Yesterday was Stand Down in Connecticut. In a positive light, it is a yearly event to provide services to needy veterans in our state. Community, Health Center, Inc., where I work, is a regular participant at Stand Down, providing medical screenings and dental cleanings to our veterans. CTNewsJunkie has a great article about Stand Down being A Bittersweet Stand Down for Outgoing State Veterans Affairs Commissioner.
Schwartz, who for a decade has been commissioner of the state Department of Veterans Affairs, accepted a nomination last month from President Obama to serve as an assistant secretary within the federal VA.
CHC acknowledged Commissioner Schwartz' great work and I was honored to hear some of her story about making Stand Down the success it is.
Yet there is a different way to look at Stand Down, not quite as rosy, and much more challenging. Stand Down is the yearly reminder that every day, we do not do enough for our veterans, or for that matter, for the men and women currently serving in our Armed Services.
This morning, I found a blog post, My Name Is Jason, I’m A 35-Yr-Old White Male Combat Veteran…And I’m On Food Stamps.
I do apologize for burdening you on the checkout line with real-life images of American-style poverty. I know you probably believe the only true starving people in the world have flies buzzing around their eyes while they wallow away, near-lifeless in gutters….
I’ve known people recently - soldiers in the Army ... They were off fighting in Afghanistan while their wives were at home, buying food at the on-post commissary with food stamps.
And nobody bats an eye there, because it’s not uncommon in the military.
So if you run into a congressman or a political commentator who is calling for reducing food stamps, as them why they are cutting funding to veterans and servicemen.
If they give you some story about how people are using food stamps to support their addictions, whether it be tobacco, alcohol, or some other type of drug, ask they why they aren't addressing the underlying problem of addictions?
Jason has his take on what's going on. It isn't about stopping fraud. It is about being a bully.
I didn’t risk my life in Afghanistan so I could come back and watch people go hungry in America. I certainly didn’t risk it so *I* could come back and go hungry.
Anyone who genuinely supports cutting food stamps is not an intellectual or an ideologue – they’re a bully.
And nobody likes a bully. Except other bullies.
It’s time for regular Americans to stand up to these bullies. Not cower in the corner, ashamed of needing help. Because if there’s one thing life has taught me, it’s that you never know when you’ll be the one in need.
We need to stand up to bullies, not just because we, or someone we love may be the next to be bullied. We need to do it because it is the American thing to do, it is the moral thing to do.
"These same politicians are not willing to go to where the real money is: the Pentagon budget, which everyone knows to be the most wasteful in government spending, or the myriad subsidies to corporations, including agribusiness subsides to members of Congress who will be voting to cut SNAP for the poor. ... They are going after cuts to the poor and hungry people because they think it is politically safe to do so. So let’s call that what it is: moral hypocrisy."
I'm all for cutting fraud, waste, and abuse wherever it may be, whether it be in food stamps, or the Pentagon budget.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
Our daughter Rebekah, who is in second grade, takes three after-school classes every week. On Monday there is violin; on Wednesday, Hebrew; and on Thursday, ballet. One of these classes connects her to a religious tradition going back three thousand years. Two of them are pretty well pointless.
Thus starts Mark Oppenheimer's article, Stop Forcing Your Kids to Learn a Musical Instrument. The article is so full of faulty arguments, it seems not worth responding to. What's the point? The author completely misses the point. Yet I feel compelled to respond.
The first part of my response is borrowed from Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture: Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams. If you haven't watched the video, find an hour and a half that you can sit down and watch it.
Perhaps the most important point that Pausch makes is about head-fakes:
the other thing about football is we send our kids out to play football or soccer or swimming or whatever it is, and it’s the first example of what I’m going to call a head fake, or indirect learning. We actually don’t want our kids to learn football. I mean, yeah, it’s really nice that I have a wonderful three-point stance and that I know how to do a chop block and all this kind of stuff. But we send our kids out to learn much more important things. Teamwork, sportsmanship, perseverance, etcetera, etcetera. And these kinds of head fake learning are absolutely important. And you should keep your eye out for them because they’re everywhere.
Besides talking about perseverance, he talks a lot about the importance of learning fundamentals.
Fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals. You’ve got to get the fundamentals down because otherwise the fancy stuff isn’t going to work. And the other Jim Graham story I have is there was one practice where he just rode me all practice. You’re doing this wrong, you’re doing this wrong, go back and do it again, you owe me, you’re doing push-ups after practice. And when it was all over, one of the other assistant coaches came over and said, yeah, Coach Graham rode you pretty hard, didn’t he? I said, yeah. He said, that’s a good thing. He said, when you’re screwing up and nobody’s saying anything to you anymore, that means they gave up. And that’s a lesson that stuck with me my whole life. Is that when you see yourself doing something badly and nobody’s bothering to tell you anymore, that’s a very bad place to be. Your critics are your ones telling you they still love you and care.
Another great video is Benjamin Zander's Ted Talk about The transformative power of classical music. It is a shorter video that stands pretty well on its own.
When i was a kid, I took music lessons. They were important to me, but I wasn't supported at home in them, and never practiced as much as I should have. I still regret that. So, I strongly encouraged my kids to play music. It has stuck with them and I'd encourage you to listen to some of the music my middle daughter has written and performed.
She also wrote about book about the creative process, Don't Make Art, Just Make Something. Making something is what allows you to practice the fundamentals and learn the indirect lessons that Randy Pausch talks about.
Yet there is more, there is the existential question of what's the point. Recently, I've been making jam. As a kid, my mother made jam. It preserved the fruits of summer. It fed the family. Yet it was also a creative endeavor. Creativity. It brings meaning to life. My jam making is a tribute to my mother. It is about creativity. It is about being connected to my past, to something bigger than simply myself.
A friend from high school is a widowed artist in the Berkshires. The other day, she posted on Facebook.
There is a freshness to the morning as dove blue light slips through the spaces in the venetian blinds. The big black cat, Kit, has come in for his breakfast, and the smaller black and white cat, Lily, has sniffed Kit as her good morning ritual, taken a few bites of her food, and now disappeared to a private nap place. Kit has gone back outside to check his territories. He will later rest on the back porch until I get home from teaching all day. Their life is simple, and mine is, too.
That's the point. The simple life of a cat, of an artist. It is part of the indirect lessons. It reminded me of a great Zen story:
A man traveling across a field encountered a tiger. He fled, the tiger after him. Coming to a precipice, he caught hold of the root of a wild vine and swung himself down over the edge. The tiger sniffed at him from above. Trembling, the man looked down to where, far below, another tiger was waiting to eat him. Only the vine sustained him.
Two mice, one white and one black, little by little started to gnaw away the vine. The man saw a luscious strawberry near him. Grasping the vine with one hand, he plucked the strawberry with the other. How sweet it tasted!
Last Sunday, Kim took Fiona to her guitar lesson at the same school that Rebekah is studying violin at. I will take Fiona to her next lesson, and I will enjoy the strawberry, the simple life of cats and friends. I will enjoy feeling the connectedness between me, Fiona, Miranda, my mother, and everyone who struggles to create, through music, movement, and whatever other ways the spirit moves. I know that there will be times when encouraging Fiona's creativity will be a challenge, yet that too will be a simple strawberry.
I think that's the point.
In the discussions about my latest blog post, I suggested that people who are concerned about the ethical issues about Google Glass, instead of simply eschewing the technology should engage with it.
If we want to shape the evolution, we need to engage now, and not after others have predominantly determined the course of the technology.
An interlocutor responded,
But this isn't the way to change it.
It's just following a misled crowd. It's mimicry at best.
I suggested there, and suggest here that such a response is misguided at best and more likely, downright prejudiced. As the discussion continued, Godwin's law took effect, to which pointed out
Hitler's opposition to smoking in no way inhibits my own opposition to smoking.
To put this into a historical context, in the "Articles of Religion, As established by the Bishops, the Clergy, and the Laity of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, in Convention, on the twelfth day of September, in the Year of our Lord, 1801", one section talks "Of the Unworthiness of the Ministers, which hinders not the effect of the Sacraments".
The same applies to scientific endeavors. The beliefs, ethics, and methodologies of an investigator does not whether or not their conclusions are correct. For, as the old saying goes, even a broken clock is correct twice a day.
Matthew Katz recently posted a link to his article in KevinMD, Google Glass for medicine: 4 reasons why it could be disastrous saying:
Am I just turning into a technophobe? My post on KevinMD about Google Glass.
As a person who has been using Google Glass for the past three months in a health care setting, I believe you have become a technophobe.
Privacy Violations: The same issue applies to cellphones. Are you going to ban them from your practice?
Hackable: Personal computers are hackable as well. Ban them? (I worked with security for a Swiss bank two decades ago when they said they'd never connect to the Internet because of security issues. There are risks with all technology, just like everything else in life. You can't ban life, instead, you need to mediate risks)
Concern with multitasking: This is probably the strongest point, which also seems pretty weak, based on my experience with Google Glass. Yet the interruptions I get from Google Glass, wearing it all the time, is similar to the interruptions I get from phone calls, overhead pages, and other staff members knocking on my door.
Google’s And medicine’s goals aren’t aligned: Again, on the surface, this seems like a valid point. However, from my experience dealing with pharmaceutical companies, medical device manufactures, and insurance companies, I suspect that Google's goals may be more closely aligned with medicine's goals than most companies working in health care.
Over on his article, I added a couple additional thoughts, edited for the blog here:
The other point that I would make is that Google Glass is not in BETA. Ity is not even in ALPHA. It is still a prototype. I think it is premature to make determinations about what a prototype is likely to do to a business. You might want to go back and look at the history of the Xerox.
The Smithsonian Article, Making Copies is a good starting point.
At first, nobody bought Chester Carlson's strange idea. But trillions of documents later, his invention is the biggest thing in printing since Gutenburg
Companies turned down the xerox machine because so few people made copies prior to it, they didn't think it would sell.
My experience with Glass, so far, is similar to my experiences with the Apple Newton in the early 90s. A lot of people didn't think much of the Newton back then, and it never really took off, but it laid the groundwork for smartphones today.
I wouldn't be surprised to see Glass follow a similar path and in twenty years be an all but forgotten precursor to ubiquitous wearable computing.
One last thought: it is worth looking at the Technology Adoption Life Cycle, as written about back in the 50's, particularly by Everett Rogers in his book Diffusion of Innovations.
Google Glass is at the very front end of the adoption lifecycle, where only a few innovators have been using it. As has become more and more common these days, when a new innovation comes along, it often gets a backlash. It seems that the backlash against an innovation is proportional to potential disruption the innovation carries.
As a final comment, I'd encourage you to read a blog post I wrote back in 2007 about Twitter:
In a previous post about ad:tech, I mentioned how I learned about NY Times' Facebook page from a twitter by Steve Rubel. I commented about this in the press room, and one of the reporters was surprised to hear that twitter was still around and active. I reflected back on hearing speakers at OMMA predict the demise of Twitter, Facebook and Second Life and it struck me that the standard technology adoption curve that we all hear so much about, may have a lot of interesting nuances.