Category Archives: Employment

Six Years and Slowing

On the "skiddah"

On the “skiddah”

It is March once again, and the anniversary month of this blog which started out as Outside the Box and is now Localista.

I don’t look too fashionable there on the skidder, but let me tell you, I was THRILLED to have a chance to get into the driver’s seat, turn the ignition key, and roll slowly backward, oops! I was maybe in the thing for a minute and a half before I stalled it. Heavy equipment operator is not going to be my next career.

What I did learn from this experience was 1)guys who work in the woods are great storytellers and hard workers and all-around great people and 2)enough about operating a skidder to finish a writing project.

Harvesting in the Maine woods has long been an economic driver for our state, providing jobs and a marketable resource. It is a local sort of job, and even with improvements in equipment, still requires a human brain. Unlike other jobs which are being outsourced to…robots. Check out this article, “Your Job May Soon Be Obsolete Thanks To Robots,”  on AGBeat from the American Genius Network.

Yes, computers are now writing news articles. Egads! Soon they will be writing books, I suppose, cranking them out from synopses and outlines, or maybe just picking and choosing from scenarios, character lists, and possible turning points from specialized plot and narrative computer programs. I’m typing this and thinking, “It’s probably already been done, but I don’t want to go look. I’m scairt!”

So, I’m still doing the localism thing as much as possible, have incorporated it into my life with room left for improvement, as always. Those hiking boots in the photo up there? Got ’em at Reny’s, one of Maine’s independent stores. It was the only size of its kind on the shelves, the only pair of boots in my size, and they fit perfectly. In fact, they were so comfortable with a pair of wool hiking socks I also picked up, I didn’t unlace them all day. The support felt fantastic!

Today I’m wearing a combination outfit–a sweater from Goodwill, a scarf that was a gift, and a pair of pants I bought full-price at Chico’s at the mall. I ate breakfast at a local restaurant, but then I got a cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee. It’s not about perfection. It’s about awareness and small changes and doing the best you can.

Six years later, I’m slowing down but trudging along, one step at a time.

Boomerang, Boomerang

flower and teen

So, the Millennials aren’t growing up.

As an aging Generation X-er, I feel concerned about the future of the Millennials. These young people–the generation coming of age behind us–are graduating from college and discovering their parents were wrong. Going to college does NOT guarantee you a really good, white-collar job in the field of your choice as soon as you graduate. Thanks to a stagnant economy, these young college graduates can’t earn enough to do the things adults do: pay back their loans, buy a house, start a family. Instead, they are struggling to find work, coming back home to live, and putting off babies indefinitely.

Millennials also grew up with lots of privileges and material goods, and they aren’t about to give those goodies up if they can help it. Can we blame them? They were brought up with cool clothes, video games, mobile devices, and lots of social activities like recreational soccer league and summer theater camps. Is it any wonder that they believe they should be able to have them after putting in the hard work of earning a college degree and doing everything else their parents told them would ensure their success?

Instead, they are faced with unpalatable choices. Pay for rent or pay for an unlimited data plan? One is a necessity to the Millennial…and it isn’t the apartment.

To add insult to injury, the Affordable Care Act is now forcing them to purchase health insurance they perhaps do not need in order to “make the numbers work.”

Behold: “If the ObamaCare health insurance exchanges are to function properly, it is crucial that a substantial number of people ages 18-34 join them. This age group that is young and relatively healthy must purchase health insurance on the exchanges in order to “cross-subsidize” people who are older and sicker. Without the young and healthy, the exchanges will enter a “death spiral” where only the older and sicker participate, and price of insurance premiums will increase precipitously, says David Hogberg, a health care policy analyst for the National Center for Public Policy Research.” (ObamaCare’s Success Is Dependent on Young Adults

So the poor and the aging are going to suck off the young and healthy like economic vampires. No wonder Twilight and The Vampire Diaries are so popular with this age group!

It should come as no shock(with the economy struggling and jobs still scarce and apartments still expensive and giving up technologies like iPhones unthinkable), Millennials are boomeranging back home once they finish college. See Adulthood Delayed by Derek Thompson, in the Atlantic Monthly, Feb. 14, 2012.

We Gen X parents are dismayed by this turn of events. Will we have our aging Boomer parents living in the guest rooms and our frustrated Millennial children living in our basements? We’ll do it if we have to–family is important to us. But egads! Can’t something be done?

It got me thinking. What if some smart landlords invested in creating “low-income housing” for 18-30 year-olds with a college degree? Sure, this demographic doesn’t make much money at their service-industry or entry-level jobs, but that doesn’t mean they have no intention of bettering themselves. They aren’t your typical “low-income housing” demographic, are they? They were brought up expecting to dress well, drive a decent car, hang out with other college-educated people, pay their bills, and vote on issues important to them. They want to grow up, have a good job, and be good parents.

They would probably be good tenants, especially if the complex offered free wifi.

The parking lot might be full of six-year-old Priuses (officially, I guess the plural is Prii. Puh-lease) passed down from Mom and Dad. There would have to be a coffee shop in house. Millennial tenants would be passably content, I imagine, to hang out in a cafe–socializing and networking while looking for professional-type jobs on their tablet computers and doing all the other stuff they like to do on their iPhones (texting, making videos, watching movies, reading magazines, checking Instagram and Twitter, etc.).They could grab a latte on their way to work at a)the mall b)temp agency c)restaurant d)support service for the disabled. A fitness center in the complex would provide them healthy exercise and socializing opportunities.

IMG_cafe

There should be bike storage and a bus stop. Perhaps the apartment complex should be placed in an area with some microbrewery pubs, good restaurants (for dining and for working in), a natural food store, and some consignment shops.

It would be like a college dorm–without the studying.

It would be Melrose Place for a new generation of young adults who happen to be on a really fixed budget.

Housing of this sort would give Millennials some time and a safe, comfortable space to figure out the next phase of their lives–well out of earshot of Mom and Dad who really love them AND truly are hoping their children can be the self-actualized individuals they raised them to be.

Our (guilty as hell to have helped create this poor state of affairs and I’m not just talking about the current administration which really inherited the problem) government could allow entrepreneurs to create these specialized housing units without all the red tape of “equal opportunity housing” rules that would derail such a project. There are plenty of traditional low-income housing spaces out there (and more could be built for the poor and uneducated among us), but they are not the places our college-educated, potentially upwardly mobile Millennials want to be or should be.

I’m not sure this has much to do with being a Localista except we all have these young people in our communities. I would like to see them move up, follow their life-plan, and reach full adulthood . . .

. . . somewhere other than in my basement.

A Time for New Beginnings

new beginnings

New Beginnings Resale Shop

In a time when many people are facing economic uncertainty and others are becoming more concerned about our impact on the environment, community-minded entrepreneurs are looking for ways to make a living and make a difference. For Janice Bergeron, owner of New Beginnings Resale Boutique in Limington, starting her own business also became a time of incredible personal growth.

Bergeron opened the shop in the Limington Meadows building on Route 25 in October of 2011 following a painful divorce. “The locals call the building the chicken barn,” she said, opening the door to the space where neat rows of clothing hang in well-organized sections. “People come in and say they are surprised at how clean it is. Local people say they depend on New Beginnings, that they buy all their clothes here.”

Bergeron, who grew up in Whitman, Massachusetts and moved to Maine a year after her marriage, was an at-home mom of seven for 27 years. Over the years, she often lamented the bags of clothing she discarded as the kids outgrew items, thinking how she would love to open a shop. After her divorce, she needed income to support herself, and the old dream of a consignment store became a reality.

“With the divorce, I was shaken. I didn’t have any skills. I wasn’t sure how I was going to survive.” At the time, Janice’s sister, Kathy Bergeron, was managing the Limington Meadows building–a space belonging to the late Charles and Cynthia Libby who were well-known antique dealers before their passing in 2006 and 2011 respectively. Kathy asked Janice, “If you could do anything, what would it be?” When Janice said she always wanted to run a consignment shop, Kathy suggested she take her tax return that year and open up the store. That was the beginning of New Beginnings, and the beginning of a new life for Janice.

“It’s given me confidence. It’s given my daughter confidence,” she said.

Janice stocked the shop from various sources. “A consignment shop went out of business, so I bought racks and inventory. I’d go yard-saling. I got two car-loads from a person who was simply looking to get rid of a bunch of clothes.”

As fate would have it, space at Limington Meadows became available at just the right time. “It was a huge leap of faith,” Janice said, and having sister Kathy next door has been helpful. “She’s been the key in teaching me the ropes.” The Limington Meadows shops include antiques, a bakery, a housewares shop, and a jewelry business as well as the consignment shop.

The biggest surprise for Janice has been the response of her customers. “I’ve been in consignment shops before and it’s not personal, like they expect people to just come and go.” But at New Beginnings, customers come in regularly, and there is a connection Janice didn’t expect. “I wasn’t expecting the positive reception from the local people. People are very excited by the option here.”

The boutique stocks children’s and women’s clothing, accessories, wedding and formal gowns, plus sizes, shoes, and jewelry. Janice’s daughter, Shania, works in the shop, as well. “She recently sold her first wedding gown,” Bergeron said proudly, acknowledging that the venture has given her teen confidence, too.

New Beginnings Resale Boutique is open Friday and Saturday from 9-4 and Sundays 1-4.

Localista At Large: Life’s a Zoo

Driving in Point Loma

Driving in Point Loma

Before heading to the San Diego Zoo yesterday, we drove over to Craig’s work at the Point Loma Naval Base so he could pick up some tickets. It is so weird to see palm trees and cacti and things like giant aloe vera lining the roads. The homes are definitely in a southwestern stucco style with red tile roofs and dry-climate landscaping on their sloping house-lots situated on the hills rising up from the Pacific. I find this architectural style/attitude restful somehow. I imagine siestas and late-afternoon mojitos and entertaining around the hot-tub in the evening.

Local Weeklies

Local Weeklies

Just wondering what kind of work I could do around here to support my deluxe lifestyle dreams. Maybe write for one of these local weeklies? Nah, I’d miss the Reporter too much. (Speaking of which, I’m still waiting for SRC-TV to get their video problem fixed so I can watch the propane tank hearing!)

Life's a Zoo

Life’s a Zoo

Balboa Park is an arts and culture mega-complex that include the San Diego Zoo, a cultural arts center called Centro Cultura de la Raza, the Mingei International Museum, the Museum of Photographic Arts, a science center, an air & space museum, the San Diego Art Institute, and more! I can’t even begin to imagine how this is possible–the closest I can imagine is the Mall in Washington D.C. If I had my way, I would spend the rest of our trip here…but when I say as much to the Teen I get a pained “Mo-o-o-o-om!” I get it. Shopping is much more exciting when you are some-teen-years-old and on a long trip with your middle-aged parents. Still, I will insist on at least one day here other than our zoo day. Mom’s pick day. I better chose with care. [Looking at one hand]History. [Looking at another hand]Art. History. Art. History? Art? Arghhh! How will I decide?

Flamingo Yoga

Flamingo Yoga

Maybe if I make like a pink flamingo and get into some really good yoga poses, I will become much more zen about the whole thing and just take life as it comes.

Of two minds...or two giraffes about it.

Of two minds…or two giraffes about it.

I’m really of two minds about it.

Carvings on the bamboo

Carvings on the bamboo

Anyone can take photos of the animals–but how about the little details like all the graffiti carved into the bamboo lining the pathways? I thought it looked kinda artsy, if delinquent.

Skytram across the zoo

Skytram across the zoo

We ended our zoo day with a really zippy trip across the park on the Skytram. I had lost my ticket (why did I think putting it in my pocket with my iPhone/camera/recording device was a good idea?), but they let me on after a quick glance at Hubby’s credit card receipt which he was smart enough to put in his wallet. Love that guy. So happy to be out here with him and the Teen. I wonder if this will be our last big family trip before graduation in a few years?

So anyway, after walking around at the zoo all day yesterday, the Teen and I took it easy and decided to hang around the hotel today. We spent an hour at the gym on the elliptical and treadmill and used the free-weights. Then we did some reading and sunning beside the pool, hit the hot tub, and came home to change for dinner.

Hanging Around

Hanging Around

I read all those weeklies and caught up on all the local news, views, and happenings. Also checked out the real estate. Yeah, in the term California Dreamin’ the operative word is, indeed, “dreaming.” That’s okay. I’m enjoying a glass of sangria in our living room area, writing up my blog post for the day, and waiting for everyone else to finish getting ready for dinner.

Maverick

Maverick

Can’t wait to head out to the Embarcadero tomorrow, San Diego’s waterfront district with ships and shopping…and the Kansas City Barbeque–the restaurant made famous in TOP GUN. I had no idea when I watched that movie last week that this excursion was “on the menu!” I might even get Hubby to drive me out to Miramar.

Rethinking Education…Again

antique cars for history class

Students learned about the early 20th century by exploring antique cars at Massabesic High School in Waterboro, Maine this spring.

Here’s what I was talking about with the Teen this morning.

What if we gathered together a bunch of high school students interested in studying literature/writing/journalism and planned an entire education program from there? We would start with that passion and incorporate all the disciplines. For instance…

Literature: We could read and write various genres and analyze their conventions.

History: We could write historical fiction–and do the historical research necessary.

Math: We could talk about the biz of publishing, learn accounting, statistics, and maybe create some marketing or distribution algorithms. I’m unclear about algorithms but this sorta explains my idea http://adage.com/article/dataworks/algorithms-marketers/239460/.

Economics: Maybe we would create a “virtual” magazine and learn the ins and outs of publishing, sorta like those classes where students trade stocks, with all the learning implied in that kind of endeavor.

Social sciences: We could study sociology and psychology and philosophy to inform ourselves about character development and conflicts.

Science: We could do some nature writing/science reading and writing and learn about those subjects and/or incorporate what we learn into fiction. We could visit a lab and interview scientists (or better yet, go down to the science-learner wing or school and interview students in their lab).

Art: We could write about art and artists. We could look at paintings and sculptures for inspiration for new stories. We could practice art as a way of accessing different parts of our brain, stimulating creativity.

Health & Fitness: We could do some yoga and walking/running or any other form of exercise because authors need to get up and move to stay healthy and their minds working properly.

Industrial Arts: We could build bookshelves or maybe personalized writing desks.

Music: We could write music lyrics and learn some music theory while we are at it. Of course we could also participate in chorus or band.

Now….if I were interested in say, science, how could I create a similar program for the science-learners?

Math & Science charter schools are already creating this kind of learning environment…so why shouldn’t we create schools geared toward artists? Or philosophers? Or writers? Or athletes? (Actually, there is a school for skiers up at Sugarloaf called Carrabassett Valley Academy.)

What if we truly started with students’ interests and built programs around them? Video gaming? GREAT! Website design? Fabulous! Auto mechanics? No problem! Agriculture? Be still my heart.

For those kids who want to be college professors, academics, doctors, lawyers, teachers, etc, then a traditional liberal arts education might just be what they need. Fine! Create a classical academy school for them.

The point is, different learners have different interests, so why shouldn’t we have different schools or classroom clusters for them? This is not a new idea. Some high schools have created schools within a school similar to colleges within universities or majors within colleges.

What is the point of education, after all, but learning what you need to actually DO something? If you were a student again, wouldn’t this sound like fun?

Homeschool advocates already understand all this. Homeschooling is the ultimate individualized learning program.

Charter schools geared toward particular types of learners and interests are springing into life all over the place.

How does standardized testing and a common core curriculum match up with how and why students really learn? Isn’t this is a question legislatures and administrators might want to ask themselves as they move forward?

And what about employers? With the cost of college spiraling ever higher and student loan rates becoming prohibitive, maybe the economy should consider criteria for employment other than the ubiquitous college degree. Does an administrative assistant NEED a bachelors degree in business administration or could an office management training program do the trick? Does an entry-level library assistant really need a bachelor’s degree or even an associates degree? Vocational training, geared toward specific professions, makes much more sense to me. Couldn’t we have aptitude tests and on-the-job training? Apprenticeships?

I suspect it is time–past time–to radically rethink education and human resources. What do you think?

For further contemplation:

http://www.ted.com/talks/shawn_achor_the_happy_secret_to_better_work.html

http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html

http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_how_to_escape_education_s_death_valley.html

http://www.jconline.com/article/20130514/COLUMNISTS30/305140029/Bangert-An-ISTEP-rebellion-brewing-West-Lafayette-superintendent-contends-s-just-matter-time

http://ttbook.org/book/re-thinking-education

Between the Ears

Cool School

If Our Current Education System Implodes: A Radical Idea for A Local, Sustainable Alternative.

A letter to our local school board was sent out this week from our superintendent. Basically this letter talked of the dire budgetary issues the school district is facing, the major cuts in funding from the state, and the need to reduce staff and increase class size, cut already strained programs and services, and further erode our school’s ability to educate our children.

If this trend continues, we may be forced to look for alternatives–and soon.

I have a radical idea for education in a local, sustainable community if the time comes that we can no longer afford the system we have today. I suggest that in addition to parents teaching their own children at home, teachers also open their own small schools in their homes similar to the daycare centers and preschools that are so ubiquitous in our society now.

Granted, I haven’t asked any teachers if these ideas could ever work, but if we can educate our pre-schoolers at small, home-based schools, why not elementary-age students? Why not teenagers? There could even be a certification process, for the ease-of-mind of those parents who don’t trust their own judgement.

Here’s what I like about the idea: Self-employed teachers, greater school choice, walk to school choices (as the small-schools would be scattered throughout many neighborhoods), leverage to kick the trouble-makers out if they chose not to behave and learn, smaller classes, and greater flexibility. Teachers could choose to focus on the kind of education and populations they are most interested in serving. They could, if they wished, coordinate activities and lessons with other small-schools in their area. And the best teachers could command the best salaries. And the best students would be wooed by the schools. And a parent wouldn’t be hindered, necessarily, if he or she did not have money. Agreements for bartering and exchange of services could be worked out or parents could simply chose to educate their own children.

With internet and iPads and curricula out there, do we really need to shove our kids into sprawling industrial-era school buildings for six hours a day? Do we really need to spend all that gas money hauling them back and forth five days a week?

I think this could certainly work for K-8, but school would not necessarily be organized according to age or grade. Students could learn in multi-age classrooms.

Maybe high school could be in the former elementary buildings with sign-ups for classes and open campuses, similar to the way adult education is organized now? Maybe there could be internships and apprenticeships and pick-up softball games and/or a bunch of intramural teams that get together at the community fields/elementary gym to play games instead interscholastic sports? Of course teachers could offer music and art lessons–or just about any kind of special interest out there. Jewelry-making? Why not! Animal care? For sure!

How about converting some of the sports fields to school gardens? What about a school-run vegetable stand or Community Supported Agriculture program? Students could have even greater educational opportunities in the areas of agriculture, cooking, marketing,retail management, accounting, and more.

I’d also be inclined toward voluntary but rigorous exit exams, providing motivation for those who wish to enter college.

How would we pay for this kind of education system? Well, how do we pay for daycare and preschool? Charitable organizations and churches would, probably, offer to subsidize some schools that fit their mission-statements. Those with means and inclination may offer scholarships.

Perhaps there could be some assistance via local taxpayer money for those families who cannot afford the cost, but with all the savings in retirement, benefits, heating, gas, building maintenance, state and federal mandated programs, etc., and with all the choices that would be available, we could probably afford it.

I’m not saying this is ideal, but it can’t be much worse than what we are looking at if budgets continue to take hit after hit, year after year. Teaching, as a profession, will be radically different, but I hate to see teachers lose jobs and our students continue to lose the opportunity to learn from talented individuals because those teachers are let go or choose to leave for more lucrative, stable professions.

Some teachers might see this as an opportunity for self-determination in their careers, and I think the earning potential could be similar to what it is today (which isn’t great, let’s face it). If a teacher had space for fifteen students at $200 per week, that’s $156,000 a year gross.To compare, average daycare costs in the U.S.A. are $11,666 per year or $972 per month.

Hefty tax deductions for parents with children in school would make sense, as well.

All this is very radical, but not that long ago in our history, one-room schoolhouses were the norm. Prior to that, children were taught at home by parents or tutors. In ancient Greece and Egypt, teachers gathered a group of students who learned, literally, at their feet.

All this underscores my fundamental belief that education takes place in one space: between the ears of the student, most times with the guidance of a teacher or teacher-parent. You don’t need a sprawling building with little boxy rooms and a gymnasium and a cafeteria for learning to take place. A kitchen table can work just fine.

Federal Government Employment Really Bigger Under Obama?

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Graph From Political Loudmouth on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Political-Loudmouth/281168802721

I just saw a graph on Facebook that supposedly shows that the Obama government actually employed fewer people than the last three Republican governments.

Can this be true, or is it some sort of skewing of facts from the Bureau of Labor Statistics? If it is true, why don’t we know this?

Are our society, politics, and government so large now we citizens cannot get a grasp on what is really happening? This is unhealthy in a democracy or any kind of government.

Time to re-localize ourselves–local government, local education, local economy, local community–all within our immediate grasp, not too convoluted to analyze, transparent…