Archives For General

I love it when facts get turned on their head. And when the new idea comes to me from a 15-year-old high school student who took the initiative to do his own research, all the better.

Bicycle ridership drops considerably when helmet laws are enacted, or even when wearing a helmet is advised. Why? Some people simply view helmets as inconvenient, but the primary reason is thought to be that these campaigns cause potential riders to view bicycling as less safe.

If the goal is increased ridership then communities should do as little as possible to discourage cycling. Makes sense. But what about safety?

A 2003 paper argued that, on average, when the number of cyclists doubles, the total number of injuries increases by about 32 percent. The risk of injury per person is reduced. Here in Minneapolis, we’ve done even better.

So the injury rate varies with the number of cyclists on the road. If there are more ducks on the pond with the same number of hunters, wouldn’t any individual duck have a better chance of survival? I’m not sure that would give me much comfort if I were one of the ducks. Perhaps the effect is the result of increased driver awareness or the presence of more dedicated bicycle lanes.

Even without a helmet, the health benefits of cycling appear to far outweigh the risks. A 2010 study quantified the benefits and risks of cycling. The study concluded that the benefits, such as physical activity and less air pollution, outweigh the risks by a factor of seven.

So the bottom line is this: if you’re not currently exercising, get off your duff and go ride your bike with or without a helmet.

Great summary from Scott McLeod. My favorite is B. “The technology function of your school organization exists to serve the educational function, not the other way around.” That’s how we try to run our ship.

College students, who led a record turnout among 18- to 24-year-old voters in 2008, could play a major role in this November’s elections, but their impact could be blunted by states’ voter ID requirements.

In Georgia, for example, legislators have rejected student IDs from private schools, saying the lack of uniformity among school IDs would be a burden for poll workers. There are 198 accredited postsecondary schools in Georgia, including beauty academies and music institutes, according to the National Center of Education Statistics.

Even many ID cards from public colleges are rejected under some state laws, because the cards do not include addresses, issuance and expiration dates.

I wonder how many students don’t have driver’s licenses and rely on their student IDs for identification? I suppose many of them will be surprised when they show up at the polls on Nov. 6th.

My mind is blown. This approach would never occur to me in a million years.

“A mountain of research” substantiates that suspension and expulsion rates are not related to “differential bad behavior” but to “differential responses” from the educational system.

Black students in Minnesota are expelled and suspended 4× more often than white students. Perhaps we’d have more success closing the achievement gap if we keep our black students in school.

In a video that went viral in June, Republican Mike Turzai, Pennsylvania’s House majority leader, spoke approvingly at a Republican State Committee meeting of the state’s new voter ID law, “which is going to allow Gov. Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania — done.”

His spokesman said Turzai meant that Pennsylvania’s election would be fair and free of fraud because of the new ID law. Democrats, however, said Turzai meant the law, signed in March, would suppress Democratic votes.

According to Pennsylvania’s Department of State and the Department of Transportation, as many as 758,000 people, about 9 percent of the state’s 8.2 million registered voters currently don’t have the identification that now will be required at the polling place.

Even if 90 percent of those voters got the correct identification by Nov. 6, that still could leave 75,800 voters disenfranchised.

Relatively old news here from Pennsylvania, but the story from News21 published by MinnPost clarifies the issue by summarizing the current research on voter fraud. In the absence of actual evidence of voter fraud, the Voter ID movement is voter suppression pure and simple and an affront to our democracy.

I’ve just uploaded a new version of NoteScraper for Evernote (download) that supports exporting all of your Kindle notes and highlights from a particular book to a single Evernote note. You can still export each of your annotations to separate notes too, but I had a request for the all-in-one feature. (Thanks Will.)

The new version also includes the authors name in the title of the notes.

Visit my software page for a bit more info, or just give it a spin.

My reading habits changed the moment I got my hands on an iPad. I’d been considering getting a Kindle for a while but held off in anticipation of whatever magical device Steve Jobs and his minions had in store. I’d installed Amazon’s Kindle app on my iPhone some time before, but the small screen never drew me in enough to make it anything more than a occasional reading device. The Kindle app on the iPad’s big screen made all the difference though, and I now find myself buying 90% of my reading material in Kindle ebook form.

About that same time I read Will Richardson’s post where I learned that the electronic notes and highlights that I was creating in my Kindle books could be accessed online at kindle.amazon.com. Wow. To quote Will, “Game. Changer.” I’m not sure I’ll ever buy a non-fiction book in dead tree form again if I can help it. (The inability of Apple’s own iBooks app to make my saved notes and highlights visible in one place is the single biggest reason I have yet to buy a book from Apple.)

Before Kindle, my typical practice was to make my highlights and margin notes in pencil and transcribe them into OmniOutliner so I could have easy access to them later. Effective, but laborious. What if, I thought, I could write some software to “scrape” the web page that displays my notes and highlights and import them into OmniOutliner directly using AppleScript. If nothing else, it sounded like a good excuse to learn AppleScript.

I had the OmniOutliner version working soon enough and added a generic OPML export too for those who don’t happen to own OmniOutliner. By that time I’d started playing around with Evernote and noticed that they had built AppleScript support into their Mac client. I decided to build an Evernote version too.

Enough delay: I’m calling it NoteScraper and making both versions available for download. Please note that there are likely bugs. This software is definitely beta. You can get more information and download the software at the newly minted Savvy Technologist software page.

I hope someone (besides Will) finds this stuff useful. I’d love to hear about it if you do.