The Mid-Season Report

So I went into town today with Christy to do some laundry, get some coffee, and get on the web at regular pace. The two bucks that I paid to ‘Brew Moon’ on Railroad Street in E.R. is totally worth it. It’ll be worth it even more if I find out later that they don’t change their WEP key every day.

Here now are the things that I wrote down while I was in the woods, mostly yesterday, but a few on opening day (Saturday the 20th).

11/20: First shot of the season heard at 6:36… Second heard at 6:44, right after I text-messaged Wordy the weather report… 2 must-have’s for the next place I go to school — tuition covered or reimbursed, paid teaching assistantship… 8:36, saw three deer walk almost right under my tree stand (no more than 15 yards away) but decided none was big enough to shoot…

11/23: The rest of the weekend passed without seeing another deer. Uncle Mark and Christopher had to head back home around noon on Sunday, after we made a couple drives.

Me, Dad, and the Graues went back out to sit on Sunday afternoon, and it was a much nicer afternoon than the rainy/shitty Saturday.

I stayed up to watch the Packers play at Houston on Sunday night. They were down 13-3 at halftime, and as the 3rd quarter wore on with neither team doing much, I said to myself, “If Houston scores again, I’m going to bed.” They didn’t, Brett won the game, and the Pack is 6-4. Probably ought to be 8-2, but that’s another story.

Monday was ho-hum, bout the same as Sunday. Mark and Phil left about 10AM, Dad and I went to see Roger (at the dump), hunted AM and PM.

Today (Tuesday) I slept in a little, watched ‘Coffee & Cigarettes’ on the satellite while I drank a pot of coffee, then I took a ride to town and Rhinelander.

Joe picked me up the new U2, which I’ll have to go to the coffeehouse or library to download. Bonson’s wanted 16 bucks for it, which is bullshit. At Wal-Mart? in Rhinelander, it was only 10, but I told Joe not to get it there, and I wasn’t going to be a hypocrite about it.

I got up in my tree today at about 2:05, and the bad news is the apples I cut up and threw on the ground yesterday are still there. To me, this indicates no deer have been through here, at least in the past 24 hours. So now I’m sort of torn: on the one hand, that makes me think maybe I should try a different place, since no deer in the last few days probably means they won’t be back for a while. On the other hand, it makes me want to stay put, thinking they have to come back eventually. Such is the rub of the hunt.

I am either coming down with a cold or wearing wool for such an extended period has aggravated my allergies. In any case, I’ve had a sore throat for two days and today I had to bring a handful of Halls along into the woods. I should probably use them sparingly in order to make them last.

Last night, Dad watched ‘Family Guy’ with me. He had never seen it before and laughed his ass off, particularly at the things that are in exceptionally poor taste, which is kind of what the point of the show is. Mom read a book.

Now that Joe and Jen are engaged for real, I need to get cracking on hooking up with a chick in a legitimate relationship. No one else really knew this, but one of my goals has been to take a “girlfriend” along to their wedding. With the date set for Friday, April 29, I figure I have about four months max to meet such a person. Of course, the holiday season is coming up, and who really has the time to pursue a romantic relationship during this economically stressful time? So really, that leaves me with about three months, minus a week for spring break, so 2 months, 3 weeks. The odds and history are both against me, but it’s hard to believe they’re finally getting hitched, too. Who knew I’d run out of time so fast?

Well that pretty much takes care of my list for the time being. I don’t imagine I’ll be back before after the Thanksgiving holiday (which is tomorrow) so enjoy it with whomever you plan to spend it. With.

College Kids, Deerhunting, and the Holiday Season

Did you know that in this format, it is mega-easy to read the blog on a handheld? As Dave Slotten might say ‘pretty neat, pretty neat.’

Yesterday afternoon, I had a swell time with Dave Schrubbe and Kim Vlies conducting some statistical research for one of Dave’s classes.

We took a random sampling of 43 students on the pedestrian mall between the union and the library and asked them the following questions:
1. How old are you?

2. What is your major?

3. Do you live on campus? (if ‘yes,’ which hall?)

4. Are you employed? (if ‘yes,’ full or part time, on- or off-campus?)

5. Do you want to get hit with a bat? (if ‘no,’ what if we give you a free t-shirt?)

While the data has yet to be formally sythesized, as the Chief Surveyor on this project, I can say that a startling majority of college students responded favorably to being hit with a plastic bat, and the vast majority of those who did not were still willing to be inflicted with pain in exchange for cheap gifts.

It might be fun to to conduct this survey in a variety of geographic regions, maybe try to determine if this campus has something to do with it. Dave says he would be glad to license the study to anyone interested for a nominal fee. Drop him a line if you have some spare time.

This afternoon, I’ll be heading up north for the deer hunt. It’s going to be pretty warm, according to the latest weather data; might even rain on Saturday. Thing is, though, you can never predict how cold 38 degrees is going to feel if you’re sitting still for an extended period of time.

I do like to keep at least my fingers moving, though. As you sit in a tree your mind can float in some wacky directions. Maybe that’s one of the reasons that hunters enjoy hunting as much as they do: it’s very quiet.

I could use a new space pen for the weekend, though; I remember trying to write with my regular pen last year, and it was difficult at times. A pencil would be OK, sure, if I didn’t push way too hard and break all my leads. Hence, space pen needed.

And have you ever tried writing underwater with them things? I can’t imagine what you would write on with a pen underwater, seeing as how paper isn’t going to work, and how much could you be working on while submerged that doesn’t relate directly to your submersion? One of life’s mysteries.

Wordell has a new internship at Paramount, and it affords him a lot of opportunities (Internet- and writing-wise) that I used to have when was working for Res Life. Giving that knowledge, you should drop him a line some time, too.

The holiday season is right around the corner, so make sure you check out my list if you’re frustrated or need guidance. I like December just in general; it’s probably my favorite month. In addition to the Christmas and the birthday, I only have two weeks of class that month, what with the semester winding down. I had a random dream last night, too, where people who I don’t really know very well were buying me gifts for some reason, and I felt really bad because I had nothing to offer them in return. Eh, just a dream, whatever.

Right now, there are three of us working in the Financial Aid Office. Bloody ghost town around here. I’m going to try to get out early if I can; still need to finish up a couple things at the house before I head out for the week. Catch ya once I get to E.R.

RFID Should Scare the Hell Out of You

I read another article in the New York Times today about RFID-tagging for schoolchildren in Texas. ‘RFID’ stands for ‘radio frequency identification,’ and the basic principle is that you attach a tiny radio transmitter to an object that you want to keep track of, and whenever the transmitter’s signal is picked up by a receiver, you can tell where that object is. This, of course, is just one of innumerable applications of the technology, and I actually think I might’ve mentioned it before (there was another time I read something on Cnet about RFID tags for hospital patients that would carry around their medical records).

Here’s a link to the article; I hope it works. Ah, what the hell; just in case it doesn’t:
SPRING, Tex. – In front of her gated apartment complex, Courtney Payne, a 9-year-old fourth grader with dark hair pulled tightly into a ponytail, exits a yellow school bus. Moments later, her movement is observed by Alan Bragg, the local police chief, standing in a windowless control room more than a mile away.

Chief Bragg is not using video surveillance. Rather, he watches an icon on a computer screen. The icon marks the spot on a map where Courtney got off the bus, and, on a larger level, it represents the latest in the convergence of technology and student security.

Hoping to prevent the loss of a child through kidnapping or more innocent circumstances, a few schools have begun monitoring student arrivals and departures using technology similar to that used to track livestock and pallets of retail shipments.

Here in a growing middle- and working-class suburb just north of Houston, the effort is undergoing its most ambitious test. The Spring Independent School District is equipping 28,000 students with ID badges containing computer chips that are read when the students get on and off school buses. The information is fed automatically by wireless phone to the police and school administrators.

In a variation on the concept, a Phoenix school district in November is starting a project using fingerprint technology to track when and where students get on and off buses. Last year, a charter school in Buffalo began automating attendance counts with computerized ID badges – one of the earliest examples of what educators said could become a widespread trend.

At the Spring district, where no student has ever been kidnapped, the system is expected to be used for more pedestrian purposes, Chief Bragg said: to reassure frantic parents, for example, calling because their child, rather than coming home as expected, went to a friend’s house, an extracurricular activity or a Girl Scout meeting.

When the district unanimously approved the $180,000 system, neither teachers nor parents objected, said the president of the board. Rather, parents appear to be applauding. “I’m sure we’re being overprotective, but you hear about all this violence,” said Elisa Temple-Harvey?, 34, the parent of a fourth grader. “I’m not saying this will curtail it, or stop it, but at least I know she made it to campus.”

The project also is in keeping with the high-tech leanings of the district, which built its own high-speed data network and is outfitting the schools with wireless Internet access. A handful of companies have adapted the technology for use in schools.

But there are critics, including some older students and privacy groups like the American Civil Liberties Union, who argue that the system is security paranoia.

The decades-old technology, called radio frequency identification, or RFID, is growing less expensive and developing vast new capabilities. It is based on a computer chip that has a unique number programmed into it and contains a tiny antenna that sends information to a reader.

The same technology is being used by companies like Wal-Mart? to track pallets of retail items. Pet owners can have chips embedded in cats and dogs to identify them if they are lost.

In October, the Food and Drug Administration approved use of an RFID chip that could be implanted under a patient’s skin and would carry a number that linked to the patient’s medical records.

At the Spring district, the first recipients of the computerized ID badges have been the 626 students of Bammel Elementary school. That includes Felipe Mathews, a 5-year-old kindergartner, and the other 30 students who rode bus No. 38 to school on a recent morning.

Felipe, wearing a gray, hooded sweatshirt with a Spiderman logo and blue high-top tennis shoes also with a Spiderman logo, wore his yellow ID badge on a string around his neck. When he climbed on to the bus, he pressed the badge against a flat gray “reader”just inside the bus door. The reader ID beeped.

Shortly after, he was followed onto the bus by Christopher Nunez, a 9-year-old fourth grader. Christopher said it was important that students wore badges so they did not get lost. Asked what might cause someone to get lost, he said, “If they’re in second grade they might not know which street is their home.”

But on the morning Felipe and Christopher shared a seat on bus No. 38, the district experienced one of the early technology hiccups. When the bus arrived at school, the system had not worked. On the Web site that includes the log of student movements, there was no record that any of the students on the bus had arrived.

It was just one of many headaches; the system had also made double entries for some students, and got arrival times and addresses wrong for others. “It’s early glitches,” said Brian Weisinger, the head of transportation for the Spring district, adding that he expected to work out the problems.

But for the Enterprise Charter School in Buffalo, where administrators gave ID cards with the RFID technology to around 460 students last year, the computer problems lasted for many months.

The system is set up so that when students walk in the door each morning, they pass by one of two kiosks – which together cost $40,000 – designed to pick up their individual radio frequency numbers as a way of taking attendance. Initially, though, the kiosks failed to register some students, or registered ones who were not there.

Mark Walter, head of technology for the Buffalo school, said the system was working well now. But Mr. Walter cautions that the more ambitious technological efforts in Spring, particularly given the reliance on cellphones to call in the data, are “going to run in to some problems.”

In the long run, however, the biggest problem may be human error. Parents, teachers and administrators said their primary worry is getting students to remember their cards, given they often forget such basics as backpacks, lunch money and gym shoes. And then there might be mischief: students could trade their cards.

Still, administrators in Buffalo said they had been contacted by districts around the country, and from numerous other countries, interested in using something similar.

And the administrators in Buffalo and here in Spring said the technology, when perfected, would eventually be a big help. Parents at the Spring district seem to feel the same way. They speak of momentary horrors of realizing their child did not arrive home when expected.

Some older students are not so enthusiastic.

“It’s too Big Brother for me,” said Kenneth Haines, a 15-year-old ninth grader who is on the football and debate teams. “Something about the school wanting to know the exact place and time makes me feel kind of like an animal.”

Middle and high school students already wear ID badges, but they have not yet been equipped with the RFID technology. Even so, some bus drivers are apparently taking advantage of the technology’s mythical powers by telling students that they are being tracked on the bus in order to get them to behave better.

Kenneth’s opinion is echoed by organizations like the A.C.L.U. and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit group that promotes “digital rights.”

It is “naïve to believe all this data will only be used to track children in the extremely unlikely event of the rare kidnapping by a stranger,” said Barry Steinhardt, director of the technology and liberty program at the A.C.L.U.

Mr. Steinhardt said schools, once they had invested in the technology, could feel compelled to get a greater return on investment by putting it to other uses, like tracking where students go after school.

Advocates of the technology said they did not plan to go that far. But, they said, they do see broader possibilities, such as implanting RFID tags under the skin of children to avoid problems with lost or forgotten tags. More immediately, they said, they could see using the technology to track whether students attend individual classes.

Mr. Weisinger, the head of transportation at Spring, said that, for now, the district could not afford not to put the technology to use. Chief Bragg said the key to catching kidnappers was getting crucial information within two to four hours of a crime – information such as the last place the child was seen.

“We’ve been fortunate; we haven’t had a kidnapping,” Mr. Weisinger said. “But if it works one time finding a student who has been kidnapped, then the system has paid for itself.”

Did you *read* the line about embedding the tags sub-dermally? Oh. Em. Gee.

So my point, I guess, is that I’m afraid of becoming a blip on a digital map, and there is a part of me that’s afraid I’m there already.

In unrelated news, school is going well, it’s nice to be back (here), the Packers still lick, I have off all next week, and the New Year’s party is totally on.

How’ve you been?