Breakthrough Cincinnati

Up until last year I had not heard of Breakthrough Cincinnati.  Its a great program to help kids going into 6th to 9th grade maintain their learning over the summer, work with other kids and build great habits for a lifetime.  It is primarily taught by older students, college students and new teachers.  I was truly amazed by the program when my oldest was accepted to attend.

Over the course of the 6 weeks they worked on math, reading, debate, teamwork.  They had a college and high school faire to show the kids the options they had.  There was a career day where professionals came in to speak to the kids about different options.

I would love to see programs like this expanded to help more students.  I had the opportunity to speak with a number of students and they all seemed to enjoy the program.  We saw a huge difference in how seriously our daughter took school this year and I attribute it to both Breakthrough and increasing maturity on her part.

If you have a student in this age group, I highly recommend looking into it.  The primary focus is kids from disadvantaged groups but my daughter didn’t fall into any of the categories and was accepted.

H.B. 610 is what happens when your Government hates children.

I am not being hyperbolic when I say that this is the most backward, regressive bill I have ever had the misfortune of reading.  House Bill 610 effectively seeks to dismantle the education system in this country.  I’ll let you read the text yourself:

Choices in Education Act of 2017

This bill repeals the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 and limits the authority of the Department of Education (ED) such that ED is authorized only to award block grants to qualified states.

The bill establishes an education voucher program, through which each state shall distribute block grant funds among local educational agencies (LEAs) based on the number of eligible children within each LEA’s geographical area. From these amounts, each LEA shall: (1) distribute a portion of funds to parents who elect to enroll their child in a private school or to home-school their child, and (2) do so in a manner that ensures that such payments will be used for appropriate educational expenses.

To be eligible to receive a block grant, a state must: (1) comply with education voucher program requirements, and (2) make it lawful for parents of an eligible child to elect to enroll their child in any public or private elementary or secondary school in the state or to home-school their child.

No Hungry Kids Act

The bill repeals a specified rule that established certain nutrition standards for the national school lunch and breakfast programs. (In general, the rule requires schools to increase the availability of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat or fat free milk in school meals; reduce the levels of sodium, saturated fat, and trans fat in school meals; and meet children’s nutritional needs within their caloric requirements.)

I have no words to express the depth of my disappointment in our government at this point.

It has been shown that children that go to private schools on vouchers do worse than a similar cohort that continues in public education. here and here and here

Now is the time to take action. A well educated electorate and workforce is critical to the success of our nation.  This impacts everyone’s future, whether you have children or not.  You need to call your representatives now.  Remember that this government is supposed to represent our wishes.  They serve at our pleasure; we can change that if they are not voting in line with the demands of their constituency..

You can find information about your representatives here

Running for office?

Everyone in the world is commenting on the train wreck garbage fire that is the Trump administration.  I’m not going to bother because of the speed of change.

I am inspired to action because of the election.  Gina and I have been talking about what we can do to make sure things don’t go completely to hell.  I’ve been seriously considering running for office and we’ve narrowed it to a couple of potential offices.  We want to make sure that it will have the maximum effect without completely destroying our family.

The leading option is for our local school board.  We have both been very involved in things in the school our children attend and we definitely have strong opinions about the need for a good education for our and all other children.  Neither of us has a background in education but I think this is a benefit, not an issue.

What do you all think about this idea?  Everyone I’ve discussed it with is supportive.  I’m looking for why I shouldn’t do it.

Right now, we are looking into what we need to do to get on the ballot and how much money we need to raise to actually have a chance of winning.

If we do declare that I am running, we will need your help…

New drone

So, for Christmas this year I got a drone.  A nice DJI Phantom 3.  Its pretty awesome. It is much easier to fly, even with controls set to manual, than any of the little toy drones.  The larger they are the more stable, and more dangerous.

I did need to register with the FAA to comply with the law.  I also need to notify local airports when I fly.  That becomes kind of a pain depending on where I’m flying.  At this point most of my flights have been well below treetops, but I definitely see the issue at higher altitudes.

The primary focus of my flying to date has been getting used to flying it, understanding the modes of operation and how the camera works.  Framing the shots and how to fly to get a smooth shot is interesting.  Its really different from hand holding a camera and much smoother generally.

Getting fun shots of the kids on vacation and interesting landscapes will be pretty awesome this summer.  By the time that rolls around I’m hoping to be pretty good at flying and more comfortable that I’m not going to lose the drone.

One thing that I would like to see from the FAA is to mandate electronic notification.  If I fly at home I need to notify 6 or 7 operators because of the local airport and heliports associated with news stations and hospitals.  Because I’m doing a notification and not asking for permission that should be a reasonable request.  Or eliminate the need for notification by defining a flight envelope that is exempt.  If I’m flying within 20 feet of treetops or below the level of the highest building I should not be interacting with any aircraft.

Overall I’m pretty happy with it.  I can’t wait until I can use all of the capabilities.

The problem with politics today

Maybe it has always been the case that we have a diverse set of opinions about how this country should be run.  It is not the case that politics has always been as polarized as it is.  Each party seems to be motivated by tearing down what the other party has accomplished instead of working together to come up with a better solution.

Let’s use the current healthcare debate as an example.  The Affordable Care Act was put in place during Obama’s first term and mostly because he had a supportive congress.  The legislation is not perfect.  No one will disagree with that.  There are definitely things that could be improved and are less than ideal.  But the legislation does make it so that millions of people can get insurance that couldn’t before.  This is a cost savings for everyone across the board.  Any study you look at will show that the ER is the most expensive option for health care and does not address preventative care; unfortunately this was the last resort for many people because they couldn’t get insurance.

Now, it seems like the GOP is wanting to get rid of it, without having a replacement ready, just because the other party put it in place.  There is going to be a systematic dismantling of many things just because it wasn’t their idea.

These political maneuvers impact people, real people.  The repealing of this legislation is going to result in many people being without insurance, harm the insurance companies and everyone covered by them, and for what?  Political clout?

You have people complaining that there shouldn’t be an individual mandate.  Ok, philosophically I understand this.  You shouldn’t be forced to buy something you don’t want.  The reality though is insurance companies cannot succeed if the only people that sign up for insurance are sick.  That’s precisely why they excluded people with pre-existing conditions.  If healthy people don’t pay into the system to reduce everyone’s risks then the only thing that gives is rates need to go up for all of the members.  This results in more people choosing to go without insurance and you see where this goes.

The only conclusion that I can draw is people in America have become more selfish than ever.  No one is interested in the greater good, but what is good for me now.  Trump’s entire campaign had this refrain going on.  We don’t want (non-white) immigrants coming here because they take jobs.  We don’t want Obama-care because I don’t want/need insurance.  We don’t want free trade because “they” are taking things away from us.

We have become a country where we don’t care about the well being of our fellow citizens and humans because we view they are taking something away from “us”.  The problem with this thinking is it further stratifies differences between groups and creates resentment and further unwillingness to help “the other”.  If someone helps you, you are more willing to help them or help someone else in need.  If someone ignores you when you need help, you are less likely to help someone else.  I’m not saying that you should help people because it benefits you, but because it benefits everyone.

The other conclusion that I draw from all of this is we are no longer looking at the long view, only what is right in front of us.  This is true with the health care debate, the vote for Trump, global conflict, economic policy and global warming.  If the impact isn’t visible right now, or its going to result in me having inconvenience now for benefit later (especially if the impact is seen a generation from now), we aren’t interested.  This is related to selfishness but it is more insidious because even if we are looking out for our interests, we are looking out for them now instead of the future.

We have too many problems that will require us all to work together to look out only for ourselves in the near term.  We need to focus on what is good for the species long term.  Our short sightedness is only going to impact our children, grandchildren, etc.  Who wants to explain that we fucked up the planet and our country because we were only worried about what was right in front of us?