Monday, November 24, 2014

Bill Cosby

We interrupt the carnage in Ferguson for my two pence on Bill Cosby just because I feel compelled after reading that an actress involved with "Picture Pages" (which was a child's program interspersed in some of the programming that used to show on Nickelodeon back in the day) was also attacked.

Even when The Cosby Show was the top show in the nation, I rarely watched it, but Cosby was still everywhere in the 1980s.  He was also held up as the archetype of African-American success and praised for having a television show that portrayed them as being doctors, lawyers, and college-bound students with futures.  Now, these allegations have gone beyond sad to being "icky," and if true, it is sad that since he is now 77 years old and has lived off of a vast fortune for the past several decades that he might spend a year or two in prison by the time anybody gets around to indicting and trying him for the cases in which the statute of limitations has not expired before he goes into the great beyond.  True, he might live to be 90 or 100, but he would probably get a compassionate release it he becomes decrepit well before then.

However, most of my knowledge of him as a comedian was from the special "Bill Cosby: Himself."

I had seen that special multiple times because it was on the premium channels and I was bored, and still remember some of the bits.  Years later, I started looking at that special in a different light and I realized that taking stories about your family (particularly your children) and turning them into comedic bits in the way that he did was actually a bit mean.  I can better understand someone like Jeff Foxworthy when he references his wife or children because the information is minimal and he ends up sharing in being the butt of the joke, but Cosby came off as being a bit angry and he even referred to them as being stupid or having "brain damage."  I couldn't imagine if my dad decided to use stories that I did as fodder.  It's sad, because we all laughed at it, but we are so desensitized to that sort of thing that we don't stop and think about what it means for the family members that aren't in a position to really say anything since they don't have the stage.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Why at the Age of 35 That You Might be too Old to go Back to School--Thanks to the Current Student Loan Structure

Using the allegory of Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore:

It sounds cool at first.  She's still hot and has got it going on to attract a young man.  A few years pass and then she starts having concerns that he cannot relate to just yet such as menopause, gray hairs, and routine examinations like mammograms and colonoscopies.    If this woman was able to freeze who she was at age 40, then things would be going swimmingly, but she cannot.

Taking this same example, imagine if someone that is in their early 20s takes out tens of thousands in student loan debt and they pay as they should.  They may well be paying it into their 40s or 50s depending upon how much they took out and all of the other factors that one considers such as not being able to find a job that pays enough to pay it off quickly.  Around this age, health concerns start creeping in, but the chances that this person is going to be struck down by something catastrophic are present but not as great, and they have to contend with the possibility that they might be laid off and have problems finding a new job because of ageism.  Still, there is a better possibility than not that the majority of whatever amount on the loans they have left are not going to balloon into the tens of thousands from a default.  By that point, they will (more than likely) be relatively paid off even though they have been haunting that person's dreams for a couple of decades.  Your children will also start going to college around that time, and you are in a better position to help them since your loans are either paid off or nearly paid off.

Imagine now what happens if that same person takes out that amount of debt at age 35, 40, 45, etc.  It sounds cool at the moment because they are young and can keep up with the 24 year olds when they go out and drink after class.  However, that person will more than likely encounter ageism, so their job opportunities won't be as great.  Even if you land a job and stay in it for a few years, there is an increased risk of being laid off and having an unusually hard time finding a new job. This new job would likely pay a lot less than the old job.

Even if you manage to overcome that and do reasonably well, your chances of developing a chronic medical condition that requires expensive management may occur.  Now, instead of funneling the money to student loan debts, you're having to split it with your diabetes and high blood pressure medications as well as the doctor's visits that come with that.

Furthermore, if you had children, this also means that you are still paying on your loans while trying to pay your children's loans if they go to college.

Unlike Demi and Ashton, you can't run off to the court house and have the arrangement voided.  These are yours forever...and ever...and ever...and ever.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

In Support of No Child Left Behind

Building upon my last post, I began to discover that the concept of Individualized Education Programs had been around for years, but it is only within the last few years that the schools have really done anything for students besides the children who are usually thrown in the self contained class and the gifted and talented group.  Normally, you find a theme where the school becomes concerned if the child didn't pass the tests that the school is complaining that they have to teach towards in order for the school to receive its funding.

On the surface, it looks like they are dumbing down the curriculum by forcing everyone to learn "what is 2+2", but then you notice that there is an increase in number of children who get extra time on tests and "mainstreaming" where the child is considered smart enough to stay in the regular classroom, but is taken out so that they are given additional one-on-one assistance.  This is not altruistically done and certainly there are still many parents out there that are having to fight with the school to give them help, such as if they are autistic but can learn in a regular classroom as long as they have an assistant with them instead of shuffling them off to the self-contained class like they would have done in the past.  Now, the schools have a prod up the backside that forces them to help other children since their performance on those tests is directly tied with their funding.

So, while the system isn't perfect, I think a lot of the complaints from schools are posturing because they ultimately hate having to hire the extra people needed to pull this off.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Just Because you are "Average", it Does Not Mean That You are Not Disabled.

I would like to raise awareness for the concept that yes, you can have a disability and still perform OK in school.

Now, let me be clear on this.  I'm not saying that you can outthink your problems and be cured.  What I am putting out there (for the less enlightened) is that there are bright individuals that could have been in the gifted and talented program, gone to a better university, obtained a better job than what they received but for the fact that they were lumped in with the "average" kids.

Normally, when schools decide to test children to see if they have a learning disability, it is usually because of poor grade or failing the state benchmark test.  That is it.  If that same student eeked out somewhat good IQ test scores or appeared to be on grade level, nobody gives a rat's turd because, in their mind, this means that a problem doesn't exist.  

Many things affect IQ test scores, and ADHD interferes with that child's ability to sustain the mental effort to take the test.  Therefore, the scores on that test tend to be lower than what they could have been. 

So, let's say, for example, the child's real IQ is 135.  However, because of untreated ADHD, the scores turned out to be a 110 because the kid could not sustain mental effort long enough to do well on the test?

Hey, that is still pretty good, right?  110 is a nice, somewhat above average IQ that you can write home about.  Everyone breathes a sigh of relief and goes on about their day.

Maybe if you attend a school that has a diagnostician that can read the tests, they might notice that there are discrepancies that might warrant further investigation, such as when reviewing their grades, but how often does that happen?

I think about this stuff because I have a friend that teaches special education, and while they didn't discuss much of this with me, it became apparent that nearly everyone that receives help is below their grade level.  Ok, they should be helped, but where is the help for the bright individuals that could have been going to a good university to eventually become an engineer or a doctor were it not for a learning disability or ADD?  

Despite what we purportedly know about disabilities, one can't help but notice that the people working in the front line on the matter including the teachers and counselors don't tend to apply reality to practice.  Maybe it is from the pressure of having a limited budget and fearing that a child will be stigmatized, but let me point out that ADHD is a treatable condition and has been so for many years.  ADHD has the rap of simply being a means of medicating children so that they become zombies in the classroom.  However, people should ask themselves if they felt that same way if they looked into the future and realized that taking a pill every day means the difference between a scholarship and being another also-ran in a regional school.  

I started reflecting upon this when I thought back to my high school.  I had never heard of "Indvidual Education Program" or diagnostician testing until I met my friend who teaches special education.  Here I was, for the longest time, thinking that this was a newfangled thing until I started doing some digging around and discovered that no, the concept had been around since the 1970s.  Yet, here my school was, well over 20 years after the idea was birthed, and they basically had classes in three speeds: slow, medium, and fast.  I don't ever remember anyone being pulled out of class or anything of the sort.  I recall there being a couple of obviously "slow" individuals in my class, but where were the people that had dyslexia?  ADD?  learning disabilities?  Didn't exist.  Not a single student that I can recall was given additional time on tests or any of these other measures that they use for ADHD.

Instead, even now, learning disabilities tend to be readily diagnosed in people attending schools that are on the shitlist because the school is underperforming.  In the end, the truth is that learning disabilities are seen as something those "poor" people have, and because the upper crust tends to be filled with knee-jerk individuals that think that people that need twice as long on tests are cheaters that don't need help, as well as the cost of having to hire someone other than a babysitter for the self-contained class, one can see where they would studiously avoid such things.

Monday, May 12, 2014

For when you are feeling broke

Yahoo News, you are funny sometimes.

Here in this story, you can learn to make a leek soup for when you are feeling broke (not if you are actually broke).

Leek soup for only $10? Lands sakes!

So, is this what 25 year old hipsters who are slumming it eat after making a Whole Foods run?

"Man, today, I ate like a poor person!  I totally get it now.  I sprinkled it with some Plumpy Nut and felt its sustainability coursing through me as I bicycled 25 miles to REI."

Sunday, March 23, 2014

As I lay writing this from my figurative hospital bed....

I am VERY GLAD to hear about enrollment dropping off at law schools.  I have no idea if the media is writing about it as much as they were a few years ago, but I still perform individual grassroots activities in deterring people from the profession of law. 

It is nearly 1 a.m. where I am sitting and I just finished off a glass of wine.  I have become more of a hermit than I can imagine.  I miss that guy that wrote that other blog that shut it down after he revealed his identity.  

Asking for an elimination of law school attendance is like spaying and neutering the entire pet population.  That's great until it turns out like "Children of Men."  

We need SOME lawyers.  Somebody needs to prosecute people and handle divorces.  But being an attorney is like being on American Idol.  Every week is an audition and everyone is vulnerable to being cut.

People can have everything one minute then lose it the next.  There are only a few meteoric people who maintain some sort of trajectory.  There are a few Tom Cruises but many more Chris O'Donnells and Sam Worthingtons that made some big movies then pooped out.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Law School vs. Clown College

I had begun to refer to law school as "clown college," but I realized that it would be an insult to clowns.

Can you imagine?  Say that you don't want to work for Ringling Bros. anymore.  You can put a tip jar out on a street corner and start juggling bowling pins.  People will watch for a few minutes and then leave you money.

 It may not be much, but that spare change adds up over a few hours.  I don't know how many attorneys were ever voluntarily paid anything, and even if accounts are settled full and proper, there is a bit of misery about it for the client, isn't there?  Oops, there went $5,000 that could have gone to buying a new car, and it's been sunk on something they'd rather have never had to pay for in a million years.

Anyway, I'm intrigued by these lawsuits that are going after schools for employment statistics. 

I think back to my own experience.  Technically, at the nine month mark, I was employed in a job that had the potential salary of $50,000+ per year.  I was hired that exact month after being unemployed since graduation.  Then, I left the job in favor of a temp job in a non-legal field, if that tells you anything.

Now, I don't recall ever answering a survey.  I don't recall if one was ever sent to me.  Maybe they did send one.  I recall some sort of email about alerting career services if you still hadn't found anything, so maybe it was a passive "we will only count the people who come forward and ask for help as unemployed and assume everyone else is employed."

Of course, if you have been trying to find a job for quite some time and saw a distinct pattern where career services wasn't working much magic, you are not very enthusiastic about telling them anything.  It's a bit like waiting by the phone for the on-again-off-again boyfriend and you've gotten to that point where you're just sort of laying low and hoping he just drifts away and becomes somebody else's problem as opposed to giving you hope that things are going to be different.

Yes, career services!  You told me a few months ago that things were different because you see that there are problems with how things were going.  Then, I didn't hear from you for several months, and now you send me an email asking me if you would like to get together because you were busy but you were still thinking about me?

Then, you look around and see that your afternoons are filled with making your innards raw from coffee and reading a grade-C novel that you picked up on a whim at the used book store, and you are so desperate for cheap entertainment that you painfully turn through each page as you stare out the window every second paragraph. 


Then you think, "Maybe I should take career services back.  I swore I would never go back to them because they've been telling me this same story for two years now about how great things were going to be if I just reached out to them.  Ha!  My employed friends are tired of me showing up to their gatherings without a job and ask me about career services and what they've been up to recently.  They look at me with a mixture of pity and doubt in their eyes when I tell them that career services is trying really hard, but they are short-staffed and are obviously very busy with OCI and they'll get back to me as soon as they can.  In fact, career services told me to provide them with my class schedule in case a potential employer tried to get in contact with me but had to send them to track me down if my phone was not working and it was absolutely urgent that they speak to me right that moment because I am such an amazing candidate that they won't consider anyone else.

"But then, here I am, at the goddamn Starbucks on a Tuesday afternoon.  If I were that amazing, maybe someone else would have expressed interest.  Hmm.  Maybe career services wasn't that bad.  They did give me coffee and occasional donuts.  And cake.  Don't forget about cake.   They were always very nice.  And they had jovial font on the fliers in the hallways.  Also, have you seen what else is out there?  Craigslist?  Law Crossing?  Maybe they are simply dysfunctional and I should be the one to change.  Maybe career services needs me to be more proactive.  Maybe I am not expressing my needs adequately.  People have told me that I am poor at communicating my needs.  Maybe they were simply waiting for me to make a move all of this time, but they were shy about doing so because they didn't want to look like an obsessive freak.  Really, I am a very cold individual.  Maybe they are giving me another chance because I screwed something up and they have such strong feelings for me that they could not stay away.  You know, I should really be more attentive to the needs of others.  Here I am, blaming them for my own shortcomings when all they were doing was pining away with the desire to help me become more than what I am.  Once again, my own cynicism about people got in the way, and I couldn't recognize that I simply just let it fall apart instead of expressing my needs.  You know what?  I'm going to show them that I still care about them and let them know that I understand that they are trying in their own way."

Thus, despite having my self esteem chipped away each time I went through this, the cycle would inevitably restart.

However, on this occasion, I don't think I bothered replying to them because I was in secret celebration that I had just found a job.  Yes, I can just passively act like I never got their email and act surprised if I accidentally run into them at a school CLE event.  After all, this was now the year 2010.  Technology was so finicky that everything goes directly into the Spam box.  Plus, only old people checked their email.  It was nothing but text and Facebook, bay-bee!

Ah, but when I say that I changed jobs unexpectedly, I don't think my case was that unusual.  I think there are more than a few of my classmates that had already made job changes within two years.  This highlights the ever migratory world of legal employment.  Just like circus carnies, many will dabble in a variety of trades and employers.  Many fall off the hamster wheel they get tired enough, so it leaves this interesting picture of what true Darwinism looks like when seeing which people make it to the golden status of old geezer attorney.  Most of the people who are hired at big firms are gone within a few short years and new room is made for another round of people who think they've struck it big.

So, what they really need when measuring law school statistics is basically the equivalent to the life cycle of a star sort of diagram.

Step 1:  The non-attorney enters a ring of dark matter and is compressed for 3 years until nuclear reaction takes place.

Step 2:  The new lawyer is launched from the nursery where they are humiliated by people with high school diplomas and 20 years experience in the field they are trying to work in.

Step 3:  The new lawyer is tired of working for the jackass who is paying them nothing and keeping the rest of it for hookers and private planes.  The new lawyer decides they too can have hookers and private planes.

Step 4:  The new lawyer creates a new law firm.  They may even "go in" with someone.  Unbeknownst to new lawyer, the new partner is setting about in stealing their clients behind their back.  The new venture falls apart and moving trucks are brought in during the middle of the night to haul away case files without a Dear John letter. 

Step 5:  Bitterness and alcohol ensues.  Complaints to the state bar are made about your failure to keep the client apprised of their case.  Somewhere along the way, you may need to make a stop at the special attorney AA meetings as recommended by the State bar and have your work overseen by another attorney as you are on "probation."

Step 6:  Tort reform bills are passed.  The business base dries up, and the lawyer seeks out a last minute certification to teach high school English.  The student loans from years past are still hovering around like a goddamn horse fly that is determined as all hell to take away a yummy chunk of your arm if you would only hold still just long enough.  Oddly, even though you've paid on them for nearly 10 years at this point, they are still nearly about the same size as the day you graduated from law school thanks to deferments and low income and such.

Yes, so only if we could get attorneys to write out their full bio, then people who are thinking about law school may understand because numerical statistics just don't cut it.