T for Texas

Jimmie Rodgers (1897-1933) was one of the first “stars” of country music.  Often known as the Singing Brakeman, Rodgers set the standard for future generations:

Jimmie Rodgers’s first Blue Yodel, which became known as “Blue Yodel No. 1 (T for Texas) ”, was recorded on 30 November 1927 in the Trinity Baptist Church at Camden, New Jersey. When the song was released in February 1928 it became “a national phenomenon and generated an excitement and record-buying frenzy that no-one could have predicted”.

I first heard Lynyrd Skynyrd do ‘T for Texas’ back in school days.  I didn’t think much about the song or the lyrics, but over the years it’s dawned on me how radical this stuff is.

i’m gonna buy me a pistol
just as long as I am tall
i’m gonna shoot poor Thelma
just to see Her jump And fall.

Kids today, in my day even, think of Country music as old stuffy stuff, with the hoots and the haws and the howdy y’all.  Go back to the roots and you’ll find some pretty basic matters of life, love and all the complications thereof.

(cross-posted at last.fm)

Rural Broadband At A Glance, 2009 Edition

Household Broadband Use By Income 2007

USDA today issued a short Bulletin looking at rural internet usage:

Three-quarters of U.S. residents used the Internet to access information, education, and services in 2007. Broadband Internet access is becoming essential for both businesses and households; many compare its evolution to other technologies now considered common necessities—such as cars, electricity, televisions, microwave ovens, and cell phones. Although rural residents enjoy widespread access to the Internet, they are less likely to have high-speed, or broadband, Internet access than their urban counterparts. Circumstantial evidence suggests that the difference in access may lie in the higher cost and limited availability of broadband Internet in rural areas. As a result, rural residents depend more on Internet use outside of the home, in places like the library, school, and work, where broadband Internet access is available.

This is a well-written little document that might be a good handout for local elected officials and economic development boards.  It presents detailed national information in a few easy charts without getting overly technical.  USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) has more resources on rural telecommunications also.

The bulletin is based on  FCC data, USDA Agricultural Resource Management Survey and and June Agricultural Survey, Pew Internet & American Life Project, and additional state-level data.

This report draws on the research of ERS’s Resource and Rural Economics Division. Data in this analysis are drawn from the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) Form 477 survey and the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey (CPS).

It does not directly reference the recently released US Census of Agriculture 2007 data for on-farm broadband use.  However, as I understand it, Census of Ag was used for the Ag Resource Management Survey so the numbers are in there.

In Praise of Raptors

Fellow Illini alumn Michael Fumento delivers a pithy defense of the F-22 Raptor combat aircraft in the Defense News this week.

The Russia bear has awakened from hibernation to rebuild its lost empire. China continues its inexorable military expansion. Iran desperately wants The Bomb, while North Korea revels in unpredictability. Yes, Virginia, we really do have potential enemies with weapons other than AKs and IEDs. We desperately need far more F-22 Raptors — preferably to prevent wars but if need be to win them.

Fumento is a veteran and has reported extensively from Iraq the last few years.  I never thought I’d see him agree with Teddy Kennedy, well, you’ll have to read it for yourself.


Are you reading this at work?

The line between work-life and home-life, professional and personal, is in constant flux.  As organizations search for excellence, re-invent, re-organize, upgrade, and update, the one-time rules on engagement get a bit squishy.  Governing magazine—a freebie for bureaucrats like me—offered an insightful observation on “The Millennial in the Cubicle“, relevant to government, non-profit and for-profit enterprises:

According to a recent Pew Internet & American Life Project study, 70 percent of working Americans now use the Internet on the job. That means that increasingly both the public and the private sectors are having to figure out how to balance the rights and interests of employees and employers in an environment where opportunities to do too much electronic wandering are virtually limitless, and where lots of employees spend most of the day on computers and tapping away at cell phones and other communication devices for legitimate work purposes.

Are you reading this at work?  One reason I’m working on this blog is to look at applications of social media for my “real work” in local development.  Is this blog strictly “real work” then?  Well, not stricktly.  I may be trading time during the work day that I make up by coming in early and staying late or eating lunch at my desk like I am today.  “Real Work” still needs to get done, but the timeline isn’t banker’s hours.

Complaints about overly restrictive use policies and Web blocking ought to be a wake-up call, say many in public-sector information technology and personnel management. Witt’s generation — the “millennials,” who have grown up texting, Twittering and YouTubing, and often doing all of those things simultaneously — are going to push hard for governments to open up on-the-job technology so that they can work the way they’ve become used to. “We’re going to be seeing a new generation of employees who say, ‘What do you mean I can’t look at my Facebook page while I’m at work?'” says Craig Paull, head of IT for Kent County, Michigan.

Devil’s Advocate:  I got some good advice from a prof back in college.  When you’re working for the government, don’t do anything you wouldn’t want in the headlines of the local newspaper.  There was a big buzz for awhile on “running government like a business”.  I like the idea, but the problem is the stockholders are everybody that pays taxes.  The rules are a bit different on the public dime than in private business.  I understand that.

However… public, private and non-profit organizations are all in business.  They have (or should have) a mission, a vision, strategies and objectives if they want to succeed and provide a value in this world.  If you’re gonna do a job, do it right.

Fundamentally, technology has helped create a layer of employees who view work in a whole new way, according to Lee Rainie, director of the Pew project. “It’s clear that the boundary between work and play is not as bright and distinct as it is for their parents,” says Rainie. “Nobody has done a systematic study, but as the digital generation enters the workforce, they will have different expectations about the work environment and using technology, and different norms about what they owe their boss versus what they owe their friends.” 

Some of the conflicts are generational.  Baby Boomers tend to think about work and life, paid-work and volunteer-work, differently than my Gen X peers.  The Millenials coming after, who the heck knows what they’re thinking. 

Change is, of course, the only constant.  So you may as well embrace it.  Learn to love Social Media.  Adapt your work life to Twitter and Facebook.  Adapt your home life so your Blackberry habit isn’t quite so annoying to spouse and children.  Some people see these tools extending work into homelife.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t only have ideas between 8am and 4:30pm.  If I figure out a problem for a client at 8pm, I don’t want to wait until 8am to get down the details when I can access work remotely and take care of it then and there.  At the same time, I may be pulling up Facebook at 9am to check on my kids instead of jockeying for PC time at home come 9pm.  Tools are tools, for good or evil.

Get ‘er done, but with balance in all things.

A Scholar’s Work

Minnesota Farm

Martin Krieger is Professor of Planning at the University of Southern California’s School of Policy, Planning, and Development.  He blogs tips for doctoral students.  I once thought of being a doctoral student—then I got over it, they work too hard.  Prof. Krieger has a PhD in Physics, so that could make him a rocket scientist as well as a real doctor, I’m not that familiar with his work.  Just before Christmas he wrote:

Most very strong scholars live through their work. They are very productive, and their work reflects their strengths in a deep way. There are of course scholars who work very hard, but are not so strong even if they are productive. But these very strong scholars are in a different league.

I’ve been thinking alot about work-life balance for… oh, most of my life.  We know the Company Man is dead.  Nobody my age will work for IBM for 40 years.  We settled that 20 years ago, yet the 1980s are as far away for my kids as the 1950s were for me.

What is it going to mean to “live through your work” in 2010?  Does it mean the gosh-awful 80 hour work-weeks of doctoral students (and professors)?  Or the undergrad working two jobs just to scrape by?  Can it mean more?

Let’s go back back to the future. Look at 2010 thru the lens of 1910, when the majority of US population (54%) was still rural. Before the industrial revolution, the norm was life on a farm or in a small shop. You lived with your work—you got up, did the chores, had lunch with the family, rested on Sunday, got stuff done.  The farm was (and is) hard work, but it’s a life worth living.

It’s easy to work your life away; easy to live for your work.  To live through your work, though, that seems to me something more—to find expression for your life in what you do for a living.  To be strong in your chosen vocation is going to mean going the extra mile, but we can adapt schedules and communication tools to recreate the seamless farmyard where sometimes we’re balancing “real work” on Saturdays so we can picnic with the family Thursday afternoon.

Sounds like hard work, but work worth living.

FEMA Encourages North Dakotans to Buy Flood Insurance Now

I lived in North Dakota during the Great Red River Flood of 1997.  You haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen an entire city of 50,000 people evacuated.  Families with nothing left but the clothes on their backs.

Even if you’re outside the lines on FEMA’s Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs), use your own best judgement.  The engineers who delineate the flooplains work hard to get it right, but they’re only human and have imperfect information at hand. 

Go out and talk to the neighbor that’s lived on your block the longest—if they’ve seen the water there before, it’s probably coming back again.  When you’re not looking.  We do our best to mitigate the effects of disasters, but it’s up to you as an individual to be prepared.

Daily Yonder on Farm Broadband

Daily Yonder

Daily Yonder

Still gleaning data from the Census of Agriculture specific to Southwest Minnesota.  In the meantime, Blandin on Broadbandrefered to analysis and mapping done by Daily Yonder on the data for rural broadband use.  The initial USDA PR presented data as % of %, which is as annoying as it is bad statistics.  The picture will become more clear as more eyes scan the data.

Daily Yonder gives us a snapshot of broadband usage reported by farmers across the non-metro United States.  DY references a Pew survey that matches Census of Ag results for rural internet use.  I’m sceptical of some of the methodology for Census of Agriculture, so it’s nice to see the numbers line up with other sources.

There are patterns in the Census data. The most urban states have the most farms with broadband connection. Also, states with large farms also have a high percentage of operations with high speed connections. Nebraska, North and South Dakota, Iowa and Kansas are all well above the national average of broadband connection.

This paragraph immediately caught my critical eye.  If the most urban states are most wired, why are Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, etc above average?  DY goes on to note a dicotomy—broadband usage is also highest in counties with larger farms, which they assume will have greater incomes to afford broadband.

Let’s look at Colorado.  The top counties for farms with broadband are mountain resort counties:  Pitkin, Eagle, Mineral counties.  They do tend to skew the “real ag” statistics a bit.  So be it, Aspen doesn’t count.  Next on the list comes Phillips County, Colorado, at 66% broadband usage.  You’re not going to find many ski bums in Holyoke

No. 31 on the rural broadband list is Traill County, North Dakota.  Ah ha!  Of course the progressive farmers of the Red River Valley would be above average at 56% broadband usage.  Now, 15 years ago when I worked for the Traill County Economic Development Commission in Mayville, North Dakota, we were working with community leaders to provide basic local, toll-free dial-up connections.  The result was a couple aggressive local cooperatives providing service around Mayville and the county seat at Hillsboro who upset the incumbent telcos.  Kinda feel like a proud papa to see our hard work pay out.  Well, maybe a distant uncle since most of the heavy lifting came about after I moved on.

In Traill County, the average farm size is 1,182 acres, and there were 120 farms with reported annual sales of $500,000 or more.  Yet Traill County also had local ISPs willing to go the extra mile to provide service.  It’s alot easier to do business with real people rather than a cold distant voice of Ma Bell.  I expect as in most things we’re looking for that partnership of supply and demand.

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