I Have a Gripe

August 7, 2016

Journalist vs. Commentator

This shouldn’t be semantics or money. People will read this, and they’ll believe us.
~Henry Hackett, The Paper

For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a writer. More specifically, I wanted to be a journalist. One of my favorite movies is The Paper and my favorite classes in college were my journalism and print production classes. I did well in those classes, and more importantly, I was good. I wrote for The Setonian, my college paper, and even elevated to News Editor at one point. I wrote some pieces that made me very proud. There was a racially-charged fight on campus that I covered. I did some stupid things, like go to a guy’s dorm room alone to get his side of the story. I went (well, I tried) to a BSU meeting to get a comment. They asked me to leave, but I got the story. I wound up getting threats and was assigned an escort to go to classes for awhile. I pissed everyone off. I knew I was covering the story right when I got hit from both sides. It was a rush. Too bad Hurricane Irene flooded my basement and all my clips went in the dumpster.

Layout nights weren’t always a lot of fun (yes, old school layout, like running galleys through waxers and making box corners with 2pt rule and a blade). They were especially painful when layout would last until 3:00 a.m., my news writing class was at 8:00 a.m. and I was allowed zero excuses to miss. I still loved it and learned a lot. I could read upside down and backwards so I could understand how typesetting progressed. I memorized the AP Stylebook (I still have my original spiral bound copy) and to this day when I read a news story or hear a reporter on television, I am mentally editing what they are reporting based on my learning from my advisor, Professor (now PhD) Gottlieb.

When Dr. Gottlieb (who was also the advisor of the paper) would review my work for approval to publish and gave me a “good job” it was the ultimate high. In 1991 I received the Wordsmith Award for an essay I wrote. I was also a finalist in the photography category. It was awesome. I had grandiose plans of becoming a hard journalist and eventually an investigative reporter.

Well, I graduated into the worst job market in decades and took whatever job I could. I did wind up in print production, so it was at least an area I really enjoyed. My journalism plans, however, were put on the shelf. As the Internet rose in popularity and print began its slow descent, I had to find something else. I became the exact opposite of a journalist – a flack. I now work in digital marketing and specialize in SEO and analytics. Don’t get me wrong, I am proud that I am self-taught in all this technology and am always learning more. I am, however, very sorry I never had that chance to become a real journalist. At least I have my blogs that feed my writing outlet.

Why am I explaining all this? There’s a reason, trust me.

I hate columnists! Why do I have all these columnists? I got political columnists, guest columnists… celebrity columnists – The only thing I don’t have is a dead columnist. That’s the kind I could really use…. We reek of opinions. What every columnist at this paper needs to do is to shut the fuck up.
~Bernie White, The Paper

I read and watch a lot of news and every day I am increasingly ill. The profession I so desperately wanted is now a joke. Journalist, columnist, commentator – at one point in history they were all individual jobs. Now it is hard to tell the difference. For example, look at the following two headlines and ledes that cover that same story:

The New York Times
Can G.O.P. Tell Donald Trump, ‘You’re Fired’? Probably Not
We are in the midst of yet another of Donald J. Trump’s self-inflicted spirals of terrible news. And with prominent Republicans saying they will back Hillary Clinton and others announcing this week that they won’t endorse Mr. Trump, there has been yet another round of speculation about how the party could get rid of him.

ABC News
Senior GOP Officials Exploring Options if Trump Drops Out
Republican officials are exploring how to handle a scenario that would be unthinkable in a normal election year: What would happen if the party’s presidential nominee dropped out?

ABC News has learned that senior party officials are so frustrated — and confused — by Donald Trump’s erratic behavior that they are exploring how to replace him on the ballot if he drops out.

Neither of these pieces are labeled as an editorial. The New York Times piece, however, reads like a blog post. This is NOT news. It is opinion peppered with news. The ABC News piece is more down the line.

Here is another example.

Chicago Tribune
Body cams give close-up, disturbing view of fatal police shooting
Newly issued body cameras worn on the front of officers’ vests provided a disturbing, close-up view of the tragic events and questionable decisions made when Chicago police fatally shot an African-American teen trying to flee in a stolen sports car.

The word “disturbing” should not be anywhere in the headline and the lede is even worse. I was taught to ALWAYS take care when using adjectives and adverbs. This is NOT objective journalism. It is meant to incite.

There have been many different topics recently in the news that have been provocative. The presidential election, race relations, and a lot more. Unfortunately, many in the news industry and not hiding their personal opinions and biases.

This is not the level of journalism that sparked my soul. Maybe Dr. Gottlieb should teach some reminder classes.

July 2, 2016

Clean up!

Filed under: New Jersey,Outdoors — alvb1227 @ 1:54 am
Tags: , , , ,

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love my state; the great state of New Jersey. I love it so much I even have a blog about how great New Jersey is! Unfortunately, I have a gripe today about those who do not take care of the outdoors in this great, and often misunderstood, state.

When I finish my day and get off Rt. 80, there’s a section of the road I take home that is nothing but a wooded area. It is where I mentally switch from work to home. I usually turn off the radio, open all the windows and enjoy what is around me. Sometimes I’ll see some deer or a bear cross. Unfortunately, a few days ago I saw this:

Trash-roadside

Rockaway, New Jersey

I was disgusted.

How could someone with a bunch of household trash think this was a good place to illegally dump!?

Sadly, I see this from time-to-time when my husband and I are out enjoying the great open spaces in New Jersey.

Cigarettes

Saxton Falls

I remember some time ago Cory Booker had someone pulled over for littering when the driver threw something out the window.

CoryBooker

I thought it was great!

When my husband and I give lectures about fly fishing, we always remind people to “carry in, carry out.” The sad truth is that when we speak with people who enjoy the outdoors, they already know to take care of their trash. People who hunt, fish, hike, bird watch, and more, understand the importance of protecting resources like our open spaces.

So I ask my readers to make sure to not toss their trash out the car window or leave cigarette butts behind at the local park. Do what I do and keep a few plastic bags in the car and if you see some garbage while out enjoying the day pick it up and put it in the right place.

We have only a limited amount of open space. I ask that everyone takes the time to take care of it!

Sign

June 18, 2016

My Take on the Gun Debate

An Orlando club was attacked this week by another radical Islamic terrorist. He gunned down 49 patrons at a gay club before the police shot and killed him. It was a terrible tragedy that has brought the country together to grieve and pray for the victims and their families.

It has also kicked up the gun debate and what should be done to curb violent acts in this country. Everyone seems to have an opinion on what should be done and they vary widely. Well, of course I felt the need to add my two cents. Here is my solution for federal gun legislation.

  1. No fly, no buy: If someone is on the terror watch list (no fly list), then you shouldn’t be allowed to purchase a gun of any kind. If someone is on the no fly list and it is incorrect, they need to follow up with the FBI to resolve the issue.
  2. Required training: When applying for a permit to purchase a weapon, the applicant should be required to complete a safety course. Gun ownership is serious and should be treated as such.
  3. Safety lock with every weapon purchase: When a weapon is purchased, the purchaser also needs to buy an appropriate gun lock at the same time. Before they leave the store, the gun lock must be in place.
  4. Waiting period: Some people want to make a gun purchase out of fear or anger. Maybe they were attacked and are scared. Maybe they are angry and want revenge. Whatever the reason, there should be a three-day waiting period between the time that a purchase is made and when the weapon is picked up.
  5. Background check: This point goes hand-in-hand with my previous suggestion. During the three-day waiting period, the gun shop can complete a background check on the person. This gives them enough time to collect any necessary information to make an informed decision as to whether or not an individual should own a gun.
  6. Mental-health assessment: This is a touchy one. Everything else so far has been based on “hard data.” This definitely falls under “soft data.”  I would never want a government bureaucrat to make a decision about someone’s mental health and if they are able to understand the seriousness of owning a gun and how to properly store and use it. I believe there should be some kind of check as to mental competence, but it needs to be in line with HIPPA law and not further stigmatizing “mental illness.”
  7. Ban the sale of “auto” kits: Many Americans are not aware that it is already illegal to ar-15own an automatic (“full auto”) weapon. In 1934 Congress passed the National Firearms Act, making it illegal for Americans to manufacture fully automatic weapons for personal use. In 1986, it became illegal for civilians to own newly made machine guns. When the media shows a weapon, such as an AR-15, after one of these horrible events there is an insinuation that it is an automatic weapon. It isn’t. And I think it is inflammatory for the media to do so. What needs to be outlawed are kits that allow someone to make their weapon an automatic weapon.
  8. Knowledge sharing: Every time one of these horrific acts takes place, I always hear from at least one professional, “if I had seen xyz information from such-and-such organization (FBI, local police, etc.), I wouldn’t have sold him the gun.” There needs to be better sharing of information between businesses and the government.

Obviously this is just the beginning of a larger issue, but when it comes to complex issues with high-charged emotions, it is easy to muddy the waters. My suggestion to politicians has always the same: take big issues bit-by-bit. Don’t handle a huge issue all at once. Let your constituents see you working and gain their trust. As you continue to move forward, cooperation will continue as long as everyone checks their ego at the door. By taking a common-sense approach to big issues, we can start to move forward.

June 15, 2016

Fashion News Flash – Real Women Have Curves

Filed under: Fashion — alvb1227 @ 2:37 pm
Tags: , ,

Anyone who knows me knows that I absolutely HATE shopping for clothes and shoes. Yarn shop? Book store? Fly fishing shop? I’m all there. Clothes and shoes? I would rather have my teeth drilled.

Like many, as I have aged, my weight has increased. I have curves. I am not the skinny kid I once was. Now I understand it isn’t healthy. I work to lose weight by eating right and getting exercise in where I can. Mind you, I was never a fan of exercise. You needed an excuse to get out of gym in school? I was your girl. I thought gym in school was the biggest waste of my time – ever. Why go to gym when I could go to band?

Yet, I digress.

The point is I now have put on more weight than I would like. Still I am not obese. But I avoid clothes shopping like the plague. I wear clothes I have “broken in” until they fall apart. Which is exactly what is happening with my last two pair of jeans. So I headed to my normal “go-to” store – Macy’s.

Wow – what a frustrating evening. Two hours to find two pair or reasonably-priced jeans that fit comfortably.

SuperSkinny

Super Skinny by Levi’s for $88.

First what blew my mind were the prices. Over $100 for jeans? Seriously??? Even Levi’s are quite outrageous. Second, there is actually a style of Levi’s called “Super Skinny.” Crazy. I mean, is being “Super Skinny” too thin?

 

Now, let’s move on to the sizes. I finally discover a brand that is reasonable and has the stone-washed color I like. If you are above a size six, options are quite limited. When I asked for a boot cut in my size, I went sent to the “mom jeans” section. Thanks. I appreciate it.

I am a woman. I have curves. I am tall. Like I said, I could stand to lose a few pounds to be more healthy, but I refuse to be body shamed.

Now, let’s move onto shoe shopping. Again, not a fan.

I have had problems with my hips, knees, and ankles since birth. As a result, I am not really able to wear heels. I need a wide, flat shoe in a size 9 1/2. If I do need or want a heel, I need something wide or chunky. My mother used to call the type of shoes I needed the “pink elephant.” It just doesn’t exist.

I can never find shoes that fit properly. When I do find something I like that doesn’t fall under “old lady orthopedic,” I will actually purchase several pair so I can avoid shoe shopping for as long as possible. My last multi-purchase? Mary Janes by Earth Shoes. Of course the style I liked is now discontinued.

Is there nothing stylish for people like me? I remember awhile back I ran into a woman who found herself in the same situation as me after ankle surgery. She looked like she was ready to burst into tears. I knew exactly how she felt. I gave her some suggestions and helped as best as possible to find something that fit well, was stylish, and she liked. I really felt for her.

So here I am left with shoes that aren’t stylish and mom jeans. I have to believe I am not alone.

DeejaeHarperSo as I said in my headline, I have a newsflash for designers. Adult women have curves and are not a size two. Additionally, we generally cannot afford $100 for one pair of jeans. At that point you are paying for the brand on your ass. Jeans and jeans.

And the same holds true for shoe designers. There are others like me who can’t wear four inch heels. We would like some style beyond “orthopedic.”

But at the end of the day, I refuse to be body shamed. I hope others will resist body shaming as well. Be healthy. Don’t be a size two.

April 24, 2016

The Absurdity of Eminent Domain

I hate eminent domain.

There, I said it. In my opinion, eminent domain is the exact opposite of what this country means. Shockingly, this is part of the Fifth Amendment which gives the state of federal government or by delegation to third parties to take control of private property, who will devote it to public or civic use with “just” compensation. While Thomas Jefferson rejected its inclusion completely, James Madison included a compromise of the idea.

The concept of eminent domain is actually a “carry over” from Jolly old England. Eminent domain is a younger ancestor of English property law. As a result, Madison chose instead to require compensation explicitly, and he used the term public use rather than public purpose, interest, benefit, or some other term in an effort to establish a narrower and more objective requirement than such alternative terms might require (Jones 2000, 290). This is a very different approach from the original English concept.

Still, I think it is, to use a generally English term, bloody rubbish.

I understand the importance of sacrificing for “the greater good.” However, the concept that a government can take someone’s property just makes my blood boil.

This affects people – individuals who have no way to fight the government.

Years ago I saw a film “Greetings from Asbury Park,” highlighting Angie Hampilos’ fight to keep her home of 50 years safe from waterfront re-developer Asbury Partners. She should’ve been living out her final years enjoying her life tending to her garden. Instead she and her niece fought against her home being bulldozed. Due to health reasons, Mrs. Hampilos sold her  beloved home to the city of Asbury Park in 2014. She passed away in June of 2015. This is not how her life should’ve ended. She should’ve been able to live out her years in the home she loved and leave that house to her family.

Currently, residents of Clifton and Little Falls, New jersey are fighting against an expansion of Rt. 46. The Genardi Family is losing part of their yard and pool to eminent domain. These life-long residents of Clifton have invested thousands to improve their home. Now, the second phase of the highway improvement project includes plans for a 12-foot sound wall that will cut out 21 feet of their property line and run straight through the center of their pool.

According to the plans, about 1,900 square feet of yard will be taken from the property’s 7,800-square-foot lot.

An independent appraisal of homes on Normandy Road that are being affected determined that none of the property owners would experience enough “damage” following the project’s completion to warrant the purchase of the homes themselves. NJDOT officials confirmed the majority of the Genardi’s back yard was acquired in 2012 and that the homeowner was compensated $175,000 for land required for construction purposes.

Not enough “damage?” Really?

So living 11 feet from a sound wall isn’t damaging? Forget that they had no choice about losing their property. The property they have invested in and have been raising their children. Yes, they were “compensated,” but who will ever want to buy a house that close to a sound barrier? Given the choice, I am sure they would prefer to have their home in tact than offered money for part of their property.

The Great Notch Inn of Little Falls, NJ has been affected by this project as well. A Jersey landmark, the business has lost approximately one-third of its property under eminent domain.

Is this America?

How can people fight this level of government control?

There are organizations that support those in the eminent domain fight. But it will take a thorough understanding of the law and lots of support.

If you are fighting against eminent domain, God’s speed.

March 8, 2016

International Women’s Day -Whatever

So this morning when I logged into Facebook, I was welcomed with the following graphic:

intl-womens-day

<insert eye roll here>

I think days like this are completely bogus. And I’m sure I am going to annoy many of my fellow femme fatales. Let me explain why…

First, I don’t need a day to “celebrate” myself. You should value yourself every day. Second, you are lumping me in to a class that require special treatment and quotas. I hate quotas. I shouldn’t get something (a promotion, raise, job etc.) just because I am a woman. I should get something because I deserve it. You are insinuating that I need the help of someone else to make things happen. All it does is create animosity within a workplace.

I’ve worked in male-dominated fields my entire career. I expected nothing but what I deserve. If I didn’t get something, I would go in and fight for it. I never expected anything to be handed to me just because I am a woman. Have I worked harder than my male counterparts in some cases? Yes. Have I dealt with men who felt I didn’t belong there? Yes. Did I care? Absolutely not. I worked hard and let that speak for me.

Let me give you an example.

I worked on a help desk – generally a male-dominated field. One of my counterparts (a man) had obvious issues with me being a woman (the only woman at the time) in the group. I dealt with it for awhile. When I got sick of him, I didn’t complain to HR or cry discrimination. I cornered him and told him “welcome to America, you’re going to work with women – deal with it.” You know what? He came around and we wound up being great partners at the office. I stood up to him and I think he respected it.

That’s exactly what I’ve always done.

Here’s another example. While still working in IT, I used to support publishing processes. I loved it. I was good at it. Others knew it. Except for one male manager. He was known for not being very forward thinking when it came to women in roles of authority. Now, I wasn’t a manager, but I did have some level of authority. Again, I worked hard. I proved I knew what I was doing and had the knowledge to get the job done. One day when there was an issue he said to me “they should listen to you – you know better than anyone.”

Wow. Just wow. I won the guy over. I proved I knew my stuff. And that compliment from him meant more than he ever realized. And I didn’t need someone wagging their finger at him telling him to be fair. I did it on my own.

So what exactly is my point?

If a company has a boss, manager, etc. that has an issue with women, eventually he will be dealt with. He’ll have a hard time finding people to work for him. He’ll get his. Quotas don’t work with this guy. He’ll just resent them and make it even more difficult for those that are part of his team.

Some say “we need days like this for young girls.” I say absolutely not.

Again, what are we teaching them? Because you are a girl you should expect preferential treatment? No. Tough it out. Work hard. Prove yourself and be confident. Don’t rely on a quota – in college; in the workplace; in life.

So what should we as women do? Encourage each other. Support each other. Celebrate success and acknowledge failure. Personally, I have had more issues with women stabbing me in the back at the office than men. Men are good at the game. They help each other out. Generally women are so focused on getting ahead they don’t care who they step on or stab to get there. You want to know why men think women in the office are bitchy? That’s why.

And if you have kids? Don’t expect even more handed to you. You want to know what really grinds my gears – women who expect not only preferential treatment because they are a woman, but preferential treatment because they have kids. The built-in excuse. Can’t work late? Kids. Can’t take on an extra project? Kids. Then especially don’t complain when you get passed over for a raise or promotion. People used to tell me “well you don’t have kids, so you don’t know.” You’re right. I don’t have kids. I made that decision with my husband a long time ago. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have special circumstances. My answer used to be “well my grandmother is sick – should I wheel her in here like you do your kids?” Prepare for children. Yes, things happen, but it shouldn’t be an automatic excuse for everything. You want to be treated special because you are a woman and mother? Then don’t expect me to applaud you when you get something you don’t deserve because of a quota.

Can you tell I hate quotas?

Now are there situations when female-related issues need special attention? Yes. For example, insurance companies should cover reconstructive surgery for women with breast cancer. They should also, as they are now required to, allow women time in the hospital after childbirth. Both men and women should be allowed time home after childbirth. Beyond that? I can’t think of anything else, but I’m sure I’m missing something important along similar lines.

So my advice is simple. Be tough. Be strong. Be a woman. But don’t expect to be treated differently just because you are a woman.

September 11, 2015

Fourteen Years Later – Do We Really Remember?

So here it is. The night before the world changed. I’ve been watching my Facebook feed fill up with photos of New York, Washington DC, and Shanksville. Photos of the World Trade Center, New York firefighters and police officers. Comments that say “we will never forget.”

This year, I ask one question – do we really remember?

I get very melancholy as “the day” approaches. I usually ask myself why. Do I have a right to feel this way? I didn’t know anyone who died. I know “people of people.” I wasn’t even in New York. I was in my office in Jersey.

I left work almost immediately. As I drove back to Belleville, and came closer to the smoke – and that smell – it really started to hit me. I felt numb, like thousands of others did, I am sure. I drove directly to the school where my friend’s mother worked. Her husband worked in the Twin Towers and I was worried for him. I had no idea what I could do, but I felt like that’s where I needed to be. I tried to get her to come back to my house, but she wanted to stay put. Thankfully, he was found alive.

I can barely remember what I had for dinner last night, but I remember every minute of that day. I’m sure I’m not the only one.

But by next week, with September 11th in the rear view mirror for another year, I wonder if people really remember or if it is just one day out of each year and that’s it.

I remember a country truly united. I remember standing in line to buy desk flags for every person in my department. I remember seeing flags absolutely everywhere. I remember people bringing food to their emergency responders and saying “thank you.” I remember people being proud to be American.

Now? Not so much.

I feel like we are a country more divided than ever. That this horrific day is nothing more than a political football to push forward whatever the “agenda of the day” is. That there are people who have tried to take advantage of this tragedy for personal gain.

This year I am bouncing between sickened, depressed, and angry. Each emotion for a different thought. A different memory. A different feeling. Even as I write this I know this post is more of a ramble and far less organized than posts in the past.

This year, I’ve seen this graphic going around Facebook:

AtThisMomentMaybe this is part of what got me really thinking. I always think about “that day,” but not really what was going on the night before – all the normal things people do on any given evening. Everyone was worried about their day-to-day crap. The next day none of it mattered.

This morning I had some jerk try to run me off the road because he didn’t like how I merged. I was angry and shaken. You know what? As I sit here writing this, it doesn’t matter at all. I was able to come home at the end of the day, kiss my husband, and say hello to my bird.

The people who were killed by the men (and I don’t even like to call them “men”) who represented pure evil prevented those innocent souls from getting home, kissing their loved ones and having a normal day.

Maybe that’s what it is all about when people say “never forget.”

Never forget what happened that terrible day. Pray for those families who wake up every morning without their loved ones. Remember those who knowingly gave their lives so a plane would go down in a field in Pennsylvania instead of the Capitol Building or the White House. Pray for those who lost their lives due to their service on “the pile.” But also remember to live a good life. That our being here is a gift that should not be squandered, because you never know it will all be over. Live a life your family would be proud of. Try to do something good every day and expect nothing in return. Be a good American.

I think that’s the best way to “never forget.”

January 3, 2015

Jim Rome – the True “Dork”

Filed under: General Annoyances,Marching Band,Music Education — alvb1227 @ 2:37 am
Tags:

Nothing gets my back up more than when music in school comes under attack. Well, it looks like another genius has shared a Tweet and learned the wrath of the band.

Jim Rome, host of “The Jim Rome Show” on CBS Sports Radio sent out the following Tweet yesterday.

Jim Rome
Oh yeah, that didn’t tick me off. Not at all.

Well, apparently I wasn’t the only one. He has received post after post with the hashtag #MarchOnRome to make sure it got his attention. Past and current band members, band parents, teachers let him know how displeased they were with his commentary.

What might be the best part is that he received a crushing blow from the Army Field Band.

Army BandI don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t mess with them.

The truth is that it takes great skill to not only play an instrument, but simultaneously march around a field and not get decapitated by someone twirling a flag in the color guard. To say these comments infuriated me is putting it mildly.

People like Mr. Rome are under the misconception that marching band is simply there to give football players a break during halftime. The reality is marching band is very competitive. When I was in marching band I took it very seriously and looked at the football games as prep for “the real deal.”

This is a clip that originally aired as part of the 1993 DCI World Championships broadcast. It is part of a study that was done by a professor at Indiana University to see the physical demands of a modern Drum & Bugle Corps show. They hooked up one of the tenor drummers to a device that monitored heart rate and oxygen intake and then had the corps do a full run of the entire show (approx 11 minutes). It originally aired as part of the 1993 DCI World Championships broadcast. During the test the whole second half clocked in at 192 BPM accelerating to 208. Star of Indiana made history with this show and it’s a great window into how physically demanding drum corps is. Fast forward to today, many colleges and high schools perform similarly demanding shows. It is serious work.

I am incredibly proud to be one of the so-called “dorks” Rome referred to in his tweet. As I mentioned in a previous post about a similar idiot, NEVER mess with the marching band. I’m sure Mr. Rome has learned that the hard way. You sir, are the dork. Sports programs are now the “be all, end all” they once were.

July 8, 2014

The American Dream & Happiness

Filed under: company interaction,Economy — alvb1227 @ 12:24 am
Tags: , , ,

I plugged in my headset at the gym today at lunch and listened to a section of Outnumbered on Fox News. The topic? A USA Today study that has determined a salary of $130,000 is required to live the “American dream.”

The discussion jumped around in an attempt to answer the question “why.” Topics included tax policy, student loans, social engineering, a lack of free markets, and housing prices. What really got my attention was when Harris Faulkner, a favorite of mine, tied in the concept of happiness, citing studies that once a person reaches a $70,000 salary, their level of happiness doesn’t change. She was able to turn the entire discussion to happiness and what makes an individual happy as far as their own personal American dream.

The discussion turned again to jobs and what makes a person happy in their work. A point was made that people often focus on their job as their source of income instead of a way of making themselves happy. This is a subject that has always fascinated, and frustrated, me.

In recent years, whenever this topic comes up, the standard answer is “just be happy you have a job.” Yes, I completely understand in this harsh economic market anyone who has a job should just be happy and keep quiet. However, year after year, as this rotten economy goes on, when are we as a society allowed to say “yes, I want to be happy in my work as well as make money?”

Think about it. A full time employee spends on average 40 to 45 hours a week (minimum) at their place of employment. That equates to approximately 25% of your time during the week (including sleeping hours) at your job. You generally spend more time with your co-workers than your family. Why shouldn’t we strive to be happy at work?

Now I  can go down a rabbit hole here and ask why employers choose to treat their employees poorly, especially in a bad economy, but I won’t.

I simply ask this – at what point in our working lives are we allowed to want more than just a salary?

April 30, 2014

What Ever Happened to Shop Anyway? Part Two in a Series

When I was in middle school students would do a rotation that included five different areas: wood shop, print shop, sewing, cooking, and music appreciation. I absolutely LOVED print shop. One of the first assignments we had was to create a ruler all the way down to a 32nd of an inch. It certainly wasn’t easy, but every time I come across someone who doesn’t know how to read a ruler, I think back to that assignment. Later on, we learned how to make a printing plate and we had to cut a print block out by hand. We learned why it had to be backwards and about the overall printing process. I absolutely fell in love with print! I still have that print block somewhere down in the basement with my other special things from school.

I also took all the other requirements. I made a napkin holder in wood shop, a pillow in sewing, and how to make a perfect omelet in cooking. As far as the music section – well, anyone who knows me that was far from my first or last introduction to music.

All of these classes were important. And while I didn’t become a professional seamstress or carpenter, they taught valuable lessons. Today, however, more and more schools are dropping shop classes in an effort to cut budgets, focus more on standardized testing and prepare students for college.

I grew up in a generation where many of my friends’ parents did not go to college. Those parents were proud to say “my child is the first in my family to go to college.” I remember being told as a child that college was the only way to get a good job.

While compared to college costs today, what my college bill was sounds like chump change, at the time it was certainly a lot of money. Today for a decent public college a bachelors program averages $30,000 per year – what two years at Seton Hall cost in the late 1980s. In today’s economy, what middle class family can afford that?

A few days ago I saw a story on Fox News that discussed the lack of skilled tradespeople are in short supply and can pay quite well. They also cited a statistic from the Manufacturing Institute that over 600,000 manufacturing jobs went unfilled in 2011. This is causing some states to rethink bringing shop and skilled trade classes back to high schools.

When I was in high school, there were multiple skilled non-college-prep programs – auto shop, wood shop, beauty culture, mechanical drawing, and more. What used to come out of that wood shop (what I would see most often because it wasn’t far from the band room) was simply amazing!

Not every student should go to college or needs to go to college. And more importantly, that doesn’t mean they aren’t smart. It means quite the opposite. Jobs like mechanics, pipe fitters, and welders to name a few are jobs that require critical thinking and creative problem solving skills. At the end of the day they can look at their accomplishments and see what they built with their own two hands.

I always loved the show Made in America. Hosted by John Ratzenberger, he would go to different manufacturing facilities all over the country to highlight all that is done in our nation. He has become a spokesperson of sorts for American manufacturing and skilled trades. He has even testified before Congress on the importance of supporting American manufacturing and vocational education.

Nuts, Bolts and Thingamajigs is an organization sponsored by The Foundation of the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association that helps promote skilled manufacturing trades as a career option. Their outreach is an important option for kids who are deciding what they should “be when they grow up.”

So what am I trying to say? Simply this. College isn’t, and shouldn’t be, the answer for everyone. Look at the underemployment numbers of the last few years. How many college grads do you know that are taking any job they can because they can’t find a job in their field of study. And most of those jobs do not require a college degree. Skilled trades jobs are challenging and provide great wages. Just another reason to think beyond what has become the “typical” life plan for many.

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