Thursday, May 12, 2011

Not-so-easy A

I’ve completed my first semester of school and am that much closer to having a degree in Latent Evidence Technology—hooray! And I managed to get all A’s in my classes. It was a huge adjustment and a lot of work to be a student again. I like to think I’m a little older and wiser than the eighteen-year-old who first entered Allman Hall on the campus of Forsyth Tech in the fall of 1995. Granted, I still have breakouts on my skin and my fashion is always a few years behind the current style, but I now realize that I am responsible for my education and my future as I embark on this career course correction. Here are some of the things I learned in Spring Semester 2011:

I need at least 7 hours of sleep or I’m useless. No more all-nighters.

Speaking of, 8 am classes are still a thing to be avoided like the plague.

Whether I’m 13 or 34, Mom is there to wake me when I sleep through my alarm.

I can’t get by on just Mountain Dew and peanut butter crackers anymore.

It’s tough to form a study group like in “Community” because everyone has their own schedules and lives outside the classroom. Hats off to my fellow students who have kids and full-time jobs in addition to classes.

I now know what a flash drive is and how to use it.

I now know what goes into making crystal meth and wonder why in the world people would expose themselves to that. Shudder.

Drug dogs are trained to smell a vinegar-like substance when searching for heroin.

Never pick up a gun by putting a pen or pencil in the barrel (I’m lookin’ at you, all TV shows).

You can’t just walk into a scene and start taking pictures; they need to be in sequence, starting from the outside and working in.

Blood stains do not glow when illuminated by a flashlight, unless treated with BlueStar or Fluorescein.

And though I try to be patient and understanding of fellow students, their compulsion to text during class makes me want to give them blunt force trauma to the head. Seriously, I’m amazed at how inconsiderate some people are.

I take some solace in being neither the youngest nor the oldest student in my classes; I feel like I appreciate it more now than I would have right after high school. Maybe there is some sense to the idea of a gap year. Take the time to find out who you really are and what you really want. Because let’s face it, a four-year degree is no longer the golden ticket to a career that you can retire from. So if you’re going to spend all that money and time, you should spend it on learning something you love. While also hoping and praying that the economy will improve by the time I graduate and they’ll stop cutting all these federal jobs. Don’t you want me, Uncle Sam?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Change Facebook Status to Unemployed?

On today's edition of "CBS Sunday Morning," they had the story of Ashley Payne, a former teacher in Barrow County, Ga., who is suing the school system for firing her without due process. She was called in to the principal's office one day, asked to confirm that she had a Facebook page, and was then threatened with suspension and ultimately forced to resign. Turns out someone had complained in an anonymous e-mail that Ms. Payne had inappropriate photos and profanity on her Facebook page, and was thus corrupting our nation's youth. Was Ashley going all-in with online poker? No. Was she scantily clad and making kissy faces at the camera? No. She had simply posted photos from her European vacation in which she could be seen holding wine glasses and at one point a pint of Guinness.

This case hits home for me. I never thought a boss would troll my personal Twitter feed gathering ammunition against me, but that was me being naive and trusting people that I shouldn't. Yes, our accounts can be locked. But we all know by now that the privacy controls on Facebook change every few hours and if you don't keep up with it, your information is open to the Internet. Ms. Payne asserts that her photos were private and locked, and she was not friends with students or parents of students. Since Ms. Payne was never formally presented with the evidence against her, she could never address the person who filed the complaint. And anyone could have sent that accusatory e-mail. Perhaps an old boyfriend with a grudge or a jealous colleague. If someone is that offended by online content, they should stop being a self-righteous coward and put their name on their proclamation. Especially if they're ready to take away someone's livelihood. But in our litigation-happy society, it's much easier to sue someone for making you look at something that offends you instead of owning up to your own responsibilities for the media you choose to consume. People need to get a life or get a thicker skin because technology is connecting us all, whether we like it or not.

Our Generation X is caught smack-dab in the middle of the warring overshare/how-dare-you-share philosophies of social networking. My mother routinely opines that the world would be a better place had Facebook, Twitter and their ilk never been invented. Meanwhile, a fellow student at my college is more than happy to share the details and the text messages of her strained relationship with her boyfriend, with everyone sitting in the hallway waiting for the classroom to be unlocked. Our triumphs and our tribulations laid bare for all the world to see, or just our friends if our privacy controls are set correctly.

The point is that a woman who loved her job and loved being in the classroom is no longer allowed to do that, because she dared to share her life with her Facebook friends. We're all human, we all make mistakes, and maybe some of us shouldn't spend so much of our limited time on this planet pointing out the mistakes of others. Maybe we should have a Guinness and chillax. Just make sure there aren't any cameras around.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Great wine a stone's throw away

In our state with its grape-friendly soil and enterprising oenologists, we're lucky to have so many wineries to choose from when planning a daytrip. And there are certain things that make a winery stand out in the ever-increasing crowd. Sometimes it's the scenic location, the cozy decor, the quality of its Riesling, or the tray full of dark chocolate chips free for the taking. But for me, it's usually the presence of an animal on the premises. A muddied Great Pyrenees dog at Linganore Winery in Maryland, the legendary black labs of Chateau Morrisette in Virginia, and Noah the Bengal cat at Stonefield Cellars Winery.

California native Robert Wurz and his wife, Natalie, founded Stonefield Cellars over three years ago in Stokesdale. It's a small but picturesque winery located along Highway 68 that offers a large selection, from the standard Chardonnay to the unique Dread Pirate Robert's Bloody Red Wine. Visitors can taste 7 wines for $7 but on this particular day, my mother and I stuck to samples of their Traminette and Riesling (so popular, the staff says, that customers buy it by the case). Both were sweet, light and perfect for sipping after supper. We were also lucky enough to stop in while some mulled wine was simmering behind the counter. Its spicy warmth was the perfect beverage for a chilly Carolina afternoon. Three bottles came home with us, and we made sure to say goodbye to Noah as he lounged in a chair on the patio.

For more information, visit or call (336) 644-9908. The friendly and knowledgeable staff will be happy to help you find a new favorite from their award-winning wines, and Noah will be waiting for you with a welcoming purr.