Monday, November 29, 2010

Black Friday/Education/Hannaford's/Smokers/Korea/Steve Spataro

I did what most do not do and purchased several “special door busters“ online before the rush. Even got free shipping. Also it is not the busiest shopping day of the year as that honor goes to the Saturday before Christmas. One site actually tracks selected promotion items and shows that last year an astounding 80% were on sale for less than the “special price“ within two weeks. .

I was on a recent run with a certain Pulitzer possibility columnist who also happens to have the 2,987th best blog in Middleboro and we discussed education. I got into my usual pontification of the value of vocational education which I consider an absolute gem in the fast deteriorating educational structure. I have one son who went to BP and loved it. The program opened a gateway for him to get into electrical work and that provided him with an employment opportunity until he completed fight training. At one time many, many years ago I ran for the Middleboro position on the BP School Committee and in a field of five managed to finish second. However I did beat out blanks.

I use to spend some time at BP with my son taking his courses and operating a ferry service for him for jobs and after school athletics. Very impressed by the various programs in structure, professionalism of staff, curriculum and expectations. There is usually a waiting list to get in so discipline is not an issue. Screw up you are gone. Where I use to teach - Attleboro - the Vocational School is part of the high school and I believe only one other community has that set up. Unfortunately many of the students I had could not attend Vo-Tech classes due to significant behavioral issues. Those that did managed to get a nice start in life with some decent training and good paying jobs.

There was and continues to be an impression by some that Vo-Tech is a place for academic under achievers and some of the early MCAS results may have supported that hypothesize. But those scores have improved considerably and many of the Vo-Tech students attend college rather than go into the work force. A significant number in Attleboro attended the usual mix of schools for more advanced technical schools to highly advanced schools like Wentworth and the engineering and architectural schools at Northeastern and Boston University along with community colleges. In my opinion much of that educational stigma is just not valid.

Another option in the Vo-Tech spectrum is the Bristol County Agricultural High School in Dartmouth. Bristol Aggie as it is called offers Vo-Tech training in the area that its name references. I know Middleboro has some students that attend and I know through my past experiences in 4H that the school is exceptional Programs offered are in a variety of areas from large animal science to natural resource management.

“It shouldn’t come as a surprise to us that we are providing progressively less support for our students.” That was a quote from School Committee member Paul Hilton in an article in The Gazette regarding floundering MCAS scores and continuing budget short falls anticipated with further cuts in state aid. Naturally all those problems will be rectified by tossing a boat load of money into the school system. The article seemed to be the first shot in another attempt at a prop 2 and ½ override and follows of the heals of a snippy and disgruntled letter a few weeks ago by another SC member.

Hannaford’s had an interesting advertisement in The Brockton Enterprise showing their prices were lower than those of S & S and Shaw’s. No big surprise to those of us who are regular shoppers but what they didn’t mention was the dirty little secret of supermarket chains - zone pricing. Price in one market in the chain may not be the same in another market in the chain. Different zones have different fliers. I first noticed this many years ago when I would shop at stores in Quincy and the same specials and prices were different than those in our area. This was pre internet days so I simply had a talk with a manager who explained the various factors that form the basis for zone pricing of which the most important is competition. I was also told that certain areas that are less than economic powerhouses will generally have higher prices mostly as a result of pilferage - employee and customers and lack of foot traffic (customers). This is one of the primary reasons why major stores just don’t wish to locate in poor neighborhoods. Racism is usually tossed when pressure is exerted to have a store locate or to stay and the counter argument will be we are not in business to lose money.

The AP has a story on 11/22 explaining why the stock markets went down over 1%. The reason was mounting debt issues in Europe and especially Ireland coupled with tension in Korea. On Wednesday the markets go up again over one percent and the AP story has Europe debt crisis and tensions in Korea ease and world markets go up. On Friday the markets go down almost a percent and the story headlines are world markets flounder on European debt issues and tensions in Korea. No comment necessary.

Anna Jacques (rhymes with flakes) Hospital in Newburyport now does not hire smokers. First shunted to the loading docks in sub freezing weather and now stamped do not hire. As one of the first members of GASP (Group Against Smoking Pollution) I often wondered if our initial foot in the door legislation would eventually have unforeseen consequences. GASP first signification project was to ban smoking in supermarkets. Seemed reasonable enough. This was accomplished by making the smoking issue one of public health and not - unlike with AIDS - a political issue. Today smokers are ostracized to the fringes where they can enjoy their detrimental habit as they please but banning employment and requiring urine tests to insure they are not lighting up on the sly?

Most smokers that I know respect the air space of the non smokers and most smokers have attempted to quit numerous times. Almost like losing weight and gaining it back on and losing it again. A real merry-go-round. The health consequences of smoking are well documented so this is not an issue of conflicting data. No global warming debate with this puppy. But sooner or later extremist take over and you see this now as a classic example with Anna Jacques Hospital.

President WOW (Walk On Water) managed to get an elbow in the chops and that required twelve stitches. This is the end result of a pick up basketball game and he managed to get the errant elbow. As a former gym rat who use to play some heavy duty B-Ball up to my mid 50s I can fully understand. Seen that many, many times. In all my years I never managed to get one stitch from basketball - of course I had a fracture cheek bone thanks to an errant elbow for a teammate and have also managed to break every finger several times - but no stitches! I’m sure WOW - a true gym rat - has many similar scars.

I may be a New York Football Giants (via New Jersey) fan but I hate the Jets infinitely more than I dislike the local team whose name escapes me. I also dislike Dallas and the Colts infinitely more than the local team so I wish them well in what amounts to a show down on Monday Night Football.

I watched some college football this week and noticed a significant number of coaches had state troopers escorting them. My first response is a simple why and the second is it a paid detail?

Now North and South Korea are in a rocket launching spat. The ultimate punk is Kim Jong II who stands to inherit daddy’s little armed to the teeth nation. Kim Jong appears to be attempting to show pops and the generals he has a pair by whacking an island of about 1,500 innocent bystanders with his latest weaponry. You have one side with a hot economy and another side with plenty of military toys and little to eat - unless you are the twin porkers named Jong. I just love the way these various characters dress up in their military uniforms with all those phony medals. As far as I can determine there is absolutely nothing in this little foray that is in the “What’s in it for us?” category. We still - along with the U.N. - are suppose to have some type of commitment to help defend the South which is why we have a presence. I have seen some video’s of the North and their allegiance to their Fuehrer and it goes beyond bizarre.

My wife - The Lovely Cynthia - and I will be heading to Puerto Rico for a few days. This has become an annual event and I have finally convinced her to go somewhere on the island besides San Juan. As a member of the famed “Cheap Bastards Club” I prefer PR over other islands in the area just based on cost. Really a bargain - even the airfare. The car rentals are exceptionally cheap thanks to few fees and taxes. My $92 rental for five days ends up having only $13 in taxes and fees. In many cities it is close to 50%.

A special thank you for BOS member Steve Spataro for helping distribute candy for the Middleborough Historical Association at the annual Christmas Parade. Steve also had to put up with my usual banter.

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