Why The Heck Are We Still Paying For College?

It is 2013.  We as a species have invented a communication medium that has made information easier than ever to access and share.  We are putting more and more information onto the internet and we are sharing it FOR FREE.

With a few quick searches, you can find almost any knowledge you want, from how many people there are in the world (over 7 billion as of the posting of this) to kids that actually find the answers to their homework questions for math and science.

So, knowing that, I pose this question:

For any advanced skill that “requires” a college degree, do we really need to go to college to learn it?

Here is my proposed experiment:

Gain A College Level Education WITHOUT THE COLLEGE

I have decided to learn mechanical engineering, something I have been interested in but never pursued.  I stopped pursuing science back in high school when I decided to become an artist.  The most advanced course I took was physics, most of which I have forgotten.


  1. All knowledge must be gained from websites that are currently available and documented on this blog.
  2. If there is any information that must be purchased, document cost and location of the information.
  3. No personal coaches may be employed.
  4. Any books that will be referenced must be purchased online.
  5. Find a method to test knowledge against that of a student at a local university pursuing degree in mechanical engineering.

Personal Goal:  Begin building components for an Iron Man suit of armor.  Hey, you gotta shoot for the stars.  Even if you miss you can land on Mars.

You guys have any suggestions for how I should improve the experiment?  Leave them in the comments below.

Another Way To Learn Italian

Back in high school I was on the chess team (major nerd, and I had the hardest time to get on the team in the first place as they have a short season right at the beginning of the school year, but that’s another story), so I was intrigued to see three men gathered around a chess board near the harbor arguing over which move to make.

I stopped to watch as they made three moves, then took back four, went forward five, back two and so forth.  They seemed to be teaching the other the game, each free moving the pieces interchangeably  between the three of them.

I had stumbled across an international chess club, and by international I actually mean international.  We we soon joined by a few  more Italians, a British fellow and even a man from India who came to play there every day during their afternoon break.

We started going back and forth about names of the pieces and moves in both Italian and English, and I even joined the discussion of the game, learning some of the small but important words about position and objects.  It was a gift of time I never expected.  Shortly afterward I continued on my journey around town, but it will be great to run into these men again.


The City of Dogs, the Island of Cats

Venice is a great city, and not just because of the architecture, the food, the romance, and the feel of it.  There’s also dogs EVERYWHERE.

Some are on leashes, some not, most are tiny (and for good reason, see my post on roads) though some are plain huge and all have collars, so even the ones not seemingly attached to a human are so.

Being generally a dog person, having grown up in a house of dog people, I find it fantastic to be in a city where they are all around — sleeping, chasing birds, following their masters through the streets and generally enjoying a permanent vacation.  Adds to the air of my own vacation.  Though the dogs are all much more mild mannered than my own dog, Emma.  She, being a Springer Spaniel and bred for hunting, has far too much energy for this place.

I had to actually go to Murano yesterday before encountering a single cat, and even then I encountered three at once.  I do not know if it is a cultural thing or not, but my mind frolicks with the idea of a story behind the situation.


Murano, Artisans Of Glass

I was given a good tip just before I left by a fellow artist to check out the island of Murano while I was in Venice, and I’m glad I did.  The island is known for having the most skilled masters of glass artistry in the world, and have been known for that for centuries.  Most businesses are family ones, with the trades being handed down from father to son.  They can create designs, textures and sculptures in glass that I have never seen in my life, and will most likely never see again.

There was a free demonstration that you could view, where they explain that there are no schools where you can learn the techniques they use.  You must be apprenticed to other artisans for five to ten years before being considered a master of the craft, and even then you do not know everything.

Each type of glasswork is a specialty, from bowls and cups to finely detailed sculptures to chandeliers to many other things, some of which are hard to pigeon hole into one category.  No one artist can do them all.  So, each shop down the main canal had something different to offer you.

These sculptures here are barely the size of my hand if not smaller, and have details so fine I would be handling it as a newborn baby for fear of breaking it.

Someone had the sense of humor (or marketing) to even put glass flowers in a flowerbox above the street.  Beautiful, and they will never wilt.


Of All That I Have Seen

Marco Polo, I learned, despite being a well know explorer was also a rather famous merchant of Venice.  Upon his return to Venice, the story goes that no one either recognized him or believed him.  Upon his deathbed he was quoted as saying:

I have not told half of what I saw.

I know what the man must have felt like, and I’ve only been in Italy two weeks!  There are so many stories I wish to share with all of you — the five that are reading this 🙂 — but if I did share every story I would never leave the hotel!

Looking to it now, I will probably be sharing stories for the  next few months of what I can remember having seen here on the blog and for the rest of my life through dinners with friends and through my art.

Even if I were to leave now, my life would never be the same.


Abusing My Blog

Some of you reading this as I have been writing it may have noticed that there are times where I will publish three or four posts at a time, even though they are labeled and dated before I posted them.  There are a couple of reasons for this:

  1. I sometimes did not have the time or energy to post something for that day, even if I did have an adventure.
  2. I sometimes don’t have an internet connection when I want to post.
  3. I want to have the posts be chronologically correct.

That’s the nice thing about a blog.  I can edit the time stamp of when something is posted.  Heck, I can even post things in advance and the blog will automatically post it at the time I specify.  Of course I can’t use that feature because I can’t predict the adventures I am going to have here.

To those of you who are confused, I am simply trying to organize my thoughts for those who are just tuning in.  This week should be a light work week so I should be able to actually to post things regularly while I’m in Venice.


The Local Sunday Football Game

While everyone else back home watch the Vikings (which would be playing about while I type this actually), I decided to see a local football game for the fun of it.

For those of you who don’t know, football in Europe and pretty much everywhere in the world besides the United States is what we call soccer.  Unlike our football though, there are multiple professional levels.  The one I got a ticket to see was a Series A match, which is just below World Cup level.  At Series A level, every town big enough has a local team, and believe me Rome is big enough.

So this was a home game for Rome, fighting apparently the team from the lost city of Atlantis — I didn’t even know they had a team…

Oh sorry, Atalanta, another Italian club from Bergamo.

Anyway, watching a game there is really different from back home.  For instance, every attempted goal, as well as every well defended block or play, is applauded.  That and everyone talks to everyone else.  There are no boundaries of groups in the audience, the whole thing is an open forum.  I was asked multiple times what I thought of the play and had to sheepishly explain that I understood very little of their commentary.  Still, they welcomed me and I was certainly one of them when the team scored.

The whole crowd goes absolutely nuts when the home team scores.  Not just the flag waving lunatics behind the goals.  Reminded me of home.

Minnesota Vikings fans are known for being the loudest, craziest fans in the NFL.  Whenever they telecast a game, there are points where the broadcasters have to shout over the noise the fans are generating in the back.  Well, the flag waving sections would fit right in at a Vikings game.  They were constantly shouting, singing taunting chants and screaming loudly to distract the opposing goalie whenever he needed to make a kick or save.

It was awesome.

Thankfully the home team won, so the scheduled riot was cancelled.

That reminds me, they had a line of workers inbetween the crowd and the field that had mostly younger women in it.  They were all clad in work vests so I knew they weren’t cheerleaders, but the thought crossed my mind “If the crowd riots, what good are these girls going to be against all of us?”

Glad I never had to find out.