Friday, September 07, 2012

Twittering and Pinteresting Political Power

Tracking and counting political tweets and Facebook 'likes' are now a part of American politics - perhaps in much the same way that a teenager might observe and evaluate their popularity.

Yes, there is now a daily Twitter Political Index.

And there's high-profile use this year of political parties on Tumblr, Pinterest and Instagram.

Campaign strategists eyed the tweet-count for the Republican convention (Paul Ryan peaked at 6,000 tweets per minute, Romney had 14,300) and easily put their texting prowess to work - President Obama had 52,000 tweets per minute during his speech.

The singer Madonna, however, racked up 10,000 tweets per second during her Super Bowl halftime performance. (stat counts via here and here) But does any of this translate to actual votes?

The Pew Research folks compiled a study earlier this year on how Democrats, Republicans and Independent voters rated "social media" as a political tool. Some of the results:

"Some but not most users of social networking sites (SNS) say the sites are important for a variety of political activities:
  • 36% of SNS users say the sites are “very important” or “somewhat important” to them in keeping up with political news.
  • 26% of SNS users say the sites are “very important” or “somewhat important” to them in recruiting people to get involved in political issues that matter to them.
  • 25% of SNS users say the sites are “very important” or “somewhat important” to them for debating or discussing political issues with others.
  • 25% of SNS users say the sites are “very important” or “somewhat important” to them in finding other people who share their views about important political issues.
In each activity, Democrats who use social networking sites are more likely than Republicans or independents to say the sites are important."

Click to enlarge

Being talked about seems to be the goal, with the hope then that talk translate into votes. As an organizing tool, it would seem to be quite valuable and it also seems that Democrats use it best. If it leads to votes, however, is still the real question.

Or is all the twittering, pinteresting, facebooking merely a modern version of capturing hearts and minds?

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Dangerous Dumbing Down - The Fatal Flaw in Gov. Haslam's Education Policies

Is the process of getting an education merely a system designed get a job and to create a workforce? I wrote about this topic in August, noting Gov. Haslam's push to steer education into job training. As he said at the meeting with business leaders:

"The state that's going to win is going to be the state that figures out how to understand market demand, then define that back to...middle schoolers and high schoolers in terms of what do they need to be doing to prepare, and then funds that appropriately," Haslam told the group. "So what I'm trying to do is figure out how do we tie that loop together?"

This idea isn't a new creation, it dates back to the early 1900s, as noted in an editorial by Michael Roth, president of Wesleyan University, in today's NYTimes. And Roth points out the idea was challenged then by John Dewey, calling out such efforts as an attempt to reduce humans to mere tools of industry:

"Who wants to attend school to learn to be “human capital”? Who aspires for their children to become economic or military resources? Dewey had a different vision. Given the pace of change, it is impossible (he noted in 1897) to know what the world will be like in a couple of decades, so schools first and foremost should teach us habits of learning.

"For Dewey, these habits included awareness of our interdependence; nobody is an expert on everything. He emphasized “plasticity,” an openness to being shaped by experience: “The inclination to learn from life itself and to make the conditions of life such that all will learn in the process of living is the finest product of schooling.” 

"The inclination to learn from life can be taught in a liberal arts curriculum, but also in schools that focus on real-world skills, from engineering to nursing. The key is to develop habits of mind that allow students to keep learning, even as they acquire skills to get things done. This combination will serve students as individuals, family members and citizens — not just as employees and managers."

Gov. Haslam has already said he plans to introduce legislation to tailor education to the needs of business and industry. While I see the value of having higher employment rates, it's a critical error to sacrifice education in order to fulfill an industrial business plan. The discussion and debate about education must include more than their desire for faithful employees - smart, broadly-educated populations can accomplish so much more.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Combat At Knox World's Fair Park

Photographs by Virginia Beld
A horde of fighters swinging swords and howling commandos locked in combat are headed to the Amphitheater at the Knoxville World's Fair Park!

And you are invited to witness it all.

The Wild Thyme Players will present the 2nd Annual "Duels and Desserts" on Friday Sept. 14th at 7 pm for an evening of intense entertainment everyone can enjoy.

Stage combat scenes, an original one-act play, a silent auction and a baked goods sale will make for a heck of a great time at this fundraising event. The actors will perform vignettes using various fighting styles and weapons, including broadsword, rapier & dagger, quarterstaff, epee, knife and unarmed stage combat. The second half will present a swashbuckling original short play based on “The Three Musketeers” written by WTP fight choreographer Mark McGinley. I asked Mark to explain just what these combat scenes are like:

"We have a rather large cast. There are 21 of us playing a variety of roles. Our youngest cast member is Lexi Trigg, who is 11 years old. She's very excited about getting to do a sword fight with her father, Steve. One of our seniors, Jeanette Stevens, will be appearing in two fights that she wrote herself. 

"We've been in rehearsals since mid July. It takes a lot of time to put together a show with this much combat in it. 

"Stage combat is the art of simulating a fight for the purpose of telling a story. It's a matter of working safely with a partner to create the illusion of violence. Yes, stage combat has a lot to do with the martial arts. Good martial technique is important to sell the illusion to the audience. If a fighter is out of stance, lazy, or sloppy the audience will lose interest in what's happening on stage. Stage combat also has a lot in common with dance. When you're in a stage fight, you're doing a learned sequence of movements (choreography) with a partner (not an adversary). 

Rehearsals for the daring combat

"All our weapons are 100% real spring steel. No rubber weapons here. They just don't make that pretty ringing noise. We do use dulled blades, though. We're not crazy, you know.

"And our silent auction will have a pretty wide variety of items to bid on. We have UT memorabilia, free passes to Flyaway in Pigeon Forge, hand made jewelry, and more. And of course, there will be baked goods."

Yummy desserts and combat! That makes for a winning combination in my book.

The event gets underway with doors opening at 7 PM, and the performance will begin at 8 PM. Admission is free with suggested $5 donation or bake sale purchase. Gift packs with merchandise and gift certificates from various local businesses will be up for bid in the silent auction. A portion of the proceeds will go to TribeOne, a community leadership development organization based in East Knoxville. Media sponsorship is provided by WUOT-91.9 FM. For information call 325-9877 or email

The WTP mission is to provide collaborative learning opportunities in a process-centered environment for artists of all experience levels and backgrounds, and to encourage appreciation of theatre in our community. Formed in 2006, the company is an all-volunteer 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. 
So go!

Monday, September 03, 2012

The Great Maple Syrup Robbery Mystifies Canada

Just how does one steal over 10 million pounds of maple syrup? And who knew that Canada has a 'global strategic maple syrup reserve'?

One of the warehouses in the 'reserve' network in Canada held an inventory check recently and the theft was discovered ... yet, the thieves only took the syrup and left a massive wall of empty barrels:

"Now, we are trying to evaluate how much maple syrup is missing. It’s walls of barrels of maple syrup. It’s a very big warehouse. We have to take every barrel and check it for the content, and weigh them. We think that its a significant amount. But there is maple syrup left. But we will also have to be very cautious or take a lot of precautions.We will analyze it. Every barrel is graded and has a bar code, and its very strict. So now, that someone has just came in this warehouse, and just like played with the maple syrup? No. This is not fun. We will take it very seriously."

Many folks speculate the syrup was never really there, speculating that someone or a group of someones, hustled thousands of empty barrels into the warehouse. It's a true mystery and perhaps the market will be flooded (slowly perhaps) with black market syrup, estimations are that one-fourth of the 'strategic reserve' are gone.

Oddly - there have been recent numerous instances of large-scale thefts of sweet stuff.

-  In British Columbia, a heist of honey and bees and hives was reported: "The equipment required to pull off such a caper may have been significant. Constable MacDonald speculated that the hive frames may have been placed into a temporary structure, then transported on a flatbed truck. But even lifting the honey-laden frames would not have been easy. 'You can just imagine the weight of some of these large hives,' he said. “They probably needed a forklift.”

Tons of elderberries were stolen from one massive Austrian farm: "The thieves, who cut an opening in the perimeter fence to access their target, had probably been at work since last Monday, police said. They even came back for more on Friday and before dawn yesterday. The berries were of a special variety used in the pharmaceutical industry and as colouring agents.