Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Continuing Collegiate Cock-Ups

So I went to college, and I was in everything.  I figured I was making connections that would help me, since I was at least aware I needed some and didn't have any.  Foolish child.  Lynn Eliason got me to Germany, an opportunity I punted back through the end zone.  Anything from any other faculty?  No.  Linda Milbury Chappell helped Daughter 2 get into firefighting.  Anything from anyone else?  No.  Several college friends have become extremely successful, and justly so.  They're smart, they're focused, and they deliver the goods.  And they haven't tossed me so much as a chump collection case.  They don't even respond to my holiday and birthday messages anymore.

If I remove my degree from the equation (and its value remains highly questionable), I am compelled to write Utah State off as a loss.  Well, at least I was on scholarship.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Continuing with the Screw-Ups

We all receive lots of lousy advice.  It's part of life on Earth.  What makes the difference is whether you follow it, either because you see it's crap but you're stupid, or you just don't see it's crap.  I like to believe that, in this instance at least, it was the latter.

Doug Alder was a History professor and the head of the Honors Program when I was at Utah State.  He later became President of Dixie and has since retired.  His son, Nate, whom I have known since he was a little fritter and actually shorter than me, is a past Bar President (Fat lot of good that connection has ever done me, although Nate is far from unique in this, and that's a load of bile for another day.).  Doug was really grooming me for grad school, and along the way gave me the bar none worst advice I have ever followed: He told me not to get a teaching certificate.  He said it would look bad to graduate programs I applied to.

I ate that up with a big spoon.  My parents were teachers, so naturally I wanted to advance beyond that, so why waste time doing otherwise?  Dad was the generation past blue collar (in this case farming) and Mom was the generation past decayed, Southern aristocracy, so it was time to advance the family to white collar, upper-middle class status.  With hindsight, I can see the fallacies were as thick as fleas on a hillbilly hound.

First, Doug had no idea what he was talking about.  Although he tries to deny it or at least hide it, he is a silver spooner with precious little knowledge of anything outside academe.  He pokes fun at his bourgeois father, but that's where the money cushion came from that allowed Doug to become The Great Scholar with minimal pain to him and his.  And that's the thing about academe: If you're going to be in it in a non-tech field, it really helps to have a trust fund.  I most assuredly didn't, and I could see that five years of grad school followed by a questionable quest for an assistant professorship was unlikely to be a good idea without such a supplemental income.  After deciding not to pursue grad school, though, and not having a teaching certificate, my choices ran the gamut from law school to law school.  Hobson's Choice is not a good strategy.

Second, my assessment of my situation was, shall we say, overly optimistic.  Some might say delusional.  Contrary to my frankly uninformed read, the family had not really had that middle class generation that is necessary to launch into a contact-based profession, of which law is the ultimate example (Finance, accounting, architecture, and business are others.).  My folks had only managed to grub out an unstable, lower-middle class existence that gave me no connections nor any of the skills needed to acquire some.  STEM professions (engineering, health sciences, etc.) would have been tough, but at least they would have been in the realm of the possible.

Let's do a compare and contrast.  My best friend, Dave Weeks, was a year ahead of me in high school and was likewise the eldest son of two teachers.  His parents too were the generation that moved from blue collar (his mom off the farm, his dad out of the stone quarries).  He bummed around through college and finally got a Life Sciences degree.  Then he became a pharmacist, and now he's a successful MD.  He went STEM, and even with a slow start he took off.  I went humanities without connections, and I've spent three decades slowly spinning in the doldrums.

And so I have hammered on my kids to avoid my egregious mistake: Get the teaching certificate!  In my in no way humble opinion, if you get a non-STEM degree and no certificate, you just pissed away college.  Even if you get a STEM degree, the certificate doesn't hurt.  Have they listened?  Hmm.  Well, Daughter One really isn't the school type and is now married, but at least she found a Navy nuclear tech, so they have a STEM hook.  Daughter Two is in biology, show she's in STEM, moving slowly, but at least she's moving.  Daughter Three, the jury's still out, she has decided that she isn't doing STEM if she's in school, and we'll see where her probable husband is able to take her.  As for Boy, his interests are artistic, but he knows he'll need a day job, and he thinks EMT could do it for him.  Works for me.  In this economy, why bother with college?  Get technical training, preferably something with STEM.  EMT would be portable, flexible, and provide a paycheck, benefits, and a pension.  Good luck finding all that with a liberal arts degree.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Religious Freedom?

If you've read my bio, you've seen that I'm a member of the Washington State Bar as well as Utah. I was reading the latest Bar News from Washington, now called NWLawyer, and saw the predictable religious push-back to last month's editorial about respecting transgender citizens (And hey Google, why in Hell in this day and age is "transgender" marked as misspelled?). There are two letters. The first is from psychiatric "expert" David D. Cullen of Olympia, who asks where WSBA president Anthony Gipe gets off writing that being transgender is not a pathology, given that Gipe is not a psychiatrist. Cullen should try reading the current DSM-IV and the drafts of DSM_V, which happen to agree with Gipe. And here's a shock for Cullen: Neither book is based on the Bible.

Cullen also plays the "You're violating my religious rights!" card, but that's all the second letter, from Brian L. McCoy of right here in Riverton, manages. He claims they are pushing back as an exercise of religious liberty, and any interference is forcing them to accept practices that offensive to their standards of right and wrong. First, I find it offensive to my sense of right and wrong to teach children pseudoscience based on Bronze Age campfire stories, and I consider it a problem not just in the public schools where it is already banned, but everywhere, because it is raising another generation of scientific illiterates, and that could be the last nail in the coffin of our economy and, consequently, our country. Do I think I then have the authority to enlist the government in banning church schools? As much as I believe the Constitution is not a suicide pact, no I don't think I have that authority. And that's the thing, McCoy. You and your cohorts have been using the state to enforce your religious beliefs to the detriment of the constitutional rights of other citizens. Now you're being blocked from that unconstitutional establishment of religion (Except apparently in Kentucky. Someone really needs to send a memo to those county clerks and remind them that they swore to uphold the Constitution, not the King James Bible. Somebody may need to read them the memo, though. And for those of you who think the Supreme Court overstepped its authority, Marbury vs. Madison is not exactly new law.). Stopping you from imposing your religious beliefs on others is not interfering with your religious rights. Further, being in business and yet not wanting to provide service to certain people who are not doing anything but offending your morals is no different than the white's-only lunch counters and hotels. Heart of Atlanta Hotel vs. United States was decided over half a century ago, although it wouldn't surprise me if you haven't heard of it, McCoy, given where you went to law school.

Cut the crap, people. Your whining about interference with your "rights" sounds like every secessionist in 1860 and every segregationist in 1964.

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Next Big Screw-Up

Having determined to pursue history and not STEM, off to college I went.  Utah State University, ironically enough a STEM-focused school.  And my overarching screw-up was that I thought i could play college like high school.  I was in everything in high school, and I thought I could do it at USU.  The problem is, it takes a lot more steam at that level.  I had to drop theater right away, which should have been a red flag that I needed to cut back in general, but I plowed on.  I should have been focusing on figuring out where I was going and what I needed to do to do to get there, but instead I was all over the place.  Ten hours a week in marching band, not to mention all the lost Saturdays.  Student government, frankly a contradiction in terms.  Too many languages instead of focusing on German, which actually got me somewhere and could have gotten me much farther.  And obscene amounts of time spent on the newspaper.  People were amazed at all the things I was involved in.  They gave me a trophy for it.  Big woop, I think it's in storage.  Neither that trophy nor all the activities that won it for me advanced me one jot.  It was the people who focused their punches who have since broken through.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Avoid Budget Rentals

Back in the days when I was an actual road warrior, say 8-10 years ago, my car rental company of choice was Budget.  Liveable prices, decent cars, good service.  Apparently all just a memory.  After waiting over an hour past my reservation time, I ended up having to produce more personal paperwork than I would to close escrow on a house.  Without being informed ahead of time what I would need.  And the car is dirty.  And the manager was rude.  Yes, I'm talking to you, Mr. Naylor.  When I get this car dumped off, Budget need never worry about my shadow darkening their door again.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Childhood's End

Tonight, for the first time in 23 years, we do not have a pet in the house.  We had to put the last of the children's pets down today.

There has been a variety of animals wander through over the years, but the core was The Big Three: Skipper, the big, Persian kitty; Lucy, the little, tortoiseshell kitty; and Ghost, the blue merle sheltie.  We rescued Skipper as a kitten in 1992; his mother had been trying to kill him.  Almost entirely black with two, big, yellow eyes, in the dark the eyes were the only things visible, and he could pass for something out of a Wes Craven movie.  He started getting seriously cranky when we moved back to Utah in 2005.  Can't say I blame him.  His favorite thing became lying in the garage doorway in the morning and watching the sun come up.  One morning in June 2006, we found him lying in his usual place and saw he wouldn't be seeing any more sunrises.

Ghost was another rescue operation.  Born in 2000, he had AKC papers but was unsuitable for breeding because of some imperfections.  By the time they neutered him, though, he had already acquired all the alpha male bad habits and would never lose them.  Then his owner, an elderly gentleman, died, and he was dumped back into the kennel he came from, and spent most of his time trying to fight every other dog there.They were about to get rid of him when we showed up.  He was so happy to be with people again, he even put up with the cats, for the most part.  In 2011, though, he suddenly lost control of his hind legs, a condition we learned is fairly common with blood-lined shelties (Gotta love those reinforced recessives.).  We had to put him down in the Summer.

Lucy was even more of a rescue project.  In May 1997 a tiny kitten appeared on our porch, desperate for food, shelter, and protection.  We coaxed her into our household, little, white chin, oversized paws, and all.  Skipper grudgingly tolerated her, and she let Skipper run the show.  So long as Skipper was alive, she hardly said anything, but right after Skipper died she started talking and wouldn't shut up.  Along the way she lost both hips and started having a hyperactive thyroid, but these things didn't seem to faze her.  She outlasted Ghost without a problem and kept going.  When she hit 18 this Spring, though, it was obvious she was running out of gas.  This month she started having real trouble with intake and output, started losing weight, and was having trouble doing anything other than lying around because her joints were hurting.  We took her in this morning, and it was over in seconds, the fastest I've ever seen.  She must have had nothing left.

The two kids remaining at home don't remember a time before Lucy.  The older wasn't even two, and the younger wasn't born.  I grew up rural and saw countless animals come and go, so this death doesn't affect me anywhere close to the way it does the others, but it's jarring to see the kids come to grips with the realization that a big piece of their childhoods is gone, and those childhoods themselves have ended.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Journey Begins

As I said last week in my business blogs, I've decided to blog here about "long, strange trip it's been."  Have to do something here, since I don't really get around much anymore.  I've decided to tell this journey as a series of cautionary tales, laying out the mistakes that have dictated the course.

Journeys really begin in high school years.  Up until then, life is almost entirely inflicted on you.  In high school you start making choices for yourself.  And you start screwing up under your own power.

I committed a life-altering screw-up in high school.  I was good in math.  I took two years of calc in high school, and I've tutored college algebra.  My math and science teachers did their best to get me to press on, but I just wouldn't have it.  I was more interested in history.  Didn't think it through very well.  Apologies to Bob Oliver, Ray Fielder, and Leonard Warren.

It would have been good if someone had smacked me between the eyes and said, "Just what are you going to do with that?  The alternatives are limited to the following: teaching school, getting a doctorate and entering academe, and law.  Anyone who says there are other options is speaking with a big shovel."  No one said anything like that, though.  And doubly no one said anything about the real prerequisites for academe and law, mostly because none of them had clue one about it.

So I abandoned STEM and blundered on in the humanities.  And now let me tell you, kiddies: Those motivational speakers who tell to do what you love?  That's a dangerous crock.  First, you can't really know if you love a certain activity until you're settled deeply into it, and then it's too late.  Second, only two types of people have a decent chance of doing what they love: people who had it handed to them by Daddy, and people like those motivational speakers whose great love is ripping people off.  The best you can hope for is something you're interested in that will support you and keep you interested.  You have to keep that hard, cold truth right in front of you and plan everything accordingly.