STEM education

Science Technology Engineering and Math.  These areas of knowledge/competence are critical for students moving into the future.

Throughout the 20th century we valued these.  These skills drove the improvements in quality of life, productivity and achievement throughout the century.  Without these disciplines we wouldn’t have airplanes, fast cars, iPhones, computers, plentiful food, economic development, video games,  the list goes on and on.

The US lead the world and is still a leader but we are losing our edge.  Other countries are advancing faster than we are.  It is normal for the leader to lose ground as everyone else catches up, but we cannot lose the lead.

From an early age I was excited about technology, be it video games, the space program, computer programming, etc.  I spent a lot of time learning how a computer works and how to program.  Much of that was self taught because the classes just weren’t there. I was bored in the H.S. class I took because I was further ahead than the teacher was.  That wasn’t bad but it forced me to be resourceful.  I got lucky because my grandparents took an interest in making sure I had tools to learn.  Not every kid my age had that.  I had a crappy computer but at least I had one.

As I look at the amount of time kids are at school I am disheartened with the fact that we can’t find more time for the kids to be in the computer labs.  At our school the kids don’t get a lot of library time and only half of that is spent in our media lab.  There are after school programs to teach programming but those are optional and not all of the kids can participate.  We are creating haves and have nots from an early age when it comes to technology.

Learning how to program or get involved in technology has never been easier.  I think the problem is the excitement about what can be done.  Getting resources for teachers is not the limiting factor.  You can get a workable computer for $30 and hook it up to a keyboard and a TV.  We need to get kids excited about the possible or at least getting them to tools to figure out on their own what is possible.

When I started programming I didn’t know what wasn’t possible.  I copied programs out of magazines and wrote my own.  I learned how to manage memory and code all kinds of different things.  Most of them weren’t really useful but I was learning to not be afraid of the tech.

The other night some friends were over and all of the kids were sitting around the computer watching each other and helping write programs in Scratch.  It was really cool because they got excited about it.  We need more of that type of thing.

There are more resources available than when I went to school, but I would expect that with the rate of change in the world.  I think the problem is that it hasn’t kept pace.  We need to find more opportunities for ALL of the children, not just the ones that can meet after school.  Not just once or twice a month.  It needs to be prevalent in everything they do.

Sites like Codecademy, Scratch.mit.edu, etc and an inexpensive computer can provide kids with resources to learn a few things and have the skills to venture off on their own.  And the best part, aside from the computer its all free.

This is just one thing that can be done… more to come in future installments.

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How to get legislation passed when you know it won’t fly

Its really disheartening when you see a problem and you don’t have a good way to fix it.  A key example is Governor Kasich’s plan for teacher certification (here

When you want to pass something without getting all of the scrutiny it deserves you bury it in a large piece of legislation that must get passed.  Here you have two things going for you: (1) people need to read 1000+ pages to find it and (2) a budget needs to be passed and if its delayed you have political ammunition.

If this was truly looking out for the best interests of our students it would be put up as separate legislation and debated to come up with a great solution to a potential problem.

Our teachers work incredibly hard every day to educate our children.  They work long hours for less pay than many other jobs.  They buy supplies for their classroom with their own money.  They mentor our children to do what is best for them.  Obviously there are a few “bad” teachers in every environment but that is true in every environment.

I’m really not sure what this legislation is even trying to fix.

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?

Why its important to call your representative

Even if you don’t agree with your elected representatives, it is still important to let them know what you think.  Case in point…

On Monday January 2, 2017 the house GOP representatives got together in a private meeting to propose an amendment to HR 5 which outlined the rules for the coming Congress.  This amendment changed the rules for the ethics oversight group significantly.  It took away the independence of the group and put it under the control of the people it was to oversee.  It also notably took away the ability for anonymous tips.  There were a number of other changes, but these were the ones that bugged me the most.

News of this broke late Monday/early Tuesday.  I, along with a large portion of the electorate, called our representatives to express our disapproval of this move.  I asked everyone I know to call and express concern.  I was impressed with the number of people that were supportive and asked for more information or wanted to research it before calling.  Exactly the response that should be given.

Midday on Tuesday, after the switchboards were swamped with public outcry, public denouncements by politicians and a general sweeping disagreement the move was reversed.

It shows that CALLING your representative helps.  They pay much more attention to phone calls or in person visits than they do to letters or email.  Please become familiar with your representative, know how to contact them, and contact them whenever you have a strong feeling about an issue; positive or negative.

This was the first thing the new Congress did.  I think that this is telling and indicates to me that I personally will be speaking to my representative’s office a lot during the next 2 years.  It is important that we all watch what they are doing and let them know often that we are watching.

This is OUR Government to support what WE want.  Exercise your rights and your duty to keep our representatives in check.

2016 looking back and looking forward

This past year has been a mixed bag.

  1. I really hate the way politics played out this year.  Not a surprise to anyone that has read my blog
  2. I have gotten much more involved in the kids school and parent organizations.
  3. Work has been going well.  I think I’ve finally hit my stride in the new job and am making a difference
  4. My exercise program and diet have gone completely to hell
  5. My stress level and other related issues are being managed much better

Overall, from a personal standpoint things are good.  From a global standpoint I think things have gotten bad and won’t be getting better without significant effort from everyone.

Looking forward to 2017:

  1. I plan on getting my exercise program back together
  2. Will work with the family to get things around the house organized
  3. Spend even more quality time with my family
  4. Put together a plan to run for office.  I need to investigate viability of a run for local office first
  5. Continue to improve things at work
  6. Become increasingly more involved with the kids school, their progress and the parent organizations
  7. Learn to fly my drone for fun and stress relief

My overall goal is to make 2017 the best it can possibly be.  I am going to do my part to make sure things don’t go completely to hell with the new administration in order to keep the world a safe place for my kids.