It is done

•7 May, 2010 • 1 Comment

So, in my previous post I said I would be donating my hair to the cleanup efforts in the Gulf. Here’s the results…

And with that, I also don’t feel quite so hot now, which is nice considering I have no air conditioning.

Hair today, Gulf tomorrow

•5 May, 2010 • 1 Comment

So, I just heard about how they (not entirely sure who actually can be credited with this) have realized that hair can be used to help clean up the oil spill/flow/hose/whatever-you-wanna-call-it in the Gulf of Mexico. Anyone that knows me, is most likely to know I have long hair.

Well, I may not be able to go get a job as a foreman on a cleanup barge like my father did during the Valdez spill in ’89, but I can donate hair. And frankly, as much as I do like having long hair, this summer is gonna be hot enough without an insulating matt on my head. Though I guess I can look forward to sun-burned scalp… Been there, it’s not fun.

The plight of an adult college student…

•5 May, 2010 • Leave a Comment

So, I’m returning some rentals to the local BlockBuster, and I end up having a most interesting conversation with one of the employees. Seems he’s taking one or two classes a semester at AB Tech also. So, I take the opportunity to ask him a few questions based on my own issues with the school. Turns out we’re experiencing similar problems. He plans on transferring to UNCA for mechatronic engineering. However, the folks at AB Tech have him registered in the school’s “general education” program and according to the people at UNCA, most of the courses he’s taken won’t transfer because they’re not needed in the mechatronics program. Now, I have no way to verify every part of what he told me about this. But considering he mentioned this before I explain my own situation, I find it a bit too much of a “coincidence” to not take some of it at face value.

Which brings me to this point of concern once again: am I in the correct program, and if not, what will happen to the courses I’ve already taken? Will they still apply towards the correct program? Will I have to “redo” the past 5 semesters completely? How much could this screw my education plans? Oh, and there’s also the bit where he mentions that he knows several people who are currently attempting to sue AB Tech for mishandling their financial aid. Now again, this isn’t something I can verify, not immediately anyway. But if true, it certainly does explain quite a bit, quite simply.

In a time when so many general behaviours of organizations and businesses are under enough scrutiny, to the point they make extra efforts to at least appear that they are operating “as they’re supposed to,” I can “excuse” a few random “oopses.” There’s always that one person who isn’t up to speed on how things should be done, or is just so new to the job they don’t know any better yet, etc. But I can’t accept more than one or two isolated cases as falling under that “oops” factor. Nevermind the fact that most “entities” will try to claim their “oops moments” as just that: accidents with nothing else to it other than one person making a mistake. I just can’t accept “gross mismanagement” as a mistake.

Now, everything I’ve said here is based upon my own personal experience over the years, and a random conversation at the video rental store. The only thing I can’t verify yet, is what the other guy said. I know what I’ve seen, heard, read, and lived through. However, to be fair, I have to admit that I may not be aware of issues going on “behind the scenes” through all points in my life experience. But I can use what appears to be true to deduce the “facts” around it. Meaning my conclusions are based upon available information that I am aware of. So, based on what I’ve been aware of, this is starting to stink of poor handling of “business” by the school.

This all makes me really wonder if I’m even getting a quality education from AB Tech. And for anyone who might argue that “the guy has his own problems with the school, and wants other people to agree with him,” you’re right. Maybe he does have issues (his own, or the school’s) about AB Tech. But why would he bring them up before knowing my own stance? Just something to think about on the “other side of the fence…”

Audiomulched…

•4 May, 2010 • Leave a Comment

So, while I haven’t done anything new in a while, I do try my hand at creating my own music from time to time. I figured I might as well toss a link up, for any who may be interested. There’s also a new perma-link on the sidebar but hey, doesn’t hurt to do a post as well, right?

So, without further ado, here is the link.

Xandalis on Sampleswap.org

Locke and Demosthenes anyone?

•3 May, 2010 • Leave a Comment

So, I can’t help but find myself constantly irked by what I hear and read, regarding our political strata. And it suddenly hit me: fine-point details aside, the whole of the “blog-sphere” is pretty much the same as the network described in Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. And frankly, this kind of scares me. Not because I see the potential for the same social maneuvering Card also portrayed in Ender’s Game, but because I have yet to see a coherent effort to do just that.

Now don’t get me wrong, that idea is also rather scary to me. But I have to admit, that the apparent lack of such a thing, worries me just as much. Now maybe I haven’t been looking in the right places, or digging hard enough. But with the constant sense I get, that most people in the USA are unhappy in some way or another with our government, I can’t help but wonder why this isn’t going on in a more coherent way. Sure, I see lots of sociopolitical blogging, but most of it strikes me as hot air from one side or another. I don’t get a very strong sense of anything “solid” behind the views. And I believe that for a person to have a “worthy” opinion, they should be fully capable of defending their stance. To me that includes being able to explain the history behind it, what logic/rationality a person uses to support the opinion, and most importantly; the ability to realize that no matter how loud the voice, how wild the waving-of-arms, how big the sign, “volume” does nothing to actually support a belief.

I admit that if no one can hear or see the message, it doesn’t much matter. But to me the person who can walk up to the opposition and genuinely shake their hands, and yet still “hold their sign,” is far more likely to get my attention than a person who just shouts a protest-chant and carries a sign. Is it so hard to challenge someone else’s beliefs in a way that leaves a person’s own beliefs exposed to challenge?

I remember one time in downtown Asheville, on Lexington Ave. (Ah, how I miss Vincent’s Ear), I met a woman handing out chick tracts on homosexuality. When she approached me and asked if I would like to hear about how gays are sinners, I asked her “according to whom?” She responded by saying that gays went against God’s word. “And what is God’s word,” I asked. Her response was “Why the Bible, of course.” “Well, then I’m sure you can tell me where it is in the Bible that God says homosexuality is a sin,” was my next response. She stood there for a moment, looking at me with what I considered to be a rather confused look on her face. Then she said “But everyone knows that God hates gays.”

Now, I’ll grant the fact that it is a commonly accepted concept that God wrote the Bible. But I can recall no specific scripture, no specific passage, that says anything to the effect of “I am God, and to be gay, is to go against my word.” I do recall plenty of people written about, in the Bible, saying it is wrong. But not a whole lot of “direct from God” stuff. And if God is real, in the way that christians believe God to be real (I have my own views on this, most of which would probably earn me a few “blasphemer!” calls), I really don’t think any of this would even be an issue.

In both documented (non-religious) history and in Biblical history, God is a rather wrathful, vengeful, and generally worthy-of-fear. But nowhere in either version (including where both histories agree), do I recall the people that offended God, going unpunished themselves. Now some of those examples are rather strange, like the soldier who tried to protect the Ten Commandments, and was struck down for touching them. I know if I were God, and some pieces of stone with letters and symbols carved into them were that important to me, I’d probably reward the person who tried to protect them. But that’s me. And yes, there were usually “collateral” smiting of those who were either actually connected to, or just unlucky enough to be standing too close to the source of God’s wrath. Though if I recall correctly, all “offenders” of God’s will were struck down pretty quickly and obviously.

Which comes back around to the whole idea of being able to support a belief or opinion with more than hot air. And by proxy, the reasons behind this post. If anyone out there chooses to start writing with the intent of fostering change in our society, please do the best possible to be sure the opinions and conclusions can stand under scrutiny. No, that doesn’t mean “invincible.” But I do think it gives people more of a reason to at least listen to something they might not agree with, thereby giving the opinion or idea more than just passing thought.

So, if anyone cares to use the stage, the stage is set. And if anyone who reads this, cares to correct me on any point, I welcome the challenge. Or if anyone knows where I should look for such a group, I would appreciate being “in the know.” Why? Because I both enjoy taking part in civil debates, and I feel that there is merit in simply opening oneself to ideas and thoughts from other people. That doesn’t mean I agree with everything that “everyone else” thinks, but I at least like to know why.

Academic Database/Search Engine Access

•3 May, 2010 • Leave a Comment

As stated before, I will post information regarding current access to academic materials. These lists will not include public-access sources.

Libraries

 

Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College – Holly Library

Databases/Search Engines

 

EBSCOhost

VA 1, AT2 0

•3 May, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Alright, a brief summary of important facts.

  • I served 5 years on active duty in the US Navy
  • I advanced to AT2 (pay grade E5)
  • I am currently drawing on my chapter 30 GI Bill benefits
  • I am currently attending Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College

Now that I’ve gotten the summary out-of-the-way, I can get to the point. I dropped from full-time at 13 credit hours, to 3/4 time  at 10 credit hours. On 22 Apr 2010, the VA calculated that I received an overpayment of about $1200, due to status change. My full-time benefits run about $1800 a month, which are now reduced to about $1300 a month. Unless payment/deduction arrangements are made before my next scheduled benefit deposit, I really shouldn’t have to explain the math, that will leave me with about $100 for the entire month of May. Just how is a full-time (well, technically 3/4 time) student, who isn’t working, supposed to get by on that?

Let’s see… my rental agreement has me paying $500 a month, by itself. I also will have to pay tuition this month, for the summer semester. Mind you, that’s not for 12+ credit hours during the summer. The VA considers 7 credit hours full-time during summer semester. So, tuition at AB Tech is currently about $50 per credit hour. That’s 2 or 3 classes, so assume 2 or 3 books. Let’s just use a nice, easy figure of about $300 for books/materials. So.. 500+350(approximate tuition for a full-time semester in the summer)+300 = 1150. Any disagreements? And if I’m not even sure if they will or will not take any action on the overpayment at this time (without arrangements, the VA will just deduct the total amount from my next benefit check). Anyone see a problem here?

And then, let’s not forget that about 6 months ago, approximately 90% of daily calls to the VA’s education benefits department went unanswered. Any veteran out there who’s used their benefits can probably tell you how clunky, un-supportive, and generally difficult the VA’s website (in this case, specifically http://www.gibill.va.gov/) is to use. And also, I do believe that most vets out there are as uncomfortable as I am sending personal information “blind.” Ie, sending forms with my social security number, and other identifying data that can be used for identity theft, to “whom it may concern” in “department [blah].” Especially when only a few years ago, the VA had well over 250,000 veteran records that were stolen. Not a very good track record for confidence.

So, if anyone out there ever thinks anything similar to “I just don’t get why veterans aren’t happy with their benefits,” I want you to take a very good look at available facts and information on just how the VA has performed its job. Also, if anyone ever thinks or says something similar to “I just don’t get why all the ‘crazy vets’ are ‘crazy,” think about how you would feel given the situation. But, if that’s not good enough for anyone, consider this: do you really want a person who has the training and skill to operate almost any firearm or other weaponized device (or knows HOW to weaponize something), getting angry enough to consider using that training outside of “established guidelines?” Because you know what? While I don’t agree that violence will solve any problems a veteran encounters with the VA, I sure as hell can’t blame anyone who finally hits that “boiling point.” This translates to “They’re wrong for going postal, but I’m gonna cheer ’em on anyway.”

Do we really need to let our veterans be subjected to this kind of treatment? As long as we do, expect to see “angry vet syndrome.” You can call it whatever you like, you could even borrow a phrase from Fight Club with “we are the people who watch you while you sleep…. Do not fuck with us.” Very solid point there, I might add. We did our service, made our sacrifices, lost pieces of ourselves, and in general “sold our soul” knowingly and willingly. All we want is to get what was promised, without hassle, without spending 5 hours trying to talk to a real-live human being at the VA. especially when that 5 hours ends with basically being told “yeah, you’ve got a major hassle coming up here.”

Is it too much to ask, to get our benefits without a hassle? To try to maximize the effectiveness of our 36 months of educational benefits, when in reality that won’t cover a standard bachelor’s degree? Yes, it’ll cover most of a four-year education, but not all of it. Okay, fine, I can handle that. So just give me my freakin’ $1800 a month and let me try to figure the rest out.

Okay, I’m ending the “angry vet” rant now.