The Blogging Affairs Desk

When It’s Good, It’s Good, When It’s BAD, It’s Better…

My Brush with Grad School

About a week ago, I got bit by some bug of ambition.

I don’t recall exactly where I was or what I was doing, but suddenly it became very clear to me that I wanted to attend grad school.

Way back in the early years of 2006 I graduated college with a BA in Criminal Justice (nearly double minored, by the way…) and since then I’ve been of the mind that it was “good enough” to have just a bachelors.

But honestly, and this isn’t anything you don’t already know, a bachelors isn’t jack shit anymore.  It’s nice to have, but really, who doesn’t have a bachelors in something?

Today’s bachelor’s is yesterdays high school diploma.  It’s sad AND true.

So maybe that’s what I was thinking when I set into motion a desire to do more with my education.

According to US News and World Reports, the percentage of master’s degrees being earned online is roughly 7%, up from 2% just two years ago.  Add to that the fact that I work a steady job that puts me in front of a computer for at least eight hours out of every 50, going the online degree route was an ideal choice for me.

I know what you’re thinking: DeVry or Phoenix or any one of those “cyber universities” is as legit as a doctorate from Mickey D’s U.  I agree.  So my search consisted of actual stone-and-mortar universities that had an online “distance” learning apparatus.

To my surprise, a lot of major colleges are getting into this online gig, because it’s another way to make money.

See, colleges and universities see it like this:  We have a prospective student who’d LOVE to come to our school, can afford it, but lives in Indo-China.  Let’s set it up so he can “attend” classes, earn his degree, and more importantly, still pay us for his education.

It’s simple economics.

I learned early on in my collegiate career that you don’t technically have to attend classes, just as long as you have a course syllabus, get your papers in on time, and show up for the midterm and final.  Being in the classroom for lectures is just bonus.

So I settled on a school that was both prestigious and local: Boston University has an extensive master’s program in Criminal Justice, and since I already hold a degree in that arena it was a natural fit.

What also spurred my decision was that my employer offers Tuition Assistance, which from what I understand is fairly easy to apply for, as a few of my co-workers sing it’s praises with their own online college experiences.

Little did I know, however, what the school wanted in “tuition” and what was being offered for “assistance” were two figures far apart.  BU wanted just over 30 grand to attend their grad school for just under two years.  If you broke it down by semester hour, it was something like 500 bucks per hour.

And I don’t fault BU for those numbers.  Ranked in the top 20 schools by US News and World Reports, their grad school is prestigious stuff.  Just to be able to say you hold a graduate degree from Boston University should open doors like saying “Open Sesame.”

Now on the other hand, my company’s “Tuition Assistance” would only cover me for roughly 4500 dollars A YEAR.  This is a generous amount of money, however it does lend to people setting their sights lower.

I get paid a decent amount of money, which I’m somewhat horrible at budgeting, which in turn is frustrating because I like to consider myself somewhat financially savvy.  My rent gets paid, there’s always food in our house, our cars always have gas, and our pets are always able to get the care they need, should it arise.  However, I’m also still paying off 25 grand in student loans, a 300 dollar a month truck loan, my and my wife’s cell phone service, which I’m sure if we had cheaper phones, wouldn’t be too much of a problem, a growing credit card bill, utilities, food, etc…

I can’t rightfully expect to take on a new loan.

But BU wasn’t having it. They wanted me, and subsequently my money.  They sic’d their attack dog on me, this dude name Andre.  Andre was very excited when I told him my background.

“Whoa, so you already have your bachelor’s in Criminal Justice from John Jay?  That’s a good school, I know them.”  I thought he was blowing smoke up my ass, and maybe after all he was.  No one knows about John Jay except for hardcore CJ types; FBI guys, NYPD brass, etc.  On my old truck I used to have a “John Jay College of Criminal Justice” alumni sticker on the back window.  It would actually get me out of tickets.

“That place though, real ghetto,” and that’s how I knew he knew SOMETHING about the school.  The “campus” if you can call it that, is broken into various buildings, only two when I attended (it’s since expanded into other buildings) one of which was a renovated public high school.  It was pretty gross.

He continued “and right now you’re _____ ________ (my current job) and you used to be a cop for four years?  What was your GPA like when you left John Jay,” and here’s where I thought it would be over for me.  I didn’t try very hard in the end of my collegiate career.  I was going to classes just to sleep in the back of the room with my tattered John Jay ball cap over my eyes.  I never participated in class discussions, I had a bad attitude.  At the time I was working part time for a local Police Department, so I had this feeling that a bunch of civilian MBA holders couldn’t tell me dick about real life police work.

So my grades somewhat suffered.

“Uh, 2-point-something?”  I said.  I figured there’d be a pause and he’d go into the whole “well I’m sure there’s a school out there that’s right for you…” speech, but he didn’t.

“Ok, well we’ll need your transcripts to verify, but yeah dude, you look good to go, we just need you to get this package filled out and we can get the ball rolling.  The only downside is that this all needs to be completed by Dec. 20th.”

Which at the time was about a month away, with Thanksgiving in the way and college finals quickly approaching; If I remembered correctly, most schools wrapped on the semester about 15 days into December, so really, when you looked at it, I had maybe two weeks.

Not a problem.  The hardest part would be to get those letters of recommendation.  BU actually wanted me to get an LOR from an old prof from my old school.  This was going to be problematic.

“Uh, I graduated in ’06.  I wasn’t exactly like, class president or anything,”  Andre understood.

“Just get me something, by any means necessary.”  What the hell did that mean?  Was I being told to just fake an LOR?  I mean, I could, and no one would know….

So I was getting pumped; Andre emailed me all the stuff I needed to get done and by when and I whipped out the ol’ credit card and gave him the non-refundable 70 dollar application fee over the phone, plus another 25 dollar (again, non-refundable) fee to get my official transcript from JJC sent over to him.

I felt like an idiot then, and I still do now.

When I finally told Ang, my wife, all of this, she was less than pleased.  She knows we’re comfortable, but bringing on new debt, a lot of it at that, was something she wasn’t on board for.  We discussed it over the next two days, and I realized she was right, especially after I saw how little the Tuition Assistance was going to be.

What compounded things further was that my company is going to be sending me to a two week training seminar in January that I’ve been dying to go to for the last two years.  The start of this seminar and the start of my online classes was the same week.  So I’d be two weeks behind before I even started.  Not good.

But this doesn’t mean I’m giving up on the idea of getting a graduate degree altogether.  When more time and money free up, I’ll probably re-float my interests.  Maybe I’ll send Andre a nice email asking him to hold my application fee and transcript in a folder someplace, so I can revisit BU in the future.

November 29, 2009 Posted by | Around The Office, Corporate America Hates You, Gay Shit I Know Too Much About, Getting Older, Not Enough Time, Shameless Self Promotion | , , , | 1 Comment

Please Weigh In…

So I’m thinking of making my own page, with my own new web address for this blog.  So in essence, I’m thinking of moving again, and making everyone change around their blogrolls.  Again.

I need help however.  I’m dicking around with Apple’s iWeb programme and I can’t really make heads or tails out of it.  So if there’s anyone out there that knows how to navigate around either that programme or making my own independent site… lemme know.

Thanks, and keep a look out for the newly updated Blogging Affairs Desk site soon.


May 14, 2009 Posted by | Shameless Self Promotion, The Great Indoors | , , | 3 Comments

Career Crossroads

So I’ve kinda unwittingly come to a career crossroads.

But it isn’t like I didn’t see the crossroads from down the street.  This is a decision that’s been nagging on the back of my mind for the better part of a few months; a choice that pretty much asks me what I want versus who I am.

The spark to all of this came earlier today when I was called into my Big Bosses’ office for a short meeting.  Unlike most times, I wasn’t in trouble for being lazy, mal tempered, boorish or possessing a dangerous weapon on company property.  I was being given an opportunity to excel my career into an interesting, if albeit, uncharted direction.

I can’t go into great detail about the promotion/opportunity, only that it would be something to the effect of ACTUAL journalism, with better pay, better resources, better people, and likely a more metropolitan locale.

The crossroads is that to do this new gig, I’d be pretty much closing the door on my old life in Law Enforcement.

It’s a year-long process, going for this new job; I’m going to spend the bulk of the time on a waiting list, slowly climbing my way to the top, and if selected, sent off to a training school down in Washington DC for a bunch of weeks, the majority of that time being spent away from my wife, while she attends her mortuary school up here in New England.  When I get out, there’s no real idea where I could be sent, but there’s probably a likelihood I could be “stationed” in either Boston, NYC, DC, Miami, etc… a major area, with a larger readership, more stories to cover, etc.

It’s all very exciting, if not full blown worrisome.  It should be something I would want to jump into with both feet, as is my usual style, but there’s this goddamn nagging over my shoulder from my old life.

I loved being a cop, which is to say, every morning (really afternoon, as I worked late shifts usually) I would get up and get excited to go to work.  My first year as a cop I had that nervous apprehension, that heightened awareness, the hard-to-hide smile that would beam out of me as I sang along with classic rock hits on my way to the department, usually an hour or so early, because I couldn’t wait any longer just sitting around my house.  There were a lot of fringe benefits I really enjoyed: huge discounts by local merchants, badge bunnies, the ability to get out of any minor trouble in any other town by simply opening my wallet, the cool celebrity of being pointed at and whispered about at parties, the authority, etc.

There were downsides too, as with any job, such as being tied by bureaucratic bullshit, and staff sergeants who would rather not rock a boat to pursue a snitch’s tip, right down to peeing pissed on by some drunken homeless guy you’re picking up for vagrancy.

Cutting your hair into a Mohawk is also frowned upon.

I haven’t been employed as a law enforcement officer since 2005, nearly four years this coming August.  I’ve floated between jobs since then, from the mundane (retail, court house clerk) to the soul crushing (being unemployed for a spat of months, the entry-level position I now find myself in).  Is it time for me to officially hang up my blues?  To retire the cop stories, save them for my kids when they ask about old pictures – to move on?  How do I let go of all that training, those sharpened instincts and habits I’ve developed?  Will I one day be able to remove myself from walking into a room and sizing everyone up in a matter of seconds?  Will I be able to turn off that cop inside of me, and … be non confrontational when the situation calls for escalation?

Maybe.  Maybe one day I will be.  Maybe I can be a by-stander.

What set off this post was during that meeting with my Big Boss, as he was bent over some paper work pertaining to my week-long trip to Boston next week to job shadow and “try out” for the position with some of the already established Media Relations people at that particular office, he says to me:

“J, I think this is a great career move for you, I’ve always thought that – since our first discussion.  You have a natural talent for this kind of work, you’re an excellent writer, you’re articulate, but not in a pompous way – usually – and you’re above all concise and to the point when you have to be.”

If he had stopped there, I would’ve been on Cloud Nine.  This is coming from someone I deeply respect and hold in a very high regard.  Any time someone compliments my writing, it’s like sniffing up a big dose of Cocaine.  It puts me on a super huge high.  But then he finished it off with this:

“I know your passion is Law Enforcement, but this is better for you, I see you doing more with this, and really tapping into who you are,”

It just struck me as funny that he would compare who I was and who I eventually will be, and taking a side on the latter.  I didn’t know how to take that comment from him, so I sat and was gracious and smiled and all that.  But in my head I started to think about giving up being a lawman, and taking up a pen instead of a gun.

All day this has sat uneasy with me.  Of course, it’s a no-brainer for my family.  My mother has never liked me being a cop, because she’s my mother and I’m her only son.  Dad’s never liked it because he has an unnatural aversion towards Law Enforcement and Implied Authority.  My wife hates the idea because obviously, she doesn’t want the phone call at one in the morning saying that her husband was stabbed to death by some cranked out meth addict with a crossbow.  It seems like everyone is pushing me towards taking on writing (and possibly education, because “those who can’t, teach!”) as a long-term career goal.

And yet my stomach still boils.

I think it’ll be a transition process in a sense that not only will I have to reinvent myself, but untrain as I retrain for two things completely opposite of each other.  But I’m optimistic though; I get to move away from the knuckle-dragging, laborious lines of work I’ve seemed to gravitate towards my entire life (fisherman, landscaper, police work, etc) and do something with my brain, that other muscle I like to work out from time to time.

Here’s to new, uncharted waters.

May 13, 2009 Posted by | Gonzo Journalism, Living in an Insane Asylum, Shameless Self Promotion | , | 2 Comments

A Snippet of What I’ve Been Working On

Been a busy week here at the BAD.  More news on that to come shortly.  While you wait, why not take a gander at 1000 or so words of the short fiction I’ve been working on after hours…

***

He packed lightly, bringing with him three books, toiletries, some clothes, two pistols, another ceramic knife, one hundred thousand dollars in bundled cash, sunglasses, SIM cards for cell phones, a pair of running shoes, and his iPod.

He had called Katie to see if she wanted to drop by and she said she was actually in the neighborhood, and she was going to pop over unexpected anyway.  Dreamer sat on his couch and watched tv until his door buzzed.

He keyed the speaker, she identified herself and he buzzed her in.  He popped the door to his apartment and got out two beers and set one on the counter top while he sipped the other.  A few moments passed and Katie walked in the door wrapped in a short pea coat, her eyes behind square rimmed glasses, her face beaming.

“This for me?”  She motioned for the beer.

“No, it’s for your sister,” Dreamer said with mock sarcasm.  She lifted an eyebrow and picked up the beer from her side of the counter and took a pull from the bottle neck.  She took off her coat, revealing her thin-but-curvy body, and pressed herself up against Dreamer who was leaning against the stove in the tiny kitchenette.

“Funny, I didn’t know my sister was in town this week,” and she kissed him lightly on the lips.  Dreamer kissed back a little, his mind someplace else for the time being.  The conversation with his handler still lingered in his psyche and it was readily apparent to his girlfriend from the bookstore.

The two of them had been dating regularly for the last month or so, enough to the point where Dreamer considered her to be his girlfriend exclusively.  That is, he didn’t really have much time to go out and see anyone else, but nor did he want to.  They had sex, and sometimes she would crash at his place.  Seldom did they ever really go out, maybe to the occasional bar or night club, once to a comedy club in Manhattan, but most nights were spent in eating take-out Sushi or Tex-Mex.

Once, Katie cooked an actual home-made meal for Dreamer, which Jimmy thought was comparable to his own mother’s home cooking.  It was then that she sealed it for him.

“What’s the matter?”  She asked, which brought Dreamer back to Earth.  He cleared his throat and set his beer down between the gas burners on the stove.

“I gotta go away for a while, and I don’t know how long,” he said evenly, with the cold efficiency he had developed through much practice in front of a mirror and victims.  She hesitated as her hipster-thin body became stark and rigid.

“Huh?”

“It’s business related.  My company is uh, relocating me for an unspecified amount of time to do some work up in Canada I guess. Montreal.  So uh, I gotta leave tonight, by train.”  She pushed back off of him and leaned against the opposite L in the counter.

“Well, how long are you going to be gone for?”

“I dunno, but I guess I’ll be coming back, eventually,” Dreamer shrugged.

“That’s fucked up- they didn’t even tell you how long you’d be gone for?”  She asked.

“No,”

“Not even a ballpark?”

“No.”  She swallowed this.

“That’s fucked up,” she repeated.  “I was just starting to kinda like you too.”

“I know, me too Katie.  It’s not fair, but it was better than the alternative, I guess,” and Dreamer realized he was thinking out loud more than talking to his girlfriend.

“What was the alternative?”  He knew she was going to ask so he had an answered prepared.

“They were going to let me go,” he said and sucked on his beer bottle.  She nodded and scratched her chin a little.

“Can I come and visit you?”

“Eventually, after I get things sorta established, you know?”  She nodded and closed the distance between the two of them.

“Ok, just, you know, be safe, that sort of shit.  Given with what you read, I’m sure that won’t be a problem for you though, you know?”  She referenced the copy of Complete Hand Combat Vol. 9, and a beaten copy of Famous Small Arms Review 2001 on the coffee table in the other room.  Dreamer smiled a little and gave her rear a squeeze.

“Sure.  But listen, I gotta finish packing up, I gotta catch a seven o clock train, so,” and he trailed off.  She leaned up and kissed him softly, and touched his face.

“Just be safe ok?  I worry about you sometimes.  You tend to get very serious out of no where and it’s just…”

“Yeah I know, it’s just my job, you know?”

“Yeah,” and she broke away.  She picked up her coat, took another swig of the beer and let him walk her to the door to his apartment.

“Give me a call when you get in, ok?”

“It’ll probably be early, like, five-ish,”

“I don’t care, I’ll probably be up with worry, you know?”  Dreamer rolled his eyes.

“I have a mother, you know,”

“Really?  I thought you were hatched,”

“Such a smart ass.”

“You love me”

“Maybe.”

“Bye, James.”

“Bye Katie, walk safe, ok?  Oh here,” he dug into his wallet and produced a yellow Metro Card.  “I still have like, two weeks on this Unlimited, you want it?  I’m taking a cab into The City so…” She snatched it from his outstretched fingers.

“I’ll give it back to you when I see you again,” and she smiled.  They said their good byes again, and he shut the door after her.

Although he was already packed and it was only five in the evening, Dreamer wanted some alone time and decided to take a shower, since he was probably going to be stuck on a train for up to fifteen hours.  He undressed in his bedroom, took a towel from his linen closet and padded into the shower.

***

April 26, 2009 Posted by | Not Enough Time, Shameless Self Promotion, Written Works | , , | Leave a comment

The Blogging Affairs Desk

You might’ve noticed a change around the ol’ site.  Don’t worry, things are just fine and haven’t changed a bit.  Well, except that bit about the name.  I was getting tired of tagging everything with “I’m Just Saying…” so in an effort to piss off everyone who has me listed on a blog roll I changed the name.  But fret not dear readers, you can still expect to get the same quality complaining here as you have come to know and enjoy.

If it has anything to do with people famous for no reason, mind rotting reality television, or twisted personal tales of corruption involving gun violence and alcohol, it’ll be covered here at the new Blogging Affairs Desk.

I’m just… you know what I’m saying.

April 10, 2009 Posted by | Living in an Insane Asylum, Shameless Self Promotion, Too Much Time | , , | Leave a comment

Exsqueeze Me? Bacon Powder?

Holy shit, Mtv is going to play music videos again.

That’s right, read that sentence again, and let the long dead 15 year old inside of you rejoice because the Music Television network is going to be playing actual music again.

At 3 am.

It was announced this past week that Mtv is going to be trying a new “advertising scheme” to create more ad revenue from it’s sponsors by allowing them to purchase “blocks” of time that would showcase their brands, ie, “this hour of music video entertainment has been brought to you buy General Electric’s new Microwave Oven.  You kids can nuke your favorite compact discs in it at 19 different settings!” and “Hey, why go through all that hassle of buying music one song at a time on your computer, when you can buy WHOLE ALBUMS for 9.99 at your local Wal-Mart, now back to the videos!”

Granted, Mtv’s move here is shrewd and dare I say a bit out of touch with the current allowance-spending generation who get the bulk of their music through their parent’s computer.  While ratings, I’m sure, have been dwindling on Mtv’s tv channel, their web site hits are up.

This also probably assuages the burn that artists and label heads have been feeling as they watch 15 seconds of their 25,000 dollar video being played twice a day between the end and opening credits of a “Parental Control” marathon.

It’s no secret that Mtv has moved great distances since it last stopped playing regular full length music videos (I can remember a time when some ridiculous P. Diddy epic would premiere in it’s entirety, a 15 minute long mini-movie or something to that nature) hedging it’s bets that “the kids” want to watch scripted “reality” television series and obnoxiously spoiled brats plan, have a fit over, and celebrate their sweet 16s, and not watch hours after hours of mindless video put to music.  But that’s to what Mtv panders, complete brain rotting junk, no matter what  generation is tuning in .

Mtv should give careful consideration to changing the “M” from “Music” to “Mindless.”  Even at its heart, it’s just a network handing out distractions the same way Nino Brown handed out turkeys on Thanksgiving.

The block of videos will extend from 3 am to 9am, when I’m sure a cavalcade of morose, sullen teenagers will parade in front of the screen and read lines with false attitude towards a pre-positioned adult who will be the focus of carefully edited jump cuts for reaction shots of said labored attitude.  This will go on for exactly 12 hours, before a gaggle of painted whores with false senses of entitlement will whine and complain about how drama filled their lives are in New York, Beverly Hills, Laguna Beach, or where ever the fuck they’re dying their hair or waxing off their pubes at this week.

You want real life drama Mtv?  How about a show about motherfuckers who can’t pay for the heat in their homes this winter?

But in a way, Mtv is at least up front with its intentions on the newly purposed blocks of music videos which only 3rd shifters and Dave Attel will be able to appreciate.  In a recent NY Times article  Mtv came right out and said the return to basic music video blocks is designed to lure the few viewers left towards their website to see the same “exclusive” content that their targeted audience has already been getting off of Youtube for the last week.  They plan on bringing back the old horse “Unplugged” in tiny on-screen vignettes, with a scroll-by that invites viewers to head over to the web site to get uncut clips, et al.

After reading the article, I immediately found a dictionary and looked up “corporate slimeball” and an Mtv logo popped up.

I’m just saying…

April 2, 2009 Posted by | Corporate America Hates You, Gay Shit I Know Too Much About, People I Hate, The Great Indoors, Why Am I Watching This? | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Spring in New England

Spring is a phenomenon in New England.  If you’ve ever spent any amount of time north of New York, you’d know that New England doesn’t really experience what most would consider “Spring.”  This is because Spring does not exist here in the Northeastern most states.

Honestly, the transition between Winter and Summer is a confusing mess of erratic weather, as if Mother Nature herself has gone off her Zoloft, snorted two grams of pure ketamine and started dropping acid blotters half way between here and Hartford, Ct.  There’s no rhyme nor reason to the weather from the months of March to May.  Literally it could be a beautifully breezy, 65 degree day on Monday, and by Wednesday you’re trudging to the local bus stop in three feet of fucking snow.  It’s utter madness, chaotic and depressing.

For the last two weeks or so, temperatures here were hovering in the upper 40s to low fifties.  It was pleasant enough to where I had switched from my insulated M67 field jacket and scarf to my leather, occasionally complimenting it with a hoodie should the temps dip a little.  Last night, as I ran out to the corner store to fetch some ginger ale and cigarettes, I noticed white stuff falling from the evening sky.

“..The fuck…” I muttered as I climbed into my truck.  In the time it took me to drive the quarter mile to the little corner store, buy a bottle of ginger ale and a pack of smokes, it was almost blizzard conditions.  The wind was blowing white-out like snow flakes, the heavy wet kind, sideways.  I beeped my truck just to see where the hell I parked.  I fought against the elements, my arm up in front of my face, my hood drawn over my head, boot in front of boot like I was the last surviving member of the goddamn Donner Party.

No,  Spring in the common sense does not belong in New England.  We go from one extreme to another.  Overnight it can be in the low 30s, and we can wake up to 80 degree short and t-shirt weather.

It’s enough for some people to go absolutely crazy, the wardrobes explode in fits of angst because people have no idea what to wear from one day to the next.  Monday it’s galoshes and scarves, Tuesday it’s pea coats and wool hats, Wednesday it’s Hawaiian shirts and board shorts, Thursdays it’s back to survival suits and O2 masks.

Things are likely to work themselves out by May, but nothing is guaranteed.

I’m just saying….

March 24, 2009 Posted by | Living in an Insane Asylum, Out and About | , , , , | 1 Comment

Taking Your Calls

It’s that time again, where we’ll be taking your questions to help fill out another post.  So if you have a question for either me, Ang or Oakley the Ferret, go ahead and comment below.  Submissions must be met by Thursday to appear in next week’s article.

I’m just saying…

March 1, 2009 Posted by | Living in an Insane Asylum, Not Enough Time | , , | 6 Comments

Ugh.

Moved in.  More to come soon.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go ice and/or heat my back.

I’m just saying…

February 27, 2009 Posted by | Blogging Couple, Living in an Insane Asylum, Not Enough Time | | 1 Comment

We Also Share a First Name

Capt. James T. Kirk covered in Tribbles.

Capt. James T. Kirk covered in Tribbles.

Holy Shit, Tribbles in my bathtub!

Holy Shit, Tribbles in my bathtub!

I’m just saying….

February 15, 2009 Posted by | Blogging Couple, People I Love, The Great Indoors, Too Much Time | , , , , , | 3 Comments