Since the inauguration it has been difficult to focus on any one particular issue since everything seems to be under attack. DeVos’ pick for Education Secretary, Scott Pruitt for EPA, Steve Bannon on the National Security Council, the travel ban placed on countries with 90+% muslim populations, the Keystone and Dakota pipelines, not putting his assets into a blind trust and instead having obvious conflicts of interest, eliminating regulations that were put in place to protect consumers from corporations that are more interested in their bottom line profit margin than the well-being of American citizens, deregulation of the financial and real estate industries, denying that climate change is a problem, attack on many of our social programs including Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and the Affordable Health Act. Since the inauguration it seems that all I’ve been doing is being in reaction mode. Quick, call your Senators for this reason, write this group to oppose that, sign this position to protest or support something … react, react, react.
So I started to think about what it is I would want to focus on instead of just reacting. There are a certain set of issues that I find of most importance to me at the moment. I don’t think I can focus on all the issues, even though I do find most of them very important. But I can’t do that, it would just drive me crazy.
I decided to pause a moment and reflect on the issues that are currently most important to me.
- Education. My son is a freshman in college. The average college student graduates with over $30,000 in debt, not to mention the debt that parents take on as well. Wouldn’t it be nice if they weren’t weighed down by such debt right out of the gate? Then there’s the unequal opportunities that our children have around the country. This group of people have better opportunities than others because of where they live, how much money their parents have, the color of their skin or their gender, and more.
- The environment. I want my son to grow up in a world that is livable, where he has clean air to breath, clean water to drink, a clean place to live and clean food to eat. And not just him, but his children, and their children and theirs … we need to think seven generations ahead instead of a few financial quarters ahead.
- My health and the health of my family. We live in a country whose focus is on disease care instead of health care, and where healthcare is a privilege when it should be a right. Everyone has a right to good quality health care, the care that they need not the care that they can afford. It could be that one of these days I’ll need healthcare but might not be able to afford it. It would be nice to have that without draining my or my family’s finances. Same goes for the rest of my extended family.
- My parent’s retirement and my retirement. I want to be able to eventually stop working, sometime before I die. Well, maybe not completely. I’m still waiting to start my dream job, working in a small corner grocery store in a small town and live in a small apartment above it. Anyway … I want to be able to retire and live comfortably, but even that’s under attack right now.
So there they are, the four issues that I want to focus on at the moment. I’m not saying that other issues aren’t important, or that I won’t on occasion write a letter to my representative, call their office, attend their town hall meetings on issues other than these four. I still care about animal welfare, human rights, women’s rights, the issue of our military industrial complex, foreign policy, eliminating the death penalty, revamping our criminal justice system and others.
There is one issue that I think we can all agree needs to have some focus, and that’s our broken democracy, our broken government, our broken election system. We might not agree on how to resolve the issues facing our democracy, but I think we can all agree that Houston, we have a problem.
And I hope that we can have healthy discussion around all of these issues. I’d love to be able to blog about an issue and have people comment on it, offer their opinions, and not have it turn into petty childish name calling or personal attacks. There is not a single person on this planet that has the same position on every issue that I have. And I would hope that the discussion would be based in fact, not lies, half truths, or hearsay. We all need to fact check before sending things on.
In my humble opinion our country is under attack, our very way of life is under attack, our values are under attack. We are under attack by a group of people who are more interested in keeping their jobs than helping their fellow citizen, a group of people who listen more to people who donate more, a group of people who are more interested not being wrong than doing the right thing, more interested in opposing the “other side” than realizing that there is only one side.
So this is my healthy way of expressing myself, of keeping focused instead of being in a reactionary mode all the time.
So long and thanks for all the Fantastically Interesting Semantic Happenings!
I have worked with Peter Fox since April 2002, the last 7 1/2 years at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and before that at University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR). But now it is time to say my farewells as I have accepted a new position with a startup company in Boulder, Colorado. My last day with RPI is August 31, 2016.
I have learned a great deal during my time with RPI, and not just by working on funded projects, but from the many students who have stepped through the doors at the Tetherless World Constellation (TWC). It has been a joy to learn about all of the different interests that the students have and the research that they are involved in. These students have a very bright future ahead of them, as is evident by the students who have already graduated from TWC. Working in the field of Semantic Web and Data Science has been a wonderful experience. I even got to teach for a semester, intro to information technology. A … uh … interesting experience.
The funded projects have been my main focus for the time I’ve been with TWC, most notably Virtual Solar Terrestrial Observatory (VSTO), Deep Carbon Observatory, OPeNDAP (an open source software project used within the lab), Resource Discovery for Extreme Scale Collaboration (RDESC), ECOOP, collaborations with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Australia’s CSIRO, and so many more projects and collaborations.
Along the way I have worked with many great coworkers, students, faculty and collaborators. Special shoutout to Stephan Zednik, whom I’ve worked with for almost 10 years now, Evan Patton, who recently received his Doctorate degree and is now working at MIT, and Jacky Carley, for whom the lab would more than likely fall apart if she weren’t there. From Stephan, Evan and Jacky I have learned the most and have gotten to know them well through the years. I don’t think I could name them all here and I don’t want to leave anyone out. You know who you are.
And, of course, there’s Peter Fox, who I consider to be the best supervisor that I have ever had in my 25 years of being a software engineer, and whom I am proud to call a friend. Peter Fox was one of the people who brought me on board at UCAR back in April of 2002. I have enjoyed all my time working with him on all these great projects. He’s the person who has challenged me all along the way, encouraged me to participate in the community, to become a better software engineer and a better person. Thank you Peter for all your guidance and friendship.
But now for something completely different.
So thanks for all the memories, and I hope to keep in touch with you all.
I have a friend who is a teacher. We’ve been talking over the past few years about lots of different things, one of those being her career as a teacher, all the things that she does, the students she teaches, the materials she uses, and the educational system in general. Great conversations, to tell you the truth. The things that teachers do these days, teaching our children, future generations, if you will. They are, in effect, responsible for the education of our future leaders, our future workers, our future military, our future thinkers, our future educators, and so many more. They have a huge responsibility. And for the most part, most of them are doing a tremendous job. Well, they’re doing a tremendous job despite what they have been given in an education system that is becoming more and more difficult to teach in, more dysfunctional, and even to learn in.
In some areas the system is getting better. People are starting to recognize more the importance of proper health care and nutrition, and how that impacts our students abilities to learn. At least here in the Boulder Valley School District of Colorado, they are starting to serve healthier lunch choices, not such heavy carbs that inhibits the student’s ability to learn. So kudos to the food services group here in BVSD.
Every two to four years the system has the potential of significant changes made, typically not for the better, but simply because there’s someone new in political office. Mostly because this time around the election swung from a D to an R, or back again. Funny thing is, that that elected official is a lawyer or salesman or rancher or whatever, not an educator. I can’t think of one who is or was an educator. But they seem to have this grand idea of how the education system could be better. Oh wait, not that. It’s because the politicians corporate donors have a better idea of how the education system should be run, one in which would benefit the corporation financially. One that would produce worker drones for future jobs in the corporate world.
No child left behind. Or, as it should be called, leave all children behind. Or was it leaving no child left behind on the road to nowhere. This plan has to date been the worst for our education system.
One of the big issues I have with the education system is the standardized tests. More and more, teachers are forced to teach to the tests, not the subject matter. Teach how to take the tests better. How well the student does has an impact on how well the teacher is graded, how well the school is graded, how well the school district is graded, and so on. It’s not about teaching the student the subject matter, or teaching the student how to learn and be problem solvers, or how to be citizens of our communities. So the incentive is to teach to the tests to make sure the students do well and the teachers and school system receive favorable grades as well.
And more and more, those standardizes tests are being administered by private companies, the tests made up by private companies, the material written by private companies. These corporations are making out like bandits on the backs of our students, but mostly at their expense.
My teacher friend has repeatedly commented on how her job has become increasingly more difficult. That she has so much more paperwork to do, new systems to learn to account for how well the students are doing compared to expectations, which are determined by how well they do on these standardized tests. The teachers are having less and less time to actually teach the students, to help them learn, be present for them, to help them be future members of our society.
What, you ask, do I think should be done about it?
- Fully funded education pre-k through college graduation (bachelors or associate).
- Instead of basing school funding on property taxes or local taxes, make it equal across the nation, accounting for cost of living of course. But make sure that every student in every school all across the country have the best possible materials.
- Better requirements for healthier foods served at the schools. Studies have shown that consuming healthier organic foods, lower carbs, can improve a student’s innate ability to learn, to absorb information.
- Quiet time, 20 minutes at the start of the day and 20 minutes at the end of the day. This one helps the students to become present at the school in the morning, to calm them down, get them ready for the day. And at the end of the day to close out, calm down, and prepare for their after school activities and going home. It works, look it up.
- Do away with the standardized tests. Teach the subject matter. Teach the kids how to be problem solvers, how to think. Not what to think, but how to think for themselves.
- Teach the kids basic tasks that the everyday person does after graduation. How to balance their books, create a budget, cook, be able to take care of themselves.
- The Department of Education becomes the Department of Educational Excellence, researching the best environments and systems from all around the world, trying out these ideas in schools, making sure teachers have the best tools that they need to teach.
We can throw more and more information at our students, more and more requirements. But without providing the student’s with the ability to increase and improve their innate ability to learn, none of that will help in the long run.
Have you ever been in a restaurant and noticed that your server looks as if they just might be having a tough day? Doing their job, but maybe a little distracted?
Are you the type of person who gets pissed off because they might make a little mistake? Maybe they bring you fries instead of onion rings? Sweet tea instead of unsweetened tea?
Do you yell at your server, make them feel bad? Do you get on their case for every little thing? Do you go in there with the goal of getting something for free? If you order something and don’t like it, not because its cooked wrong or anything, but simply because you just don’t like it, and expect it to be replaced or get it for free?
Your servers are people too. They have lives, husbands, wives, boy friends, girl friends, children, classes to take, trying to get ahead in life, loved ones who depend on them, elders who might need health care, a pet that they love and care for just passed away, and so on and so forth. Just like you and me … They have their own lives that have come together in this one instance. How do you want that encounter to be remembered?
It’s amazing how many people think that they are their servants, not servers. People who don’t take the time to say hey, find out their name, make a nice comment about the way they look, say something nice, thank them for just being there.
When was the last time you asked your server their name? Or at least remembered their name? The last restaurant I went to, Don Pablo’s in West Lafayette, Indiana for me. And her name was Caitlyn. Lovely girl. Thank you Caitlyn for great service, and helping to make my experience with my friends a good one, a memorable one. Thank you.
So I know a few people in the restaurant business, managers or assistant managers, chefs or cooks, servers or hosts. And they have some of the best, and some of the worst, stories.
One story from an assistant manager, has one of his servers coming back into the kitchen in tears because the customer was being so mean, and just couldn’t go back out there on the floor. She was in tears, crying. Why?
So next time you decide to eat out, for whatever reason, you might want to take the time to be nice and have a good experience and a good interaction with probably a really nice person. They are people to, with their own lives, their own ups and downs, their own experiences. So why not be nice to them? As you sow, so shall you reap.
What a great word. I love that word.
Perspective: “a particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view.” – Google
So two people see something. Even though they are seeing the same thing, they each have a very unique perspective. Not just a different physical perspective, but also mental and emotional perspective.
Let’s examine the case where a person asks a questions or gives a piece of information to someone else. This is the case that caused me to want to write this little post here.
The person has thought of the question. The question is formulated based on the information in their head, information that they know about, they can even picture things in their mind, have an emotional response to certain pieces of information. They’ve painted a mental picture surrounding this question over a certain period of time.
With all that information that the questioner has at their disposal, they seem to assume that the person/people that they ask the question of have that same exact set of information and reaction, the same mental picture, even the same emotional response. The people being asked the question are hearing the question for the first time and have not had time to paint the picture in their minds, and it definitely won’t be the same picture. The questioner assumes that the question is clear, or the reference is clear, or whatever it is. But they couldn’t be further from the truth.
Okay … try this. Put yourself in everyone else’s shoes. From where they’re sitting, how would you ask the question so that it is clear, concise, and to the point and conveys enough information so that they can deliver an answer that is useful to yourself and to them. And how much time have you put into asking the question. Would it not be prudent to allow them to take some time to formulate an answer?
Same with note taking. Don’t assume that everyone sees your perspective on a note. Include links, include definitions, write out acronyms, include enough information so that everyone has the same information, or can get to that information.
And here’s a nice quote that I brought up with someone recently.
I have a perspective on an issue, you have a perspective on the same issue, and somewhere in the middle is the truth.