Category Archives: Technology

How I’d Improve the American Education System

My daughter is immune deficient and has been an online high school student for about 2 years. I think the best and most cost effective solution to improving the American education system is to build a hybrid that blends the best online education has to offer in a public school setting.

Here’s how it could work:

Each student is provided a laptop computer to work off of  and they independently study digital textbooks, watch podcasts on  subjects they are studying and complete assignments, all within an online learning environment.

At first blush it doesn’t sound earth shattering but consider these net impacts:

The use of podcasting would allow the US Dept of Education (DOE) to hire the worlds best and brightest educators to deliver the curriculum because the person doesn’t need to be in each classroom to teach students. (Imagine  Stephen Hawking podcasting a high school physics course.) Such a change in the delivery of material would allow the US DOE to establish uniformity in the quality of instructors and instruction being provided to all schools EVERYWHERE regardless of the communities financial health. On site teaching staff can then focus on the students who are struggling and need additional instruction.

An education hybrid of public and online education would also allow the US DOE to offer a huge variety of courses to ALL schools everywhere regardless of who is available in that geographic location to teach. As a public school student my daughter could choose from a couple foreign languages, as an online student in rural Minnesota she studied Mandarin Chinese.

Even more important, these courses are self paced, students can move through coursework as quickly as they like or they can take the the time they need. Unlike the current industrial model of education, a 9th grader could work well above grade level while remaining grouped among his or her peers, students could even graduate early and or start college from the very same classroom environment. This would mean that the best and the brightest in our country would no longer have to wait for average learners to catch up and it can all be done within the confines of a single classroom.

Individual schools could allow rural students  the option of attending in person or online cutting the need for additional space and busing. Students with health problems, like my daughter, could still attend their local school by attending online when they are sick. School districts could eliminate the need for home-bound tutors, substitute teachers and even snow days.

Digital textbooks are cheaper to produce than standard textbooks and easier to update without mowing down a forest. They are also hyperlinked to dictionaries and wikipedia’s should students needs more information to grasp a given concept. Whereas a standard textbook might have offered a photo of an Egyptian tomb, in online schooling teachers can podcast an actual tour inside a tomb where students can pan the interior of the tomb right from their computer.

As as a parent of an online student I can log on and see the teachers grade books, I can see how my student scored on each assignment and I can see how much time she is spending studying each subject. This allows me as a parent a clearer view of daughter’s education and more importantly, her work habits.

The post-industrial model I’m suggesting also relieves the pressure on overburdened instructors and quells the issue of classroom size by allowing the human resources within our education system to concentrate on the areas they are most needed.  Even better, this model would allow the US to deliver the highest, most uniform standard of education to learners everywhere regardless of how wealthy or impoverished their community. Equal education could truly mean equal quality and an equal opportunity regardless of geography and its highly likely we’d save money doing it.

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Filed under Education, Fiction Writing, Government, Life, Science, Technology, United States

It’s Never Good

The Nadya Suleman Family Website
Image by mike912mueller via Flickr

I hate it when I fall asleep with the TV on, I always end up waking up at the crack of dawn to news that irritates me to the point that I can’t go back to sleep. Who knows maybe it isn’t the news maybe I’m just that crabby at 4 A.M., it is possible. Nonetheless, I fell asleep to Anderson Cooper and woke up to the CNN guy who broadcasts before the CNN girl, Jane whatever-the rest-of -her-name-is.

I don’t feel compelled to give either  middle of the night CNN anchor a full name because they keep calling Nadya Suleman “Octo-Mom”.  I’m not condoning Nadya’s decision making,  defending her competence or that of her doctor but calling her “Octo-Mom” is a deliberately dehumanizing gesture on the part of the media and it only serves to feed into the public hate-frenzy surrounding her as did both programs.

At the crack of dawn  Broadcast-Jane’s CNN program showed a clip of Nadya Suleman arguing with her mother. The first time the clip was played long enough for viewer to hear Suleman tell her mother that she needed to “let go”  as the clip played on Suleman completed her thoughts by connecting that statement to her decision to have all 8 babies. Essentially what Suleman was telling her mother was that the babies are already here and that she can’t change what’s already happened and Suleman was asking her mother to let go of an issue that could no longer be changed.

Call me crazy but I thought that it was an entirely rational response, Suleman can’t go back and make a different decision. Whether her parents or the public agree or disagree the babies are indeed here and continuing to berate her for her decision making won’t change history and certainly won’t improve anyone’s situation.

But what CNN’s Broadcast-Jane did after that was to only play the clip long enough to hear Suleman tell her mother that she needed to “let go”, without giving the statement any context and making it appear as though Suleman was telling her mother to let go of her grandchildren all together. Naturally Broadcast-Jane’s professional guest panel ripped the statement apart having taken her statement completely out of context.

Later Broadcast-Jane’s program showed a clip of Suleman kissing the cheeks of one the older twins while she held him drinking his bottle. One of  members of Broadcast-Jane’s expert panel called the  Suleman cheek kissing “inappropriate.”  Seriously? I witness what I would deem inappropriate every time I go shopping, an overdose of chubby cheek kissing and raspberry belly-blows would be a very welcomed change!

My question is this, how would the media have depicted her if she would have just sat there? Disconnected, unresponsive…I think we all know that no matter how Suleman responded no one was going to depict her in a fair light, let alone a favorable light. None of the experts seemed to note  the body language of the baby she was holding. It certainly wasn’t the first time that child had been held and rocked while he drank his bottle. He relaxed into her like the position was familiar, he made eye contact with her and he looked healthy, well, relaxed and happy, all of her kids did.

If Sulemon belongs under a microscope then so does every low income or slightly dysfunctional person in the country. We condone the Duggers issuing a new baby every year and their up to baby 18, seriously how much does Mr. Dugger earn without television and advertising?  How much of their family’s help with younger children comes from older sibling? What about the John Gosselin from John and Kate Plus Eight…when they decided to give birth to all 6 babies did they know how they were going to afford to care for all of them?  Didn’t they take incredible risks to the childrens health by not reducing the number? When their babies were born did they have a big enough house for 6 cribs? How many embryos were implanted in Kate to make 6 babies and who paid for her postpartum plastic surgery?

I’m sorry Broadcast-Jane but if kissing the chubby cheeks of babies is “inappropriate” then I’m perpetually out of line and my friend Mary Strohmayer. who is a mother of 5,  is a criminal! She comes from a family of 5 rambunctious brothers, has 5 children of her own, is dying to be a grandmother and has nieces and nephews stacked to the ceiling, I know for a fact that she also shamelessly kisses chubby cheeks because I’ve witnessed it more at her house than in any other home I’ve ever been in.

The bottom line is, whether we agree or disagree the babies are here and we all need to let go and move on. If you object to what happened write to your Congressman and have a bill drafted that establishes stricter guidelines for fertility clinics. But to call Suleman’s baby kissing inappropriate and in the same breath ignore the conduct of the scores of people camped out and following Suleman to shouting obscenities and scream about tax payer dollars. What kind of experts are these to object to cheek kissing and over look cruel malicious behavior? What kind of a a hate filled society do we live in and why are we so willing to rip the weak to shreds.

What makes it all even more perplexing  is the fact that a massive group of completely rational, financially secure   Wall Street bankers just ripped American tax payers off for billions. I don’t understand why tax concerned hate-mongers aren’t shouting at them from Wall Street, screaming for the return of unearned bonus money and their resignations! Frankly I think they are by far more deserving of our public outrage. Watching Bernie Madoff  smirking at the media as he makes his way to his penthouse lights my fuse in a way that Suleman’s food stamp mony never will. Isn’t the money going straight back intot he economy because its ALL getting spent on food at her neighborhood grocery store? And the billions given to banks…well part of our economic issue stems from the fact that they’re not loaning out the money so it isn’t helping the economy.

Again, I’m not saying I agree or condone but I think all perspective has been seriously lost, and I think in a number of ways Sulemoan is being demonized by the media as seen on Jane Velez Mitchell’s program.  Suleman may be dysfunctional and misguided but you’ll find that among any group of parents, she isn’t hurtful, she isn’t malicious and her children are at ease and well.

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Filed under health, Life, Technology

Tweeters in US Government

For full  details or more up to date information check out: Source Watch

Legislative Branch: U.S. Senate

  1. Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
  2. Tom Coburn (R-OK)
  3. Susan Collins (R-ME)
  4. John Cornyn (R-TX)
  5. James DeMint (R-SC)
  6. Chris Dodd (D-CT)
  7. Richard Durbin (D-IL) (unofficial)
  8. Chuck Grassley (R-IA)
  9. Kay Hagan (D-NC)
  10. James Inhofe (R-OK)
  11. Mel Martinez (R-FL)
  12. John McCain (R-AZ), presidential candidate in 2008
  13. Claire McCaskill (D-MO)
  14. Robert Menendez (D-NJ)
  15. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) (unofficial)
  16. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), former NH Governor
  17. Mark Udall (D-CO)
  18. Tom Udall (D-NM)
  19. Mark Warner (D-VA)
  20. Roger Wicker (R-MS)

Legislative Branch: House of Representatives

  1. Neil Abercrombie (D-HI)
  2. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN)
  3. Gresham Barrett (R-SC)
  4. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR)
  5. Roy Blunt (R-MO), Minority Whip
  6. John Boehner (R-OH), Minority Leader; also runs GOP Leader
  7. John Boozman (R-AR)
  8. Michael Burgess (R-TX)
  9. Dan Burton (R-IN)
  10. Eric Cantor (R-VA)
  11. John Carter (R-TX)
  12. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT)
  13. Mike Coffman (R-CO)
  14. John Culberson (R-TX)
  15. Steven Driehaus (D-OH)
  16. Keith Ellison (D-MN)
  17. Mary Fallin (R-OK)
  18. Jeff Flake (R-AZ)
  19. Randy Forbes (R-VA)
  20. Virginia Foxx (R-NC)
  21. Marcia Fudge (D-OH)
  22. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI)
  23. Mike Honda (D-CA)
  24. Jim Jordan (R-OH)
  25. Randy Kuhl (R-NY)
  26. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH)
  27. Tom Latham (R-IA)
  28. Robert Latta (R-OH)
  29. Ben Lujan (D-NM)
  30. Dan Manzullo (R-IL)
  31. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)
  32. Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI)
  33. Cathy McMorris (R-WA)
  34. Kendrick Meek (D-FL)
  35. Candice Miller (R-MI)
  36. George Miller (D-CA), also runs Educ & Labor Democrats
  37. Ron Paul (L-TX)
  38. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Speaker of the House
  39. Jared Polis (D-CO)
  40. Tom Price (R-GA)
  41. George Radanovich (R-CA)
  42. Dennis Rehberg (R-MT)
  43. Dave Reichert (R-WA)
  44. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL)
  45. Tim Ryan (D-OH)
  46. Joe Sestak (D-PA)
  47. Christopher Shays (R-CT)
  48. John Shimkus (R-IL)
  49. Zach Wamp (R-TN)
  50. Joe Wilson (R-SC)
  51. Rob Wittman (R-VA)
  52. John Yarmuth (D-KY)
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Saving My Work

During my blogging absences I’ve recently completed a full 7 chapters of my novel. As my work gradually formed an actual book I became nervous about loosing information should something happen to my computer. I started emailing a copy to myself but later decided to buy a flash drive so I could not only work from any computer but in the event of a fire I could easily grab the small drive and take it with me.

In late December I purchased a Corsair flash drive and began toting my book from computer to computer working on it where ever I could. I backed up my files just about every week saving a copy to my laptop.

As of yesterday, I owned the flash drive for about 30 days. After saving my work to it the casing on the flash drive pulled off as I went to remove it from the USB port. It appeared to only be held together by a dot of glue. Once the case became detached it lost my entire novel.

Since I was due to back up my files that day I lost approximately 6 days of editing or 100KB of data. I really thought I was going to throw up. My worst fear brought to life by the item I purchased to prevent such an event.

Do I want a replacement flash drive? Hell no! I want my 100KB of editing back.

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Filed under Fiction Writing, Minnesota Fiction, Screen Writing, Technology, Writing