Metallica in Minneapolis

I just returned from Minneapolis. I saw Metallica at the Metrodome! What an awesome show. Okay, the experience wasn’t as great as it sounds… until Metallica came on stage. I also saw Linkin Park and Limp Bizkit, who also put on a great show (I’m not a big fan, though). But it was kind of nuts between sets (about an hour). Overall, though, Metallica was worth the wait.

I also saw my good friends Jason and Liz who moved there about three years ago. They have a wonderful house, and they were really hospitable. Jason is a multi-talented musician, and we had a chance to jam a little together. I have a link to their web page in My Links. Pictures will be up soon.

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My Web site evolution

I’m still working on the new evolution pages in My Scrapbook, and it will probably not be published until later. I was also thinking about redeveloping a new site for the new URL. But after really thinking about it, it will be a while. So, I’ll publish this site to the new host later this week. I really apologize for keeping everyone waiting.

Speaking of everyone, I’d be interested in hearing what directions my site should go, or if it should keep going the way it is now. Please e-mail me: bri902string at charter dot net (substitute “@” for “at” and “.” for “dot,” and don’t put spaces in between anything). All feedback is welcome, including whether or not you visit the site often, what would keep you coming back, if I should rewrite certain sections, and whether you agree or disagree with my Soapbox rantings.

809 area code

I just received a message from a friend with a warning about dialing a phone number in the 809 area code. Being the analyst that I am, I looked into it and discovered that the warning is justified, but a little exaggerated. With the multitude of rumors and hoaxes swirling around out there, I decided to add some new links and break them out of the “Computers” section. Go to My Links to see those links.

I haven’t had much time to work on the new “Evolution” stuff, but I should have time this weekend to start moving stuff. Even if I don’t, I plan on migrating this site over there. I’ve also been working on the banners and the background (note the Wisconsin flag to the left). A little work is in order.

Speakers, scrapbooking, etc.

Whew, what a weekend. I not only spent a lot of time moving around on Saturday, but I also worked on speakers almost all day on Sunday. And it didn’t seem to stop, either. I had my second scrapbook class this evening. Even after doing that, I still found time to update the soapbox I published just the other night. What’s different? I added a few paragraphs near the end.

In case anyone is interested, the new site is up, but it references this site at the moment. I’ve added a link below to let people become acquainted with the new site.

Visit from friends

As promised, I’ve released the new soapbox article. Also, I’ve worked out some bugs with the new site. I have nothing on it yet, but I plan to have it up by next weekend.

I visited the “Art Fair on the Square” event in Madison today. There’s nothing more exciting than seeing lots of art. Okay, there are more exciting things. But it was nice to get out, stretch the legs, and catch a few rays all while seeing some interesting things. My friends Mark and Sandy came out for the fair and invited me to join them. We had dinner, stopped for coffee at the local Barnes and Noble, and saw a movie. The movie, “28 Days,” was just a disturbing film about a virus infection that leads many people to evacuate the country. There are many people that are infected with a disease called “rage,” but a handful of people aren’t infected and try to survive by avoiding the infected. The film was just really awesome… disturbing, but awesome.

Tomorrow, I help a friend put together some speakers. Guitars will be played.

More info on new Web host

How often is it that I write this frequently to the site? Not often, right? So what’s going on? Well, as I wrote yesterday, I have a new site and domain. I am still working on configuring it and getting it to work, but I would like to have it up and running by next week. As I also stated yesterday, I’m not changing this site… yet. I have some new ideas for the next site, but those ideas will probably be a few months down the road (good winter project).

Perhaps you would like a little information about the new site. It’s hosted through alterahosting.com. They offered a really good rate for a 100 MB site: $49.99 a year. I also registered a domain name. Now I’m not going to release it just yet, but I will say that it is not a dot-com. Since I’m still working on configuring the site, I will need to keep it quiet (security more than anything). At any rate, until I get it up and running, I will continue to work on the web site evolution pages in My Scrapbook.

In the meantime, I’ve added a new quote to Soapbox Quickies under My Soapbox… just an interesting little snippet from Milwaukee Brewers manager Ned Yost regarding the sausage incident. Also, I will be adding the next soapbox article over the weekend… something about UW System students (yes, I was one of them). Believe it or not, I may have another one up as well regarding my recent upgrade. Amazing!

Higher Education Access

In Wisconsin, the largest state agency has got to be the University of Wisconsin System. With its flagship campus in Madison, the UW System has 13 four-year colleges and 13 additional campuses statewide. That means that it educates a lot of students. And since it’s in the business of educating the hopefully best and brightest, it also means that our lawmakers have a strong interest in keeping the system going strong.

Unfortunately, the State’s current economic climate does not allow its government to funnel the level of funding to the System that it has in the past. As a result, the UW campuses are looking for ways to live within its budget limitations and provide a good education.

Like every other agency, the UW System has been crying wolf at budget cuts. It threatens to raise tuition and admission standards to provide quality education to those students that are already attending as well as the incoming freshmen. In my opinion, that’s a good move. But it is also a politically controversial one, since it realizes that many students will be denied access to higher education within the system.

So why do I care? I was a product of the UW System. I received both a bachelor’s and master’s degree at UW-Milwaukee (UWM). My college did provide me with a good education and a good curriculum, but I’m still paying back the tuition. Overall, though, after several years of college, I think I got a bargain.

Every year since I started studying at UWM, I saw tuition increase. Every year, I paid it (well, borrowed to pay it). Every year, I realized that I was still getting a quality education. And yet, I chose to go there because it was a lot cheaper than going to a private school. Tuition for a private school would’ve cost me about three to five times as much as what I paid at UWM. In fact, my annual high school tuition was higher than my annual college tuition.

So, getting back to why I care, I’m sick and tired of hearing students bitch and whine about how it’s becoming more difficult to get into school and afford it. I’ve seen and heard some students suggest that they might have to work and go to school at the same time. Oh no, many of them might have to find part-time jobs to pay for college. And oh my, it’s tough going to school full-time and working at the same time. (Do you sense a bit of sarcasm yet?)

Yeah, right. I’m no honor student, and yet I managed to not only work while going to school, but I did both full-time. While working on my master’s degree, I worked full-time in a retail shop selling plumbing and hardware. Amazingly, I managed to pay for school (most of which I’m still paying), get and maintain good grades, and find work in my field. I even took summer and winter classes so that I could graduate sooner.

So I think I have every right to say to all those students out there, “Deal with it!” All state agencies are hurting, not just the UW System. Even the Department of Transportation (my employer) with its own fund is struggling during this economic slump. So all agencies need to find creative ways to deal with the budget deficit. If the UW administrators need to cut enrollment and increase standards, then more power to them. I don’t see any real solutions coming from those whiners that want to study there.

Those that are in college and don’t take the chance to work while in school never get a dose of reality until after they graduate and find employment in the workplace. There’s a fairly large difference between theory and practice, and students that don’t learn that before graduation lose out on valuable educational experience.

Furthermore, I’m not sure that everyone belongs in college. There are many students that I’ve met during my college days that didn’t belong there. Their narrow-mindedness and poor academic performance made them more suitable for ditch-digging. Higher education is about more than learning what’s in a book; it’s a chance to open your mind and consider the possibility that it’s not a black-and-white world. Furthermore, college should prepare you to come up with alternatives and think outside the box (well, at least in my field of study). No, I didn’t expect to solve the problems of the world, and that wasn’t why I went to college. Instead, it offers you a foundation of what may work and what hasn’t worked, and how to analyze and weigh alternatives. Not everyone can be a leader; someone has to follow. Likewise, if you’ve read my soapbox on technology, then you know that not everyone can work in IT (or better yet, look at the dot-com bust).

Another thing I find interesting is that the UW System has had it relatively easy versus other state agencies. It has managed to keep costs down because Wisconsin’s taxpayers subsidize the system. Yet students don’t realize that they’re paying only a portion of the total cost of their own subsidized education. While hard-working people have had to sacrifice more out of their paychecks to receive less direct benefits from the State, they’ve continued to subsidize the UW. A quick search of 2001 Wisconsin Act 16 will demonstrate all of the exemptions that the UW System received during the 2001-03 biennial budget cycle. 2001 Wisconsin Act 109 (2001-03 biennial budget repair bill) required additional cuts to most state agencies, with the exception of the UW System.

What’s worse, though, is that most students that earn their degrees in Wisconsin move to other states for work. So the intellectual property that the State produces does not directly contribute to its economy. As a result, the taxpayers end up with a double-whammy of subsidizing students; first through the initial tuition subsidy, and second through additional economic burdens developed by the deficit of those that have moved to other states with their taxpayer-subsidized degrees. As more students graduate and find jobs elsewhere, the State’s economy continues to spiral downwards as those that remain in Wisconsin end up paying more for the State’s overall public burden.

I could just state that the grass is greener on the other side, but I imagine that most UW System students chose their schools because of the lower tuition. As I stated before, a comparable private school could cost at least four times as much. Another benefit that students are receiving, though, is the increasing financial aid they’ll continue to receive because the federal government is also subsidizing student tuition. For those that receive federal financial aid, they know (and hopefully realize) that this lessens their short-term financial burden of paying for school. For those that don’t apply (for whatever reason), they are in the dark about this opportunity. Federal aid does help with the up-front tuition costs of a public school more than the up-front tuition costs of a private school. If tuition for public schools mirrored that of private schools, students would have a much more difficult time with paying tuition, as well as receiving financial aid (with the exception of grants and scholarships).

To conclude, it may be unfortunate that everyone that desires to go to school will not get in. But if it takes higher standards and tuition for people to get a quality education, then perhaps we will see quality graduates. My experience tells me that not everyone is suited for college, and yet we’re promoting it to no end. If you don’t make the cut, you don’t play. If you do make the cut, expect to deal with what’s ahead. High school may not prepare you for that, but that’s life in the real world, whether you’re a college student or not. I could go on about how today’s kids are coddled (I was brought up in that generation), but that’s for another day. College isn’t about parties, whining about paying higher tuition, and avoiding work; it’s about hard work, using and opening your mind, paying now to reap larger benefits later (hopefully), and establishing a foundation for your future.

Also, students need to realize that they benefit from the relatively low cost of their education. Earning a bachelor’s degree at a UW school is still far cheaper than earning one at a private university. Furthermore, remaining in Wisconsin means that they benefit from all kinds of services that aren’t available in other states. Although this state is known for its public funding of services, this fact is usually missed in many statistics about the high amount of taxes and fees paid in Wisconsin. Those taxes subsidize UW System students’ education. So the next time I hear a student whine about his or her tuition going up, I’m going to give them my tax bill.