Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’

Home is Where the Heart Is

Guest article written by: Tearitup (@HappiTraveler)
Author of The HappiTraveler

What do you think of when you think of home? Is it where your family home is? Where you grew up? Where your parents live? I’ve been asking myself this question lately.

Having spent the majority of the last year on the road I’ve made a home wherever I’ve found myself. Efficiency apartments, hotel rooms, temporary housing, I’ve called all of these places home recently. Normally when I think of home I think of where my mom lives. We moved around a lot for my dad’s job when I was growing up, much like I am now, so no one place has ever really felt like home to me. Home to me has always been where I live right now.

I’ve always been a bit of a nomad and the last year has only reinforced that tendency. Getting to know a new town, figuring my way around, getting my new house in order, I find a certain pleasure in all of these things. And now with the technology that is so readily available I can visit with my family from almost anywhere.

I sometimes miss the familiar, my favorite coffee shop, bar, bookstore. I always just assume that they’ll all be there waiting when I get back. And I hope they will. But people and places come and go. It’s always interesting to see what has changed when I get back from a few months on the road.

What is your idea of home? What images and thoughts do the words “going home” conjure up for you? What do you want your children’s thoughts of home to be? Whatever your thoughts please share them here as I’d love to hear them.

Board Games, I Love Them

Guest article written by: Kassie (@kcmpls)

Board games, I love them.

But no, I won’t play Monopoly with you. Or Apples to Apples. Or Scattergories or Outburst or Life. Just as I’m a food snob, movie snob and beer snob, I’m also a board game snob. I play board games that are usually classified as Eurogames or German-style board games.

Like many gamers, I started with The Settlers of Catan. Settlers is an easy to learn Eurogame that is widely popular in the United States and easy to pick up at stores like Target. It is a great introduction to Eurogames, and for me, a starting point to a whole new world of board games.

(Settlers of Catan)

Every Sunday from fall to spring, I invite anyone who wants to play to my house for a meal and board games. I supply a simple vegetarian soup and access to my games and my guests bring what they want to drink and any games they want to play. In doing this, I’ve met a lot of new people, played new games, and found some great soup recipes. We play for three to five hours, sometimes having up to three different games going at once.

Some games, like Through the Ages, need full days set aside to play. To play the full Through the Ages game takes six hours for a four person game, but is worth every minute. 7 Wonders, another popular game, only takes 30 minutes to play and is great for older kids and adults with short attention spans.

(Through the Ages)

My favorite game right now is Power Grid. Basically, you try to supply the most cities with power by building a network of power plants. You purchase the power plants and the raw materials needed to run the plants to expand your network and receive money back for the cities you supply power to. It takes about two hours to play, which is long enough to really get into the game, but short enough to keep peoples’ interest.

Do you play board games? What are your favorites? Can you imagine playing a six hour game, or do you think I’m just wasting my time when I could be doing something useful?

Student Loans and Failure to Repay: Who’s at Fault?

Former students who are unable to pay their loans and are defaulting because of it have been all over the news lately. With calls from the public to have the government save them from the problems created by their own choices, even though they may have been young enough to make poor decisions but old enough to be held accountable for them, some are wondering, “why”?

Let’s start with this infographic created by The long form image, while informative on the history of how college debt requirements has changed over the years and why, shifts blame from the individual taking out the loan to the government for passing legislation which disallows those having loans from discharging them due to bankruptcy filing. It seems to suggest that instead of saving, living frugally, working or finding other financial aid sources such as scholarships to fund your education you should fight Congress and get them to change the law so that you are no longer treated like a “criminal” for failure to pay back your loans.

However, even with laws which strip consumer protections from students carrying loans, people are still flocking to college in droves and many of those people will be unable to find a job which will pay off their student debt leading people to wonder, is higher education really worth it? There are some fairly eye-opening statistics which show numbers of college grads working in jobs which definitely do not require college experience such as the 18,000 parking lot attendants, the 317,000 restaurant servers, and the 365,000 cashiers all working in those positions after obtaining a bachelor’s degree or higher. While many of these college grads probably fall into the other listed statistics about those who spend very little time studying, reading and/or writing, one has to wonder what their reasoning for attending college was in the first place.

I recently spoke with a taxi cab driver who was originally from Ethiopia and working in Las Vegas during my recent visit there. His dream was to attend college and become a pharmacy technician so that he could make more than the ~30,000/year he was making working long hours. Being that I worked in college admissions for a couple of years and was intimately familiar with the pharmacy tech program at that institution, I felt it was my duty to suggest to this young man that he might want to look at some other options due to the simple fact that:

    1. College admissions departments like to cherry pick the best wages of those alumni who report back about their work.

    2. Private colleges, which generally offer pharmacy tech programs, are magnitudes more expensive than a state operated institution and are many times not even regionally accredited.

    3. You can get on-the-job training at just about any Walgreens or CVS to become a pharmacy technician and degree or not you’re probably going to start at around $10 to $12/hour or less. To this he responded, “but I make more than that now!”

It was these things, among others, that I told him that he had no idea about. He spoke to one college admissions department, had no idea what accreditation meant, and wasn’t even told to look at other options within that same institution which may have been a better fit for him. He was simply a sale to the admissions person and one who would likely never be able to fully afford his loans which he’d probably carry with him for many years to come.

However, not all colleges are just looking to make a sale. A community college in Virginia is requiring all students this coming fall to submit detailed budget worksheets which will show how they plan to repay their obligations both now and after graduation. While the institution readily admits that not everyone will be diligent, forthcoming or even truthful about what they write if the school detects any sort of issues it will be cause to deny their financial aid eligibility.

But even with all of these complaints about the government, higher-ed institutions, and even the work being done to try and fix the root of the problem, it simply comes back to poor decision-making by the students themselves. Plenty of people have worked hard and found scholarships (educational or athletic), waited to find a workplace which would help or outright cover the cost of college, and most importantly chose and attended an institution they could afford to attend instead of shelling out tens of thousands more a year just so they could attend a private school with a fancy name.

Should we really just be ignoring the problems these individuals placed upon themselves because they were young and impressionable? Should we suddenly forgive them for their debt load because they were hoodwinked by admissions personnel who doubled as shrewd salesmen? Are people really suggesting that instead of saving, working before and during college, and finding alternative payment methods that students should fight for the right to avoid their loan liability? Whatever you have to say about this one go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Reason US Students Behind: Summer Vacation?!

School Bokeh originally uploaded by Ryan M.

According to this opinion piece on, United States students are lagging behind other countries not only because of poor education funding, poor educators kept in place by broken systems, and simply lack of drive but mainly because we have a three month long summer vacation. The suggested solution? A longer school, up to 220 days and no more summers off.

From the article:

Then there’s this: Harris Cooper, a summer-learning expert at Duke University, pored over a century’s worth of data and found that each summer, our kids lose about a month of progress in math and that low-income students lose as much as three months’ worth of reading comprehension.

Again, that’s each summer.

While the article notes that historically the reasoning for our summers off matched up well with our agrarian roots, now that the majority of children in the US spend their summer vacation playing video games and watching TV instead the author suggests that we have a lot of work to do in order to compete on a global scale.

But would moving to year round schooling really fix the problems the schools are having properly educating our children? We’re apparently spending, on average, $30,000 more per student than any other Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development country and yet we’re ranked 25 out of 34 within that group. Would moving to year round schooling really help the situation that much?

The biggest issue impeding this supposedly necessary change is simply American’s reluctance to permit change. The desire to keep summer vacations alive simply because we’ve been doing it seemingly forever. However, people have spent their lives planning around school and it’s unlikely that many will take kindly to the idea that their summer plans have to change because we’re unable to properly educate our children for less money. Am I really supposed to give up my three week long vacation this summer so that Johnny and Suzie can avoid being usurped by children in other countries who are held to a much higher educational standard than we are? Will adding 40 more days to the school calendar really help save our children from a system based on poor standards and low expectations?

What do you think about the idea of moving to year-round schooling? Do you agree that it will be the single biggest thing which could work to save our failing educational system? Would you be upset if the school year went year-round and eliminated your ability to vacation at length without yanking your children out of school for weeks at a time? Are you fearful that the big dollars we’re spending on education is not providing our children with the educations they need to be competitive on a global scale? What suggestions do you have which could fix the problems we’re facing? Whatever you have to say about this one go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear what you have to say.