As a teacher and historian, one of my favorite activities is to listen to people. I love hearing their perspectives on a wide range of issues, but especially ones on which they are “experts” on or have personal knowledge of the topic. In my many conversations I had this weekend in Montana, almost everyone asked me about the state of education in the nation and California for the exact same reason. Some of my queries included:
- Effect of the release of the wolves in Yellowstone – I talked to three different ranchers. All of them said wolves have been seen in their area, but none have lost any livestock, yet. They expect to in the next few years. The only time you can kill a wolf is if you catch it in the act of killing one of your animals. Even then you must report it within 24 hours and face an investigation.
- The plight of the small rancher – My only knowledge of this comes from Fast Food Nation, but it appears that small family ranches are fading. The reasons range from intense competition from agribusinesses to the younger generations having no interest in running the ranch. Most ranchers can’t just ranch, they have to grow crops in order to be successful at raising cattle. One told me his grows Budweiser barley to make ends meet.
- Fraud Management – Another guest at the wedding worked for a major bank in Seattle that attempts to break up international crime organizations that commit credit card fraud. Apparently, there are networks of people who collect credit information (maybe from a business or ATM machine) in the states, then sell those numbers to people in Eastern Europe or China, who then charge massive of amounts of money on them. This bank alone loses $100 million a year. That floored me.
- Medicine – My friend getting married is a surgeon, so I spent a lot of time with medical professionals (including another friend who flew from Boston for the wedding). Discussing with them various issues in the field of medicine was certainly intriguing.
- New Orleans – Of course this would come up now, but what made it more relevant to our group was the non-groom friend grew up in New Orleans. In fact, the three of use made a trip there while in our last year in college (the groom and I are pictured on Bourbon Steet). When in school, they taught him that a hurricane would really cause serious damage, because the levies would overflow. It was not in his knowledge base that they could break. We also discussed how there will be a massive population shift in the region. When they tear down and rebuild the city, the worst neighborhoods will be filled with new housing that the old residents will not be able to afford. What will happen to New Orleans’ poor population. We concluded that they will probably stay where they are evacuated to – no doubt these other places will try and send them back, but to what?
There were more, but I found these to be the most interesting. Glad to be home.