Invaluable Websites Where You Can Educate Yourself for Free

 

——-: Sites To Educate Yourself for Free

 

 

Subject: Sites To Educate Yourself for Free

 

 

 

 

Science and Health

§  MIT OpenCourseWare – MIT OpenCourseWare is a free web-based publication of MIT course materials that reflects almost all the undergraduate and graduate subjects taught at MIT.

§  Tufts OpenCourseWare – Tufts OpenCourseWare is part of a new educational movement initiated by MIT that provides free access to course content for everyone online.  Tufts’ course offerings demonstrate the University’s strength in the life sciences in addition to its multidisciplinary approach, international perspective and underlying ethic of service to its local, national and international communities.

§  HowStuffWorks Science – More scientific lessons and explanations than you could sort through in an entire year.

§  Harvard Medical School Open Courseware – The mission of the Harvard Medical School Open Courseware Initiative is to exchange knowledge from the Harvard community of scholars to other academic institutions, prospective students, and the general public.

§  Khan Academy – Over 1200 videos lessons covering everything from basic arithmetic and algebra to differential equations, physics, chemistry, and biology.

§  Open Yale Courses – Open Yale Courses provides lectures and other materials from selected Yale College courses to the public free of charge via the internet.  The courses span the full range of liberal arts disciplines, including humanities, social sciences, and physical and biological sciences.

§  webcast.berkeley – Every semester, UC Berkeley webcasts select courses and events for on-demand viewing via the Internet.  webcast.berkeley course lectures are provided as a study resource for both students and the public.

§  UC San Diego Podcast Lectures – UCSD’s podcasting service was established for instructional use to benefit our students.  Podcasts are taken down at the end of every quarter (10 weeks Fall-Spring and 5 weeks in the summer).  If you’re enjoying a podcast, be sure to subscribe and download the lectures.  Once the podcast has been taken offline, faculty rarely approve their reposting.

§  Johns Hopkins OpenCourseWare – The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s OpenCourseWare project provides access to content of the School’s most popular courses. As challenges to the world’s health escalate daily, the School feels a moral imperative to provide equal and open access to information and knowledge about the obstacles to the public’s health and their potential solutions.

§  Carnegie Mellon Open Learning Initiative – No instructors, no credits, no charge.  Use these self-guiding Carnegie Mellon materials and activities to learn at your own pace.

§  Utah State OpenCourseWare – Utah State OpenCourseWare is a collection of educational material used in our formal campus courses, and seeks to provide people around the world with an opportunity to access high quality learning opportunities.

§  AMSER – AMSER (the Applied Math and Science Education Repository) is a portal of educational resources and services built specifically for use by those in Community and Technical Colleges but free for anyone to use.

§  Wolfram Demonstrations Project – Wolfram brings computational exploration to the widest possible audience, open-code resource that uses dynamic computation to illuminate concepts.  Free player runs all demos and videos.

§  The Science Forum – A very active scientific discussion and debate forum.

§  Free Science and Video Lectures Online! – A nice collection of video lectures and lessons on science and philosophy.

§  Science.gov – Science.gov searches over 42 databases and over 2000 selected websites from 14 federal agencies, offering 200 million pages of authoritative U.S. government science information including research and development results.

§  The National Science Digital Library – NSDL is the Nation’s online library for education and research in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics.

§  EnviroLink Network–  A  non-profit organization, grassroots online community uniting organizations and volunteers around the world.  Up-to-date environmental information and news.

§  Geology.com – Information about geology and earth science to visitors without charge: Articles, News, Maps, Satellite Images, Dictionary, etc.

§  Scitable – A free science library and personal learning tool that currently concentrates on genetics, the study of evolution, variation, and the rich complexity of living organisms.  The site also expects to expand into other topics of learning and education.

§  LearningScience.org – A free open learning community for sharing newer and emerging tools to teach science.

Business and Money

§  MIT Sloan School of Management – MIT Sloan is a world-class business school long renowned for thought leadership and the ability to successfully partner theory and practice.  This is a subsection of the larger MIT OpenCourseWare site.

§  Investopedia Financial Investing Tutorials – A plethora of detailed lessons on money management and investing.

§  U.S. Small Business Administration Training Network – The Small Business Administration has one of the best selections of business courses on the web. Topics include everything from starting a business and business management to government contracting and international trade. Most courses take only 30 minutes to complete.

§  VideoLectures.NET (Business) – A free and open access educational video lectures repository. The lectures are given by distinguished scholars and scientists at the most important and prominent events like conferences, summer schools, workshops and science promotional events from many fields of Science.

§  My Own Business, Inc. – Offers a free online business administration course that would be beneficial to new managers and to anyone who is interested in starting a business. This comprehensive course is split up into 16 sessions covering topics like business plans, accounting, marketing, insurance, e-commerce and international trade.

§  UC Irvine OpenCourseWare (Business) – Rapidly with the addition of nearly 10 new courses every month. Many of our OCW offerings are directed at working adults seeking continuing education, with the option to enroll in instructor-led, for-credit courses, related to the OCW content.

§  Kutztown University of Pennsylvania – The Kutztown University of Pennsylvania’s Small Business Development Center offers more than 80 free business courses online. Kutztown’s courses are individualized and self-paced. Many of the courses feature high-end graphics, interactive case studies and audio streams.

§  Boston College Front Row (Business) – Boston College Front Row is a Web site that offers free access through streaming media to tapes of cultural and scholarly events at Boston College.

§  Financial Management Training Center – The Financial Management Training Center provides several free downloadable business courses for people who need to learn the finer points of financial management. All courses offered can be taken online; courses include full exams as well as evaluation forms for people seeking Continuing Professional Education (CPE) credits.

§  The Free Nonprofit Micro-eMBA – Free Management Library’s Free Nonprofit Micro-eMBA Program is an especially great resource for students wishing to learn more about nonprofit management, but most of the lessons also apply to general business management. Completion of this program will not result in an MBA degree, but enrollment is free and the material is well structured.

§  Bookboon Free Business e-books – Hundreds of free business books online in PDF format.

§  TheStreet University – If you’re just starting out as a stock and bond investor or need a refresher’s course, this is the place to learn what you need to know.

History and World Culture

§  University of Washington’s OpenUW – Explore a variety of learning in several free history-centric online courses from the University of Washington.

§  Notre Dame OpenCourseWare – Notre Dame OCW is a free and open educational resource for faculty, students, and self-learners throughout the world.

§  Bio’s Best – Biography.com’s most popular biographies on notable historical figures.

§  UC Irvine OpenCourseWare (Social Science) – Rapidly with the addition of nearly 10 new courses every month. Many of our OCW offerings are directed at working adults seeking continuing education, with the option to enroll in instructor-led, for-credit courses, related to the OCW content.

§  Boston College Front Row (History) – Boston College Front Row is a Web site that offers free access through streaming media to tapes of cultural and scholarly events at Boston College.

§  MIT OpenCourseWare (History) – The MIT History Faculty offers about 70 subjects in the areas of Ancient, North American, European, East Asian, and Middle Eastern history.

§  Wikiversity School of Social Sciences – Wikiversity is a Wikimedia Foundation project devoted to learning resources, learning projects, and research for use in all levels, types, and styles of education from pre-school to university, including professional training and informal learning.

§  OpenLearn (Arts and Humanities) – The OpenLearn website gives free access to Open University course materials.

§  A Biography of America – A Biography of America presents history not simply as a series of irrefutable facts to be memorized, but as a living narrative of America’s story.

§  Have Fun with History – A resource for students, educators and all lovers of American History.

§  The USGenWeb Project – Free genealogy and family history resources online.

§  MacroHistory and World Report – Tell without illusions or ideological restraints the story of our ancestors, our parents and us.

§  World History HyperHistory – Navigates through 3000 years of World History with links to important persons and events of world historical importance.

§  American Digital History – Online American history textbook. An interactive, multimedia history of the United States from the Revolution to the present.

Law

§   Duke Law Center for the Public Domain – Duke University is counted amongst the best schools in the South. If you’re interested in law, Duke’s open courseware in that subject area can go a long way towards helping you learn more about the justice system.

§  Intute Law – Provides free access to high quality resources on the Internet. Each resource has been evaluated and categorised by subject specialists based at UK universities.

§  Boston College Front Row (Law) – Boston College Front Row is a Web site that offers free access through streaming media to tapes of cultural and scholarly events at Boston College.

§  American University – Offers a selection of podcasts on a number of different law-related subjects. There is even a very interesting podcast on debt relief and the law.

§  Lewis & Clark Law School – Provides a number of podcast from the law school. Subjects include tax law, business law, environmental law and other areas of law. Interesting and insightful lectures on the law.

§  Case Western Reserve University School of Law – Offers a number of interesting lectures on different law subjects. These lectures are both podcasts and Web casts. You can look ahead to the coming school year, which already has a number of interesting subjects lined up.

§  Harvard Law School – Provides a number of Web casts of law lectures, symposia, panels and conferences. A great collection of relevant information and insights on how the law interacts with current events.

§  Stanford Law – Provides open courseware via iTunes on a variety of law subjects, including the theory of justice, mobile content distribution, gay marriage, judicial review and privacy protection. The tracks are available for free, but you’ll need iTunes. Put the lectures on your iPod or iPhone and listen them anywhere.

§  MoneyInstructor Business Law – From MoneyInstructor.com provides a look at a number of basics in business law. Learn how to define crimes under business law. Worksheets and curriculums are available for teachers. Ordinary folks will find them useful as well.

§  Wesleyan College Constitutional Law – From North Carolina Wesleyan College offers an overview of the U.S. Constitution and the laws springing from it. Online lectures and class notes are included, which can help you develop a strong understanding of the Constitution and how it forms the basis of our laws.

Computer Science and Engineering

§  VideoLectures.NET (Computer Science) – A free and open access educational video lectures repository. The lectures are given by distinguished scholars and scientists at the most important and prominent events like conferences, summer schools, workshops and science promotional events from many fields of Science.

§  Wikiversity School of Computer Science and Technology – Wikiversity is a Wikimedia Foundation project devoted to learning resources, learning projects, and research for use in all levels, types, and styles of education from pre-school to university, including professional training and informal learning.

§  New York State University (US), Computer Science – Hundreds of lectures, tutorials and links to educational material.

§  Dream.In.Code Tutorials – Lots of computer programming tutorials.

§  MIT OpenCourseWare (Engineering and Computer Science) – MIT OpenCourseWare is a free web-based publication of MIT course materials that reflects almost all the undergraduate and graduate subjects taught at MIT.

§  Maine University (US), Fogler Guide to Computer Science – An insanely detailed list of computer science resources.

§  FreeComputerBooks.com  – Free computer, mathematics, technical books and lecture notes.

§  Collection of Computer Science Bibliographies – A massive collection of bibliographies of scientific literature in computer science, updated weekly from original locations, more than 3 millions of references (mostly to journal articles, conference papers and technical reports), clustered in about 2000 bibliographies.

§  W3Schools – Web-building tutorials, from basic HTML and XHTML to advanced XML, SQL, Database, Multimedia and WAP.

§  FreeTechBooks.com – This site lists free online computer science, engineering and programming books, textbooks and lecture notes, all of which are legally and freely available over the Internet.

§  Free computer Tutorials – Free computer courses and tutorials site. All the courses are aimed at complete beginners, so you don’t need experience to get started.

§  Programmer 101: Teach Yourself How to Code – Several helpful resources for computer programming beginners.

§  Google Code University – Provides sample course content and tutorials for Computer Science (CS) students and educators on current computing technologies and paradigms.

Mathematics

§  Oxford University Mathematics OpenCourseWare – Various online mathematics classes provided free by Oxford University.

§  UMass Boston Mathematics – Various online mathematics classes provided free by UMass Boston.

§  Whatcom Online Math Center – Various math lessons provided free by Whatcom Community College.

§  VideoLectures.NET (Mathematics) – A free and open access educational video lectures repository. The lectures are given by distinguished scholars and scientists at the most important and prominent events like conferences, summer schools, workshops and science promotional events from many fields of Science.

§  Wikiversity School of Mathematics – Wikiversity is a Wikimedia Foundation project devoted to learning resources, learning projects, and research for use in all levels, types, and styles of education from pre-school to university, including professional training and informal learning.

§  AMSER Mathematics – AMSER (the Applied Math and Science Education Repository) is a portal of educational resources and services built specifically for use by those in Community and Technical Colleges but free for anyone to use.

§  Math.com – Math.com is dedicated to providing revolutionary ways for students, parents, teachers, and everyone to learn math.

§  Intute Mathematics – Provides free access to high quality resources on the Internet. Each resource has been evaluated and categorized by subject specialists based at UK universities.

§  Free-Ed College Mathematics – Offers a wide range of free online math courses and study programs.

English and Communications

§  Open Yale Courses (English) – Open Yale Courses provides lectures and other materials from selected Yale College courses to the public free of charge via the internet.

§  Writing Guidelines for Engineering and Science Students – These guidelines for engineering writing and scientific writing are designed to help students communicate their technical work.

§  MIT Writing and Humanistic Studies – The MIT Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies gives students the opportunity to learn the techniques, forms, and traditions of several kinds of writing, from basic expository prose to more advanced forms of non-fictional prose, fiction and poetry, science writing, scientific and technical communication and digital media.

§  Merriam-Webster Online – In this digital age, your ability to communicate with written English is paramount skill.  And M-W.com is the perfect resource to improve your English now.

§  National Novel Writing Month – Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.

§  Lifewriting – A complete text of the 9-week writing class a professor taught for years at UCLA.

§  Guide to Grammar and Writing – Grammar and writing techniques, lessons and quizzes.

§  Purdue Online Writing Lab – Over 200 free resources including lessons on: writing, research, grammar, and style guides.

Foreign and Sign Languages

§  BBC Languages – Teach yourself a new spoken language online.

§  American Sign Language Browser – Teach yourself sign language online.

§  Livemocha – Start learning a new language online for free.

§  Learn10 – Gives you a language learning habit that’s hard to kick. 10 new words; everywhere, every day.

§  One Minute Languages – Learn a new language via podcasts that are updated regularly.

§  Mango Languages – Over 100 lessons, shown to you in PowerPoint style with interstitial quizzes, to move you through any language without cracking a book.

Multiple Subjects and Miscellaneous

§  OpenLearn – The OpenLearn website gives free access to Open University course materials.  Multiple subjects are covered.

§  Capilano University OpenCourseWare – The Capilano University OpenCourseWare site is a free and open educational resource for faculty, students, and self-learners throughout the world.

§  University of Southern Queensland’s OpenCourseWare – Provides access to free and open educational resources for faculty members, students, and self-learners throughout the world.

§  YouTube EDU – Educational videos on YouTube organized by subject matter.

§  LearnHub Test Prep – Raise your test scores with free practice tests & counseling on various subjects.

§  iTunes U – Hundreds of universities — including Stanford, Yale and MIT — distribute lectures, slide shows, PDFs, films, exhibit tours and audio books through iTunes U.  The Science section alone contains content on topics including agriculture, astronomy, biology, chemistry, physics, ecology and geography.

§  United Nations University OpenCourseWare – Showcases the training and educational programs implemented by the University in a wide range of areas relevant to the work of the United Nations.

§  Brigham Young Independent Study – BYU Independent Study now offers free courses in different areas of study.  These areas include Family History, Family Life, and Religious Scripture Study, Personal Dev elopement, etc.  Use these courses as a starting point for your personal studies or just to add insight to an area of interest.

§  University of Utah OpenCourseWare – Provides access to free and open educational resources for faculty members, students, and self-learners throughout the world.

§  United States Nation Archives – The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is the nation’s record keeper.  Valuable records are preserved and are available to you, whether you want to see if they contain clues about your family’s history, need to prove a veteran’s military service, or are researching an historical topic that interests you.

§  Wikiversity – Wikiversity is a Wikimedia Foundation project devoted to learning resources, learning projects, and research for use in all levels, types, and styles of education from pre-school to university, including professional training and informal learning.

§  UMass Boston OpenCourseWare – Various online classes provided free by UMass Boston.

§  About U – A collection of free online educational courses from About.com.

§  Academic Earth – Online degrees and video courses from leading universities.

§  Free-Ed – Clusters of courses that support your preparation for today’s fastest-growing careers and critical academic disciplines.

§  Connexions – A place to view and share educational material made of small knowledge chunks called modules that can be organized as courses, books, reports, etc. Anyone may view or contribute.

§  TED – Motivational and educational lectures from noteworthy professionals around the world.

§  Intute – Provides free access to high quality resources on the Internet. Each resource has been evaluated and categorised by subject specialists based at UK universities.

§  Boston College Front Row – Boston College Front Row is a Web site that offers free access through streaming media to tapes of cultural and scholarly events at Boston College.

Free Books and Reading Recommendations

§  LibraryThing – LibraryThing connects you to other people who are reading what you’re reading and allows you to see which books are popular in various categories of reading.

§  Textbook Revolution – Links to free online textbooks and other educational materials.

§  Book TV – This is the companion site to Book TV on C-Span2. The site holds some current interviews with authors, many past interviews, opinions, reviews, and featured programs through online video.

§  Bookboon – Bookboon provides online textbooks for students in PDF format. The free ebooks can be downloaded without registration. Our books are legal and written exclusively for Bookboon. They are financed by a few in-book ads.

§  Scribd – Scribd, the online document sharing site which supports Word, Excel, PowerPoint, PDF and other popular formats. You can download a document or embed it in your blog or web page.

§  BookYards – BookYards is a web portal in which books, education materials, information, and content will be freely to anyone who has an internet connection.

§  Planet eBook – Free classic literature to download and share.

§  E-Books Directory – Thousands of ebooks on various subjects to download and share.

§  Read Print Library – Free online books library for students, teachers, and the classic enthusiast.GoodReads – Get great book recommendations and keep track of what you want to read.

§  The Online Books Page – University of Pennsylvania database with over 30,000 books.

§  Public Literature – Thousands of familiar classics, children’s books, plays and poems, as well as books by new authors.

§  Full Books – Thousands of full-text nonfiction and fiction books.

§  Many Books – Free fiction and nonfiction ebooks for your PDA, iPod or ebook reader.

§  Get Free Books – Thousands of free ebooks to download.

§  Project Gutenberg – More than 20,000 free books from the first producer of free e-books.

§  Bibliomania – Thousands of classic books, poems, short stories and plays.

§  Classic Reader – Large collection of free classic books, plays, and short stories from more than 300 authors.

§  Bartleby Fiction – Classic anthologies and volumes.

§  The Personal MBA Recommended Reading List – MBA programs don’t have a monopoly on advanced business knowledge: you can teach yourself everything you need to know to succeed in life and at work.  The Personal MBA features the very best business books available, based on thousands of hours of research.

§  Books Should Be Free – Free audio books from the public domain.

Educational Mainstream Broadcast Media

§  BBC Learning – Online learning, support, and advice. This site offers internal and offsite links to a vast amount of materials.

§  Biography – The site holds videos to past interviews and biographies on people in topics that range from Black history to women’s history.

§  Book TV – This is the companion site to Book TV on C-Span2. The site holds some current interviews with authors, many past interviews, opinions, reviews, and featured programs through online video.

§  CBC Archives — Relive Canadian history through thousands of available radio and television clips.

§  Discovery — This channel is home to several different networks that focus on the military, animals, travel, etc. The Discovery site offers a “Video of the Day” from its home page, a separate online video section, and a Discover Education center where teachers can accumulate materials for K-12 teaching. It’s impossible to list all their offerings here, so go discover!

§  History Channel – Visit the Video Gallery for a selection on historical topics. Like the Discovery Channel, this network provides many opportunities for you to gain access to information and reference materials.

§  NOVA — Watch current science shows or browse by category. PBS sponsors this channel.

§  Research Channel — Speakers, researchers and professors present revolutionary thoughts and discoveries. Use their Webstreams and an extensive video-on-demand library for research.

§  Weather Channel – You can learn about weather all over the world, but the Weather Channel also offers dynamic content based upon seasons and special conditions and a special multimedia and education section.

Online Archives

§  American Memory – The Library of Congress provides extensive multimedia offerings on various topics through their American Memory Collection, including their outstanding Built in America project that showcases historical buildings through photographs.

§  Fathom – This archive, provided by Columbia University, offers access to the complete range of free content developed for Fathom by its member institutions. The archives include online learning resources including lectures, articles, interviews, exhibits and seminars.

§  Internet Archive Open Educational Resources – A digital library of Internet sites and other cultural artifacts in digital form.

§  National Archives – Provides primary source materials from NARA along with lesson plans for teaching with those sources.

§  National Climatic Data Center – The NCDC, a division of NOAA, maintains climatic archives, including lists of storms in given counties, and records about global extremes, etc.

§  The Rosetta Project – A global collaboration of language specialists and native speakers building a publicly accessible online archive of all documented human languages.

§  September 11 Digital Archive – This site uses electronic media to collect, preserve, and present the history of the 9/11 attacks.

§  U.S. Census Bureau – If you think the Census Bureau is all about numbers, you might be surprised to learn about their archived photographs, daily radio features, and more available through theirNewsroom.

Directories of Open Education

§  Google Scholar – Provides a simple way to broadly search for scholarly literature. From one place, you can search across many disciplines and sources: articles, theses, books, abstracts and court opinions, from academic publishers, professional societies, online repositories, universities and other web sites.

§  OpenCourseWare Consortium – This site provides a portal to search through hundreds of free courses or to add new courses you know about to the database.

§  iBerry – Check out this site for a huge directory of open courseware organized by school and subject matter that can point you in the right direction for any type of learning.

§  Self Made Scholar Directory – Free online directory of web-based classes and courses.

 

Traveling Through Life on a Mobility Scooter

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Ever since a recent trip to Las Vegas, I noticed more and more people driving mobility scooters.   We are not talking about sexy Vespas here, hearkening back to the classic French and Italian films of the sixties, where young lovers tooled around Rome and Paris on their two cycle models.   We are not even talking about the upgrades, the current scooters serving as answers the stratospheric price of gasoline and the lack of parking in the cities.  Instead, what is under discussion are these boring little machines that look insipid when a big rear end is hanging over its seat.

I didn’t even know mobility scooters existed until several years ago when I first noticed late night cable commercials on the television.   The company that was selling these contraptions assure the prospective buyer that if the advertiser believed the person qualified for one on their health care policy and were later turned down, then the advertiser would give the customer one for free.  You can’t beat that.

The commercials which saturated the cable stations demonstrated the mobility scooters ease of use, and how easily it stored in the trunk.   The commercials showed happy old people who were otherwise unable to get around living what was described as a normal life thanks to their new set of wheels and rechargeable electricity.   Here they were shopping, riding through the park, playing with the grandchildren.   Or here they were sitting around three four of them, like geriatric bikers, chatting it up in the retirement sunshine.

Naturally, I believe these mobility scooters were for people who couldn’t walk because they were either handicapped or so ravaged by age their legs could no longer be trusted.  This in itself was a good thing, until I saw my own mother try  out the courtesy scooter  in a Trader Joe’s and nearly run over four people and a display stand of boxed cookies.  It gave me pause. During what must have seemed to the store clerks as her interminable stint around the aisles I was laughing too hard to be embarrassed.  Comedy today is wherever you can find it.

But I digress.  Since the mobility scooters first came on the scene, I have seen them everywhere.  I have seen them on Sunset Boulevard here in Los Angeles; I have seen additional courtesy mobility scooters added to the Big Box stores.   I have seen what appeared to be caravans of them in Las Vegas, parading down the sidewalks or along the thoroughfares inside the casinos.   Given the economy and a handful of other things, that has to be the perfect statement to the downside of our culture.  One of them, anyway.  We are scootering to hell in a hand basket.

What gets me is that these are not necessarily people who are unable to walk.   These are people who are either too lazy to walk or too fat to want to try.   These are people who could walk but would rather zip around on their mobility scooters.   Whether or not they actually buy them or get their health care plants to write them off is another matter.  If health care is picking these things up, then we are paying for them as well as part of our increased health care payments.

As the cost of health care goes up, fewer people can afford it.  We’re talking here about people who actually need health care.  Not just so they can get a mobility scooter and tool around without having to bother putting one foot in front of the other.   We’re talking about families who are priced out of health care payments because, among other things, the mobility scooters add to the overall costs.

But then we are a society where we believe people have the right to be lazy and indulgent.  Where they can eat what they want, drink what they want, smoke it up, and then complain to, say the airlines that the seat belt isn’t large enough to go around their bellies.

So in spite of our anger over Wall Street, the mortgage fraud schemes, banking, and whatever else is working on our nerves, some of us, don’t seem to get it.  We will run up the health care cost for no other reason than we are too lazy to walk and too indulgent to lose the weight that allows them to walk.   We can talk about our rugged individuality and all that good old American jingo, but with some of us, anyway, instead of climbing back up the mountain, we are puttering along on a scooter.

Economic Meltdown, When You Finally Get the Memo

The economic meltdown came so fast and so furiously, most of us weren’t sure how to even reaction.   With the markets plummeting, housing prices on a steep decline and people getting laid off left and right, we were left with mixtures of anger and grief.  To at least some degree, life as we knew it was over.

What I mean by this is that most of us having been living over our heads for years.   We all believed we deserved certainly luxuries, everything from the pricey wines to the trendy wardrobes.   Men were having their shirts custom made, and women just had to have the bag of the season.  Designer, shoes, suits, shirts, dining out,  lavish vacations, were no longer anything special but just another part of our regimen.

We made money and then we borrowed more.   We bought houses that were way over our heads, automobiles that offered status but at a very high cost.  We leased cars we couldn’t afford.   We took lavish vacations, ate out in cutsey restaurants.  We bought gourmet food and fine wine.   We were massaged on a regular basis.  We went nightclubbing and sat around over expensive vodka and a bowl of caviar, playing with our electronic gadgets.  We actually thought that none of it would end.

And then it did.   Now it’s time to tell ourselves and our families that life as we knew it has at least temporarily been put on hold.   The level of disbelief is considerable.  Husbands and wives are fighting.  The childen, spoiled from years and indulgence, simply can’t believe they have to cool it with the designer jeans and trips to the maill.   As for the gourmet foods, it’s the big box store for most of us.   Restaurants?   Yes, some of the top of the line steak joints are still doing well, as are the lower priced coffee shop.   As for that cute little storefront bistro. let’s just say it’s rare that you need reservations.

So after all those years of indulgence, the bottom has now fallen out of the economy.   It’s a bitter pill to swallow.   A sad but unique experience.   Ironic that it comes at such a price.

California Wildfires Are the Lesson We Never Learn

It is wildfire season in California.   The first typically come in early to middle autumn when the land is dry as a bone and the Santa Ana Winds blow hot air to fan the flames.   A spark here and the fire is started.  A few burning embers caught up in the winds, and the fire spreads to catastrophic proportions.    If not every year we are treated to this disaster, it is a good many years.

Later, when winter comes and the rains pour down, the burnt vegetation and barren landscape will never hold back the waters.  We will have mud slides.  More disaster.  Sliding mud, believe me, is a horrible menace.  Water running downhill can cause tremendous damage.  Think of mud as dense, heavy water, and you begin to see its capability.  I saw it one year roll through a house like a mucky wrecking ball.  Good thing my neighbors weren’t home that day.   Would have killed them, for sure.

So with the first we have the news crews.  We have the stories.  We have the macro stores, told from helicopters and from the fire lines, dealing with the overall intensity of the fires, where it is spreading, its percentage of containment, and the number of houses the first have destroyed.   We get to see the burning hillsides, the houses bursting in flames like Maison Flambe.   We see the fire fighters struggling bravely to contain and push back the surging conflagration.   Every year.

And every year we also get the micro stories.  The up close and personal stories.  We see men adn women sharing tears, sifting through the ruins of their houses, the charred remains of their personal possessions.  We see them looking for their pets, looking for what remains of family heirlooms and photos.  We hear them trying to console themselves by showing gratitude for the fact that they are still alive and all the lost were the material possessions.   We see these people go from a multi-million dollar house to a cot in a gymnasium shelter in twenty minutes time.  Fires move quickly in the mountain and canyon areas.

It is hard not to feel sorry for them.  You feel sympathetic, share at least a modicum of pain.  You put yourself in their shoes.   You wonder what it would be like.  And while I feel the sympathy and empathy for people who have been victimized by natural disasters, I also wonder what they were thinking when they decided to build their homes there.

I realize this is an age old question.  People wonder it about those who build their house to closely to a river that is prone to flood.   People wonder about trailer parks and domiciles built in the path of hurricanes and tornadoes.   Sometimes you can’t help it.  Sometimes the hurricane, fire, flood or tornado just takes a wrong turn and comes barreling down your boulevard.

But the fact remains many of these houses should never be built on hilltops, canyons and wooded areas where they are just inviting disaster to come for a visit.   We have seen this movie enough times to realize as beautiful as it is in these places, we just can’t afford to be building there.  It is stupid.  It is even more stupid when the same people build and then rebuild, after a previous disaster.

I know, you live there, you love the view,  it’s so romantic, the great whatever, but it seems like it is my tax dollars that are bailing you out.   It is me who has to smell or the charring that is exacerbated by the housing developments.  Days of foul smoke and smoky stench.  Yes, it would be there anyway, but it would never be the disaster it is if the houses weren’t part of the equation.  It would just be burning woods, canyons, the natural cycle where fires eliminate the surplus vegetation.

This is a lousy economy.  It doesn’t have to be made worse by stupid planning and development.  We do not have to build on every square inch of the natural landscape.  We don’t have to transpose the natural landscape with an ugly housing development that is destined to be destroyed by wildfires.  And in a time when neither federal government or state government has the money to maintain what mediocre civic services we already have, we really don’t need to be shelling out money via emergency funding so homeowners can indulge themselves in places they don’t belong.

I believe the first time there is a disaster, the government helps you out.  The second time, if you persist on living where you shouldn’t be building, you had better have adequate insurance or be prepared to be on your own when the disaster strikes.  Sure, the fire fighters will be noble and try to save you, your pets, and your house.   But if they can’t, then it is up to you to pick up the tab.    If you can’t pick up the tab, if insurance rates are so dear that you can’t afford homeowners’ insurance, then be prepared to suffer mightily.  Be prepared to suffer financially.  Be prepared to move elsewhere.   Instead of where you don’t belong.

John Edwards’ Poverty Lesson, When You Get Caught, Raise Your Prices

According to an article in the Chicago Sun-Times, John Edwards has decided to reemerge from his seclusion and go back on the public speaking circuit.  He also decided to raise his speaking rates to $65,000, up from the more previous $55,000.   That’s a lot of money to talk about poverty.   Or maybe the cost of maintaining his own household and that of paramour, Rielle Hunter, is more than he anticipated.   So much hush money and so little time.

I have always been suspicious of Aw Shucks, Self-Effacing people who in every obvious endeavor show nothing but ambition bordering on megalomania.   I mean, how serious can you be about the modesty thing when you want to make a few hundred million and run for President of the United States.   In John Edward’s case, we not only have all the self effacing play acting, we have it out of slick goober boy, the crusader against poverty with the $1,250 haircut.   Must cost a lot to look the part, so people will believe you are really serious about poverty.   In Edwards case, there are two Americas.  Supercuts and his $1,250 newscaster’s special.

Edwards looks bad in his jeans.  I am suspicious of guys who never look right in jeans but persist on wearing them to look hip or young or like one of the people they are trying to win over.   With more than a few,  jeans just don’t become them.  I don’t know if it’s the cut, their bellies, hips and behinds, or if the belt looks wrong with the shirt.  Something.  Always something looks askew.

The new Wranglers commercial with quarterback Brent Farve shows Brent Farve looks very natural and very cool in jeans.   Not even the super designer style, just a plain old pair of Wranglers.   Bill Clinton never looked right in jeans, but at least he had the good sense, for the most part, to wear khakis in his leisure.  The list goes on.  Now that I have called it to your attention, see who looks cool, or at least like the sold working prole in their blue jeans, and see who looks like their wives dressed them for the weekend.  It is very revealing.

But most of all, when Edwards calls for greater accountability and swears he is a man of family values, etc., and all the rest.  When asked during the debates what his faults are.  Does he answer honestly?  Does he tell the world he likes to fool around on the side and there is just something about Rielle Hunter that has so lassoed his stem cells he had a  baby with her?   Naw.   He tells during the debates that this greatest fault is his loving America too darn much.  Well golly.

Then when he is accused of the affair, he denies it.  He pulls a Larry Craig on us.   He then emerges from his inclusion goes back on the stump.   He is ready again to give his all about poverty.  He is ready to get paid for telling us that poverty, indeed, is bad for us.   He is ready to confess, I suppose, about his misdeeds and lack of judgement.   He is ready.   Are we?  Or will we just watch the the rerun on Jerry Springer?