Friday, April 6, 2012

Dor the Prophet

About thirteen years ago I began my exposure to a world not many people seek out or wish to understand. It wasn't too long after my exposure that I started living by an "it's not a matter of 'if' it's really only a matter of 'when,' mentality when it came to potential SHTF events. I've also been very aware that living in a Republic with Democratic values meant there would be a balance between safety and civil liberty (IMO there is an inverse relationship between these).

Fast forward to six years ago and I was giving a job talk at a large university on the matter of "if" and "when." I focused on the need for increased vigilance as well as good consequence management with specific regard to major catastrophes on campuses (e.g., large scale interpersonal violence). Very few in my line of work are on the vigilance and proactive threat reduction end of the equation so I spent a fair amount of time on consequence management. I spoke truth, freaked out my colleagues and didn't get the job. A year later the Virginia Tech shootings occurred. That message hit home. It's not a matter of "if" because it's is going to happen. And it can happen quickly. And many systems are not set up to manage the consequences let alone be proactive.

Now for today’s twist. There's more acknowledgment of the need for risk of violence assessment and management as well as consequence management. But the paranoia of litigation has the pendulum swinging in the direction of losses of civil liberties. For example, a large, west coast university system is currently investing in a consolidated medical records system for student health and mental health. These medical records will include mental health information (i.e., counseling session details, diagnoses, etc.). None of the aforementioned is overly troubling or out of the ordinary. But who has access to this information? It should only be people who have been authorized by the consumer. After all, the consumer is the "holder of the privilege" of the communication in healthcare and the provider is only a custodian of the record (Note: there are circumstances where healthcare providers are allowed or required to breech privileged communications). Ah well there's the potential rub. I can tell you that the centralized system at the aforementioned university system is being looked at as a resource by non-providers (e.g., university attorneys) for judging someone's appropriateness for being on campus to avoid risk (i.e., the risk of litigation). Oh, and this could possibly occur outside of the consumer's or provider's awareness. I spoke earlier of the relationship between safety and civil liberty. But let's be clear, that argument does not apply here. Oh sure, that's what will be said publicly. If it is said at all. But behind closed doors the administration and the attorneys are counting the money saved in litigation. And they saved that money by violating someone's civil liberties and reasonable expectations of privacy.

Am I saying we shouldn't look into people’s back grounds if there is concern over the potential for violence? No!  I am absolutely supportive of proactive behavior.  But then I also have the trainng, expertise and experience to do that work.  What I am saying is that making the call to violate someone's civil liberties should be done only when the appropriate data is available and the data has been reviewed by someone who knows how to interpret it. And to my knowledge, attorneys and university administrators are not well versed in the assessment of dangerousness (e.g., leading to Tarasoff warnings) or the assessment of the risk for violence.

So here's a new "if/when" scenario for those considering making this kind of move. And there are many organizations moving in this direction.  It's not a matter of "if" you'll lose your shirt in a court for violating someone's civil rights, it's only a matter of "when."



Thursday, December 15, 2011

Half of American Schools Failed Federal Standards (FoxNews.com)

One of the messages I'm taking away from this article (see link below) is that we're willing to lower our expectation of the education system. It's as true now as it was then. The "No Kids Left Behind" legislation was horrible. But in some ways the law, its poor construction, implementation and yes, our inability to at least make some headway toward increasing the quality of primary & secondary education, points to a larger problem. The expectations we have of our students.
We should expect students to meet minimum competency levels in math, English, science, etc. And these minimum competencies should be consistent across the entire country. We most definitely should expect our educators to get the students up to speed. Be clear about the consequences of failure, and hold the education system as well as the students' guardians and the students themselves responsible.

I'm failing to see the problem with this. It seems easy. Here are the educational goals (and I'm talking detail here). This is how you show you have accomplished the goals (even more detail here). Have you accomplished the goal? Yes or No? If someone reaches the level of expected competency, give 'em a smile and pass them on to the next level. If someone doesn't reach the level of competency required, then there must be remediation. And remediation must continue until the student reaches that minimum level of competency. If it can never be reached because, heaven forbid, we all have different intellectual abilities, then I guess that individual has progressed as far as he or she is able.

"But Dor, there are all these kids out there who are disadvantaged in some way." You are correct. There are. And we should help them reach the level of competency that is set FOR EVERYONE. It may take longer. It may require of us to be creative and flexible, but we should not waiver on our expectations.
Do we understand that when we allow different levels of competence to mean the same thing (e.g., a High School Diploma from one state is "better" than another state) that we cheapen and distort the intrinsic meaning of the achievement? It seems to me most people don't understand that. And my sense is most people don't care. It's fortunate they don't care because then they won't be troubled with the fact that their legislators are about to embark on yet another education boondoggle that won't address the real issue - competency requirements in education.

Link to article: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2011/12/14/report-nearly-half-american-schools-failed-federal-standards/

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Entitled Education?

It's incredulous to me how fracking entitled people have become.  Everyone one expects something for nothing and expects that something to come from someone else.  How did this happen?

Look at our education system.  (Don't look too closely or you'll notice how FUBAR it is.)  Students, and I suppose their parents, expect a free education that turns them into six-figure salary Nobel laureates.  WTF?!

OK, it's important for me to point out that I paid for almost every credit of my post-High School education (I have a PhD) as well as my living expenses since I was 20.  I worked and went to school.  I took time off from school to save money so I could afford to return.  I took out loans (which 12yrs later I am still paying off). Oh, and my parents were only high school graduates; so it's not like I had a silver spoon growing up.

How is it we've become a nation that feels entitled to an education beyond High School?  How is it that everyone deserves to go to college? I can tell you first hand that there are many students being admitted to university that don't belong there.  Sorry kids, you're just not smart enough.  I'm not commenting on how poorly you were educated.  I'm stating quite plainly that you don't have the brain power be be at university.  And don't even get me started on how poorly students are prepared by the public school system to engage in the sort of intellectual exercise that SHOULD occur at the university level.  Classes are being dumbed down to meet the inability of students to rise up to the intellectual challenge.  Grading is being softened to avoid negative instructor evaluations and to not upset the student or the parent.  Support programs with little evidence that they do anything other than look and sound good are financed to assist students who need assistance (< generalization...there are some good ones).

We are doing these kids and ourselves a huge disservice by maintaining the idea that "everyone deserves an education beyond high school."  That is just not true.  Everyone deserves an "opportunity."  But having an opportunity to compete and actually winning are two very different things.  So you say the playing field is not level? OK, I'll buy that.  Then let's fix the playing field, not give everyone a trophy.

If we don't fix this issue (and also reinvigorate interests in the trades) we won't be on top for much longer and will be speaking Mandarin in about 20 years.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

RISHER Mortuary: Obituaries

Ciao bello. You led one of the most interesting lives I've ever heard. RISHER Mortuary: Obituaries

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Don’t Blame Games For Norway Shootings

I'm not likely to post articles or editorialize, but this just grabbed my attention. Editorial of the day: Yeah let's not make someone responsible for themselves. That is all. Thank you. Bai.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Survival Tactics: Communication

Whether it's the Zombie Apocalypse or an other Shit Hits the Fan (SHTF) event, communication is extremely important.  There are many reasons why good communications networks and skills are important.  What I'm going to focus on is the need to stay informed and the need to pass along information.  Let's take a few minutes to review and start thinking about what we need to do.

Your first thought might be that your cell phone or smart phone is going to be your savior.  I hope it is.  But in a major SHTF event, your cell phone is worth nothing and your smart phone may only be worth a little more than nothing.  Why?  The cell towers you're accustomed to accessing are either non-functional, overloaded with users, or have been usurped by public safety (and the military) for their own communication needs.  However, the earthquake in Japan showed us, while cell towers for cellular communication may not be available, other data communication may remain active.  We saw many Twitter, Facebook and other social media playing a role in getting information out of the effected area.  Assuming a power grid is still active, your smart phone will be handy.  But if there's no power to juice your electronics, your time is going to be limited.  The good news is there are ways to continue to power your electronics in the absence of an active power grid.  Two examples include a gas powered generator with appropriate converters and solar panels.  Generators are great, but have a couple of  draw backs (the bad news).  Most obvious is the need for fuel.  If it's hell-in-a-handbasket time, fuel will quickly become scarce and become something others may be willing to commit mayhem to obtain.  Solar panels are, I think, a better alternative.  The energy they require is readily available and plentiful.  In addition, there are many portable panel devices now made specifically for powering our personal electronics.  Personal walkie talkies, etc. can also be used and are likely to be able to be recharged using a portable solar panel recharger if they already have rechargeable batteries in them.

When considering our communication needs, we also need to remain aware that others (including public safety, the government, maybe some NGO's) are going to try to disseminate information.  For this reason some kind of receiver is needed.  You can choose any radio but again, we face the issue of keeping it powered.  If you're not considering the portable solar panel idea, then invest in a good radio that has a dynamo built into it.  It will provide you with what you're looking for in getting information.

The last thing I want to consider here is person to person communication.  I'm not referring to how we carry on normal conversations.  Rather, I'm referring to those times when information is critical for survival and when noise discipline is necessary.  We've all seen enough SWAT and War movies to know about hand signals.  But when was the last time you ever considered a need to use them?  Can you effectively communicate critical information with several other individuals in a quick, concise and quiet way?  If not, start considering it.  I'm not suggesting everyone become familiar with combat hand signals. What I am suggesting however is that if you find yourself in a SHTF event, you and your group consider how you will quickly, concisely and quietly communicate information that will keep you alive when faced with a threat of some kind.  It really doesn't matter how you develop your signals so long as they're easily identifiable, easily produced, and can communicate the necessary information given the context in which they are being used.

Communication is clearly very important.  And the information we gather through communication will at times literally save your and your groups lives.  Consider, plan and practice what you need to do and you'll have a better chance at survival.

Until next time. Prepare. Remain vigilant. Be safe.

Dor

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Memorial Day

As we start the Memorial Day weekend I hope that everyone takes the time to enjoy their family and friends with parties, picnics, etc.  My greater hope is that during this weekend each person will take some time to recognize why we have a Memorial Day.

Google Memorial Day if you would like to learn this day's history.  There's plenty of information on that.  But the meaning is much easier to convey: A day of remembrance for the men and women who have sacrificed their lives protecting our freedom and way of life.  Can any of us who have not served in our armed forces understand this sacrifice?  A sacrifice born of national pride and the belief that we may need to protect ourselves through force if necessary?  I don't think we truly can.  Remember that apart from times of conscription, our armed forces is a completely VOLUNTARY force.  How incredible is that? Very, by my way of thinking.  I think it is because of this that I am even prouder of, and have greater respect for the men and women who choose the warrior path. Every member of the armed forces, from the cook in the mess hall, the driver in the convoy, the aide running messages, the mechanic tuning a jet engine to the pilots, tank commanders, and grunts kicking in doors and clearing buildings deserve our respect and admiration.  Each plays a VITAL role in keeping us safe and keeping their comrades alive.

And those who have paid the ultimate price, the loss of their lives, deserve to be remembered.  To be memorialized is to never be forgotten.  And we should never forget.

To all those men and women who fought bravely, THANK YOU.  I WILL NEVER FORGET YOUR SACRIFICE.