Oh....The Humanity

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Posted on : 9/27/2012 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In : ,

I had a chat with a friend of mine the other day.  Folks that know me, either know him or have heard of him.  Such is the high esteem in which I hold him.

He is a veteran of Desert Storm.  His uniform contains some serious fruit salad. 

A decade or so after that conflict, he entered the healthcare field as a paramedic.  There are lots of stories to tell there.

But the comment that made us pause was the moment self realization that he had begun to care about people...again.

The irony here is that while he wore our nation's uniform, he was charged with being a living implement of mayhem, destruction, and death among our enemies.  Yet during that time, he possessed a significant sense of caring and compassion for other humans.

Years later, that sense of compassion was severely undermined by his near decade long experience as a paramedic.  When most people would have assumed that he would have cared the most for others, he found that sense of compassion slipping away.

Spend a little time reading The Most Interesting Ambulance Crew In The World on Facebook.  Paramedics and EMTs spend waayyy too much time servicing people that could either drive to a hospital, wait to see their doctor in the morning (and yes they have doctor's), or just need a little better sense of perspective.

My friend tells stories....lots of stories...that are just as bad and many that are worse.  The one that comes first to mind is the run to a home where a teenage girl was undergoing a severe emotional crisis...because of a bad haircut.  And her parents called EMS.

Double, Double, Boil, And Bubble

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Posted on : 9/26/2012 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In : , , , , ,

For those that have been following the news, we had the dot-com bubble, then the housing bubble, and now we have the education bubble.  The education bubble is the government subsidized debt that students (and their parents) acquire in pursuit of a college/university degree.  The primary problem is that we have too many former students carrying more debt than their incomes can support.

While there are a lot of issues in the education bubble to unpack and explore, one big issue is the type of degrees that colleges and universities are selling.  Altruistic issues aside, colleges and universities are businesses that get paid up front based on the theoretic economic benefits that their products can create throughout a person's life.

Unfortunately, some people graduate from college and still cannot get a job that is worth having.  One list of collegiate majors suggests ten careers where borrowing money to fund the necessary educations is foolish.

  • Anthropology
  • Fine Arts
  • Film and Photography
  • Philosophy and Religious Studies
  • Graphic Design
  • Studio Arts
  • Liberal Arts
  • Drama and Theater Arts
  • Sociology
  • English
I'm not sure of the best way to resolve the impending economic crash due to education related debt.  I do think that colleges are behaving in precisely the same manner as more traditional businesses; particularly businesses that specialize in investing such as Goldman Sachs or Countrywide.  They are most certainly not advising students about the logical conclusions of accumulating large amounts of debt while not simultaneously acquiring a degree that will enable the repayment of that debt.

Were we talking about any other industry, the howls of outrage would be deafening.

Now I can hear other howls right now.  I am not being "anti-education".  People should still go to college.

But they should be aware of their choices.  If you have a college fund and can afford to spend $200,000+ on an Ivy League BA in sociology, then have a great time!  But if you are borrowing money to get the same degree, then perhaps you ought to consider a local community college for the first two years before transferring to a more affordable four year school.

The flip side of that coin is that colleges and universities should be providing the sort of detailed counseling that will give accurate information to prospective students.  As of a few years ago, the standard collegiate sales technique was to say that possessing a level of education (associates, bachelors, masters, doctorate) was worth "X" amount of additional income over a person's lifetime...on average.  What they did not do was to break down the different fields of study so that the prospective student knew that the average BA in fine arts was using the phrase "would you like fries with that, sir" in their current employment while the average BS in engineering was earning three to four times (or more) what burger flippers earn.

I have felt less slimy after talking to certain used car salesmen.

This is not a problem that is solely limited to the "squishy" fields of study.  The Blogfather continues chronicle our nation's over-production of lawyers.  Law schools continue to heavily solicit students for their programs while knowing full well that a significant portion of those students will not be able to find jobs in their career field.

Again, the less slimy feeling and used car salesmen come into play.

Fixing the problem seems pretty straightforward.  Colleges and universities should be required to publish detailed and accurate average earnings information for their graduates broken down by field of study.  An accurate description of the jobs held by those graduates should be included.

And loans given to students should be conditional upon the college or university rebating a portion of the tuition received if a graduating student does not find work that pays enough for them to repay those loans.  Institutions of higher learning need to have "some skin in the game".

Is This Tough Enough

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Posted on : 9/25/2012 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In : ,

How would you like to run 10 miles?  And work your way through 75 obstacles?  In a gas mask just to up the challenge?

Todd Love did that.

But hold on.  There's more.

He had a hard time running.  He left his legs in Afghanistan.  And climbing is a bit of a pain as his left hand is still there as well.

At Dallas Park, Love even joked about his injury. He said: 'I was up front with the minesweepers searching for explosives and I found them. I guess that’s the easiest way to put it.
Sort of puts life in a little better perspective.

Book Recomendation - Pyongyang

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Posted on : 9/24/2012 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In : , ,

One of the positive aspects of shopping a local store is the ability to see all the things you do not plan on buying.  And then sometimes you do anyways.

We have a great comic book shop in town; Nostalgia, Ink.  They sell comic books, graphic novels, and all sorts of gaming essentials.

On one visit, I happened across "Pyongyang - A Journey in North Korea" by Guy Delisle.  This book tells the story of Mr. Delisle's time in North Korea working as an animator.  I think it is more correct to suggest that he was an animation supervisor as he made sure that the grunts that were doing all the real animation work produced art that was marketable in the west.

Just about every page contains a political or cultural anachronism.  One random example would be when his North Korean minder told him he would have to turn down his jazz as it could have a bad influence on "the others".  Mr. Delisle was working alone in a room with the door shut.

Another passage talks about the curious lack of any handicapped people walking on the city streets.  His minder and his driver cheerfully accept this as appropriate without questioning why how that condition could come to exist.

Mr. Delisle spent a fair portion of his non-working time trying to purposefully be non-subversive.

He also passed a copy of George Orwell's infamous "1984" to his minder.  Apparently, he didn't like science fiction.

As regular readers know, I have a mild interest in politics.  I've read a fair number criticisms of American Presidents that suggest that each in turn is some sort of "Dear Leader"; someone to be followed unquestioningly.  I believe I will find those assertions to be politically tone deaf...if not totally stone deaf...in the future. 

Read the book to find out why.



Shameless

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Posted on : 9/23/2012 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

As part of the fallout from the 9/11/2012 terrorist attacks, we had yet another example of the utter fecklessness of Mr. Obama's administration with respect to its sworn duty to protect and defend individual liberty.  In specific, the freedom of speech; including the right to make confrontational, offensive, and what some might consider blasphemous statements about any religion.

The Blogfather has the core of the issue precisely right.

Just after midnight Saturday morning, authorities descended on the Cerritos home of the man believed to be the filmmaker behind the anti-Muslim movie that has sparked protests and rioting in the Muslim world.”

When taking office, the President does not swear to create jobs. He does not swear to “grow the economy.” He does not swear to institute “fairness.” The only oath the President takes is this one:
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
By sending — literally — brownshirted enforcers to engage in — literally — a midnight knock at the door of a man for the non-crime of embarrassing the President of the United States and his administration, President Obama violated that oath. You can try to pretty this up (It’s just about possible probation violations! Sure.), or make excuses or draw distinctions, but that’s what’s happened. It is a betrayal of his duties as President, and a disgrace.
Where are the voices concerned with civil liberties?  Where are the people that reject any limits on speech that criticizes religious abuses?  Where are the people that bristle at any suggestion that they moderate their tone in the service of civility?

A few years back such folks could readily be found having a case of the vapors over the suggestion of by a Whitehouse(1) press secretary that people ought to carefully consider the words they use.

But now that real live police have yanked a real live film maker out of his home, these folks are strangely quiet.

The phrase "Have you no sense of decency" has been sadly used, abused, folded, spindled, and mutilated to the point where it has lost any power it might once have possessed to call attention to uniquely offensive actions by government officials.  We are a shameless nation.  And we are poorer for it.

(1) I had yet to use the word "Whitehouse" on this computer.  The spell-checker suggested other options.  The last one was "whorehouse".  Amusing.

And just in case, it would have been amusing if this had happened 5 years ago, or 5 months(2) from now when someone not named Barack Obama was in the Oval Office.

(2) A guy can hope, can't he?