4,726 = the number of colleges and universities United States.
$589 billion = the amount spent by students annually.
Of that figure,
$393 billion = tuition fees, and
$196 billion = expenses like travel and housing.
538% = the percentage increase of the cost of a college education over the past three decades.
4.5 = the number times more expensive it is to go to college today than it was back in 1985, even allowing for inflation.
So is the cost worth it?
Does the education system make sense?
The vast majority of Americans never even consider these important questions. They are fixated on their kids going to college – end of debate.
Whether they have the ability or not, or whether it is the right career path for them or not, if the parents can afford it and/or the kids can get a student loan (which they usually can) then they go to college.
But there is a heavy cost to pay, as we have just seen above. By the time they graduate 70% of students are lumbered with a loan balance averaging $28,400. Nationwide in the US, student loan debt now sits at a staggering $1.2 trillion, which is nearly 50% higher than all the outstanding auto-loan debt, and almost double credit card debt.
While it is true that college graduates have more opportunities to earn more than those without a degree, the number of those good paying jobs is limited. Most college graduates have to settle for a lot less that they were planning for when they started that expensive college education.
What is often forgotten is that there are many other opportunities out there in the workplace for someone who spends their time and money learning a trade or a skill. A friend of mine who is a plumber earns many times more than many of his contemporaries with college degrees and office jobs.
In fact, since more and more young Americans are turning their noses up at manual type jobs and opting for expensive colleges, there will soon be a shortage of essential trades such as plumbers, electricians and so forth, making those jobs even more lucrative than they are now.
In the summer in Farnborough in Hampshire, England one of the biggest events in the aviation industry takes place. It’s call the Farnborough Air Show.
I remember when I used to work in that industry helping to prepare invitations, information packs, and all the usual PR stuff. Farnborough is THE place to meet and greet both those who buy aircraft and those firms like Boeing and AIrbus who build them and provide tens of thousands of jobs for smaller companies.
So it is an important event.
At this year’s show they named the world’s best airline, in fact they named the top ten best airlines.
And despite the United States building some of the best airplanes in the world, and despite the United States having some of the world’s largest and busiest airlines, do you know how many United States airlines made it into the top ten?
The title of this post probably gave it away. The answer is….
None. That’s ninguno, aucun, keiner, zero!
Even the regional category for North America was won by Air Canada.
Apparently, not only are air travelers in America to be treated as potential terrorists, herded and prodded and scanned and humiliated when they are trying to get on to an airplane. But when they do, the comfort and service they can expect will be second rate.
I think that’s a disgrace. America should be leading the world in the standard of their airlines. They should be at least one, if not more, of the top ten list every year offering a consistently high standard that their customers (that’s you and me) deserve.
And this award is decided by the votes of millions of travelers, so customers’ opinions do count.
So time for United States airlines to ditch those bureaucratic bean counters who decide that they can squeeze just another row of seats into an airplane so that everyone is uncomfortable. In the long term this kind of thinking doesn’t save you money, it loses you money. And when your customers vote for the best airline, they don’t vote for you!
For those of you who are interested, this year’s best airline was the Hong Kong based Cathay Pacific. They were voted best performer across all types of travel, economy, and luxury.
Qatar Airways and Singapore Airlines placed second and third respectively in the global category, with last year’s winner, Emirates, slipping to fourth. Fifth to tenth places went to Turkish Airlines, ANA All Nippon Airways, Garuda Indonesia, Asiana Airlines, Etihad Airways and Lufthansa respectively.
There was a movie a few years ago called ‘Lost In Translation’ starring Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson. It was about a jaded film star and a neglected wife who form an unlikely bond after meeting in a hotel in Tokyo, with the problem of translation between English and Japanese forming a sub theme.
It wasn’t a movie to everyone’s taste, but if you haven’t seen it definitely worth a look. It was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor for Bill Murray, and Best Director for Sofia Coppola, with Coppola winning for Best Original Screenplay. Scarlett Johansson won a BAFTA award for Best Actress in a Leading Role.
All that is by way of introduction to today’s post which is also about how the real meaning of what you try to say can sometimes be lost in translation.
The following signs are good examples that illustrate the point and hopefully amuse.
The original title of this post was “Farting On Airplanes” because it is really about farting on airplanes, but I thought it might be better just to call it “It’s An Ill Wind”.
No, come on, now you know don’t turn your noses up, or pretend this is something that (a) you’ve never thought about, or (b) never done. Farting on airplanes is an international phenomenon that transcends all nationalities, religions, ages, creeds, classes and colors.
It is in fact the common bond of all the world’s travelers.
Whether it can ever bring us closer together, however, is another thing (Phew!)
This is a quite embarrassing story. Not something one would normally admit to, but people write unusual things on blogs.
It concerns one of the first long haul flights that I was ever on.
Nowadays, as a seasoned flyer, I always have a good meal before the flight. I don’t suffer from air sickness of any kind and I don’t care for the stuff they call airline food. Back then, however, I was a novice and ended up on board without any breakfast other than a cup of coffee. My stomach was empty – of food anyhow.
All was well for about twenty or thirty minutes and then it started.
The obvious solution would have been to get up and go to the toilet. But easy options aren’t the way I have gone through life so far.
Also it was a big plane, a 747, and the toilets were quite a bit away from my seat. I would face a long walk down the narrow aisle.
Not that the walk itself was the problem. It was just that whoever designs airline seats has arranged things so that the nose and ears of the person sitting down is just about at the same height as the bottom of the person walking casually past.
You see the predicament?
In any case, I found myself in a window seat with two other seats to negotiate before I got to the aisle. Such was the pressure building up that I feared the exertion of hopping over the additional seats would make the whole purpose of the journey somewhat redundant.
There was nothing for it but to stay where I was, with the unfortunate choice being either bursting or releasing some of the pressure. Not unnaturally I chose to do the latter option.
As these things go it was a substantial outcome. But the drone of the plane engines (they were a lot louder in those days, I think, I hope, weren’t they?) seemed to drown out any other background noises.
I didn’t hear a thing.
I double checked by having a quick look at the person unfortunate enough to be sitting beside me, but there was no sign in the expression on his face that anything untoward had happened. Either that or he was a professional poker player with a practiced deadpan expression – or in a state of semi consciousness as a result of the concussive force emanating from the seat beside him.
My confidence grew. I thought of the famous campfire scene from Blazing Saddles and let a few more go in tribute.
I was so happy at the relief and at the fact that all was undetected that I allowed myself a triumphant smile, and then even a laugh. The movie I was watching was a comedy so my laughter didn’t look out of place either.
It was all good.
Hang on a minute.
All was not as good as it seemed.
Cut the laughter and cue serious worried face.
I suddenly realized that all this time I had been wearing the headphones the flight attendant had given us for the movies they were showing. No wonder I had heard nothing!
Oh dear me! What had I done?
Well, I knew what I had done, of course. The big question now was, did anyone else know? Had they heard me doing it?
I looked again at the man in the seat beside me. Again no perceivable reaction on his face that indicated that anything out of the ordinary had happened, although now I was aware of them I saw that he too was wearing the headphones.
I was relieved a bit, but still very curious. And when I get curious about something I have to try to find an answer.
So there was nothing for it but let rip again, this time with my headphones off.
And that’s what I did.
Thankfully, in the interests of the scientific experiment now under way, the quality of the offending item had not diminished in force. A guy knows about these things even without any audio feedback.
To my great relief, in every meaning of the word, I still didn’t hear a thing. The drone of the airplane engines had indeed drowned out any other sounds.
It was a magnificently liberating experience and from that day on I have never looked back, as it were.
Further experimentation revealed that the same undetectable result could be achieved even on much smaller airplanes. Commercial jets I’m talking about, of course, this is not a sport to indulge in on a single engined Cesna or something like that.
I also found out that it is possible I have been saving the airlines lucky enough to win my custom a small fortune. As you know the air in airplanes these days is all re-circulated and, as the methane content of a fart is lighter than air, the captured gas therefore contributes to keeping the airplane airborne with a consequent saving on fuel. That’s my story anyhow.
And the good news just keeps on coming.
Independent research confirms that a person’s sense of smell is greatly suppressed in the reduced cabin air pressure, which incidentally is also why airplane food tastes so bad.
So now if you are on an airplane and sitting beside someone who is chuckling to himself – or herself, yes ladies your secret is out – you’ll know the real reason why!
It has been a bit if a theme now for a while on Tuesdays to present some silly questions asked by the general public. Today we have a selection of questions that cruisers on cruises have asked of cruise crews.
Apparently you can have enough money for a cruise and still be dumb!
It really is a good job that they don’t make people walk the plank any more.
“Do you make your own electricity on board?”
“Why can’t I get cable stations?”
“Are you the Captain?” (Asked of crew who are clearly not the Captain)
“Do you actually live on this ship?”
“Do these stairs go up or down?”
“Does the crew sleep on board?”
“Could you call the captain to stop the waves? I am getting seasick.”
“I just saw the Captain in the dining room. Who is steering the ship?”
“Is the water in the toilets salty or fresh?”
“What time does the midnight buffet start?”
“What do you do with the ice sculptures after they melt?”
“Can you get these chips on land?” (Referring to casino chips)
“Why is it so windy outside?” (On a cruise liner traveling 30 miles per hour at the time)
“I see them!” (The inevitable response from a member of the crowd whenever a casino dealer on a cruise liner played a favorite joke — pointing out “penguins” on a “little piece of ice” during a cruise through Bermuda)
“So what is the elevation here?” (On an Alaskan cruise)
“Why can’t I find a USPC post box in town?” (In Ocho Rios, Jamaica)
“I want to change cabins! I paid good money for this cruise, and all I can see is a rusted crane in the harbor!” (Asked before leaving port)