meal swipes. Guest Meals are included with the following meal plans:
Platinum Plan – 6 guest swipes/semester, Upper Class Quad – 5 guest swipes/semester, Basic 1 – 4 guest swipes/semester, Basic 2 – 3 guest swipes/semester, Basic 3 – 2 guest swipes/semester.”

This policy was confirmed in an email from Lauren Scocozza, Barnard Food Service Director, who also noted that guest swipes “can be used at Columbia Dining halls so long as the dining hall accepts meal swipes.” Ms. Scocozza also noted that these guest swipes are “in addition to the meals included in the meal plans listed.”

12

New Orgo Night Posters

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December 12, 20172:47 pm 7 Comments

If you haven’t set foot on campus yet today…you can check out Columbia University Marching Band (CUMB)’s latest Orgo Night posters below! The first round of posters arrived last Thursday. These ones are a little more equivocal about the location. Instead of BUTLER, they say, BUTLER??? We’ll keep our fingers crossed for this coming Thursday. Remember, you saw it on Bwog  first.

8

Campus Buildings As Forms Of Contraception

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December 08, 20171:37 pm 2 Comments

A snapshot of some popular forms of contraception. Campus buildings not included.

Yeah, you just reached the weird part of Bwog. Tag yourself.

Lerner = The Pull Out Method. Whoever designed this, like, wasn’t thinking, at all. We don’t care that he was an alum. Don’t try this at home. Lights up purple sometimes.

Barnard Quad Buildings = The Pill. Kind of annoying, but always there for you when you need it. Doesn’t work if you do it at the wrong time. ‘Chastity gates’ close at 11 pm. Seems like basically everyone has been here, done that. Baby form of birth control.

Hamilton = Copper IUD. Only one FDA-approved brand (Paragard). Lowkey famous but not as big as the pill. 99% effective. Might give you cramps but lasts 12 years. A bitch if you take the stairs. Should be free with insurance under the Affordable Care Act, but they will stiff you.

Butler = The Patch. Extremely visible. Not easy to forget about. Gets the job done but kind of a turn off. Literally stuck onto your skin.

Maison Française = Condom. Oldest thing on campus. Used to be part of an insane asylum but actually nice inside. Comes with wine. Can be uncomfortable and can break if used incorrectly.

Diana Center = Internal Condom. Most Columbia guys don’t know how to get here or how to use it. Not very effective. All the walls are red. Off-brand Starbucks on first floor that doesn’t accept gold cards.

LeFrak Center = Spermicide. Literally kills sperm. What actually is this? Again, dudes don’t really know this one. Used to be a gym, that was the last place Malcolm X spoke publicly before getting assassinated. Temporary Barnard Library.

Low Library = The Shot. Seems cool in theory but you have to actually do it once every three months. Easy to forget about. PrezBo’s office is here, but he’s never there.

Kent = Hormonal IUD. Hamilton’s prettier/more popular cousin, but only lasts 3-6 years. You can get stickers here. Elevator is still shitty.

Mudd = The Implant. A literal rod in your arm. Will bruise on insertion. Easy to forget about except when bae holds your upper arm. Slowly becoming more hip. MakerSpace inside. Upper level form of birth  control.

EC = Sterilization. Life-altering, but you’ve thought it through. You can never have kids. Good views of the city. Potential for what your future might look like.

Any Frat House = Abstinence. A little gross, full of mostly cis men with whom everyone has at least a little reservation about sleeping with. You’ll probably end up here at some point in your life, and you probably won’t wanna go back.

Srat House = Plan B. What did you think? You got the shittiest number possible in the housing lottery. Thank god you rushed, though. Living here will make you moody for months on end, but at least you are safe.

Math Building = The Calendar Method. You have to be really good at math for this. Hard. Still doesn’t work sometimes. Advanced form of birth control.

Contraceptives graphic via Macrovector on Dreamstime

16

Yelp Reviews Of Brownie’s Café

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November 16, 201711:30 am 0 Comments

I was googling the hours of Brownie’s Café the other day, and lo-and-behold, I stumbled upon a treasure trove of actually helpful Yelp reviews. You’ve probably read the highlights from our analysis of Yelp and Google reviews of Columbia University overall, but here’s the best (and worst) take on a specific, infamous (famous?) Columbia institution: Brownie’s Café. And yes, Brownie’s does have a four-star Yelp rating.

31

Faculty Write Letter Of Support For Disciplined Students

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October 31, 20178:51 pm 5 Comments

Info on University Rules

Yesterday evening Bwog received copies of two letters written by Columbia faculty members, in support of students disciplined for protesting the Columbia University College Republicans (CUCR) Tommy Robinson event on October 10.

The letters are the latest in a range of efforts by students to defend themselves from what they view as unfair disciplinary action for a just and rule-abiding protest. Shortly after the protest and subsequent notice of disciplinary action, students circulated an online petition, which has received 4,850 signatures so far. On Monday, students released a statement of defense.

CUCR held another heavily protested event on Monday.

Jared Sacks, one of the 19 students facing disciplinary action, says the first letter is signed by Sulzbacher Professor of Law Katherine Franke, and “explains in detail why [these faculty members] were outraged by the way [students] were treated during the disciplinary process and how the rules administrator broke Columbia’s own rules…The letter was sent to the Rules Commmitee.”

The second letter says much the same thing, and is signed by over 100 Columbia faculty members. It, too, was sent to the Rules Committee, as well as to President Bollinger.

30

What The Fuck Is That New Siren Sound

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October 30, 20174:49 pm 4 Comments

A dumb fucking ambulance

At least three times a day, whatever I’m doing is interrupted by that new, moaning siren sound. What the fuck is it?

You know what I’m talking about. It’s high-pitched, like a siren, but it’s long, drawn-out, and sad. It doesn’t sound urgent at all. If I heard that siren, I wouldn’t pull my car over to the side of the road.

The reason it’s so fucking annoying is that it’s not a typical, regular, New York City siren, so I can’t just tune it out. But it also doesn’t sound siren-enough to signal an actual emergency.

It’s a new sound, and it only started this semester. Why was it introduced?

I finally caught a glimpse of the siren source the other day, walking home from class. There it was: an ambulance, crawling up Broadway, with lights flashing, and that stupid fucking siren sound blaring from the speakers. Was this ambulance in a rush? Didn’t sound like it. Were cars moving out of its way? Nope. If this were a real emergency, that would be a really dumb fucking siren to use.

So, I want to know, whose idea was it to start using these sirens, why are they used, and when will it stop?

Please comment below if you have answers or, like me, you’re belligerently annoyed. Everyone else on Bwog thinks I’m crazy!

Toy ambulance via clipartview.com

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