No More Net Neutrality and, From Russia with Love

So it’s just that kind of day.

I’m not sure what more I can say.

FCC puts the Internet up for sale.

Putin and Trump are best friends forever. (“Hacking Democracy,” Washington Post, 12/15)

Ray Myers

P.S. For a diversion from the present state of world power politics and Internet control, please have a look and listen at mypeacecorpsstory.com, podcast #018, where I discuss my “technology-free” Peace Corps years in India, 1966-68

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Net Neutrality in the U.S.

Only one day left before the Federal Communications Commission in the U.S. votes on plans to abandon Net Neutrality in favor of lifting restrictions on Internet providers. In other words, allow Internet providers to become more entrepreneurial in offering their services at competitive market rates. I think we all know what this means: consumers will now have to pay more and receive less in terms of services provided.

In terms of trying to better understand the impact of these proposed changes, and as a means registering your opposition (assumed), please visit this site to make your voice heard: https://www.battleforthenet.com/breaktheinternet/

The full power and potential of the Internet should not be left to only those who can afford it!

Ray Myers

P.S. Please have a look at mypeacecorpsstory.com, podcast #018, where I discuss my “technology-free” Peace Corps years in India, 1966-68

Big Brother is Listening, So is Alexa, Echo, Siri, and Google Home!

This post is not meant to make you worry about all your digital assistants, but I guess the best advice is just to remind yourself that “somebody” or “something” else may be listening. But who really cares about all my mundane conversations in the privacy of my own home or someone else’s? Personally, I don’t have any state secrets to share, but it all does seem a little spooky to me. The again, why would you share you secrets with a talking machine?

Danny Hakim, in NY Times Sunday edition, put it this way: “At least I can take comfort that I’m not the only one who wonders about these things. In the past three years, the Better Business Bureau told me that it had received 9,876 complaints about Amazon.com. Seventy-nine were related to the Echo speaker, which features Alexa, and just a single one of these complaints mentioned privacy concerns.”

So why should I worry? Let’s face it, we may all be living in an era when our lives are an “open book,” or at least those parts we share with our digital assistants!

Ray Myers

P.S. Please have a look at mypeacecorpsstory.com, podcast #018, where I discuss my “technology-free” Peace Corps years in India

Reading Skills in the U.S.A. and the Rest of the World

I guess the title of this blog is not a real “attention-grabber” but it is still very important if we want to better understand how technology is playing an increasingly important part in reading instruction. Here is the link if you would like to read the complete report: https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2018/2018017.pdf. The report focuses on reading achievement levels across fourth graders in sixteen countries and their proficiency in reading ONLINE.

In terms of the percentage of fourth-grade students who performed at an advanced level, the United States was the fourth highest in reaching this level. Students in Singapore, Ireland, and Norway tested higher on this online measure of informational reading (ePIRLS, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017). “The report has at least one silver-lining: Students in the United States fared far better on an Internet-based version of the assessment that tested their ability to process information online. U.S. students placed fourth out of 16 education systems that participated.”

Unfortunately, for American students who are reading in a more “text-based” manner, the results are not as high when compared to their international peers. They dropped to 13th place. “The decline was especially precipitous for the lowest-performing students, a finding that suggests widening disparities in the U.S. education system (National Center for Education Statistics, 2017).”

Ray Myers

P.S. Please have a look at mypeacecorpsstory.com, podcast #018, where I discuss my “technology-free” Peace Corps years in India

Realizing the Civil Rights Dream – Can Technology Help? (Retweet w/corrections)

I am retweeting this post from yesterday with my apologies. I have corrected the title, and added categories and tags.

Faculty and students gathered at the Berkley Center in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 12th for a discussion with Rev. Kenneth Bedell, who explored questions of American race relations and sociology in his newest book, “Realizing the Civil Rights Dream: Diagnosing and Treating American Racism.”

One Georgetown student, Andrea Su, commented that she was “really surprised at how much of an open discussion the Q&A section was. It was awesome to be able to engage in one discussion a reverend, a sociologist, and a handful of professors and students in some really raw and challenging questions on racism and racial injustice in this country. She hopes more opportunities like this one will come to Georgetown.” Fortunately, in our Information age, you don’t have to come to Georgetown to join in this discussion. Please feel free to visit the website mentioned below, and post any comments you may have. Additionally, with the many different information and communication technologies available to us today, you can also join in and continue this discussion in any preferred social media platform.

http://www.civilrightsdream.com/georgetown-university-students-faculty-and-guests-discuss-racism

Ray Myers

P.S. Please have a look at mypeacecorpsstory.com, podcast #018, where I discuss my “technology-free” Peace Corps years in India

Realizing the American Dream – Can Technology Help?

Faculty and students gathered at the Berkley Center in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 12th for a discussion with Rev. Kenneth Bedell, who explored questions of American race relations and sociology in his newest book, “Realizing the Civil Rights Dream: Diagnosing and Treating American Racism.”

One Georgetown student, Andrea Su, commented that she was “really surprised at how much of an open discussion the Q&A section was. It was awesome to be able to engage in one discussion a reverend, a sociologist, and a handful of professors and students in some really raw and challenging questions on racism and racial injustice in this country. She hopes more opportunities like this one will come to Georgetown.” Fortunately, in our Information age, you don’t have to come to Georgetown to join in this discussion. Please feel free to visit the website posted below, and post any comments you may have. Additionally, with the many different information and communication technologies available to us today, you can also join in and continue this discussion in any type of social media you prefer.

http://www.civilrightsdream.com/georgetown-university-students-faculty-and-guests-discuss-racism

Ray Myers

P.S. Please have a look at mypeacecorpsstory.com, podcast #018, where I discuss my “technology-free” Peace Corps years in India

Put Down Your Laptops, Pick Up Your Pencils

Silicon Valley may find this all too hard to believe, but researchers are now finding that bringing your laptop to class and typing your notes verbatim as the professor speaks, may actually undermine the learning process. Typing out your handwritten notes later on your preferred digital device may be the better practice to reinforce your retention of material that has been presented in class.

“But a growing body of evidence shows that over all, college students learn less when they use computers or tablets during lectures. They also tend to earn worse grades. The research is unequivocal: Laptops distract from learning, both for users and for those around them. It’s not much of a leap to expect that electronics also undermine learning in high school classrooms or that they hurt productivity in meetings and in all kinds of workplaces (Dynarski, University of Michigan, 2017).”

I guess it’s time to sharpen our pencils, and put our “thinking caps” back on!

Ray Myers

P.S. I will be posting again on next Wednesday, December 6. In the meantime, please have a look at mypeacecorpsstory.com, podcast #018, where I discuss my “technology-free” Peace Corps years in India.

My Peace Corps Story – 50 Years Later

Thanks to Tyler Lloyd for this opportunity to revisit my Peace Corps years. Please visit his site, mypeacecorpsstory.com, where he has posted our interview, and his conversations with many other Volunteers, who have served or are currently serving in tin different parts of the world. Thanks to technology, he is able to reach out across the globe to record his stories and share them on the web.

The connections available to us during our time in India were very limited. If there were family emergencies back in the States, Peace Corps country headquarters could assist through resources available through the American embassy in New Delhi. In most instances, we were left to our own devices which, for me, largely consisted of sending international aerogrammes through the local post office (they actually did reach the States in most instances, some friends saved them). I am not sure they would be very interesting reading for anyone now, but they were our basic means of staying in touch over our two years of service. Some friends would also send tape recordings of messages and popular music. At that time we were also getting a steady dose of new British rock groups’ music; the Beatles were on the top of the list. I think I heard “Sargent Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” almost every day for two years. We also had a short-wave radio and were also able to listen to the BBC and Voice of America on occasion. No TV.

I hope you will enjoy listening to “My Peace Corps Story.” And thank you, President Kennedy.

Ray Myers

Tips to Get Teens to Put Down Smartphones

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! I know it’s still three days away, but I will not be posting a blog message again until next Monday. Please have safe travels and enjoy your time with family and friends. Last Friday I did blog about some recent findings on the possible detrimental effects of too much time on smartphones for our preschool and school-age children. Now for some more helpful tips from child developmental researchers.

Keep Devices Out of Kids Bedrooms Kids need more more sleep than grown ups. Taking away a child’s phone at bedtime can be a battle, but it’s worth the fight.

Set Online Firewalls and Data Cutoffs A young person’s brain is wired for exploration and, to some extent, thrill-seeking – not restraint. Most devices and internet providers, as well as some apps, offer parenting tools and restrict access to problematic content and curb data use. Take advantage of them.

Create a Device Contract These rules could include no Smartphones at the dinner table or no more than a hour of social media use after school. If a child violates the rules, he or she should lose the phone for a period of time.

Model Healthy Device Behaviors Just as kids struggle to stay off of their phones, so do parents. And if you are a phone junkie yourself, you can’t expect your kids to be any different. Apart from putting you own phone away while driving or during mealtimes (Thanksgiving!), it’s important to recognize that your kids also see what you put online.

Consider Old-school Flip Phones Kids can always access social media or video from home computers or tablets during their free time. But when they’re out in the world, they won’t be tempted with all-the-time access to screen-based distractions.

Have a happy, text-free Thanksgiving dinner. Will be back next Monday. Enjoy!

Ray Myers

Kids and Smartphones

We really don’t know what the long-term effects of “mobile technology” will be on our current school-age and under school-age generations in America (and the world?). Unfortunately, much of the preliminary data suggest that we have to do something to control its indiscriminate and obsessive use. “What this generation is going through right now with technology is a giant experiment (Jensen, University of Pennsylvania).”

As researchers debate appropriate public health messaging, kids are receiving their first smartphones at even younger ages – the average is 10, according to one recent estimate – and they’re spending more and more time on their devices. “I am probably on my phone 10 hours a day,” says Santiago Potocnik Senarahi, a 16-year-old 11th grader in Denver. Even when he’s not using his phone, it’s always with him, and he never considers taking a break. “This is part of my life and part of my work, and [that] means I need to be in constant contact.” “The more we learn about kids and Smartphones, the more we’re going to see that limiting their exposure is a good idea (Twenge, San Diego State University).”

I will be back on Monday with a list of some “Tips the Get Teens to Put Down Their Smartphones.” And maybe these tips will also help some of us in the “older generations?”

Ray Myers

Technology and Young Eyes – Go Outdoors!

Maybe you worry about your children spending so much time in front of computer screens that it has a detrimental effect on their vision. The ready availability of technology may make the children of today faster at configuring a new smartphone, but does all of that screen time affect the development of their vision? As reported in recent research by two optometrists at Ohio State University (Zadnik & Mutti), another factor may be a more critical factor.

To their surprise, more time outdoors has a protective effect and reduced the chances that a child would go on to need myopic refractive correction. Without reporting on all the research that has gone into this determination, here is the dominant theory or conclusion: “The brighter light outside stimulates the release of dopamine from the specialized cells in the retina. Dopamine then initiates a molecular signaling cascade that ends with slower, normal growth of the eye, which means no myopia.” Actual light exposure, not just a decrease in the time spent reading because children are outdoors is the explanation for this “magic.”

No one before has ever said playing outside could help you prevent or minimize nearsightedness? I should have spent more time time playing outside when I was younger. In my case it was not the computer screen that intrigued me. It was TV.

Ray Myers

Call Centers Come Home

I was always intrigued with the fact that I could be talking to someone in an Indian call center when I needed some type of customer service with practically anything I owned. I had lived and worked in northern Mysore State (now Karnataka), of which Bangalore is the capital city. Thanks to the technology of the late twentieth and early twenty-first century, this was now all possible. When I worked as a Peace Corps Volunteer in India in the mid-sixties, international telephone connections were not what they are today. But with the advent of the Internet and world-wide connectivity, we are now able to “reach out” to someone anytime anywhere.

India offered a highly educated English-speaking workforce who were proficient in communicating in English, but unfortunately still faced a barrier when in came to American English nuance and even pronunciation. There were economic advantages, of course, to contracting offshore for customer service for American companies in those early days. Now with the ubiquity of technology and connectivity at bargain rates across the States and in other English-speaking parts of the world, American companies can now begin to capitalize on the use of native American English speakers catering to the an almost exclusive American clientele. The reality is that most Americans are frankly much more comfortable speaking with “one of their own,” especially when you are talking about making a business transaction. But maybe I’m wrong?

Roughly three million Americans work as customer service representatives in call centers and home offices across the United States. I am sure that there is also a huge economic benefit to these American companies. Home sweet home!

Ray Myers

Procedural Failures May Kill You, Seriously!

Sorry for the late posting today.  Things got busy at home.  Here goes.  The Air Force says it failed to follow policies for alerting federal law enforcement about Devin P. Kelley’s  violent past, enabling the former service member, who killed at least 26 churchgoers Sunday in Sutherland Springs, Tex., to obtain firearms before the shooting rampage.

“Initial information indicates that Kelley’s domestic violence offense was not entered onto the National Criminal Information Center database.”  Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and Chief of Staff General David Goldfein have directed an investigation of Kelly’s case and relevant policies and procedures.  Somehow this National Criminal Center database did not have all the information about Kelley that was supposed to be in it.  Otherwise he would never have been able to buy the massive amounts of weapons he possessed.  A “data entry” problem you say?  U.S. Senators Gillibrand and Blumenthal suspect more than that. Discussions around “Big Data” repositories are all the rage in our increasingly data-driven world.  But all this data is only as good as the competence of those persons overseeing and managing its thoroughness and accuracy.   Relevant data can not be allowed to slip through the cracks, resulting in deadly consequences for innocent Americans.  

Whatever “procedural missteps” that occurred here will certainly be identified and corrected in time, but I believe that the larger issue still remains with our obsession over the right to bear arms.  For anyone?

Ray Myers

P.S.  I will be back next Monday, November 13.  Observing Veterans’ Day on Friday.

Sex Trafficking on Social Media

Just say “no.”  Remember that one.  It was a slogan used by the federal government in the Reagan days to combat drug trafficking. Thank you Nancy Reagan.  Now we have the Internet and social media at our disposal if we chose to “traffic” in illegal activities.  Sex trafficking is one of the more flagrant abuses that, up to now, has gone unchecked.  Congress has now gotten involved, enacting legislation that will hold online sex traffickers accountable and help give trafficking survivors the justice they deserve.

Tech titans such as Facebook, Twitter and Google have finally relented and agreed to grant victims the ability to secure the justice they deserve, allow Internet platforms to continue their work combatting human trafficking, and protect good actors in the ecosystem.  It will hold online sex traffickers accountable and give trafficking survivors the justice they deserve.  Consumer advocates said that the law also put bigger media companies on notice as well.

In reality, and perhaps unfortunately, the Internet of Things can be whatever we humans make of it.

Ray Myers

Trump Tweets While We Burn

I used to think that tweeting was just for fun.  You really don’t have to think too hard and if you can learn all the abbreviations and other Twitter short-cuts, you can really pack a lot of thoughts (?) in those 140/280 characters.  I never really thought you could become president of the United States by doing this?  Well I guess I am wrong again.  I suppose we have all been “trumped,” at least those of us who may have voted for another candidate in last year’s election.  You know who you are.

Trump has used his Twitter account since March 2009.  He has tweeted more than 36,000 times and has 41.7 million followers. Trump has credited his use of social media as among one of the main reasons he was elected.  “You have to keep people interested also.  You know, you have to keep people interested.”  Twitter also serves as one of Trump’s main tools for deflecting criticisms and attacks.  He has said, “When somebody says something about me, I am able to go bing, bing, bing, and I take care of it.”  Trump’s Twitter account was deactivated for 11 minutes Thursday night by a company employee on his last day on the job. Maybe he/she was just trying to exert some type of “executive privilege.”

Or perhaps he/she was just trying to fact check some of  Trump’s tweets, in which case the “fake facts” just overloaded the system.

Ray Myers

Automated Dining in an Automated World – Still Hungry for Something Else? 

I think it used to be a novelty.  At least that is how I remembered going to a Horn and Hardart Automat when I was a boy and being intrigued by the process of opening tiny glass doors to retrieve your favorite dishes.  It has been a while since I have experienced this self-service feature but from what I have read about today’s automats are that they are more technologically enhanced and offer a more varied menu that would even appeal to vegetarian diners.  Now it appears that diners are frowning upon “faceless dining.”

Eve Turow Paul recently wrote in Forbes magazine that “the links between technology and increasing rates of loneliness, depression, and anxiety.  Many in this young generation battle a creeping sense of nugatory existence by connecting over a meal – whether it’s by cooking for family, dining out with friends, or chatting with others online about gluten-free recipes.  My research clearly shows these human-facing moments and different instances of interaction help soothe this digitally-connected generation.”

Funny, I don’t remember family meal times as always being a “soothing experience.”   But I guess that we all got to know more about each other in a “face-to-face” way.

Ray Myers

P.S.  Happy Halloween 👻, everyone.  I will be back next Friday after a Halloween break with family.  I hope it’s not too scary!


Facebook and Google and Amazon, Oh My!

Don’t worry, Dorothy, these tech giants aren’t as dangerous as those “Lions and Tigers and Bears” that you worried about in the land of Oz, or are they?  I guess I just get worried when I hear words like “lobbying Congress” on behalf of more transparency in government regulation – not that there is anything wrong with that.  But it seems that the people who are making the most financial benefit at this point are the lobbyists on K Street, D.C.  Now I know that those lobbyists are real “truth-seekers,” and maybe they do know all about “disinformation” campaigns, but how do you legislate for transparency on the Internet?  Do we currently make all advertisers on public and commercial media do that now?

“The lawmakers behind proposed ad transparency legislation said the bill is designed to prevent another Russian-backed disinformation campaign that ran on Web platforms during the 2016 elestion.  Facebook said that it will take its own steps to increase the transparency of political ads and that it generally supports legislative efforts to do the same.”  I think that this is all very interesting since Facebook seemed to be the favorite vehicle for Russian-backed disinformation in the 2016 campaign.  But why should I worry.   All these Congressional leasders are servants of the American people first!

This is what was recently reported by Hamza Shaban the Washington Post: “Lawmakers behind the proposed ad transparency legislation said the bill is designed to prevent another disinformation campaign.”  Good luck with that!

Ray Myers

Fighting Against Trumpism and Racism – Not a War of Words

It’s just too easy.  We can write blogs, tweet our anger about the state of affairs in the U.S. today, but do you often wonder about who is really listening or who really cares. It is all so easy and self-satisfying to let people know how angry and upset we are.  But at the same time, do we really begin to ask ourselves whether this is all having any impact?  Mere words may not be enough.  

I think the Bully-in-Charge (a.k.a, the so-called president) really has the upper hand.  He uses Twitter to communicate with all his adoring fans, and they really like it.  Nothing is really complicated – just listen to my harangues and we will all feel a lot better.  He will lead us in making America Great Again.  Just read and believe!  He is tweeting while “Rome burns,” and very few seem to really care.  I am sure we can all write statements in opposition to all this “fake rhetoric” but what have we really accomplished?  Many worry that ceaseles statement -writing is sucking us dry.

In a New York Times’ opinion piece on Sunday Tiya Miles wrote: “I doubt my own courage and wonder each day whether I could deploy my body beyond the relative safety of marches approved by permits.  But I am certain of this: The change we seek to make won’t be accomplished by words alone.”

Ray Myers

Social Media Becomes Hate Media

So how did all this happen?  We have gone from “fake news” to hate mongering on social media sites such as Facebook.  A student was recently stabbed to death at a bus stop on the University of Maryland campus.  I guess those Russian hackers really paved the way for co-opting our technological prowess and turning it in to a tool for disinformation and now, tragically, a tool for hate and deadly crime.  This is NOT what was supposed to happen.

This slaying sparked national outcry after police announced that they were investigating the accused murder’s connection to a Facebook page called Alt-Reich.  University of Maryland Police have said that the content from that page was full of racist and inflammatory material.  University police also said that drugs and alcohol may have played a role in the case.  What a deadly combination!

And what can the so-called president do to help social media be more social and less hateful?  One suggestion: stop tweeting about how “right” he always is, attacking any opposition on a personal (ad hominem) basis.

Ray Myers


Where in the World is Amazon’s HQ2 Going to Be?

Everyone seems very interested in this question.  As in most questions about real estate it all seems to come down to “location, location, location,” even when your business is basically online.  But in this case it is not the buyer (Amazon) who has to come up with the cold, hard cash.  It seems like other locations across the country are all in a bidding war to come up with the most attractive offer that will entice Amazon to choose their locale.  Even suburban Washington, D.C. wants Amazon to call northern Virginia their second home

The State of Virginia is weighing in to support their northern counties. The Washington Business Journal reported that the State was considering offering up to $30 million in property value to Amazon at no cost.  This property is currently occupied by the Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) near Washington’s Dulles Airport.  The CIT property is currently tax-exempt and assessed at a combined $29.45 million.  It includes the 173,000 square-foot CIT building, 13.5 acres of undeveloped land and is right on the edge of Amazon’s requirement of “30 miles from a population center.”  All of these transactions have apparently been done confidentially and not subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

So hurry up everybody if you have an interest in being Amazon’s HQ2.  I only read about northern Virginia’s interest this past weekend.  You have just ONE MORE DAY to submit your proposal for Amazon’s HQ2!

Ray Myers