Musings from George


Education
March 26, 2006, 3:10 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Only half of the country goes to college at all, and only half of those will finish four years and get a degree. So how is it that almost everyone I know (including the homeless folks I talk to when I’m serving dinner) has a college degree? Is my world that rarified?

 At dinner the other night some friends were debating the value of a college education. Being a nerd, I spent some time online looking for research … and the value depends a lot on what education you get. Engineering, medicine, sciences, law … all of those ensure you will make good money all your life. Not every degree is worth putting your life on hold for four or five years, and getting a degree from some schools won’t open very many doors. So how do we as a society enable everyone to gain the skills necessary to succeed, even if they are poor or even if they have to work to support a family while they gain those skills? That’s the challenge our society faces, I think.

Mandatory national service — military, Peace Corps, or national social service — would be a great way to force the entire country to give back, and to meet people that they might never otherwise meet, here and abroad. Imagine the change in our collective opinion about the world if we all had to meet with and live with the rest of the world? Someone pointed out to me that only 25% of the people in the US have passports, and that when we travel it’s odd how friendly people are even when they hate the US government. The truth is, those of us who want to travel to Athens or Prague are NOT the ones who re-elected Bush, and many of us are sorry we’re pinned down in Iraq right now. Side note, my nephew is back after three tours and will be moving into the active Reserve in July — below EVERYONE else on the roster of who has to go to Iraq unless we reinstate the draft. I’m betting against a draft…look for increased salaries for the military to compensate for the absolute destruction this war has caused in their personal lives, across the National Guard and the Reserves. Who will sign up who has any other options?

I read somewhere else that fewer than half of the people leaving the military take advantage of the educational assistance that they are entitled to (latter-day GI bill). Ties in to my earlier question … how do we make education (or more accurately, gaining skills) something that doesn’t require that you have money and no personal obligations?

George



Small World and Iraq is in it
March 20, 2006, 7:06 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

My nephew comes back from Iraq this week. He’s in the Marines, and has finished his third engagement over there. Given we just ‘celebrated’ the three-year anniversary of the invasion, that means he spent 21 months out of 36 in-country. He was there for the good times in Fallujah, just described in detail in Newsweek last week (the 3/20 issue). Sure feels like Vietnam to me, and I barely remember it — replace My Lai with Agu Ghraib, the SVA with the Iraqi army, and tunnels with deserts. What a waste of $200B and what a way to destroy the finest fighting machine that the world has ever seen (US military, 2000).

 As a nation, the US gives about 0.12% of GDP (that’s right, a rounding error on tips given in the US at restaurants) in foreign aid…and most of that goes with conditions. So it’s remarkable that we have spent $200B in Iraq, and their country is producing less oil and electricity than the day we invaded … I can think of a few better ways to invest $200B.

 18% of Americans approve of Dick Cheney. I wonder if the buddy he shot in the face is one of them?

 Too much politics makes me sad. Back to basketball.

 George



Corporate quicksand
March 9, 2006, 7:45 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

So it’s probably pretty obvious that I work at a big company, a software company that advertises its efforts to matter online.

I spend a fair amount of time thinking, as an individual, about how to make a difference. Occasionally these two things collide.

Our company gives us four days each year of paid time off to volunteer with any nonprofit (some restrictions apply, your mileage may vary). Through this program I have gotten involved with many great nonprofits — and may be one of ten employees who actually spend more than 32 hours a year doing volunteer work. BUT… the committee which is supposed to encourage this (giving back to the community) is populated with people who don’t do volunteer work. They are willing to collect used Jeans, but not to meet real people; to recycle ink cartridges, but not to put food on a plate for a homeless person. Where does “wanting” to do something good matter? and where does it become “doing” something good?

 If you had $10, would you give yourself a T-shirt celebrating your efforts to volunteer…or would you give $10 to the nonprofit, to do with as they need to?

 George Jaquette