Shock & Awe Ebola

Posted in Just A Thought at 11:14 am

Every so often the universe takes a terrible tragedy and adds an element of slapstick. The latest Ebola outbreak was expected to infect up to 1.4 million people without the aggressive interventions already started. That someone infected made it into the US couldn’t have come as a shock to anyone. That the person is in Texas and the case was mishandled is just cosmic irony at work.

 Small Business Campaign

Texas raised eyebrows in the past year by advertising aggressively in the NYC region to encourage small business owners to move to Texas to get lower taxes and a ‘more business-friendly’ climate. I can’t wait for the NY response ads in Texas pushing our superior health care system and Ebola-unfriendly climate.

 Shock & Awe

Texans are partial to shock and awe solutions. What happens when there’s evidence that vermin checked out the vomit in the parking lot from the Ebola victim and ticks in Texas are infected with Ebola? The clear solution will be to evacuate the area and bomb the infected wildlife to oblivion.

Another Angle

Assuming you are not in favor of either of the above ideas you might want to contribute to the CDC’s nonprofit foundation to study Ebola (Crimean Congo Hemorrhagic Fever) in the wild and to help ramp up the response efforts.


School Busing As a Private Enterprise

Posted in Just A Thought at 9:05 am

I recently switched my child to the local middle school at the sleepy town I live in and immediately developed an appreciation for why the town had spent so much for traffic studies. At the start and end of the school day the town center is paralyzed with traffic. Almost everyone in town has to get their kids to town themselves since the town is barely bigger than the distance public buses are mandated.

Some parents carpool but the inclination of teenagers to sleep in and the variety of after school activities often makes this difficult. My son was anxious after 4 days of driving to bike the 2 miles to school himself. (A great solution if the parents driving their kids to school don’t hit him.)

Maybe new technology (Twitter/internet/GPS), private jitney buses and enterprising parents can help. If the town/school can establish bus routes along a few main roads, vetted drivers can pick up students waiting at designated stops for a dollar or two. Drivers can Twitter their planned start times for a route so riders can plan their arrivals. With a little more work, riders can twitter their need for a driver.

Will Jitney (small bus) drivers participate?
I’m talking with companies to be sure, but buses drive people over the George Washington bridge for $1.25-$1.35. If there is enough interest they’ll be able to make money here.

How would parent’s participate?
Research is needed on legal pitfalls, but the HSA could run this as a fund raiser. Volunteer drivers would get photograph certificates and a car decal after proving they have a licensed, insured car and a clean driving record. The HSA could sell tickets. Half of the proceeds could be used to buy gift cards that drivers could buy with the tickets they collect. Again, participating drivers would Twitter before the start of their runs allowing riders to plan their rides.

Who could ride?
Encourgaing the whole community to use the rides all day – particularly to the center of town, senior center, library and community centers. At least initially it probably shouldn’t be directed at elementary children.


Afghanistan is a Slightly Post-medieval Tribal Culture?

Posted in Just A Thought at 3:16 pm

Wasn’t fostering a way to forge relationships in the middle ages?

Instead of spiraling troops upward in Afghanistan, wouldn’t it make more sense to invite a child (12 years old?) from each family to spend a year in the US with a host family? Ideally you’d have a representative from every family here to be able to go back and talk about where the US is coming from in it’s ideas.  With luck, it will be seen as so desirable that you may be able to offer every child of tribal leaders a chance for their year in the US.

Concentrate on English as a second language in school. If they lack basic schooling, have them assist in kindergarten or first grade classes while their American peers are studying core subjects.  Have them rejoin their peers for gym, music, art.  I’d make it clear that the child will accompany the host family to their religious services each week although the child would be assisted in their religious observances.  Try to get the children involved in community soccer or other sports leagues.  A reccommended number of museum trips and a required visit to an amusement park should make the year one that will make an impact their entire life.


Don’t Let Your Computer Consort With Spammers

Posted in Just A Thought at 11:11 am

I don’t use a spam filtering service because the people I want to communicate with use Hi in the subject line, use multiple exclamations and capitals and even sometimes commit a double entendre to writing – all of which get their emails tagged as spam. (Don’t even get me started on how I was suppose to figure out that someone previously unknown to me wanted me to officiate at a swim meet with “Cool Lap” in the title – & neglected to say swim anywhere in the subject line.) So I get spam.

 Lately some of the mail has openned on one click (no doubt doing something on my computer), has sent out confirmations as soon as it’s openned so the spammer knows they have a valid address , and sending out a message when I permantly delete the message.

How do I stop spammers from knowing that my email is being monitored by a live person (hopefully)? After getting a batch of spam, I’ve taken to unplugging from the internet while I delete the spam and then empty the deleted items folder.  I then go to the outbox and delete it again and reempty the deleted items folder.

 Is it really worth the hassle? Hard to say but it seems like a get a big spike in spam after I watch a confirmation that goes out on a spam message.


Military Budget Solution

Posted in Just A Thought at 9:48 am

There is a very real problem with any military budget reform that each branch gets a constant share of the total military budget pie.  This agreement was forged for very real benefits (We really would prefer that our military spend their time thinking about fighting someone else, not each other).  We are in a war that is driving up costs for our land forces.  Per force, expenses for our other military branches go up.

Recruitment is also a major headache for our volunteer military.  We are lowering the educational standards of our recruits and getting more lax about allowing criminals to enter our military. New recruits don’t have the skills to fight in today’s military. This isn’t good.

What to do? Task the Navy and Air Force with developing free magnet schools.  Let them do all the recruiting they want. (Courses studying Greek war heroes, why the constitution was worth fighting for, etc.) Just make sure that they turn out graduates that can function at a high level in today’s society.  Target those performing in the bottom 40% of our population who have aptitude test scores that indicate significantly greater performance is possible. Enlistment should be voluntary on graduation.

 Not only does this have the obvious benefit of reliving some pressure on school systems, more subtle benefits may develop. It can create a career path for vets. Teachers and teacher’s aides qualified to run extras like the rifle club or sports activities will be needed.  The full range of support services needed to run a modern school can be enlarged to accommodate any staff needs. That is, vets employed will have a support structure and the facilities can be used, after hours,  for all vets in the area.

  Troubled youth crime may be cut – not only are successful students less likely to lash out in frustration – make it an attendance requirement that the students stay clean.

The military has an honored tradition of raising standards of their recruits. Let’s apply this skill to our children, to everyone’s benefit.

Just a Thought.


Are Internet Professional Reviews Useful or Just Vehicles For Slander?

Posted in Just A Thought at 7:50 am

I looked up my dentist’s phone number on the Internet a while back and saw with great surprise that there was a review that claimed she rushed through her patients, held them down and ran an office with numerous children crying in it.  (It was so bad that I was looking for the line where the receptionist rattled chains just to frighten children.) The review author claimed such a litany of problems on her supposed visit that you knew it was a fake.

I complained to the site that they had a fake review and they came back with a letter saying it didn’t violate their policies so they wouldn’t remove it. They were right! It didn’t matter how obviously false a review was – if a competitor doesn’t sign it, it would be fine. 

GREAT Policy – & a real winner for making sure your site reviews are useful.

Of course I cruised a number of dentist review sites. There must be a whole cabal of dentists that are officers in their local dentist associations and run their practices to terrorize children. Little Shop of Horrors must have had it right about dentists. Not only that, most dentists have no activity at all and then  5 really good reviews in a 3-day period.  No collusion I’m sure.

Don’t believe everything you read is getting more true every day.

&FYI – I found my dentist because the dentist most frequently mentioned as the best in  NYC in Upper Eastside and Upper Westside playgrounds was someone with a tiny waiting room in lower Manhattan.  Fifteen years and three kids later I can say I heard a child sniveling twice.  Once was after a young man had the bad sense to have a skateboard accident the Friday afternoon of a major holiday weekend and Dr. Jackson was the only dentist that would squeeze in the hour plus visit. (Just the day everyone in the waiting room wanted to be late – but all I could think about was how glad I was that it wasn’t my kid in the chair and at least I wasn’t going to hunt all over the city when we had an emergency.)  The other time, a parent, clearly very fearful of dentists, brought in her child for their first visit.  The child was obviously terrorized & the parent made it worse every time  she opened her mouth.  Jackson played with the child the whole visit (4-8 minutes) – the walls are covered in cool toys – and never took out dental equipment.  The child left, without her dental exam, but with a bag of loot and memories of a dental visit that will make it much easier the next time.

Dr. Jackson is just a very caring person that wants to kids to have the best possible dental care without charging the highest prices in NYC. (She’s not cheap but she by no means is the most expensive.) She certainly doesn’t deserve to be slandered by a false review.


Computers & The Internet

Posted in Just A Thought at 4:13 pm

 Best answer will get a prize. (I have to figure out a good one. – suggestions taken.)

Which is more important? Why?

 Never use another’s account and never share your password.

NEVER have food or drink around computers.

Never give out personal information  about you or anyone you know like: name, phone number, address or school.

Does the acceptable use policy apply to kids, grownups or both?


Why Isn’t Spying On Americans to Catch Terrorists Good?

Posted in Just A Thought at 7:41 pm

It sounds so reasonable.  Just let the government tap our phones or analyze what we read and they’ll stop the next terrorist attack. It seems like a very small price to pay to stop another 911 and it would be.

No one objects to stopping the next 911.  The problem occurs when those with the information stop the next level of activity. What happens when someone breaks the law to expose illegal coorporate behavior? Do we want to give up our civil liberties to stop this person?

Most people who seek power intend to use it to create good. Sometimes the good they dream of may be at the expense of some minority. For instance, a developer can convince a town to condemn a ghetto.  With the power of eminent domain he can make everyone move out, he can tear down their old, unattractive houses and put up beautiful homes or shops that will let the town raise much more in taxes than they otherwise would have.  He of course will make a lot of money but it’s not really relevent to the situation.  He has turned a nasty old area into a bright new wonderful place.

The residents don’t see it that way.  They like their homes, don’t really want to move and always think that the developer is underpaying just to make a bigger buck.  They want to protest and check out books and talk with their neighbors on the phone.  Do we want a town politician, who can see the glory of the developers vision, to be able to stop the neighbors in their tracks because they fall afoul of some law? (If your life is put under the microscope it is almost impossible not to break some law – especially if you are trying to work out some way to save yourself under extreme pressure.)

The danger of giving up civil liberties is not the prevention of horrible acts. It is the power you give to a select few to stop any act that they deem (decide is)  horrible.


If you didn’t quite understand this, talk about it at dinner with your parents or leave a comment.


What do they mean No Child Left Behind is bad?

Posted in Just A Thought, Uncategorized at 12:15 pm

Last year we followed our long term plan for our kids’ education – our eldest graduated from her private school and we moved her to the very-highly-rated local high school. We knew of mutterings that No Child Left Behind was evil – stifling the creative brilliance of our teachers and making them teach a uniform curriculum. 

Not a problem we thought – eldest’s strengths are diligent work on whatever she’s asked to do (not an iota more), careful attention to presenting herself in the most attractive manner possible (much more important to later job success than technical brilliance, much to my chagrin) and the ability to organize affairs for community service or social events. Since she is not struck by the mad curiosity of middle child, a standard curriculum would not be problematic.

Little did we know. School rankings (an issue of paramount concern for keeping parents happy and property values high) are based on how well a group does when tested. Duh. 

The test taken depends on which group you are enrolled in. If you are enrolled in a AP (advanced placement) course it does not matter that your 4 out of 5 is 80% on an exam that is much harder than the normal exam; the school gets a higher ranking if you get 100% on the easier course. A bored student, or one not taught to their full capacity does not penalized the school in the rankings. 

It is completely to a school’s advantage to push children into the easiest course when they are borderline between two levels (start algebra late, honors vs. standard courses, and the gold standard – AP courses.) If your school is not allowing open enrollment into AP courses the welfare of the student may not be their first concern and may be a sign all the way down the line that they are making choices that are for their benefit rather than the child’s.

Eldest child? We moved her to a school that thinks most children are capable of honors work and she chugs along with a solid B.  It’s the same B she would have garnered in the standard courses of the top ranked public school but she works a little harder.

We’re failing the global education race.  Is it unreasonable to ask that not only should all children be educated to a minimal level but that all children be pushed to their maximum level?


My friend started a blog. What does she WANT?

Posted in Just A Thought at 9:28 pm

My friends were so supportive when I started a blog (probably happy that I’d stop telling them about the crazy things I read and think about).  They’d sometimes even log on and read my pearls. (Usually in front of me just to show that they had looked at it.) Sometimes they’d even call me up to comment on something I said. And my happiest-to-be-supportive friend told me – “your blog was great. I clicked on all the ads dozens of times. Did you make a lot of money?”

Arrrrgh. What exactly was I expecting?

If you want to support a friend starting his or her own blog, you can do a lot.

Read the blog  multiple times

First, read it several days in a row. New bloggers very quickly find ways to track who’s looking at their new baby.  They might not know that it’s you, but they know which town you’re reading the blog from. If you go an a trip to Spain and read the blog there, your new blogging friend will know you stopped by. (Assuming of course that they know you went to Spain.) This is not to say new bloggers aren’t gratified by their friends reading in front of them – comments like “What a pretty title picture.” or “Do you really think a hot pink and orange background really goes with a Save Darfur site?” can be extremely helpful.

Leave comments about the blog for other people to read. 

If you’re slightly embarrassed about making public comments, use an alias. Your friend will know from your email, which isn’t published, that you’re you.  You can even still call and tell your friend you left the note.  Comments let other readers know that they are not the only ones looking at the blog. Sometimes the comments are even better than the original post. (A situation that your blogger friend will not be offended by at all – lively conversation is a tremendous compliment to a site.)

 Ads? – I train my mind to block them out

If your friend has put ads on a site he/she is trying to make some money.  It’s not really helpful, however, to click on each ad dozens of times. If the ad is pitching something you might buy (even in the future & you’re just looking for info now) click the ad. If you’re actually going to buy something you saw on your friend’s site, make the effort to find the ad again and buy after clicking on the ad.  The commission your friend earns is probably large enough to pay his or her blogging costs for the month. (Theoritically you could go straight to the vendor’s site within a reasonable period to make your purchase and your friend should get their commission.  I block and clean cookies so vigourously that a vendor probably wouldn’t be able to tell if I’d seen them from a specific site. The problem is probably worse if you use multiple computers.)

If you have a blog or a website, link to your friend’s new blog.

  Even if your website is just your family info site, link.  (You should also link to your community groups, your favorite local restaurants and any others you’d like to give a helping hand to.)

Finally, email another friend a link to an article you like and tell them to check out the site. 

Follow these steps and your friend will really appreciate your support.