All posts by jpyohannes

The Future is Freaking Me OUT!!!

I love technology. I love big TVs, computers, video games, tablets, smart phones… basically anything with a screen. I’m pretty sure I’m addicted to Netflix, and I fall for all of Apple’s obvious marketing brainwashing ploys.

But I still don’t know how to react to certain technological developments. Take the Google Glass for example. Its a cool idea that we’ve been seen I’m movies for years but how practical are they? Or do they even need to be practical? What about privacy rights? Can the user record video or take pictures of someone without them knowing? What about the new Samsung smart watch? Hasn’t that idea been around since Dick Tracy and the Jetsons?

Well now those things are reality and I admittedly have mixed feelings about them. This week’s big development in technology news has left me feeling the same way. I wasn’t surprised to find out that Google announced on Friday that they just acquired robotics company Boston Dynamics. I was however surprised to find out that this is the 8th robotics company that Google has bought.

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Knowing how Google does things, I’m kind of afraid to see where this is all going. Will Google use their power for good or evil? How long before we see a Google-Haliburton collaboration.

I’m also a little concerned about how technology is messing society up. We’ve become so dependent on our devices that its hard to remember a time without them. But I still remember my first pager. I also remember running around looking for a pay phone with $5 in quarters and a folded up piece of paper in my pocket that had the phone number of everyone I knew scribbled on it.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/14/technology/google-adds-to-its-menagerie-of-robots.html?hp&_r=1&

Where Can You Buy a Snow Shovel in Egypt?

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Complaining about the weather is the right of every Minnesotan. Those of us who have grown up here trade stories about the ’91 Halloween blizzard, or the ’97 heatwave. We complain about the weather year round, but we have the right to. Minnesota experiences extremes of hot and cold throughout the year, but at least we’re prepared for it. We have snow plows and salt for the streets and most people have a spare snow shovel in the garage or tucked away in the basement waiting for the first snowfall. Boots, hats, gloves, and a brush for our car… we know what we’re doing.  But what the hell do you do if you live in Egypt you wake up one morning and it snowed!!???

Earlier this week, the Middle East was hit with a huge snowstorm. The storm by the name of Alexa, spanned from Turkey to Egypt. Cairo saw its first snowfall in 112 years! Parts of Jordan hadn’t seen snow since the 1950’s. Based on how crazy Minnesota gets when it snows, can you imagine what it would be like to drive in the snow for the first time… in Jerusalem… which received up to 15 inches of snow. 

On a more serious note, the important thing that we should be concerned with are the millions of Syrian refugees that are spread out through the region. With about 250 refugee camps in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley its hard to imagine relief agencies having enough blankets and hats to pass around. 

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http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-25386698

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/israel/10516498/Historic-snow-storms-spread-havoc-and-misery-across-the-Middle-East.html

 

 

 

Too Young to Drink. Too Rich for Prison?

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Have you ever heard of the word “affluenza” before? I would probably guess that 99.9% of American’s haven’t, but apparently my spell check recognizes it as a real word. Well some 16 year old rich kid from Texas just dodged a 20 year prison sentence because his lawyer claimed that the boy suffered from “affluenza”… Basically he’s a spoiled brat who’s never been punished.

16 year old Ethan Couch was sentenced to 10 years probation along with a short time-out at a “rehabilitation” center after he plead guilty to killing 4 people while driving drunk after a party. He was driving 70 mph in a 45 mph zone with a blood alcohol level of 0.24, which is three times the legal limit. Couch’s lawyers (daddy’s lawyers), argued that he couldn’t be held responsible for his actions because he came from a very wealthy family and he never saw any consequences for his bad actions. In other words, since he has never been punished before, he doesn’t know the difference between right and wrong and money will solve all of his problems.

According to a report by CNN, a psychologist testified that “the teen’s family felt wealth bought privilege, and that Couch’s life could be turned around with one to two years of treatment and no contact with his parents”.

The “rehab center” by the way, reportedly costs around $450,00 per year and includes programs such as: meditation, culinary courses, and equestrian lessons, and of beach access if he has good behavior. So instead of 20 years in prison for killing 4 people with his truck on the side of the road, this spoiled brat gets to go to rich kid fantasy camp. On top of that, he doesn’t have to see his parents for two years!

Once again, he is taught that there are no consequences for his actions as long as you (or daddy) can afford to pay someone off.

http://www.cnn.com/2013/12/11/us/texas-teen-dwi-wreck/index.html

 

80 Years Later… Prohibition and a Country of Hypocrites

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December 5th marked the 80th anniversary of the repeal of prohibition and the ratification of the 18th amendment of the Constitution. The prohibition of alcohol lasted a total of 13 years starting in 1920. During this time it was illegal to sell, produce, import, or transport alcohol anywhere in the United States. Prohibition was an extremely controversial issue that divided the nation and changed how Americans view their rights under the constitution. Looking back, “The Great Experiment” was seen as a huge failure. Crime rates went up, tax revenue went down, and most Americans fell into one of three categories: dry, wet, or hypocrites.

The 21st amendment ended the national prohibition of alcohol, but more importantly, it gave individual states the right of implementing their own prohibition, on their own terms. This means that every state could have its own laws regulating the sales and production of alcohol. Mississippi was the last state to repeal prohibition in 1966. Until as late as 1987 it was illegal in the state of Kansas to sell liqour  by the drink on premises, which meant no bar hopping. Today, 8% of America is still dry, there are countless towns and counties across the US where the sale of alcohol is still illegal.

With each state having it’s own alcohol laws, lawmakers are able to tailor the laws to fit the wants of their constituents.  Perhaps that is why Wisconsin can sell alcohol at grocery stores and gas stations, while Minnesotan lawmakers choose not to allow this. This is the same reason why Minnesotans have to drive over to Wisconsin to buy beer on Sundays. For a while, the legal drinking age was also different from state to state. In one state the legal age could be 18, while a neighboring state could have set it at 21, it was the right of the state to choose.

Today, many states are reexamining the other “Great Experiment”, the prohibition of Marijuana. 21 states and Washington D.C., have now passed laws legalizing the use of Marijuana in some form. Washington state and Colorado have passed laws to legalize recreational Marijuana for adult use. So where are we going from here? Should the federal government stop regulating marijuana and leave it up to each state? 21 states have already made their own laws despite the federal government’s stance on the issue, is it safe to say that we are heading towards the legalization of marijuana around the rest of the country? At what point should the federal government just give up on enforcement?

http://www.governing.com/gov-data/state-marijuana-laws-map-medical-recreational.html

http://geekologie.com/2012/03/where-not-to-visit-the-us-guide-to-dry-c.php

http://www.marinij.com/lifestyles/ci_24656147/barfly-prohibition-is-over-well-almost.html

Why is Everybody Worried About Their Privacy When They’re All on Facebook?

So, I admit it… I am not on Facebook. I have no desire to be on Facebook, and I am aware that I may be missing out on a ton of cool things, but I just can’t do it. That’s just the way it is.

I am one of only about a handful of people that I know that doesn’t have a Facebook account. Anytime I meet another person who is in my same position, there is usually a high five, a head nod, or we both immediately shout out an excited list of reasons why we choose not to be on Facebook. It’s a special bond, like we’re part of our own network that will probably not hear from each other again for several months… or ever.  

Now don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against Facebook or people who are on it. It has done amazing things for our world. It has connected millions of people across the globe in a way that was not possible before. Its easier to stay in touch with old friends or relatives. Musicians have used it as a way to collaborate with other artist or reach out to a larger fan-base.  It has been used as a tool to organize the masses and spread social awareness of many issues. Businesses and non-profit organizations are able to connect with their audiences and listen to what they are asking for. Facebook really is amazing. So why am I resisting it so much?

Well, the short answer that I give people is… privacy.  I don’t like Facebook because I feel like people expose too much of their lives on it. I know it all depends on how you use social media of any kind, but think about what the average person has on their Facebook page. How well can you get to know someone by their Facebook page?

Look at your Facebook page, do you have any of these on them?

  • Your name
  • Your age
  • Your relationship status
  • Where you live
  • Where you went/go to school
  • Where you work
  • Pictures of yourself, friends, or family
  • Pictures of your last vacation
  • Pictures of yourself at a party (maybe a little tipsy)
  • Conversations with other people who are also on Facebook
  • Your phone number ( I know it seems crazy but some people do)

I know that posting any of these things onto Facebook is optional. But if you don’t post pictures or have conversations, what fun is it?  And YES, I know that you can set privacy settings so your grandma doesn’t see the pictures of you at Mardi Gras from last year, but I am still amazed that so many people are willing to put so much of their life online. Even if a person “doesn’t have anything to hide”, does that mean that you need to expose yourself like this?Image

Again, I have nothing against Facebook or its users. Most of the people I know are on it and are constantly trying to convince me to get on it. As of June 2013, Facebook claims to have 1.15 billion users, so it must be pretty cool. But for me, especially during a time where the NSA has become a household name and our government is being accused of spying on its own people and people from around the world, I still think I rather not have one.

For more information on Facebook privacy and general privacy on the web, check out these links…

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/07/technology/personaltech/protecting-your-privacy-on-the-new-facebook.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2013/10/07/privacy-facebook-google/2935383/

How much is your degree worth to you?

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Education today is arguably the most important investment that a person can make in themselves and their future. In theory, the more education and qualifications that a person holds, the more career opportunities they will have. With better opportunities, usually comes more financial security; depending on a person’s view of the “American Dream”, more money may equate to a better quality of life. If education is viewed as an investment, then just like any other investment, you need to spend money to make money.

With over 1 trillion dollars currently invested into student loans in America, many are left wondering if their return will be worth their investment. Others wonder why they should even take the risk at all. As the cost of higher education rises, a college degree becomes more of a high-risk investment rather than a high-return investment. The cost of higher education in the United States today is higher than it has ever been before, which is forcing millions of Americans to fall into thousands of dollars of debt and raise the national student debt total in pursuit of better career opportunities. The cost of tuition is rising because of higher spending by universities and because of less funding coming from government subsidies, if something is not done to change this trend there may be a decline in college enrollment and degrees earned.

For the majority of Americans, earning a college degree is their best chance of reaching the middle-class. For most, the reality may be that due to rising tuition costs at public and private universities, pursuing their education may very well put them in so much debt, they will struggle just to stay in the middle-class for most of their lives. Based on a report done by The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, college tuition and fees had increased 439 percent from 1982 to 2007, while the median family income rose only 147 percent within the same time period. With private university tuition exceeding $60,000 a year, and out of state costs at many state schools exceeding $40,000, some people are graduating with debt loads of $100,000 or more.

While there are cheaper options when it comes to college choices, many college students don’t think about their job outlooks after graduation. In a recent study done by the Associated Press, with the help of researchers from Northeastern University, Drexel University, and the Economic Policy Institute, based on data from the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey and the U.S. Department of Labor, 53% of bachelor degree holders under the age of 25 are either unemployed or underemployed.

With statistics like these, it can be really discouraging to be a college student right now. But can anything really be done to solve the challenges that college students face?  As college tuition continues to rise, and the job market becomes more competitive, college students have to become much more resourceful in the ways that they pay for college and find jobs. Its a jungle out there, be careful.

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/04/53-of-recent-college-grads-are-jobless-or-underemployed-how/256237/

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/03/education/03college.html?_r=0