An account of two Attitudes towards Richard Martinez

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On Friday, May 23, Elliot Rodger killed six and wounded 13 innocent people near the University of California, Santa Barbara. On May 24, the father of victim Chris Martinez said the following – “Our family has a message for every family out there. You don’t think it will happen to your child, until it does.” Choking on tears, he added, “His death has left our family lost and broken. Chris died because of craven, irresponsible politicians and the NRA. They talk about gun rights. What about Chris’ right to live? When will this insanity stop? When will enough people say stop this madness. We should say to ourselves, not one more,” before he collapsed in tears and walked off.

In response to Mr. Martinez’ comments, there were two vastly different attitudes that came forth.

 

Mark Barden, Richard Martinez

Mark Barden, Richard Martinez

The first one came from Mark Barden who lost his 7-year-old son, Daniel, in the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting. He wrote the following: “We have not met, but you are now part of our extended family. It is not a family we chose, but a family born from the horrible circumstance of losing a child to gun violence – one that’s growing steadily. My heart breaks for you because I know just a little about the long road ahead of you. We have reached out to you privately but publicly we wanted to say to you and those feeling the sorrow, anger and frustration of this weeks’ shooting, you are not along,” Barden wrote in a letter to Richard Martinez.

The second response came from Samuel Wurzelbacher, aka ‘Joe the Plumber’.

Joe the Plumber

Joe the Plumber

“I am sorry you lost your child. I myself have a son and daughter and the one thing I never want to go through, is what you are going through now. But: As harsh as this sounds – your dead kids don’t trump my Constitutional rights… We still have the Right to Bear Arms and I intend to continue to speak out for that right, and against those who would restrict it – even in the face of this horrible incident by this sad and insane individual. I almost said “Obama Voter” but I’m waiting for it to be official…I cannot begin to imagine the pain you are going through, having had your child taken away from you. However, any feelings you have toward my rights being taken away from me, lose those.”

Mark Barden’s attitude is filled with kindness, love, humility, benevolence, generosity, compassion and empathy. Joe the Plumber’s attitude is filled with greed, arrogance, ego, superiority, antipathy, ‘his right’ and ideology.

America, which attitude will you choose?

Holy Crap! College Recruiters Look at my Instagram Page?

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Houston Hispanic College and Career Day

Recruiters look at my Instagram, Twitter and Facebook page

Times have changed. No longer do college recruiters just look at your high school grades and college application. Today, they look at your online profile and behavior. Your tweets, Facebook pics, Instagram pictures, Youtube videos and blog comments now all play a part in your college application. Don’t take it from me here is what a few admission officers have to say:

college applicants

College Recruiters check out social media pages

College Recruiters check out Instagram pages

College Recruiters check out Instagram pages

Here is a story that the NY Times published about a high school senior who attended a college campus information session. During the presentation, she posted offensive comments on Twitter about fellow attendees, repeatedly using a profane word. “It was incredibly unusual and foolish of her to do that. We would have wondered about the judgment of someone who spends their time on their mobile phone and makes such awful remarks,” – the dean of admissions and financial aid.” The college ultimately denied the student admission.

So, with that said, if you are applying to college or a job, here are a few things you should do right now to clean up your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles.

#1 Use SimpleWash

simplewash

SimpleWash is a simple, if slightly imperfect, free tool that helps you find inappropriate content on your Facebook account (it also works on Twitter). It scours your account and compares all the text it finds, including photo captions and comments from other people on your Facebook account, against a list of bad words. The list goes well behind the dirty words not allowed on network television and includes things like “beer” and “sexy.” Once Simplewa.sh finds the content, it helps you edit or remove it by directing you to the page or post where it lives—you still have to manually hide or delete it.

#2 Control your Facebook Privacy Settings

According to a recent survey Kaplan survey, 29% of admission officers use Google and look at Facebook profiles to screen applicants. SimpleWash probably did a good job at cleaning up a lot of the offensive language and inappropriate photos on Facebook and Twitter, but that doesn’t mean that ‘Facebook friends’ can’t tag you in any future embarrassing public photos or posts. Here are a few tips to help prevent that from occurring:

Only allow people you ‘friend to view your page. Click on the arrow tab near “home” at the top of the page>scroll down to privacy settings>control your default settings>switch from “public” to “friends”.

Facebook Settings

Set your profile up so that you can review posts ‘friends’ tag you in before they appear on your timeline. This will help control any inappropriate photo-tagging mix ups. Under the Privacy Settings go to Timeline and Tagging>Edit Settings>Review Posts Friends Tag You in Before They Appear on Your Timeline>On.

Review TagsReview your Facebook application permissions and remove anything that you are not actively using anymore. Go to Settings > Account Settings > Apps. Be sure to click “Show all apps” at the bottom of the listing.

Facebook applicationsReview your activity log. You can hand-pick through your content easiest using the Activity Log, which you can find on your profile page. The Activity Log lets you drill down by content type, such as photo, photos of you, tagged photos, and so forth, so you can focus on one area of your Facebook account at a time while finding images to delete or hide.

Facebook Activity

If you want, you can make it difficult for people to find you on the social media site. After all, the harder it is to locate your profile the less chances an admission officer has of finding anything to hinder your acceptance.  To do this go to Privacy Settings>Apps, Games, Website>Public Search>Edit Settings> Disable Public Search.

Last but not least, view your profile as how the public would see it. Clean up poor grammar, offensive language, any racial slurs. Remove and delete photos with inappropriate clothing.  Check out your Likes – remove any unnecessary pages. And don’t allow yourself to be tagged in public photos that show you as anything but a fine, upstanding young citizen!

#3 Clean up your Tweets

Twitter doesn’t give you nearly as many features as Facebook does for assessing your data. The first third party tool you should make ample use of is AllMyTweets. This simple site quickly generates a page of – you guessed it – all your tweets. Actually, that’s false … just your last 3,200 tweets, which is the limit Twitter will return. If you want or need the real thing, you can request your Twitter archive. Head to settings, and hit the archive link. It will be email to you for download.

Next, you should take stock of who you’re following – anyone done anything super messed up recently? Cut ‘em lose. And if you’re just generally a little scared of what might be in your personal stream of tweets, sign up for TweetEraser and you can mass delete using its filter feature. Last but definitely not least, head over to your settings and check out what apps you’ve given permission to – and make sure you’re OK with what you see.

#4 Clean Up Your Instagram Profile

Instagram

The risk of posting or sharing a photo that will damage your online reputation continues to grow every time you add a new photo to Instagram. Here are some tips for cleaning up your Instagram profile and preventing reputation damage:

Delete Unprofessional Comments and Likes. The individuals you associate with could impact how you are perceived online. An unprofessional comment with profanity or a politically incorrect joke could reflect poorly on your character. Similarly, liking photos of strangers in provocative poses or of friends breaking the law could be interpreted as an endorsement of these activities.

Remove Unprofessional Photos. When deciding whether or not to delete a photo, a good rule of thumb is to ask yourself how you would feel if college admissions officers, hiring managers, family members, or your boss saw the photo. Any images showing underage drinking, binge drinking, drug use, obscene gestures, and partial undress (think swimsuit photos) are best left off of your profile. Reputation911.com shares some more good tips about cleaning up your Instagram profile here.

In conclusion, there’s no shame in having had posted an embarrassing photo, comment or tweet. We’ve all done it before. That’s the great thing about living in the digital age: It’s all easily recorded. And this means that like the attic full of memories and mementos, sometimes you have to clean out the junk.

Learn more Interview Preparation Tips for the Rest of Us here. (If I didn’t follow these tips, I’d be waking up every morning going to some dead-end job).

I am a first generation college graduate. I also have an MBA and am a Manager at a major electricity company. In my spare time, I teach at University of Houston Downtown, where I educate students not only on the subject I am teaching, but also on self-motivation and teaching them that their background does not dictate your future.

Confessions of a Police Ride Along with the Houston Police Department

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Ride Along with Houston Police Department

Ride Along with Officer Martinez from the Houston Police Department

Have you ever done a ride along? Would you? I had no idea what to expect when I signed up for a Houston Police Department ride along. I knew who I would be riding with – Officer Martinez, but that’s about it. Officer Martinez and I met weeks earlier when he was called to a scene in the Heights neighborhood where three men were beating up one man severely. My fiancé had made the 911 call while I intervened to stop the beating. Luckily, those men fled. Since I always had this curiosity and desire to do a police ride along, I stayed in touch with Martinez.

So, the day of the ride along arrived and a part of me was hoping that we’d be involved in some sort of high speed car chase or busting a large illegal drug operation. (My fiancé was just hoping that we’d spend the night just pulling people over for expired tags).

Over the course of seven hours, my Officer Martinez:

• Ran several license plates. The police can do this from inside their car, using a computer. So if an HPD cop is behind you at a stoplight, it’s very possible that they’re putting your license plate number through their system as you change radio stations. After the license plate number is entered, the technology will confirm things like “Valid License”, “Cancelled License”, “Sex Offender”, etc.

• Pulled over a guy who was driving around with two license plate numbers. Once was posted on the back windshield. Martinez spent an inordinate amount of time looking up records in the computer. Since the driver was cooperative, Martinez decided to give him a warning rather than give him a ticket.

• Assist two other HPD Officers who were arresting a Hispanic young male who was being charged for theft. The parents of the suspect had arrived at the scene and did not speak English. This is where Martinez’s bilingual skills came in handy and he was happy to oblige.

• Patrol and drive around several neighborhoods within his district such as Washington Heights, Heights, North Side and Garden Oaks looking for mischief and any illegal activity

So, the ride along did not end up being like the movie Training Day and I did not see any real action, but it was still interesting. Overall, it was a slow day, but still interesting even without any car chases. I think that everyone should go through a ride along program at least once in their lifetimes. It could be a ride along with your local police department, and I guarantee it will change the way you think about crime and the police.

How a Rusty Monkey Wrench took down a U.S. Fleet

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Any individual, business, or government can throw money at initiatives, but when the real test comes, only smart creative thinking will make true breakthroughs.

General_PaulRiper

Remember when you played soldiers as a kid? Sometimes the kids down the street would have better toy guns than you. Maybe they had those fancy Nerf guns and all you had were simple rubber band guns. And when things weren’t going so well for one of the teams, they’d call time out and try to change the rules.

Now although I don’t play soldiers anymore because I’ve grown up, although I still eat Fruity Pebbles cereal, the military does and they call these ‘War Games’. The biggest war game was called the Millennium Challenge. It happened in 2002 and over 13,000 troops participated. These troops along with real and virtual military planes and warships were spread out across the Middle East. There were two teams – the blue team was the United States of course and the red team was the bad guys.

The blue team had new technology at their disposal. They had precision guided missiles, overhead surveillance systems, several warships including an aircraft carrier, and thousands of marines. The red team, which was led by retired marine, Lt General Paul Van Riper, appreciated that new technology, but unfortunately was not allowed to use it at his disposal. Instead, General Paul Riper was given a fleet of small and inexpensive boats and planes – most of them civilian, along with some machine guns, rockets, and small army. One could have said this was like Germany taking on the Vatican Army. Surely General Paul Riper and his army are going to get crushed. But General Riper was not frightened by the overwhelming force. He put his mind to the problem: how can I adapt and avoid this overwhelming force and yet do damage against the United States?

So after two years of planning, the Generals and Admirals who were commanding the blue team were excited to begin the Millennium Challenge. As the war game began, the U.S. fleet entered the make believe Persian Gulf determined to overwhelm General Riper’s forces. Assessing the situation, General Riper reacted and began to give orders. But he did not give orders using radio transmission – those orders might have been intercepted. Instead, he sent coded messages delivered by motorcycle messengers. He also announced these codes messages from mosques throughout the area. After the orders were received, wave after wave of those small civilian boats headed out into the Persian Gulf and began swarming the naval convoy from all directions. They fired at the U.S. fleet with rockets and machine guns. Bratatatatatat. Some boats were loaded with explosives and they crashed into the U.S. boats damaging them severely. The sheer numbers of the civilian boats and speedboats overloaded the blue team’s ability, both mentally and electronically, to handle the attack.

iranian-patrol-boats

Within 30 minutes, 16 U.S. war ships including thousands of marines were sunk. Within half an hour, General Van Riper, who did not have the latest military weapons or technology, who was only given a fleet of small and inexpensive civilian boats and airplanes, sunk 16 U.S. Navy warships and thousands of marines. If this war really had happened, it would have been the worst naval disaster since Pearl Harbor.

DN-SC-87-06412

Any individual, business, or government can throw money at problems, but when the real test comes, only smart creative thinking will make true breakthroughs. General Paul Riper illustrated a very cheap way to beat a very expensive fleet. The blue team considered themselves invincible and thought they were going to dominate the battlefield. Imagine the look on the blue team’s Generals and Admirals faces after they got their butt kicked. I bet it was Priceless.

General Paul Riper, despite having limited resources, put his mind to the problem – let’s think of a way we can adapt to the situation, avoid the overwhelming U.S forces, and yet still do damage against the opposition. When it comes to smart creative thinking, I think Robert Hughes said it best – “a determined soul will do more with a rusty monkey wrench than a loafer will accomplish with all the tools in a machine shop.”

Some people might think that this would never happen. For me, the story of General Van Riper and the Millennium Challenge reminds me of the American Revolutionary War. When the war began, the 13 colonies lacked a professional army or navy. Instead, each colony sponsored a local militia. Militiamen were lightly armed and had little training. In fact, most of them did not even have uniforms. Their units served for only a few weeks or months at a time, and they were reluctant to travel far from home and thus were unavailable for extended operations. They lacked the training and discipline of soldiers with more experience. However, if properly used, their numbers could overwhelm British forces. And guess who won that war.

13 colonies

I bet at the battle of Yorktown, the last major battle during the American Revolutionary war, the British General, Lord Cornwallis, who was commanding the British army, as he saw his enemy being defeated by these militiamen, probably wanted to call ‘time-out’ – you know, like what we used to do as kids when things weren’t going our way.

How to lower College Tuition Cost – Infographic

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In 1980 the average 4 year college tuition (when you take both public and private universities into consideration) was $23,000. In 1995 it jumped to $44,000. Would you like to take a guess at how much the average 4 year college tuition is now?

It’s $70,000. Yes $70,000 which means that most college students have to borrow money. The average debt per student is now $27,000. $27,000 is a lot of money. $27,000 can buy you a new Ford F150 truck. It can buy you 30, 40, maybe 50 pairs of Jimmy Choo shoes.

So with that said, I am going to share with you an infographic on how we as a society can lower college tuition cost.  

5 ways to lower the cost of college tuition

5 ways to lower the cost of college tuition

The first way to lower college tuition cost is to allow for Dual Enrollment. How about allowing students to be simultaneously accepted by a community college and a four year public institution of higher education and, and when they complete their associate degree from the community college, they are automatically enrolled in the four-year institution? This type of program can reduce college education cost anywhere from 30 to 50%.

Second idea, what about establishing a three-year Bachelor’s degree? This would not only increase graduation rates, but also improve college education cost.  

As for number three, anyone ever hear about the study to determine how long a shrimp can run on a treadmill? Yes, there was a study by University professors to determine how long a shrimp can run on a treadmill. So number 3 is simply get rid of silly research studies.

Number 4, wouldn’t it be nice to keep you salary and only have to work two days a week? That would be like living in Alice in Wonderland, but for many professor, it is now common to teach only two classes per semester. So number four is to increase teacher loads.

Lastly, move more Classes Online – Online learning will become to education what the forward pass was to football. Research shows that students who did online courses learn just as well as those who took conventional courses. Online courses or hybrid courses could cost half what conventional classes do because fewer teachers are needed.

So in conclusion, it would be folly to imagine the cost of a 4 year college tuition to ever go down or the starting annual salary of a college grad to skyrocket, but its not too hard to image any of the ideas I mentioned now like getting rid of the silly research studies or increasing teachers workload would it? Such ideas should strongly be considered, if not, we as a society run the risk of having our future generation start to perceive college education as simply being not worth it because of the enormous debt they will have to incur and the fact that such debt will make it harder for them to buy a home and possibly even start a family.

The Destruction that could be Bigger than Katrina

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Original Story “Dam it!” by Steve Jansen, Houston Press, July 19, 2012.

Katrina was the costliest natural disaster in the history of the United States. More than 1,800 people died and the property damage was estimated at $81 billion. The country hopes to never experience anything like Katrina again, but there are experts who consider a situation in Houston to be at risk – a risk that could result in carnage greater than Katrina.

For more than 60 years, the Addicks and Barker dams in Houston have prevented an estimated $4.6 billion in flooding damages by limiting large amounts of water from reaching flood-prone Buffalo Bayou that flows through the city. However, the dams have been pushed to their limit, mostly due to all the new construction and suburbs that coexist alongside the dams.

During some heavy rain in 2009, the dams exhibited signs of irreversible failure. Afterwards, the United States Army of Corps of Engineers, which owns the dams, gave Addicks and Barker dams an “extremely high risk of catastrophic failure” label. The dams are currently two of the country’s six most dangerous. The earliest the dams can be fully repaired is 2017, which is worrisome since Houston’s population is the nation’s 4th largest. If the dams broke, the destruction could dwarf Katrina since all of West Houston, Downtown, and the Texas Medical Center could be wading in disgusting flood waters.

The situation has also gotten worse because there is now construction of a Grand Parkway (super beltway) that will coax more concrete from housing projects which will send more water to the aging dams. (It’s been said that Exxon Mobil would not agree to build it’s giant corporate campus in Houston unless the County gave approval for the  construction of the Grand Parkway).

If the dams fail, Houston might never recover. “It’s a lot like the lower Ninth Ward levee – as long as it doesn’t break, everything is fine, but if it breaks, you have a major issue” says Houston resident Rosencranz.

Who is going to Solve the World’s Water Crisis? Singapore.

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Did you know that 3,900 children die every day from water borne diseases? Moreover, more than one out of six people lack access to safe drinking water, namely 1.1 billion people, and more than two out of six lack adequate sanitation. So with the population ever increasing, it’s only a matter of time before we face a critical shortage of drinkable and potable water. Luckily, the Singapore Public Utilities Board has found a solution.

In an effort to reduce reliance on water imported from Malaysia, Singapore turned to reverse osmosis – in essence, converting wastewater into H2O. Yes that’s right, water filled with urine and pooh. How did they do it?

Four treatment plants throughout the country take sewage, filter it through several membranes, and expose it to ultraviolet light to make it safe to drink. Now 30% of the country’s total water demand is met using recycled sewage water.

The most difficult challenge for Singapore to overcome was not building the treatment plants or implementing the reverse osmosis, but persuading people to drink the urine. To combat this, a dedicated communications team conducted a massive public education campaign which included a TV documentary. They also released the cleaned-up wastewater into resevoirs where it got re-treated along with regular tap water. Psychologically, this extra step was vital in helping the people of Singapore accept NEWater as drinkable water.

Original story ‘Gross National Product’ by Erin Biba, featured in WIRED, Sept. 2012.