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Posts Tagged ‘money’

An Asthmatics Survival Guide

In Health on October 6, 2010 at 11:18 pm

A basic question: What is asthma?

According to WebMD, asthma is a “chronic disease of the airways that makes breathing difficult. With asthma, there is inflammation of the air passages that results in a temporary narrowing of the airways that carry oxygen to the lungs.”

So, what does that mean? I’ll explain using a few analogies:

It’s like sleeping on your hand. You wake up to find your hand numb; you’ve fallen asleep on it. You do whatever you can to return feeling to the seemingly-dead appendage. Give it a few minutes, shake it a bit, and voila! Feeling has been restored…Now imagine you can’t get the feeling to return.

It’s like a dream where you find yourself falling. You fall for (what is probably only) a matter of seconds to find yourself jar awake. It was just a dream. Now imagine that your falling and being jarred awake…only you don’t wake up.

It’s like holding your breath underwater. You go as long as you can until you reach that point (you know what I mean) where you just have to come up for air. Now imagine you can’t come up for air…no matter how hard you try. You feel a swelling in your chest. Your lungs plead for air but…nothing. You swim and swim until it turns into pathetic flailing. You don’t reach the surface. You never reach the surface.

This, of course, sounds terribly dramatic. And it is. A serious asthma attack is dramatic. In fact, people die.

I almost died.

Having said that, let me explain why. At the time, there lived a very different Mr. Blogger. I used to owned several furry pets including a handful of dogs, several cats, and a dozen mice. I was (and still am) allergic to dogs and cats. If I had taken my medication regularly (some wonderful variety of Advair), then I most likely would have been fine. So, the big question is “why did I stop taking my medication?”

Why? Because I was a fucking idiot. I spent an entire night wheezing and gasping for air in my upstairs loft. Do you know what I tried to do to stop the attack?

  1. I tried my emergency inhaler. – FAILED
  2. I tried my nebulizer (a device which allows a user to inhale their medication in mist-form). – FAILED
  3. I tried taking expired medication I had on hand from when I was younger. – STUPID
  4. I had my then-girlfriend beat on my back (a home remedy that is supposed to open the lungs) – RIDICULOUS
  5. I tried drinking copious amounts of water (because water is full of oxygen). – FAILED

By the time all of this had failed (it was morning), I calmly called my physician and made an appointment. A few hours later I was in the Tanana Valley Clinics waiting room. One shot of epinephrine and a ambulance ride later I found myself at the Fairbanks Memorial Hospital.

This could all have been avoided if I had taken my goddamn medication.

So, curious blog-reader, what does one do to prevent an asthma attack?

  1. Know your triggers.
  2. Maintain a normal Body Mass Index (BMI). Remember: the more fat you have, the more stress on your frame, the greater pressure on your lungs.
  3. Have an emergency inhaler on hand.
  4. If you have a prescription medication, take it. Your doctor didn’t get a PhD sitting on their hands, you know.

One major complaint is “medication is too expensive.” Yes, yes it is expensive. But, you know what is even more expensive? Going into the hospital for an attack. I was in the hospital for three days. For two of those days I was hooked up to an oxygen mask with an I.V. in my hand. Do you want to know what it cost? $10,000.

So, you know what, you can afford medication…you can afford to see a doctor twice a year…you can afford to be in better shape then you are now.

Because, you know what, your life actually does depend on it.

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UAF: Tuition hike or GTFO

In Alaskana, UAF on September 21, 2010 at 4:40 am

Most students, like myself, take tuition hikes as an inflationary fact of life. The university raises our student pay by $0.50, they raise our tuition by 10%-22%. Sounds fair, right?

No. No, that isn’t fair, and I have a serious problem with it.

Why?

“Because, Jeremia,” the imaginary Board of Regents-in-my-head say, “We have a $5.5 budget shortfall.

“But, why do we have a budget shortfall,” I ask? “What got us to this point?”

“That’s for us to know, and for you to pay for.” They say to me.

While this conversation is fictional, it isn’t far from something that could very easily take place. The university has been keen to hike student tuition rates without disclosing the reasons why beyond vague generalities. Here is the primary reason that  the university system has given: State lawmakers are making us do it.

Not a very satisying answer, is it?

Why does the state want the UA to be more self sufficient?

My answer: The state wants us to be more self-sufficient because we, an educational institution, are a drain on the states coffers, even though only 45% of the UA operating budget comes from the state. We are such a drain, in fact, that Governor Parnell signed legislation that “increases tax credits for contributions to Alaska’s higher education and job training institutions.”

But, wait, isn’t the UA a public institution?: Yes. Yes it is. (Scroll to the top of page 3.)

But, what is a public institution? A public institution is an entity or organization that is controlled by the state.

So, let me get this straight: The university is a state institution that the state doesn’t want to support (as much) anymore? That’s what it’s starting to sound like to me. Add all of this to the fact that the Board of Regents (BoR) is meeing in Juneau. While I have nothing against the University of Alaska – Southeast (UAS) at Juneau, I see the BoR decision to meet there suspicious as UAS only accounts for 2,208 students (2010 data) as compared to 10,446 at UAF (2009 data) and an estimated 20,000 at UAA (2010 data). While all I can do is infer, I am infering that the BoR is meeting in Juneau for less then noble reason (i.e. to give the UAS population a chance to protest).

In an April article by Jeff Richardson of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner (FDNM), Kate Ripley, UA’s own public relations woman, said that (to quote the article) “increased day-to-day costs, reductions in private donations, increased student demand for costly new academic programs, and a leveling off of new research grants are among the factors that have dropped revenue or increased expenses at UA.”

Why are the day-t0-day costs going up? Why is there a reduction in private donations? What “costle new academic programs” are students asking for? Why are research grants leveling off? Specifics people, please.

Like I said before, tuition hikes are a necessity. Like death and taxes. However, adding a 10% hike with an additional 12% the next year is unreasonable. Will there be some sort of moratorium placed on tuition hikes afterward?

In the same FDNM article, Ripley continued by saying that UA hopes to cut costs by “capping pensions, cutting travel costs and shopping for less expensive health-care benefits.” While it’s nice to see that it isn’t only the students being hit, students still appear (to me) to be the ones shouldering most of the burden.

But, what do we do about it? We research and respond appropriately. Here are a few things I recommend the university implement instead of the proposed tuition hikes:

  • Students, staff, and faculty take a temporary 3 year halt in pay increases.
  • Offer staff and faculty a leave of absence with 50% pay.
  • Hire student workers for staff positions. This is already being considered.
  • Raise tuition by 10% with a guarantee that said tuition will not be increased for at least 5 years.
  • Continue implementing the Tier 1 downgrade. This is already being considered.
  • Evaluate the pros and cons of contracting outside the university for basic services. This is already being considered.
  • Offer “non-represented” staff incentives to refrain from unionizing.
  • Organize and invest in university-lead and based businesses (like a recycling plant).
  • Discover what programs and departments are “money-sinks” and merge them with other existing programs.
  • Continue encouraging private donations.

Well, UAF, what do you think?

Increase public and private support
for UAF through sustained
advancement activities
• Strengthen UAF marketing and
communication efforts
• Increase alumni support and
involvement
• Seek private and corporate support of
student scholarships and fellowships
• Increase awareness of the university’s
contributions to the state
• Educate key stakeholders about our
critical need for new,
expanded and
well-maintained
facilities for
research
and teaching

No FAFSA on Firefox

In UAF on August 7, 2010 at 4:04 pm

The blogger upon realizing that his FAFSA would remain incomplete until after he had found a computer that was too old to have Firefox 3.6.8 installed on it. Photo by Samuel Meraz.

According to the Project on Student Debt‘s (PSD) 2008 study, 1.4 million American students graduated with some form of student debt. According to the PSD, 54% of UAF graduates had amassed over $28K in student loan debt upon completion of their undergraduate degree.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is that particularly lovely hoop that any student who craves federal assistance during their college career must jump through. That hoop has just gotten that much smaller.

How much smaller?

As it turns out, the most recent Firefox upgrade (3.6.8) is not compatible with the online FAFSA application. Firefox, which is operated by the Mozilla Corp., first launched in the Spring of 2004. Since then, it has become the most commonly used browser on the internet. According to w3schools.com‘s browser statistics page, 46.4% of internet users surfed the web through Firefox in July of this year alone. For contextual purposes, the second closest web browser is Google Chrome at 16.7%.

But why won’t the FAFSA work on Firefox? According to an individual on the other end of the FAFSA helpline (whom I will simply call “Megan”), it’s “because the way the website is coded, it makes it incompaitable with (more recent) browsers.” While Megan felt that the websites security remains good, she was ready to admit that the current FAFSA website is “very, very, very inefficicent.” Megan recommended to me that I use Windows XP or Vista. “Mac will work,” she added, pointing me to a link on the FAFSA website which is available at the end of this article, “but only with certain browesers.”

“They didnt have the best designers working on the website,” Megan added.

For further reading:

http://projectonstudentdebt.org/state_by_state-data.php

http://www.w3schools.com/browsers/browsers_stats.asp

http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/FOTWWebApp/beforebrowser_req.jsp