Friday, November 14, 2014

There is nothing like a good education, is there?

I have had a lovely email from a gentleman in New Jersey (the American state not the item of apparel – stop being silly). Here is my reply:

Mel! Thanks for the message. I am overwhelmed by your kindness and have taken the trouble to respond to most of your points by interspersing your comments with mine. I hope this does not confuse you. (Your bits are in blue mine in red)

Late Stage College Planning- You Can Still Save A lot of Money On College Costs

Not strictly accurate. If I am spending money then, by definition, I am not saving it. I cannot save money on costs I can only try to reduce costs. Are you trying to save costs by not capitalising the “l” in “lot” and the “o” in “of” because I don’t think that works with electronic media. Maybe You have put A lot of Research into This, but having read the rest of your letter I remain unconvinced. 

As the parents of a college-bound student, you may be very confused and suffering from anxieties, sleepless nights, fear of going broke, and acquiring huge student debt. If so, you are not alone. With the dramatic increase in the cost of college during the past few decades, paired with the extreme highs and lows of the market and the economy, many families simply can’t afford to attempt this important and expensive process on their own. For most parents, the college years will be the most expensive time in their lives. It makes good sense to seek some assistance.

I am not the parents of a college-bound student, neither am I the parents of an egg-bound student nor a clothbound student but I do have paperbound book – alas I am not its parents. I, being singular, cannot be the parents of anything. Although I have often been given advice along the lines of – to paraphrase – copulating with myself, I have never heeded that advice (you are evidently no stranger to dubious advice) and even if I had, I suspect that there would be numerous pitfalls even before the possibility of gestation. Mel, dear boy, prithee read that first sentence again. It isn’t very well constructed is it? Did your teachers not warn you about the dangers of too many “ands”? We have a saying over here – “Many ands make stuff unwork”. Perhaps you have a degree in marketing which would explain your complete disregard for English usage. In most walks of life it is useful to be able to convey your ideas succinctly and be sanguine about the audience’s chances of comprehending them; in marketing the reverse is true.

We help families evaluate the various options available to them such as whether a private college makes more sense than a public one, or perhaps a trade school makes even better sense. Should your child begin at a Community College and then transfer to a four year school later? Making decisions on these important issues should be based on real knowledge, not myth. Selecting the “right” college can make the difference in both your child’s happiness and the potential savings of thousands of dollars.

Now I see your point – I am confused! If a trade school does not make better sense that a private college, does it matter whether it makes better sense that a public one? Where does this leave me? Why is the right college in quotation marks? Is this a meaning of the word “right” (correct use of quotation marks there, Mel!) with which I am unfamiliar? What do you mean by a college making more sense? You do not display much expertise on the topic of making sense so perhaps I should move on.

At (Name censored - Ed.), we will help you craft a structured plan for choosing the right institution for your

College–bound children without jeopardizing your own retirement, including:

We will not mention the new paragraph there. I mentioned it once, but I think I got away with it. 

§  Separating myth from reality in order to make educated decisions (not what is heard at the water fountain at work or from the neighbor next door);

I do not have a water cooler at my place of work. We do, however, glory in the possession of a kettle. To the best of my recollection (and I must confess that I cannot remember the details of every conversation I have had at that location) I have never been misled or subject to mendacious propaganda. There was, however, an occasion in 1995 when I had cause to doubt the judgement of a colleague in regard to his opinion of the qualities of the episode of “Father Ted” which we had both seen the previous evening. What really concerns me about this point is the construction. Are you implying that water-fountain gossip is myth or do you believe it to be reality? What is reality? Having pondered your missive for some time I am beginning to believe that I ought to invest some time in delving into existential philosophy. If I am to take that course should I chose a private or public college or a trade school? Is there a trade school for philosophy? Should that be “or” or “nor” in your point? Perhaps I need to learn more about simple syntax. Further you specify my next door neighbour. What about the neighbour next door but one? Are they more or less prone to veracity? How do you know? I have always viewed my neighbours as upright and reliable, now you are sowing the seeds of doubt. Even though they seldom discuss matters of more importance than the weather (I have, after all, only been resident here for 25 years) I am beginning to think that I should carry waterproof clothing with me at all times, even when one of these bastards tells me that it is a fine day.

§  Navigating the process for making the right choices about college-those best suited for your child;

§  Forecasting realistic chances of admission at selected colleges using comprehensive, proprietary software, and identifying a plan to improve those chances for schools that may seem out of reach..

Why does this point end with a double full-stop when the others end with a semi-colon? Can any point really end with a semi-colon and have grammatical integrity? It has only taken two readings of your little article to make me question my understanding of even the most simple elements of construction and style.

§  Formulating a plan that will minimize the cost of attendance, reduce out of pocket expenses and maximize financial aid;

§  Differentiating between the pricing of so -called "cheaper" state colleges and "expensive" private colleges – Public institutions do not necessarily equate to a lower cost of attendance;

Why is there a space before “so” and “-called”? Why does Public have a capital “P”?

§  Assisting in the preparation of the FAFSA form;       PLUS MUCH MORE

Our planning team consists of experienced financial advisors and a former college admissions director with
40 + years of experience in higher education, including 18 years working in the “Ivies”.

First step: visit us for a complimentary meeting when we will provide an overview of the college selection process, estimate your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) and help you calculate the amount of financial aid that might be available. For more information or to make your complimentary appointment, please give us a call at (censored - Ed.).
Anyway, Mel, dear friend (I feel so very close to you already) I should point out that I am a resident of the UK. (In case you voted Republican at the recent elections, UK stands for “United Kingdom” and is not part of the United States. We have our own government and everything.) I do not have children of any description let alone those about to embark on college education in North America.

Perhaps you should consider checking your email addresses. But please write again – I cannot convey how much pleasure I have derived from our relationship. In the meantime I will seek out a volume of P G Wodehouse so that he can learn me how to write good again.
Love and peace

Saturday, November 01, 2014


There is a story, in the Grauniad amongst others, that Asshat Osborne is going to be paying back war bonds. I did not know about these things (and there is no need to inform me, thank you very much) but it seems very bizarre and unsavoury.

The UK government borrowed some money to finance the first world war and has been paying interest on those loans ever since. Apparently most of the bond owners are individuals rather than banks. I am not interested in knowing who these people are, but, FFS, would you want your financial security tied up in paying for the Somme? (Apparently there are other bonds still around that date back to the Napoleonic wars and the South Sea Bubble).

My grandfather was definitely not one of the bond buyers. He didn't have any money for that shit anyway. Instead he sent his oldest son to get killed going over the top in a futile attempt to capture a useless hill and then the next oldest son was gassed in the war and died of cancer in his 40s.

The centenary of this war is sobering and shocking. It exemplifies the pitiful moral immaturity of our species in being unable to resolve our differences without conflict. From what I can see the only suitable marking of these anniversaries is that of lament. There may have been heroism in the midst of it, but all I can think of is the thousands upon thousands of boys buried in north west Europe and all of the others around the world killed for no purpose.

I am, of course, equally culpable. My taxes are paying for the murder of children all the way from Syria to Pakistan.