WNYHigherEdCamp

Yesterday, I was privileged to attend the Western New York Higher Ed EdCamp at Daemen University. Except for a few visits to the gymnasium, I’d never set foot on the campus until yesterday. Soon after driving through the main entrance, I spied Duns Scotus Hall, which reminded me I was on the university’s campus rooted in the Franciscan Tradition. The conference took place in the Social Room of the  John R. Yurtchuk Student Center, which is at the center of the campus. Registration for the EdCamp provided me with a parking pass, and after some driving around, I found a spot in front of the residence hall and just a short walk to the student center.

Upon entering the building, I was directed to the second floor and the large Social Room. As I walked toward the front of the room, I spotted a long-time friend, Dr. Katie McFarland. She greeted me warmly, and we soon shared our lives since the last time we met. EdCamp organizer Angela Stockman also came over and gave me a warm greeting and said how glad she was to see me. We had a nice lunch, and then the conference began with a keynote by Daemen University senior Maggie Burns, who shared her journey as a recovering perfectionist. Who can’t identify with that? She was poised and passionate and invited me to remember what I might have thought of that subject when I was her age.

At each of our seven tables, there were 3×5 cards for us to fill out areas we’d like to learn or share about. I was at table one with Katie, Maggie, and another Daemen senior who was also a special education major. Katie filled in the topics we picked among our several common interests and added them to the shared Google Doc displayed on large projection screens in the front of the room.

I came to the conference wanting to learn more about how other colleges and universities approached the hot topic of artificial intelligence. I wasn’t disappointed as I heard firsthand from experienced professionals what they were doing. The senior students also shared their positives about how AI helped them write lesson plans, differentiate instruction, and rewrite objectives. I found that most of the professional staff embraced the idea of AI in the classroom. There were concerns about privacy and plagiarism, but overall, I came away with the impression that AI is here to stay. I was pleasantly surprised that Daemen University has a position statement on the use of generative AI tools at the university. Further research after yesterday’s conference demonstrated to me that Daemen is a leader in this area in Western New York higher education.

The last session I attended was one I had proposed on how folks were using social networking to share what they were learning. How have personal learning networks evolved in the post-Twitter/X? I shared about the Fediverse and Mastodon, but no one else at our table was familiar with that platform. LinkedIn has become the platform of choice for sharing. I came away from the conference encouraged and hungry for more. I hope that this conference will continue and that I’ll be eager to attend. The EdCamp model is learner-centric and encourages the free flow of ideas. Thank you to Angela Stockman, conference organizer and thought leader, for her leadership.

Jesus The Refugee

A poem created from a ChatGPT prompt with an image from Stable Diffusion.

In shadows cast by desert suns,
A story of a journey begun.
Jesus walks the southern line,
A refugee seeking a hope divine.

Through arid plains, a dusty road,
He bears the weight of a heavy load.
Innocence draped in tattered shroud,
Seeking solace ‘neath the border’s shroud.

A humble child, a migrant’s tale,
His weary steps leave a dusty trail.
Seeking refuge, a haven to find,
In a world where compassion’s often confined.

No room at the inn, a familiar theme,
Yet echoes of love in the silent stream.
In the borderland where humanity meets,
Jesus walks, humility at his feet.

Strangers offer hands, hearts unfold,
A parable of compassion, untold.
Crossing borders, transcending fear,
In the embrace of love, redemption’s near.

Through the Rio Grande, a baptismal flow,
Jesus, the refugee, continues to grow.
In the desert’s heat and the border’s cold,
A timeless tale of love, forever told.

New MacBook Air M2

It’s been a few years since I purchased a MacBook. My last Mac was a MacBook Pro I bought in the spring of 2020. Since then, I’ve been using Linux exclusively. My desktop is an Intel NUC 11 that’s running Linux Mint Cinnamon, and I’ve no plans to change that anytime soon. However, I’ve heard lots of good reviews of Apple Silicon. I experimented with a MacMini with the M1 chip a bit over a year ago but sent it back and purchased an HP DevOne, which I had docked for just about a year.

When I upgraded to the NUC 11, the DevOne became an extra laptop. I’ve been using it since August in that capacity. Last month I took it to All Things Open and used it for note-taking, writing, and tooting. I was disappointed in its battery life and the 14-inch display was not enough for a guy who’s used to more desktop real estate.

I was attracted to the MacBook Air M2’s 15.3-inch display. My eyes aren’t what they used to be, and I need bigger fonts on a bigger display. I read many reviews and visited the Apple Store nearby to inspect this new Mac. I was impressed and almost purchased a unit that day. I decided to walk around the mall and left without purchasing the MacBook. More positive reviews and commentary from some of the open-source podcasts I listen to.  That led me to purchase this unit on a ‘Black Friday’ deal from Amazon. The MacBook Air arrived today and got it configured the way I wanted to. I installed the latest Python from Python.org and Visual Studio Code .

I wanted to ensure that I could use this new laptop to continue to hone my Python skills.

I used HomeBrew to install some of my other favorite open-source apps which included GnuCash, MacDown, and Joplin. I’m not doing any heavy lifting with this laptop but I was attracted by its reported long battery life. This MacBook Air M2 came with 256 GB SSD and 8 GB RAM. I like the feel of the keyboard and the overall performance and build quality. There are no readily apparent downsides to this new purchase.

 

 

 

Thank you for your service

It’s become customary to thank veterans nationwide with this terse response. Whenever I see active-duty folks in airports or supermarkets, I make it a point to walk up, extend a hand, and thank them for their service. Just this week while attending a St. Bonaventure University men’s basketball contest I walked up to a couple of ROTC cadets who were recruiting and thanked them. It’s a nice gesture, especially for veterans my age who served during the Vietnam conflict when we were routinely mocked and, in some cases, spit on.

 

Now in many villages, veteran banners are displayed on light poles and elsewhere thanking us for serving. In our community, I walk by them daily, and I like to read them and note their particular service dates and assignments. Many served in combat areas while others like myself did not, but what is common to us all is that we answered a call to serve our country. I enlisted in the United States Naval Reserve in June 1972. I volunteered after receiving a notice of pre-induction physical. My draft number was 65. I knew I was going to be called up but managed to finish a year of college prior to that event.

 

I was frightened. Who wouldn’t be? Folks were still coming home in body bags and torn up by the rigors of war. I was opposed to the Vietnam War and had recently marched in an antiwar demonstration near the campus of Oswego State. Some in our generation fled to Canada, and who could blame them? Vietnam was a war of choice that benefited the military-industrial complex far more than the citizens of either Vietnam or the United States. Was I going to move to Canada and never see my family again? That didn’t seem realistic.

 

I set out on a discovery process. I took the AFQT (Armed Forces Qualification Test). A test to join the military? I thought all they wanted was warm bodies. I looked at the Coast Guard and the US Navy. I qualified to be an Ocean Systems Technician with the USCG, but they wanted a six-year commitment. That seemed like a long time to a nineteen-year-old. The US Navy had four years of active service. I flinched at that but the Navy recruiter told me about the naval reserve. He gave me an address, and with my grandmother at my side, we drove to nearby Jamestown, New York. I met Petty Officer Leonard Tullar on that day which changed the direction of my life. He explained the “2×6” program, two years of active duty, and the rest in the active reserve. The yeoman administered a battery of qualification tests which led them to suggest that since I scored high on clerical abilities, I was uniquely qualified to be a personnel man or a hospital corpsman. I can’t remember the exact timing of everything, but I made the decision to join as a hospital corpsman and took the oath of enlistment on June 21, 1972. I was guaranteed Hospital Corpsman “A” School at Great Lakes, IL.

 

That day changed the direction of my life for the better. I grew up in a home where I was routinely told by my father that I would never amount to much, and that I didn’t have what it took to be successful. I had faced an endless stream of verbal and physical abuse, and being called to war and an uncertain future didn’t seem promising, but it was.

 

I left for recruit training on August 23, 1972, and arrived at Great Lakes with hundreds of other guys. All the guys in Company 350 and our sister Company 351 were reservists. I met guys from across the United States who like me faced peril and uncertainty with courage. In the process, we transitioned from civilians to members of the United States Navy. Our company commander, MMC Boyd, named me “Education Petty Officer.” My job was to help the slow learners learn the Uniform Code of Military Justice, first aid, nuclear, biological, and chemical warfare. We were tear-gassed, learned how to fight shipboard fires, and graduated seven weeks later on October 13.

 

We reservists didn’t get the customary two weeks’ leave after recruit training. We went right on to our “A” schools. That was a trip across the road to Hospital Corps School. We were housed for eight of our fourteen weeks in wooden barracks built for World War II. We slept in bunks in open bay barracks just like we had been in boot camp. Our “head” or bathroom was a row of sinks and six commodes that faced each other with no stalls to separate. I never got used to that. After fourteen weeks, I graduated eighth in a class of sixty-eight. The guys ahead of me had been in pre-med programs and had four years of college. We learned anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, patient care, and then some.

 

I excelled in the Navy. Everything my father had said about me wasn’t true. I wasn’t lazy, I was an overachiever. After “A” school, I served in several duty stations. First, in Albany, GA, at a dispensary, I worked labor and delivery in the newborn nursery. Then I was transferred to Groton, CT, where I served at the naval hospital as the lead corpsman for four general surgeons. I was awarded Command Sailor of the Quarter in July 1974. I left active duty in January 1975 as a Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class. I surpassed my Dad’s rank. I served two more years in the active reserve, drilling once a month on weekends and two weeks in the summer each year. I was given the option of the standby reserve for my final year. On June 21, 1978, I became a permanent civilian with an honorable discharge still hanging on a wall in our home.

 

In 2008, I returned to Great Lakes to watch my nephew graduate from recruit training. The memories were flooding back. On the wall in the gift shop that day, I spotted a quote from John F. Kennedy that sums up how I felt then and now:

 

“I can imagine no more rewarding a career. And any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worthwhile, I think can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction: ‘I served in the United States Navy.”

Make America Great Again, they said

 

As the past grew rosier inside their head.
In a nostalgic haze, they longed for the past,
Where the present’s complexity was outcast.

They yearned for a time when walls stood tall,
And diversity was a whisper, not a call.
When factories roared, and coal reigned supreme,
And progress was a distant, futuristic dream.

They dreamt of leaders with bluster and might,
Ignoring the facts, embracing the night.
Science was a hoax, they vehemently claimed,
The truth was but a perspective, easily maimed.

In their delusions, they glossed over the strife,
Of the marginalized, struggling for life.
The “great” they sought was a selective view,
A cherry-picked past, sanitized and askew.

But greatness, oh greatness, isn’t found in the past,
It’s built in the present, a moldable cast.
It thrives in compassion, in justice’s embrace,
In unity’s melody, not division’s disgrace.

So let’s make America great, not again but anew,
With empathy’s fire and equality’s hue.
Let’s build a future where all have a place,
And the shadows of bigotry we bravely erase.

OpenAI. (2023). ChatGPT (September 25 Version) [Large language model]. https://chat.openai.com

Book Review: Enough by Cassidy Hutchinson

Cassidy Hutchinson’s memoir, Enough, is a captivating and important read. Hutchinson, a former aide to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, was a key witness in the January 6th hearings, and her book provides a firsthand account of the events leading up to and on the day of the attack on the Capitol.

Hutchinson’s writing is clear, concise, and engaging. She does not shy away from the difficult or disturbing details of her experience, but she also tells her story with honesty and compassion. She is particularly candid about her own journey, from being a staunch Trump supporter to realizing the truth about his character and his role in the January 6th attack.

One of the most striking things about Enough is Hutchinson’s courage. She stood up to her superiors, risked her career, and faced threats and intimidation in order to tell the truth about what she witnessed. Her story is a reminder that even the smallest and most powerless voices can make a difference.

Enough is also a powerful cautionary tale about the dangers of unchecked power and the importance of defending democracy. Hutchinson shows us how easily a democracy can be subverted, and she reminds us that it is up to each of us to stand up for what is right.

Overall, Enough is an essential read for anyone who wants to understand what happened on January 6th and the ongoing threat to American democracy. It is also a moving and inspiring story of courage and resilience.

Positive aspects of the book:

  • Hutchinson’s writing is clear, concise, and engaging.
  • She is honest and candid about her own journey, from being a staunch Trump supporter to realizing the truth about his character and his role in the January 6th attack.
  • She is courageous in standing up to her superiors and risking her career to tell the truth.
  • Enough is a powerful cautionary tale about the dangers of unchecked power and the importance of defending democracy.

I highly recommend Enough to anyone who is interested in American politics, current events, or the human story of courage and resilience.

Written with an assist from Google Bard

The Freedom of Linux: A World Beyond Hardware Restrictions

In the ever-evolving world of technology, software updates often bring excitement and anticipation as they promise new features and improvements. However, with operating system updates for proprietary operating systems, the excitement can be tempered by stringent hardware requirements that leave many users facing the inevitable need for a new computer. Fortunately, an alternative,  the Linux kernel which powers the many Linux distributions and open source, allows users to embrace the latest software without hardware limitations.

A Diverse Landscape of Compatibility

Unlike proprietary operating systems with strict hardware prerequisites, Linux distributions offer fresh air. Whether you choose Pop!_OS, Fedora, or Linux Mint, Linux’s open nature ensures compatibility with a wide range of hardware, even aging systems. This remarkable flexibility is a testament to the power of open-source software.

Take, for instance, the case of the Darter Pro laptop from System76, acquired in early 2019 with Pop!_OS 18.10 pre-installed. Despite the years that have passed, this hardware continues to support the latest versions of not just Pop!_OS but also Ubuntu, Fedora, and Arch without breaking a sweat. Such an upgrade would be an unattainable dream if one attempted to install Windows 11 on the same machine. Likewise, the closed ecosystem of MacOS locks users into a world where they can only experience the latest software if they invest in Apple’s proprietary hardware.

The Hidden Treasure of Open Source

Regrettably, many people remain oblivious to the hidden treasure trove that is open-source software. Beyond the Linux kernel that forms the foundation of countless distributions, a vast ecosystem of applications thrives, often outperforming their proprietary counterparts. This abundance of high-quality, open-source software is built on principles prioritizing user freedom and choice.

For instance, consider the MarkText application, a tool I use to craft this article. It’s an exemplary testament to the capabilities of open-source software. With abundant features, a user-friendly interface, and an active community of developers and users, MarkText competes toe-to-toe with proprietary alternatives without any vendor lock-in or hardware mandates that plague proprietary systems. This is the essence of open source—a realm in which the user controls.

Breaking the Chains of Vendor Lock-In

Vendor lock-in is a pervasive challenge in the technology world. Proprietary software and hardware vendors often design their products to ensure consumers remain captive to their offerings. This strategy serves the interests of these companies. Still, it can be detrimental to the user, who may be in a never-ending cycle of purchasing new hardware to stay current.

In contrast, Linux and open-source software operate under a different ethos. They empower users to take control of their technology. With the freedom to choose software and customize their experience, users are no longer chained to a specific vendor’s roadmap. This approach breaks the cycle of forced obsolescence and keeps hardware relevant for years, ultimately saving users money and reducing electronic waste.

A Sustainable Approach

In an era of increasing environmental consciousness, the longevity of hardware takes on added importance. The “throwaway culture” of rapid hardware turnover is financially wasteful and environmentally unsustainable. By embracing Linux and open-source software, users can extend the lifespan of their hardware, contributing to a more sustainable future.

Additionally, the open-source community fosters collaboration and innovation without the limitations of proprietary systems. Developers worldwide work together to create secure, stable, and feature-rich software, often outpacing the development cycles of their proprietary counterparts. This collaborative spirit ensures that Linux users can access cutting-edge technology without the need for frequent hardware upgrades.

Conclusion

In the world of technology, where operating system updates often come with stringent hardware requirements, Linux stands as a beacon of freedom and sustainability. Its compatibility with a wide range of hardware, commitment to open-source principles, and freedom from vendor lock-in make it a compelling choice for those who wish to break free from the shackles of constantly upgrading their hardware.

As we navigate an ever-changing technological landscape, let us remember that there is a world beyond hardware restrictions, a world where Linux and open-source software offer an oasis of choice and longevity. In this realm, the user is king, and technology serves their needs, not vice versa. So, next time you hear the siren call of a new operating system update, consider the boundless possibilities of Linux and liberate yourself from the cycle of forced obsolescence.

Rodent Flatulence Causing Power Outages in Small Towns

Residents of a small town in the Midwest are baffled by recent power outages. The outages are happening at random, and there is no apparent cause.
However, one theory has gained traction among the townsfolk: rodent flatulence.
It turns out that rodents produce a gas called methane, which is flammable. When this gas builds up in electrical equipment, it can cause a spark, leading to a power outage.
This theory is supported by the fact that the outages happen more often in the summer when rodents are more active. Additionally, the outages often happen at night, when rodents are most likely awake and producing gas.
Of course, there is no scientific evidence to support this theory. But that hasn’t stopped the townsfolk from believing it.
Some residents have taken to calling the outages “the methane menace.” Others have started wearing gas masks when they go to bed, just in case.
The power company has been unable to find a definitive cause for the outages. But until they do, the townsfolk will continue to blame the rodents.
In the meantime, the methane menace is keeping everyone on their toes. People are constantly checking their flashlights and making sure their batteries are charged. And they’re all keeping an eye out for any suspicious-looking rodents.
Who knows? Maybe one day, the townsfolk will catch the culprit red-handed, releasing a silent but deadly fart that causes the power to go out. Until then, they’ll just have to live with the uncertainty.
But one thing is certain: this story will be told for years.

Satire created with an assist from Google Bard