2014 State Rep Democratic Nomination Acceptance Speech

Thank you. I know that there is a Board of Selectmen meeting coming up as well as other conventions this evening, and I have to get to a Vestry meeting, so I’ll try to keep my comments brief.

It is an honor and a privilege to receive, and accept, the Democratic Nomination for State Representative in the 114th Assembly district of Connecticut, serving Woodbridge, and parts of Orange and Derby. It will also be a lot of work, but it is work that must be done.

At the Democratic State Convention last Friday, the person nominating Denise Merrill for another term as Secretary of State talked about the importance of civic engagement saying, “If you don’t vote, don’t complain.” Unfortunately, too few people vote in our state.

But as leaders, there is more to this that we need to hear, “if you don’t provide someone to vote for, don’t complain.” I am not running just because I want to, I am running because it is important work that needs to be done.

Some may say, “Why is he running, he doesn’t have a chance.” That is like saying, “Why should I vote, my vote won’t make a difference.” Wrong!

When I ran two years ago, I received 36% of the vote, yet when people asked me the outcome of the election, I told them that I had won. I hadn’t gotten elected, but I had won. I won by giving people a choice. Over 4,000 people voted for me last time, and I want them to have someone to vote for this time.

I won by discussing the issues. And I am going to win again this fall, whether it be with 56% of the vote, or 36% of the vote.

Some people are bound to give me advice about how I should change my looks. I should lose some weight, I should cut off my beard, I shouldn’t wear those dorky looking Google Glasses.

I feel too much of politics is based on is based on looks, personality, and popularity. We should be spending campaign funds on talking about the issues, not buying giant pictures of ourselves. If I try to be more popular or better looking than my opponent, I have less of a chance of winning, not only the popularity contest, but also the more important goals of talking about the issues and giving the voters a real choice.

So, what issues are most important to me? We can, and will, talk about health, education, civic involvement, the environment, transportation and so on, but I want to start off by talking about the underlying issues. Who are we as a people?

A lot of the discussion these days have been fiercely independent, with people waving flags saying “Don’t tread on me”, talking about freedom and individual rights.

Freedom to do what? To be self-centered, to be concerned about “What’s in it for me?” No, that is not what made our country strong. With rights come responsibilities. Our freedom should be the freedom to help the downtrodden and vulnerable amongst us.

We are privileged to live in a wonderful community. Many of us are privileged to have been brought up in well to do families, with parents that cared for us, and made it possible to go to college. We have responsibility to preserve this wonderful community, and to provide opportunities for those less fortunate than ourselves.

So, the campaign begins. Thank you for your support this evening, and more importantly, for whatever level of support you’ll be able to provide during the coming months.

Thank you.

Life is Messy – Rethinking Educational Reform – Part 2, Triggers

This was written a few days ago, but I never got a chance to really go over it. I've been pretty busy, so I'll put this up now, as is. More soon...

This weekend, I came across three distinct and interesting articles that, perhaps, should be considered in light of one another. The Hartford Courant ran the article, Top Nominees Announced For Ct High School Musical Theater Awards. I was very interested in the production of two of these shows. Amity Regional High School, in my hometown, produced “In The Heights” (See Lamentations and The Heights). It was a great production, as productions at Amity usually are. It received several nominations, as did “Rent”, produced by Trumbull High School. The Trumbull production of Rent, almost didn’t happen and I wrote about it a couple times: Trumbull for Rent and World AIDS Day and Learning About Bullying - Trumbull RENT. I was glad to see both production receive nominations.

Also this weekend, the New York Times ran an article, Warning: The Literary Canon Could Make Students Squirm. Should students be forewarned about content in works they are assigned to read that might make them uncomfortable, or might trigger PTSD? To me, these two stories are related. How should have Trumbull High School dealt with the difficult issues that Rent brings up? Cancelling the show? Using some sort of Trigger Warnings? Some other approach?

I recognize the need for trigger warnings in certain cases, just as I recognize the need for warnings about peanuts for those with peanut allergies. For some people, these warning can be a matter of life and death. For others, they can be just an annoyance. I had the good fortunate to go to a small liberal arts college where the professors knew each of the students in their classes. In such a situation, I would expect the professor to be able to deal individually with students as necessary and to make wise decisions about warning students that needed to be warned. However, in large universities where there might be hundreds of students in a class, I can see where some sort of trigger warning might be needed.

Yet even in situations like this, it would seem that the trigger warning could be an educational tool. Prior to reading a text, a discussion about the difficult topics would seem beneficial. “This week, we will be reading The Great Gatsby, a masterpiece of American literature. The story depicts misogynistic violence, a problem that society still faces today…” and from their get into a discussion about misogyny in the twentieth and twenty first century.

Life is Messy – Rethinking Educational Reform - Part 1, SBAC

This weekend, I’ve been thinking a bit about educational reform and have stumbled across several different interesting discussion. It started off when a discussion about the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, or SBAC, tests which have recently been administered at our schools.

A board of education member was fiercely defending the SBAC tests. She believed that the concerns with the tests were overblown and that the tests were properly administered. I opted my daughter out of the SBAC tests for many reasons and the feedback I’ve received about the tests do not square with the board members assessment.

The board member did admit that there were some difficulties, but there are always difficulties with any changes, and we eventually need to test changes in the real world. Setting aside the issue of whether or not there is real benefit to the changes that SBAC brings, I question whether there was sufficient testing prior to using the SBAC tests, and, perhaps more importantly, whether using the tests on students was wise, or perhaps even, ethical.

Having worked with computers for years, I recognize the importance of different aspects of testing, moving from unit testing to systems testing and integration testing. To put it into more contemporary terms, when do you move a system out of beta? Were the SBAC tests really ready to be moved out of beta? Where they properly tested? It does not seem so, from my perspective.

Yet there is a bigger question, about the efficacy and ethics of the testing. Thinking in terms of the scientific method, what was the hypothesis being tested? How will this test of the SBACs help prove or disprove the hypothesis? I have not heard this properly addressed. Working in health care, I constantly hear people talking about the importance of double blind tests. The SBAC tests were very far from this standard of testing. In fact, students were told that the tests wouldn’t make a difference, it was just a test to see how well the test works. As a result, I’ve heard many stories of students making up silly answers on the tests, something that wouldn’t happen if it were a real test that mattered.

I don’t know how much this really happened, and how much these are the sort of stories middle school students like to tell, but it does raise serious questions about the validity of SBAC experiment.

Yet this takes me to a bigger issue. In 1961, Yale psychologist Stanley Milgram ran a series of experiments measuring people’s willingness to follow orders, even if it could cause harm or death to others. In the experiments, the subjects were told to give shocks to students who failed to properly answer certain questions.

Many have questioned the ethics of these experiments and the Milgram experiments are regularly brought up in discussions about institutional review boards, or IRBs.

As I thought about the discussion with the board of education member, I had to wonder, are SBAC tests being administered in a way that would be approved by an IRB? Are risks to the subjects, or children in schools, minimized? Do the benefits of moving towards SBAC tests outweigh the risks to students? Are students, and their parents, adequately informed and asked to consent in ways that are free from coercion or undue influences? What measures are being taken to protect vulnerable populations?

There is a role for testing students in our educational system. Yet these tests need to be well thought out and administered in a fair way that benefits our students. In my mind, the SBAC tests fails this.

At the #CTDemConvention

It is a rainy Friday evening as I sit in the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford. The Pledge of Allegiance and the prayers have been made, the convention has been called to order, but mostly delegates just spend time talking with one another. There isn't much suspence at this convention, instead, a chance for friends to reconnect and to talk about various coming elections.

I've been wearing my Google Glass which has been a good topic of discussion. Congressman Jim Himes tried them on, and the folks at the Kevin Lembo nerd table found the glass to be particularly nerdy. Unforunately, for some reason, low batteries, heavy network traffic, or the latest upgrade has caused Glass to be very slow.

After the nominating speeches for Gov. Malloy, they started playing a video. Almost no one seems to be paying attention.

It has been a while since I live blogged a convention, but I hope to have additional updates through out the day.

UPDATE 6:10 - I streamed some of Gov. Malloy's acceptance speech via Google Glass, after recharging it and then rebooting it. They are now nominating Nancy Wyman for Lt. Gov. and I'm recharging Glass a little bit more.

Samsung Gear 2, Week 1

I have now been wearing a Samsung Gear 2 Smartwatch for close to a week, so I feel that it is now time to write some initial thoughts. One of things that particularly caught my attention about the Gear 2 smartwatch is that it runs the Tizen operating system. I used to write code for my Nokia N900 which ran a predecessor of Tizen, so the idea of running a Linux based operating system on a smartwatch especially caught my attention.

However, I’ll aspects about Tizen for a later post. The upside is that it may be a much better, more open operating system. The downside is that it appears locked down, at least right now, and setting up the development environment is not as easy as I would like.

I am also interested in the smartwatch as another player in the rapidly growing wearable computing field. I’ve been wearing Google Glass for nearly a year now, and I continue to wear it at the same time as I wear Gear 2. One of the nicest features of both of these devices is the more instantaneous notification than a smartphone. When a notification comes in, glance up for Glass, glance at your wrist for Gear 2, or pull your smartphone out of your pocket, pick it up off the desk, or whatever.

On Glass, I get notifications about twitter, text messages, various news sources and gmail. Gears gives me access to corporate email and text messages. I’m starting to experiment with other notifications. They look promising. If you want a device for quicker notifications, Gears 2 seems to be a good way to go.

Of course, being a digital omnivore, I can easily imagine continuing to wear Glass and Gears at the same time. Ideally, I’d love to pair Glass with one of my phones and Gears with the other. Unfortunately, Glass requires at least Android 4.0.3 and Gears requires Samsung devices. I have a Samsung G4 and an HTC Insight, running 2.3.0. So, for the time being, Glass and Gear are both linked to my G4. When I get a chance, I will see if I can upgrade the HTC to Android 4 and see if I can connect it to Glass.

What differentiates Gears 2, from Gears 2 Neo and Gears 2 Fit is the camera. However, this is a 1.9 megapixel camera. These days, it seems like a 5 megapixel camera is the minimum, so I’ve been pretty unimpressed with the camera on Gears.

The Gears 2 Neo and Gears 2 Fit cost $200 and seem to be competing more with the Fitbit and related fitness bands. They cost twice as much as the competitors, and the camera makes it cost three times as much.

I did try the Nike Fuelband at one point and was very unimpressed. The fitness apps on the Gears 2 are nice. I’ve walked 6483 steps today. Well short of the 10,000 steps I’d like to be doing, but not bad. In fact, I’ve been over 6000 steps every day since I got the Gears. One thing that I wish it had was some way to download this information. There is a separate Exercise application, that doesn’t seem to share data, but does use the heart rate monitor. There is also a Sleep App which tracks how long and well you are sleeping. So far, no great insights from it, but it seems okay. It is supposed to be water resistant down to a meter deep. So, I’ve wondered about using it to track swimming, but I haven’t found an app for that. On Gears 2, you can share data from Gears Fitness apps as an image to social media. A nice start.

Ideally, I’d like to see patient portal type apps connect with Gears and that may be another test soon.

I have tried installing a few other apps on gears, but nothing has really caught my attention or worked nicely for me. The QR code reader seemed like a good idea, but hasn’t worked properly yet and the Facebook Quick View app seems flakey.

For me, the battery has lasted pretty well, I suspect it would run for two days between charges at the rate I’m using it right now. It recharges pretty quickly. I charge it while I shower and eat breakfast.

All in all, it is interesting enough for me to continue to wear regularly, experiment with, and explore development on. More later…

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