No broadband in Rural America? Really?

I was surfing this morning a tripped over this article from The Center for Rural Affairs. The headline states “More than half of all rural Americans lack fast, reliable broadband internet connections.”

Here’s the link:

It talks about how more and more farmers are getting on line and then bemoans the fact they can’t get high speed internet. While I certainly agree that more and more farms are connecting, I could not disagree more with the the connectivity issue.

To state my case, I will speak from experience. I live in rural South Dakota. The population density in my county is under five persons per square mile. Considering about 40% of that population lives in the county seat, it makes things pretty quiet out here. My township population density is about two persons per square mile.

I not only have broadband connectivity, I have five choices for providers (six, if you want to include my smart phone as a mobile hot-spot). This is for a guy who lives 16 miles from the closest town (population 108).

My current provider (Northern Wireless Communications) uses an ingenious system of towers, roof top antennas and up-links to provide me 15Mbps + service. My land-line phone company (Venture Communications Cooperative) also has high speed internet through a recently installed fiber optic network. I have three additional satellite choices Hughesnet, Dish and DirecTV). There might be more. I am only aware of these because of their advertising.

So, to say rural America does not have access to high speed internet is not taking into account all the options. Many of the studies I have seen on this subject only consider hard wired (or fiber) connections. They do not include satellite communications.

Be careful with these blanket assumptions. My friend Ben Winchester of the University of of Minnesota Extension, coined a term, “Anecdata”. Here’s the definition as best as I can remember it, “Information which is presented as if it is the result of serious research, but which is actually based purely on what someone believes is true.”

There are a good many of these anecdotal untruths around us today and rural America having no access to broadband is simply another one.

Rick Skorupski is a writer and author living in Northeast South Dakota.

Published in: on August 26, 2015 at 9:08 am  Comments (1)  

Remember last year?

I distinctly remember this first day of February last year. It was in the middle of my “winter of discontent”. The temperature on the High Plains went below zero just before Christmas and when we got tired of that, it got colder.

January seemed to never end. It continued, day after miserable cold day, while our weathermen and women kept talking about the Polar Vortex. This was was the first time the furnace could not keep up. On many days I had roaring fire in the wood stove and the furnace on just to stay “room temperature”. I remember distinctly posting on Facebook, “Aren’t you glad there is no such thing as January thirty second?”

January last year set records for cold all over North America, Europe and the northern tier of Russia. There were natural gas shortages in Europe as well as propane shortages in the US Midwest. There were stories of Orange crop failure from ice as far south as central Florida.

Yes, we were all glad to see January of 2014 come to an end. There was an end to the misery on the horizon. Little did we know this Polar pattern would last four more long months into mid May.

Oh, wait a minute… Our President said in his speech that last year was the warmest on record. I must be wrong. I must have dreamed it. I must have imagined writing that check to my plumber for the repair of frozen pipes. How can this be? How can I be so wrong? My President wouldn’t lie to me. He, after all, is smarter than I am. I have to be mistaken. He must be right, He’s our President. He is the smartest president in decades.

I can only conclude that the proper scientific method is to ignore the highly accurate satellite temperature measuring data, then cherry pick ground sites with dubious reliability and jink those numbers to get a rise of .02 degrees (inside the margin of error of .1 degrees) and therefore conclude that the year that held “the winter of my discontent” and the summer that was too cool for swimming was, in fact, the warmest year on record.

If I did those kind of calculations with my bank account I’d be in jail.

So where do we military retirees go from here?

On this first day of 2015 I thought I would like to toss around an idea.

Once upon a time (when I was naive enough to believe a government agency could actually successfully perform its primary mission), I suggested to my Congresswoman that the retired military medical (along with the associated expenses and funding) should be moved to the VA and out of the DOD. That would free up the DOD to work on killing people and breaking things (their primary mission) and no longer have the drain of our medical care.

One of the VA’s primary functions is to provide medical care to Veterans. Since that is what they are set up to do, they would then get the dollars and the people to do the job.

To me, this looked like a win – win.

Like I said, that back when I was naive enough to believe the VA actually did their job. Then came the stories of VA Phoenix where people were dying waiting for an appointment. Stories about VA employees and administrators lying on records to hide their mismanagement. AND then those people getting bonuses and promotions even after the facts came out.

Now I am at a loss as to what to suggest. We who are retired military are the bastard step children of the DOD. Our medical expenses and pensions are a direct drain on their weapons building and people building ability. We are a pain in their butt, frankly. I can understand that. We need to get out from the DOD funding umbrella if we are to keep any of what little we have left of the broken promises.

VA isn’t the answer. What is? I would hate to see a new government agency start up to do this, at the same time I don’t see outsourcing as the answer.

What are your thoughts?

If we stay where we are, what we have will continue to erode as the DOD tries to comply with force needs in a climate of smaller budgets. If we go to the VA, we may not live to tell the tale.

By he way, I have nothing but good to say about the VA in South Dakota. I don’t deal with them often (annual physicals – eye tests, hearing tests and the like), but every experience has been a painless one.

Published in: on January 1, 2015 at 10:25 am  Leave a Comment  
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The news this week is all abuzz over a man jumping the White House fence, running across the lawn and getting into the East Room before being stopped.

There is a national !GASP! in the collective media. Congress is holding hearings. One Congressman suggested issuing a ‘shoot to kill on site’ order. Investigations will follow. Heads will roll! (well, actually they won’t – bureaucrats are a protected species). There will be a lot of talk about “This never happening again!”.

Is it time to answer the question, “How did we get here?”

Here’s a bit of history: In the eighteen hundreds, even into the early nineteen hundreds, people in Washington DC would hold family picnics on the lawn of what was then called The Presidential Manor. There were no gates, no fences and no gun laws. Teddy Roosevelt (one of my least favorite Republican presidents) would even walk around the grounds and talk with the folks picnicking on the lawn.

Today to even lean on the tall wrought iron  fence surrounding that building will get you, at the very least, a stern warning.

What happened? Why is this so. Are we not the same people as our great – great grandfathers and grandmothers? The DNA hasn’t changed. So the environment had to.

In the eighteen hundreds people were self reliant those who weren’t were aided by private charities. They, for the most part, went to church. They worked hard and raised families. The children of those families were taught Judeo-Christian values, manners and respect for others. Mothers and fathers were in control of their children’s upbringing and education. They were taught the American culture. Violence was minimal and literacy was significantly higher than it is today.

Today we have a new culture. A culture where government is father and mother. Government is the teacher and the disciplinarian. Government gives and takes as it see fit. Government is the new king. People in this new culture are raised by television (public or government television during the formative years) and government schools. There is no mom at home to set a standard, because mom has to work to pay the taxes this new king demands. Thanks to the Progressives in the ACLU, there is no God in school to provide any guidance or moral compass. Thanks to moral relativism there is no right or wrong. People are not restrained by this new faulty upbringing and have little to no respect for other individuals. Video games teach it is okay to kill and the schools teach that behavior is neither right or wrong.

So, no wonder we need gates, guard dogs and even “Shoot to Kill” orders to protect the current elected leader of this semi totalitarian kingdom. The king himself made it that way.

To rid ourselves of the disease in our culture we need to look back one hundred years, before the Progressive era. We need to look at what worked then and try very hard to make it work again today. It will not be easy. The Progressives have been in control of government, education and much of entertainment warping and distorting our concept of right and wrong for most of the last one hundred years. It won’t correct in a day. But it won’t correct at all if we don’t start reminding people of a once civilized culture that held family picnics on the White House lawn.

EDUCATION – A whole new approach for the twenty first century

I am going to suggest something that is far a field of what most who read this would consider. This is not to meant raise the ire of those reading. This is simply for the purposes of discussion. (And a lively discussion is what I expect).

I submit we are educating our twenty first century children with nineteen century methods.

What so I mean? In 1885 we had the Little Red Schoolhouse that had a schoolmarm teaching the three R’s. In one hundred thirty years, as man learned to drive, fly and even go into space; we still have the same thing, only bigger.

If you look at a typical classroom today you will see the teacher standing (or sitting) writing on a screen that transposes the information to a smart board. Look at the room and you will see the students with their heads down staring at their laptops, notebooks or tablets.

So, picture this,  you have fifteen to twenty five people all connected electronically with the teacher who is connected electronically to the smart board.

I pose a question. Why do we need the brick and mortar building?

Why are we putting our kids in a cage for six hours a day? Why do we force them to sit in a germ infested room all day? How many times have you heard the phrase, “It’s going around the school.”?

I have “attended” several webinars. I meet with and learn from people all over the country (and the world for that matter). I interact with them in the same manner as our teacher is interacting with the students in the classroom. I didn’t need to go to a room in a building to learn. Things such as on line webinars are using twentieth century technology. It is still an interaction with a teacher. BUT it is a far and away improvement from the brick and mortar style education we use in public and most private schools today.

I have not even touched on twenty first century technology. With artificial intelligence, a computer program can learn the student’s weak and strong areas and focus on those areas that need more attention. Now the student is self paced and is not held back or dragged forward by others trying to learn the same thing. That can’t be done in a classroom.

This is the way education should be working. It isn’t. Why? I have two theories to kick around.

One – The education establishment (spelled education monopoly) does not like it. It gives the power to choose back to the parent or guardian. The national teacher’s unions don’t like it. It takes power (and dues) away from them.

Two – Today’s parents have become used to a public paid baby sitting service. Tell parents that the school will no longer house students and they will revolt. They want their “free stuff”.

One more point and I’ll let this go to conversation:

Today in the United States of America we are graduating kids who can not read their own report cards. They can not do simple math, such as make change. The public education system in these United States on average is equal with Lartvia, the Slovak Republic, and Lithuania. That is not a shock statement, look it up here: The Programme For Individual Student Assessment results for 2012. It clearly shows that we are not only failing but slipping more behind with each year.

Now before the education lobby get all over me and insists that they don’t have enough money to do it right, I would like to point out that the report from PISA clearly states money is not the issue.

“While the U.S. spends more per student than most countries, this does not translate into better performance. For example, the Slovak Republic, which spends around USD 53,000 per student, performs at the same level as the United States, which spends over USD 115,000 per student.

Just over one in four U.S. students do not reach the PISA baseline Level 2 of mathematics proficiency a higher than OECD average proportion and one that hasn’t changed since 2003. At the opposite end of the proficiency scale, the U.S. has a below average share of top performers.”

I think it is time for our kids to get the advantages they deserve. It is time to “tear down this wall” of education malaise and unleash our kids’ full learning ability. To do that, we need to think in terms and practices of 2014, not 1885.

Published in: on September 24, 2014 at 9:12 am  Leave a Comment  
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Let’s avoid the circular firing squad.

The conservative community doesn’t like Mike Rounds as the Republican candidate for Senate.  They say Rounds is too liberal, that he favors big government.  I certainly can agree that Mike Rounds is not a true conservative. However, neither is John Thune or Kristi Noem. They have all done things that have set me walking in circles talking to myself.
Having said that, John, Kristi and Mike will vote 80% of the time to the right of the chart. A democrat (regardless of the place holder) will vote to the left of center nearly 100% of the time.
I surely wish we conservatives had someone on deck that could run a viable campaign against Mike Rounds but that isn’t the case. So… what to do? I’m stuck, again, supporting the liberal lite over the progressive left candidate. Voting third party or simply staying home is not an option. That just gives my vote to the left.
I  would like to stress one thing that I think is important. The one thing I will not do is join into this circular firing squad that is forming inside the Republican party. That simply gives more ammunition to the Progressive left. We need a deeper conservative bench. This is imperative. Today, we don’t have one. I have little to no enthusiasm with our current federal representatives or candidates. Our true conservatives (Stace Nelson, Betty Olsen, Brock Greenfield, Dan Kaiser et al.) are all good people, but they aren’t yet ready for prime time. That day will come and on that day I will blister my hands pounding in highway signs for them. BUT today….. I’m left with a bucket that has a hole in it.  Instead of this being a ringing endorsement for Mike Rounds, I’m giving an affirmative shrug.

Sometimes reality hits you right in the face

I found this paging through an 1883 Fourth Grade reader I was getting ready to sell on eBay.  

The following is the exercise at the end of an eight paragraph reading.  In other words, not an exam, just a typical homework lesson.  Just so you know, the numbers in (parentheses) are the paragraph numbers of the text in question.

I.  Explain “advertisement” (1); “townsmen” (4).  Give the distinction between “neighbor” and “friend” (4). What phrase (6) now and then? To work “by fits and starts” is the opposite of working  ——-  How?

II.  Write an analysis: — advertiser   clothier   industrious.

III.  Write the plurals of: service; salesman; child; quality; correspondence; duty.

IV.  Separate the compound sentence in paragraph 8 onto the simples sentences (prepositions) of which it is made up.

V. Write the form of a newspaper advertisement stating that an honest, industrious boy is wanted by a grocer.  Write an answer to an advertisement of this sort

I don’t think, 130 years later (with the government in control of education for the past 100 years) that even a fourteenth grade student could correctly answer all of these questions.

The current school system is the miserable failure that only government can create.

This is a shining example.  I believe it is time to get rid of the brick and mortar and get beck to education

A simple Question 2.0

About four years, eleven months and two weeks ago I wrote a blog post called “A Simple Test.”  If you don’t remember it (and I’m sure you don’t ) remind yourself of it here:

I will ask you today an go to your sock drawer and get the notes you took back then.  Let’s compare them to what we have today.

Here are some of mine.
On November 7th 2008 I said “My electricity costs me $8.50 per kilowatt hour.  This is about $100 a month in winter.  More in summer with the air conditioner running.  But I’ll use the winter number.”

Today my electricity is $10.50 per kilowatt hour but my monthly connection fee has increased from $13.00 to $55.00. My lowest electric bill now is about $150.00 a month and I’m told it is about to go up again. Seems the current administration is squeezing our coal fired power plants.

Here’s more: “A loaf of bread is about a dollar and a quarter today and a gallon of milk is about $3.50.  Butter is $2.28 lb. Eggs are about $1.20 a dozen.”

Today a loaf of bread I about $2.25. A gallon of milk is $4.27, Butter is $1.88 and Eggs are $1.80. With the exception of butter, all the other things are higher.

Let’s look at some more notes from my sock drawer. “Gasoline in town yesterday was $2.10 gal.
Oil is running at $61.00 a barrel on the market this morning.”

Today gasoline is running about $3.96 and the price of oil is $86.00 a barrel.   Now here’s something curious, the last time gas was around and over four bucks, oil was running in the 140 range. All the liberals were blaming George Bush for cronyism and being in bed with big oil. Where are the finger pointers now? But I digress….

Here’s more from the 2008 post, “Now, on to other things…..
My local stores are well stocked.
I can get a doctor’s appointment on the day I call in.
I have a high quality (in patient) medical facility only a few miles away
The national unemployment rate is around 6%.
Inflation is being reported at about 5%.
Remember the Misery Index?  That is the unemployment rate plus the inflation rate.  Today the Misery Index is at 11%.
The current President has an approval rating under 30% and the current congress is at about 10%.”

Okay, Obamacare hasn’t kicked in yet (it won’t until after this election {wonder of wonders}) so I still can call my doctor and get an appointment for later today.
The stores are still stocked but I am noticing empty shelves more and more often.  Especially in the big box stores like Walmart.
The national Unemployment rate is 7.8% (that is if you forget to count California like they did with this last release {oops})
Inflation for 2012 is being reported as 4.8% (but here’s a new twist, they no longer count gasoline of food {well, who uses those things anyway.})
The misery index today conservatively measured is 12.6% A truer measure of the misery index is taking the percentage number of the unemployed and adding it to the Producer Price Index (a more accurate indication of inflation). Today’s PPI is 10.8%. The true (without government jinking the numbers to make the administration look good) unemployment, according to Gallop, is 9.7%. Today’s un-underemployed index is 17%. So… You can place a real misery index at somewhere between 20.5% and 27.8%.
The current president approval rating is 48% and Congress has gone from 11% to 21%.

Now…. How about you? Got that note from your sock drawer in your hand?
What is your energy costing you today?
What is your medical care costing you today?  AND…  How good is it?
Do you think you are better off than your parents?
Do you think your children will be better off then you?
How do you see the future?  Bright or bleak?

Now ask yourself…

I think the answer is obvious.
I’ll close this by saying, “I told you so.”

I’m confused… Happy, but confused.

Ever since I moved out here to rural South Dakota I have used propane as a heating fuel.  For the first few years it was not only my primary source but my only source for home heat.
As the price of the stuff (which tends to follow oil) continued to increase, I looked for and found an alternate source of heat in the form of a wood burning stove.
I have seen the price of propane go from 83 cents a gallon in 2003 to 2.25 a gallon in 2008.
I have reduced my consumption by over half with the a bit of sweat equity and the wood burner, and I’m fine with that.  It keeps me young to swing a 9 pound mall and split a 12” log.

Here’s why I’m confused (and believe me, I m not complaining). I called my local supplier to check the price of propane for the “winter fill program” and found out the price was on dollar and ten cents a gallon!  Last year it was 1.79.  The year before it was 1.89.
I told them to fill the tank, something I have not had the wherewithal to do in several years.

My question is why.  Why has the price of propane broken away from its link to crude oil?  The driver of the delivery truck told me there is a glut because of the mild winter.  The dry summer also has an affect here.  In the fall, farmers will use propane to dry down grain for long term storage.  Well it has been so dry that there will be little drying needed for the small harvests this year.

Anybody know it that is happening in the home heating oil business or in the natural gas industry?  Anybody have a better understanding of the energy industry than I do?

Published in: on September 15, 2012 at 8:29 am  Leave a Comment  
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Maybe not…

 My father was not a self made millionaire, but he was a self made man. He was the sole owner and employee of a floor care and janitorial business. When I was a young boy I would go with him on the weekends and in the summer. On Mondays we would clean and re-wax the dance floors at the local taverns and clubs. This was back in the days of wood dance floors. We would use a good paste wax and make them slippery and easy on the leather soled shoes. Needless to say, you could never do that in today’s litigious society.

This little story brings me to this morning:

I was outside in the wood shop working on an old window frame. In my endeavor to make the rebuilt frame fit and slide properly, I needed to plane off a bit of the wood on the sides. But like most projects, one must do one thing before doing another. I needed to clean and re-wax the surface of my power planer. I used a bit of extra fine emery paper to clean the surface then (once vacuumed) applied a thin coat of Johnson’s Paste Wax for wood. The rich aroma of that wax brought me back to those dance floors I helped polish as a boy.

I think I will title this blog:

“Smells of My Father”

Published in: on August 1, 2012 at 11:30 am  Leave a Comment