The Syringe of Social Media

 Disclaimer: this post is not a statement against interests. I am a firm believer that moderation is a fine approach to most things in life. Donuts, bourbon, and social media are all OK - so long as not taken to excess.

Several articles over the past few weeks have unveiled research that tends to illuminate suspicions which have been brewing for a while. The most sobering piece was published by the Wall Street Journal about two weeks ago - "How Smartphones Hijack Our Minds." If you are wondering whether this is even a valid thesis, ask yourself whether you have enjoyed elevator conversations in the past several years, or whether you have noticed an almost reflexive reach for the phone when passengers cross the threshold into the cab.

Dopamine, courtesy Wikipedia

School Bus Wi-Fi, Sears, and Smart Rural Community

   Soon after landing my first "real" job, I made a habit of visiting Sears each weekend to buy a tool. It started with a small, wood-handle hammer (which remains my favorite), and was followed over time by screwdriver sets, pliers, clamps, and other toolbox basics. Added to what I purchased on an "as needed basis" for specific jobs (tile cutters, Jorgenson clamps, etc.), it was a relatively painless way to build a working collection over time. During those years, Sears was busy, staffed, and stocked.

A few weeks ago, I visited a Sears location to return an item that I had purchased on-line. I was surprised by how vacant the store appeared; that is best word I can find to describe it. Half-filled shelves, barren aisles, and wide-open spaces illuminated with harsh fluorescent lighting only seemed to emphasize how empty the place was.

Shop On-Line, Lose Weight

  Anyone reading this blog over the past couple of weeks could be forgiven for thinking that this is a fitness-oriented publication. First, the FitBit (last post), and now this article about the potential impact of on-line grocery shopping on snack sales. In reality, however, both posts simply illustrate the way individuals (and, collectively, a society) respond to our deepning relationship with ever-pervasive technologies.

This week, I purchased grass seed and a 1TB external hard-drive on-line. They should both arrive at my door tomorrow. Can I source  grass seed locally? Of course, I can. Am I to lazy to drive 20 minutes to the garden center? Affirmative.

It's National Obesity Day, But I am Ditching My Fitbit

  An article published by the Catholic University Journal of Law and Technology proclaims, "Technology is Killing Our Opportunity to Lie." It's true.

The Washington Post yesterday published an extraordinary account of how a widower became a suspect in his wife's murder when her Fitbit, along with IP addresses from his email and data from his home security system, tore holes in his alibi. The article quotes District of Columbia law professor Andrew Furgueson as noting, "Americans are just waking up to the fact that their smart devices are going to snitch on them."

The Consumer Technology Association reports that wearables are expected to increase nine percent in 2017 to 48 million units, driving a $5.6B market. Smart home technology is expected to experience a mind-blowing 50 percent increase to 27M unites and a whopping 48 percent increase in earnings to $3.3B.

If Yahoo Served Hamburgers . . .

  Growing up in central Ohio, I often drove past a small McDonald's and wondered how that little store sold 65 billion hamburgers. And, every so often, the number would change, much the way the price signs at the gas stations changed - a lone guy with a long pole and a giant number at the end of the stick.

I thought about that today when Yahoo disclosed that it 2013, all 3 billion of its acocunts were hacked. Yep, that's right. Every. Single. Yahoo. Account. 


Which means that somewhere in Sunnyvale, California, there may well be a guy with a big "3" on a stick, patiently trying to wiggle it into a spot that previously held a "1" (which was the perceived extent of the breach until today's announcement).

Taking the "Tele" Out of Telemedicine

 Every so often, I hear a pivotal sentence that sticks. During the 90s, a friend of mine commenting on a current White House scandal observed, "If you always tell the truth, you never need to remember what you said." Or, an ethical observation by a dean at my college seminary: "None of us got to where we are without some help along the way." At a U.S. House roundtable yesterday on veterans' telehealth, I heard another one: "We should be striving toward a point at which we see telehealth as simply health care."

Taking Care of Business...

 It’s not easy bringing broadband service to the most rural parts of this country: among the inherent challenges are low population densities, rugged terrain, and a smaller customer base over which to spread deployment costs. 

Yet despite these impediments, NTCA member companies continue to not only bring service to these remote areas, but to bring faster speeds to more and more of their customers, as illustrated by the newly-released NTCA 2016 Broadband/Internet Availability Survey Report.

The survey finds NTCA member companies utilizing a wide variety of technologies to bring broadband to their customers: 41% utilize fiber to the home (FTTH), 36% copper loops, 12% cable modem, 9% fiber to the node (FTTN), and 2% licensed or unlicensed wireless, and satellite. And the service they provide is robust: 67% of respondents’ broadband customers can receive service of greater than 25 megabits per second (Mbps), 20% service between 10 and 25 Mbps, and 7% service between 6 and 10 Mbps.

"And the Wichita Lineman, is Still on the Line..."

New Edge  Though hardly unexpected, this week’s news of Glen Campbell’s passing was no less sad.

Campbell had fought a public battle with Alzheimer’s disease. Rather than self-pityingly succumbing to his fate, Campbell took on the disease on his own terms: following his diagnosis, he embarked upon an extended Farewell Tour. And though his overall mental condition was deteriorating, he maintained his formidable guitar and vocal skills throughout the duration of the tour. It served as a way for Campbell to thank his fans for their decades of support, and allowed the fans to let Campbell know how just much his music had meant to them.

His was truly an amazing musical career. He was a member of the Wrecking Crew, the team of crack studio musicians that played on not only all of Phil Spector’s recordings, but also on timeless works by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Sonny and Cher, and the Mamas and the Papas.

What "The Sopranos" Teaches Us About Rural America

An excerpt of dialogue from the HBO series “The Sopranos” illustrates themes discussed in the latest Smart Rural Community white paper, “Steel Sharpens Steel: A Conversation About Regional Thinking for Rural America:”

"I tell ya, we each and every one of us, we're alone in the ring, fighting for our lives . . ."

"Well, that's one way to look at it. It's actually an illusion those two boxers are separate entities. Their separate entities is simply the way we choose to perceive them. It's physics; Schrodinger's equation. The boxers, you, me we're all part of the same quantum field. Think of the two boxers as ocean waves or currents of air, two tornadoes, say. They appear to be two things, right? Two separate things. But they're not. Tornadoes are just wind, the wind stirred up in different directions. The fact is, nothing is separate; everything's connected. The universe is just one big soup of molecules bumping up against one another. The shapes we see exist only in our own consciousness."

Ready, Set, Code!

The American Library Association (ALA) is administering a new grant program funded by Google to promote computational thinking (CT) and computer science (CS) for pre-school through high-school students at public libraries. Grants of up to $25,000 will be awarded to libraries in small, rural, suburban and urban communities. The ALA advises that applicants do not need to hire a grant writer. Rather, applications will be reviewed on the basis of Request for Proposal that will guide libraries to explain their vision and programming.

Students at Lakeview Elementary in Norman, Oklahoma, explore coding (photo: Paul Allman).