PATTC | Prairielands Addiction Technology Transfer Center

Almost Have the Home Theater Set Up

I did not go all out on this project, but I did the parts that you need to do right pretty well. Obviously you can spend more on a home theater than you would on a small house or a large house for that matter. I could write an article about how to go about using the best and nicest components and how to pick out a TV programming package after all of the research that I did. I picked out the Direct tv select package and that gave me a pretty wide selection of sports, first run Movies and the Television networks that I was most interested in. Read more »

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Just Getting Settled in Up Here

How to fix a slow DirecTV boxI have not yet taken all of my stuff out of the boxes. Last night I just slept on the living room floor rather than take the time to set up the bed. I left most of that stuff on the truck because the guy who said he would help me out had to do something else. I am pretty sure he was out with this girl and of course I am asking a favor so I did not have much room to complain. I already looked up this place for people who install Direct TV near you. I was able to get wireless internet, which was kind of lucky because there is not much else to do here. This is out in the boonies for real. Of course my project required a good bit of cheap land and it does not need much of the things you only find in the city. Read more »

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Calling All Boomers: How To Shed Your ‘Luddite’ Label and Embrace Technology (With Trepidation!)

Start small. Less is more. If the terms iPod, Smart Phone, E-Reader, digital device are as foreign to you as Sanskrit, it’s time to venture out to your local small, independent or large ‘big box’ technology outlet. Walk in with your head held high, and don’t let them see you sweat. You’ll be surprised how many young people (that is, anyone legally young enough to work), will happily swarm to your side, eager to demonstrate how much they know vs. how little you know about the latest digital tool.

Use my strategy. I always start by admitting that I know less than I really do. That approach accomplishes several objectives: first, it reinforces within me the fact that whatever meager knowledge I do have is accurate, because it has been substantiated by a 16-year-old expert; secondly, it gives your salesperson the opportunity to ‘show off’ what he/she knows. You will thereby make a friend who, hopefully, will guide you through what could probably be a daunting, intimidating purchase process. Ideally, he will adopt you as your mentor, shielding you from making today’s overkill purchase as well as tomorrow’s feelings of buyer’s remorse.

Next, don’t hesitate to stop him immediately — as soon as he utters one cyber-word beyond your comprehension, Politely interrupt him and claim ignorance. This approach immediately serves as a reality check for your ‘teacher’, compelling him to back up a few terabytes, to lower his expectations, and to tone down his rhetoric. Your ‘tech tutor’ immediately realizes that in you he’s dealing with someone who is still in a 20th century time warp, and adjusts his sales pitch accordingly.

Once you have his attention as to your level of technology incompetence, then mention your interests. Again, here it helps to be specific and to ‘think small’. Is your passion music? Photography? Video? Statistics? Writing? Would you like to learn how to use The Web? Establish a Facebook or Twitter presence? Or do you just no longer want to be tethered to your home phone? Yes. You demurely admit – you still use a LAN line and don’t own a cell phone!
A word of caution. You will undoubtedly, fall prey to all the glitz, the lights, the jargon, the media blitz that surrounds you. Focus, laser-beam-like, on your limitations, your specific technology goal, and your bank account.

Your goal – to zero in on the least sophisticated tech tool that will help you get started for the lowest price.

Whatever the techie on the sales floor recommends, keep asking him to ‘drill down’ to a simpler gadget – one with less features, not more.

The trick is to achieve that balance between what you really need to jump start your launch into the cyber world, without becoming overwhelmed and confused with too many advanced, sophisticated features that you, the tech neophyte, do not understand or probably will never use. Again, less is more. The research shows that most of us use less than 10% of our technology devices’ power and features, because: a) we’re totally unaware of a given tech tool’s capabilities; b) our interests or our work focus on and/or require only specific features; c) our level of technical expertise is limited. In other words, “you don’t know what you don’t know.” And, until you do learn about what you don’t know, you don’t want to become a victim of technology overload. A rule of thumb, if you can’t pronounce it, and if you can’t describe in your own words what it can do, you probably don’t need or want it.

Are you ready???!!! Aim, aim, aim – fire! Make a decision. Choose a device. Trust me; your choice to make a leap into the tech world will be a cathartic experience and a defining moment.

“Now, what?” you say? “Now that I’ve caught the fish, won the prize, bought the pig – what do I do with it?” Not to fear. Help is on the way. In my next segment, I’ll provide great human and material resources that are ready, willing and able to transform you into a cyber-user in no time at all, and with a minimum of angst. In fact, trust me, you will savor the journey.

What Ails Vermont?

Vermonters are understandably proud of their scenic, mostly rural and unspoiled state, so it may have been a little jarring to hear Gov. Peter Shumlin talk about a “full-blown heroin crisis” and a mounting “hopelessness that can help drive drug habits.” (1)

Jarring, but not exactly surprising. Even as just an occasional vacationer, for years I have heard about a swelling problem with heroin in the small city of Rutland, at the western foot of the Green Mountains. Overall, Shumlin said in his state of the state address, treatment for opiate use has increased nearly eightfold since 2000.

Which brings us directly to the question: What ails Vermont?

If we can tear our gaze away from those green hills, red barns, snowy ski slopes and brilliant fall colors, we might see a statistical picture of a state that is stagnating, like a retiree with too little to do. Bodies decay under such conditions, and spirits do too.

With an enviable unemployment rate of 4.4 percent for November, compared to the national 7 percent at that time, you might think Vermont’s economy is booming, much like that of equally rural, oil-fed North Dakota. But it isn’t. There were about 335,000 Vermonters (from a total statewide population of about 626,000) working that month, including the self-employed. In November 1999, the state counted 328,200 workers. That’s a pitiful net growth of fewer than 7,000 jobs in 14 years. By the way, North Dakota – with a population only slightly larger than that of Vermont – gained around 50,000 jobs in the same 14-year period.

The recession of 2008-2009 is not a big factor. After recovering many of the jobs lost in the downturn, Vermont actually lost some jobs during the past year. Unemployment fell during the same time, however, from 5 percent to 4.4 percent, as more people left the labor force than entered it.

Overall, Vermont lost a handful of residents last year – the first population downturn in three-quarters of a century, according to the Census Bureau. (2) From the 1960s through the 1980s, Vermont gained residents at double-digit percentages. The state responded with numerous measures to curb development, including a land-gains tax of up to 80 percent on property that is acquired and quickly subdivided, usually for new housing developments. From 1990 to 2000, the population increased only 8.2 percent. From 2000 to 2010, the net gain was a scant 2.8 percent. These are not annual percentages; these are percentages for the entire decade. From 2010 to now, the growth is barely above zero.

Similar trends are playing out nationally, but they are exaggerated in Vermont. The state is older and much whiter than average. The state’s percentage of Hispanics (1.5 percent) is the second-lowest in the country; the percentage of African-Americans (1 percent) is third-lowest. These demographic groups tend to have higher birth rates than non-Hispanic whites.

It is no surprise that Vermont’s population of school-age students is shrinking at an alarming rate. There were fewer than 90,000 school-age Vermonters in 2011-12, according to the state, compared to more than 106,000 in 1996-97. The school population fell in all 15 of those years.

As school enrollments fall, costs per student are rising. The state spent about $13,500 per elementary and secondary student this year, up about 30 percent from a decade earlier.

Vermonters seem to think their state is a great place to live, but it seems not too many folks from other places agree.

Vermont’s notably chilly weather must play a role, as does its remoteness. But New Hampshire is not tropical either, and it has attracted considerable growth and a thriving technology industry, especially the southern region close to Boston. The state’s population is more than double Vermont’s, and it grew by more than 6 percent between 2000 and 2010.

I think Vermont’s tax structure has a lot to do with the difference between its performance and its neighbor’s. Besides the aforementioned tax on relatively short-term gains from the sale of land, the state has a steep income tax, is among the minority that imposes an estate tax, has a significant sales tax, and also provides a property tax break to households with less than $90,000 of annual income, which shifts more of the burden to upper-income residents. New Hampshire has no land gains tax, no tax on wages, no estate tax and no sales tax.

Taxes are not the only factor, however. Egalitarian Vermont, which sent self-described socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders to Washington, has a complex and cumbersome property tax system in which wealthy communities directly subsidize schools for poorer locales. The system makes it complicated and expensive for such communities to raise money to spend locally on programs such as enriched extracurricular activities and advanced placement classes. Though Vermont’s schools are widely considered to be pretty good, they do not rank highly in the percentage of graduates who go on to four-year college degrees.

Likewise, the state’s varied restrictions on development discourage the creation of new industries and the jobs they might bring. There is a historical basis for Vermont’s anti-development bias. In the years before the Civil War, the state was nearly denuded of trees because of a boom in farming and raising livestock, especially sheep. The barren hillsides poured choking silt into the streams below. By the start of the 20th century, Vermont had to go so far as importing white-tailed deer from New York to restock its population.

Many of the state’s residents today prize the small-town culture. They treasure handmade crafts and artisanal, organic, locally grown foods. I have nothing against these things; I like many of Vermont’s products, including chocolate, wooden crafts and maple syrup. But you don’t attract many new jobs with these industries, and without jobs, you don’t attract many young workers and their children. You don’t create many opportunities for the young people who are already present, either.

The only reasons for Vermont to have an epidemic of drugs and hopelessness are man-made. When heroin is sold just around the corner from the farmer’s market, something must be wrong. I think I understand why Vermonters have adopted the policies that govern their state today. I do wonder, though, whether they are willing to change their policies if they don’t like the results.

Sources:

1) The Washington Post, “Vermont Session Preview: A budget gap and a heroin crisis”

2) Burlington Free Press, “Experts: Vermont population loss to challenge economic growth”

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