When in the office today, I noticed many people decided to show their patriotism before the holiday weekend by wearing red white and blue clothing and accessories. It made me think that maybe I should have rolled around in petroleum this morning and come to work showing my true American stripes. This led to an idea to dress up as a sea turtle, stand on the side of the interstate, light myself on fire and tell those assholes to quit driving so much. I pondered the legal, cosmetic and environmental damages involved and decided a quick Photoshop job would suffice.

Happy Independence Day! How free are you?

A quote that has stuck with me for a while is “Family is not strictly biological”. There are two holidays that I don’t celebrate annually, “Mothers Day” and “Fathers Day”. While it is quite common for children to be raised in broken homes presently, most have a connection with at least one of their parents. While I won’t get into details about this, I can say having parents that were less than responsible or caring has been a blessing in my life as I’ve learned to appreciate the important people in my life and the love that they give.

The great thing about love is that you can create as much as you would like and there are endless ways to celebrate it. Reflecting on my weekend, I’ve realized that we shouldn’t limit ourselves on the moments we dedicate to others in our lives. I spent the weekend with great friends and realized that we often take great relationships in our lives for granted.

I think it’s important to have friends that remind you of who you are rather than make you think of who you aren’t. It’s amazing to have friends whose happiness equals your happiness and whose sorrows and plights easily become your own.

So while parents can be wonderful things, and I’ve even been “adopted” by amazing parents of other people, the great thing about the world is that we can be led, raised and inspired by so many things and people around us. It’s so easy to “blame our parents” for our struggles and the negative things in our lives but it’s even easier to find something else to divert our love to if we want to. It’s just harder to open our eyes and hearts to those things because of fear or a lack of motivation. So, blog readers, I challenge you to find something that forces you to be thankful for each day, without a holiday reminder.

A story told on Frank Chimero’s blog:

One day, a Tibetan Lama was speaking to a group of monks and, to make a point, pulled out a large jar, set it on the table in front of him, produced a few fist-sized rocks, and placed them, one by one, into the jar. When no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, “Is this jar full?”

Everyone said, “Yes.” He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel, dumped some in and shook the jar, the gravel worked between the rocks. Again, he asked: “Is this jar full?” The monks were catching on. “Probably not,” one answered. “Good!” he replied and reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He dumped the sand into the jar until it filled all the crevices. Once more he asked: “Is this jar full?”

“No!” the monks shouted.

“Good!” He said and grabbed a pitcher of water and poured until the jar was filled to the brim. Then asked, “What is the point of this illustration?” One young monk responded, “The point is, no matter how full your day you can always fit some more things in.”

“No,” the speaker replied. “The point is that if you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all.”

When I think of big rocks, I think of the Peace Corps. It’s now or never! I’ve heard too many stories of people who put it off in order for small rocks, or rocks of similar sizes and then were never able to fulfill that dream. When thinking of the “big rocks” I’ve managed to fit in the past, I ask myself, “How do you know WHICH big rocks to choose from”.

We live in a rocky world and I feel like in the past, I’ve had two big rocks to choose from and only one would fit. I think I chose the best option but maybe I would have made the best out of either option anyway and trying to collect big rocks is a waste of time. Maybe life isn’t a jar of big ugly rocks anyway. Maybe it’s a jar of the little things; colored sand in which meaning is only found at the end when you’ve created something beautiful. It’s the little things that bring so much joy and meaning , the things that we miss out on by worrying to much about the big rocks.

So maybe not all big rocks are ugly. Cannon Beach, Oregon. One of my happy places :-)

After watching the movie Religulous recently , I have come to a strange question to pose to the” conservative-drill-baby-drill-praise-jesus-praise”! crowd. So maybe some of the effects (greenhouse gases and their potential consequences) are invisible but so isn’t your God? Although it’s not something we can immediately see, its something people continue to live and believe in based on what MIGHT happen with their lives.

One argument is that “God controls” the Earth and the Earth will come to an end when he wants it to and there is no way we can control. But according to these beliefs, we have this thing called free will that lets us have choices. If we “left everything to God” why would we ever work for anything when we’re eventually going to end up in a predetermined place? Perhaps we DO control our lives and just like we can get up and slap the person across from you, you also have the same power to do harm to the land that your survival depends on.

I feel like I may get some hate mail for this but I’m not trying to undermine anyone’s beliefs. I believe there is a God but I don’t have a religion. If I do, it’s practicing care and consideration for life around me and not letting conservative politicians send me contradictory messages. What Would Jesus Do?

I often think about the power of reproduction is often an environmental factor that is ignored. We often like to conveniently ignore the values that we hold dear to our hearts (like books!) in our conservation efforts. Baby-making happens to often be one of those values.
Some reasoning behind this:

- Our fear of “disappearing” after our deaths
- Societal pressures and expectations
- Justification that your kid is going to do more good than bad for the Earth
- the need to “have your own” kid and not adopt someone else’s

This author poses the idea of having a “last generation” in order to prevent more suffering to the human race.  I would have to say I disagree with this plan.

I think that pain is a natural part of life. Surely, past generations have seen less hopeful circumstances than we have. Imagine what would have been lost if they would have thrown in the towel back then. One might ask if we’ve made more positive progress than setbacks but I am a firm believer that the human race needs to struggle in order to produce something beautiful and WORTH LIVING FOR.

We have set up unfavorable living circumstances for the future, but, being a fairly passionate activist myself for a variety of issues, I find it extremely fulfilling to work towards change, even when opposition is pushing back at full force. In fact, I am more apt to wanting to raise a child in hopes that they will do more than I have and move society forward.

I completely understand those who choose not to reproduce, especially for environmental reasons. I only hope that these same people are doing so to fully put their efforts towards making things better and not because they’ve completely given up hope. I also hope that these same people would not judge those who decide to have kids. Everyone has their own way of contributing to the world and we should never strop trying, no matter what method we choose.

Also, adoption seems like a great way to help save the world while simultaneously raising someone to continue those efforts. I feel like the author of the NYT article fails to raise this important point. So many people look over this option, when in reality, before we continue to consume more resources (or have children) perhaps we should try to take care of what we have and take a responsibility to forgo our selfish ideas of an “ideal life or family” and try doing things a different way.

I just read an article that Wal-Mart is going to offer it’s employees a college program!

Wow, environmental stewards, cheap prescriptions AND they want to educate society for the better! What good guys!

From an article in the New York Times: “With the work credits and tuition discount, an associate’s degree for a Wal-Mart or Sam’s Club cashier would cost about $11,700 and a bachelor’s degree about $24,000.”

So, although this healthcare deprived college grad enjoys cheap prescriptions from Wal-Mart, I’ve been annoyed at their greenwashing in the past but this put me over the edge. If you disagree and want to point out the good that Wal-Mart does, please enlighten me. I’d appreciate a little hope.

Why would it make sense for Wal-Mart to give you a degree that is actually going to take you places? Is this Wal-Mart taking advantage of their employees who have little education and who maybe don’t have the resources to uncover their scams? What is the back door deal of Wal-Mart pushing all of these new “students” to this ONE university? The only one that benefits from this, in my opinion, is Wal-Mart and the business of shady online colleges who want to use this as an opportunity to dig in the pockets of those with dreams of finally being able to obtain higher education. It’s wrong and terrible.

Take a look at tuition here. They have some nice low prices listed and have said “We do not want costs to get in the way of your education. We have streamlined our tuition and fees to make it easy for you to estimate and cover any expenses. “ Prices by credits are listed but it doesn’t have a hard cost per semester. That doesn’t sound so streamlined to me so I dug a little more…

Cost for two semesters of 12 credit -$6,000

My own bachelors degree cost me about $10,000 less than the cost of a degree from this online college. I also had financial aid but my university at least had standards and requirements for acceptance to receive that financial aid. I also received a lot more than an online classroom. To name a few: a physical location, classroom techonologies, numerous physical support services and offices, student activities, a membership to the rec center, computer support, athletic events, access to free rental hardware, HOUSING AND BOARD FOR A YEAR, etc.

Is Wal-Mart educating their workers on the real cost of education after loan interest? Lets take a look:

Lets say you make $30,000 when you graduate.

With an interest rate of 6.8%, your $24,000 bachelors degree accumulates with interest to $33,143. This ends in a payment of $276/month over ten years.

If you were to receive $14,000 in government subsidized loans, ( I chose Subsidized Stafford Loans for Undergraduate School) with an interest rate of 5.6%, and took out additional loans with the 6.8% rate, the total cost comes to $28,675, with monthly payments of $268.

I found these figures using an application on the College Board Website. That’s ten years of payments that a Wal-Mart employee (because they’re not promised better jobs or higher pay by doing this program) must afford for their online education.

While doing my own college search when I was in high school, I wanted to see the products of the university so I looked up alumni…Lets take a look at APU alumni:

As you will notice, most are all military accomplishments, completed by doing the military, not APU. These people could have done ROTC at a physical location of a college or university but these physical schools, unlike APU, require standards; a high school diploma, test scores of some sort, etc. This would be a perfect option for those in the military who don’t have these qualifications, which MIGHT fit a few Wal-Mart employees but if you look at the degrees of some of these “success” stories, very few of them are going to be earned by being a cashier at Wal-Mart (M.A. in Military Studies, B.A. in Criminal Justice with Honors, B.A. in Psychology with Honors, M.A. in International Relations and Conflict Resolution with Honors)

Some of the milestones:

  • Class of 2010 – Matthew W. Mehalick (AMU student M.A. Environmental Policy and Management) was recently engaged to Lindsay Nanz. The wedding is planned for October 2010.
  • Mike E. Sanders (AMU student M.A. in Sports Management) ran with his wingman for the finish line during the Air Force Half Marathon on Sept. 19, 2009. Sergeant Sanders finished the event under the 1:40:00 barrier, and only one year and eight months after beating cancer. He was promoted to Senior Master Sergeant on December 1, 2009.

Good accomplishments, that’s great. But really, you don’t need to pay $33,000 to do these things. I will say most of my facts on here came from the APU website and the NYT article. I looked on the Wal-Mart site and there was a link to the online college, APU, and another link only for employees so please feel free to comment and make any corrections in this post.

In conclusion, this post isn’t meant to degrade any employee of Wal-Mart. This is actually speaking up for them. It’s also speaking against the corporation that the educational system has become. I’ve participated in it and in a recent blog, you can read more about my own opinions from my experience but if I can say anything positive at all about the high price of education, I can say the networking and the people have made me successful.

You are a product of the people you experience in your lifetime and this is important to realize.  The educational experience should include personal interaction that is not found in front of a computer screen.

If a degree is really important to you, where there is a will, there is a way and community college is a great choice to get started. If I need to tell you a story of a mom with several children that managed to earn a degree, I will, but I think we’ve all heard it before.  If you just want to learn for self-growth and only have time to do it online, there are free online courses and lectures from prestigious universities. We’ve become a society where we want instant results. We want to earn money quickly and easily.

In reality, true pleasure comes as a byproduct of hard work, discomfort and pain and that’s the truth (wise words from author David Foster Wallace). Don’t let Mr. Walton tell you otherwise.

I have a political science background and many times people tend to think I have a strong opinion on everything or am up to date on the latest oil spill development, renewable energy legislation, etc. Instead of giving in to the pressure to read new developments each day, I choose to give in to the fact that just being angry or having an opinion against my government isn’t going to do me much good. In fact, I chose to complement my political science degree with a second journalism major and this has taught me that what I read in the news isn’t necessarily what I need to know or what I should know. (In fact, this blogger has an interesting point on the tendency of the media to point fingers without taking any responsibility)

For example, the news wants to deliver the ugly fighting and bickering between our federal government and BP on the recent oil spill. In response, we’re angry that Obama isn’t doing enough, that big oil isn’t regulated, that no one is taking full responsibility or acting quick enough for the sake of our environment. I’m sorry to say but I have faith that our government really does care about the environment and wants to fix the solution. We are seeing an extreme tragedy occuring in terms of our environment but THINGS ARE MUCH MORE COMPLEX than we think, but at the same time, our response, as citizens of this country, needs to be so simple. In the time we spend denouncing our government and demanding results, we can start producing our own.

I recently read a book about Mister Rogers where he describes the difference between an accuser and an advocate. While an accuser sits around and discusses the injustices of the world, an advocate does something about it. I think he’s on to something. And so is this man, Doug Fine, the carbon neutral cowboy who decided to decrease his need for petroleum by dramatically changing his living habits. I know that most of us are a long cry away from raising our own goats to make our own ice cream and powering our diesel truck with vegetable oil, but we can realize that the power of big oil companies originates in our demand for it.

So while others continue to bicker and political decisions progress slowly in the wake of upcoming elections, I think it’s time we become the advocate. It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood! Why don’t you explore it with your bike, or research the products that use petroleum?(there is no way we’ll completely be free, there are so many products, but we can make significant decreases) Think of the real cost involved in the products you buy and the costs that taxpayers incur costs from a $6 billion per day clean up.

If I have any disappointment in our leadership, its their failure to stimulate a movement of change as a result of disaster (if you click on any of these hyperlinks, make sure its this Op-ed in the New York Times). With a captive audience and all eyes on oil, it’s time to look at that oily reflective gulf surface and find change within ourselves instead of waiting for it to come from Capitol Hill.

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