Playing politics with healthcare

Today the President and Republicans celebrated the AHCA passing the House. They celebrated the political “win” even though it means higher premiums, a pre-existing conditions loophole, and potentially millions of fellow Americans losing health coverage. They celebrated for rushing the bill through before the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office could evaluate the effects. They celebrated knowing it doesn’t have support in the Senate and will get overhauled. There’s a steep hill to climb before any of the provisions in the AHCA actually become law, but they celebrated anyway.  
I think Jimmy Kimmel said it well just the other night;

“This isn’t football. There are no teams. We are the team. It’s the United States. Don’t let their partisan squabbles divide us on something every decent person wants.”

I don’t care which party is “winning.”  I care about affordable healthcare and taking care of my family when they get sick. 

Farewell Chromebook

This HP 14 Chromebook got me through the last two years of college. I haven’t been using it as much anymore, but it has always been handy to have on hand because of how quickly it starts and connects to the web.  Unfortunately this is what the screen now looks like. At some point I dropped it on concrete. It isn’t made of the sturdiest material and part of the case cracked but the only other casualty at the time was that it wouldn’t hold a charge anymore. It has been a minor inconvenience to keep it plugged in, but coupled with the screen crapping out, I think it’s time to say good bye.  

I paid a little more than the standard HP 14 model at the time at $350 for 4 GB RAM and 32 GB SSD. I probably could have gone without the larger hard drive, but still a decent deal for having survived a little over 3 years. I haven’t been paying much attention to the newer Chromebook models but I would definitely buy another one, especially since they are shipping with Android app support. Because of that it makes sense to get a touchscreen and possibly a 2-in-1, but I’m in no hurry to find a replacement. Thanks for the memories HP 14!

If you’re curious about Chromebooks, here are the 7 best so far of 2017

Waino es bueno

What an incredible story from the St. Louis Post Dispatch.  There are no doubt similar stories of players helping players across all the teams, but I’m partial towards the Cardinals.  This makes me an even bigger fan of Wainwright’s.

 

JUPITER, Fla. • Cardinals lefty Ryan Sherriff has not had the photo on his driver’s license changed since he was 16 years old, and he adores it still because “it is probably the ugliest picture known to man.” So when a team employee came to him Wednesday and asked repeatedly for it, he immediately became suspicious.

There had to be a prank afoot.

He spent most of the game waiting for the picture from his license to pop up on the scoreboard, or to appear somewhere else that would get a laugh.

“I’m just hanging out, didn’t know anything,” Sherriff said. “Everyone was asking me, ‘What is going on? Did you get drug-tested or something? Are you getting traded or something?’ I started putting things together.”

Someone needed the license because they had realized he didn’t.

And Adam Wainwright wanted to correct that.

Every day this spring, Sherriff has made the 10- to 15-minute walk from the condo he’s renting to the ballpark. He then walks back after workouts. Unless he needs groceries. Then he walks the 10 minutes, 15 minutes in the other direction to go get groceries. On his walk early Wednesday morning, a teammate noticed Sherriff and realized that, yes, he had seen the same person making the same walk the previous two days. Each time he saw Sherriff he was further away from the ballpark, so his condo had to be a hike. So, Wainwright asked.

“Do you walk here every morning?”

“Yeah, every morning I walk,” Sherriff said.

“How do you go and get food and stuff?”

“I walk. I walk everywhere.”

“Do you want a bike?” Wainwright asked.

“No, thank you. I appreciate it.”

“Do you want a car?”

“No, thank you. I appreciate it.”

Sherriff, 26, is in major-league spring training as a non-roster invitee and trying to establish himself on the depth chart for a midseason callup if a reliever is needed. He declined an invite to pitch for Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic in order to spend more time in big-league camp and further establish himself. The lefty went 7-1 with a 2.84 ERA in 49 appearances for Class AAA Memphis last season, and that was good enough to earn an invitation to the Arizona Fall League. Sherriff (pronounced like the law enforcement official) did well enough there, but not enough to earn a spot on the 40-man roster.

The Cardinals’ depth on the left side of the bullpen is depleted. Tyler Lyons (knee) will face hitters for the first time next week. Marco Gonzales (elbow) is weeks away from doing the same. Dean Kiekhefer and Tim Cooney were snatched off waivers by Seattle and Cleveland, respectively. The Cardinals healthiest, highest-rated lefty is Austin Gomber, and he’s likely ticketed for Class AA Springfield’s rotation. Sherriff offers an option should the bullpen need a lefty.

And, now, he’ll no longer have to walk to work.

Why a team employee needed his license was never explained until later in the day, when Sherriff’s phone rang. It was, he said, from a St. Louis area code. One of the clubbies was calling to tell him a Nissan Altima rental car had been delivered for him at the ballpark, all expenses paid.

“Waino got me a rental car,” Sherriff explained. “I freaked out a little bit. I started crying. I called my mom, and she started crying. Really, I’ve never had that experience. No one has ever done something so nice for me before.”

Wainwright considered it a chance to pass on past gestures. When he was a young player, Wainwright came into the clubhouse with the same collared shirts several days in row. Mark Mulder, a teammate at the time, left a box of brand new shirts for him at his locker.

“That’s the kind of thing that happened to me when I was younger,” Wainwright said. “Many many many things like that happened to me. You just kind of pass that stuff on.”

Sherriff wanted to repay the generosity.

With his new Altima nearby, the lefty called up Wainwright’s Twitter page and read the righthander’s bio. In it, “@UncleCharlie50” professes a love for Chick-Fil-A, sweet tea, and barbecue sauce. Sherriff decided he would get a gift bag, a Thank You card, and sign a baseball for Wainwright. He signed his name on the sweet spot, adding a heart on the end of it. Everything else he had to get from outside the clubhouse. He purchased for Wainwright three of his favorite things: a $20 gift card to Chick-Fil-A, a jug of sweet iced tea, and barbecue sauce*.

* UPDATE: Sherriff meant to get BBQ sauce but, he explained in the thank you, accidentally bought A1 steak sauce. “Made it even better,” Wainwright said.

Those gifts weren’t all available within walking distance.

That’s OK. Now Sherriff had a ride.

News Push Notifications

I stumbled on this article while checking out the website, medium.  With all the talk of “fake news” lately I thought this was a fascinating exploration of how the popular news outlets handle push notifications on mobile devices. Can you believe 52% of people that receive mobile news alerts don’t click through to read the story?  The author points out that, “media have an ethical responsibility to recognize the influence these updates have and to deliver them in a contextualized and unbiased manner.”

I Subscribed To Push Notifications From 12 News Outlets For 3 Months — Here’s What I Learned

News orgs need to more carefully consider their influence when sending updates

 

 

What’s a Charter School?

My sister works at a charter school and I’ve never even quite understood what that meant.  With the recent controversy over Betsy DeVos as the Education Secretary and the question of how public funds are used for education, NPR published this article today that provides a better understanding of charter schools.

Just What IS A Charter School, Anyway?

Thousands of teachers rallied in New York City’s Foley Square last October to demand that Mayor Bill de Blasio take action on charter school growth.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

We’re all familiar with the term “hidden in plain sight.” Well, there may be no better way to describe the nation’s 6,900 charter schools.

These publicly-funded, privately-run schools have been around since the first one opened in St. Paul, Minn., in 1992. Today, they enroll about 3.1 million students in 43 states, so you’d think Americans should know quite a bit about them by now. But you’d be wrong.

“Most Americans misunderstand charter schools,” was the finding of the 2014 PDK/Gallup poll on public attitudes toward education. The survey found broad support for charters, but also revealed that 48 percent of Americans didn’t know charter schools were public. Fifty-seven percent thought they charged tuition. And nearly half thought charters were allowed to teach religion.

Now that the Trump administration has made school choice a cornerstone of its education policy, we thought it would be worth exploring how charter schools work, who runs them, how they’re funded and whether they work better than the traditional public schools they’re often competing against.

We asked three charter experts to help us out with a survey course. Welcome to Charter Schools 101, your professors are:

Ted Kolderie, a former journalist and senior fellow at the University of Minnesota’s Hubert Humphrey School of Public Affairs. He helped create the nation’s first charter law in 1991 and helped 25 states design their own.

Greg Richmond, president and CEO of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers. NACSA represents people and organizations that approve and oversee charter schools in 43 states.

Nina Rees, head of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, an advocacy group that lobbies on behalf of charter schools.

What do we mean by “charter” school?

Kolderie: The term “charter” really refers to the decision by states to turn public education into a two-sector system. One is a traditional school district, centrally managed. The other, charter schools, are independent, not owned by a central school board. Both are public, but they’re organized in radically different ways.

People have to understand, chartering laws don’t create schools. It is enabling legislation that sets up a process for people to create schools. The charter sector was supposed to encourage innovation — pedagogical laboratories that would push new ways to teach, even if it was disruptive.

The charter sector [operates on] limited contracts. Their renewal is subject to performance. Charters are authorized by [groups] defined in state law. In New Jersey and Massachusetts, for example, the state is the only authorizer. Some states have created separate boards that authorize charters. Authorizers are usually non-profits and include universities but in most cases, local school boards authorize charter schools.

Rees: A local school district does not tell charters when to open or close their doors, what kind of curriculum to use, what company to contract for food or paper. Charters have the freedom to hire teachers without a union contract.

What does an authorizer do?

Richmond: They receive and evaluate proposals then decide if a charter school should come into existence. If a charter is approved, the authorizer monitors the school’s performance. Typically, five years later, the school’s charter comes up for review and the authorizer decides if the school should stay open. None of the 43 states with charter school laws permit an authorizer to be a for-profit entity.

Can teachers open a charter school? Wasn’t that the idea when the concept was first seriously considered in the 1980s?

Kolderie: Yes. The first charter opened in East St. Paul, Minn. It was started by a workers’ cooperative organized by teachers. Minnesota may be the only state where a teachers union can authorize charter schools.

But a charter school can be for-profit right? Fifteen percent of the nation’s 6,900 charters are for-profit.

Richmond: A charter school can hire a for-profit company to manage its school. Only one out of six charters in the U.S. are run to make money. In Michigan, 80 percent are for profit, more than any other state. Some states, like New York, prohibit charters from contracting with a for-profit management company.

Are charters funded the same way traditional public schools are, with a mix of local, state and federal dollars?

Richmond: In a couple of states, charters don’t get local money. But, in most cases, these [three funding sources] are common. Private donors are less common but also important.

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools says charters get less money. Is that true?

Rees: On average, charters receive 30 percent less per pupil, per year compared to traditional public schools. That gap is due in large part to the fact that charters don’t have access to the same funding streams [like school construction bonds] that traditional school systems have to build schools.

Transportation is another issue. [Charters] draw students from all over but we have to provide our own transportation, or parents rely on public transportation, because school districts do not make their buses available to charter schools.

Ted Kolderie, do you agree that charters get 30 percent less money?

Kolderie: Yeah, I’ve heard that figure. Its cited often by charter advocates. But the method and level of financing charter schools varies widely state to state, from “pretty good” to awfully weak.

Do charters get the same amount of federal aid from IDEA, the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, and Title I, which targets low income students?

Rees: Technically yes. But its hard to track how the money is distributed. If a charter operates under a school district, the funding gets opaque.

Richmond: Each state has its own laws and regulations for distributing that money to districts and individual schools.

The only federal money that I know of that flows directly to charter schools is “start-up” money from the U.S. Education Department to help charter schools open. That began under president Bill Clinton.

What kind of kids enroll in charter schools and do charters take all comers like traditional public schools?

Rees: Charter schools have to accept all students. If they get more than they have slots for, the school has to conduct a lottery.

Kolderie: Traditional district schools don’t take everybody. Superintendents talk as if they do, but they only have to take the children of families who can afford to live in their district. There are all kinds of charters enrolling all kinds of kids. The strongest support for charters has been among parents who had never gone beyond a high school education. That’s where the strongest preference remains.

Aren’t charter schools often accused of “creaming,” not taking kids with special needs?

Rees: Charters cannot pick the students they want. They have to accept kids with disabilities and ELLs, English language learners. Right now, charter schools are tilted to serve low-income kids. Over 50 percent [of students in charter schools] are from black and Latino households, mostly in inner cities.

Kolderie: The charter sector is still a public system. It has to be free, open. No tuition, no teaching religion, no picking and choosing kids.

Are states consistent in how they evaluate charter schools and are they held to the same performance standards as traditional public schools?

Richmond: In general, they’re evaluated based on test scores, graduation rates, finances — the same as traditional public schools. But there’s great inconsistency state-to-state in how well that’s done. We need better oversight of charters. Charter supporters don’t want a lot of oversight. The good news is that we know what good oversight looks like in terms of balancing autonomy with accountability.

Who is responsible for making sure “bad” charters are shut down? And how much time do they have to show they’re doing well?

Rees: Charters, on average get 3-5 years to ramp up. Research indicates that charter schools that start out strong continue to do well and those that start weak do not get better over time. A failing school should be closed immediately or turned over to another charter school operator.

Kolderie: When a charter school is not doing well, if the authorizer fails to act, the state has to step in. Most closures are due to financial reasons and poor management.

What about online charters, or “cyber schools”?

Richmond: Cyber schools have not done a good job for most kids. Many studies have evaluated their performance and I have yet to find one that’s shown they’re good. … Taxpayers are paying an enormous amount of money to those operators and kids are being shortchanged.

reMarkable

Suggested posts and targeted ads in your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. feed are common place anymore. I get it; its how social media sites monetize.  I usually gloss over them, but today a suggested post for,  reMarkable – the paper tablet, caught my eye.  The idea is this minimalist e-ink tablet replaces your notebooks, sketchbooks, and possibly even your e-reader.  My initial reaction is that this is a pretty cool idea.  At work I have a couple of notebooks that I use and I scribble notes on the back of printouts all the time that ultimately end up scattered across my desk.  Having a tablet to take and organize notes would be a perfect solution.  I’ve tried apps like Evernote, but unless I have my laptop it doesn’t help much.  Even if I had a tablet, I would still need a keyboard to effectively take notes.

The downside of reMarkable is the price.  The current offer is $379 for a pre-order bundle that includes the tablet, a stylus, and a folio cover.  Regular price is $529 just for the tablet and $79 for the Marker.  For that kind of money, you could buy a 9.7 inch iPad Pro or Surface Pro and get a lot more features.  ReMarkable doesn’t have a browser or use apps and the reMarkable team sees the lack of features as a benefit.  You can work, read, sketch, whatever without the distraction of notifications from other apps.  It doesn’t get any more simple than a piece of paper so it makes sense to create a simple replacement, but not for that price.  I’d love to get my hands on one to see how paper-like it really is.  Assuming it lives up to the expectations, the price would need to drop to more like $200 for me.

The reMarkable tablet is expected to start shipping in August.

The Dash

I’m a terrible friend.  A couple weeks ago my friend Jet asked me to write a review for his upcoming independent movie, The Dash.  Jet is an all around good dude and one of the nicest and happiest people I know.  Of course I wanted to check out his movie, but the thought of writing a review was a little intimidating.  I don’t consider myself a movie reviewer.  Like most people, I enjoy a variety of things and sometimes I write about them.  With it being the holiday season, I procrastinated.  But with a few days off of work and a run time of just under 52 minutes, I decided it was time to watch The Dash.

“Whenever we eventually get our gravestones, you have the year that you were born and the year you died and all the good stuff happens in that little dash.” – The Dash

In what started out as a joke five years ago, Jet started filming his friends as they hung out, partied, and played jokes on each other.  The Dash is a compilation of those candid moments.  I tend to be dismissive of reality TV.  I don’t care what the housewives of whatever county are doing, who did or didn’t get a rose, or who can sing.  Not all reality shows are trashy and ridiculous, however.  The Dash works because it has the advantage of perspective and a destination for the viewer even though it feels random at times.  Intermingled with what’s to come, you find yourself immersed into what life has thrown at this group of friends and the plot comes into focus.   Jet narrates the movie and points out, “the one thing about reality, it’s not always so funny.”

I don’t want to give too much away, but I would call The Dash a docudrama at its finest.  I highly recommend you check it out for yourself. The Dash is out now and you can watch it for free on vimeo here.