Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Too much of a good thing

Too much has gone on this week to really be able to get a good post out...especially because it's now late Wednesday. I'll get a new one out to you next week!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Pac-10 should accept fate, move on

As an avid football fan, I enjoy the “poor [enter opponent name here], poor [enter opponent name here]” chant at the end of a particularly good romping as much as the next guy (or gal). But before the college season starts, I’m already uttering the chant, but this time, I actually feel bad for the other team.

Poor Colorado. Poor Colorado. Poor Colorado, you’re getting screwed!

When it looked like the Big 12 was completely lost to the history books, Colorado quickly jumped at the opportunity to be a leader – and ensure they didn’t get left out – and joined the Pac-10 conference. Originally, the invite was issued to Colorado with the expectation that a number of other Big 12 schools would join. The Pac-10 was looking to expand with Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech as well.

At the very last second, the Big 12 chancellor, desperate to keep his job, convinced the conference to stick together, even without Colorado and Nebraska, both of whom had already bailed. In an effort to balance out the new 11-team conference, the Pac-10 invited Utah, but it seems they are having some second thoughts…

The expansion may not help the Pac-10 out at all, which is why UCLA chancellor Chuck Young is pushing for the conference to block the expansion. The new teams don’t positively affect the geography or academic success of the conference. And neither team even brings any good rivalries to play. The “package deal” including most of the Big 12 south would have pushed the new Pac-16 into super hero status among college football conferences. But what will Colorado and Utah add?

Regardless, it is unfair to even consider – or promote, Mr. Young – excluding these soon-to-be Pac-10 schools. I was raised to believe that once you made a commitment, you stick to it, even if it isn’t ideal and isn’t what you had originally planned. Would you invite six friends over for dinner and then ask two not to come if they were the only ones who RSVPed? Especially if those friends chose to hang out with you instead of the four who didn’t come over? Pac-10: Colorado and Utah chose YOU. Do everyone the curtsey of choosing them back.

And if it doesn’t work out? Sorry, don’t try to break up a good conference next time! Or at least don’t count those chickens until it’s all said and done.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

College cost hurts graduates' economy

College is ridiculously expensive. In my four years at a major state university, tuition increased in the double digits each year, and for the few years since. Then, of course, the economy is hurting state-funded institutions because state funding is limited. And private schools aren’t doing any better – they have to deal with people no longer affording their higher tuition. Thus, tuition continues to rise.

Unfortunately, these ever-rising rates end up hurting the economy: Both the students who come out of school with tens of thousands of dollars in debt, many of whom can not find a decent job right now, and the parents, who are putting all their entire retirement savings into their child’s education.

Today, the U.S. News and World Report’s annual college rankings came out, and with it, the newest list of the “Great Schools, Great Prices.” I applaud all the schools who made it on the list. Somehow, they’ve figured out how to offer students all the need out of a university or college education and experience, without leaving students and parents on food stamps.

Also on the report is a list of “Least Debt,” meaning schools whose students graduate with the least amount of debt. Another honorable focus for American universities and colleges. All prospective students should consider these lists when applying for higher education. The colleges on the list have made their focus the student -- not just during their four years at the university but for post-graduate life. Seems they’ve rediscovered the American dream.

More colleges should put their emphasis on assisting students financially. Whether is means a “work study” or bartering system where students work so many hours a week on campus for reduced tuition, fees and living expenses, or it means keeping costs low, even if that means little or no raises on the faculty and staff or cutting a program or two.

As more young people enter the weak work force with massive piles of debt, I wonder why you don’t hear more outcry, more requests for action. And I say this while writing a student loan check for a sum that never seems to reduce…

Find U.S. News rankings at

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

With just a dash of multiculturalism

With English as the native language of the United States, it can be a bit frustrating to have to “press 1” to get the message in English. But the telephone example shows the ever-increasing problem that multiculturalism brings to the country.

The idealistic folks in America’s early years planned for the country to become a melting pot of cultures. Immigrants from across the world became U.S. citizens, blending all the cultures into one American culture. The assimilation helped strengthen the country as one.

Fast forward 200 years. The “American culture” seems to have a bit of an identity crises. Many U.S. immigrants come into the country with their own history, culture and set of standards, and even after years, they do not fold seamlessly into society. It seems some have not learned the value of “melting.”

Now, don’t get me wrong. I understand how important ones heritage can be and how defining it is for some. I would never suggest people forget where they came from, speak only in English, even at home, or exchange empanadas for burgers. It is a great part of who we are. But more important than where you came from is where you’re going. When deciding to come to the U.S., or to stay in the U.S., you are committing a part of yourself to your country, and with that comes its culture. To be a part of the country, to really be in the country, that requires some adaptation. And to become truly unified, Americans needs to understand and embrace that. We are one.

One example of how multiculturalism divides us is the PC terms used to describe your fellow Americans. She is African-American. He is Asian-American. And them? They are Native American. But me? I’m an American – first and foremost. Where I came from is only a part of me. Americans should celebrate their current nationality above their country of origin. Why doesn’t she instead claim to be an American, of African decent?

I love to learn about new cultures and celebrate the diversity in the world. Go ahead, speak your native tongue at home and cook traditional homeland meals. We will all benefit from the wealth of knowledge and diversity the various cultures bring America, but it can also be a divisive factor.

Therefore, the melting pot should continue to be our goal. But without a dash of multiculturalism, the resulting concoction becomes stale. It begins to lack depth of flavor. Just a little of that secret ingredient becomes key to the amazing dish.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Mosque could help improve U.S., Islamic relations

9/11 hit us all hard. As we’re approaching the ninth anniversary of the attacks, the event is back in the news. And people from both sides are not shy about chiming in on the hottest issue: A Muslim mosque near the site.

A New York City panel cleared the way for a mosque and cultural center near Ground Zero. Many oppose the outrageous plan as a “glorification of murder,” while others say it promotes religious tolerance and understanding.

I’m sorry, I have to go with the latters on this one.

Just to be clear, the mosque will not be placed at Ground Zero, but in fact a few blocks away from the former World Trade Towers site.

Is it just because the terrorists happened to be Islamic? If a Christian extremist (yes, Christian extremists kill too) had attacked us, would those in opposition to the mosque also insist that it is insensitive to build another Christian church within a few blocks of Ground Zero? I would guess most would support the Christian church.

I can understand how the mosque’s presence could hurt a few of folks directly related to the attacks. Sarah Palin is maybe one of the loudest in opposition to the mosque. She says the mosque will hinder the nation’s ability to heal, as she so eloquently posted via Twitter: “Ground Zero mosque is UNNECESSARY provocation; it stabs hearts. Pls reject it in interest of healing.”

But, in fact, the opposite may be true. The mosque and cultural center will help heal the unknown victims of the attacks: the Muslim Americans, many of whom felt the need to hide away in their homes post-9/11. It’s they who have been under attack since Sept. 11, 2001. It shows the 1.5 million U.S. Muslims that the majority of the country understands the term “Muslim” is not synonymous with “terrorist,” and that we do in fact support them and their faith.

To me the initiative says that we understand those attacks were committed out of ignorance and religious intolerance, but the United States is above that. We support the free practice of religion. It is among our nation’s foundation, and it is something we will support and defend above all else.

I applaud Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the New York panel and all who can see that beyond all this is actually the chance for the country to continue to heal, learn and reach out. Congratulations.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Observe the rite of passage

When I was 15, I walked into my very first high school pep rally. Along with my friends, I found my way to the section designated for freshmen and sat down, eager to take it all in. As part of the ritual, the cheerleaders asked each group of classmen what the “Trojan battle cry” was, and we were expected to answer with “V-I-C-T-O-R-Y!” When our time came to spell victory, booing ensued and the seniors held up diapers in our direction. My friends all looked around in disgust, muttering how rude and disrespectful the upperclassmen were being. I simply smiled and enjoyed the tradition I had become a part of. After all, I wouldn’t be a freshman for long. Exactly four years later, you can bet I booed the incoming freshman as hard as anyone else when they gave their battle cry. (And, as a side note, I also spelled victory ‘S-E-N-I-O-R-S,’ as so many before me had.)

I tell this story to show that rites of passage are important to getting all you can from your experience, event, group or job, and, maybe more importantly, to gain the respect of those around you. Rookie receiver Dez Bryant should learn this lesson.

Bryant recently signed with the Dallas Cowboys, and in the first few practices, he refused to carry veteran Roy Williams’ pads, as Cowboy tradition dictates. As a form of mild hazing, veterans have the rookies carry their pads to the locker room after practice. At first, Bryant refused to participate, saying instead that he was drafted to play football, not to carry pads.

What good ole Dez did is he showed the Dallas Cowboys program that he doesn’t respect its customs, and he’s showing his players that he’s too good to participate in their rite of passage. Each Dallas Cowboy great -- and the non-greats for that matter -- carried other players’ pads as a rookie. Suck it up and participate. Not only can it enrich your experience, but it promotes team building, both by showing respect to your elders and banning together as rookies in misery.

And honestly, is carrying pads really going to hinder your football playing capabilities?

Of course, now Bryant is coming out and saying that he didn’t know it was tradition and that, of course he would participate. Sorry, but I have a hard time believing that no one told him and that he didn’t notice all the other rookies carrying veterans pads. I can’t believe it was news to him when the story broke that Bryant was a party pooper. I guess this was not only a lesson for Bryant in humility, but also a lesson in dealing with the media while in the pros. Who said learning ends when you get out of college?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Think tolerance. Think 'to each his own.'

I subscribe to the thought process of “to each his own.” Do what you want with your life, your choices, your faith. My moral compass works just fine, and if yours points in a different direction, well, who am I to say if yours is faulty. Just to clarify, there are some things – murder for instances – that should always point the same way on everyone’s compass. But in general, you are in control of your actions, and if it works for you, then it has to work for me.

But religion has a tendency to make people feel that they know what is best for everyone in every situation. That leads to judgment and intolerance without the perpetrator even realizing it. And what I didn’t realize until recently was that religious intolerance works across the board, even in an area overwhelmingly dominated by one religion. There’s always people discriminating for or against a religion, non-religion or sect.

Our Founding Fathers wanted to create a country where religion was open and free, and separate from government. That’s, of course, never been the case. And I’m not even sure we are working in that direction. Separation of church and state cannot occur. One can not separate religion from who they are or the decisions they make any more than he or she can change the color of his or her skin. The fallacy in all of it is that religion is a choice. If you choose to believe one way, then you don’t really believe it, do you?

So because of this, you can’t expect someone to make a personal, professional or public decision separate of their faith. It will be present in everything they do, always. So by faulting a person’s religious beliefs or choices made directly related to their faith, you are faulting them as a person. No wonder people take religious attacks so personally.

The lesson to take from all of this is to remember to love one another, which includes a person’s religious beliefs. And to please remember that someone with an opinion different from yours does not necessarily make them wrong. It just means they’re just coming from a different direction.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

True patriotism flourishes independent of tragedy

Of course we remember. Every American over the age of 15 remembers the moment he or she heard about the planes crashing into the World Trade Towers, and the hours, day and weeks that followed. Yes, we remember.

Flags shot up in every house on the block. It united the country like it hadn’t been united in decades. People weren’t jaded and cynical about their government – no, they were proud to be an American.

But, it didn’t last long. As soon as the footage stopped airing daily, it started to leave the mind of those not directly affected. The War on Terror again divided the liberals from the conservatives – the Bush supporters from the non-supporters. And unfortunately, the world – which stood behind us from the morning of Sept. 11 – began to again pull away the country.

The secret is that the feeling hasn’t actually left us. Christmas, tax forms, school, work, family, everything instead got in the way. A few weeks ago, I read a story about Sept. 11, and I’ll tell you, I wasn’t halfway through it before I was bawling. Today I sat in a room of about 60 or so Oklahoma adults, watching a video slideshow full of photos of soldiers and American flags. There was no mention of 9/11 or photos of the attacks, but after the three-minute video ended, I looked around to see almost everyone wiping tears from their eyes. Patriotism still lies deep within us.

So, why get so emotional? Many of us didn’t know anyone who has died overseas, so it wasn’t from a personal loss. We cried because deep down, we love the United States. We love the country for everything it stands for. And most of all, because we are so grateful for the young men and women fighting overseas and those who have died to gain and maintain our freedom. Whether or not you feel like we should be in war, you should whole-heartedly support our troops and the sacrifices their making.

Salute your flag every chance you get. Remind yourself why you choose to live here and remember those lost. Do it every day -- not just on national holidays or each year on July 4 and Sept. 11. Be proud to be an American. God Bless the USA.

Note: This isn't the video I referenced in the post. I looked for it because it was so heart breaking and heart warming all at the same time, but I couldn't find it. This is a substitute.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

France isn't offering freedom, instead prohibiting it

Islam accounts for roughly 10 percent of the population of France. Many of those individuals believe women should wear the burqa -- traditional dress that covers the entire body, leaving only the hands and eyes visible.

The Parliament in France is working to push through a ban on the burqa. If the law passes, women can be fined 150 euro (about $180) for wearing their traditional dress in public. Not only that, but women will then be forced to take a citizenship class. Proponents of the legislation say it is designed to liberate women because many western thinkers consider the burqa an oppressive.

France is trying to make a progressive move in the direction for freedom for its citizens and to promote a more secular country, but instead the ban would move the country backward toward religious intolerance.

Trust me, I’m completely against oppression. But I’m also all for religious and personal freedoms. Has it occurred to anyone that some of these women may prefer to wear the tradition burqa? Many of the women believe that it’s simply modest dress and exactly what God wants of them. Shouldn’t they be given the freedom to choose to follow their religion? To hold true to their culture? That’s what women’s lib is really all about: Choices. Not allowing someone to wear what they want to wear is equally as oppressive as forcing someone to wear something they don’t want to wear.

What’s next? Citizens will be forced to wear sleeveless shirts in the summer? OK, I get that that’s probably going a little too far, but this is the start of a country-wide dress code. I thought we moved beyond that after high school.

There is, however, a clause in the legislation that would evoke a harsher punishment to anyone who forces a woman to wear a burqa. Women of adult age should be given the right to choose what to wear. France should pass only that law, and make sure there are social programs available for women who do not want to wear the burqa but feel forced to do so by a husband, brother or anyone else.

To take away someone’s right to dress as they please while at the same time taking away their right to practice their religious, cultural and moral beliefs is everything but progressive. And it just may lead to citizens feeling to ashamed by their force immodesty to go outside their homes. That’s not quite what you want, France.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Influence of big media

In a country where two-thirds of the adults – and one-third of all children – are overweight, pop culture is finally catching up. Chubby actresses no longer have to play the role of the BFF, but can now start finding work in leading roles.

The Lifetime show Drop Dead Diva deals with a former skinny model finding herself reborn in a “plain Jane’s body.” Now, the overweight brunette has to make a career for herself as a lawyer. And the new ABC Family drama, Huge, debuted Monday night. Huge deals with overweight teenagers sent off to fat camp. The campers learn to take care of themselves – and not just physically – and evolve into the young people they want to be.

So now we have to ask ourselves, should pop culture be promoting what doctors and nutritionists unanimously agree is unhealthy?

While I debated with myself a bit, I’m confident that yes, they should. Mainstream media should be embracing the new face of America.

There’s no denying that as prominent as obesity is, many young girls (and boys) grow up comparing themselves with the false sense of beauty coming from airbrushed actresses and models. Many of them lack the self-esteem to realize that you can be beautiful, that you can be a good person, that you can be happy regardless of whether you fit that ideal concept of “beauty.”

It’s important to give not just youth but everyone a sense of belonging. It’s comforting to turn on the TV and see someone who resembles you, your sister or your best friend. Kudos to pop culture for catching on.

But to be successful and appease those who hate to see society struggle with weight, the characters in the growing genre must lead healthy lifestyles and promote becoming the best person they possibly can. (And, unlike the show “Ugly Betty,” they need not promote the fallacy that attractive people are mean and ugly spirited.)

And as long as these shows aren’t promoting Twinkies and laziness, I’m good.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Darn those young whippersnappers

It’s all your fault, you know.

My generation – the Millennials, Generation Y, or whatever new term you’ve come up with those born in the 80s and 90s -- we’re like this because of you.

While its universal for older folks to have a sort of distaste for the new, youngest generation, I blame the Baby Boomers for the Millennials’ definite lack of maturity. The Boomers grew up with parents who weren’t cuddly or close. Kids were told to go outside and play and not to come back until after dark. “Yeah, son, that rusty hand saw looks like a perfectly fun toy, take it with you when you leave.”

As result, the entire generation vowed not to be like their parents. The Baby Boomers raised the Millennials completely differently. They coddle – and we’re a nightmare because of it. Parents “helped” kids with every school project and secured a victory for their child in every battle. The now teenagers and young adults in the following generation learned they are not good enough or strong enough to make it without help from Mom or Dad because of this behavior. But don’t worry, us Millennials don’t have low self-esteem. You’ve told us all our lives how awesome, beautiful and special we are. We just can’t do anything by ourselves. We’re spoiled and we don’t know how to fight for ourselves.

Then, as the kids grew up, went to college and began an adult life, the Baby Boomers decided to help their children pay for rent, gas, a cell phone, college, or whatever else they needed. They didn’t want their children to go through the same financial hardships and tough rice-and-bean years they did.

What the entire Boomer generation seems to forget is that those hardships, the experiences of fighting for oneself and for ones place in life is exactly what turned them into the tough-minded, hard-working people they are today – something they don’t realize they are robbing from their children.

So what’s going to happen when the Boomers die off and the Millennials actually have to stand on their own two feet alone for once. I wonder if our muscles are even strong enough.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The biggest threat

OK, so it's Wednesday? Big whoop. Wanna fight about it?

It’s not terrorism, AIDs or even atheism. The greatest threat to America – according to an “expert panel” (whatever that means) – is obesity. Some of us can now issue a sigh of relief.

Two-thirds of adults and one-third of all children are considered overweight or obese. That’s mind boggling, even as I sit here in one of the fattest states in country.

You can blame America with its overindulgent attitude. Or restaurants making portions more than twice the proper size. Or even TV programming and addictive video games that keep everyone indoors instead of out being active.

But the real culprit is Walmart.

Yep, the same people who save you money every Saturday. But that’s the problem. Ever notice what the cheapest items are? Hostess and Little Debbie snacks are pretty cheap. You can get $1 frozen pizzas with absolutely no nutrition. Or one of my favorites – blue box mac and cheese – are what, 64 cents? But what about fruits and vegetables? Whole grains? Any food made without preservatives and additives? Cha ching! Better bust out your big pocketbook.

Of course, I have to touch on fast food restaurants as part of the problem, but not in the way you’d think. Dollar menus are all the rage right now in this tough economic climate. You now can get a burger, fries and a Coke for $3, but a salad with no sides or drinks will run you about $5 at the same place. Where is the motivation to make the wise choice when you’re faced with doing fast food that meal? And most of the time, the salads are pretty sub-par.

Americans aren’t encouraged to eat well when there’s no immediate monetary gain. Yes, you’ll likely spend less money in medical bills if you maintain a healthy lifestyle and weight, but that’s not immediate enough for us short-sided folk.

Now, I’m not proposing we tax junk food, but they should make real, whole food more appealing by dropping the price. Offer coupons for natural food that is easy to prepare and versatile enough to satisfy our need for variety, and you might see us Americans buying – and eating – healthier.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

GM is a bit slow on the uptake, don't ya think?

I am glad to drive a 13-year-old Ford Ranger. In its history in my family, it has never once caught fire and the windshield wiper fluid almost always does the job.

Unfortunately, that seems to be a potential problem for 1.5 million cars, trucks and SUVs made my General Motors. The company recently announced its second recall of its vehicles made between 2006 and 2009. Turns out the heated windshield wiper fluid could cause your car to set fire. Awesome.

The company attempted to fix the problem during a 2008 recall but have since determined the “fix” didn’t take. The new plan is to deactivate the feature and buy the owners off with $100.

A company that is willing to publicly admit they screwed up and recall their product is always good in my book. It takes a lot to confess to a mistake and suffer any loss that comes with that mistake. GM is showing it cares about its customers’ safety...but wait, this problem started with the 2006 models? You mean the ones produced in 2005? Five years ago?

Let me see if I understand this correctly. You made the 2006 models with a defective heated windshield wiper fluid. It took you until 2008 – two years later – to decide they were unsafe enough for a recall. You then recalled the vehicles and “fixed” them, only to decide in another two years to completely eliminate the thing?

And you’re paying your customers $100 for the inconvenience?

It appears company officials were negligent to get this problem solved earlier and to stop making faulty, fire-happy vehicles the moment they were determined hazardous. Honestly though, how does it take you four to five years of continuing to manufacture unsafe vehicles to accept the problem? Clearly, safety is not GM’s primary concern here. This recall is merely to save face and give the illusion the company is looking out for its customers.

It’s better late than never, but man up a bit sooner next time, General Motors, and we might be more willing to trust you in the future.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

How quickly passion turns into apathy

In 2004, I started college. As most students, I was an idealistically passionate almost-19 year old. I changed my major three times I day I enrolled. I finally settled on journalism.

The reason was that I was extremely passionate -- about anything and everything. I would fight you tooth and nail until you believed like I did -- which coincidentally didn't usually happen. At the time, I thought of journalism as columnists who expressed their opinions and tried to sway the readers. I quickly learned that the art of journalism was actually the opposite. In fact, in journalism, you aren't allowed to have an opinion at all for fear of coming out biased. And after four years of journalism training, and the subsequent year and a half as a newspaper reporter, I can safely say the passion has been beaten right out of me.

That's not to say I'm not passionate about things -- my job, my boyfriend, my favorite college football team, my family -- all these things I love (in no particular order) and will fight to defend them each. It's all the rest of the stuff -- anything I don't have an immediate invested interest in.

What are my thoughts on Obama's health care plan? The new abortion laws in Oklahoma? Al Gore is getting a divorce? Eh. I don't know. I don't know enough about it to make an informed decision and thus, formulate my opinion.

I have become what I consider maybe the worst sin out there: Ignorant. Stupidity is forgivable. You can't change who you are. But to refuse to inform yourself about your that's unforgivable. That's lazy. And that's why the world hates Americans. Unfortunately, that's me.

So what's my solution? I'm going back to my original plan. I'll be hitting you with a weekly column via this blog. From politics to the latest celebrity faux pas...Welcome to Tuesday's with Jessica.