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Sunday, August 30, 2015

A Boy On A Boat

A full moon. After a full day - but not complete. My son and I generally hang out late, pointing out satellites, watching for UFOs and talking about the moon. We bond with astrology, it seems. Together we have discussed things like meteors vs. meteorites, star dust and velocity. Together we went to a race in Hood River under a lunar eclipse. On that pre-dawn journey we discussed such things as primitive peoples and their perspectives, how the land was shaped, and Herman the Sturgeon at Bonneville.
Sunday marks the one-week anniversary of my son's "Great Alaskan Experience," at eighteen years of age. He purposely landed a "real job" designed to test him. Sometime soon, I hope to hear from him.
If you aren't familiar with the timelines of fishing in the Bering Sea, it goes something as follows:
Tanner was in Anchorage on Sunday, and was probably on the boat in Dutch Harbor by the end of Sunday. My best guess is that the boat would want to head back out within 24 to 36 hours after docking. They want to get back on the fish as soon as they can. Being docked and offloading isn't making money - it is only making room for more fish!
I would think that, at the very latest, they would be heading out by early Tuesday. This is only an educated guess, since maybe the new crew was the last thing they were waiting on, and out they went as soon as the crew came on. The depart window is from early Monday to early Tuesday, at the latest.
Then it takes a couple of days to find the fish, set the net, drag it and then haul it aboard. There can be up to 100 metric tons of fish in the net, and hauling it from the bottom of the ocean takes awhile. After the first net, processing begins, and will continue until the hold is full. The boat Tanner is on has a hold of probably over 100 metric tons. Depending on how good the fishing is, it can take from seven to ten days to fill it.
Once it is full, it takes a day or better to get back to Dutch. Then there is offloading, and it involves any able body at any time who are able to or who are required to be available to help.
Once the offload is finished, there may be some "town time" for the crew. Of course, there is also re-stocking of the ship store, food and general supplies, delivery of mail and packages, re-fueling and any ordered parts or machinery to consider during dock time, as well. Depending on the boat company, dock time can be two or three days, usually. It also depends on such conditions as weather, delays in shipments and crew arrivals and departures.
When you consider all of these factors, I would expect to hear from my son any time between Tuesday and Sunday. After this trip, it will be much easier to estimate his activity. For now, I have to hope that when he DOES have the available time, that it will be during regular human hours over here. Murphy and his ever-damned laws dictate that this will not be the case, and I will only know at the moment, when the time comes. Either way, to hear my son speak in my ear will be much needed, for both of us, I think.
Until then, I see that full moon. I smile with a sadness, and reflect on its presence when a boy is becoming a man in the Bering Sea. At home, the moon hangs dutifully bold in the sky. The same face looks at you all of your life as it follows its pattern through the sky. Occasionally it will perform stunning stellar displays, such as blocking out the entire sun, or turning blood red during its own, separate Lunar events. It is the flashlight of the sky, beaming as we beam back. A steady beacon of stoicism and stability.
On the Bering Sea, the moon is in motion. Depending on the vector of the boat, the moon can be dancing from side to side; port to starboard, to port, to starboard. From leg to leg - side to side. Other times Luna will be pogo-hopping, bottom to top; taunting and playful, as if performing. Big swells offer a more dramatic show, as a trough blocks the view, and a crest reveals it. Like a shutter - open, closed, open, closed; moon up, moon down, moon up, moon down; now you see me, now you don't. More often than not, however, the clouds obscure most of the clear views of the moon. In fact, it is a treat when the schedule works out on full-moon days.
Certainly this moving moon is something shared by mariners around the world, and can be considered a cultural touchstone for those who have shared the experience of living on the ocean.
I miss the kid, but I welcome the man. He has earned this respect.
As a father, I admire his grit. He is younger than I was when I went to Dutch Harbor (though not by much!), and he may be the youngest on the boat, which has a crew of 80 or so. When his options after graduating were, "Military, college or work," he chose work. At that point, he and I discussed what kind of jobs were available, and whether or not his future involved name tags and uniforms, "being his own boss," learning how to put together combos or some other type of job available to a young person with limited experience. He made it clear to me that he wasn't messing around, and that he wanted to jump into adulthood with both feet, right into the deep end - no floatie. It seems as if he literally has done just that!
When you read this, Son, know that I love and miss you! I am being selfish, of course, as many others love and miss you, too. Just know that when I see the moon from here, I also know how it looks from where you are. That is something we share, and something we both can be proud of. When you get back, and the moon is the faithful flashlight you have known all of your life, and your new reality is familiar, yet entirely different to you, I would like to hear your thoughts and plans. I am excited for your future, no matter what you come up with!
Take care Son, and just know that your Dad is there in spirit. Love ya.
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is a writer for Blog of Ages. His experience as a self-publisher serves him well in this capacity. Wilson is the editor of two international charity anthologies, Twist of Fate and Angels Cried. He is also the author of the self-published eBook Life Bits and Other Chunks: Memoirs of an untrained man. Stephen has established and managed many international social network groups. He currently lives in the Tri-Cites, Washington where he works at a local high school, and is an independent tutor in his spare time.

Friday, August 28, 2015

I Got Bloggin' On My Noggin

It occurred to me that I have spent quite some time lately working on blogs. It feels like I have been doing this all of my life, although it has only been a couple of years. I didn't realize just how many blogs I have created. Following is a list of the most entertaining, for various reasons. There is something for everyone! Keep in mind that I also do my own artwork, sometimes on the covers of the books, sometimes on logos, sometimes as visual aids to my posts. I have created my own videos and all related material, except where otherwise noted.
http://raysrulesserial.blogspot.com/ When I was very young, I began to write. Later, when I was a young man, I realized that in order to consider myself a serious writer, I should at least be able to write 100 pages. If I couldn't do that, then of course I couldn't consider myself to be much of a writer. So I wrote. Ray's Rules is an experiment that blends storytelling with modern channels, based on a classic model - pulp fiction. The idea of this serial is to offer quality, cheap drama on an ongoing basis. In this tale, young Ray finds himself knee-deep in Mafia, and his grit is his best weapon.
Are you familiar with Smashwords? It is a platform for self-pubbers to distribute their eBooks without some of the constraints of the bigger outlets. A unique feature I learned about was that whenever you update your eBook at Smashwords, customers are allowed to update their versions for free. This gave me the idea to create Life Bits and Other Chunks. Short stories mixed with humor, drama and insanity, this collection will continue to grow until my file is too big to upload with Smashwords. As time goes on, the price will rise. The solution? Buy early for the best deal.
http://otherchunks.blogspot.com/
http://slwblogofages.blogspot.com/
The Blog of Ages blog site is my first of any note, and is what I refer to as "Stephen L. Wilson Headquarters." When I bemoan society, or observe something I feel needs to be shared, or when I am overcome by a fugue, the result usually winds up here. You will also find excerpts of my writing, interviews with authors who rock, and featured posts from my other blogs.
After a great run of tutoring at the end of this last school year, I realized that the work is a good fit for me. I find work through a company called WyzAnt. They organize my clients and help to promote my efforts. It was only natural for me to make a blog for tutoring!
http://tutorsteve.blogspot.com/
http://onlyqualityindie.blogspot.com/
One of the things I noticed when I first began self-publishing was the number of poorly edited works floating around like so many dead fish. I was new at this whole internet publishing stuff, and I was offended by the lack of effort by some authors. I felt that they were tainting the well, so I decided to make a blog featuring Indie authors with impeccable writing.
Remember December 21, 2012 and the Mayan calendar apocalypse predictions? This book is a take on the end of the world, why it didn't happen and where we are heading as a people. It is an alternative view at creation that is disturbingly precise in its description and evaluation of the meaning of our existence. It is also the very first book I ever edited, so it shares a place on my blog list. I designed and created the cover, learned how to create an eBook and crash-coursed in self-publishing with Destiny Unfulfilled.
http://s8bp.blogspot.com/
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Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Elephant's Foot - The most toxic place on Earth

Photo courtesy of www.wdcb.ru/mining
The Elephant’s Foot is possibly the most dangerous chunk of refuse in the world. It isn't very big, just a couple of meters in diameter. However, it is dense, with a weight of several tons. It is made of a substance called "corium," which is named for the result of a radioactive slurry that is created when a nuclear reactor core melts down. In this case, the Elephant's Foot corium is in a room within the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Russia. When the plant "melted down" in April of 1986, the heat of the radioactive material rose to around 2,255 degrees Celsius (Over 4,000 degrees Farenheit). The intense heat literally melted the cement and sand within the plant to create a type of lava.
Due to the isotopic instability of corium, it changes over time, in specific phases. Some of the lava in the reactor is a specific mix of zirconium, silicate and radioactive uranium. This phase of the lava is known as "Chernobylite," and contains up to ten percent solid uranium.
The Chernobyl accident contained five different types of corium - Black Ceramic, Brown Ceramic, Slag-like Granulated, Pumice and Metal. In the case of the Elephant's Foot, the mix is classified as "black ceramic" corium.
As the lava emits heat and comes in contact with other substances throughout its long decay process, it continues to morph and change. Eventually, as the lava melts through the bottom of the nuclear plant, it will transform into a heavy metal. This will take tens of thousands of years, and if the blob comes in contact with water, an explosion or water table contamination is likely to result. Corium is "technogenic," meaning it is a man-made material.
Even though the Elephant's Foot becomes less lethal as time goes on, the intensity of the radiation will be toxic for some time to come. When the blob was discovered months after the catastrophe, it was still plenty hot. The black ceramic corium glowed in the dark, and any contact could kill a person within minutes. If a person spent five minutes within ten feet of the mass, they had no hope of living longer than 48 hours.

Initial toxicity at time of discovery (6 months after melt down):
300 seconds of exposure, w/in 10 feet = 2 days to live
240 seconds of exposure, w/in 10 feet = immediate vomiting, diarrhea and fever. Death to follow.

Current toxicity (Ten percent of initial toxicity): 
Just over an hour of exposure, w/in 10 feet = a lethal dose.

If you want to see some awesome Elephant's Foot videos, HERE YA GO!

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Stephen L. Wilson is a writer for Blog of Ages. His experience as a self-publisher serves him well in this capacity. Wilson is the editor of two international charity anthologies, Twist of Fate and Angels Cried. He is also the author of the self-published eBook Life Bits and Other Chunks: Memoirs of an untrained man. Stephen has established and managed many international social network groups.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Cursive Writing: It Is Time For A Different Approach

 
CURSED CURSIVE


Many school districts are burdened with dwindling budgets and increasing class sizes. Resources are at a premium, and the teaching institution itself is at a crossroads of old and new. Common Core and new ideologies seem to be at odds with traditional and time-honored classroom practices. While this dynamic arena of educational tug-of-war plays out, best practices bloom unexpectedly in these times of directional discord. 

School districts all around the country have been making decisions which address the dilemma of resource management. In local school districts there has been a reduction in, and in some cases a complete removal of, such traditional classes as physical education, music, art, science and health. In light of this, it stands to reason that a practical approach is taken as we tighten our collective belts and ride out these transitional times. It is interesting to me that we don’t do what is sensible, for example, and discontinue the required learning of traditional “looped” cursive writing in primary school.

While researching this topic, many of the objections to this view that were raised in comments, and sometimes in the actual articles, were of an emotional nature. “How will people read the Constitution?” “What about being able to read Grandma’s letters?” and “Cursive will become a dead language” are some examples. However, some of the objections seemed to be very scientific or factual in nature. “What about those improved SAT scores?” “What about increased neural pathways in the brain?” “What about the benefits of cursive writing for people with dyslexia?” The arguments are passionate and sincere. But are they valid? Should school districts utilize valuable time and resources to teach primary school students how to write in cursive?


 

MAKING THE DISTINCTION


Be careful when you read or participate in debates about cursive. What I have discovered is that a strong majority of blogs and articles do not discuss cursive exclusively. In fact, nearly all of the blogs and articles I examined, including studies and research findings, relied upon lumping cursive with italic cursive, or handwriting in general in order to have a report of substance. If not for this addition of similar but not relative data, there would be a woeful lack of information available by which to frame an argument.
 

It is important to make the distinction between Palmer Method, or “looped” cursive, italic cursive and printed text. I advocate the hand-eye coordination which is so crucially required in early learning by promoting the use of printed text or italic cursive instead of looped cursive. Palmer Method is what we all learned and know as “traditional,” or “looped” cursive. Printed text is what we all learned and know as the first alphabet we learned how to write. Italic cursive is a modern derivative of italic script, which is also known as chancery cursive. This modern version of italic cursive was created by Barbara Getty and Inga Dubay in 1976, and is known as the Getty-Dubay style.

I would like to emphasize that I am not against teaching handwriting in the form of printed text or italic cursive. Studies show that the kinesthetic involvement required of handwriting in general has a tremendous effect on learning development at an early age[1], and printed text makes sense to know and understand. After all, think for a moment how many written communications around you are in printed text. Newspapers, books, internet articles. Everything, right? Now consider what, other than a signature, is actually written in looped cursive. What important documents that you have are written in cursive? Your house deed? Car title? Insurance policy? Any contract? In fact, think of how many legal documents and applications actually tell you to “please print.”
 

Italic cursive, although seemingly obscure in educational systems, shows promise as the emerging best practice anyway[2]. Because many students struggle at an early age to learn looped cursive, italic cursive may be a natural alternative. The first learned alphabet is printed text. Italic cursive resembles that style more than looped cursive. The transition to italic cursive is more natural than looped cursive, and provides a more familiar framework by which to learn. This is a prime example of Lev Vygotsky’s scaffolding method. Vygotsky and the scaffolding method are required study for teachers, and Vygotsky is recognized as a fundamental influence regarding modern education practices.
 

It is extremely important that students continue to practice the printing of numbers and upper- and lower-case letters, as this activity not only increases a student’s ability to learn, it creates neural pathways in the brain[3]. It is also important to note that any fine motor skill and problem solving activity has an impact on neural pathway development. There is no dependable study that shows any appreciable difference in mental ability when cursive writing is studied exclusively.
 

In other words, the fine motor skills required when you learn to tie your shoes will create neural pathways in the brain. These pathways will be different from those created by learning cursive writing, playing video games, or following a flying bird with your eyes. Are any of those pathways any more significant than any of the others? This is something that studies do not yet show, and therefore should not be considered as any kind of credible indication otherwise.
 

An option is to replace cursive writing with technology study altogether. By not presenting looped or italic cursive in the formative years, the students may then have an opportunity to learn something more immediately useful, like typing by touch, internet research or computer programming languages. As long as they are already familiar with printed text, the students are able to communicate and read. This is a great starting point for the interjection of technological learning.

 

WHAT ABOUT GRANDMA’S LETTERS?


There is the argument that the fine art of cursive writing will be lost forever if we discontinue its use in the early grades. The resulting knee-jerk concern has created a wave of sympathy for how important it is to know how to read the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution or grandma’s letters, for the sake of tradition and heritage. The outcry has been that only specialists will be able to read our most important historic documents, and that our society shall henceforth reject cursive permanently.
 

Some of the more dramatic arguments include the notion that cursive will go the way of hieroglyphics or Latin, to be used by the public nevermore. However, like Latin or hieroglyphics, cursive of any kind may be an acquired taste, when it comes to writing, much like calligraphy. For this reason, writing cursive is not necessary so early in the formative educational years. Like Latin or hieroglyphics, people will always be there to preserve the heritage of cursive for the sake of human interest. Having said that, learning to write in looped cursive has nothing to do with reading the Declaration of Independence. In fact, people who never learn to write looped cursive can still easily master the ability to read it.
 

Learning to write cursive and learning to read cursive are separate matters. Reading archaic cursive does not require that a person know how to write it. It takes less than a day to learn to read cursive with ease. It takes years to learn how to write it properly[4].
 

With this in mind, granny will appreciate the effort taken to spend a day learning how to read cursive. As for the Constitution of the United States of America or the Declaration of Independence, they aren’t even written in modern cursive. As elaborate as the writing is on those documents, I doubt if half of the people who write in cursive these days can even read either of those historical documents in full!
 

As you contemplate the need for looped cursive writing, I ask you this - Which is easier to read, most people’s printed text or most people’s cursive? These days it is acceptable to write in an amalgamation of both printing and cursive for most adults, which leads to a vast array of writing styles.  With no continuity or standard, the variety of styles creates a situation where sloppy and unreadable cursive is more the rule than the exception.
 

While it is stated by many that looped cursive is faster to write than printing, if it isn’t legible then it is worthless as a communication tool. Besides, studies have shown that italic cursive is more legible and faster than either printed text or looped cursive, so if the argument is for the most efficient type of writing, looped cursive isn’t it anyway[5].
 

Another misconception is that we need to learn cursive so that we can sign important legal documents. The truth is that our signature can be whatever we want it to be[5]. You may scrawl your full name in elegant flowing letters. You may use your first initials and last name, printed in block script. Or you may do as one of my borrowers did once, when I was a loan processor. On every document that required his signature (over a dozen documents) it was consistent and unique. It looked like he doodled within the same square inch for about thirty seconds. The result was a signature that roughly resembled a jumbled sunflower. My borrower’s signature was as valid as if he had signed with only an “X.” If you are still skeptical, ask any attorney.

 

NEURAL PATHWAYS, SAT SCORES AND DYSLEXIA


As previously mentioned, writing in cursive has been proven to create neural pathways differently than other means of fine motor skills combined with problem solving or similar activity. This process is a natural one for humans. We create neural pathways every day. It is misleading when much attention is placed on this isolated but common physiological process. Yes, this particular neural pathway (looped cursive) will not be created when students are young. This is insignificant in the bigger picture, when other repetitive and focused activities create neural pathways as well. A stronger argument is that those pathways need to be built with the knowledge of modern technology, or even with a more efficient type of writing, such as italic cursive.
 

The argument here is not that our young students are missing out by not creating looped cursive neural pathways in their brains. The argument should be more along the lines of how the development of these pathways are constructed. If there is a possibility to influence this learning, shouldn’t it be utilized efficiently and effectively? Don’t we owe it to our future generations to offer them the best chance to compete globally? There simply is not any credible evidence to support the notion that the pathways created by looped cursive writing are any more or less important than pathways created by other means. As a result, it is better safe than sorry to teach young minds more about computers and the internet, or science,  money handling or any other number of related, relevant subjects instead of looped cursive.
 

Many of the researched articles pointed toward a 2006 study showing that students who learn looped cursive early perform better on their SAT tests[6]. None of the articles provided specific numbers, so I looked into it a bit closer. As it turns out, the difference is insignificant. On a twelve point scale, the average writing score of those who did not use cursive was 7.0. The average writing score of those who did use cursive was - get this - a whopping 7.2 out of 12! Neither score should be considered optimal. When you create a percentage using the scores, the looped cursive students performed at a 60% level, and the non-cursive students performed at a 58% level.
 

In addition, the same report states that only fifteen percent of the students used looped cursive to answer the written portion of their SAT test. This means that the sample of students who did not use cursive was more than five and-a-half times larger than the student sample of those who used cursive. This evidence is skewed, and would not be considered valid or fair by any measure. If a person has to dig this deep to find evidence that cursive should remain in the curriculum, then they really don’t have a good case. To tout this study as hard evidence is shameful.
 

There is some evidence that looped cursive can be helpful for those with dyslexia and other reading disorders, such as dysgraphia[7]. Studies have shown a valid relationship between writing cursive and improved writing skills in certain groups of people who otherwise have trouble reading. The connectivity of the letters apparently forces the student to continue to the next letter without having to interrupt their stroke to do so. In this way, looped cursive writing has been shown to improve the skills of those with certain delayed reading abilities.
 

There are a few commonly referenced sources that proponents of looped cursive use in their arguments. In addition to the SAT fallacy, two studies are leaned upon as significantly worthy sources. The first is a 2012 University of Indiana study, conducted by psychologist Karin James, supposedly demonstrating enhanced mental skills after learning looped cursive. However, further research shows that the only mental skill tested was a specific type of memory. Due to the preliminary and untested nature of the study, any results must be taken as not definitive or useful for serious discussion.
 

Another study often cited is a University of Washington work by psychologist Virginia Berninger that describes the results of handwriting as opposed to printing and keyboarding.  The study is often referred to as solid evidence that cursive creates unique pathways in the brain. While this is true, what is left out is that there are also unique pathways for keyboarding and printing. This study offers no comparison among the three techniques regarding effectiveness in learning. Again, a source with only the flimsiest attachment to the topic, and indicative of sloppy or deceptive research.
 

In addition to cherry picking information, many of the articles I came across were op-ed pieces. As you do your own research, be extremely careful that the studies and sources are referencing looped cursive, and not handwriting in general. If you are reading the articles critically then you will notice that if you go through an article and take out any information not related specifically to looped cursive there will be little or nothing left as evidence. You may also notice that I use some of the very same sources as some of looped cursive’s supporters. This is to show that the articles have value when used appropriately, and the information isn’t grossly skewed.

 

TEACHERS, TECHNOLOGY AND SOLUTIONS


School administrators and educators continue to struggle with smaller budgets and changing academic platforms. They are burdened with the task of categorizing budgetary priorities. Many communities are feeling the pinch of this dilemma. Sometimes teachers are scapegoats, and the public turns on them, blaming educators for failing to know how to teach cursive in school. The issue today is NOT that the teachers don't use the proper technique. The issues today are that classrooms are larger, technology is moving along at a rapid clip, and teachers are under-resourced.
 

Meanwhile, new criteria and standards have cropped up. Common Core is the rallying cry of the day, and there is no mention of cursive writing in the instructions[8]. In fact, the Common Core uses keyboarding ability to measure and benchmark the student standards. Handwriting or cursive is never mentioned. The guidelines require mastery in various stages of written communication throughout school. Priority is the emphasis on the ability to communicate effectively with a keyboard. Families and communities face an important learning curve as our students crave and demand a chance to compete on a global scale. This will only happen if the next generations of students are allowed to keep up with the torrential shifts in technology, including keyboarding as a tool, functional for any phase of internet communication. The sooner we instill this knowledge in our youth, the sooner they will be ready to legitimately compete on a global scale. 

Comparatively, cursive does not even compete as a tool for communication. Could you imagine having a race between how many people you can reach with cursive compared to the keyboard and internet? The technology learning path is certainly important enough to begin instruction as early as possible.
 

If this means the displacement of looped cursive, so be it. My contention is NOT that we simply replace cursive with keyboards. More to the point, once a student learns printing and penmanship, or even italic cursive, then there is no need for looped cursive until later, as an elective. It makes more sense at the earliest point in time to gear the student to be competitive in the real world with technology skills. The brings me to my first offered solution:

- Students can take cursive with calligraphy as an elective in high school or college

-or-
-An efficient creative writing class could incorporate cursive as a requisite for completion.
 
This drama about losing the ability to read or write looped cursive as a culture is silly. Those who value cursive will continue to learn it. Those who don't will not be burdened with it. Both of those people can become well-versed in computers and internet and they will be on an even keel with others in the world. 


- Develop cursive as a learning tool for those with reading disabilities

 
If a method has a purpose, by all means put it to use. In this case, if looped cursive is helpful for those with dyslexia, it needs to be an active part of treatment for afflicted students. In a world where there is an ever greater need for methods to help those with disabilities, it only makes sense to look toward cursive and any other type of breakthrough that may ease the burden for the students.


- Use italic cursive
 

The fastest and most accurate way known to write is italic cursive. This is a hybrid of printed text, italicized and connected.  Studies show that this method not only produces the best results when testing for legibility, it also allows the student to process information quicker than with cursive or printed manuscript.

- Enroll your student in additional summer classes or hire a tutor


It is beneficial for students to exercise their academic minds as much as possible over the summer. Looped cursive and calligraphy are good ways to work this into an otherwise casual schedule. Even if the student is as old as middle or high school, they will certainly benefit from learning cursive, and using it as a tool for exercising their learning potential. Look for classes or workshops through your local clubs and organizations. This is also a good time to hire a tutor once a week to provide exercises and lessons for the student as they develop their cursive skills. 

- Do it yourself
 

The quote I used to open this article provides the best advice. I know we all have busy schedules, but so do teachers. Their job is to prepare our young people for the world ahead of them. This means that teachers must conform their busy schedules around the most pressing priorities. This results in teachers adapting the curriculum to involve as much technology as possible. If your concern is that little Johnny or Susie cannot read the Constitution or grandma’s letters, take the time one day to teach them to read looped cursive. If they already know the alphabet in printed manuscript then they will be able to quickly learn how to read in cursive. Even if you don’t have the time to teach them how to write in cursive, at least your fears about them being illiterate in looped cursive will be put to rest.
 

I am still searching, but I have found very little factual information to justify clinging to an archaic tradition when printed text is perfectly acceptable and easier to read. Feeling sad about losing a tradition is not a reason to continue to use valuable resources, which are in high demand and short supply, to teach a topic that has little use in the competitive real world. It is time to let go of looped cursive as an early academic tool. I would also question anyone who is a strong supporter for keeping it around. After researching the topic, it is clear to me that anyone who is an advocate for looped cursive preservation either has not researched the topic very well, they are purposely deceiving you for some reason, or they are simply ignorant and wanting to cling to tradition.
 

For me, the debate surrounding teaching cursive writing as a required course, especially in these turbulent educational times boils down to this:
 

Unless there is a valid, logical, advantageous reason to keep cursive, then there is no valid, logical, advantageous reason to keep cursive. 
 
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[1] - Konnikova, Maria. “What’s Lost As Handwriting Fades?” (2014)
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/03/science/whats-lost-as-handwriting-fades.html?_r=2
[2] Phillips, Jason. Dundas Valley Montessori School. “To Write Or Not To Write: Teaching Cursive In Montessori.” (2014)
http://dvms.ca/2013/02/19/cursive/
 [3] - Pub Med. “Early Development Of Language By Hand: Composing, Reading, Listening, And Speaking Connections; Three Letter-Writing Modes; And Fast Mapping In Spelling.” Abstract. (2006)
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16390289
[4] - Long, Cindy. “Does Cursive Need To Be Taught In The Digital Age?” (2013). Quoted by Kate Gladstone, handwriting expert and educator.
http://neatoday.org/2013/07/22/does-cursive-need-to-be-taught-in-the-digital-age/
[5] - Dubay, Inga and Getty, Barbara. Oregonlive.com. “Yes, It's Time To Stop One Form Of Cursive Writing, Even Some Cursive Experts Agree.” (2011).
http://www.oregonlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2011/08/yes_its_time_to_stop_one_form.html
[6] - College Board. “College Board Announces Scores For New SAT With Writing Section.” (2006).
http://www.collegeboard.com/prod_downloads/about/news_info/cbsenior/yr2006/cbs-2006_release.pdf
[7] - Wydell, Taeko N. “Dyslexia - A Comprehensive And International Approach.” Montgomery, Diane. Chapter 7 - “The Contribution Of Handwriting And Spelling Remediation To Overcoming Dyslexia.” p. 128 (2012)
http://www.intechopen.com/books/dyslexia-a-comprehensive-and-international-approach/the-contribution-of-handwriting-and-spelling-remediation-to-overcoming-dyslexia
[8] - Common Core website. “English Language Arts Standards » Writing » Introduction.” (2014).
http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy/W/introduction/




Stephen L. Wilson
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Monday, July 20, 2015

Words On A Screen

I am tired of people who read words on a screen, then make huge assumptions based on this tiny amount of info. How about you?



NARRATION:
A common study once determined that human communication is only 7% textual, and that the remaining 93% is made up of body language, facial expressions, gestures, voice tone and inflection and other non-verbal communication. When people are online, using keyboards to put words on a screen, they are relying on an underused 7% of communication skills to relay 100% of their message. People either do not realize this, or they choose to ignore it. Some people who communicate in chat rooms, comments, or on social media insist on taking a fraction of a persons persona that is no more than words on a screen and make tremendous assumptions about the sender.
See, the sender of information has a specific, intended meaning in mind when they go through the effort to communicate with another human . The sender communicates a message, and it is received. The receiver then has the responsibility to reasonably decode the message. Again, it is unwise for the receiver to assume that what they interpret is exactly 100% of the intended message. 

In some cases, the norm appears to be that receivers are perfectly willing to decide that the way they interpret the information is exactly the only way the sender could have meant the message. This is a problem if the receiver chooses to accept the message in a negative way without asking the sender questions, or at the very least realize that the first assumption they make PROBABLY isn't the correct, intended message. If the receiver feels threatened by the information, at times they will lash and bash, and begin a vitriolic attack on the sender.
There are many reasons why people feel emboldened to take their 7% and display themselves as ignorant, hateful miscreants, but the bottom line is that communication receivers routinely:

  1. Make assumptions about the sender's information based on their own narrow personal frame of reference
  2. Refuse to ask the sender for more information
  3. Decide that what they assumed is the only way the information may be taken
Any of these choices only serve to make the receiver a fool. After all, do you ever just walk into a room, hear a bit of a conversation, and then assume the rest about a person based on this minimal amount of information? Is this a smart way to communicate? Does this make sense to you? If you answered "yes" to any of those questions, then you are part of the problem, not the solution.
The next time you have the urge to take 7% of weak, underused communication skills and make narrow, small-minded assumptions, and then decide that a person is 100% of what tiny information you have gathered, then just realize this - when you belittle, name-call, insult without cause, or otherwise expose your own ignorance, YOU are the one allowing words on a screen to bother you. Instead of taking the time to either:
  1. Make other assumptions (it is the least you can do)
  2. Offer an intelligent counter viewpoint
  3. Simply ask the sender of their intent
If your response is to jump on the sender after making your own assumptions, then you are a fool. Yes, you. Quit doing this. You pollute an otherwise intelligent conversation, and waste collective time. If you have questions, or a differing viewpoint, certainly offer it. If you, however, take 7% and make it 100%, you lose. Not 'loose', 'lose'. You lose when you are a fool, and others think to themselves, "That person has issues. They let words on a screen get to them." Of course, that isn't all we think.
I realize that the nonverbal to textual study that is referenced is a bit dated, and that it represents a small sample, but here's something you need to know. More and more studies show that nonverbal to textual ratio may be more like 75% to 25%. This means that 25% is just as insignificant as 7%, since humans still rely on nonverbal communication three times more than textual communication.
Ancient Roman philosopher Epictetus is quoted as saying, "We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak." This may work with non-textual speech, but I contend that in modern times, the saying is closer to "We have two eyes and ten fingers so that we may gossip five times more than we observe." Combined with anonymity, this approach can lead to a quick  downward spiral which usually ends threads in any number of undignified ways. However, you aren't as anonymous as you think.
Now you are informed. There are no excuses. Only you have the power to understand the knowledge contained in this video. Only you have the power to put it to use. Now that you are aware, you have no reason to not act civil, decent and intelligent as you communicate on the internet. Hopefully you are mature enough to put this all together, and help out the rest of us.
Thank you.
---------------------------
Stephen L. Wilson
Tutor and Indie Author/Publisher
Steve dot TheTutor
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Monday, March 23, 2015

Political Common Sense


Political Common Sense

Photo courtesy of:
http://opinion-forum.com/
index/wp-content/uploads/
2010/09/Republicans-Democrats.gif
If you know people who love to "spout politics," here is piece that will help you to know the basic idea behind what they are talking about. You see, politics can be predictable, and there is an entire study dedicated to it. I urge you to use some common sense as you wade through the quagmire which is United States politics.

An article online caught my eye the other day. I read it, and realized that the described political actions by our lawmakers were predictable in many ways. The article manages to provide a window into how expected political transactions work out. If you are one to frequently discuss politics, please be sure to understand that this page is meant to either confirm your knowledge, or even to add to it. My intent is to provide a layer of understanding you may otherwise miss in the fray of current politics.

I will take bits of the article and point out various expected political moves and actions, as demonstrated by our lawmakers. If you are already aware of the principles contained within this page, congratulations! You and I should have a chat. If you don't understand, you now have a perspective from which to launch your political ship. (View the entire article, which is transcribed below)
"The Obama administration said Friday it is requiring companies that drill for oil and natural gas on federal lands to disclose chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, the first major federal regulation of the controversial drilling technique that has sparked an ongoing boom in natural gas production but raised widespread concerns about possible groundwater contamination. A rule to take effect in June also updates requirements for well construction and disposal of water and other fluids used in fracking, as the drilling method is more commonly known. The rule has been under consideration for more than three years, drawing criticism from the oil and gas industry and environmental groups alike. The industry fears federal regulation could duplicate efforts by states and hinder the drilling boom, while some environmental groups worry that lenient rules could allow unsafe drilling techniques to pollute groundwater."
The topic is a hot-button variety, sure to polarize the two main parties. We already know that when it comes to capitalism vs. the environment, Republicans (Conservatives) and Democrats (Liberals) have complete opposite ideologies and agendas. In this case, it is safe to acknowledge that Conservatives will favor industry, and Liberals will favor the environment, in general. As is the rule with any stereotyping, however, it is important to realize that this type of categorizing is quite limited, and only useful in a rough way. Because this issue is sure to polarize, it makes for a useful model for a limited, rough type of categorizing.

It is no surprise that Obama is left (Liberal) on this issue. It makes sense, and is expected. Also expected is that those on the right (Conservatives) have had their eye on this rule from the beginning, as their corporate interests are at stake. It is well known that when it comes to how Conservatives and Liberals view money and its use, a majority of oil interests are Republican, politically. Naturally, regarding fracking, it pits both parties against one another, as a result. Both sides offer valid and compelling arguments.

This issue puts the ball in the court of those opposed to wanting chemical disclosure. The common sense question here is, "Why WOULDN'T the public have an interest in knowing what chemicals are being put into their ground?"
"Reaction to the rule was immediate. An industry group announced it was filing a lawsuit to block the regulation and the Republican chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee announced legislation to keep fracking regulations under state management."
There is no surprise here. It makes sense that Republicans would immediately have an answer to the rule. In this case, the Conservatives stayed true to the party ideology by announcing their intent to steer management of fracking from federal control and into state control. This is one of the agenda items of the right wing - that there should be less "big" (Federal) government, and more state control. The Liberals have the opposite agenda item, in the form of federal oversight. In reality, these two ideologies overlap.

For example, it makes sense for our government to have a Food and Drug Administration to oversee the quality of medicine, among many other things. However, states have the right to manage the distribution and legality of any of those drugs, in most cases. The common sense question here is, "If a compromise is made, how will it affect the public?"

Of course, there is a flurry of dialogue being exchanged among those on Capitol Hill. The party hard-liners are already digging in, and the political arena is filled with all sorts of mud-slinging, accusations and other governmental fodder. Here is what a couple of leading Republicans had to say, according to the article:
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) - "This administration never misses a chance to appease radical environmentalists...the people who work hard every day to produce American energy safely and reliably will have to bear needless costs and headaches."

Senator James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) - introduced a bill to keep regulations under state management - Regarding the new rule: "...[the new rule] adds unnecessary, duplicative red tape that will in turn make it more costly and arduous for our nation to pursue energy security."
Here is what a couple of leading Democrats had to say, according to the article:
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell - "I've personally fracked wells, so I understand the risk as well as the reward...we owe it to our kids to get this right."

Brian Deese, Senior Adviser to President Obama - "Ultimately, this is an issue that is going to be decided in state capitals and localities as well as with the industry."

If you want to take a side and dig in, I can tell you that this idea is a double-edged sword. If you pick a side, there will be plenty of ammunition for you to use as you build your case, in an attempt to destroy the case of the opposition. If you are a Republican, you will find talking points to argue, and vice-versa if you are a Democrat. Both sides will promote their talking points, ad nauseum (until we puke).

The problem with this is that it creates a divided America. Now, instead of watching those who are in position to do us the most harm (lawmakers and corporatists), middle class Americans are at each others' throats, claiming that one group is better than the other.

The common sense question here is, "Is one party truly any better than the other party regarding (insert most important issue to you here)?" Do this several times, with different important issues. Keep track of the 'yes' and 'no' tallies. You may find that both or neither party is working well in certain categories. You may find that there is a difference in how local and national government handles the issues which are important to you, as well. You may find that both parties play the same games, and that money and political interests make the rules.

There are some things to consider, as you decide how to participate in this political sphere we understand to be American democracy.

- People are NOT their political ideologies, for the most part. Your every decision is not dependent on your politics. People will try to influence you otherwise. "So-and-so does this, therefore so-and-so is a Liberal" or "so-and-so believes this, therefore so-and-so is a Conservative" are examples of this. If you fall into this trap of labeling and stereotyping, you will not be taken seriously in political discussions.

- Politics shouldn't be an "us vs. them" proposition. The political leaders are fine with us regular grunts fighting amongst ourselves. It keeps the real issues out of the line of fire, and as long as the candidate can keep their popularity among their voters (their 'base'), the infighting doesn't matter. The way to counter this is to smarten up, grow up and team up. When this happens, and Americans begin noticing the corruption and dishonesty that is our leadership, then things will begin to change. This will never happen as long as a majority of Americans think that they are right about something that absolutely has no right or wrong.

- If it weren't for Liberals, the United States wouldn't exist. If it weren't for Conservatives, tradition wouldn't exist. Without the two, we have no value. With the two, we have worth and unity. The truth is that statistically you can count on about ten percent of either group being "fringe" and quite extreme in their views. The rest of the electorate vary from being hard-liners for their ideologies, to having any mix of both ideologies. This is usually around 2/3 of the voting population.

This group is tricky to track at any given moment, and they are the easiest to persuade, given their beliefs regarding how a candidate best fits their interests. Hard-liners and party extremists are the least likely to change their biases, thus skewing the curve a bit, depending on which fringe has the strongest showing at the ballot boxes.

However, people who vote with no real knowledge of the candidates, their platforms, or anything else fall into the majority group. This means that there is a demographic which includes people who are likely to vote based on advertising and other current communication mediums. Many political advertising dollars are spent in this manner, and studies upon studies show that this type of advertising is effective.

The information on this web page is just scratching the surface of political parties and their place in American politics. It doesn't include the many other parties which are rarely, if ever, serious political contenders. You may occasionally see Independents or other third-party candidates (a party which is neither Democrat or Republican) in local political seats, but rarely are any of them serious contenders for president. It is important to understand why this matters, but not in this blog.

If you are learning, great! Keep up the good work. If you already knew all of this stuff, great! We are on the same page. If you are in some ten-percent fringe, well, I am sure you aren't reading by now, so it doesn't matter anyway! Take care, and make a friend vote the next time you do!


Back to top
Fracking: US tightens rules for chemical disclosure
http://news.yahoo.com/obama-administration-tightens-rules-chemical-disclosure-153501420--finance.html
Yahoo News
Matthew Daly and Josh Lederman,

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration said Friday it is requiring companies that drill for oil and natural gas on federal lands to disclose chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, the first major federal regulation of the controversial drilling technique that has sparked an ongoing boom in natural gas production but raised widespread concerns about possible groundwater contamination. A rule to take effect in June also updates requirements for well construction and disposal of water and other fluids used in fracking, as the drilling method is more commonly known. The rule has been under consideration for more than three years, drawing criticism from the oil and gas industry and environmental groups alike. The industry fears federal regulation could duplicate efforts by states and hinder the drilling boom, while some environmental groups worry that lenient rules could allow unsafe drilling techniques to pollute groundwater. Reaction to the rule was immediate. An industry group announced it was filing a lawsuit to block the regulation and the Republican chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee announced legislation to keep fracking regulations under state management. The final rule hews closely to a draft that has lingered since the Obama administration proposed it in May 2013. The rule relies on an online database used by at least 16 states to track the chemicals used in fracking operations. The website, FracFocus.org, was formed by industry and intergovernmental groups in 2011 and allows users to gather well-specific data on tens of thousands of drilling sites across the country. Companies will have to disclose the chemicals they use within 30 days of the fracking operation. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said the rule will allow for continued responsible development of federal oil and gas resources on millions of acres of public lands while assuring the public that "transparent and effective safety and environmental protections are in place." Jewell, who worked on fracking operations in Oklahoma long before joining the government in 2013, said decades-old federal regulations have failed to keep pace with modern technological advances. "I've personally fracked wells, so I understand the risk as well as the reward," Jewell said. "We owe it to our kids to get this right." Fracking involves pumping huge volumes of water, sand and chemicals underground to split open rocks to allow oil and gas to flow. Improved technology has allowed energy companies to gain access to huge stores of natural gas underneath states from Wyoming to New York but has also raised widespread concerns about alleged groundwater contamination and even earthquakes. The Interior Department estimated the cost of complying with the rule would be less than one-fourth of 1 percent of the cost to drill a well. Despite that assurance, the new rule drew immediate criticism from energy industry representatives and congressional Republicans, who warned it could disrupt the years-long energy boom in the U.S. "This administration never misses a chance to appease radical environmentalists," said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. The new rule amounts to "regulating a process that is already properly regulated" by states, Boehner said. "Meanwhile, the people who work hard every day to produce American energy safely and reliably will have to bear needless costs and headaches." Two groups, the Independent Petroleum Association of America and the Western Energy Alliance, filed suit in federal court in Wyoming seeking to block the rule. The suit claims the rule would impose unfair burdens that will "complicate and frustrate oil and gas production on federal lands." Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., chairman of the Senate environment panel, introduced a bill to keep regulations under state management, saying the new rule "adds unnecessary, duplicative red tape that will in turn make it more costly and arduous for our nation to pursue energy security." The League of Conservation Voters called the bill an important step forward to regulate fracking. Even so, the group was disappointed with the continued reliance on FracFocus, a private website that has taken on increasing prominence in recent years as it collects data on drilling sites. The final rule improves on previous versions, said Madeleine Foote, legislative representative for the conservation league, but "it represents a missed opportunity to set a high bar for protections that would truly increase transparency and reduce the impacts (of fracking) to our air, water and public lands." While the new rule only applies to federal land — which makes up just one-tenth of natural gas drilling in the United States — the Obama administration is hoping the rule will serve as a model and set a new standard for hydraulic fracturing that states and other regulators will follow. Brian Deese, a senior adviser to President Barack Obama, said the rules for public lands could serve as a template that the oil and gas industry could adopt to help address the public's concern about the health and safety of fracking. "Ultimately, this is an issue that is going to be decided in state capitals and localities as well as with the industry," he said. The rule will make the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management the largest customer of FracFocus. Nearly 95,000 wells nationwide are registered with the site, which is managed by the Ground Water Protection Council and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission. Both groups are based in Oklahoma. The groundwater council is a nonprofit organization while the oil and gas commission is a collection of state officials from energy-producing states. Jewell said BLM will have representation on FracFocus' board, adding that the group has taken steps to improve its platform, including adopting a new format that allows data to be automatically read by computers. While Inhofe and other congressional Republicans are likely to mount an effort to block the rule, Jewell predicted the rule would survive because the industry recognizes that sensible regulation of fracking is appropriate. "We expect that these rules will stick," she said.
Back to top Political Common Sense, politics, democrats, republicans, conservative, liberal
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Stephen L. Wilson is a writer for Blog of Ages. His experience as a self-publisher serves him well in this capacity. Wilson is the editor of two international charity anthologies, Twist of Fate and Angels Cried. He is also the author of the self-published eBook Life Bits and Other Chunks: Memoirs of an untrained man. Stephen has established and managed many international social network groups. E-MAIL

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Of Cops and Consequences

By now anyone reading this blog has some understanding of recent current events regarding interactions between police officers and suspects which have ended in the death of suspects and law enforcement officers alike, most notably in Ferguson, Missouri and in New York. Reactions by society are continuing to escalate dangerously, while many of us are looking at how we are protected and served in a new light. Or should I say, through a new lens.

BAD BOYS AND GLAM
I remember when the television show COPS first came on the air. First arriving in 1989, the show was among the original unscripted formats of the reality TV genre, and provided the public with a first-person view into the life of police officers in Broward County, Florida. It was an immediate success, and everyone I knew at the time recognized the "Bad Boys" theme song whenever it came on. Pop culture had embraced "protect and serve" as entertainment, and society would never be the same.

I remember being fascinated with the insider point of view, and the voyeuristic version of the necessary social duties of the officers. While doing their best to make it home every day at the end of their shifts, they also had to walk a delicate line of decorum that was being scrutinized by millions of watchers every episode. It became clear from the beginning that going forward, police activity and interaction with citizens would be altered in a major way. And, like the fickle and cynical group of sensationalism hounds that we are as a culture, criticisms started cropping up about how the police were doing their job.

Nevertheless, the boys in blue had earned their place in the prime-time lineups across the nation. There was no turning back. Like it or not, our police were now public icons as well as public servants. The viewers were tuning in, the station owners were getting rich, and the public had a new genre to add into their unusual and growing mix of music television, portable entertainment and digital technology. Our police now held the same status as glam rockers, knitted ties and big hair. "Police on TV" was now an '80s icon, emblazoned on the public psyche, paving the way for the next twenty-five years of progressive acceptance of the very entertaining - and very real - danger that police face every day.

INSTANT INTERNET EXPERTS
Presently, this paradigm has morphed into a new creature. While the prime-time lineup of the '80s was not nearly as crowded as today's prime-time lineup, information is now something that we do not have to wait until 8 o'clock to learn about. News is immediate for the masses. This is true of ALL news - syndicated reports, tabloid articles, propaganda, pure fabrication and independent reports alike are available in rich quantities, to be consumed by their respective connoisseurs. However, in this new age of "instant expert - just add internet," the truth is the victim, and the loudest, most extreme voices seem to infiltrate discussions like a disease. There is a compulsion among certain people, it seems, to gravitate toward dialogue that has little to do with creating solutions, and more to do with "claiming victory" or creating an environment of "us versus them." I find this to be a disheartening commentary surrounding the nature of politics, and how people in the United States view one another.
Member comments at
http://www.policeone.com/legal/articles/3801254-Videotaping-the-police-A-brief-legal-analysis/
Members of Policeone.com are confirmed through documentation to be law enforcement officers.
All comments by members are also comments by LEOs.
Meanwhile, another type of extremism has emerged from this new paradigm. Officers of the law, now exposed and laid bare to the ever-increasing harshness of the viewing audiences, are forced to learn a new way to interact with suspects. As a society that has a tendency to blur the lines between what we see in the media, and what reality actually has to offer, we have come to view our local law enforcement in the same way in which we view the television version of real justice. 

If our local law enforcement isn't how we expect it to be, based on regular programming and the "facts" of online news reports, then we decide that we are allowed to protest at any time during the process of an officer or a system of justice doing its job. Much ado is usually made before enough information has been processed to come to a rational conclusion, resulting in a knee-jerk media and social reaction to be the first to have the "correct" information, without much (if any) checking of facts and sources.

SHARE AND SHARE ALIKE
It stands to reason that on occasion bad guys will naturally make bad choices, and when they do, they may suffer the wrath of a human who has a job to do. If that job means that a bad guy who makes bad choices winds up twitching involuntarily because of voltage coursing through his flesh, with a knee in the neck and a half-dozen adrenaline-amped, armed people on his back, well, that is the price he pays for making poor choices.
Sometimes a suspect’s actions will be described by the officers in some coded version of "We now have justification to use whatever force necessary to officially whup ass." When this happens, and it is exaggerated by the officers, citizens begin to become alarmed. 

For example, when the television audience sees a flinch by a suspect being described by an officer as "resisting arrest," the charge rings hollow if the flinch was brought about by actions of the officer in the first place - a taser dart, a knee to the kidney, or a reaction to a foot on their neck.
->->->->->->->
 TAKE A LOOK...
... at a scene where the citizens interfere with a bungled arrest attempt. 
Errors abound, from both sets of parties involved.
->->->->->->->
Once "justified," it is almost as if the officers occasionally take advantage of the "cause" for force, and bring tasers, knees and bodies to subdue a suspect with an unnecessarily tremendous effort. This is evidenced in the episodes of COPS, when officers report activity before they engage in contact with the suspect, which describes the suspect as having potential for danger, thus justifying brute force, once captured. The dialogue  is well-rehearsed, even with no script.  

This exciting scene is routinely evidenced by video perspectives of running to the action; to find a herd of police in a dog pile, moving in an ambiguous mass, huddled over the suspect, who is in some state of submission, contorted beyond belief at the bottom of the pile; defeated and obviously not a threat

When the pile clears, the aftermath is an excited, adrenaline-rushed law enforcement officer on camera, breathlessly describing the scene to a superior in such a way that the audience must surely agree that many officers using tasers, brute force, and severe pain methods were justified in doing so.

After years and years of watching the same scene play itself out over and over in numerous ways, the viewing public has developed an idea that some amount of justification of these actions is normal, to some degree, and that if the force is too excessive, civilian interference should be tolerated, for the sake of social decency.

It would appear that this delicate balance of acceptance and civilian/cop interaction has shifted in dramatic ways as of late. In recent years, technology has made it so that the public may now share with the entire world what they witness during routine actions of police officers. As it turns out, many of the reports by law enforcement officers have been refuted based on video evidence.


DON'T MAKE FACES AT ME
In other words, citizens, for the first time in our nation's history, have felt the bold urge to address law enforcement officers in a variety of ways never before encountered by the police. More and more there is a feeling among all involved, spectators and participants alike, that the police have developed a "public face" and a "private face," and that as long as there are people around to witness the events of an arrest, it is "allowed" for suspects and spectators to complain and even conduct themselves in resistant ways, even while being arrested. Police have had to learn to be perfect professionals, until the need to use force presents itself. 

Back in the days of COPS, when the "public face" of law enforcement officers was the only aspect of their job on display to the masses, the perception was that these guys are just doing their job, and like any other human, they do their best to do their job in a professional manner, despite the actions of others who may make their job more difficult.

When the cameras are obvious, so are the actions of those being filmed. A televised show made this aspect of society real for most of us. After all, the camera doesn't lie, right? The problem with this philosophy is that we don't know anything about what led up to the moment the camera begins rolling. Maybe the suspect just finished kicking or punching the officer, and then the camera clicked on. Maybe, even though the suspect seems calm when the video starts, he was a flailing djinn only moments before. It is important to realize that, like a single witness, most of the time a single video is NOT the entire story, even though it does provide some hands-on evidence of the event.

If the cameras are obvious or known to the officers, they will work with their "public face" on display. However, if a citizen happens to capture law enforcement officers with their "private face" on, especially if the rendering is less than flattering, then sometimes the result is an unraveling of professionalism. When humans (even law enforcement officers) are caught off guard, or startled, sometimes the reaction is anger. How many times have you seen a news story about an officer angrily approaching a bystander with the singular intent of confiscating their phone? I believe that all of us may have seen this at least once. These actions are not isolated. In most places, these actions are also illegal.

Time and time again courts dismiss charges brought about by police and municipalities against people who are on public property, not interfering with police work, and video taping an incident. Higher courts dismiss the cases on the grounds of our Constitutional First Amendment. In order to find out how this plays out in your area, you must look to the Circuit Court of Appeals near you. Most of the time, they follow federal standards in cases like these. If you live in an area where people are getting locked up for video taping police activity, then it is time to dig a little deeper and find out how this archaic practice is even possible in your location.


A DASH-ING CAM-EO 
Here is a brief description of what transpires through the lens of a particular dash cam video from a law enforcement vehicle. The video takes place on a country road that is part of a highway system. It starts on a two-lane country road, just before turning into a four-lane expressway, or highway. The video begins with a local police officer who just pulled onto the road, and is behind a fast moving suspect vehicle.
  • The officer is behind a vehicle, and is about to pull the suspect over for speeding
  • As the officer gets into position behind the vehicle, the suspect vehicle swerves aggressively towards a turning vehicle in front of it, as if impatient
  • The suspect vehicle picks up speed as the officer stays on the suspect's tail. As the road widens, and there is room to pull over, the officer turns on the lights and sirens
  • The suspect vehicle speeds up and makes two lane changes without signaling, and appears evasive
  • Now twenty-two seconds into the traffic stop, they come to a busy intersection, where they both come to a stop, and the officer once again engages the siren
  • The suspect vehicle starts forward, so the officer quickly swerves to the left, toward a full lane of traffic, in an attempt to control the scene. Vehicles in that lane begin pulling onto the left shoulder, to make room for the officer. The suspect vehicle continues through the intersection at a high rate of speed.
  • The officer pulls beside the vehicle, and through open windows, orders the suspect to pull over.
  • After a minute of active chase, the suspect finally pulls over
->->->->->->->
 TAKE A LOOK...
... at what happens when this guy finally gets pulled over, 
after blatantly abusing the law
->->->->->->->
Now I ask you. What do you think happens next? I realize that context matters, and I deliberately left out such details as specific surroundings, vehicle type, and regional reference. Nonetheless, all of us have an understanding that when a traffic stop becomes a chase, and the suspect makes indications that they have no regard for the safety of themselves or others, and that they are willfully and obviously refusing to follow directions, then there is a very real threat to the officer on duty. 

It also makes sense that, in order to make it home safely at the end of their shift, officers have every right at this point to engage as if there is a very real threat, and that unless they are vigilant, there is a chance that they may die at that very moment. I wonder what type of justified force will be necessary in this case. Certainly it is a situation where utmost caution is paramount; even tougher than a kid with a pocket full of drugs, jumping fences to avoid a dog snarling at his back. What action do you think the cop takes when he finally confronts the man?

What would you say if I told you that not only did the suspect NOT get arrested, the suspect got away scot-free, and even flipped off the officer on duty in the process? What kind of get-out-of-jail-free card did THAT guy have? Apparently there is a pecking order among police, and when the hierarchy is breached, there is only so much a local officer can do when a "bigger dog" is in the vicinity.

More and more, lenses have brought to the surface a tendency and trend of bad behavior by those we once entrusted as representatives of honor and integrity. As society realizes that the very people we hold to this standard not only have the capability to lie and break laws, these very people also seem to do so with impunity of self-discipline, and within a system that protects them when they act in this way. Citizens who once tolerated debatably harsh actions of law enforcement agents as being an extension of their right to defend themselves have now lost confidence that, in fact, defending themselves is actually what they are doing.

WHAT? ME, WORRY ABOUT MY PHONE?
So what happens if we witness an arrest or a police stop and decide to capture it on our cell phones? The laws vary, and Gizmodo has a great article about this. The laws in most states allow public video of police actions, as long as you do not interfere with the law officer doing their job. In Washington state, for example, the court case Washington vs. Modica established that "...a party has consented to a recording if he or she is aware that the recording is taking place." Public video laws vary, but a standard has been set by precedent and current court proceedings, and courts have been supportive of video bystanders to law enforcement, in general.

Here are "Seven Rules" to follow when you video record law enforcement officers in action, as taken from the Gizmodo article:

1- "Know the law - WHEREVER you are"
Most of the time, the law does not criminalize the use of recording devices in areas of public access, or when there is no reasonable expectation of privacy. This means that if you decide to run video in a hotel lobby, on public streets or even filming conversations in public, that you are lawfully permitted to do so.
      
2- "Don't secretly record police"
Make sure that you keep your recording device completely visible at all times. If you are questioned, you can make the statement that you are recording this public activity from a reasonable distance.

3- "Respond to 'S*** Cops Say'"
Many times, officers will ask similar questions when a citizen is recording their activities. Following is a number of questions and responses you may consider, if you are ever approached by a law enforcement officer while you are recording a scene.
"WHAT ARE YOU DOING?"
"Officer, I'm not interfering. I'm asserting my First Amendment rights. You're being documented and recorded offsite."
"LET ME SEE YOUR I.D."
You only have to identify yourself if there is "reasonable suspicion" that you are involved with criminal activity. If reasonable suspicion is the cause, then ask if you are being detained. Otherwise, there is no reasonable suspicion of a crime being committed.
"PLEASE STOP RECORDING ME. IT'S AGAINST THE LAW."
"Officer, I'm familiar with the law, but the courts have ruled that it doesn't apply to recording on-duty police."
"STAND BACK"
"Officer, I have a right to be here. I'm filming for documentation purposes and not interfering with your work."

4- "Don't share your video with police" 
According to Gizmodo, the safest bet is to anonymously upload your video to YouTube. This information is based on recent success by anonymous uploaders to avoid legal action.
   
5- "Prepare to be arrested"
Whenever you appear to defy legal authority, you should expect to be arrested. If you are given the ultimatum to "Shut it off, or I'll arrest you," make sure to record a response similar to "Okay, Officer. But I'm turning the camera off under protest."

6- "Master your technology"
Many times police will confiscate your phone, and then review the videos, if they can. One way to maintain your privacy is to protect your phone with a pass code. Also, you can set your videos to private, which adds one more layer of protection. If possible, do these things, then power your phone down when approached, so that the phone is locked when it is turned back on.

SF Chronicle attributes this picture to
"Michael Short/Special to the Chronicle"
7- "Don't point your camera like a gun"
Ever!

Even if a guy in the crowd, who is dressed like a protester, acts like a protester, and incites like a bad protester claims himself to be a cop, and then draws a gun. Even if a big angry guy with a gun is pointing it at your face because HIS undercover gig was blown by someone else, and you have every right to take video in a public location. No matter what, should you NEVER put yourself in a position where anyone can claim that your obviously-not-a-gun phone/camera could ever be confused with a sideways .45, aimed right at you. There should be no penalty for being completely legal.   


JADE IS MY FAVORITE COLOR
While researching for this article, I was fortunate enough to watch an episode of COPS where all elements that make for an exciting police call were present - domestic violence, gawking and talkative neighbors, some bleeding dude about average size, pointing a finger toward some four-plex apartment buildings, and about four lit-up police vehicles surrounding the area, with cops milling seriously about their cars.

About that time, the obviously biggest person within blocks of the scene fills the walkway, partially blocking out the light. The camera panned right, filling the frame with this mountain of a human, without a shirt. The expression on his face was calm and his demeanor was peaceful - a "gentle giant," if you will. This was despite the loud, annoying, hateful couple who were lunging toward the guy. Right then I knew that the big guy was going down. Watching enough of this type of programming had made me jaded.

The big guy had his hands up as he tried to wade through the mad couple, toward the officer, who was about thirty feet away. He was bucking his body at the people, to get them out of the way. Meanwhile, approaching the big guy, a clean-cut, professional officer drew his taser, aimed it toward the man, and began to yell, "Get down!" The officer yelled it clearly four times, about once per second.

At some point between the first and fourth "Get down!," an officer approached the suspect from behind his right side, and grabbed his arm. The suspect, not able to see the person, brought his elbow back hard, and dropped the officer. After the approaching officer yelled his last "Get down!," he then made the very clear and loud order, "Stand back!" People stepped away from the big guy, and from about six feet away, the officer pulled his trigger. The suspect was hit with both darts to his bare torso, and he hit the ground, a-twitching. The officer quickly cuffed him, and sat him on the curb.

The officer then approached the bleeding other participant and began to find out what was happening at the scene. After talking to both parties, and some of the neighbors, it was determined that apparently the big guy kicked them out of his place for being deadbeats. Nothing dramatic. The big guy just left their stuff out in the yard. When the couple came back, they were mad, and the big guy was defending his property. He claimed that they were "druggies," and that he didn't want his kids around that.

What I liked about this segment/call was that the officer never lacked professionalism, and the suspect never showed hostility. Because of the situation, and the justification that even a large suspect has every right to be mad and fed-up with the deadbeats he tries to help, the fact that he showed intelligence and decided NOT to show his frustration probably said more to the officer, after all of the stories were obtained.

Whenever I watch an episode, my main role is to be entertained, even though the actions on screen are very real and potentially dangerous. Although the episodes are intentionally designed to capture the audience's attention, I feel a bit bad, however, that my perspective is so jaded. In an ever-increasingly stimulated environment, rich with electronic pacifiers and placebos, rife with violence in entertainment of all kinds (video games, music, movies), a person must have to either adapt or wither in a literal social Darwinism paradigm. If people are not entertained by what they are watching, then the reality show will not be popular. However, when I feel entertained by the actions of police and suspects on television, I also feel that I somehow cheapen the reality of the situation. While this may not necessarily be the case, I can't help but think that this perspective is not realized by many who help me "voyeurize" a slice of society's necessary function of law enforcement.

TASE ME, BRO! I DON'T WANT TO DIE
If you remember the phrase, "Don't tase me, bro!" then you may remember an infamous social incident which occurred at the University of Florida, during a John Kerry speech in 2007. One of the student reporters was persistently working on Kerry to give up information about "Skull and Bones," a secret society reportedly linked to a variety of presidents and powerful people.

After his allotted time, the student was asked to step away from the podium. After refusing to do so, he was detained. He was struggling a bit, so one of the six or seven actively engaged officers at the scene revealed his hand-held taser. At this point, somewhere at the bottom of a pile of people, you hear a dramatic shout, "Don't tase me, Bro! Don't tase me!" It is comical, in a way, probably because the viewer realizes at this moment that the protester is going to get tased anyway. Sure enough, right then you hear the pleading turn to agonized groans and related sounds. Schadenfreude has a way of creeping into this voyeuristic entertainment, and this is how it plays itself out - "Better him than you."

This particular scene in social commentary occurred at a time when tasers were being debated, and the general public was still in discussion about the use of lethal force to subdue a suspect. Now, several years later, there is still discussion and inconsistency regarding how less-than-lethal and even lethal force can and should be applied.

Take for example the recent case of a suicidal university student in California. He allegedly attempted to set himself on fire at one point, and there were a knife and hammer in his dorm room, although the suspect wasn't near them at the time. The initial responding officer (a campus officer) was able to calm down the student, and offer him a glass of water, to continue to deescalate the situation.

While the officer stepped away to get water, officers from a different local agency, who had also been called to the scene, entered the dorm room and proceeded to tase the suspect, based on their interpretation of an elevated threat. When the original campus officer returned, he was instructed to tase the suspect. He refused, and after the suspect was detained, the officer was written up for "failure to act." Subsequently, four days later, this officer of the force for 20 years was released from duty and terminated. In essence, his actions are exactly what we hope to see in a situation that isn't so much criminal as it is medical - an officer with a specific skill set for handling emotional situations with dignity and grace. This is rare, and when it is a skill being used, other officers must recognize this, and understand what is happening. For him to be reprimanded so harshly is an indication toward the type of systematic "good ol' boy" treatment which is still in effect, in places.

If a person is to understand this situation fully, one distinct feature of tasing as non-lethal force must be addressed. That is, have we come from an age where being tased was a feared action, to an age where we would rather be tased than dead? Is being tased so accepted as a way to subdue a subject that it becomes as docile an action as handcuffing a suspect? I mean, if a police officer loses a suspect because they weren't handcuffed, it makes sense that they are reprimanded for "failure to act". However, I understand just how hard it usually is to fire a cop, and for an officer to be terminated for not tasing a suspect who was already subdued indicates corruption, not justice.

EXPECTATIONS AND EXPECTORATIONS
The entire behavior between and among law enforcement and society is a very complex issue, and if we are to seriously attempt to rectify any indiscretions within any related systems, it is imperative that society does not attempt to offer simple, blanket solutions. Instead, the best way I see to deal with the situation is to break it down into manageable parts, as they say. For example, there can be mandatory levels of specific training before any officer is allowed any "hands-on" contact with "suspects." This is a criteria that should be cross-checked by an uninterested precinct in another district, for integrity purposes.

Fortunately, it is clear that a vast majority of police officers are impressively capable of handling suspects - even unruly suspects - with professionalism and efficiency. However, I believe that this skill set needs to be refined and focused, and then tested by a neutral agency or another bureau before anyone is allowed to lay hands on another person in a law enforcement capacity. I realize that the quick and simple argument is that officers by and large are already being trained to capable levels, and are expected to know how to professionally handle suspects and bad guys, rendering a unilateral standard unnecessary. I also realize that people die when law enforcement officers are grossly negligent in their training and knowledge.
->->->->->->->
 TAKE A LOOK...
... at the type of training that officers SHOULD have,
if they are expected to physically engage with suspects.
->->->->->->->
Something else we can do is find a way to deal with the inevitable cries of racism which are ringing through the streets of places like Ferguson and NYC, and which echo and linger in places like Sanford, Florida, in addition to backwater, white-hood legacy towns all across America. Like it or not, agree or disagree, the simple fact remains that whenever police abuse their authority, and the social perception is that oppression due to race is the reason, the stakes are raised, and the backlash is harsh. 

Until and unless we figure out a way to somehow untangle race from the issue of abuse of authority, the very mention of race within discussions regarding the eradication of abuse of power among authorities only serves to complicate an already convoluted discussion. In addition, the amount of negative energy related to the public outcry pointing to the racism involved with recent as well as historical cases does way more to harm the cause than it does to promote it. It makes sense that while it is important to address racism as an underlying, maybe even motivating factor, it is also important to do so in a civil, persuasive way. No matter how mad you are, if you can't figure out a way to persuade others without harming them, you are no better than the oppressor.

Another important detail is that we need to be sure that the points which we are arguing are relevant and do not displace any otherwise useful energy toward more realistic arguments. Take for instance the way people in society these days are obsessed with the political ideologies of others. By this I mean that today, more than at any other time in my life, people appear interested in identifying others first with a political ideology, only to then pigeonhole them and then jump to conclusions, which are then argued as truth. I am sure that there is some technical, clinical definition of what kind of argument this is, but the closest I come up with is straw-man, which may work, but does not address the apparent underlying mental instability of these types of individuals. As a result of this reaction to words on a screen, it is easy to get caught up in arguments invented by potentially mentally unstable people who, for some reason, align the actions of others as exclusively related to their particular political party. Our job, as a society, is to disengage with people like this when it comes time to discuss serious, real social concerns.

I hold myself to certain expectations which I consider to be of value to society. I have learned that it is naive to hold the general population to these expectations. However, I have realized that part of my job as a citizen is to know when to hold certain social servants to specific standards. For example, I expect that the post office clerks are knowledgeable, professional, honest and that they understand their role in society as movers and handlers of parcels. I expect that ambulance drivers are alert, observant, efficient and that they understand their role in society as savers of lives. I expect that police officers are fair, discretionary, professional and that they understand their role in society as protectors of communities. When these perfectly reasonable expectations are not met, or worse yet are exploited, I am not only offended, I feel a citizen obligation to hold them to task. If I observe and then do not point out any indiscretions to others, then who will? Nobody else can see what I see, so who else is tasked to report any bad activities on the part of those in society with whom we place our trust

My expectation for society is that we stop blaming and fighting. We need to quit hating and baiting. We should stop allowing our emotions to override our most valuable asset during conflicts arising around this issue - our intelligence. No matter what we do, until we learn and decide to put a stop to the vigilante mentality, the madness will continue. Poorly trained, arrogant egomaniacs will still qualify for badges, and those who are victimized by them will still continue to attempt to defend themselves. Hard-working, intelligent, well-trained officers will still continue to deal with ignorance, misplaced hatred and socially undesirable (although undeserved) prejudices. 

I am working at my end, in part by simply putting the word out there. It is up to you to spread it, and play an active part in helping other people along in this direction. Otherwise, our expectations for those in socially entrusted positions must be lowered, I suppose, and the new social slogan can be something like "May the best emotionally charged maniac win."
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Stephen L. Wilson is a writer for Blog of Ages. His experience as a self-publisher serves him well in this capacity. Wilson is the editor of two international charity anthologies, Twist of Fate and Angels Cried. He is also the author of the self-published eBook Life Bits and Other Chunks: Memoirs of an untrained man. Stephen has established and managed many international social network groups. E-MAIL