Make the Dream Real

Today we remember and honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Dr. King’s legacy is a dream we must make a reality. We can do so by serving the greater good. Think about this world and all the children who inhabit it. We owe it to our young people and all those who will follow, to make this world a better place, one where commonality, equity, peace, empathy, compassion, and kindness permeate all of humanity.

Reaching Out: World Autism Awareness Day

Today is World Autism Awareness Day. Why should you care? Stop and think about the following information: according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 88 children in the U.S. has been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Even more alarming is that this represents a 78% increase in rates of ASD since the CDC conducted its first report on the disorder in 2007. If communication is the essence of being human, we have a responsibility to help those who struggle with ASD.

According to the AutismSpeaks.org, the nation’s largest autism science and advocacy organization, ASD disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by:

  • difficulties in social interaction
  • verbal and nonverbal communication and
  • repetitive behaviors.

In addition, autism is much more complex than most people realize. As Dr. Nancy J. Minshew of the Center for Excellence in Autism Research (CeFAR) at the University of Pittsburgh points out, what we think of as autism actually encompasses a number of intricate disorders of brain development. Even more challenging is the need to understand what, at the genetic level, contributes to ASD. Doing so requires an enormous amount of first-hand information from those who struggle with ASD.  Fortunately, the National Database for Autism Research (NDAR) and other participating organizations (such as NIMH, NICHD, NINDS, NIEHS, and CIT/NIH ) are safely collecting and sharing information to better understand what causes and how to treat ASD.

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Internet Access: Rural Georgia NOT Included

Bloomberg View columnist, Susan P. Crawford, lays out a good case for publicly owned internet service. The author notes,

The Georgia legislature is currently considering a bill that would effectively make it impossible for any city in the state to provide for high-speed Internet access networks — even in areas in which the private sector cannot or will not.

Ugh!

Why would my state’s legislators (like Senator Rogers) want to prevent local and municipal governments from supplying internet connectivity to their communities? For that matter, I can’t imagine why commercial interests who refuse to provide service to rural areas would actively lobby my state legislature to prevent municipalities from doing it themselves.

Crawford goes on to say:

The Georgia bill is chock-full of sand traps and areas of deep statutory fog from which no local public network is likely ever to emerge. In addition to the ordinary public hearings that any municipality would hold on the subject, a town looking to build a public network would have to hold a referendum. It wouldn’t be allowed to spend any money in support of its position (there would be no such prohibition on the deep-pocketed incumbents). The community wouldn’t be allowed to support its network with local taxes or surplus revenues from any other services (although incumbents routinely and massively subsidize their networks with revenue from other businesses).

Most pernicious of all, the public operator would have to include in the costs of its service the phantom, imputed “capital costs” and “taxes” of a private provider. This is a fertile area for disputes, litigation and delay, as no one knows what precise costs and taxes are at issue, much less how to calculate these amounts. The public provider would also have to comply with all laws and “requirements” applicable to “the communications service,” if it were made available by “a private provider,” although again the law doesn’t specify which service is involved or which provider is relevant.

The end result of all this vague language will be to make it all but impossible for a city to obtain financing to build its network. Although the proponents of Georgia’s bill claim that they are merely trying to create a level playing field, these are terms and conditions that no new entrant, public or private, can meet — and that the incumbents themselves do not live by. You can almost hear the drafters laughing about how impossible the entire enterprise will be.

What makes this whole episode particularly odious is how desperately rural Georgia needs high-speed internet access. I’ve spent two decades–as a classroom teacher, an instructional technologist, a digital content developer, and university professor–trying to help my (non-metro) area of the state improve the quality of education through the meaningful integration of technology. I know rural students who would love to enroll in online classes. I know teachers who would like to be able to digitally connect with and support learners beyond the classroom day. I know small town businesses and citizens who would like to have the same opportunities as their metropolitan counterparts. These folks would appreciate high-speed internet access. I think any public figure who would come forward and make that happen would be a hero.

Do we have anyone like that in our legislature in Georgia?

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Following up on Pegoraro’s story, the map below was created by the the FCC. It shows the areas identified as potentially eligible for Mobility Fund Phase 1 support. Look at the black spots. Those are areas where there is no mobile broadband service. Specifically, these areas are, according to the FCC

US Census blocks that lack 3G or better mobile coverage at the centroid of the block according to January 2012 American Roamer data and contain road miles in any of nine road categories. Counties that contain any of these blocks are shaded light gray, and as you zoom in and mouse over these counties you will see more information on the potentially eligible blocks, including population, road miles (S1100, S1200, and S1400 categories only), and the name and number of the CMA in which the blocks are located. Further zooming in allows you to see the US Census tracts that contain these blocks.

If S1100, S1200, and S1400 categories don’t mean anything to you don’t feel embarrassed. At first, they didn’t mean anything to me either. A little digging into the 2009 TIGER/Line Shapefiles Technical Documentation yielded a helpful pdf document:
  • S1100: Primary roads are generally divided, limited-access highways within the interstate highway system or under state management, and are distinguished by the presence of interchanges. These highways are accessible by ramps and may include some toll highways.
  • S1200: Secondary roads are main arteries, usually in the U.S. Highway, State Highway or County Highway system. These roads have one or more lanes of traffic in each direction, may or may not be divided, and usually have at-grade intersections with many other roads and driveways. They often have both a local name and a route number.
  • S1400: Generally a paved non-arterial street, road, or byway that usually has a single lane of traffic in each direction. Roads in this feature class may be privately or publicly maintained. Scenic park roads would be included in this feature class, as would (depending on the region of the country) some unpaved roads.

CMA refers to (I think) Census Metropolitan Area.

Google+ Common Name Policy: The Latest Turn of Events

After trying to convince cyber-citizens that they didn’t need nicknames or internet nom de plumes, Google seems to have applied the brakes on and shifted into reverse. Lance Ulanoff of Mashable reports that Google + users may now use pseudonyms. Well, I suppose that’s good to know.

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What Do You Know About Good to Know?

Google's Good to KnowLife is often about tradeoffs. We give up one thing to gain another. This is especially true of when we roam about on the web. We want to gain admittance to a site or its services so we divulge information–a username, a password, our birthday, gender, location–and all sorts of other demographic delights. In doing so, we get something we think we want (access to a forum, a place in a community, connections, expertise, images, audio, video, etc…) and the entity we barter with gets a little sliver of who we are. This routine plays itself out over and over but how often do we think about what we are doing and how it might affect us? What does the online entity do with all of that information. Details of how our personal information will be used sometimes resides in the depths of arcane legalese…if we even bother to look.

Maintaining our privacy involves knowing what happens we agree to share our personal details. Would there ever be a compelling reason to let an online entity know more about us, to not try to hide behind a cyber-pseudonym? Google believes that this is the case. Google’s Good to Know campaign extolls the benefits of telling Google who we are. Even if we disagree with Google’s philosophy, we can still learn a great deal about privacy and security by merely listening to the company’s position.

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