July 2009 Archives

I am saddened to hear that Walter Cronkite passed away a little while ago at the age of 92. Not only we lose Walter Cronkite, we lost an age of news reporting. I remember listening to Walter Cronkite give the news, even though I was young for many of those years. To me he always seemed impartial in reporting the news and he is certainly THE reporter who is replayed in television retrospectives. Come Monday we have all hear many replays of his broadcast of the moon landing.

In his retirement I admit I was disappointed to learn that good ole Walter was a liberal. Not that being a liberal disappointed me, I was disappointed that he "came out" and was not longer seen as impartial. My recollections of his news reporting were always those of someone impartial.

When Dan Rather replaced him I quit CBS News. Rather was so obviously biased in his reporting that I could no longer watch the news with him. That was before we had news 24/7. Of course I remember CNN seeming to be fairly unbiased when they first came to be too but that has changed. No we have CNN's obvious bias, Fox News is "fair and balanced" but we know which way they tend to lean. ABC, NBC, and CBS just can't compete with the 24/7 stations. MSNBC, well let's not go there but they have little impact.

In losing Walter Cronkite we lost an icon. We do still have his model to follow if only we can.

Reading is, after all, fundamental. Nice interview with the creator of the Navy Professional Reading Program here. This program grew out of the CNOs recommended reading list but I think the Navy was right on the money in devising this particular program. You can easily zero in on either a general topic of interest or a list of books for a particular rank.

Interesting that they are looking at how to integrate Kindles and, I assume, other e-book readers. I maintain that the Kindle is the ideal technology for military personnel. It is light, easy to read, good battery life, and stores lots of books. Hard copy will be good for libraries but I want to have my Kindle with me.

Dumb-dumb bullets, by T. X. Hammes, Armed forces Journal, July 2009, p, 12.

Col. Hammes has neatly summed up the problems with PowerPoint. It is clearly a great tool for sharing information but is lousy for decision-making. Hammes correctly says that if someone is making too many decisions to have time to read a paper on them, then they are making bad decisions.

What bothers me is that everyone has come to expect a copy of a PowerPoint brief so that they can share it with others. It troubles me when wants a copy of my "slides" but does not hear the presentation. I use PowerPoint as a tool to share information but it is not standalone. The PowerPoint and my talk go together and one without the other is worth less and sometime worthless.

In teaching classes students have come to expect that PowerPoint is posted on the web and often posted even before the class. I have mixed feelings about that and I tend to post my slides after the lecture. First, posting them before class can deter class attendance. Second, it can reduce note-taking. I've heard the argument that by having my slides in class makes it easy to take notes but I don't buy it. Part of taking notes is listening and determining what is important to you. The very act of thinking about what is said and writing it down makes the information yours and easier to recall. Placing a star by a bulleted line is simply not good enough.

The worst thing about using PowerPoint to make decisions is that the author of the presentation seldom seems to present both sides. Bullets are selected such that the decision-maker is led down a certain path--the path of making the decision the presenters wants made.

Last week I received an anonymous letter. I say I received it when in reality it was addressed to the College and not to any individual, but it ended up in my mailbox. It had no signature, no internal address block, and it had no return address on the envelope. The person had just as well signed it "Coward". I hate cowards, especially cowards who are not willing to stand up for themselves or their beliefs.

The gist of the letter was a complaint about an organization that is only loosely associated with the college and is in no way under our direct control. The letter questioned how we could "support" an organization that, in the opinion of the coward, acted not in our best interest in a decision they recently made. The coward was woefully ill-informed and took no time to check his (or her) facts. By leaving no contact information he ensured we would not be able to educate him, or even respond. It was in essence a drive-by letter. It accomplished nothing other than demonstrate how the author had an opinion but was not brave enough to have it attributed to him.

If you have an idea or opinion but are too afraid to have it associated with you then what good is having that idea. There are exceptions to this rule--Thomas Paine and "Common Sense" for example--but here lives were at stake.

Thankfully today we are able to celebrate because a few men were not cowards--they were not afraid to state their opinions and sign their names giving us:

The Unanimous Declaration
of the Thirteen United States of America

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