Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Is College Worth it?

I see a lot of mumbling these days about how college isn’t worth the expense. Basically, that's a lot of crap. Aside from the value of education and knowledge for its own sake, there is still a significant financial benefit.

All numbers here are taken from the U.S. Census Bureau income table H-13.

In 2010, the median income for a high school graduate was $38,976. If you managed a 2 year Associate Degree, the median was $56,811. That’s a difference of about $18,000. If you got a 4 year Bachelor’s degree the median increases to $75,568, almost double a high school graduate. That’s a $36,000 difference.

Now let’s consider costs. I’m using New Jersey college costs simply because I’m familiar with the schools.

Let’s start with the Community College route. An Associate Degree at Bergen Community College will run you about $6,500 a year if you go full time. This doesn’t include living expenses because Community Colleges don’t have dorms. That’s a total of $13,000 which you can expect to make back in a couple of years.

If you go the four year college route there are really two basic paths. You can go the private school path which is going to run you between $40,000 and $50,000 a year assuming no grants, scholarships or other financial aid that you don’t need to pay back. So that’s somewhere between $160,000 and $200,000. Those are big numbers but you can expect to recoup that amount, plus any interest paid on loans, in 5 to 10 years. Considering you’ll probably be working al least 40 years, it’s still a good deal.

If you manage to get into a state college the costs drop to $25,000 a year for a total of $100,000 which you can expect to recover, including the interest on loans, in 4 to 5 years or less. That’s pretty much a bargain.

Keep in mind that we’re talking medians here. If we look at mean salary then for a high school graduate it’s $50,561, an Associate Degree $67,790 and a Bachelor’s $94,207. These numbers make a Bachelor’s degree, with a $43,000 difference, even more valuable but an Associate Degree a little less so.

Can you make a lot of money without a college education? Sure, but the odds are against you so ignore the morons that say college isn’t worth it. The numbers say they’re wrong.

What kind of tree is it?

The answer sort of depends upon who’s tree it is?

A tree in front of a church is most definitely a Christmas Tree. The trees decorated every year in Westwood, River Vale and other towns around the country are whatever people choose to call them. Personally I don’t think I’ve ever used the term “Holiday Tree.” At my house it’s just known as “the tree” and we put it up on Christmas Eve.

You don’t have to be a Christian to recognize that most of the things we do around this time of year are Christmas traditions. Let’s face it, Christmas is the big kahuna of the season and, personally, I’m not threatened by that.

The Nativity Story is a myth. It’s no more real than Santa Claus and his reindeer. But since when have we allowed reality to ruin a good story? Why can’t we just enjoy things for what they are?

If you want to take the story as true, that’s your prerogative. Just try and remember that many of us don’t.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Wide Weird World

Sometimes, when considering the ups and downs of life, I feel like someone watching vaudeville skits at a rundown theater in some hick town.

American Airlines has filed for bankruptcy protection so it can restructure and get its costs and debt under control. Translated that means people are about to lose their jobs so “investors” can make money.

Let’s face it, everything is ultimately related to the redistribution of wealth. The Republicans won’t be happy until the top 1% of the population control 99% of the wealth and the rest of us are forced to live on debt and the forbearance of those with the cash.

On the other hand, a man who stole $20 from a cash register at Sears in the 1940s left $100 in repayment at a Sears store in Seattle. Sears says they have the man on video but don’t know who he is and they refuse to release an image for identification. They’ll use his $100 atonement money to help the needy.

And of course we have the woman of the week accusing Herman Cain of another round of sexual misconduct. This time it’s an affair that extended over 13 years. Given the really ugly condition of this lady’s finances, I have to take the story with a grain or two of salt.

Cain appears to have been well cooked by all of this and the new challenger entering the lists is Newt Gingrich. My question here is how can anyone take a man who abandoned two seriously ill wives seriously? We still do value integrity in this country don’t we?

On a more personal note rumors abound where I work of impending significant lay-offs. Do I care? Sort of, I would be forced to retire if my number comes up. Can you imagine me being turned loose on an unsuspecting world?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Tebow, Tebow!

After whipping the Jets last night with a touchdown run with 58 seconds left, I BELIEVE!

Maybe there is a God?

Tim Terrific is now 4-1 and has the Broncos at .500. Now where did I put that Denver Bronco's jersey catalog?

This is unbelievable. How far can Tim go?

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

How Credible are Cain’s Accusers?

I’m honestly not sure.

The first rule is to look for independent confirmation of alleged facts. In this case, that doesn’t appear to be feasible.

Since we can’t independently confirm the alleged facts let’s fall back on logic and common sense.

Four women have accused Cain of sexual misconduct and two women, Sharon Bialek and Karen Kraushaar, have gone public with their accusations. But only Bialek has provided any details.

It’s those details I’ve finding hard to accept. She’s not describing harassment but outright assault. Bialek’s claims moves things from the civil arena into the criminal arena and I can’t believe Cain would act that stupidly. We’re not even talking about someone that Cain had a long association with but someone that was practically a stranger. It makes absolutely no sense. That plus the fact that Bialek never filed any charges leads me to doubt her story.

Kraushaar is a little different. She did file a complaint and received what sounds like a “here’s some money now go away” payment of $45,000 from the National Restaurant Association. What concerns me about Kraushaar is she filed a complaint about “unfair treatment” in her next job. Either this lady has really lousy luck or she’s hyper sensitive. She also hasn’t provided any details so I think I’ll wait before coming to a conclusion.

As for the two unidentified accusers, the 6th Amendment to the Constitution says the accused has the right “to be confronted with the witnesses against him.” I support the Constitution so until that happens, I’m going to have to pretty much ignore them. I have nothing to base their veracity on.

Basically Cain is being asked to prove a negative, to prove something didn’t happen without even being provided with an adequate definition of what that something was. Whatever happened to “innocent until proven guilty?”

I’m going to reserve judgment for the moment but Occam's Razor is sort of pointing toward Cain being something of an insensitive boor on occasion.

Maybe they’re not so dumb

Since the 1960s I’ve been convinced that the people of Mississippi were the biggest idiots in the world. Phil Ochs’ song “Here’s to the State of Mississippi” and the movie “Mississippi Burning” will give you a pretty good idea why I say that.

But yesterday, Mississippi surprised just about everyone by rejecting the “Personhood Law” on the ballot that would have declared a fetus a “person” under the law from the moment an egg was fertilized.

The law had been proposed by an extreme anti-abortion group and would quite possibly have caused all sorts of legal chaos given that some birth control methods limit the ability of a fertilized egg to nest in the uterus.

Over 55% of Mississippi voters declared the proposed law as going too far and, quite possibly for the first time in my life, I find myself agreeing with the Mississippi majority.

Elsewhere, the voters of Ohio told the Republicans to take their union busting laws and stick them where the sun doesn’t shine. They also told Obama to stop trying to control their lives by approving a measure that said no federal, state or local law could force an employer or individual to participate in a health care system.

Just in case anyone wasn’t aware of it, the good people of Ohio just put all the politicians on notice not to tell them what to do anyhow under any circumstance as they’re quite capable of making their own decisions thank you very much.

In Arizona the architect of Arizona’s controversial immigration law got booted by a moderate Republican (are there still such things?) in a recall election.

And so the pendulum swings yet again.

This is all evidence that most Americans are still moderates with a strong streak of independence. At least for the moment, the Republic seems in good hands once again.

Monday, November 07, 2011

The Dishonesty of Politicians

Michelle Bachmann has accused her Republican rivals of beings “frugal socialists.”

Now clearly Michelle Bachmann knows what a socialist is and just as clearly knows that none of her opponents can be characterized as one by any stretch of the imagination. But she also knows that the under 80 IQ trailer park Republican base doesn’t know anything about socialism other than “they’re agin it!”

The irony of it all is how many of those red blooded, true American, socialist haters are probably accepting all sorts of government assistance without even knowing that’s Socialism.

Now the other Shoe

A fourth woman has come forth with allegations against Herman Cain and this time it’s a lot more than vague accusations.

The latest sexual harassment accuser is far more explicit in her charges and has come out publically with her claims. I don’t know whether to believe her or not, but it’s sure starting to get ugly.

Cain, of course, is denying everything in sight and let’s not forget that accusations aren’t convictions. The big problem here is all of this has taken focus off of his idiotic 9-9-9 plan. I would have preferred Cain going down in flames over his silly economic ideas.

And now here’s Timmy

I don’t hear anyone dissing Tim Tebow this week after he led the Broncos to a 38-24 win over the Oakland Raiders.

Tim Terrific ran for 117 yards in addition to going 10-21 for 124 yards. But the biggest difference, the really big difference, was he was only sacked once after being sacked 13 times in the previous two games.

Ok, let’s not reserve a place in Canton just yet but once the Broncos came up with a game plan that seemed to fit Tebow’s style, he did pretty darn well.

Of course things get really ugly now. Next week the Broncos go to Kansas City, who just laid an enormous egg losing to the previously winless Dolphins 31-3 and should be itching for redemption, then the Jets come to town. Should be interesting.

The Penn State Scandal

On the one hand my reaction is WTF? On the other I’m disappointed that media is splashing around innuendo unfairly.

That the Athletic Director and a school senior V.P. failed to report the predatory acts of a defensive coordinator at Penn State is bad, really bad, and smacks of a cover-up. But I don’t see that Joe Paterno should be criticized for not doing more than he did.

He reported an incident reported to him by a teaching assistant to his boss the A.D. That was the proper action to take. Anything beyond that would have been meddling where it should not have been necessary. Paterno can’t be blamed for not realizing the A.D. didn’t follow through as he was required to do.

The Herman Cain Accusations

Dwight Eisenhower, Nelson Rockefeller and Barry Goldwater must be spinning in their graves. The Republican party has become a club for buffoons. Of the current presidential candidates only Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman have any semblance of decorum.

Now we’ve hit the bottom of the barrel with multiple accusations of sexual harassment against Herman Cain. I don’t know if or what this fool may have done but I wouldn’t put anything past someone who came up with that 9-9-9 scheme.

I really wish the Keystone Cops group of Cain, Perry, Paul, Santorum and Bachmann would go away and take Newt Gingrich with them. That would leave Romney and Huntsman and then maybe we could have an intelligent conversation.

Right now the Republicans are lying to the American people. They’re promising quick fixes to complex problems that won’t work. Perhaps if we got things down to two reasonably intelligent individuals the need to woo the under 80 IQ trailer park set would subside a little and reality might rear its head.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

The Trip from Hell

I’m ambivalent about traveling. I like to see new places, but I’m not fond of the hassles usually involved in getting there and back.

However this last trip is one I’d prefer not to repeat too often.

Leg 1 from Home to Dallas
No issues here. I try to travel as early in the morning as possible in order to avoid woes and delays at the security check in and it worked here. I dragged myself out of bed around 6 AM and hopped on a Limo to Newark Airport around 6:45 AM. No problems on the road and the American Airlines (AA) flight boarded and left on schedule. I spent my lay-over watching the Jets and Chargers. Foolishly I decided to forego eating anything until I got to the hotel in Las Crucas.

Leg 2 from Dallas to El Paso
Things actually started to go sour on this leg two days before the trip began when I got a call from AA that it would be delayed 45 minutes due to an Air Show in El Paso. Well, there wasn’t much I could do about that and it gave me more time to watch the Jets while in Dallas.

We boarded and left at the expected later time and everything was ok until about 15 minutes from El Paso when the pilot came on the intercom. You remember that Air Show? The one that delayed the flight 45 minutes? Well, it still wasn’t over, and we didn’t have enough fuel to circle for as long as they wanted us to circle. So the pilot turned around and headed for Midway-Odessa airport about halfway between Dallas and El Paso.

We proceeded to land, refuel (I wonder who pays for that?) and sit for a little over an hour. We then took off and proceeded on the 45 minute or so flight to El Paso. That was the first time, in the hundreds of flights I’ve taken, that I’d ever been diverted to another airport for any reason. The irony of that statement will become apparent later.

All of the delays included, I got into El Paso about 3 hours later than I originally expected. The really bad part about this was I was stuck in a windows seat. I have a bad left knee and I really need an aisle on my left so I can stretch my foot out but I figured I could survive the short flight. By the time I got off the plane I could barely limp. The pain was bad until I managed to get some Advil the next afternoon and that helped a little. I clearly did some additional damage during that flight somehow.

Now, another reason I like to travel early is to avoid driving in unknown territory when it’s dark. I had never been to El Paso and I still needed to drive to Las Crucas New Mexico. I did get to see the sunset over Fort Bliss as we landed though.

By the time I got the car (a Nissan X-Terra) there was little more than a glimmer over the horizon; by the time I got on Interstate 10 West, it was dark; as I entered New Mexico it was pitch black. I only had a vague idea of how far it was so I started cursing profusely when, after already having driven for a while on IS 10, I saw a sign saying I had 42 miles to go. My knee managed to forcefully remind me of its presence for the entire trip.

The only thing that went well on this leg was the hotel was easy to find and I settled in until 5:30 AM the next morning although my knee managed to insure that I tossed and turned trying to locate a way to make it happy rather than sleep.

Leg 3 to White Sands Missile Range and Back (5 times)
Over the next week it was get up at 5:30 AM, shower, shave, hop downstairs for some free breakfast (scrambled eggs, toast, sausage, coffee and even some French Toast) and then, around 6:30 AM, head for WSMR about 35 miles over the mountains and then to my assigned area which was another 20 miles into the desert. That 20 miles included a 3 mile detour over desert because a stretch of the road was being repaired. I don’t know how many times I took that 20 mile drive over Nike Ave as either a driver or a passenger. I’m guessing at least 15 times over the week. During the entire week I popped a pair of Advils about once every 4 hours including in the middle of the night when my knee reminded me it was time.

If you like food, don’t go to WSMR. The top cuisine was Subway (which ran out of turkey, ham and chicken one day) and that was at headquarters 20 miles back over Nike Ave. Out at the post in the desert you got Boo’s Barbeque at lunchtime. Other than that it was snacks from the vending machine or go out and try to catch some wildlife.

I ate lunch at Subway twice and Boo’s once. That once was more than enough. The other two days I settled for a dark chocolate candy bar.

As for dinner, two days I got back in time to eat at Appleby’s in Las Crucas which I figured was slightly better than the McDonald’s next door. The other three days, including the evening I arrived, it was a bag of popcorn from the free hotel popcorn machine and a free root beer soda.

After five days of this I planned to relocate to El Paso on Friday afternoon in order to (1) get a decent meal and (2) get a decent night’s sleep for my 8 AM flight Saturday morning.

Sure, fat chance. I didn’t get out of WSMR until after 7:30 PM. That meant I had the pleasure of driving the 50 miles or so back to El Paso in the dark and then I had the additional pleasure of finding the hotel in the dark.

How hard could that be? It was at the airport. Yeah, right. The problems were (1) it was really dark and (2) there were no signs! People in El Paso must think it’s unnecessary to tell you what road you’re on anytime after you get on it. I found the Radisson; I found the Marriott; I found the Microtel, a gas station, a 7-11 and the rental car return but I couldn’t find the damn Wyndham.

I’m not the kind of guy that won’t ask for directions. I ask. I asked in the 7-11 and the girl sweeping the store didn’t know. I stopped in the gas station and the guy sweeping the mini-mart didn’t know either but he thought it was in the airport (duh, no kidding).

The problem was the hotel was on Airport Ave. Getting on Airport Ave. from IS 10 was easy but right after you entered the airport the road splits three ways and there was nothing to say which was Airport Ave.

The first time I went to the left and that got me out the other side of the airport where I found the 7-11. The next time I went to the right which got me to the main terminal, the rental car return and out the other side of the airport again. On my third try I went center and bingo, with a sign about the size of a large manila envelope, was the Wyndham. You would think hotels would want a really big sign visible from miles away wouldn’t you?

So much for dinner that night. I managed two fruit & nuts nature bars, six Oreo cookies and a bottle of water. I then popped two Advils and settled in until 5 AM the next morning. The room did come with a free breakfast buffet but that didn’t start until after I was long gone in the morning.

Leg 4 El Paso to Dallas
Considering the way things had gone so far I was a little concerned about this leg. I only had 40 minutes in Dallas to make my connection to Newark. If you know Dallas International Airport, you understand how easily that 40 minute limit can be blown through no fault of your own.

To my surprise, the flight from El Paso left on time, landed a bit early and, wonder of wonders, the gate for my flight to Newark was in the same terminal as the gate where my flight from El Paso landed. Ok, I landed at C4 and had to schlep to C31 with my knee objecting every step of the way but what the heck. The other minor downer was C31 is about the only gate in the whole Dallas airport with no food place in sight but I only had about 15 minutes before the flight boarded anyway.

Leg 5 Dallas to Newark
As I settled into my comfy 26D aisle seat on American Airlines flight 558 and stretched out my left leg luxuriously, I figured I was home free. Yes, I had heard the rumors about snow but it was only October. I was sure we’d just get some light flurries. No big deal. Goes to show you what I know.

About an hour and a half out of Newark, the pilot came on with the wonderful news that all New York area airports, including Newark, were closed due to the snow, and he had to divert to Raleigh-Durham.


I had never had a flight diverted before and now I had the pleasure twice on one trip. Once we landed I called home to get the joyous news that our power was out. They did let us off the plane though. That allowed me to wolf down some KFC and buy a new paperback to read since I had finished the one I brought with me.

After about an hour we got back in the plane and confidently headed for Newark. About half-way there the pilot came on with a little bad news that Newark was struggling with the snow and that we had to circle for about a half hour. Forty minutes later we got the news that we were heading back to Raleigh-Durham.

Again they let us off the plane and I decided I better recharge my cell phone. I was only at it for 10 minutes or so when the word came that the flight crew had exceeded their legal flight time limit and, since no replacement crew was available, we would be spending the night in Raleigh-Durham.

I ran back on the plane to grab my laptop and forgot to take both the book I had just bought and the one I had finished. Even though we boarded the same plane again the next day, I never saw them again.

I’m going to say that the AA agents at Raleigh-Durham did Ok. They did do a few things that made me grind my teeth but overall they managed to get everyone a place to stay. It took about an hour and I was far from the last person because they appeared to call for each person individually.

I got a room at the Holiday Inn, a dinner voucher for $12 and a breakfast voucher for $7. I managed to squeeze into a very full courtesy van to the hotel where I suddenly realized the problem. How many check-ins would one normally expect at a Holiday Inn in Raleigh-Durham around 9 PM Saturday night? Yeah, I wouldn’t expect many either and neither did the Holiday Inn. That left one poor clerk trying to check in the hordes that descended on her.

I actually did pretty well and managed to get my room in about 45 minutes. Some folks were in line until after Midnight. Then I tried to spend the $12 voucher. Forget it. There was an hour wait for even the simplest sandwich at the “Restaurant” at the hotel (which was really a lobby bar with a few tables and a kitchen in back) . One guy at the hotel suggested the Hooter’s next door and I clawed my way up the grass hill to get there despite the objections of my knee only to find out they didn’t accept airline vouchers.

Allow me to digress a bit. I had never been in a Hooter’s before. I’m not a prude; the option had just never presented itself as a solution for anything at any time. From the short time I was in there all I can say is I wish I was 40 years younger.

I slunk back to the hotel and hit the sack. At 5 AM I got up preparing to head for the airport and the 7:40 AM continuation of the infamous flight 558.

I caught the shuttle back to the airport to find a line zigzagging all through the lobby. Luckily, the AA folks were nice enough to provider a special drop off place for our baggage so waiting on the line was unnecessary.

I did manage to grab a breakfast sandwich and headed on down to Gate D19 (which I had been told would be the departure gate). D19 was completely deserted. So were gates D16, D17 and D18. I checked the Departure Board and there was no flight 558.
In fact there were no flights to Newark at all.

Hmmm. I dialed the 1-800 number they had given us to check the departure time and gate and they told me C22 which was completely on the other side of the terminal. As I munched my breakfast sandwich I debated. Stay at D19 or head for C22. I finally decided that the airport clerk was more likely to be right than the phone line clerk and held my ground.

Good choice, as C19 was the right gate.

Only one minor problem, they hadn’t de-iced the plane. A sudden cold snap in Raleigh-Durham had the ground crews scrambling to de-ice and we were an extra flight. That translated into an hour delay and we finally bid adieu to Raleigh-Durham around 8:45 AM Sunday Morning.

After finally landing at Newark, I located my limo driver and we managed to limp around all of the down trees and branches to finally arrive at my home sweet home about an hour after leaving Newark.

My very dark and cold home sweet home because the power (and heat) were still out.

It is now Tuesday afternoon and the power is still out. Supposedly PSE&G has restored power to 83% of its customers. Unfortunately, I’m not one of them. Personally I don’t consider the trip over until I get power and heat back. I’m freezing my tail off. I wanted to go to a hotel but for some bizarre reason my wife didn’t want to go.

If it’s still out tonight, I’m going. Whether she comes or not is up to her.

I'm not that annoyed with American Airlines. They weren't perfect but they did pretty well. PSE&G on the other hand I'm ready to tar and feather.

A block in any direction from my house and there's power. Mine's been out since early Saturday afternoon while other people had it go out for only a few hours on Sunday. WTF guys? Doesn't the length of time its been out factor in?

To add insult to injury I called their automated line to see if I could get an estimate on when power would be restored. It said by Friday December 2nd. Here's hoping the guys doing the repairs are smarter than the guy that created the message.

Ok, Let’s Talk the NFL

I didn’t do NFL stuff this year because I knew I wouldn’t be able to address it weekly but I figured I should at least say a few things now that we’re almost halfway through the season. The three things I want to talk about are the Eagles, the Lions and Tim Tebow.

The Eagles got off to a rocky start but I’m still betting they’ll win the NFC East and be a factor in the NFC play-offs. I do not like Michael Vick personally but he is one hell of a football player.

As for the Lions, woulda thunk it? After seeing them as the league’s doormat for so many years it’s wild seeing them strutting their stuff. I expect them to also be a factor in the NFC play-offs along with San Francisco and Green Bay. Can’t wait for the first Lions vs. Packers game.

Now let’s talk about little Timmy Tebow. After a miracle finish to beat Miami, the aforementioned Lions dismantled Tebow and the Broncos. Next week the Broncos have the Raiders who I’m sure will employ the same constant pressure strategy that the Lions used.

What I don’t understand is why so many people seem to be taking such pleasure in Tebow’s struggles?

Is it because Christians are doing what they do best and are acting like jerks? Get mad at them and not Tim. Maybe he’s not going to be a top notch NFL quarterback, but he’s not getting any help from his team either.

I especially can’t stand it when these so-called football experts criticize him. Those dorky pundits that never put on pads really shouldn’t talk that way. You suit up and go out there and see how well you do.

As for my beloved Giants, it’s been a decent start but now things get tough. I’m not expecting much for the remainder of the season. I’m still thinking no better than 6-10 which means a 1-8 for the rest of the year. I think that would pretty much finish Tom Coughlin and it’s probably time for him to go anyway.

He and his offensive and defensive coordinators strike me as playing the game like it was played in the past. The game seems to have passed them by. A new coach with fresh ideas might be just what the doctor ordered.