"And the Wichita Lineman, is Still on the Line..."

New Edge  Though hardly unexpected, this week’s news of Glen Campbell’s passing was no less sad.

Campbell had fought a public battle with Alzheimer’s disease. Rather than self-pityingly succumbing to his fate, Campbell took on the disease on his own terms: following his diagnosis, he embarked upon an extended Farewell Tour. And though his overall mental condition was deteriorating, he maintained his formidable guitar and vocal skills throughout the duration of the tour. It served as a way for Campbell to thank his fans for their decades of support, and allowed the fans to let Campbell know how just much his music had meant to them.

His was truly an amazing musical career. He was a member of the Wrecking Crew, the team of crack studio musicians that played on not only all of Phil Spector’s recordings, but also on timeless works by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Sonny and Cher, and the Mamas and the Papas.

What "The Sopranos" Teaches Us About Rural America

An excerpt of dialogue from the HBO series “The Sopranos” illustrates themes discussed in the latest Smart Rural Community white paper, “Steel Sharpens Steel: A Conversation About Regional Thinking for Rural America:”

"I tell ya, we each and every one of us, we're alone in the ring, fighting for our lives . . ."

"Well, that's one way to look at it. It's actually an illusion those two boxers are separate entities. Their separate entities is simply the way we choose to perceive them. It's physics; Schrodinger's equation. The boxers, you, me we're all part of the same quantum field. Think of the two boxers as ocean waves or currents of air, two tornadoes, say. They appear to be two things, right? Two separate things. But they're not. Tornadoes are just wind, the wind stirred up in different directions. The fact is, nothing is separate; everything's connected. The universe is just one big soup of molecules bumping up against one another. The shapes we see exist only in our own consciousness."

Ready, Set, Code!

The American Library Association (ALA) is administering a new grant program funded by Google to promote computational thinking (CT) and computer science (CS) for pre-school through high-school students at public libraries. Grants of up to $25,000 will be awarded to libraries in small, rural, suburban and urban communities. The ALA advises that applicants do not need to hire a grant writer. Rather, applications will be reviewed on the basis of Request for Proposal that will guide libraries to explain their vision and programming.

Students at Lakeview Elementary in Norman, Oklahoma, explore coding (photo: Paul Allman).

If the Millennials Won't Come to the Mountain...

New  Edge  As recently noted here in The Exchange, as many as 25% of U.S. households have cut the video cord, going without pay TV service altogether. Many of these households tend to skew toward the younger side of the demographic scale.

In a novel attempt to attract these cord cutters, NBC News is courting them where they live: Snapchat. Last week, the network debuted a twice-daily news show entitled “Stay Tuned,” which will appear on Snapchat’s Discover platform.

The program will cover national and international news, politics, sports and pop culture. It will be hosted by NBC News’ Gadi Schwartz, and Savannah Sellers of MSNBC.

Travelogue: Washington, DC

  I travel through Washington, DC, each day on my way to work, but I rarely have much opportunity to walk the well-known parts of the city. With no offense to the FCC, its offices, just across the street from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, are not high on the list of tourist sites. By contrast, Capitol Hill, close to historic Union Station, the Supreme Court, the Library of Congress, and various Congressional office buildings, is a far better attraction, even in 95+degree heat.

Maggie Basgall of NexTech (Lenora, Kan.) discusses rural 
telemedicine at a Congressional panel on July 18, 2017.

This week, I went to the Hill twice, both times to see NTCA members appear on panels. On Tuesday, Maggie Basgall of Nex-Tech (Lenora, Kan.) discussed the value of telemedicine and the need for rural network infrastructure to support it. Ms. Basgall referred to USF and other Federal programs as critical inputs to ensuring not only broadband but all of the benefits that it enables. Ms. Basgall appeared with representatives from the telehealth industry and Microsoft.

Scott McCloud (seated at left) of Bluegrass Cellular discusses 
5G deployment for rural Kentucky at a Congressional panel.

"It's Nice to Be Important..."

New Edge  “….but it’s more important to be nice.”

That was just one of the many pearls of motherly wisdom imparted to me in childhood. And to my mother’s great credit, I have found it to be almost universally true. As time went on, however, I learned that the primary exception to the rule was a space that didn’t exist in my childhood: the cybersphere.

A recent study conducted by the Pew Research Center has sought to quantify the overall lack of online manners. Pew found that 41% of survey respondents reported that they had at one time been the subject of online harassment. Some of the alleged offensives ranged from relatively minor: offensive name-calling (27%), or purposeful embarrassment (22%). Others were considerably more concerning: physical threats (10%), sustained harassment (7%), stalking (7%), and sexual harassment (6%).

Travelogue: Lovington, Illinois

  I travelled recently to Lovington, Illinois.

Before my departure, a friend asked, “What’s in Lovington?”

Downtown Lovington: Hardware State Bank moved into this corner building in 1885.
A new library is next door, and Moultrie is across the street.

I replied, “When I get there, one-thousand, one-hundred, and one people.” I thought that I had been to small towns (in Kansas once, my cab driver called for another car after he was in an accident; the “other cab” was a Toyota Corolla driven by his wife, and we shared the ride with their daughter and baby granddaughter), but Lovington may be among the smallest to which I have been.

You Don't Say...

New  Edge  There was a time when talking to inanimate objects was a sure sign of mental instability. No longer—voice control and voice-based technologies have seen a tremendous gain in acceptance over the past five years, according to a new report recently released by Parks Associates.

In the report, entitled “Impact of Voice on Connected Consumer Markets,” Parks finds that at the end of 2016, 45% of U.S. broadband households used a voice-enabled personal assistant through an application or dedicated device.

Parks looks a three specific types of devices: intelligent personal assistants, software agents that performs tasks or services for an individual; smart speakers with personal assistants, which have an interface where the primary input and output are voice, and the intelligent personal assistant is embedded within the device or in the cloud; and smart home devices, which connect to the Internet and allow users to access, monitor, and control the devices as well as receive alerts.

That Short, Meaningless Conversation You Have with a Cashier Could be Saving Your Life

  The internet has conditioned us to short news cycles, so there is a certain nostalgia to seeing last Friday’s Wall Street Journal (WSJ) report of tumbling Kroger shares and mention in that article of similar pressure on other grocery chains, including Whole Foods. Of course, within hours, Amazon announced that it would offer $13.7 billion for the grocery giant.

Corn Pops in Harlem

  Neighborhoods have a way of changing. When I first lived in New York for school, my neighborhood enjoyed the second highest homicide rate of all NYPD precincts; anything above West 98th Street was considered sketchy, at least until you entered the Columbia University campus at 116th Street; and, Harlem had earned a reputation for some rough edges.

But, it had not always been that way. Harlem’s historic buildings offer silent testimony to how people and communities move around within their cities; numerous churches exhibit stonework and carvings that evidence their past use as synagogues (and, several of those buildings were originally churches in their first iterations). As the neighborhood gentrifies, it is not without the stress that often accompanies such evolutions. And, yet, the neighborhood is evolving, as are my old college stomping grounds. Silicon Harlem is a not-for-profit venture aimed at fostering tech development, and my old neighborhood now sports a Starbucks (regrettably, the old-time butcher with the reliable $5 rotisserie chicken is gone).