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Staying Young With Rube Goldberg

Posted by | October 13, 2010
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Mousetrap Board Game

Rube Goldberg was the man. I didn’t know him personally – he died in 1970 (before I was born), but he is responsible for coming up with the concept for what is now known as Rube Goldberg Machines.

Wikipedia (which is quickly becoming my favorite website on the planet in cyberspace) describes Rube Goldberg Machines as “complex devices that perform simple tasks in indirect, convoluted ways.”

A couple weeks ago I saw a video online where a few kids had put together a Rube Goldberg machine and absolutlely lost their minds with excitement when it went off successfully. The machine itself was nothing special, but they didn’t care.

It was fun for me to see kids being kids. It’s proof that there are other ways to play, without having to sit in front of a TV or organize a sandlot game. I give them and their parents a lot of credit.

What’s cool about building a Rube Goldberg Machine is it doesn’t have to cost any money – it can (and should) be built from things you have around the house. Kid’s toys are perfect components for a RGM because they come built with moving parts.

The next time your son or daughter tells you they’re bored, despite having thousands of dollars worth of the latest and greatest Mattel has to offer, introduce the brat to the concept behind a Rube Goldberg Machine and watch them go to work. I bet it won’t be long before you’re down on the floor scheming with them.

If inspiration is what you need here are some of my favorite RGM’s…

Pee Wee’s Breakfast Machine

A great soundtrack to accompany a nutritious breakfast. I pity the fool who doesn’t watch this one…

The Truffle Shuffle
(pick this one up at :19)

Jerk alert! Chunk has something really important to tell the guys but they won’t let him in until he does the Truffle Shuffle. When he does, an RGM helps them open the gate …

The Honda Commercial

This RGM uses only parts from the Honda Accord and took a reported 606 takes to film this two minute commercial. Very cool.

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Character Spotlight: Taj Badalandabad

Posted by | October 11, 2010
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As a followup to last week’s post about the real value of a college degree, I wanted to offer up an example of someone who completely understands my point.

Enter Taj Mahal Badalandabad.

You probably know him from the 2002 hit movie Van Wilder, about a super-popular college student who has so much fun at school he refuses to graduate. Taj is Van’s wide-eyed assistant, who applied for the job because he wants to “cut loose and shake (his) rump”. I don’t know about you, but that’s exactly why I went to college.

Seriously, though, Taj is a student from India, who is really only looking for one thing – to completely indulge himself in the American college lifestyle. And if you’re going to do that, who better to learn from than Van Wilder, the seventh year senior who is all extra and little curricular.

Van is the college student that every adolescent male dreams of being, and Taj is there to sort through the mess. If anyone deserves to cut loose it’s Taj, who by nature is tighter than Joan Rivers’ face. He knows that, so he relies on Van to help push him over the edge, which Van happily agrees to do.

Taj understands that there is only a short amount of time to enjoy anything and that college goes fast (unless you’re Van). He also gets the point that college is mostly about what’s in the experience and less about what’s in the textbooks.

After graduation Taj moved to England and went to the fictional Camford University, where he taught an uptight coed how to enjoy her college experience. Apparently all this can be seen in the sequel, Van Wilder 2 – The Rise of Taj. It could be a good movie – I don’t know because I haven’t had two hours to waste.

Actually, the plot summary for this movie sounds like it might be ok. You watch it and let me know.

The point with all this is to give Taj Badalandabad his due. The young man was wise beyond his years. He came to America looking for the best college experience possible, teamed up with the most qualified mentor ever, and became a dedicated understudy. Then, when the time was right, he brought his talents to England where he became the king of campus and finally got the girl.

Taj is the classic collegiate success story, and the fact that he did it with little foreknowledge of American culture is a true testament to his incomparable determination. He is a legend in his own right.

The next time you’re cruising through India – if you evercruise through India – keep your eyes and ears open. If you do, there’s a good chance you’ll hear (President) Taj Badalandabad offering his assistants some invaluable piece of advice and suggesting that they “write that down”.

Well done, Taj. You’re an inspiration to us all. Van would be proud.

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The Real Value of Your College Education

Posted by | October 7, 2010
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Last week I read a Facebook status a friend posted where he said he’d gladly give back his “worthless” college degree. Another friend commented that he’d recently considered using his to wipe up a spilled drink. The first friend has been looking for a job for a while now, and it seems like his frustration is starting to reach its peak.

The thing is, I don’t blame him for being angry. I just think it’s misdirected. In a time when jobs are scarce and competition is high, it’s easy to be upset that you have to pay for a degree even when you don’t have a job. The truth in all this is having a degree is no longer a guarantee that you’re going to be hired.

The last sentence prompts the obvious question:

“If having a degree won’t guarantee me a job, why did I even go to college in the first place?”

The answer to that question is the real value of your college education, which goes beyond just getting you a job. Here’s my take, in case you care…

Investing in Yourself

People talk about it all the time – your education can never be taken away from you. Even though it’s cliche, it’s true. Gettin an education is probably the best investment you can make. No matter how bad the economy gets or how many of your possessions you lose, nobody can ever uneducate you.

The problem with this, and I’m sure it’s part of what led to my friend speaking out against his diploma is the tipping point factor. Even though education is a solid investment in yourself, it too has a level where it maxes out and fails to be beneficial. The key is to find it, and then not exceed that point too far.

For instance, does the cost of your education equally reflect the quality of it? There’s no benefit to paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for an education that is less than magnificient. There are most certainly situations where degrees are overpriced. Making a smart decision for how much you pay – keeping in mind the return on investment it will earn you – will make your college degree a smart investment in yourself.

If you keep that balance in mind, then your degree most certainly has value. It’s lifelong knowledge that can never be taken away from you.

Developing lifelong relationships

Not only can college earn you lifelong knowledge, it’s also a great place to develop lifelong friendships and relationships.

I met my wife at college. My previously mentioned friend met his girlfriend (who will probably soon become his wife if he gets a job) at college. I have about a dozen close friends and acquaintances that I never would have had had I not gone to college. If for no other reason than to know those people, I’m glad I went to school.

When you couple in those friendships/romantic relationships with the connections you made with professors, mentors and professionals in your field, the investment in “you” extends even further.

Experiences (read: parties and social events)

Anyone who went to school and didn’t enjoy the social scene that it provided (even if it wasn’t great) probably wouldn’t be reading this post. They’d be out earning millions with their super-charged degrees and pocket protectors. So I’m going to assume that if you’re reading this, you can understand how beneficial the experiences you have in college can be.

I’m not talking about going out and getting hammered every night, although that can be fun too. I’m talking about the entire experience of college as a whole. Keep in mind, the next time you’ll ever be in a setting like that again – surrounded by your peers in a dormitory located in a small town – will be when your kids put you in a nursing home.

When I talk about the experiences you have in college I mean the total package. The social scene, dorm life, living on your own, wasting time with friends, chasing co-eds – you get the idea. You simply can’t recreat that environment anywhere else, and when all is said and done, those experiences play an enormous role in defining the person you become.

Learning to live with diversity

When I hear diversity, I normally think of people of different nationalities and with different skin tones. This can apply here. In fact, many schools pride themselves on the diverse demographic you’ll encounter when you go to their school. This type of experience is great because it opens your mind to the fact that there are people out there who are different than you, but it also gives you the chance to learn about them and their culture.

But what if we took this a step further, and narrowed the meaning of diversity down a little bit more? Forget about nationalities and skin color. What about a person that likes to listen to a different kind of music than you? Or someone who insists everything must be clean while you enjoy a room that looks “lived in” (<—That was always my excuse when my mom wanted me to clean my bedroom).

Learning first that people who are different than you actually do exist, and then figuring how to coexist with them, especially in the tight confines of a dorm room is definitely a character building experience. And, it’s one you won’t easily find anywhere else. Not only that, but the sooner you do, the more prepared you’ll be to enter a workforce where personality diversity reigns.

Possessing “Minimum” or “Required” Qualifications

One of the reasons guidance counselors and high school teachers tell you going to college is important is because they’re aware of the “minimum qualifications” section of job descriptions. Like it or not, nearly all career-type jobs will have a minimum requirement that you have a bachelor’s degree. Not having one will immediately eliminate you from consideration for those jobs.

I can see how someone could be bothered by this, especially when often the focus of the degree matters less than actually having it. Employers want to know you have a college education, even if it is in a field other than what their job opening warrants. There really is no good reason why this is the case, other than…

Proof you can accomplish something

Getting a college degree is proof, not only for you, but for your potential employers that you can focus on something for an extended period of time and stick it out until you accomplish it.

During the course of earning your degree it’s a given that there will be some difficult times. Finally graduating lets employers know that you are capable of focusing long-term and that you won’t give up and quit when the going gets tough.

Granted it can be an expensive way to prove your dedication, but that’s why they call it an investment. The hope is that eventually the overall (not just monetary) investment pays off.

A chance to sow your wild oats

College gives young adults a chance to get partying out of their system. Many people who go to school party their asses off while they’re there, then when graduation rolls around it’s an easy breaking point, or transition, from partying to the real world.

Many times those that haven’t gone to school extend their partying habit much longer because there is no obvious point to transition their behavior. That’s not to say you can’t ever party again once you’ve graduated college, but doing it three nights a week probably isn’t a great idea.

Not only isn’t it a great idea, but I couldn’t do it if I wanted to – my body wouldn’t hold up. Sad, but true.

Learn some responsibility

You’ve probably heard it a thousand times, but if you went to college you know that doing so will force you to be responsible – whether you like it or not. Even if you don’t clean your own room or cook for yourself, you’ll have to make arrangements for your laundry to be done (by you or someone else) and you’ll have to figure out how you’re going to eat. There’s no mommies or daddies around to make sure those things are done for you.

Going to college is an excellent learning experience in what it takes to be an adult. It’s a good transition period, too, because you’re not completely on your own, but you still have to start taking some responsibilities on.

You don’t have to go to college to learn how to be responsible, but when you go, you end up having no choice. Not going to school doesn’t always make it as necessary for you to step up and do it on your own.

Networking and alumni connections

When you graduate from a college you join a fraternity (or sorority) that’s larger and more powerful than any of the Greek houses you might have rushed. The alumni base for colleges grows every year and more often than not they would all love to help a fellow alum.

The opportunities that can arise from being a part of that network is another added bonus that going to college offers you. Immediately you have something in common with a hiring manager, small business owner or someone else that can hire or refer you for a job.

Final thoughts

I don’t have all the answers. Even though I sometimes pretend to, I know I don’t. This post isn’t intended to tell everyone who didn’t go to college that they’re doing things the wrong way or that they can’t be successful.

Everyone needs to find their own way through life and there are no right ways or wrong ways – only the best way for you. All I’m saying here is for those that did go to college and are maybe wondering whether they got anything out of it, read the nine things I talked about in this post and see if you still think your degree is a waste.

Don’t forget to leave your thoughts in the comments. Do you regret going to college? Was it a waste of time and money? Do you agree/disagree with my take on the true value of a college degree? The lines are open…

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Quiz Time! – Random Pop Culture

Posted by | September 29, 2010
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Editors Note: We’re sorry, but this quiz is now closed. Congratulations to our winner Thomas Van Etten, who got a perfect score (minus two technicalities), plus the bonus. For his troubles Tom wins a PPFC t-shirt (whenever we get around to making them), and will forever be known as the man who won the inaugural PPFC quiz. Well done, Tom!

For anyone who cares, you can find the official answers (according to Bo) beneath each question.

Knowledge is power.

We at the PPFC believe in educating yourself. This is the first of ┬ámany quizzes we’ll randomly throw at you guys. This is a closed book test, so no cheating. Anybody that is believed to have cheated will be tortured beyond belief. I’m serious. Good luck!

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We’ll review all submissions and whoever scores the highest will get a shout out on the Facebook page and maybe even a T-shirt – whenever we get around to making them.

This contest will last until Friday (10/1) at noon.

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