A hat to live by

Cindy loves to read or send me inspirational quotes she finds online. Things that are intended to help me find motivation or direction for my life. I think I have found something far better – an inspirational hat. I have many hats. This is the case because I keep forgetting the one I am supposed to have with me. I have a thin covering of hair on the top of my head and I must seek coverage to limit sun or cold exposure. I found this hat in the gift shop at Ha Ha Tonka (laughing waters) state park.

Ha Ha Tonka state park did have some other interesting things. This is the remains (it burned in the 1940s) of the Castle at Ha Ha Tonka. Those in the castle had a tremendous view overlooking the Lake of the Ozarks.

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Pre-existing conditions

Awareness of pre-existing conditions likely came to the public awareness during the ongoing debate over health care and made visible the issue of whether the government has a role to play as insurance companies are allowed to deny coverage. Pre-existing is used in reference to characteristics of individuals, perhaps based in unfortunate genetics, making specific problems more likely and as a consequence making such individuals statistically more expensive to keep healthy. Of course, poverty is also a pre-existing condition predicting greater health risks and greater difficulty purchasing health care coverage. Such situations are convenient to ignore unless you happen to be or know someone falling into one of these categories.

I was thinking about the plight of those in Texas and Florida as they struggle to recover from the recent hurricanes. Even though a good deal of the financial burden will fall to home and business owners, the government, translation tax payers, will pump billions of dollars into the region to support recovery. My point here is not to speak against all of us making this contribution rather it is to point out how unaware we are of inconsistencies in our thinking when it comes to statistically unavoidable life consequences. Building close to warm water is a pre-existing condition for hurricane damage. The odds of being outside the 100 year flood plain (I understand this situation from being flooded while living outside the 100 year flood plain in Grand Forks) doesn’t guarantee you will avoid costly damage and doesn’t deny you government support.

Pointing this out is mostly intended to target all of the southern Republican politicians willing to vote against the Affordable Care Act and now expecting the rest of the country to fund the unique pre-existing conditions they fail to recognize as such. In my opinion, ignoring pre-existing conditions is basically selfish and is an issue the government must address. Politicians may pick and choose their issues without regard for the inconsistency in what makes them look good. Perhaps bringing this inconsistency to their and their constituents attention will be helpful.

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News from social media

Facebook is increasingly becoming a source many of all ages turn to for news. In light of recent stories regarding the targeting of stories based on demographics and Facebook’s own use of user preferences for prioritizing the content provided based on personal preferences, this trend has the potential to convince people they are staying informed when in fact the inputs to their thinking are being biased in several ways.

News Use Across Social Media Platforms 2017

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Thought leader or science fiction writer – which is it

We are having some remodeling done and I had to move my bookcase. I must admit I seldom read a book with actual pages anymore and removing and then reshelving the books provided a walk down memory lane. So many of the books had shaped ideas I found very stimulating.

Here is a sampling from the top shelf:

  • Convergence culture
  • Smart mobs
  • The virtual community
  • Weaving the web
  • The wealth of networks
  • Got game
  • Free: The future of a radical price

Here is the thing about this collection. Pretty much all promised a future that has not been realized and now seems a type of idealism that for one reason or another has been lost.

These books were written by great writers with a view of the possible that seemed very probable. They were great thought leaders. When applied in education, the label of thought leader has started to rub me the wrong way. Too often, it seems these folks make their way by telling the rest of us what we have missed and what we should be doing to get us from here to there. These folks have the innovators mindset, hack this or that, or act like pirates. I must admit the pirate thing still kind of baffles me.

I suppose I am old fashioned or cautious, but I prefer a mix of data with my innovation. The thoughts pretty much are the equivalent of hypotheses and as a researcher, I can tell you with certainty that not every creative idea gets published, nor should it.

On the second shelf, I found another book – The big switch. (Who controls the Internet would work as an alternative.) This book by a different thought leader explains why the other thought leaders were wrong. The idealism of learning from each other, learning through sharing, and combining our capabilities (blogs and wikis) has been subverted by the big players (the media companies, ISPs) and our own lack of willingness to make personal contributions. Remember the promise of the Read/Write web? Probably not. Bloggers and free content creators no more, there is also the opportunity for the innovators to make a buck by writing or talking about innovation. Interesting ideas are fun and science fiction writers have been offering such ideas for nearly as long as books have been printed. Sometimes their ideas resemble what becomes the future but no one holds them to their visions.

Just a free thought to consider

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Like Alice’s Restaurant – Amazon provides anything you want

Fake Coyote – Cindy purchased two from Amazon. We have a goose problem at our lake place. Nice lawn with easy access to the lake can bring geese. We have tried everything we can think of short of a shotgun to get rid of them. No luck so far. Cindy read that coyote decoys would do the trick so she bought two. The decoys come rolled up and the directions said that you should stuff them with something (I used towels) and place them in the sun for a couple of hours to get them to take on a more natural shape. I position this one on top of the grill on my deck. For the unprepared, I am thinking waking up in the middle of the night and looking out on the deck might cause quite a reaction.

[Alice’s Restaurant – for young folks with have lived a sheltered life]

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Dealing with things you think are wrong

I post frequently about my frustration with what I consider the flawed and dangerous policies of the Trump administration and some specific Republican positions that are very much in contradiction to my personal value system. The Trump and Republican health care is probably the best example. Access to health care is simply something I cannot accept to any who need it. My life experiences have provided concrete examples of how health care is not equitable.

We have good friends we became acquainted with in Russia and who later moved to the U.S.. We do not talk politics with them a lot, but you hang out with folks long enough and you begin to pick up on things.

Our friends are concerned about me and my level of frustration. Cindy tried to explain that this is just the way I am. I assume problems can be addressed and I have always been persistent. To ignore problems would eat me up. Our Russian friends felt they had no chance to make changes and so found ways to live their lives despite their circumstances. Of course, they were willing to leave their jobs, home, and country to move here. People sometimes joke about moving to Canada. Few have the courage to take this risk and I see their way of responding to what they perceived as injustices as a far stronger and more courageous reaction than my own.

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Contributions required of all

I have been thinking about how I might best convey my attitudes toward affordable health care. What type of analogy offers the best way to explain through comparison why I believe all Americans deserve to be offered a way to have health insurance and why all must contribute? There are certainly other services that are provided to all and all are asked to support. It might be argued in a Maslow kind of way that health care – life and death – is a more basic need than at least some of these other services.

The most obvious comparison that comes to mind is K-12 education. All are provided access to a K-12 education no matter the resources of their care givers or the cost to meet basic individual needs. Not all of those who must contribute have children in need of this service. Some never had children and many have no present need. We somehow have decided the collective benefit is worth the imposed requirement. We do not shy away from providing the most expensive services to those who we know will never be able to pay back the resources that have been invested in them. We make these commitments because these are values we support and because we understand that life is not always fair. This is not about business. This is not able allowing the market to find a way. This is about all of us accepting a responsibility to allow each individual to receive a basic “level of coverage”.

Why should health care be different? Why don’t we start from what Trump proposed, but what we now recognize as hollow promises? Why are we willing to ignore the health needs of some because their personal needs are more expensive? Why are we willing to put individuals at risk because their life circumstances have prevented them from acquiring a level of income so many of us take for granted and somehow attribute entirely to our own effort? I cannot answer these questions because I assume I have

I cannot answer these questions because I assume I must accept certain responsibilities and the government has to be the mechanism through which such responsibilities must be executed. Think of health care as a type of tax if you must. Taxes are simply the way we cover the cost of things we value for the common good. The math is not that hard and the solutions are there. If every business and each individual cannot be counted on to contribute to the common good by purchasing insurance, then the government needs to take on this responsibility through taxation.

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Glassheim on Health Insurance

This is likely the first time I have forwarded an article from the Grand Forks Herald. However, I do keep up with North Dakota issues through the Herald and this opinion piece is so consistent with my own thinking, I thought I would post it here. Glassheim outlines what I would argue is the Democratic position (or at least Glassheim as a Democrat) on health insurance.

Glassheim is a long time state legislator from Grand Forks who has run for national office. The odds of a Dem from ND being successful at the national level is fairly remote, but Glassheim has always had the capacity to present important issues in a lucid fashion.


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When logic fails, talk slower

Various sources have recently decided to contest the value of a college education. For example, consider the following excerpt from Philly.com (The Inquirer). The title – Want to fix America’s Political Divide? Fix the colleges. As always, I suggest you read the entire article. More examples of differences associated with education are included.

The more I’ve covered about American politics in the 21st Century, the more I see that its No. 1 driving force is anger and resentment. And nothing seems to fuel that divide more than the topic of education and how we perceive it — especially at the college level. The evidence is hiding in plain sight. Nothing drove the changes in the American electorate that, for better or worse, gave us President Trump more than level of educational attainment: Trump and his politics of rage surged among white men lacking a college degree, and conversely — while it’s been largely ignored by the pundits — Hillary Clinton killed it in communities with high levels of college education like Philadelphia’s Main Line, where she even outperformed her Democratic predecessor Barack Obama.

As the title proposes, the article proposes there is some fault in higher education that has created the present acrimony present between Republicans and Democrats. This divide is assumed to be a bad thing (the outcome is bad). The logic then argues that since college educated voted so strongly democratic and those without this level of education. education must contribute to this divide. Therefore, there must be something wrong with education.

The question should be. What possible interpretations are there for these connected statements and is the one advanced by the writer the most feasible. For example, what about the conclusion that the present level of animosity is bad. Is it also possible that the present level of animosity represents an appropriate reaction to the election of a candidate who generates strong differences of opinion on important issues? Should one not be outraged with a decision that is perceived to promote future actions that are unethical and unequitable. The assumption that higher ed must be at fault because voting patterns could be predicted from the level of education of voters assumes there is something wrong with the choices made. I am guessing the argument is not that educated people should have made a different choice (how would this be justified), but that they have now reacted so strongly. If the present outcome predicts inequities and unethical treatment, why is a negative reaction not appropriate even if others are willing to accept or understand that this will happen?

I truthfully cannot remember an election that has generated the level of anger that this election has. If you disagree, then that disagreement might be the starting point for a different discussion. If you do agree, the inconsistency represented by the 2016 case from earlier elections would somehow have to be explained by some hidden consistency. Why are more educated individuals reacting in a different way to Trump than to the Bushes, etc.? What makes this election different and how would that be somehow related to education?

Not all college profs are liberals, but I suppose the majority are. Higher education does tend to promote certain values and positions. A society that gives all a fair chance (equity) would be an example. I would guess that most college profs would also endorse the position that all citizens deserve a reasonable level of health care. Most would also propose the value of a meritocracy such that individuals have a reasonable chance at life success based on skill and hard work and see a reasonable society assuring that the conditions necessary for this to be the case to be provided (related to such issues as health care, support for education, taking actions based on income disparities that are not the fault of the individual, etc.). Educators tend to promote equal treatment without regard to race, sex, religion, characteristics of parents, etc. and see a responsibility of government as assuring that these conditions are met. While educators disagree on many things, there is certainly an expectation that the values I list here are satisfied. How these values are addressed might vary, but support for these values is likely to come through in instruction.

I would hope most professors avoid the discussion of candidates or parties, but I would encourage their discussion of issues and values. So, I would expect those teaching science to argue that humans are influencing climate change is the dominant position among scientists collecting data on this issue. If this is what the research shows, this is what you teach. I would expect those teaching courses in social sciences and humanities to address issues of the causes and consequences of inequities in society and what might be done to remedy these problems. If this is what the research shows, this is what you teach. If the consequences of learning about these things causes one to be labeled a liberal and to vote in a predictable way, I think that being a liberal must be the thing to be and voting as such individuals vote is the thing to do. If an election is unique in being shaped by such differences, I don’t see the reaction to the election as a problem resulting from being educated. I would blame it on a lack of knowledge and values that I must reject.

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Zuckerberg visits North Dakota

Mark Zuckerberg does some very interesting things as a self-directed learner. One year he read a book every two weeks. I tried to keep up for a while. Many of the books just did not interest me and while I did read some I was unable to keep up. I know he spent some time learning Mandarin and gave a speech in the language. Here I decided he was clearly a better man than I and did not even give this a try. Now, he is visiting one city in each state. I have visited every state, but this has been across my entire lifetime. I have even spent some time writing about my more recent travels and wish I could find the time to include my earlier comments with my more recent travel blog. He hopes to learn about people and their interests from his observations. Curiosity is obviously important to big thinkers and those who have the means to act on what they can observe.

Zuckerberg has visited North Dakota and recently posted his observations. Mark’s choice in North Dakota was Williston as a way to learn about fracking. You have to admire Zuckerberg’s passion and openness. It is one thing to travel and observe, but I find it impressive that he then takes the time to write about what he learned and what he thought. He takes in a lot and describes some interesting details of how the ebb and flow of oil extraction has influenced the local economy and way of life. He pulls no punches and includes his thoughts on the importance of clean energy as a way to address climate change.

Like many blogs, this collection of observations is worth following.

[in Minnesota Zuckerberg met with Somali refugees and played a little hockey]

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