Friday, 28 October 2011

Number Fifty-One

After living in Arlington for twenty months.....one tends to make up lists.  There is this list I have....of the fifty different ways that you can die in Washington DC (across the river, thankfully).

There's the homeless guy stabbing you.  There's the METRO bus hitting you.  There's the METRO train platform where some idiot could push you onto the tracks.  There's the various nuts hanging out near Starbucks and waiting to just shoot you.  The list goes on and on.

Today, the fifty-first way of dying in DC has been added to my list.  Death by mountain lion.

We had a serious group of reports that have come out in the past day or two of a (singular) mountain lion being seen in the city.  Yes, in the suburbs of DC itself.

Cops are looking at this and kinda shaking their head.  They admit, some idiot might have taken up a mountain lion cub and tried to raise it.....and it just got out of control.  So it might be out there.

Between me and DC....is the Potomac River.  Curtis, the mountain lion, would have to cross the bridge and traverse around the Arlington Cemetery, and walk a mile up the Pike to my bus stop....to be a threat.  The difference between DC and Arlington?  Well....in DC...most everyone has a gun.  Arlington has a high number of college elite folks and IT guys.....and I suspect our gun ratio here is one gun to every six Arlington residents.  So, it'd be a bigger problem in Arlington, than in DC.

So with all the various ways that I had to worry about getting killed in DC.....I now have to add number fifty-one.  Next week?  I'm guessing bears in DC.

The Truth About Farming

In recent days, there's been a upswing in articles covering Alabama's tough stance on illegals in the state.  Most of these are covering the farmer perception that there are serious problems ahead if the illegals don't come back in the spring.

The governor's office has been on a positive-chat about the effects of the law.  When they heard that farmers were saying that folks from Bama won't come out to pick strawberries, or do real manual labor.....they swung right back.....with the quote: "To say an Alabamian can't do this work, that is insulting to the workers of Alabama."

I'll offer this observation.  Neither the governor, his staff, or the folks who wrote up the illegal alien legislation there in the state....have any real connection to the current agriculture market of Alabama.

In the 1950s and 1960s....if you had hay season coming up in Alabama....you could always find five or six teenage boys to work for a couple bucks an hour in 95-degree heat.  You offered up lots of lemonade and a fried chicken meal at the end.  Farmers were typically appreciative of their efforts.

That manpower started to disappear in the 1980s....and moving hay became a difficult tasking.  So along came these huge round bales and farmers got around the problem of searching for non-existent labor.  Various implements have been added over the past two decades and the lack of manpower has been solved in various ways.

This time?  This wasn't really planned and there are no sudden implements that will appear on the horizon for spring of 2012.  Alabama farmers who typically hired up five to ten illegal guys for two weeks....are sitting there and contemplating the spring and summer of next year.  You have two choices.

First, you downsize and just say adios to what you used to do with the manpower.  You produce less.  The state sees a smaller pot of revenue, and the guys in Montgomery will ask why folks aren't growing more.  Obviously, they know the answer, but have to act stupid.

Second, you invite the illegals back and stand by the edge of your field with a shotgun.  When the local town cop comes over and wants to make trouble.....you smile and ask him to stand on the side of the road and respect your property.  It's not the best to position to be in....but the local town cops stand to make hundreds of thousands in 2012.....off illegal bribes as they simply look the other way.  In some ways, I suspect that some of the enthusiasm for this immigration episode....goes back to wannabe cops who want more bribes.

No matter how you look at it....the farmer ends up with a lose-lose situation in the end.  The comical thing is that some farmer on the edge of the Tennessee side of things....just a hundred feet from the Alabama state line....has a dozen illegals working his property and will deliver a bumper crop in 2012.  He ought to send a case of Pabst down to the Alabama governor helping him procure top-notch labor at such a critical time.

Tuition Assistance

This week, the Marines came out and said they were going to limit each Marine to $875 a year for tuition assistance.  They had roughly $4k a year to play with prior to this decision.  The Air Force, Navy and Army?  They are all still in the $4k to $4.5k range per year.  The typical deal is that you sign up for a class and pay twenty-five percent of the tuition, then the service meets the rest.  Most of the installations and bases push hard for colleges to keep their prices at a low rate....often inviting community colleges to be the main focus of military personnel and their ambitions.

In 1980, I was this young Air force guy who'd finally been convinced to show up and sign up for two classes.  My check?  If I remember correctly....my cost for two classes came to $80 roughly, with the local community college.  The Air Force chipped in $240.  I spent around twenty-five bucks for the two books.

I suspect over the six year period that I was taking classes....I probably spent around $4k on tuition.  You have to remember that this was 1980-1985 prices.  A quarter of everything I took was via a community college which had some pretty cheap rates.

When you look across this current mess with graduates owing $50k to $100k for student loans....you just shake your head.  No one sat there and lectured the kid about the value of a four-year degree versus a two-year degree.  No one lectured the kid about borrowing more than $50k and how you'd fit this into your $35k salary that you climb onto when you graduate.  No one lectured the kid on the concept of using a community college instead of a big-name four-year state university.

At some point in my Louisiana years....I had some guy lecture me about taking Dantes tests....to get college credit for just a simple test.  The Air Force did these free of charge.  I kind of laughed over the idea....signed up, and passed the very first one that I took.  Over a one-year period, I passed ten of these out of sixteen.  In one episode.....I watched the movie Lawrence of Arabia over a weekend, and took the Middle East test.....passing it because half the questions had something to do with the movie.

The truth is that these kids are all wasting tons of money.....getting themselves deep into debt.  And frankly, the colleges don't care.  It's like an open bar, and you can drink as much as you want....as long as you pay.   The sad thing?  In a decade....a kid could be $150k in debt over a stupid degree that may never pay off.  And then what?