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Indiana religious freedom law can go both ways

In Media, National News, Opinion, Politics, sociology on March 30, 2015 at 9:56 am

DIH LOGOA few years ago, I published an article on what is, in my opinion, one of the major problems with the heated debate over the legality of same-sex marriage. Most arguments seem to dance around the principal question of why the government has any authority to dictate who we marry in the first place. A state-mandated definition of marriage seems to be, again in my opinion, at the very least, a violation of the most basic of human rights.

Just as is the case for marriage, once again most people are missing the more serious issue with Indiana’s controversial “Religious Freedom Restoration Act.” Everyone’s so focused on discrimination towards one group that they’ve overlooked the larger issue that this ill-conceived legislation has opened the door to every manner of state-enforced, religiously-based discrimination.

IMG_3317Having read the actual bill text (Indiana Senate Bill Numbers 568 and 101) I can tell you that it seems to me so open-ended, it seems to give people the right to discriminate against anyone they choose claiming only religious offense. Apparently, what the brilliant Indiana legislature didn’t take into account is that it works both ways. In other words, would they still uphold their law if a Christian is discriminated against by someone of another faith, say a Muslim or Jew?

Or, let me put it another way. Suppose a Christian man comes into a Jewish-owned shop. He removes his hat as he enters but, as a person of Jewish faith, the shopkeeper’s tradition is for men to keep the head covered at all times. Immediately offended, the shopkeeper refuses him service and asks him to leave citing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Yes, this is an exaggerated scenario. But, were it to happen, would the shopkeeper be protected for this bit of state-approved discrimination? My guess is the intolerance at the Indiana State House works only one direction.

Incidentally, I’ve never much liked the term “tolerance” with regard to social diversity. Instead, it would be nice if people made at least some small effort to understand other ways of life, although I realize that is probably an uphill climb. One place where the word does apply, however, is when people have to tolerate the ignorance and bigotry of others.

Despite differences in faith, race, ethnicity, choice of Apple over Microsoft, green over blue, whatever, it really is possible for people to disagree without prejudice. Every day I am exposed to people and concepts that don’t mesh with my view of life.

Regardless, I try to just accept that their way is different, let people be, and hope they are kind enough to do the same. Ignorance may be bliss for some people but will never further the cause of peace and goodwill.

Accepting the differences of others without fighting them to bend to my way of thinking doesn’t mean I’ve compromised my own beliefs. If anything, it reassures me that my choices are right for my life and helps me to encourage people be who they are, whether I agree with it or not.

Don’t get me wrong, I still have and voice strong opinions. But it’s not my place, nor anyone else’s, to implement it by denying someone the basic liberties granted by the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution – to say nothing of the first 10. And, in my amateur opinion, when the Indiana bill is finally challenged – and it will be – the 14th will undoubtedly be the machete that severs the snake’s head.

Until then, I offer a word of apology to my western neighbors in The Crossroads of America, the great State of Indiana. Your entire state is being hurt over this and that’s unfair. We all need to remember that, like everywhere else, kind people live and work in the Hoosier state and shouldn’t be labeled because of the stupidity of a few.

And to Indiana Governor Mike Pence I say this on behalf of myself and my fellow 21st Century business owners in the great Buckeye State of Ohio. We refuse service to you and those who authored and approved this bill because you are offensive to our belief in good character and common decency.

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications. More at deerinheadlines.com.

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Jamestown IT specialist says cyber security begins with user

In Dayton Ohio News, Technology, Uncategorized on March 27, 2015 at 2:41 pm
Photo_041109_003_GLD

Password protection is your first, best defense against cyber attack.

Jamestown, OH – According to Gery L. Deer of GLD Enterprises Communications in Jamestown, individual users must be more proactive to better protect personal, financial and business information from prying eyes, identity theft and asset loss. Apart from expensive security software, Deer suggested that the most effective defense may be, quite simply, better password management.

People of all ages now manage everything online from personal photos to bank records and, with all of that convenience, comes a certain level of risk. Statistics compiled by the Identity Theft Resource Center indicate there have been approximately 174 major data breaches in the first quarter of 2015, exposing more than 99 million records. (Report – http://www.idtheftcenter.org/images/breach/ITRCBreachStatsReport2015.pdf)

“It might come as a surprise to most cyber surfers that the individual user may actually hold the most powerful weapon in the war against hackers,” said Deer, who has worked in data management and IT since the mid-1990s.

“No matter what you’re doing on your computer or mobile devices, setting a secure password and changing it regularly will help keep things locked down,” Deer said. “Best of all, this single, most important preventative measure costs nothing.” He offers these beginning tips to help create highly secure passwords.

“First, consider the length of the password. Most websites and applications require an 8-character password with a maximum length of 16,” Deer suggests. “Password length is generally restricted to 8 or 16 characters, but the longer the password, the more secure it is.”

“We generally recommend that passwords contain at least 2 capital letters, 2 numbers and 1 non-alphanumeric characters or symbol (: #,+,(,*, etc.),” continued Deer. “Some programs and websites may not allow certain symbols, but most do, so it’s worth a try. For example, a password like, ‘Johns House’ could look like, Gon2+Hwz, and it would be very secure and tough to break.”

One of the most common mistakes is to use a password that creates a complete word, name, anagram or acronym. “No matter how innocuous it may seem,” Deer said, “passwords containing complete words, even spelled backwards, can be hacked by even the most basic password breaker.

In addition, Deer insists that passwords should be changed regularly, at a minimum of six month intervals, but the more often the better. “New passwords should never be too similar to the previous ones and it’s important never to use the same password for every account.”

As always, Deer recommended using caution when opening email from unknown sources and always sign out of accounts and turn the computer off when not in use, particularly when traveling with a laptop.

“When in doubt, disconnect the connection to the Internet,” Deer said. “Turn off the modem, router or wireless link. When the computer is off, there is no way of accessing the hard drive or connected networks.” For more information on securing personal accounts, contact GLD Enterprises Communications, online at gldenterprises.net or call 937-902-4857.

Old dogs and new tricks

In Dayton Ohio News, Education, Local News, National News, Opinion, Senior Lifestyle, Technology, Uncategorized on March 23, 2015 at 11:38 am

DIH LOGOSome people are of the mind that there is a certain age when learning something new is neither a priority nor even a possibility. As I approach a half-century on this earth, I have a hard time wrapping my head around the idea that, at some point, people just stop learning.

Barring some kind of dementia or other mental disorder, it’s hard to understand why anyone would “choose” to be an old dog, totally uninterested in learning a new trick. In my lines of work, I am frequently exposed to innovative technology and new ideas and I’m expected to keep up or I don’t pay the mortgage.

I spend a considerable amount of time researching, learning new concepts or updating my skills in some way so I can stay relevant in a world that seems to change by the nanosecond. Part of that continuing education includes reading, networking with others and going to conferences and workshops. I just returned from one such conference that was, for me, one of the single best I have ever attended.

A couple of months ago, I was asked by a friend to speak at an upcoming technology event known as, “Dayton WordCamp,” a two-day series focused on the website content management system called “WordPress.” As with most tech, this event would be dominated by much younger, more advanced presenters.

Originally, I hesitated, feeling as if “at my age” (and technical level) I would have little to bring to the table. But, with a little effort I found a spot where I fit into the program nicely and agreed.

Dayton WordCamp

Dayton WordCamp

Dayton’s event is one of hundreds of WordCamps around the world, all presented for the benefit of those using WordPress as their website platform. Lovingly referred to by organizers as an “unconference,” the atmosphere is very relaxed and laid back, with most people wearing jeans and T-shirts.  One of the perks of speaking is the opportunity to attend the event as a spectator as well.

One of the first things I noticed upon arrival was that I was not the oldest person in the room. Of roughly 120 attendees the bell curve probably favored the younger crowd, but there were plenty of people my age and older as well. Such diversity says something for both the reputations of the scheduled presenters and the usability of the software about which we had all come to learn.

As the first day’s session began my apprehension diminished and I began to settle into a comfortable atmosphere for learning. By the conclusion of day two, I was not only charged up to dive in and apply my newly-acquired information, but I wanted to find a way to be more involved in future sessions.

At this point, I have to give a shout out to my friend Dustin Hartzler and his fellow organizers, particularly Nathan Driver, who invited me to speak at the event while also allowing me to be a student as well (that’s not the norm at such functions). These folks gave me the opportunity to expand my knowledge, allowing me to better serve my clients, plus I got to take a couple of days for myself, something for which I rarely have the opportunity.

In my experience, most people who have stopped learning have done so, in some manner, by choice. Learning is not just academic. Expanding your horizons at any age is not limited to taking college classes or immersing yourself in books for hours on end. You can attend free, hands-on workshops, watch “do it yourself” shows on television, or just dive in and try something on your own, learning as you go.

My point is that there is simply no reason any of us should be stagnant. Opportunities for growth exist in many areas of our lives and all we need to do is take the first step. What is important is that you get out there and try, whether your interest is gardening, motorcycles, computers, music, or maybe you want to try something new. Don’t be an old dog with no new tricks.

For more about WordCamp check out the Dayton WordPress Meetup – http://www.meetup.com/Dayton-WordPress/

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications.

Greene County Treasurer a Panelist in National Legislative Conference

In Local News, News Media, Politics, Sports News, State News, Uncategorized on March 10, 2015 at 5:55 pm
Gould

Gould

Xenia, Ohio, March 10, 2015 — Greene County Treasurer, Dick Gould, served as a panelist educating attendees about county investment policies and practices at the National Association of Counties (NACo) annual Legislative Conference February 21 – 25 in Washington D.C.

Joining Gould on the panel were David Messerly, Director of Global Investor Relations for FHLBanks and Jim Powell, Senior Vice-President of Multi-Bank Securities, Inc. Included in the discussion were the impact of interest rates, strategies for approaching investment opportunities, policy restrictions, and best practices.  The session included a question and answer session with participants.

“For counties, interest rates are a double-edged sword,” says Gould.  “Given the historically low rates, investment income has decreased dramatically.  Yet borrowing costs are also down and the county has been able to restructure much of its debt to save costs.”

More than 1500 county leaders attended the national conference, which offered workshops featuring county officials and other leaders in the public, private and nonprofit sectors. Vice President Joe Biden, who began his political career as a Delaware County council member, was the opening speaker at the event.

Dick Gould has been Greene County’s Treasurer since 2011.  He is a Certified Public Accountant and holds a Master of Accountancy from Miami University, Ohio.

A national, online university is impractical.

In Economy, Education, finances, history, National News, Opinion, Technology, Uncategorized on March 9, 2015 at 12:59 pm

DIH LOGOA recent CNN.com article by Kevin Carey proposed the idea that America could bring to reality George Washington’s dream of a national university by utilizing the Internet-based programs of existing institutions. Colleges and universities already receive millions every year in federal money, so some of that could be allocated towards low-tuition, online education. Good idea in concept, but not practical.

Although Internet-based programs have been in place for some time at universities around the country, many educators still believe that online education lacks the face-to-face contact necessary for students to connect with the subtleties of concepts and ideas. Questions cannot be answered immediately and written communication skills become more vital since intent and personality don’t always come across the same way virtually as in person.

Obviously, online options are not well-suited for every course of study, particularly where hands-on work is vital, such as the physical sciences or engineering. The ITDL article notes that videos would need to be produced, substantially increasing costs, while still lacking in the ability for students to get direct, immediate feedback. Flaws aside for a moment, online options have some positive aspects as well.

booksA few years ago, one article in the International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning noted that some educators employ online discussion boards to compensate for absent face time. One professor referenced in the article also suggested that, “a virtual environment reduces gender differences,” creating a more equal educational setting for men and women.

A national university could potentially be cobbled together from existing web-based programs and at a considerable savings. With online education there are fewer administrative issues, no buildings to construct and no libraries to collect.

But if the intent of such a program would be a stepping stone towards achieving President Obama’s promises of free community college education, further examination is probably needed. On the surface, a virtually-based, national community college program looks like a great solution to a daunting issue. Digging down, however, the financial and educational factors that sparked the idea in the first place would also be its greatest hindrance.

In order for such a program to be of value, it would need to be within the reach of the poorest of American citizens. Computers, for all they seem readily available by the upper-middle class, are still fiscally out of reach for those of lower income.

A computer at the local library is great for submitting job resumes or checking Facebook, but long-term study on public computers is impractical and insecure. Add to that most public computers are painfully slow and out-of-date, with restricted web search capability, and they seem like a thoroughly impossible option.

Additionally, free (or nearly free) dial-up Internet access would be wholly insufficient for higher learning programs so students would need to use high-speed broadband service. Once again, pricing and accessibility become the major issues. It simply costs too much for most lower-income families to afford high-speed Internet service and, in rural communities, availability remains shockingly limited.

Finally, there is the issue of prerequisite education. Besides whatever background might be needed for enrollment and future success in any particular program, a lack of computer skills can also hamper online class work.

The average computer user has a parenthetical set of skills: they can surf the web (but tend to stay on websites they know how to navigate), use a simple word processor, send a basic email (without attachments), print something and turn the machine off and on. That’s pretty much it.

Some of college coursework would require the student to possess advanced computer skills related to online research, clerical software manipulation, media production and so on. That might be a problem for someone coming from a background of limited resources or a family where technology didn’t play a major role.

None of this is impossible, but the limits on infrastructure, funding and practicality might be too great a challenge to reach those who would most benefit. An online program alone is just not the answer to America’s higher education deficiencies. Sorry George, no national university just yet. But, hopefully, there are some smart people out there trying to make something like it a reality in the near future.

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications. More at gerydeer.com.

Remembering “Spock,” actor Leonard Nimoy

In Entertainment, Movies, National News, Opinion, television, Theatre, Uncategorized, World News on March 3, 2015 at 1:43 pm

DIH LOGO

In 1982, fans of the science fiction franchise, “Star Trek,” more commonly referred to as “Trekkies,” or the more accepted, “Trekkors,” took a kidney punch when Leonard Nimoy’s character of Mr. Spock died at the end of the film “Star Trek II – The Wrath of Khan.” But, thanks to the miracle of science fiction, Spock was resurrected and the Starship Enterprise continued to boldly go where no man had gone before.

Sadly, fans must now face a more painful and permanent fact of life as they mourn the passing of the actor who, for nearly a half century, portrayed their favorite pointy-eared alien. Leonard Nimoy passed away on February 27th at the age of 83 at his home in Los Angeles following a long battle with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD.

As a lifelong fan there is no way to adequately convey the sadness of losing such a talented performer whose on-screen character inspired so many. Mr. Spock, Captain Kirk, Dr. McCoy, and the rest of the U.S.S. Enterprise crew, were great sources, not only of entertainment, but incredible inspiration for individual achievement and social change.

spockNetwork executives originally told Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry to, “get rid of the guy with the ears.” But, thanks to Mr. Nimoy’s talented development of the character,  Mr. Spock became a quintessential part of “Star Trek’s” hopeful future in which everyone worked together to eliminate hunger, pettiness and poverty.

Such a vision is still somewhat unique – and often poked fun at – in the science fiction genre, which more often paints a dark, pessimistic outlook for man and a holocaust-ravaged world of tomorrow.  But with Spock’s presence, a bright future for mankind seemed more plausible. In Spock, Mr. Nimoy created the embodiment of chaos with focus, logic with feeling, and understanding with wonder.

I have been incredibly fortunate on a couple of occasions to have had the chance to meet and speak to Mr. Nimoy, as well as see him perform. At one Star Trek anniversary convention I attended, he invited questions from the audience. He chose my raised hand from several dozen other hopefuls seated nearby and I didn’t waste the opportunity.

A bit stunned at having been selected, I stood up and managed to ask something from the original “Star Trek” pilot episode that I’d been wondering about for years. With a genuinely amused laugh, he thought for a moment and informed us that he’d never before been asked about it.

Then, he answered with a detailed, behind the scenes story and directly thanked me when he finished. I will never forget that. Naturally it was cool even to be picked out of hundreds, but I was far more privileged to have given Leonard Nimoy even a tiny moment of entertainment in return for all he’d given us.

Mr. Nimoy played Spock for the last time in the most recent “Star Trek” film, “Into Darkness,” and, although he will be most remembered for his logical alter-ego, he also performed in dozens of other movies and television programs over the years. Besides “Star Trek,” he’s probably most remembered for his time on “Mission Impossible” and, more recently, in the TV drama, “Fringe.”

Besides being a gifted actor, Mr. Nimoy was a director, poet, photographer and activist. In the “Star Trek” animated series Spock is quoted to have said, “Loss of life is to be mourned. But only if that life was wasted.” Clearly, his was certainly not wasted.

Any of us should be so lucky as to have touched even a fraction of the lives Mr. Nimoy did, and in so many positive ways. To all those mourning a loss, remember the burden will ease over time and those we lose really aren’t gone, as long as we remember them. Live long and prosper.

If you would like to know Gery’s convention question to Mr. Nimoy and what answer he gave, read the BONUS MATERIAL at the end of this article.

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications. More at gerydeer.com.

  

BONUS MATERIAL:
Question from Gery Deer to Leonard Nimoy in a talk at the Star Trek 35th Anniversary Convention, Las Vegas, Nevada.

Gery L. Deer: Mr. Nimoy, in the Star Trek pilot episode, “The Cage,” you beam down to the surface of planet Talos IV with Captain Pike and a landing party. As you walk around the planet set, you appear to be limping and I wanted to know if you could tell us why? I’ve heard people say it had something to do with your boots, or the set floor, whatever. I just wondered what the real reason was.

Deer In Headlines author, Gery L. Deer in one of the uniforms designed for Star Trek II-The Wrath of Khan

Deer In Headlines author, Gery L. Deer in one of the uniforms designed for Star Trek II-The Wrath of Khan

Leonard Nimoy: (Laughing) You’ve been worried about that all of these years, why I was limping? Well, I have to say I have never been asked about that before.

(The crowd of about 1,200 in the room was really laughing at this point and applauding.)

Leonard Nimoy: Well, I’ll tell you because I really don’t want you to be troubled by this any longer. (More laughter). If you remember in the story there was some discussion about a fight that had taken place on a planet several weeks prior.

As the story goes, the Enterprise crew was ambushed and there was a battle in which crew members were killed or injured. Spock was supposed to have hurt his leg in that fight. In television and movies, you often shoot scenes and story lines out of sequence and the scenes where the fight takes place would have been in another episode to go before the events in The Cage had Star Trek had been picked up without any changes. Then you’d see Spock get hurt and know why he’s limping later. (Crowd applauds.)

Leonard Nimoy: (Nimoy, looking back again at Gery) That’s why I was limping and now you don’t have to worry about it anymore. Thank you for that question, that was really the first time anyone has ever asked me that. (Mr. Nimoy gives Gery the Vulcan salute and the crowd applauds again.)

END.