Six-Year Plan

In job interviews following  my graduation from college, I received a lot of the usual questions that young people hear regarding  lack of experience, grade-point-average. I expected those. 

What I didn’t expect were the  snarky comments about the amount to time I was in school.  like, “I see you were on the six-year plan,” or “You partied a lot, huh?”

Sometimes, I might be able to get a word in about the amount of hours I worked, and that I paid for my own education. Responses were along the lines, of ”Oh, I see…” 

One man actually claimed he  ”didn’t have time to work during college.” 

Awww…c’mon, man!

I’ve seen statistics measuring college-graduation rates (among athletes, or among income groups…) that don’t included students who graduated after six years. I don’t know when it started, but it is still a thing. A cutoff at six years is, of course, arbitrary. I suspect it  was a decision of convenience  as a means to limit the amount of followups the researchers would have to do.

I understand the motivation behind that. Though the cutoff would miss tracking a lot of college graduates who faced financial strife, medical issues, or family crises. Or the people that partied a lot.

When I was planning a move to Tallahassee (don’t ask, OK?), I traveled there for interviews about once a week. I don’t remember the exact comment, but on one trip  a hiring manager belittled me about the ”six years.”

It made me feel pretty small (perhaps that is why the term is ”belittled”).

When I made these trips , I usually headed downtown, or to an office park, to look for job leads. Often, if the business seemed intriguing, I would drop off a rÁ©sumÁ©. Occasionally that resulted in an on-the-spot interview. 

However, this time  I left the interview feeling dejected, and started my 2 1/2 hour drive home. During the trip, I thought much about the events of my life, after high school, through my graduation from college.

I returned to Tallahassee the next week for an interview following day. On the drive up, I had another 2 1/2 hours to reflect on previous “six-year plan”comments  and I how I’d  react the next time the subject came up. 

I got my chance the next the day, when the owner of a company where I interviewed asked “Why did it take you so long to get through school?”

After a week’s reflection, I had a lot to say. Though I had some pent-up energy from previous experiences and wondered if I’d be able to stop saying it. 

And there were  things I wanted to say that  were among those topics (such as health issues)  ”They” say you shouldn’t bring up in interviews. 

I figured this man was already  predisposed against  a ”six-year guy,” so I figured I didn’t have much to lose, thus disregarded what ”they” say. 

“The six-year plan, was not the plan….”  I paused and did a flyover in my mind:  

  • As one of six kids of a retired  enlisted man, who had just finished nursing school and a full-time mom, money was tight. 
  • Decision to  take two classes at junior college, while working  full time at a bank. 
  • The second-semester headaches, diagnosis, surgery, months of recovery, the lingering problems with vision, mobility and losing my summer semester spot at the state university where’d I’d been accepted. Money was substantially tighter.
  • Walking in the Florida heat the two miles from my family home to the retail centers to apply for jobs. And feeling inferior by the recently shaved head, and bloated face and waistline,  from  prescribed steroids, and reduced activity.  
  • Returning to work at the bank full time, while taking a full-time load at the local jr. college.
  • Getting accepted again at a state university, earning an honors scholarship.
  • Working full  time to meet my expenses.
  • The junior year injury playing basketball  requiring emergency surgery. Money was tighter still.
  • The same type of injury at work, surgery and my father’s illness and leaving school that semester to help my mother care for him. Money: still more tightening
  • The cumulative loss of work due to illness and injury,  recovery,  causing financial strife and inability to meet tuition for two semester, leading me to work more hours, until I could return to school part-time. Again, the finances tightened. 

I throttled the answer a bit, “I worked full time throughout most of  my studies…..thousands upon thousands of dirty dishes…… critical illness…injuries…..4 surgeries….family matters requiring my attention…lost work….”

He asked questions about those six years. My responses generated some more questions, several of them are illegal today (I don’t know if they were then). I answered the questions, in some cases, with specifics, because I didn’t care what “They” say I should do.

I concluded with ”..I still graduated in ONLY six years.”

He responded “You should be proud of yourself for that accomplishment.”

I was, beginning that very moment.


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Mask Hysteria

For more  than a year, people have been at loggerheads over whether masks can prevent the spread of Covid-19.  It is rare that we see civil discussion on this topic. People have dropped anchor on their position and many are quick to jump into a fracas over this topic.

Do you want to  know why mask mandates are so controversial?

Pile of Cloth Facemasks

Pile of Face Masks 

It’s because almost nobody sees real evidence suggesting that masking is, or isn’t, effective in preventing virus spread.   

What we  do see on news sites, Twitter,  etc. are claims to offer proof of the effectiveness, or futility,  of wearing masks in defense against Covid.

Yet, this ‘proof’ is almost always  a graph (or several)  showing: 

  • Covid-19 cases rising, or falling, and 
  • A date marker indicating when  mask mandate went into a effect, or were lifted

There’s  couple of things wrong with this.  First, these graphs rarely cite the source of their data. As far as I can tell, nobody is peer-reviewing these screen grabs, either. 

I hate to break to all of you, but these graphs only ”prove”  that the creator of the graph missed the 7th-grade unit on correlation vs. causation, or  the creator assumes their audience did.

And if your ”proof” includes mask-compliance rates, then I guess it’s time we had THE talk about that, too.

Those figures are not reliable. They depend on people being honest (some won’t be) and accurate (many more won’t be). There is no way to gauge how often people are actually wearing mask, or whether they are engaging in other behaviors that might affect virus spread. 

Furthermore, merely showing case patterns juxtaposed against the  start, or end of a mask mandate does, not take into account the variables that we can measure, such as weather-related factors: precipitation, wind and temperature. 

The former two affect the physical distribution of a virus, the latter can determine if people are spending time indoors, or closing windows. 

There is honest-to-God laboratory research with experimental analysis,  on the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of masks in the prevention of viral spread. Though these type of analyses aren’t likely to show up on cable news. 

They  sure as hell won’t make it to social media. 


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For over 105 years, the Major League Baseball franchise in Cleveland has been known as the Indians, a name that has repeatedly been subjected to harsh (in my opinion warranted) criticism because of its perpetuation of racial stereotypes.

Last week the team announced that it would be changing its name to The Guardians   following the completion of the 2021 baseball season. As the linked article describes, the new name came from The Guardians of Traffic: giant statues that are sculpted in The Hope Memorial Bridge.

Personally, I’m glad to see the century-old name for the franchise get scrapped. Though, if I lived in the area, I don’t know if I would have wanted a team name to remind me of being stuck in traffic.

I would have preferred that they had reverted to the team’s earlier name the Spiders.

That seems like a good name for a baseball team since spiders are good at catching flies. Though the downside is that spiders are often eaten by bats.

I also  have to admit that  Cleveland Rocks would have been a cool name.

“Cleveland Rocks” From Opening Credits of The Drew Carey Show


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Target Does WHAT?

(Warning double entendres ahead. If you are easily offended then avert thine eyes).

A week ago, my family  returned to Grand Rapids after a brief  vacation. When my wife said that she was heading out shopping, I immediately thought  of my city’s national  treasure: a sign at the front of a retail plaza showcasing its merchants.

There is nothing unusual about this assembly of stores, but the arrangement of their signs is particularly humorous. At least it is  to 12-year-old me (and current me):

It is  one of the things that makes Grand Rapids grand:

Retail signs arranged so that stores are shown in this order: Target, Staples, Aldi Dicks

Target Staples Aldi Dick’s

Target. Staples. Aldi. Dick’s.

The earliest incarnation of the sign arrangement in this retail plaza was:

  • Target 
  • Staples
  • Dick’s

Later, there was a grocery store chain that made a brief appearance (circa 2009) that couldn’t get a foothold in this market during the global financial crisis and closed.

But for a short time the sign said:

  • Target 
  • Staples
  • Fresh Market
  • Dick’s

After Fresh Market vacated the space, Aldi moved in and took third position on the sign.

The only explanation I can think of for the persistent double-entendres in the sign arrangement is that the property manager is unapologetic smart-ass (and therefore will forever be my hero). 

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