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Don’t Get Too Close to the Bubble, Lest you Get Caught in the Burst

16 May

When I graduated high school in 1970, nearly 40% of H.S. grads continued on to college. It was considered a necessity to finish high school, probably justifiably, and there was already a good bit of propaganda circulating about a college degree being necessary if one hoped to land a “good” job. That 40% is now over 70%. Is that a sign of a more educated society? You be the judge.

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The last three years of my public school, I was working for $1.00 an hour, and glad to get it. I worked an average of 50 hours per week, and gas was only about 36 cents per gallon, so I was feeling fairly flush.

Unfortunately (depending upon your point of view), it was the sixties, and free love and Timothy O’Leary got a lot more of my attention than my textbooks. I wasn’t terribly motivated during my senior year, and my grades fell dramatically. Any hopes I (my parents, actually) might have had of a scholarship went up in smoke, so to speak.

Still, after getting an extraordinary education, courtesy of the U.S. Navy, I was able to get a decent job after my discharge, and worked my way up to a nearly $250K annual income. Many times, I chuckled about my high school counselors singing their doom and gloom song about my future, if I didn’t knuckle down and get that sheepskin.

Finally, though, in the mid-80s, I did hit a wall, and was told that the company just couldn’t have a vice-president of marketing with only a H.S. diploma. So I left, and went back to school. Let me tell you, being the only 30-some year old in a college classroom leaves a lot to be desired. I think most of my professors were younger than I was.

That time around, I thoroughly enjoyed the studying, though. So much so, that once I got my BS in engineering, I decided that I’d get a short-term job and go back for my MBA. Surprising everyone, including myself, I did just that.

Most of my bachelor’s degree studies were funded by my G.I. Bill, thanks to my eleven years in the Navy. My costs consisted of only living expenses. When it came time to return for my business degree, however, everything was out of pocket, as I’d long since exhausted my G.I. benefits.

Before finishing business school, I already had an offer, starting at $200K, so I felt like I’d wasted a lot of years. If only I’d gone to college right out of high school, instead of a couple of years of vacation in Southeast Asia. 😉

But my perspective changed, once I found myself in a management role. Young college grads brought nothing to the table but buzzwords and stylish haircuts. Their lack of experience left the majority of them severely lacking the bare essentials for survival in business. And amazingly, when discussing basics with them that I had studied at my university, I found that most of them had been exposed to almost nothing of practical value. Statistical analysis is critical for some positions, but not for those I was trying to fill. Hell, most of those kids STILL hadn’t ever learned how to balance their checkbook!

I also found that the majority of them had been forced to take out student loans, usually with their parents as co-signers, in amounts that seemed to me to be intimidating for someone just starting a career. $25K was a typical number, as I recall, and around 5 years to pay it back. Five or six hundred dollars a month was enough to keep most of them in a shared apartment.

I thought then how fortunate I was that between the Navy and my savings, I’d been able to pay my own way, and not be saddled with that sort of debt. In those days, $25K could buy a decent house. In fact, that’s exactly what I paid for my first home.

Shoot forward a few years… about twenty. Last year a client asked me to write a feature article on higher education in the U.S. A little research left me reeling in shock.

One resource I stumbled across during that process was the National Inflation Association. I signed up for their newsletter then and still get it regularly. A couple of weeks ago, they announced that they were releasing a documentary entitled “College Conspiracy”, and offered a preview. That preview sparked my interest, as it delved deeply into some bits of “common knowledge” that I had long suspected of being fallacies.

Today, I got to view the entire film, and I can’t begin to paint the picture as well as their film does, but I will share just a few verifiable statistics with you.

  • Today, a public 4 year college charges an in-state student an average of $7,020 per year in tuition and fees.
  • For out-of-state enrollees, add an average of $11,528 surcharge per year.
  • A private 4-year college charges an average of $26,293 per year in tuition and fees.
  • In any of those cases, you can figure on spending around $200 per textbook. That’s triple what it was a decade ago.
  • The typical 4-year degree in the U.S. has a total cost of more than $460K. That doesn’t include textbooks or living expenses. I know –  that doesn’t match the numbers above – watch the film to understand the difference.

I could go on and on, but if you trust my recommendations at all, then please do yourself a favor and watch this movie…. especially if you or someone in your family is planning to attend college. It may be the most educational hour you have spent in a long time.

View “College Conspiracy” now.

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Are you a Carnivore?

9 Apr
Beef cuts at the market

Mmmmm...

First of all, let me be perfectly clear about something. I am a confirmed carnivore. Sure, I enjoy vegetables, too… provided they’re to one side of a nice juicy steak. I like chicken and fish, too, but to be honest, I barely consider them to be meat. Meat is red, and generally comes from a creature larger than me. Pork and beef are my preferred poison.

I used to raise our own beef and slaughter one or two every year. I’ve done more than a fair amount of hunting, and butchered deer, wild boar, turkeys and even one bear. Aside from one childhood incident where I killed a squirrel just because I could (the shame of which I was immediately made to feel by my father, and which has stayed with me to this day), I have never killed any animal that didn’t find its way to my table. And I have never killed in order to hang a trophy on my wall.

I’ve slaughtered hogs, goats, and various fowl, cleaned and gutted enough fish to feed a small town for a month and I have NEVER failed to exercise compassion when doing so. When “doctoring” my animals (translation: castration, de-horning, or treating serious wounds), I always used anesthetic and antibiotics, and the most humane method I could.

I consider animals to be creatures that deserve at least as much compassion and respect as living beings as I do, even if they are headed for my table.

I’ve been a meat-eater all my life, and I have no intention of changing that now.

HOWEVER… I do know that industrialization of the meat industry has given rise to many barbaric practices in order to increase productivity (and of course, profits). I don’t know if all of those practices can be eradicated, while maintaining the necessary productivity. But I do believe we have to TRY!

The video below is not for the weak of heart or stomach. If you have a weak stomach, you probably won’t be able to watch it. I do, though, encourage you to at least listen to it. Punch the play button, and listen while you check your email or something, and you may find you’ll be enlightened.

I am certainly not trying to convince anyone to give up meat and become a vegan… I won’t be, I assure you. I simply encourage you to be aware of how hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of animals are deliberately and viciously treated every single month in this country. I encourage you to stay away from genetically modified food of all kinds, because nobody really knows what the long-term effects of ingesting such food may be.

And most of all, I encourage you to do anything you can to teach your children, nephews and nieces or grandchildren how important it is for them to remain humane when dealing with other creatures.

Don’t say I didn’t give you fair warning. This video is graphic. It’s appalling. It’s shameful. It’s something we all need to change.

Edit: 5/16/11 I see that this video has been removed. I’ll try to locate it elsewhere and put it back up.

Edit: 5/21/11 I couldn’t locate another copy of that video anywhere, unfortunately. However, I did find another one that is somewhat related and should be of interest to many of you. Food, Inc. can’t be embedded here, but here’s a link to the first of seven parts on YouTube. The remaining parts are present on the same channel.

Edit: 9-23-2013 Food, Inc. is back up on YouTube again… hopefully it’ll stay this time. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dkL2Q_kCRms