Media

Blog mile markers

I don’t have much substance to today’s post. It is just really a review of things that have taken place in the last couple weeks with my blogs, and a chance to stop and smell the roses. Oh, and I should probably say thanks too.

First, let me say thanks to all who have stopped and read (an assumption) and “Liked” a post or two around here. I appreciate it very much! As such, you have helped me get Understanding, Optional to one of those blog mile markers:

1000k UO

I started this particular blog just because I wanted to have discussion on topics that mattered outside of the classroom. Now that I am outside of the classroom, I still want to have to conversations that matter but sometimes it seems harder and harder to engage and audience that is more voyeuristic than anything. I guess a “like” here and there is at least acknowledgement that someone is stopping by on occasion.

The other thing I wanted to acknowledge is that my other blog, Piss and Moan, has also hit some blog mile markers. Strangely, it has taken less time but I also publish nearly every weekday there. Obviously, the topics are less serious but they do seem to engage more people in conversation. Is it weird how we all have similar complaints, irritations, and struggles? Probably not, because we’re human but it is still nice to put a voice to the challenges and commiserate with like minded people.

So, the blog miles markers are similar and different at the same time:

200 posts PM1000k PM

While it was never meant to be a serious blog, it has seemed to resonate with some people. It also seems to resonate with those “blog spammers” who want to sell anything and everything…maybe I need to write another blog on that…another day, another topic. If you want to help Piss and Moan hit some other blog mile markers, go take a look at it and give it a follow. I would appreciate it!

Anyway, all that to celebrate the life of two blogs and to say THANKS! You keep looking and liking and I’ll keep writing!

 

Citizenship, the border, and the census

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Are you a citizen of the United States of America?

Seems like a fair question. A questions that any country of the world should be able to ask of anyone residing within its borders (Are you a citizen of ___*current location in the world*___?). A country has a right to know whom resides within its borders, right? A country also has a right to know if those who reside within its borders are citizens or not. Otherwise, what’s the point of borders, or even visas for that matter? The citizenship question and whether it can be included on the next census will get answered by SCOTUS here in the near future.

It should be a relatively straight forward answer, especially if you are a citizen or in the country legally. It’s as simple as YES or NO. If you are a citizen, I would venture a guess that nearly everyone would admit that they are. If you are not a citizen, you’re either going to lie or refuse to answer that you’re not a citizen. If you’re in the country illegally and DO admit that you’re not a citizen, you should be afraid of deportation, because you have broken the law.

If I speed, am I afraid to get caught? Sure. I don’t want to pay the fine. If I am caught stealing, do I want to get caught? Nope. I don’t want to go to jail. If I were to murder someone, do I want to get caught? Definitely not. I don’t want the possibility of the death penalty (yes, I know, another debate for another day). So why would illegal immigration be any different? If you are in the country without permission to legally be there, then you have broken the law and there are consequences for breaking the law, or at least there used to be.

It was recently reported that the border of our country is in crisis. The media is working overtime to make people to believe that it isn’t. The Democrats would like Americans to believe that it isn’t. But the numbers for the year don’t lie. The NYT recently reported numbers from the US Border Patrol that most definitely show there is a crisis. It can’t be denied. When you have a record number of people crossing the border per month, at the rate of 19,000 per week (on average) or approximately 633 per day, there really can’t be any other conclusion. To deny that there isn’t a crisis is just plain fantasy…or, it plays into a political agenda.

Why were illegal crossings way down a year to a year and a half ago? Why have things changed so dramatically in the last 6 months? Because we have a segment of the our population who are actively encouraging illegal crossings and actively pushing for law enforcement to turn a blind eye to breaking the law. There isn’t another explanation for this and there can’t be a claim of “humanitarian crisis” if you have sent the message that you aren’t going to enforce the laws. If there is a crisis, it was created in order to serve a political agenda.

I am not talking about a “political crisis” to build a wall. That need has always been there, but our politicians have punted that ball from one Congress to the next hoping that someone will do the hard work and get it done, unless of course it fits your agenda to not get it done. Is it possible to build a physical wall on the entirety of the border? Not even remotely. Is it possible to stem illegal immigration in totality with a wall? Definitely not. But, the effect of a wall would surely act as a deterrent and it would definitely slow it down. That is really the ultimate goal, to get it to slow down and eventually stop.

Why is illegal immigration such a big deal? Because it hurts the country. This isn’t about legal immigration. That helps the country. There are positives and negatives, but the distinction between legal and illegal has to be kept clear. You can’t encourage illegal immigration and you can’t encourage the breaking of laws because there may be an economic gain, but more importantly you can’t encourage it because it will give you political leverage.

Illegal immigration doesn’t just strain the border enforcement resources. It has an impact on resources well inside the border as well. Our doctor’s offices and hospitals are full and illegal immigrants with no insurance strain the resources of those facilities while those who have insurance bear the cost of increased insurance rates to make up the difference. Our schools (in many areas of the country) are bursting at the seams with students who are not in the country legally, but schools are required to educate the students without asking if they’re legal or not. Who bears the cost  of that? Those who pay the local taxes and, maybe in even worse, the students who wouldn’t have normally been in an overcrowded classroom. Illegal immigrants (in many places) can get driver’s licenses. By reasonable extension then, you can deduce that they are likely getting aid when in a car crash and in many cases they aren’t insured, so those drivers who are insured bear the cost of increased rates to make up for uninsured motorists. The list could go on and on.

My family were immigrants when they came to the country a really long time ago. They did it legally. I don’t think it is too much to ask that others follow the law and do it legally too. That is why we have a system that allows for it, and encourages people from all over the world to do it legally. We are stronger if we are a nation that follows its own laws, not if we are a nation that allows for some to break them and not face the consequences for it.

 

 

 

Should libraries be obsolete?

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Let’s get real for a sec, shall we?

Just yesterday I tried to download an audio book on an app that the local library uses. Sure, it’s been more than a year since I used my library card, but that shouldn’t really matter right? Nope. Turns out my library card has expired (it has to be renewed every year) and I can’t just do that over the phone. I have to show up and show them my picture ID. Really? Do we really need to be that rigorous in our library security?

That got me thinking? Should we really need a “membership” to access a library? I mean, in the practical sense, yes I understand they want to make sure books are returned and they can collect fees if they are not, but when it comes right down to it, is it really necessary? But I only consume audio-books and the only time I have stepped foot, literally, in a library is to renew the stupid card. That is absurd and impractical if you ask me.

There is a wealth of information on the internet and most of it is controlled by memberships via electronic registrations and whatnot. Can’t a library be like that also? Netflix, Amazon, Pandora, and a whole host of other companies/institutions have memberships all generated electronically and it seems like it is a fairly efficient way to deliver content to consumers. So why can’t a library do the same thing?

Does a library really need to be the gatekeeper for information access? I don’t think so. That’s why I have said many times in the past that libraries are kind of a waste of space. Sure, it’s nice to hold a book once in a while. Yes, it does take some getting used to consuming what is normally “printed” data via an electronic source. I get that some people prefer to do it the “old-fashioned” way.

So, readers? What say, ye? Do we need libraries or can we (better yet, should we) do away with them?

I choose life

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There is so much to say about this topic and I just can’t process all there is to say, so I will say it in a rather short, blunt manner.

New York, you’ve got it all wrong. I suppose you were outraged by the news of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, but honestly this just puts you on a similar level – only now you make it legal.

Apparently, in New York, the definition of life involves which side of the vagina a baby is on, inside or outside. Outside the vagina, you’re good, kid! Inside the vagina, well, you’re SOL! Doesn’t anyone (ok that is a generalization) in New York recognize that mere seconds doesn’t make life? A baby is a baby. Inside or outside. There is no difference.

It hurts my heart to see that people actually cheered for this as it was signed. The level of stupid has reached new heights. You seriously need to question your morals if you think this is even remotely a good idea.

Get this contradiction: In New York, it is illegal to kill a convicted criminal but it isn’t illegal to kill a completely innocent baby.

Yeah, let that sink in.

Nice work, America. You have managed to tarnish that whole “LIFE, liberty, and pursuit of happiness” thing.

 

Brush with celebrity

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Every once in a while, you just feel special. Not because you did anything, but because you were in the right place at the right time. Not because a person you admire has done anything extraordinary (though some times they have), but because they took time to notice you when they didn’t have to.

I have had brushes with celebrity, to varying degrees. The encounters make me smile. The celebrity likely doesn’t remember the encounter or know that they even made someone’s day. But they did, and it matters to you.

I am sure that I will have more encounters, hopefully that is. I am also sure that I have probably had brushes with celebrities that I didn’t even know I had (someone becomes famous after knowing them or maybe I didn’t recognize them). But so far, these three are the ones that stand out, so I get to tell you about it because I can.

Buck Compton

That name probably doesn’t ring a bell for you, at least not right away. But, it will once I tell you more about who he is.

Buck was a real American hero (read about him at the link). A man of extraordinary accomplishments who was as humble as they come. He was just doing his job and that’s all it was. It just had to be done. He was one of the soldiers featured in the Band of Brothers series.

As a result of my time with Buck, I also got to meet other celebrities. The actors from the Band of Brothers series showed up at his 90th birthday party. It was cool to meet them too.

Unfortunately, I met Buck late in his life and I didn’t get to spend a lot of time with him. He came to my classroom and talked with my students. He knew my name and appreciated that I was a history teacher. We met a couple other times since he lived here locally and was accessible. He liked to tell me his experiences. I loved to listen.

Mike Rowe

I’ve never met him, but I admire him.

I ran into Mike on social media. Facebook, to be exact. It was a chance encounter. It was the result of a little podcast (not so little any more) called, “The Way I Heard It,” which he created along the lines of the genre that made Paul Harvey’s “The Rest of the Story” iconic. I just happened to listen to episode 88, “The Missiles of December,” and loved it so much that I commented on his Facebook post regarding the podcast.

I never expected a response. He is, after all, a celebrity and doesn’t have time for me (though if you look at many of his posts he does respond to quite a few people). So, once again, my day was made and he doesn’t even know he put a smile on my face.

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Beauty Beyond Bones

Finally, there is a blogger who has captured my attention. Not in a weird way, but in a way that slightly intrigues me because someone else is paying attention to me, or at least what I write.

She is a “celebrity” of sorts, though I have a feeling she would say she isn’t. She has over 40k followers, people who take notice when she speaks, when she shares, when she tells it like it is. The gets lots of comments, likes, and her influence is growing. She has lots of things going on in her life and she is doing pretty well at making people take notice.

I have never met her either. But, I can say that it brings me great pleasure when I see the notice below in my email box. She has “Liked” one of the posts from my two blogs (this one or the other shown below). Sometimes she even likes a post from each of them in the same day! Imagine that!?!

Here’s the thing, though. It isn’t just a “like” (at least I don’t think it is) because “likes” in social media are usually turned around so that you “like” their stuff and follow them, only to get ignored or “unfollowed” shortly thereafter. I truly believe she reads what I have written and she likes what I have to say. That brings a smile to my face as well.

It is something small, but it feels good.

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So, have you had a brush with celebrity? Tell me about it in the comments. Share your story!

Fake News and Media Evaluation

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In a world where “fake news” is a thing, whether on social media or on an actual network, and lots of people are looking for ways to back up their own opinion YOU can do something to be aware of your own bias. Everyone needs a wider view of the world and being informed in a well-rounded manner could only make things better.

I used to tell my students there was no such thing as unbiased media – everyone has a slant – and I stand by that statement. However, there are media resources/outlets that do their best to remain “neutral”, as hard as that may be. One thing we know, even if an outlet tries to remain bias free the person/people contributing the media still have a bias.

I recently found a source I wish I had known about while I was in the classroom. It would have been incredibly valuable! The site is called AllSides.com. The cool thing is that you can get news from across the political spectrum – the Left, Center, and the Right. So, if you are a news hound like I am, you can get your news from all perspectives, not just the ones Google thinks you want to see (remember, Google logs your clicks and searches so it progressively narrows the results you get based on your selections).

Allsides

AllSides.com site banner

An interesting part of this website is the ability to check your own bias. It has you take their short bias survey, but you also have the ability to complete a bias survey from Pew Research as well as a political party quiz from Pew (for confirmation of where you fall, specifically, or seriously have no idea). All together those surveys give you a pretty complete picture of your social and political bias.

From there, you can rate the numerous media outlets based on your perception of their bias. Of course, your opinion is only a small part of the overall bias rating. They take all the submissions (a sort of crowd-sourcing) and then use statistical research and methodologies to develop on over-all rating for the media source. The methods they are using is really quite interesting. For me, I agreed with the bias rating on about 70% of the media outlets. I gave my input and added it to the aggregate results.

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An example of what you would see at AllSides.com

The important thing here is that you are contributing to bias awareness. Why is that important? Well, too many American’s get their information from too few sources. If more Americans took time to look at the same topic from different sources/perspectives, they might understand the topic in a more well-rounded way. Instead, many Americans fall into or use a confirmation bias. This is dangerous, especially in a technological, highly connected society that is hyper-sensitive and hyper-politicized.

We have to (no, really NEED to) stop using just one source to support our argument. Or, even better, we need to stop using sources that fit our point of view. We need to encourage more media sources to go back to what they used to do – report, without editorial and bias. We need to stop trying to argue our points over social media and instead demand truthful, unbiased reporting.

I know. Maybe I am too hopeful that we can “turn this ship around”. But, I believe that if we are more aware of our own bias we might have a chance. I think using websites like this is a good first step in the right direction.

**Disclaimer: This is not a paid endorsement for the website mentioned above and I am in no way affiliated with the organization. Just a satisfied new user.**

Vote today, make a difference tomorrow

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A vote cast today, means your voice will make a difference tomorrow.

Your civic duty, no, your Constitutional right is to be used.

I don’t care which “side” you are on, as long as you’re legally allowed to vote. As an American citizen you should care.

Use your voice, or hold it until the next election, because whining about the results after not having cast your vote is just plain stupidity.

So, don’t be stupid.

Vote.

 

1 year later: Branching out, er, expanding?

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It’s been a little over a year and the project keeps growing! More people have looked at the page and more people have joined me on Instagram so see what comes up next. Have you taken a look yet? Have you followed on Instagram yet? I bet you get a giggle or two if you do! Go ahead, grab a morning coffee, and go visit and take a scroll.


Just a quick note to have you take a look at the new page on the blog. You’ll find it up there in the top next two “Home,” “About,” and “Contact.” If you can’t figure it out from all the hints, try looking for “Stupid Board: Classroom Quotes.” There is an explanation about what it is and where to look as well.

Happy viewing, and I hope you will be intrigued enough to join me on Instagram as well!

School Picture Thievery

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It’s that time of year again, folks!

This school picture thing is a pretty big racket if you ask me, and if you’re a parent you know what I am talking about. If there is any place you know it and can feel yourself being ripped off but can’t do anything about it, it is definitely with school pictures and sports team photos.

I have felt this frustration in the past, but it kind of boiled to a head this year when I went to order my daughter’s school pictures. It usually isn’t a big deal trying to order them, but being the “non-custodial” parent who usually gets the information second-hand sometimes it takes a while to get it done. (Yes, I realize I could just have photographer friend take the photo and avoid all the trouble so I guess I am a glutton for punishment).

Anyway, I logged onto the website with my special code and wanted to just download the image to my computer and then go have them printed in the quantities and styles I desired. So, I selected the outrageously overpriced digital image – $22. Say what? Yeah, you read that right…let’s do some quick math…

If a school has 300 hundred students and the photographer can get 60 students through a line and photographed per hour, then the photographer would work for five hours. The photographer is, most likely, using a digital camera to take said digital images @ $22 each, therefore making $1320/hr, or $6600/day. That is of course presuming that each parent purchases just the digital image, let alone one of the other overpriced packages they offer. Now we know not all parents purchase the pictures, but you get the idea.

So, after choosing the digital image for download I get to the check out page only to see that I am going to be charged a “Shipping and Handling” fee of $7. Uh, wait, what? I am downloading a digital image. Why is there a shipping and handling fee? What’s worse is that I can’t remove the fee either. The radial button is greyed out. I either pay the fee right now, or wait until the next day to call them. So, I opted to call the company the next day since surely the fee for a digital download isn’t $7 bucks…

I called the next day and waded through their automated answering system until I got to a real person to talk to. I explained my situation and asked if there was some kind of error on their website that wouldn’t allow me to remove the shipping and handling fee. The response?

“No, that is a flat fee we charge for all late orders.” 

Late? Yes, it is true I didn’t order when the pictures were taken in the fall, but your website says they can be ordered at any time until the following fall AND there is nothing to indicate this is a “late” order on the website. I was a little dumbfounded. I said, “You’re joking right? How does downloading a digital image warrant a $7 late fee or even a shipping and handling fee?”

“Well, we do have to mail you the rights release so you can have the picture printed.”

So what you’re saying is that you are going to charge me $7 to mail me a sheet of paper and an envelope that costs, at best, a stamp or maybe two? I said, “Listen, I understand it costs money to send a piece of paper and envelope out to me but I have ordered digital images from other photographers in the past and they didn’t charge me an extra fee for the rights release, they included it with the digital image download. Surely you have the ability to do that right? So, why would I need a piece of paper mailed to me? It takes less than three minutes to compose a generic email and attach two image files to it.”

“Ok, I suppose I could waive the shipping and handling fee. What email address would you like the images sent to?”

Thank you. Now was that so hard and how about you waive all shipping and handling fees for all digital downloads from here on out? I probably speak for everyone who has encountered this ridiculous fee. There is no reason for it other than you can, and you have families over a barrel. I would venture a guess that many people just pay the fee, which is sad.

Highway robbery, I tell ya, only there was no highway and the bandit holds parents and other family members hostage every dang year around school picture time.

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Opinion | Two Reasons Why “I Am Part of the Resistance” Isn’t What It Seems

For all the headlines the article below generated and all the sensationalized media coverage it received, I believe everyone has gotten a little too zealous in their efforts to discover the author of the article. Too many people are trying to read between the lines and ferret out details to see if the writer made mistakes or offers clues about their identity.

Predictions

Two bold predictions, based on my reading of the article: 1) this article was written by John McCain to be published posthumously; or 2) this article is fiction passed off by the NYT as an authentic source within the White House.

Bold predictions? Yes. Counter to all the speculation going on? Yes.

First option: What better way for John McCain to get his last punch in at the president (whom he didn’t like) and talk up the Republicans as saviors at the same time? The letter was written to undermine the president and his authority while still providing (however thin) reassurance to the nation that there are “adults in the room.” Published from the grave, he doesn’t have to take the wrath of the president, not that he wouldn’t be unable to handle it, and he doesn’t have to deal with the repercussions of how he got the Republican party all twisted up into a patriotic “coup” against the presidential man-child. He wouldn’t have to face endless questions about why he wrote it and why now. He wouldn’t have to explain anything, just let his final words stand as a defiant last act against a president he didn’t believe in.

Second opinion: What better way to set off the presidential man-child into an unhinged, Twitter rant and create a White House witch hunt for a culprit that doesn’t exist than for someone, or group of people, to create a piece of fiction that implicates the Republicans in a “patriotic coup” while undermining the president and sending a message to the American people that no one is really in control? Thus, the White House enters into more chaos than ever and the Republicans are pointing fingers at each other in speculation and distrusting each other as the mid-term elections are nearing. Now, the president will look at everyone around him with even more distrust and, quite possibly, the irrational behavior will be even harder to counter. Whatever or whomever the real source is, they weren’t in the White House but now they are “in the White House” by virtue of causing everyone to be looking over their shoulder all the time.

Proof

What proof or evidence do I have? None. But, everyone else is speculating, so why can’t I?

I do believe that the author is not a high ranking official, probably not even someone who works in the White House. The title just makes for great headlines and copy to sell papers.

I can rationalize that opinion because on close reading of the article the author never offers any proof – everything is vague and there are no real details. This of course could be intentional so as to not reveal their identity, but it could also be because they really aren’t privy to anything substantial. Everything that is written, or offered as an “example,” could have been written from a distance and surmised from other reporting or gleaned from conversations not directly related to someone actually in the White House. Hell, I could have written the article, or any one of you, considering all the coverage on this administration and the media’s obsession with finding negativity in everything the president does. It wouldn’t be hard to write given that the pattern of behavior is well established and that the Republicans are going to try desperately hard to maintain some kind of control on both houses of Congress. By offering the American people some kind of “monitoring buffer” of the president’s behavior, they are hoping there will be enough reassurance to maintain it.

Ultimately, the information will come out. Whether the author steps forward on their own or they are “outted” by someone else, the truth will come out. It always does.