Over the past week, there have been several stories that I’ve been following that all fit together in an unexpected larger theme. The first was the release of John Jorge’s Music Video, Lovin’. For those who don’t recognized the name yet, I think the first time I was him perform was in the Amity High School’s production of Rent.
I believe this was the day before Thanksgiving, which is the second story to pay some attention. Every year, we stop to give thanks for all that has been given us. As a New Englander who can trace his genealogy back to the early settlers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, this is an important day for me. Part of what I’m thankful for is the freedoms my ancestors came to this country in search of.
Another big story for me of the past few days is my completion of National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. I finished the first 50,000 word draft of my second novel on Saturday. There is something very empowering to set out to create something challenging and complete it. I will see if I will go through the editing and revisions necessary to get it to be presentable for publication, either through traditional channels or through self publication.
Then, there was the story in the Washington Post of a teacher resigning because of what is happening in education.
All of this leads up to World AIDS Day and an incredible article in the New Yorker, What Young Gay Men Don’t Know About Aids. I work at a Federally Qualified Health Center that treats people with AIDS. I am a Health Leadership Fellow of the Connecticut Health Foundation working with others to address health disparities in our state.
AIDS is a very important topic we need to have open and honest discussions about, which leads me to the final story I want to focus on.
An article in the Hartford Courant put it this way.
Student representatives from Trumbull High's theater department were told last Monday that the show they planned to perform next spring covered topics too "sensitive" or "controversial" for a high school.
Originally, I was planning to write an open letter to the Trumbull High School administration, pointing out how not allowing the production of Rent was incredibly short sighted. I would talk about depriving students of opportunities for prepare for their careers, as the Amity production of Rent helped John Jorge on his career. How not allowing the production went against the freedoms that our forefathers came to this country for. How not allowing the production was an affront to all people seeking to improve the lot of mankind through creativity. How not allowing the production would damage the school district by showing a heavy handed administration that doesn’t allow educators to challenge their students. How not allowing the production was an insult to the people of Trumbull by saying that students at Amity and in Greenwich where Rent has been produced are more capable of handling “sensitive” or “controversial” subjects.
But the most important topic to me was the health topic. According to The Connecticut Department of Health there were nearly 700 case of HIV infection reported in Bridgeport, the city next to Trumbull during the years 2002-2011. Yes, the rate of new infections has been going down, but every new infection with HIV is one infection too many.
HIV/AIDS is not too “sensitive” or “controversial”. HIV/AIDS is an infection which we can stop the spread of. We can do this by talking openly and honestly about the infection, about the stigma. If we care about the children in our schools, we need to have these discussions.
I am tempted to wax polemic adopting the voice of preachers I know that would point out that by preventing these discussions, there is blood on our hands. Yet I’m not sure that is effective. It isn’t really my style.
But, this evening, I went to a World AIDS Day event where another section of the quilt was unveiled. It commemorated people in Connecticut how had died as a result of AIDS. It was attended by people who were living successful lives knowing that they were HIV positive. These were people who have confronted the stigma, found out their status and were getting the treatment so that an HIV infection for them was a chronic disease, not a death sentence. These were people who knew their status and because of their knowledge, were not spreading the infection.
I wept with them as we mourned the death of loved ones.
In my heart, I prayed for those who indirectly contribute to the ongoing spread of HIV by thwarting opportunities for discussion. I wished they could have stood with me at the unveiling of this latest section of the quilt and I pray that these words might cause some to stop and think about what their decisions mean for freedom, for education, and most importantly, for health.
Yesterday, I wrote about Sad Tails with Happy Endings!, a rescue shutdown by Southbury Animal Control. Since then, I've been in several discussions about the situation, including speaking with people directly involved.
I am particularly concerned about comments that some are making based on assumptions or inaccuracies. A post on Helping Connecticut Canines' Facebook page asking donations to the pound where the dogs have been taken describes this as "a serious hoarding situation".
This is a questionable assertion at best. Ms. Boeckel was running a rescue. Her website lists dogs that she had successfully adopted out and others available for adoption. The description of the veterinary care and feeding procedures for these animals that I've obtained clearly indicate to me that she was not hoarding.
Another comment that I found particularly disturbing was "I assure you they would not have been taken unless the dogs and cats were in immediate need. Thirty plus dogs in any home being cared for by one person is impossible." Based on the information I've obtained, I question whether or not the animals were in immediate need, and I know that the assertion that they were being cared for by only one person is factually incorrect.
Others have jumped in and noted that they knew of a person who as organizing a fundraiser for the rescue and others have applauded Ms. Boeckel's work.
I don't know the ACOs in Southbury, but based on my experience dealing with other ACOs as well as the State Dept. of Ag., I don't always accept everything they say at face value.
If the amount of effort that has gone into taking the animals and subsequently getting supplies to the Southbury Dog Pound had gone into helping Ms. Boeckel in the first place, I believe there would have been a much better outcome.
I am also very concerned when ACOs shutdown a rescue because they don't like the way it is being run. I believe it sets a very dangerous precedent.
So, I encourage everyone to help clean up the mess now and prevent future messes. An important step in this is accuracy in reporting, and not calling something a "a serious hoarding situation", when it is far from clear that this is the case.
Years ago, Fiona and I drove a young pit bull up to Maine as part of a team effort to save the dog from imminent euthanasia. The trip introduced us to what is going on in animal rescue here in Connecticut and across the country. I haven't looked at the official numbers from the State of Connecticut in a few years, but last time I looked, approximately 3,000 animals were put to sleep each year by animal control officers across the state. Too often, animal control was a thankless task tacked onto the responsibilities of the police department, who found it easier just to kill the animals than to find them homes.
Yet Connecticut is one of the better states. Across the country there are states that kill hundreds of thousands of animals each year, and estimate at the total number of animals killed typically vary in the range of three to ten million.
Over the years, I've also gotten to know many rescuers. Some can be a little fanatical, some may lack political finesse, but for the most part, they are the kindest best intentioned people I have met. They sometimes have run-ins with police departments, animal control officers, and the State Department of Agriculture that oversees animal control and I was saddened to hear of the latest run in.
NBC Connecticut posted a story yesterday, 31 Dogs, 3 Cats Seized from Southbury Home.
Owner Nancy Boeckel said she was running an animal rescue business out of her Georges Hill Road home and the dogs were neither abused nor neglected.
There is also a brief article in the Republican American about the seizing of the dogs.
The rescue community, despite various differences, is fairly close knit, so I thought I'd try to get a little more information. From Nancy's LinkedIn page, I found that she was educated at Quinnipiac and runs "Sad Tails Happy Endings" animal rescue.
This led me to the rescue's Petfinder page. Currently, it does not list any animals available for rescue. I'm not sure if this is because the page hasn't been maintained, or if it has been updated as a result of the animal control raid.
On her page, she talks about rescuing Maggie:
Maggie was an owner surrender after 8 years reason given "no time". I was notified Maggie was scheduled to be killed, I was able to rescue her within 3 hours remaining until her scheduled death. I became Maggie's foster Mom.
Christmas morning I transported Maggie to her new family. She was a surprise for 4 children for Christmas. The look of amazement and sheer joy on the children's faces will remain in my heart and mind forever. The parents and grandmother were standing there with tears of happiness running down there faces. It was a very special Christmas morning for all of us. Maggie is now living in her new forever home as happy as can possibly be. The entire family truly love her deeply and she returns their love ten fold.
Yes, rescue is a small word with an enormous meaning!
She also has a website, Sad Tails with Happy Endings!. It has pictures of about twenty dogs that have been adopted and about a dozen currently ready for adoption. There are links to poems popular in the rescuing community.
There is also a link to a blog about one of the dogs that was adopted from Nancy, and great pictures and a video of the adopted dog.
Doing a bit more digging, it appears as if she has had health and financial difficulties. Let's hope a solution can be found that will be best for every, human, canine and feline, involved.
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.
This morning, there were two news stories about Google Glass.
The first, Woodbridge man one of those chosen to test new Google Glass technology is from an interview I did with Jim Shelton from the Register about Google Glass about a week ago.
The second, Anaylsis & Video | Google Glass Review is by a friend who is also a Glass Explorer, and was not as impressed as I am. He writes:
It falls short because in the end the only people who likely will be willing to immerse themselves in 24/7 digital living are the several thousand “Glass Explorers” Google invited to purchase the $1500 product.
As one of the other Glass Explorers in Connecticut, I would like to present a contrasting viewpoint. I received my Google Glass just over a month ago, and I'm very pleased with it.
It is true that currently, everything that I can do with Google Glass, I can do with a Smartphone. It is also true that just about everything I can do with a smartphone, I can do with a laptop and a digital camera.
However, I find it easier to take and share pictures and videos with Glass than it is to take and share pictures with a smartphone, just as I find that task easier on a smartphone than I do with a laptop and a camera.
Yet looking only at the current applications of a prototype seems a bit narrow. I have chosen to explore Glass, not for what it can currently do, but for what it will be possible to do in the future with it. I've already started developing apps for Glass as well as brainstorming with other Glass Explorers around the world.
One of the most exciting areas is looking at Glass as a sensor in health care and in grids for big data analysis.
As I commented in my interview in the New Haven Register, I believe that Google Glass is to wearable computing what the Apple Newton was to PDAs and Smartphones.
People maligned the Apple Newton, and its product life was not spectacular. Yet it laid the groundwork for PDAs and smartphones. Lon is probably right, the only people willing to spend $1,500 on a prototype are innovators and early adopters. Everyone else is likely to wait until wearable computing becomes more developed and ubiquitous. At that point, I'll set my Google Glass next to my Apple Newton and the core memory from an old PDP-8.
I didn't address the price point issue. I do believe that $1,500 is steep for participating in a development program with a prototype, but not out of line.
On the other hand, I expect that by the time the third generation of wearable computing comes out, older versions will be in the $200-$300 range.