Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Annoying Side of Higher Education

Now that I have been accepted to grad school on scholarship (which, for a professional program is pretty frickin' awesome), the pressure is totally off to worry about whether my GRE scores were high enough, or whether my personal statement was succinct while showing a command of language without plagiarism, or whether the program really needed another white, middle-class, Midwestern woman.  Apparently they were, it was, and they do.

Still, since the first time I registered my GRE prep book on The Princeton Review website, my inbox has been flooded with ads for for-profit schools.  Knowing what I wanted to major in, being in contact with a professor and assistant dean at two separate schools in the field, and paying attention to the institutional source of the research I was enjoying is how I narrowed down my choices, but how do you know to do this?  I'm lucky in that I have two parents and a spouse who are all involved in higher education and accreditation, and I myself have experience in HR and credentials.  Truth is, even going to a directional state school is going to be better from a career perspective than a for-profit online school.  Unless, and I can't stress this enough that there is one small exception, you are already employed and you need a Masters degree to advance in the salary schedule.  That's it.  If you are a teacher who needs to earn a Masters before being granted tenure, go with God, because your next job will be based on your performance in the classroom, not where you received your M.Ed.  Want a Ph.D. in a social science?  If you get it at the University of Phoenix, don't expect to work for a major research institution or liberal arts college.  It's not going to happen.  But, if you are an analyst for the government and want to slide up the GS scale, enjoy!

Back to the Princeton Review (not affiliated with Princeton University).  If you decide to give them more information for their "Featured Schools from the Princeton Review" function, it's not going to be pretty.  First, there are 10 possible subjects for graduate study.  My particular program isn't listed.  So, I selected Business without a GMAT just to see what pops up.  The first 20 results are a Continuing Studies program, 9 are online MBAs, two entries are duplicates, and then you have places known for business education like, Full Sail University.  Even doing a more thorough search on their website, getting to the topic that I know I want to study, the top programs in the country are not listed.  They don't have to be: the top students in the field know how to find them.

What appears instead is a list of schools with large advertising budgets.  Naturally.  But, if you were looking at GRE test prep as a first step in going back to school, how would you know otherwise?  And, once there, what percentage of your tuition is going to pay for that large advertising budget?  Perhaps I've found one way to slow the increase in cost of higher education in the US.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

New Chapter

A new chapter in my personal life is about to unfold.  I received a scholarship to start grad school in the fall (someone was thinking that my GRE scores would be valuable to their rankings...).  Very excited, but fearful as to what this will do to my available blogging time. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sunday Morning Papers: Missing the Good Ol' Days

I've never really wondered what living in a theocracy would look like, but the Santorum campaign appears to be giving me a glimpse.  He was interviewed on Face the Nation this morning (Bob Schieffer is a badass, by the way), and brought out the G word early and often.  A little snippet of how this went, after questioning whether environmentalists had bothered to read Genesis:

Santorum: "What I'm talking about is the belief that man should be in charge of the Earth and have dominion over it and be good stewards of it."
Shieffer: "I don't want to just spend the whole program on this."
Santorum: "Good!"

Let's put it this way, if Santorum would have been allowed, he would have continued to dig himself into a hole by narrowly defining Christian beliefs to the point that only Evangelical Republicans are Christians.  I'm very glad that this guy has no say in whether or not I am Saved or not.  Truthfully, if he is living the narrow path that leads to salvation, I'm thinking that I'm going to hell for not wanting to have a vengeful God of bloodlust, but following a be-sandled Hippie carpenter instead.

Santorum is appearing to be running for Preacher-In-Chief.  A rundown of his platform planks as detailed on Face the Nation this morning:
  • Prenatal testing is only used to screen for disabilities that result in abortions.
  • Public schools is "anachronistic".  (That's the term he used.  Probably incorrectly, but we were just given one line out of context.)
  • Theologies not based on the Bible are phony.  This idea was presented in a political context, not a religious context.
  • Those who want to protect the Earth and prevent Christians from extracting resources from the Earth are radical environmentalists thwarting God's will.
  • Global warming is not scientifically proven.
  • The environmental movement is part of a conspiracy to consolidate power in the government. 
  • I concede that the President is a Christian.  It's just that his world view, policies, and outlook are not Christians.
  • Free prenatal testing in every health insurance program will lead to more abortions.  It's better for a woman with a fetus who will die shortly after birth to go through the whole nine months of pregnancy and be blindsided with this defect in the delivery room vs. being able to make the decision as to whether she will CHOOSE to bring this life into the world.  (Think of the power of that CHOICE vs. having no other option.)
  • Amniocentesis will be outlawed in a Santorum Administration.  It only serves to increase abortions.
  • Public schools are the result of industrialization.  They are factories. 
  • Federal and state governments should not offer public schools.  They have no clue what students need to be educated.  That's best left to parents and local communities, who know a lot more.
  • Also, Ford builds each car custom, because no one has ever gone to a Ford dealer and bought a car off the lot.
  • States can fund public schools, but they shouldn't have any say about the education that goes on in that school.
  • One in three children drop out of school.  (Despite being reported as 8% by the Department of Education.  Sorry, the unnecessary bureaucracy that is probably hiding something by reporting actual statistics because they just love to waste your tax money.)
  • Those who graduate from public schools do not have the values necessary to work hard and build communities.
This was only a 15 minute interview.  Could you imagine if he was given time to talk about the economy?  It's the kind of that that as a well-educated graduate of public schools and colleges, who is only here because prenatal testing discovered a problem that was easily corrected in utero, who likes science wants her head to explode rather than believe that the Republican base wants this guy to be President.  Remember what the world was like before health care, education, and technology?  If you've ever wanted to live in the 1880s, here is your chance.  Can't wait to play Russian roulette and see if I'll be the 1 in six women to die in childbirth!  Cholera epidemics for everyone!  Getting kids ready for engineering and technology jobs by having a strong science and math curriculum in schools?  F- That!  Creation-based homeschooling should be the gold standard.

This could get bad, people.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Proven wrong in 20 minutes

Just when I thought I was onto something, NPR pulls through with the love story of Jack & Peggy Fugelsang, and I'm lost on romance:

Seriously, had to sit in my car long enough to put myself back together before attempting to be seen around people.  This should seriously be made into a movie.  Nicholas Sparks is kicking himself for not thinking up this situation.  Rachel McAdams might be available.

A Little RomCom on Valentine's Day

I've been watching a lot of bad romantic comedies. The husband is away today on business, and I find myself alone on Valentine's Day with epic plans to catch up on some reading, ordering Thai food, and grabbing a pint of Ben & Jerry's. Yep, cliche, but I'm giving myself the day off from worrying about calories and exercise and trying to find my abs back. Totally excited.

So, I'm trying to catch up on the chick flicks that I really haven't watched over the past eight or nine years because they are all on basic cable right now. I used to like a good romantic comedy that was actually funny. Sure, there's a formula: Boy meets girl, obsticle to happiness of boy and girl comes up, obsticle is overcome, climaxing in boy and girl declaring their love in public. Some witty banter between boy and girl should occur, along with a smart story as to why we're putting ourselves through the next 90 minutes. What I've found is that there's something pretty horrible about the movies that I'm watching. "Liberated" modern career women spend their entire lives pining and obsessing over men and expensive shoes. Then, the height of romance occurs when a man proposes to a woman in a lavish display or a gigantic Kardashian style wedding. End of story.

What I want to see is a good love story in which the boy and girl live happily ever after, where the wedding was just the start of the romance, not the end. Looking back over the last 20 years of cinema, I think I found one instance, from Four Weddings and a Funeral:

This is what I want to believe... the romance continues, the love deepens. No, magical fountains will not cause Danny DeVito to fall for you, nor will sitting around with bartenders explaining why He's Just Not Into You will make him fall for you. I find it a little funny that the best example in a mainstream romantic comedy of the type of love that I want is between two gay men, with the big public outpouring of love is at the end of one's life. Compare that scene to a rose ceremony in The Bachelor.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sunday Morning Papers: Well, was it worth it, Indy?

Today's Indianapolis Star asks the question about whether last week's Super Bowl was a blip, or whether it was the beginning of a full-scale revival.  Really?  You are asking the question?  Of course it was a blip!

I don't think it's a surprise that I really do not understand why Indianapolis exists.  It was built on spec that a canal would open up trade, but unfortunately built on a non-navigable river, with a better canal built in Chicago, and a larger river running through Lafayette/Terre Haute.  What it had was a marketing campaign that declared it the state capital.  In the Midwest, it's still one of the more forgetable capitals, with Des Moines really the only competition for Most Forgetable Midwestern State Capital.  Madison, St. Paul, Lansing, and Columbus all have large universities, and Springfield has Lincoln.  Indianapolis ends up being a convention center tied to a mall by a series of skybridges.  My first trip to Indianapolis was a bit of a surprise to my mom.  I think her first reaction to the fact that I was going to Indy for the weekend was "Why?".  As she explained, it's pretty much a sprawling suburb with no real town.  I can't argue with that.  There's really no reason for this town to exist except the desire of it's residents not to admit that they are wrong.

The Indy Star article references city leaders who think that the Super Bowl is going to increase tourism and convention business to Indianapolis.  No, it's not.  With the game between Boston and New York, you are expecting people from the East Coast to say that there is something worth going to Indy for.  If you are going to get onto a plane for a two-hour flight, why Indianapolis?  Why not even Detroit?  Cincinnati?  Cleveland?  St. Louis?  What does Indy bring to the table? 

TripAdvisor lists the Top 10 Things to Do in Indianapolis as: The Mind Tripping Show (a Vegas-style show playing at the Hilton), a children's museum, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Lucas Oil Field, Victory Field (Minor League Baseball), Crown Hill Cemetery (no, seriously, a cemetery), the zoo, a museum of Native American and Western art, the Indianapolis 500 Speedway (FINALLY!  Something unique!), and the Buck Creek Winery - one of a growing number of Midwestern wineries.  What is there which is going to make me opt for Indy?  Better museums could be found in Chicago.  Better zoos are available in St. Louis and Milwaukee, and if I'm a cemetery junkie, then I'm off to DC.  The reviews themselves are suspect - almost all of them are from residents of the State of Indiana.  Could it be that the great reviews of the Buck Creek Winery are because they haven't been to Sonoma?  

Unfortunately, while hosting the Super Bowl in Indianapolis put a spotlight on Indianapolis, it also put a spotlight on Indianapolis.  Those wanting to attend the Super Bowl were locked into 4 night minimum hotel stays, which meant that they arrived in Indianapolis in the week that the legislature passed Right to Work and allowed the teaching of Creationism in science class.  If you wanted to reinforce the idea that Flyover country is populated by ignorant Bible thumping rednecks, you couldn't have orchestrated a better demonstration.  So, why come to Indy when Vegas is available?  Kudos, Indy!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Welcome, winter!

It's finally cold.  I'm in bed, down comforter, electric blanket, pot of coffee, watching the pretty blanket of snow out the window.  If it has to be cold, I want snow.  Cold with muddy dead dreariness is not fun.  Snow is an invitation to play outside.  I kind of want to find a sled and a hill without trees.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Portlandia: A Little Too Close for Comfort

This morning, after finishing my shopping at my town's farmers market, I found myself in the following Portlandia sketch:

Yep, someone had left their dog tied up outside.  Two other people were asking everyone as they left whether or not that was their dog.  Seriously?  Tying up your dog to a pole like a stripper?  Who does that?  It's not like it's a sunny summer day - while it's the warmest winter we've ever had, it is still cold, damp, and miserable out there.  I know I was shivering in my Columbia Polar Fleece.  Poor puppy.

I kind of love Portlandia.  Each of their sketches seem to start with a familiar situation.  Like, the dog tied up in a public place.  Then, it escalates, gradually, to a heightened place of ridicule, but you're laughing at yourself for that moment of insight.

So, this morning, before the dog moment, I found myself talking to my chicken lady, who grows free-range birds and sells the most beautiful eggs you've ever seen.  She's even branching into cured poultry meats (raised too many turkeys last year), so I'm now buying free-range turkey lunch meat.  She takes pictures of the livestock, will give you detailed descriptions on how all of the animals are slaughtered, and will even pass out driving directions to the farm if you want to check up on the conditions yourself (please use the second drive by the barn, not the first drive that goes to the house).  It makes me feel really good about where my food is coming from, and I know that my food dollar is going completely to the farmer who raises the food... with a little syphoned off for the rental of booth space to Parks & Rec and the private alternative school (i.e. the Hippie School) in town.

Portlandia had Carrie and Fred drop their forks, go to the farm, then join a cult.  I hope one of these days, the end of the sketch does not look familiar to me, even if the situation starts as a vignette of my life.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Race for a Political Cause

I am utterly heartbroken about the decision by the Susan G. Komen Fund to stop payments to Planned Parenthood for breast cancer screenings.  Since 2006, I have been an active fundraiser for the organization, and while $300-$500 per year may be a drop in the bucket, that's still a couple thousand dollars for my local affiliate that is used to finance women's health care in mammography, early detection programs, and educational programs.  Until, that is they pulled funding from the non-profit that is best equiped to deliver these services.

Okay.  Planned Parenthood offers abortions.  I get that.  If you don't like abortions, you don't like Planned Parenthood.  But until you lash out against them, what is the alternative?  What other medical provider offers low-cost or no-cost medical screenings to low-income women?  Your stunned silence is indicative of the problem.  There is none.  For someone who works, it is easy to earn more than the maximum that would qualify one for Medicaid, and if you are self-employed or work multiple jobs, health insurance may be out of reach.  If you've turned on the TV since 2008, you would know that we are in a health care crisis in the United States, mainly because of the high cost of insurance and preventative treatments.

Planned Parenthood has always been around for women who are in the gap between self-sufficiency and adequate income for health insurance.  The reason you often see clinics in college towns is their reputation, not for abortion services, but for low cost access to The Pill.  As part of that, women are receiving the annual exams that are critical to early detection of certain cancers, including breast cancer.  What a perfect opportunity for a charity whose mission is to provide preventative care and educational services regarding womens health issues!  Or, not.  And if not, then what is the purpose of the Komen Fund?

I currently live in a state where the only guaranteed health care is the emergency room of the county hospital, and you better be bleeding out of your eyes in order to be seen.  Otherwise, you are paying for health care through insurance, or the full price of a procedure which is never disclosed until the bill is presented.  Take away the one clinic in the county where the cost is negotiable, and I have no free/cheap access to health care.  There is no alternative.

No, I don't like abortion, but I will admit that there are too many complications in the world to ban it.  Women will still seek it out, so it should be safe.  If raising a child (or, most often, another child) were free, if screening procedures didn't exist to diagnose unviable fetuses (who wants to watch their child die of Tey-Sachs?), if women didn't die from pregnancies, then I might be sympathetic to the Pro-Life movement.  But the world is a complicated, messy place, and black and white declarations of right and wrong show a willful ignorance about the scope of this issue.  The fact that the Komen Fund capitulated without consulting its donors is shameful, which makes me wonder what I was working for all these years.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Bad Timing for Union Bashing

This Sunday, the most watched TV show of the year will be set in Indianapolis.  Indy, the town that really has no earthly reason to exist except that the people who live there don't want to admit they were wrong.  Still, 10% of the world's population will be staring at the Hoosier State. 

Don't fuck it up, peeps.

Except, that the Indiana State Legislature is in session.  These are the same people who tried to redefine pi into something easier to remember.  So far, they have managed to push through the teaching of creationism in science classrooms, and just yesterday, passed a Right To Work bill, which doesn't seem to do anything except to reduce the political power of unions, reduce wages, and make it easier for employers to fire employees without cause. 

Funny thing about the Super Bowl... it's played by a bunch of Union members who just last summer, took action against management.  This may be interesting to watch the next couple days.  Things might get ugly, and I really hope they do.  Indiana should be embarassed about this.