Month: May 2012

But not a real green dress, that’s cruel.

I just finished a semester at IUPUI. There comes a certain point when you’ve just had enough and need to take a break for a while. I had my math exam a couple of Fridays back and shut down completely after all the studying and effort required took its toll on me.

Math comes easy for some people. My brain works better with words, themes, concepts, thoughts, theories and expressions. My brain does not like the idea of one solution. It just doesn’t suit me well and as a result my math classes are a source of haggard desperation which results in hardcore studying a few days before an exam to make sure my mind is condition to perform the tasks at hand.

That’s not an excuse for not writing though. It’s interesting how much pleasure taking the time to write gives me and yet how often I avoid it. I wonder if other writers have that problem. If you do, what’s your solution for getting through it?

It is difficult juggling passions in life. I have several passions and sometimes it feels like I’m stirring too many pots. I have my beautiful wife. I have two adorable kitties. I have two guitars that I keep plucking at trying to learn how to play. I bought some running shoes because I’d like to try and run a 5k next year. I have my writing. I have this degree that I’m trying to figure out how to pay for. I have my job. I find that I have at the end of the day a strong desire to just reside myself to the couch and call it a day, tomorrow will be better. But it never is. It is never a good time to pursue everything. Multitasking is fundamentally flawed at its core.

The reality of trying to do everything at once is impossible. In order to pursue something, a task, a passion, a dream or even a family, you have to focus on them. While most of my tasks and passions don’t have feelings like my wife does, imagine how your tasks would feel (if they had feelings) if they were constantly ignored as you shuffled your attention around the room. How much longer does it take you to accomplish a simple task if you constantly shift between tasks? Or in my case, how many tasks do you simply never get around to by your own prioritization?

So what are the priorities here? How I strive to define them:

Separate things you can live without.

Example: Do I need to learn how to play the guitar right now?  No, so why do I stress out about not having time to play? I made a decision today. I’m selling my guitars. If you’re interested in a beautiful sounding acoustic and a relatively inexpensive starter electric, let me know.  I might be willing to make a deal.

Decide what is important to you.

Example: My wife is extremely important to me. She makes a lot of the things I am capable of possible by simply believing in me. Faith can be a very powerful thing.

Example: Writing. No better thought in my mind exists than these words from Rainer Marie Rilke

“There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple “I must,” then build your life in accordance with this necessity…” ~ Rainer Marie Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet


This is the tough part. In order to succeed in any of your passions you must be willing to execute the plan. My advice is to set aside time for everything and not time for doing everything at once. Define a time when you will write pursue your passion; if that’s 4am, when your wife is sleeping, do it. If it’s on your lunch hour, so be it.

I am currently working on a short story or flash fiction. I suppose it matters what the word count is. I need to make the time for it. I hope to share it soon.

Thanks for reading!

Education: Why my degree doesn’t matter.

Every month, I review my credit report and follow up with any inaccuracies. I found several around a year ago and have been vigilant about maintaining my credit score ever since. However, that is not what this post is about. While reviewing the credit report, I discovered that I have a simply staggering amount of student loan debt. I could easily buy a reasonably sized family home in my hometown, Kokomo, Indiana.

Opinion: It currently costs too much to seek education in the traditional way.

I realize that every situation leading into education is different. In some cases, parents foot the bill, in other cases the student is meant to get student loans, and of course in the best case scenario the student receives a full-ride scholarship. For most of us, there is a great deal of cost either personally or parentally.

Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI): According to their website it costs $247.90 per credit hour. We’ll for the sake of argument tack on an extra $32.10 to cover book costs and that gets us to $280.00 per credit hour. A full load of classes (12 hours) will run you $3360 minimum to get through a semester. This doesn’t even take into account things like parking, food, transportation, gasoline and personal time commitment cost.

Indiana University Kokomo (IU Kokomo): According to IU Kokomo’s website it costs $193.47 per credit hour to attend undergraduate classes. There is a sizeable difference here. Will I obtain a lesser degree by attending classes at IU Kokomo versus IUPUI?

Opinion: The current education system drives people into debt without much to show for it.

You may argue that you get a degree or experience. In my particular area of study most of my learning was self-imposed. Some of it was inspired in the classroom and some of it was pursued on my own. Education should be a self-motivated mission. You cannot simply pay for an educational upgrade. We haven’t reached Kurzweil’s Singularity, yet.

Colleges and universities are constantly trying to keep up with the technological demands of their facilities. They are upgrading their sports arenas and building additional parking garages (or at least they should be!) and in this process of constantly upgrading they are also running short of government funding to help augment the costs. None of this actually leads to a quality upgrade to the educational system. Why should it? An overhaul would cost more money that the university doesn’t have. So as the costs continue to rise and the quality of education remains the same your degree is rendered bewilderingly useless other than to meet the line item of “4 year degree required” on a job posting. Where does that leave you?

“Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.” ~ Oscar Wilde

This leaves you to embark on your own journey unaided or guided by curriculum and faculty. When you leave college you are still considered unprepared to work a job in your field.  Some people will turn you away and tell you to come back when you have more experience. Where then do you acquire this experience? Unpaid internships that further drag you into debt’s waiting maw? What did you say your degree was in?

“I think everyone should go to college and get a degree and then spend six months as a bartender and six months as a cab driver. Then they would really be educated.” ~ Al McGuire

Opinion: Education should be free because education benefits all mankind.

The student grows by absorbing knowledge and logic. Critical thinking should be taught early on. We should be prepared to process and adapt to changing resources, knowledge and technology. Our education should not have an expiration date on usefulness.

Ultimately, if students were guided towards advancing human knowledge we would all benefit. However, there has to be a paradigm shift in which we stop hoarding our discoveries. I am all for patents, temporary in nature, to take credit for your discovery. However, discoveries should be openly passed along so that the next step can be taken. All discoveries should be shared as should failures.

Take medicine for example. Why should we have to wait 10 years for the next step in pioneering a new treatment or combining two patented molecules for better results? Keep driving the research constantly and as a corporation you could still profit just by doing the most good for humanity instead of patenting the “premier” drug for “x” condition. This is not exclusive to temporary patents. I believe that it makes sense to be able profit from the work you do. It simply does not make sense to hold the endeavors of humanity back because you want to make a few million dollars first.

Why I don’t value the current educational path to a degree as much as I would value a family home.

I’m going to tell you.

You realize that you are paying someone to force you to read a book. This person, no matter how charismatic or interesting, is pacing themselves along a designated path in order to meet the requirements of curriculum for the numbered class you’re in. I have had some wonderful engaging professors in my classes. I am not discounting their abilities or their efforts. A few of them have been truly inspiring and have caused me to pursue my education outside the classroom. Dr. Scott Jones and Gregory Steel at IU Kokomo were instrumental in shaping the way I will forever approach knowledge and problems. Unfortunately, not everyone is as fortunate to study under such excellent instructors.

Education… has produced a vast population able to read but unable to distinguish what is worth reading. ~ G.M. Trevelyan

Next problem, your instructors should be helping to advance the field and not simply regurgitating it. Education should be up to the minute, now, fresh and happening. However, because of the requirements and the perception of the need for uniform educational outcomes, it becomes impossible to keep coursework fresh. Students should be advancing the field right along with their instructors, stretching the realms of the existing knowledge. This isn’t exclusive to science even though it seems to resonate strongly within the scientific realm. There’s no reason that this couldn’t be applied to art, music, writing, political science, social work and so on. There’s always something to do, some envelope to push, a deviation to explore and a world full of ideas to embrace and abandon in favor of the next step.

How much do you value your degree?