January 23, 2019


I am hoping as is everyone that this partial shutdown ends soon.  They need to put aside the differences and look at what this is doing to the people in this Country... the impact that this is causing. I was a federal employee and I know there are thousands that are impacted and struggling.  I know MANY in the area that are federal employees or contractors working for feds that have been impacted and struggling to make ends meet.  There are those that are not working at all and there are those that are working and not getting paid for their services.  I know that it has been said they will get paid after this is over but while waiting for that payment many are hurting...

The break for the furloughed people could have given them time to enjoy their family or work on their honey do list, but not enjoyment to go anywhere really since funding is tight and having to be back when (ever) they reopen.  But enough already...

There are those that might be by themsleves that don't have a partner to share resources with and they live paycheck to paycheck - they are searching for means of surviving for however long - many looking now at part time jobs just to get by.  Some are getting creative like those two sisters in the news that were making and selling cheesecakes.  

There are those that have a partner or family and if the partner has a job that is not supported by federal funding they they are to live carefully on the one salary - if both are feds or supported by federal funds then there are no funds supprting the household...  bills need to be paid - this can put stress on a people which could cause other issues.

Note to mention the impact it puts on the businesses that relied on the federal workers either eating at their establishment or using their services.  Or other services like metro - yes there are many Federal workers working and getting paid, but this impacts us all.

Many places have offered deals for those furloughed - trying to help them - the County food bank has helped - along with other restaurants offering meals.  Some of the bill collectors have offered to those furloughed some kind of relief - possible delay payment or interst fee situations.

I am not on a podium to say either for or against anything - I am just saying there has to be a better way to get past this and make a compromise - so not to hurt the American people anymore...

This is just so ridiculous.

Watch out for each other because you don't know what the next person is going through or dealing with. Sending prayers to all that are impacted.

January 15, 2019

What Apple Isn’t Doing

I love Apple products, but lately my love-affair has waned a bit. I don’t buy the notion that Apple is not innovating anymore. If you look at their corporate filings and their tax strategies, you will quickly see stunning “innovation” and “engineering” at work. However, while financial engineering may delight Apple shareholders, it’s not as amusing to the end consumers. And let’s be honest here, even the shareholders have been less than amused lately.
The strategy of concentrating on just a few products, the famous 4 product square that Steve Jobs introduced after he came back as the CEO of Apple, may have worked back when Apple was a smaller company. However, now that they are a trillion-dollar company they do need a few more pokers in the fire.
In this blog I will talk about 5 markets Apple can enter today and is uniquely positioned to dominate. These include the consumer gaming market which Apple can enter through Apple TV, the personal server market through the reintroduction of the AirPort Router, the corporate server market through an introduction of a MacOS powered server, and the public cloud market through creation of a Swift-powered Apple cloud ecosystem. Finally, Apple can revolutionize the corporate and government agency custom software contracting through creation of a marketplace that brings together talented developers and large entities while providing an element of security to said large entities.
Sounds interesting? Let’s take a look at each one of these opportunities individually.
The gaming market is huge and growing by leaps and bounds every year. PC gaming is back in vogue, enormous gaming competitions are now commonplace, and gaming streamers are able to attract audiences of 500,000 people plus to their streaming sessions. Gaming is no longer about fun and games, it’s big business now and Apple needs to take a bite of that business.
But gaming on a Mac? That’s just silly, no? Well stay with me here. At the end of October Apple introduced a new set of iPad Pros. While many reviewers have discussed the new looks of the iPads, the lack of the headphones port, the new USB-C connection, what many have overlooked is the iPad Pros’ gaming prowess. Now, I am not going to make the argument that the iPad Pro is the ultimate gaming machine, far from it. However, the A12X chip inside the new iPad Pro is simply amazing.
The new A12X chip scores higher on the Geekbench scores than some of the productivity laptops available currently in the market, including Apple’s own 13in MacBook Pro from 2017. It further delivers amazing graphics performance. During the keynote address Apple stated that Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey runs on the new iPads at 120 frames per second, as they emphasize “something no console can deliver.”
Now, imagine a pair of the same chips, unrestricted by thermal and battery concerns integrated into Apple TV. Apple TV can be the game console of the future. It could be Apple’s Answer to Sony’s Playstation or Microsoft’s XBox. And, in a completely un-Apple-like manner it could be sold for less money and Apple can still make cash hand over fist on the back end.
Now, I know this sounds insane, ‘Apple, the budget brand’, but stick with me for a second. Because Apple designs their own A12 chips and their future iterations, and because Apple is now a “services company” they can afford to sell the hardware at cost. It used to be that Apple was a software company that monetized their software through beautiful hardware. Now Apple needs to be both, a software and a hardware company, that monetizes its products through services and experiences.
With Apple TV, probably renamed to better reflect its new capabilities, Apple can take the gaming world by storm. Imagine a $200 – $300 game console that is capable of running all of the latest game titles in 4K resolution with support for remotes, controllers, and mice and keyboard as input devices and VR capability. Apple can deliver that if they sell the product at cost, and make the money on the backend through the App store.
But why sell the device at cost? Simple, to drag more people kicking and screaming into the Apple ecosystem. Remember, the iPod, was just that for Apple in the early 2000s. My Dad, a die-hard Windows user, had an iPod and then got an iPhone, and now he continues to be dragged into the ecosystem. Steve Jobs always argued that there is something about that $200 mark, maybe $300 now with inflation, that is very special, people are just willing to give you a chance. With a $300 gaming device Apple can introduce people into their ecosystem. Just like a good drug dealer, the first time is always free, or in this case affordable.
Apple can differentiate itself from other game consoles by offering mouse and keyboard support integral for proper game play for certain titles and by having convenient streaming tools built right in. The difficult part of course will be recruiting game development companies to support the new device. However, there Apple has two very powerful tools at their disposal. The App store and the iOS ecosystem. Because any game designed for the new and powerful Apple TV (to be renamed) would be easily compilable to also run on the multitude of iPhones already in the marketplace, many game developers may take a chance on the new device. Further, the App store is notoriously profitable for game developers. Finally, of course, Apple has quite a bit of clout in the entertainment industry and with a little pushing and prodding they more than likely will be able to secure some impressive game titles at launch.
But there is more! It is no longer a secret that Apple is considering replacing Intel as a supplier of its processors for its Mac lineup. And why not? Their own chip designs are getting more and more powerful, and they have done the switch before. Only ten years ago, in 2008, Apple made the switch to the Intel architecture from PowerPC architecture by IBM. They’ve done the switch before and we are confident that they can do so again.
This could have huge implications for this particular market, gaming. Once a developer designs a game to run on Apple TV, it will also automatically run on all the latest Macs as well! Finally, Macs can be about gaming as much as they are about video editing and productivity. Mind you, it is not strictly necessary for Apple to switch processor architectures, as with the latest version of MacOS, iOS code can be easily ported to MacOS, but the architecture switch will make the whole process even easier for developers.
The business argument behind this move is obvious, make money from sales of games and games subscriptions, through the App store and if successful it will be a ton of money.

Personal Server
Apple is all about privacy, as they have told us many times. The world is all about cloud. What if there was a solution that could accommodate both? And what if that solution could also be a home router? But let me back up a little. Let me paint for you the problem first.
The internet is like a water pipe. It carries information to all of our individual houses. If all of us use the internet all at the same time the metaphorical pipe has to be very wide to carry all the data. And that’s actually exactly what happens nowadays.
Have you ever noticed how right around 7 or 8 at night, your internet slows down to a crawl? Have you ever wondered why? Netflix, Amazon, and YouTube are the answer. When everybody starts streaming, the overall internet bandwidth requirement in the United States quadruples. Just like peak hours for electricity use, there are peak hours for internet use. With electricity, we can use batteries, or hydroelectric energy accumulators, or more recently even enormously heavy flywheels to store energy. But what about with internet? Well, let’s get back to the solution to this problem in a moment. For now, let’s look at another problem, sharing and synching between computers on your network.
I have an extremely high latency satellite internet connection. The other day I wanted to use Apple’s Pages collaborative mode to work on a document with my wife. Sadly, it didn’t go so well because all the changes have to propagate through the internet. This means that even though my wife and I were only a few feet apart, the changes on my computer had to go from my computer to the router, then to the satellite modem, then travel 22,000 miles into the outer space, then another 22,000 miles back down to earth, and then snake their way through the internet to Apple’s datacenter. Of course that’s just half the journey, and the same data then had to repeat the path back to our house in order to propagate to my wife’s MacBook.
So, all in all that’s an 88k miles journey, and even at the speed of light that takes roughly 500ms. Add to that a all of the latency on Apple’s end and other delays and transcoding, and we ended up with an unmanageable lag.
Eventually, we ditched the Apple Pages solution in favor of a self-hosted CryptPad application that we installed on our file server. Zero lag, problem solved! And I know what you are thinking: “Not all of us are dumb enough to live completely off the grid in the middle of the desert!” But how often do you want to share pictures with your family or large files with your team, and then get stuck waiting for ever for Dropbox or another synching solution to upload the files to the cloud only so that they can be downloaded back to someone feet away from you.
Now, imagine if there was a solution that would allow you to host your own Dropbox, Apple Pages sync service, photo sharing service, etc. And, imagine if that same solution would buffer all your favorite YouTube channels and TV shows for you during off-peak hours, perhaps while you sleep, and play them for you in any device you own, well at least any Apple device, in beautiful 4K resolution. Finally, imagine if this solution also happened to be a top of the line, easy to configure, and incredibly safe home router. Yes, of course, I am talking about the rebirth of the Apple AirPort!
In 2018 Apple has exited the wireless router market and that was a big mistake. There is not much money to be made in wireless routers, if you try to monetize the hardware. But, what about monetizing services? Imagine a home router that has the same incredibly powerful A12X chip at its core, has 6 or more Terabytes of onboard storage in the form of fully redundant hybrid drives, and is sold at cost to the end consumers.
I know, Apple retailing their hardware at cost! What next, jet packs for pigs? But stick with me here. What if then, instead of just giving the access to the 6 Terabytes of storage inside the router, Apple rented that storage to both developers, large internet corporations like Google and Netflix, and the end consumers alike?
Imagine having 2 Terabytes of iCloud storage that you pay for every month and that is available anywhere from Apple servers, but it is also available in your house instantaneously from your own router. When your family members share pictures with you those pictures load in a moment on all of your apple devices. When you click on a new YouTube video from your favorite creator it loads instantaneously rather than buffering for several seconds. And, of course, if you ever use Pages in collaborative mode with someone inside your house or small business the changes would propagate instantaneously.
Of course, there is only so much money that Apple can squeeze out of the end consumer, but what about corporations like Netflix or Google? With the recent demise of Net Neutrality, these companies are looking to pay more and more money to Internet Service Providers (ISPs) for their connection to the end consumer. As described above, the load in their system comes mainly during certain peak hours in North America. With Apple’s new router such companies would be able to offload some of that traffic onto the router itself. By using machine learning and predictive algorithms products such as YouTube and Netflix can preload all of the popular TV shows and movies the end consumer is likely to see onto the router during off-peak hours.
Of course, that’s not the end either. An entire ecosystem can be developed around the personal cloud router that allows end consumers to install apps on that router. Those apps can do things like monitor IP security cameras, run software such as CryptPad that we are using currently or any number of creative uses for what essentially will be an easy to use and maintain home-based general purpose server. And, of course, with every app sold or service installed Apple can make their 15-30% commission.
For Apple, being in a wireless router market for the few dollars that they might make on the hardware doesn’t make much sense. But being in that same market for the hundreds of dollars that they can rake in service fees over the lifetime of the product makes a lot more sense.

Corporate Server
We just talked about putting a server in everyone’s home but what about the businesses? Aren’t they all moving to the cloud? Well, yes and no. While many businesses are moving to a managed public cloud infrastructure, many others are choosing to adapt hybrid solutions. Hosting some of their business logic on the public cloud provided by companies like Amazon, Microsoft, or Google, and still maintaining some of their own servers at what they call the “edge” of the network.
The edge of the network is the computer that is closest to the end user or the real world. So, for instance, in your office your company’s website and online services can operate on a public cloud infrastructure of some kind, but if during your standard work week you interact with really large files and need to share them with your coworkers then your IT department may opt for an on premises file server that can handle those file sharing needs. Further, on premises infrastructure could be safer, if deployed correctly, and may even be required if you are working for certain types of high security organizations. Finally, on premises infrastructure is essential for real time machine learning applications.
Apple currently makes no servers whatsoever and yet the demand for such servers is in fact, skyrocketing. There is even a data center provider in Las Vegas that literally purchases iMac Pros, yes, the 27in iMac Pro all-in-one computers, and stacks them screen to screen on server racks because there is such a high demand for MacOS powered server infrastructure.
This would be a pretty simple area for Apple to go into and would work very well in combination with the idea we will discuss in the next section. All they have to do is subcontract with a server hardware manufacturer that already manufactures standard 48V rackable hardware, design a fancy faceplate for the server enclosure perhaps one with a nice glowing Apple logo, and sell these things by the truckload. Eventually, these could be powered by Apple’s own A-series of chips, but for now a standard Intel or AMD powered server running macOS would do the job just fine.
Companies, both large corporations and small businesses, can use such servers on premises for tasks such as software development, video editing, and general purpose office applications. But this idea really tightly ties in with the next area of discussion so let’s move on and talk about the Apple cloud.
Apple Cloud
First, let’s talk about Swift. Swift is an excellent programming language that Apple has developed. It has near C level performance, is easy to learn, and easy to compile and deploy. Most recently, Google’s own Tensorflow project, the premier machine learning framework, has adopted Swift as its language of choice, and in some way is replacing Python with it. The Tensorflow team is now actively working to fully integrate the Tensorflow libraries with the Swift compiler. What this means is that for the first time ever you will be able to use code level logic inside Tensorflow’s calculational graphs. Basically, for machine learning applications this gives you much greater flexibility and ability to play with models which you simply couldn’t have built before.
Ok, so Swift is awesome, but what is the point of the Apple Cloud? Well for this we need to take a look at the current state of the public cloud infrastructure space. Doubtlessly, you have heard of IBM announcing that they will purchase RedHat. But do you know why? It is almost entirely because RedHat is one of the main developers on the Kubernetes (K8s) project. But what is K8s? K8s is a management and packaging solution that allows you to package various pieces of software, such as for instance, a web server, a version of Python, and maybe a bunch of different libraries, along with your code of course, into a single container. Then with K8s you can take several of these containers and package them together into a deployment solution that can be easily uploaded to any public cloud and deployed with ease.
While K8s is a great temporary solution it still basically a mess. What you are doing is taking a bunch of utterly unrelated tools and projects and bundling them together into a single deployable package in order to achieve scalability in a public cloud, wouldn’t it be easier if you can compile your application down to machine code with statically linked libraries and deploy it as a compiled single executable application to a server whose job it is to run such applications? This is exactly what Apple needs to do with Swift.
While Swift is an open source language, the libraries for it do not have to be. Apple can develop sophisticated libraries targeting web services, database access, etc. and allow developers to compile their Swift source code into a single and easily deployable application. The application can run on an Apple on premises server (see above) or it can be deployed to the Apple cloud, where the application can be scaled up or down with demand.
This is a complex, multi-year project, but this would payoff greatly in the long run. It is not too late for Apple to jump into the public cloud arena because they can offer something that no one to date has offered yet. While other providers concentrate on being able to support as many technologies as possible, Apple can stick to its very Apple like nature and develop an infrastructure in which there is one and only one right way to code something, but if you code it that way it will work and scale flawlessly.

Code Marketplace

My final idea is another service, something I think is incredibly necessary and yet utterly unavailable at the moment. A code marketplace that can serve medium and large sized businesses and government agencies which have the budgets and the capabilities to hire outside developers to write custom software that will meet their needs, but often lack the expertise to choose a high quality provider.
Have you ever wondered why government agencies and large corporations have sometimes utterly atrocious websites, and internal software products? As one commenter who claimed to have worked for a large corporate custom software provider put it, “they would send the A Team to sell the product, the B Team to gather the requirements, and then finally, the C Team, a team of people who could barely turn on a computer, to actually write the code.” But this terrible business model works because of the “nobody has ever being fired for going with (insert large corporation here)” thinking. This needs to change and Apple can change it.
Apple desperately wants to break into the enterprise space, and this is the way they can do so. They already have an incredibly valuable resource, millions of skilled developers who contribute to the App store. They further have the insight of how well those developers perform based on automated crash reports and feedback from App store customers. They can leverage this information and create a code marketplace. The way it would work is that a large corporate client or a large government agency in collaboration with an Apple representative would create a requirements document and a project description and post it on the code marketplace. Various independent developers would be able to bid on the project. The end resulting software, that those developers would create, would run on Apple devices and Apple servers, of course.
The client could select a developer of their choice from the bids provided with the security of knowing that the entire project is backed by Apple itself. If there is any problem or if the subcontractor fails to deliver Apple is on the hook to make everything right. While this is a risk, it is a risk that is easy to mitigate using all the data that Apple has at its disposal about its developers. However, in exchange, Apple gets to collect 30-50% of the overall contract value. And such contracts would be in the range from $100k to $1+ million a pop.
Imagine having government websites that finally work, or the self-checkout counters at large grocery chains that do not take 10 seconds to respond to finger taps (I am looking at you, Walmart)! In this market area, Apple would basically act as an intermediary, an insurance company that allows corporate project managers to feel confident about hiring a talented independent developer, rather than a greedy and often time inept government contracting firm. And, in exchange, Apple will be compensated handsomely for this service, up front, and will make a ton of money on the back end selling hardware to the same corporate clients to run their new shiny code on.

Let’s recap. Here are the markets I believe Apple should go into:
Gaming: Apple needs to go into the gaming market with an Apple TV like device that is capable of running modern triple A class games. The device should be capable of using mouse, keyboard, and controllers in order to support all of the various game play styles. This is the new doorway into the Apple ecosystem. It will be the iPod of 2019. Inexpensive, and undeniably good at what it does.
Personal Servers: There is an untapped market of people who wish they could set up their own personal server for various purposes but do not have the skills to do so. Apple should enter this market with a new AirPort Extreme Router that will allow App execution on the router and will have ample storage space that could be rented to end consumers and large corporations alike.
Corporate Servers: This is an obvious and simple to enter market. It’s a market that Apple used to be in the past and should come back to again. It makes a lot more sense when considered in combination with the Apple cloud which I also proposed.
Apple Cloud: The idea of a public cloud is taking the internet by storm. It is the central growth driver for both Alibaba and Amazon but the actual implementations are still lacking in elegance and simplicity. With Swift and precompiled containerized apps Apple can bring elegance and simplicity to this market, and make insane amounts of money in the process.
Code Marketplace: This is one of those ideas that could make money and could also make the world a legitimately better place for both corporations and indie developers. By acting as a quality assurance agent and middleman Apple could partner up indie developers with organizations that have the budget for custom software development and make a ton of money in the process.
Know someone at Apple? Think some of these ideas are good? Share this blog with them! And don’t forget to mention that my genius is available for rent, A.K.A. consulting.

November 01, 2018

Definition of a Hopeless Romantic

I am a hopeless romantic.

What does that mean, to be a hopeless romantic?

This question was on my mind today when a friend asked me what my definition of a hopeless romantic is, after I told him that I most definitely am one. 

To be a hopeless romantic is to believe in the joy of companionship and romance, passion and gentleness. Hopeless romantics will give all they have to the one they love. They love deeply, completely, entirely... and dangerously. They will hand their whole heart to whomever they love, and do so willingly and joyfully (if at times with a certain amount of fear). Hopeless romantics do not feel, in any way, hopeless; on the contrary a hopeless romantic has such immense hope that it is impossible for them to escape immense pain when their heart, so willingly offered, is returned in pieces.

What, then, becomes of a hopeless romantic once their heart has been broken, if they are so very apt to believe in true love? Hopeless romantics, though they suffer immense heartbreak, still believe in love. That is their very definition - to always believe in love. Whatever amount of time it takes any given individual to heal from heartbreak, if they are truly a hopeless romantic, they will find solace in their belief that they will, inevitably, find one whom they can love with all their heart, and who will love them in return. A hopeless romantic who does not currently have someone to call their own longs and aches for the joy and excitement and love found in romance. They are not, however, to be confused with one who is desperate. Hopeless romantics are not desperate, not in the least; they do, however, long to find one who can return their love so completely as they offer it.

Hopeless romantics hold dear to their hearts every little gesture of kindness and affection, every sweet and gentle communication of love. To a hopeless romantic, the arms of the one they love are home, and just to be held is heaven. A simple hug is as dear to them as anything. They adore the feeling of their love playing with their hair, holding their hand, whispering in their ear. The one they love can simply nudge their side, look in their eyes for an extra moment, or make them a heart out of a straw wrapper, and it will make their entire day. The brush of a hand on their cheek, or of lips on their forehead, rings true to them as a profession of love - because that is their own intention when they do such gentle things. Any small way they can communicate the love they feel for someone, they want to do. This is not to say that hopeless romantics do not also take immense pleasure in larger expressions of love, but the way they hold the little things dear is what sets them apart from other lovers. 

Hopeless romantics are the idealists, the sentimental dreamers, the imaginative, and the fanciful. They give the world its once-upon-a-times and happily-ever-afters. Hopeless romantics may have their feet on the ground, but their souls fly somewhere over the rainbow.

And that last sentence, I think, is also profound (as cheesy as it may be). Not all hopeless romantics are open to the world about how hopelessly romantic they are. Many are level-headed individuals in most situations, and yet are inwardly (sometimes even secretly) completely and totally a hopeless romantic.

And that... that is me. I am a hopeless romantic.

September 11, 2018


No matter where you were that day, you will remember the event, the day, and what you were doing.  Some of you may have known or lost loved ones in these horrific events.  It is permanently in all our memory banks, and we must never forget!  

I have said that one of my goals this year is to increase the recognition of Public Safety employees and those performing heroic actions.  On this, the 17th anniversary of those tragic events; let us all renew our efforts to recognize these women and men who help keep us safe, and are there to run toward danger, when the rest of us can run from it.  Whether in a formal ceremony presenting a commendation medal, or at a restaurant, business establishment, or airport.  When you see a member of our military, or a public safety employee - say "thank you" for their service, give them a smile, shake their hand, or pay the restaurant for their meal or cup of coffee.  Take the time to recognize them, you may never know how much that gesture of kindness and love will mean to them.  God Bless!

June 04, 2018

Vicki Vale

We all make mistakes, as we all are human, yet you can take solace in one lone fact:

You weren't the one who let Vicki Vale into the Batcave.

May 31, 2018

What 6 Colleges Learned About Improving Their Online Courses

Debates around online education often get stuck on the question of whether it’s as good as face-to-face learning. Perhaps the better question is, How can online education get better? After all, many students choose online courses for their convenience, and in-person classes are often not an option for them. More than six million people courses each year, including one of every four undergraduates.

Making Digital Learning Work: Success Strategies From Six Leading Universities and Community Colleges” wades into those waters with a study of three community colleges and three public research universities, all of which have at least 20,000 students, and enroll significant percentages of Pell-eligible students and students who take online classes. The authors crunched a lot of data to determine how digital technologies affect access, student outcomes, and return on investment.

First, the good news. Researchers from Arizona State University and the Boston Consulting Group found that online education can boost retention and graduation rates, while saving students time and money. But — and this is a big one — to be successful, colleges need to develop a variety of delivery models to match students’ needs, and make significant investments in things like instructional design and student support services. In other words, don’t expect a series of videotaped lectures to get the job done.

A lot of the report is aimed at higher-education leaders who want to think strategically about ROI. But I’ll focus here on a few things that are most relevant to our readers, those on the front lines of teaching.

Colleges in the study reported higher retention and graduation rates — as well as faster time to degree — for students who took at least some courses online. This lines up with research out of the State University of New York system, which found that a blend of online and face-to-face classes seems to work best for many students. The digital-learning study also found that the student body becomes more diverse with online offerings: They draw more older students, women, and Pell Grant recipients.

High-quality digital courses don’t just happen, the report notes. They require instructional designers, data analysts, multimedia experts, and strong student-support staff. The colleges in this study were willing to invest quite a bit of money: The University of Central Florida, for example, spends more than $8 million a year on its 90-member staff in its Center for Distributed Learning.

Working with a team of specialists can provide a faculty member with valuable expertise in the areas of learning science, course design, and technology, while ensuring a level of consistency for students taking digital courses. Those additional investments, the report found, can be offset by reduced overall delivery costs (namely, larger class sizes, fewer physical facilities, and potentially greater use of adjuncts).

A number of colleges also build online tutoring and coaching into their online courses. And some give faculty members the technology needed to provide personalized feedback to students — which is often critical to maintain engagement with online students.
Faculty members are often hesitant to try online teaching, but the study found that successful institutions engage senior professors early, take a collaborative approach to decision making, support strong professional-development programs, and offer incentives like additional pay or course release to help smooth that path.

Research, In Brief

Colleges can help increase rates of completion by paying attention to students’ psychology, according to a study by Mesmin Destin, an associate professor of psychology at Northwestern. In particular, he writes, colleges can bolster completion by "encouraging growth mindsets, linking classroom work to real-world aspirations, and using online modules that help activate students’ motivation and sense of belonging."

People who are more familiar with predictive analytics than their peers are more skeptical of these tools, researchers at Columbia University’s Teachers College found. Advisers and end users of predictive analytics were more critical than administrators, and people who work at institutions that have been using the tools for some time had more concerns than those that were still in the planning stages of using them. Respondents described a "lack of trust” in the validity of the tools and in the ways data are used. Other critiques centered on inadequate training and support, and ethical misgivings about the impact of predictive analytics on the relationship between advisers and students. A few of the people surveyed, the authors wrote, "felt like they were being asked to trust technology more than their own judgment."

For Your Summer Reading

Michael F. Maniates, a professor of social sciences and environmental studies at Yale-NUS, writes that the most influential book for him has been Parker Palmer’s The Courage to Teach. “Palmer argues that good technique and punchy assignments aren’t enough,” Maniates writes. “He insists that, as teachers, we must reflect deeply about who we are in the classroom and who we wish to be — and why we come to these conclusions. Courage has had a profound impact on my own teaching practice — it’s a smart, deeply affecting book that speaks to the core of our work as mentors."

And John A. Lynch, academic-technology manager at UCLA's Center for Digital Humanities, writes that he highly recommends Efficiency in Learning: Evidence-Based Guidelines to Manage Cognitive Load, by Ruth Colvin Clark, Frank Nguyen, and John Sweller. The book expands on the topic of cognitive load, which is mentioned in another text Lynch recommends, How Learning Works, by Susan A. Ambrose and others. In particular, Lynch says, Chapter 4 of Efficiency in Learning "goes into detail about the research that they’ve done on the high cognitive load that lecturing creates, the reason most instructors don’t understand why their students can’t learn well from lectures, and ways that instructors can redesign their lecture and accompanying materials to reduce that."

Thanks for reading!

March 11, 2018

For an Entire Year...

This year, Trump has spent $91,655,424 of American taxpayer money on golf trips.
For that money, Meals on Wheels could have fed 33,117 seniors for an ENTIRE YEAR.

For that money, after school programs could have fed 635,936 poor kids FOR AN ENTIRE YEAR.

March 08, 2018

When Did The Revolution Become A Revolution?

When did the war of independence first get described as a revolution? Was it so considered by the people who were engaged in it? Are there any modern students of the period who deny that it was a revolution?

OK, I’ll take a stab at this.  Not easy questions to answer holistically.

European political philosophers had discussed the aspects of “revolutionary” governmental change for decades, if not centuries, prior to the American War for Independence (AWI).

The term “revolution” was notably used 80 years before the AWI.  The ousting of catholic King James II in 1688-1689, replacing him with the joint protestant monarchy of his daughter Mary and her Dutch husband William of Orange via the method of Dutch military conquering of Scotland, Ireland, followed by key English leadership defections, desertions, capitulations and surrender of the Lords of Parliament (a house stacked by King James II), was called “the Glorious Revolution”. 

While this action was primarily a regime change-- the replacement of one monarch (catholic) with a pair of monarchs (protestant) by military force -- as a condition of assuming the throne William and Mary were forced to sign a document called the “Declaration of Rights” (subsequently known as the “Bill of Rights”), which asserted several principles such as the illegality of prerogative suspending and dispensing powers, the prohibition of taxation without parliamentary consent, and the principle of holding regular parliaments. 

In reality, the “Bill of Rights” placed few real restrictions on the crown. It was not until 1694 that the call for regular parliaments was backed up by the Triennial Act.  Following the Triennial Act, Parliament gained powers over taxation, over the royal succession, over appointments and over the right of the crown to wage war independently.  However, the “Glorious Revolution” fails in the enlightenment definition of “revolution” because it wasn’t a fundamental change of government: monarchs replaced monarchs. Plus, it failed to limit the power of monarch or parliament through a body of law or enact a constitution applicable to the rights of citizens; no draft of a constitution adopted by the citizens who would be ruled by it.  Last, it wasn’t a rising by the people to affect change, but rather a conquest by a foreign military alliance to impose a favorable crown succession.  Because of these flaws, the Septennial Act of 1716 was able to effectively undermine the terms of the 1694 Triennial Act, and subsequent abuses of both monarchial and parliamentary power required further adaptations throughout the next centuries.

In the late 17th and early 18th century the political meaning of the term “revolution” began to be more definitively shaped by enlightenment philosophers.  The revolutionary nature of the AWI was not simply a regime change, but rather the creation of an entirely new nation and the adoption of a new form of government by that nation.  Though the sprawling nature of the American “continental” government and slow communication made the form of direct democracy envisioned by enlightenment philosophers impractical (Rousseau’s theory of direct democracy), the American republican (representative) democracy met the enlightenment era philosophical definition of “democracy” and was substantively different in both form and execution from the former monarchial-based government; and it was backed by a constitution and code of law at both the state and federal levels.

Though the term “revolution” was better defined by the time of the outbreak of the AWI in 1775, it was not an appropriate term for the AWI until the point at which the colonists determined to change the nature of the conflict from one which sought to preserve their rights as Englishmen to one which sought to establish a new nation under new principles of government.  

We might argue that an effective “revolution” had already taken place in Massachusetts; since the colonists had created a democratic government which controlled the instruments of power (legislative, legal, executive) throughout the colony to supplant the previous governmental structures which had been suspended (disbanded) by the Crown. Arguably, after the Boston Port Act Massachusetts could have been described as fighting to preserve this newly adopted governmental structure already in place. 

The same argument arguably applied to Connecticut for an even greater period, since Connecticut had been governed virtually autonomously by a locally elected legislative, executive, and judicial establishment since 24 January 1639; when the delegates from assembled colonial towns adopted the first written constitution in the world composed by those it governed, known as “Fundamental Orders”.  However, these two colonies were unique until Crown-appointed governors closed the offices of administration in other colonies and fled the land, being replaced by locally elected legislators, judiciary, and legal officers.  The bright line might be considered the Declaration of Independence.  Until that time correspondence between the Continental Congress and Britain’s ruler had focused on hope of reconciliation.  Thus, the Declaration of Independence serves as that unique moment when the stated intent of the united colonies changed from reconciliation under the British monarch to independent governance of a new nation under democratic principles.

With that as background, you ask whether the American colonists recognized the AWI as “revolutionary” in its own time.  The answer is an unqualified “yes”.  Many of those we consider “founding fathers” were students of the enlightenment and studied the political and social philosophy espoused by Voltaire, Locke, Rousseau, etc.  They were aware of the elements of revolution and used the term in private correspondence long before the advent of open warfare with Britain.  But, if we consider the advent of true “revolution” to have occurred at about the time that colonists determined to fight for self-rule, then acknowledgement of the AWI as a “revolution” would have had to occur after that moment.  It absolutely did, on both sides of the Atlantic and Europe.  These are but a very few applicable examples:

April 1776, William Henry Drayton’s charge to a South Carolina Grand Jury: Carolinians: heretofore you were bound - by the American Revolution you are now free.  The change is most important, most honorable, most beneficial… Unexpected, wonderful and rapid Movements, character the British and American Revolutions - They do not appear to have been premeditated by Man.

21 March 1778, Thomas Paine, “American Crisis”: “… this distinguished era is blotted by no one misanthropical vice. In short, if the principle on which the cause is founded, the universal blessings that are to arise from it, the difficulties that accompanied it, the wisdom with which it has been debated, the fortitude by which it has been supported, the strength of the power which we had to oppose, and the condition in which we undertook it, be all taken in one view, we may justly style it the most virtuous and illustrious revolution that ever graced the history of mankind.”

1779, Congress ordered the publication of a book titled, “Observations on the American Revolution” written by Governor Morris in Philadelphia  (“Observations on the American Revolution”)

Last, as to whether any serious historians disagree with calling the AWI a “revolution”:  There is probably some discussion regarding the theoretical meaning of “revolution”, but I’ve not read anything from a serious historian disputing the AWI as “revolutionary” (let them speak now or forever hold their peace).  Even Marxist theorists agree that the AWI was “revolutionary” because it determined the forms of bourgeois political form, as well as capitalism and the free market economy that altered empire-colony subsidiary relationships.

Some modern scholars have started describing the AWI as a “civil” war based on the type of fighting that occurred, which is worthy of comment.  A “revolutionary” war is by definition fought amongst people of the same country; that does not make it “civil”.  That is the nature of all “revolutions”: some citizens will support change, others will oppose it.  

While the broad object and effect of the AWI was politically “revolutionary”, at least in the sense of the enlightenment era term, the conduct of the war in some areas became partisan in nature; or even a “feud”.  In many areas of the country there was a decided preference for independence and self-governance, but in others the balance was more narrow, and the causal factors of strife more local and more personal. 

In colonies like Massachusetts, Connecticut, or Virginia the fight for principles of individual rights versus submission to demands of an unrepresentative Parliament may have been clear; in other areas of the country, especially the southern frontiers where government had little real effect on daily life and neither side had the resources necessary to exert military control over a vast region, the grand revolutionary principles often faded against personal realities. 

In those areas differences in religion, affiliation of preachers, economic status, migration, and family ties (both regional and trans-Atlantic) affected allegiances.  Differences were also based on a variety of local issues such as prior land disputes, previous legal and familial alliances, or the latest outrage or atrocity committed by either side.  Whenever the instruments of government break down, mob rule takes over, and principled advocacy isn’t as important as protecting kin, clan, and hearth.  For various reasons, the AWI in the southern regions, particularly in the southern “back country” 1780-1782, became a partisan fight for survival rather than for revolutionary principle.

That is not sufficient region to brand the entire AWI as a “civil” war.  When a population fights among itself, whether for revolutionary or civil issues, the fighting can be vicious, and the broader purpose becomes indistinguishable.  Though in some places at times the AWI fighting took on this partisan aspect, the overall purpose and effect of the AWI, taken broadly, remained “revolutionary” in nature: throwing off the mantle of old government to create a new form of government; and a new nation where none previously existed. 

For that reason the AWI parallels, and even exceeds, the French, Russian, and Iranian revolutions.  All of these featured bitter neighbor-on-neighbor partisan fighting and vicious purges of opponents, yet the political goal and end results of substantive changes in form of government define all of these, including the AWI, as “revolutionary”, not “civil” wars.