Month: June 2013

Dear readers…

It may be of note that for the next three or four weeks, the majority of my writing capacity is going to be dedicated to writing for school, as I have just started one writing intensive geography class and will be starting another writing class come Monday. I will not be as consistent for that period, but I will write when I can.

In the mean time, Mahler says hello.

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Another typo of obsession…

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I blame my four years on publications staff for it, honestly.

My high school experience was heavily into yearbook and school newspaper. My senior year, between myself as the newspaper editor and Michael as the yearbook copy editor, we instilled the fear of the red pen upon the freshmen, whether it be turning in a spread for yearbook in which the person writing the spread was in every photo on the two pages, or writing an entire article for the paper in first person narrative, we could give the youngsters panic attacks. My personal favorite was the newspaper copy one girl turned in that I refused to even read until she went back and rewrote it using proper capitalization, as when she turned it in to me, it was all caps.

Admittedly, this seemingly mundane task became an unhealthy obsession with spotting the typos everywhere they lurked in life.

Just ask my wife – we can be shopping in a store, and I’ll notice a mistake on a sign, then spend the next ten minutes wondering how much money a copywriter got paid this year to make such a blatant mistake in 72 point font where everyone can see it. When looking around at Macy’s, I stumbled upon my treasured “Duck” hat, the lone hat on the rack that did not say “Ducks” on it. (Even companies as big as Nike make mistakes from time to time).

My favorite, however, had to be the year that I came into the Disney store, and they were doing a series of “the twelve days of Pooh”, in which Winnie the Pooh was dressed up like 12 different versions of Santa Claus. As I looked at the different Poohs, I stumbled across the tag with the single most fantastic typo I’ve ever seen on a tag.

Father Christmas
Untied Kingdom

I nearly fell over from laughing as hard as I was. Father Christmas came home with me that day, simply because I found such grand amusement in the misprinted words.

The ironic thing? As I post this blog, I will likely get a text from my wife about a typo I myself wrote, and a I have to come back to fix it. I’m excellent at spotting the written mistakes of others, but terrible at spotting them on my own. 🙂

Edited:right on cue

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The high cost of college tuition…

My wife recently showed me an article by Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat in which he tells about “the glory days” of when a student could go to university for $687 dollars in tuition. Deriding his generation, he stated “How we milked the public university system in this state and then starved it will go down as the great badge of shame of my generation and the one before mine, the baby boomers. Affordable college made us. Once made, we wouldn’t pay even a two-cent per can soda-pop tax to give that same gift to anybody else.”

While I can certainly agree with what he was stating (college is too freaking expensive), I heartily disagree with his conclusion on why things are this way, as he comes to the simplistic conclusion that college is too expensive because “taxpayers back then picked up 90 percent of the tab. We weren’t Horatio Algers. We were socialists. Today, the public picks up only 30 percent of UW tuition, and dropping.”

Of course. It’s public funding! If the public was paying more for college, college debts wouldn’t be an issue!

Except his point puts the blame so lopsidedly on his generation, he never really addresses any other issues – are we paying a lower percentage because we’re a bunch of insensitive Darwinist capitalists trying to weed out the weak, or because costs have gone up?

His column fails to address inflation, for one thing – $687.00 in 1981 dollars would be approximately $1760.54 in 2013 dollars. Sure, that doesn’t explain everything, but if you’re not taking that into account, what else aren’t you considering?

How about administration costs? Washington Monthly’s Benjamin Ginsberg raised the point that “Forty years ago, America’s colleges employed more professors than administrators. The efforts of 446,830 professors were supported by 268,952 administrators and staffers,” while “In 2005, colleges and universities employed more than 675,000 fulltime faculty members or full-time equivalents. In the same year, America’s colleges and universities employed more than 190,000 individuals classified by the federal government as “executive, administrative and managerial employees.” Another 566,405 college and university employees were classified as “other professional.” This category includes IT specialists, counselors, auditors, accountants, admissions officers, development officers, alumni relations officials, human resources staffers, editors and writers for school publications, attorneys, and a slew of others.”

Let’s reflect on the numbers a moment. We went from a mixture of 62% professors 38% administrators, to a 40% professors and 60% administrators. If we are so concerned with the quality of education, we might want to start by directing less money to middle management and more towards quality educators. It’s easy to say college is too expensive, but to try and pin everything simply on the percentage of what taxpayers cover overlooks some serious issues with the system. To blatantly ignore the bloating of college administration costs as a factor in the increase in tuition is foolish, at best, and mind-numbingly ignorant, at worst.

And frankly, Mr. Westneat, stop trying to give my generation an excuse. If there’s something we already got from your generation that we didn’t need, it’s our capacity to blame the generation before us for all of our issues.

I did the “normal” thing right out of high school and started college, with the intent of becoming a journalism major. After three years in college, I dropped out in favor of a job in retail, while racking up over $15,000 in credit card debt. After five years as an low-paid retailer, I jumped careers into insurance underwriting. My wife, before we got married, picked up $17,000 in student loan debt at a private university. She took two years off to work, then she got her master’s degree in music education without taking an additional loan on top of what was left from her undergraduate loans. At the time that we were married, we came into our marriage with $25,000 in total debt.

And you know what? In two years we got out of debt, and I’m back in school. I’m taking advantage of employer tuition reimbursement (which, while not as common of a benefit, is out there if you look for it), and will be attending a private university for $8,000 out of pocket when it’s all said and done.

Easy? Heck no. I had to take a math placement test this week, it has been a decade since I took a math class. I have no idea how I remembered factoring quadratic equations, but I did.

But I take offense to the notion that my generation can’t work hard and pay for college without having to spend the rest of their lives to pay it off. Mr. Westneat’s assertion that the cost increase is simply because taxpayers aren’t paying enough fails to even scratch the surface of a decidedly more complex issue – waste in the education system. And without addressing that, I fear we’ll never get anywhere beyond crotchety old men telling tales of the good old days of cheap tuition or my generation whining about how expensive college is.

We’ve come a long way from the “four years in college and on to a good paying job” ideal that our parents had. I’m proof of that. I’m 30 years old and won’t be graduating from college until 2015. I have a cousin who finished college when he was almost 40. I don’t think the’s any shame in taking your time, finishing in a non-traditional timeline. Find a good employer who offers tuition aid. Work hard, hustle, bust your tail working and going to school. When you’re young, you’re a lot better equipped to work full time while attending class than you are when you’re my age.

Just don’t tell me it can’t be done. I’m already doing it.

An ode to my hatred of the Miami Heat…

Well, it happened again. It shouldn’t have, but it did.

The Miami Heat are again NBA champions. The Spurs fought valiantly, and quite frankly should have closed them out in game six, but thanks to some oddly favorable calls for the Heat, and a miracle three pointer to tie the game and send it to overtime after a ton of fans had already left (answering the question of how many people are really fans, and how many just jumped on the bandwagon because they were successful), the Heat managed to pull it out.

After my Twitter/Facebook rants on Tuesday night, berating officials, cracking every anti-Heat joke in the book on them, one of my colleagues told me, “You’re quite passionate. I mean, I hate Lebron, but not with such fervor.”

“I don’t hate Lebron,” I said. “I really just hate the Heat.”

To be honest, I didn’t used to have a problem with Lebron – When he was a Cavalier, I admired and respected the guy. He’s the hometown hero, who made the Cavs, a joke of a team when you took him out of the equation, fun to watch. He didn’t have a lot in Cleveland, but he made do, and did so in spectacular fashion, taking his team to the finals against, oddly enough, the San Antonio Spurs in 2007.

Adrian Wojnarowski wrote “Six years ago, James had been obliterated and Duncan had thanked him for letting the Spurs win one more title before James completely controlled the sport. ” I think at this rather telling moment, James knew he wasn’t going to do it without help, and I think in free agency he had difficult choices to make.

However, I don’t think he handled it well.

We all know how “The Decision” tarnished James’ legacy, as he essentially hung his hometown out to dry on national television, with the now famous “I’m going to take my talents to South Beach” line that incited riots in the city of Cleveland including the only time in my life I’ve seen a professional athlete’s jersey burned in the street. Portlanders got sick of Greg Oden, but we never burned the dude’s jersey in outright protest of the guy.

But Miami changed things. Going to South Beach got Lebron booed. A lot. Arenas started playing the Imperial March every time Lebron & Co. came to town. We laughed as, in the first year of the Superfriends era, they choked on the Dallas Mavs (who, honestly, shot any hopes they had of repeating when they let the DPOY go to New York).

Why do I hate the Heat so much?

Simple. They’re a bandwagon team.

On more than one occasion, the Heat’s “fans” started leaving the arena before the game was over, disgusted with their team’s performance, never in quite as epic fashion as this most recent game 6 meltdown/recovery, where fans who left when their team was down three were then trying to get back into the arena when it was going to overtime (Hey guys, that part where they print on the ticket “No reentry”? That means you leave and your team stages a miracle comeback, you don’t get to come back in. Go listen to it on the radio while you clear out the parking lot, since you were clearly in such a hurry to get home…). They abandon their team when they’re playing poorly, even going so far in one game to boo them. If the Heat are this superteam, why don’t they have fans that actually like them?

And beyond that, the celebration of the 2nd title has been a bit much. As I found this tweet on twitter, it pretty much sums it up.

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So enjoy your moment, Miami. Just know that Jordan’s dynasty wasn’t bought. And Jordan dang sure didn’t need Larry Bird and Magic Johnson to propel him to a championship.

This whole college thing is getting real…

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Today, I received a package from George Fox University. To some, it probably didn’t seem like much, but to me, it was huge. My books for my first class at GFU showed up today.

When I was in college right out of high school, it didn’t really feel like “college”. I mean, I was attending community college. Even the classes I’ve been taking for the last year at community college hasn’t really felt like college, being all online courses. Community college, in my brain, isn’t real college. You don’t get a four year degree there, you might get some certificates or vocational training at a community college, but you don’t often see people with “Alumni – Waxahatchee Community College” stickers on their cars. No one I know brags about how fantastic Portland Community College’s basketball program is. Not a lot of people take great pride in their community college background, it’s where you got your bachelors that matters.

So, to an extent, you can understand how something so small as getting books from my future school can be so impactful – for the first time in my life, I feel like I’m going to school to accomplish something, instead of feeling like I was there because apparently it was what I was supposed to do once I finished high school. I’m doing this because I want to finish it, and I see the light at the end of that tunnel.

When I got my acceptance letter from Fox, I felt like I was a real college student. Now that I’m just a couple of weeks from the start of class, and a class that’s in a classroom, not online where I feel like I’m mailing it in, I feel like I’m staring off the cliff that is my academic life, ready to leap off and do some BASE jumping. Not that I know what BASE jumping feels like, as I’m terribly afraid of heights and would probably lose my lunch were I to try it (or worse, forget to pull the ripcord). But you get the idea. I’m about to take the plunge, after which, with any luck, I will be finishing my degree in two years from now.

When my cousin Curt graduated college, I distinctly remember him saying “you’re next!” At his grad party. He was just south of 40 at this point, and I remember thinking “yeah, right, I’ve still got 20 years before I’d be older than you finishing it.” For a while, I thought I might not actually do it, but sitting down and looking now, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. And you know what?

I won’t even be 35.

Take that, cuz. 🙂

The Hits & Misses of Star Wars…

Since it first rolled into theaters in 1977, Star Wars has captured the imaginations of generations of dreamers. What started out as George Lucas’ breakaway hit has ballooned into a 4 billion (according to Disney’s valuation) dollar empire of books, video games, TV shows, and action figures.

There have been many different formats, many different attempts to expand the universe. Here are a few of my favorite (or least favorite) star wars things.

Hit – The Original Trilogy

star_warsOkay, let’s be honest – The prequels never really held a candle to the originals. Credit to George Lucas for having the foresight to do something crazy like label his movies as episodes IV-VI when episodes I-III wouldn’t come out for another 20 years (And yes, I’m aware that the original crawl didn’t have Episode IV at the beginning and they only changed it in the 1981 re-release).  That takes guts.

I mean, who DOESN’T have a memory of star wars? I remember watching the VHS tapes from the library as a kid, thinking how cool it would be to fly an X-Wing, be a Jedi, etc. Probably not coincidentally, I think every Star Wars video game I purchased was purchased because I still wanted to be able to do that stuff. But we’ll talk about that later.

There was heroics. There was romance. There was a giant space station with a planet-destroying superlaser, and the galaxy’s only hope was a ragtag group of Rebels attacking a small thermal exhaust port on said destroyer of worlds. Everything you need to make a great adventure movie. And let’s not forget the terrifying bounty hunters,  lightsabers, wookiees, and ewoks. Or AT-AT walkers and snowspeeders. Or asteroid field chases. Or Super Star Destroyers, or…

Sorry, started to geek out a bit. I’ll stop.

Miss – The Prequel trilogy

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Now, I appreciate what George tried to do here. He tried to give us the back story. It wasn’t all bad, mind you, the effects were phenomenal, the idea behind the story was fantastic, but there were a few misses.

  • The dialogue – I know the originals weren’t exactly the pinnacle of film dialogue, but somewhere between the direction of George Lucas and the delivery of some otherwise capable actors, I felt like I was being fed lines by a series of cardboard cutouts with Ben Stein providing voiceover. “I don’t like sand” from Episode II, anyone?
  • The ruining of a perfectly good bad guy – And by this, there are a couple of them that get ruined. One, Boba Fett, famed bounty hunter, turns out to be nothing more than a clone of Jango Fett. Then, Darth Vader. I mean, seriously, I wanted him to be bad for being bad’s sake, instead we find out he was bad because he was trying to save his wife. (Spoiler alert should’ve gone before that, for those of you just coming out of a 30 year time capule who might not have seen the movies yet – My bad)
  • Jar Jar Binks – In the immortal words of Stan Lee, “‘Nuff Said”

 

Hit – Knights of the Old Republic

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While I didn’t appreciate the production value of the Prequels, I can tell you something that I did thoroughly enjoy the production value of – Knights of the Old Republic.

I first owned this game on PC, by PC was BARELY able to run it, but the fact of the matter was, the idea of an RPG involving Jedi fascinated me, and I wanted to try it. It wound up being a vastly superior storyline to even the prequel trilogy.

The entire premise is that the game is set a thousand years prior to the events of the Star Wars films. It’s a time where the Jedi Order is at its pinnacle. The Republic has just ended a war with the Mandalorians (the race that Jango and Boba Fett were, for those keeping score at home), and while Exhausted, the Sith appear out of nowhere, lead by Revan and Malak, who were war heroes of the Mandalorian wars but went to the dark side. The story takes you through the journey, starting out as a soldier on a ship under attack by the Sith (a nod to the opening of “A New Hope”, for sure) and begin down the path to end the Sith threat forever. In fact, as it happens you wind up becoming a Jedi, and after many hours of play, you find quite possibly the biggest plot twist since “I am your father.” Seriously, I didn’t see it coming.

It was cool for a couple of reasons. You got to be a jedi, you got to explore worlds that you’d only begun to see in the films (Kashyyk, for instance) and ultimately, depending on how depraved you were, you affected whether your character was a force for good or a force for evil. Beyond that, you also had the ability to affect how your party members turned out, which would eventually determine how the game ended.

Miss – Star Wars: Rebellion

Okay, so I geeked out over the thought of an interplanetary conquest game based around Star Wars, however the game I was hoping to get was closer to Star Wars: Empire at War, which came 8 years later. In truth, Rebellion was probably the worst-explained video game I ever played, I never fully understood what I was supposed to be doing throughout the game. Empire at War did slightly better at it, but was still iffy. I think I slogged away at Rebellion for two weeks before giving up on it.

Hit – Any novels by Timothy Zahn

I’ve read quite a few of the novels, and they could be hit or miss, but I think the one surefire hit that always turned up was Timothy Zahn. I loved the Thrawn trilogy, as well as some of his short works from “Tales from Mos Eisley Cantina” and “Tales from Jabba’s Palace”. I’m looking to pick up “Scoundrels”, which I understand he rather successfully crosses Star Wars with Ocean’s 11. If I were to ever take up science fiction writing, I’d be fine with being an iota as successful at it as he is.

Miss – Star Wars: Detours

Okay, let me explain why this is a miss – There were some seriously funny previews for this coming out (I mean, Admiral Ackbar in the dinner trying to get past his block? “It’s a frappe! It’s a wrap! It’s a trap!”). And then? Silence. Disney apparently wasn’t too keen on the idea, sin ce it’s suspended indefinitely. I was kind of looking forward to it, too.

Hit – The Legacy of the Force series

If the rumors are true about what the Episode VII storyline will be (and let’s be honest – after JJ Abram’s “No, it’s not Kahn, no it’s not Kahn, Surprise! It’s Kahn” shenanigans, anything he says to the contrary is questionable), the story would be pretty awesome. I read the series some years ago, first time in a while I’d picked up a Star Wars novel, and I loved it. I think given the space between the originals and the prequels, the timeline is just about right for it.

Hopefully, though, J.J. Abrams doesn’t pull a George Lucas on us and botch a promising story.

What did I miss? Anything? Bueller? Let me know!