30 June 2013

Updates to the Blog Community Guidelines

I have made a few minor edits to the community guidelines for both the Edward Ringwald Blog and the Interstate 275 Florida Blog.  You can view them here.
Among the highlights:
You are responsible for whatever comment you make on any of my blog entries.  In other words, you take full responsibility for your comment.
Remember, where you go and what you do on the World Wide Web is not private.  Here's a web site to help you determine what your Internet Protocol (IP) address is:  What is my IP Address.  After all, your IP address is the string of numbers that identifies you on the public Internet.
This applies whether you post as an anonymous user or you post while you are logged in to your Google or Open ID account.  When you post under your Google or Open ID account, your comment is titled like this:
(user account name) said...
Your comment shows up here.
This is in addition to the commenting guidelines that are already in place, of which I will remind all of our commenters as stated below:
1.  Stay on the blog topic.
2.  Be respectful of others out there.
3.  Don't hate or express hatred.
4.  Don't use language that you wouldn't use with your parents.  Or with your boss.  Or at your school teachers.  Or with anyone else in authority.
5.  No commercial messages of any kind.
6.  No infringing on the publicity and privacy rights of others.
7.  No personal identifying information such as automobile tag numbers, Social Security numbers, driver license numbers, financial account numbers and the like.
One more item I need to mention is that I have a no comment removal policy, much like the consumer site RipOffReport.com where once you post a comment about the experience you had with a business, it's there forever.  However, comments that are moderated are screened prior to being allowed to be posted, as this blog is a family friendly blog for all ages.
I fully support the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America, which provides for freedom of lawful speech and freedom of lawful expression among other things.  As the blog you are reading is hosted on servers here in the United States (it's hosted on Blogger, a part of online giant Google), and as the Fourth of July is just around the corner as I am writing this blog entry, I will defend my lawful right of free expression and free speech not only for the entries I write but for the comments you make.  To that end, my blog community guidelines for both the Edward Ringwald Blog and the Interstate 275 Florida Blog have support for the values enumerated in the First Amendment.

Is Wharton High School in Tampa still part of the United States?

Here's an article that I have been recently following in The Tampa Tribune now that high school graduations for 2013 have come and gone:  Principal cuts off Wharton salutatorian in middle of graduation speech.  If you are an American that values the right of lawful free speech and expression, you need to keep reading this blog entry word for word.

After all, if you happen to be your senior class' valedictorian or salutatorian and you have to give a speech at graduation, you are asked by your school principal to write a speech and run it by the principal for approval.  And this is what Wharton High salutatorian Harold Shaw Jr. did.

And when graduation day comes and you have to give that speech, it is normal to be nervous.  After all, you only get one chance at high school including graduation.

So graduation day for Wharton High came, and Harold Shaw Jr. gave his speech, which was approved by Wharton High Principal Brad Woods in the days before graduation.  Halfway through the graduation speech, according to The Tampa Tribune article, Principal Woods pulled the plug on what was supposed to be Harold Shaw Jr.'s speech to the Class of 2013.

What happened next will shock you, quoting from the Tribune article:

1.  Principal Brad Woods stated that he respected the principles of free speech.  What a lie Principal Woods made to all in attendance at the graduation ceremony.

2.  Next, Principal Woods decides to make a criminal out of Harold Shaw, Jr. by having him and his parents escorted off the premises by two Hillsborough Sheriff's deputies working security detail at the ceremony.

3.  Harold Shaw, Jr. was allowed to pick up his high school diploma - two days after the ceremony.

Now here's my take on how Harold Shaw Jr.'s were grossly violated by the actions of Wharton High Principal Brad Woods at the graduation ceremonies that took place at the Florida State Fairgrounds' Expo Hall:

After reading the article not only at The Tampa Tribune but also 10 News (WTSP-TV) and Bay News 9, I think it is very clear that Principal Woods violated Harold Shaw Jr.'s civil rights.  That speech was already approved after so many revisions made well in advance.

By the way, Hillsborough Schools Superintendent MaryEllen Elia defended the actions of Wharton High Principal Brad Woods at Wharton High's commencement ceremony, according to this 10 News (WTSP-TV) article.  Nothing more than a rubber stamp seal of approval that Wharton High School - as well as the Hillsborough County School District - tramples on the principles of American patriotism, liberty and democracy.

Besides, what kind of school district is Hillsborough Superintendent MaryEllen Elia running?  How about lax supervision of students, as what happened tragically with 11-year-old Jennifer Caballero when she wandered off the campus of Rodgers Middle School.  How about treating students, especially high school students (and their parents too), more like criminals, using a Student Code of Conduct which parallels civil law such as what is found in Mexico.

On a side note, Mexican law is based on civil law.  Easiest explanation:  You are guilty of any offense until you prove your innocence.  Same way with the Hillsborough County School District's Code of Student Conduct:  You as a student are guilty of any offense in the code of student conduct until you can prove otherwise, and nine times out of ten any appeal of disciplinary action taken by the principal is denied.  The burden of proof is on you, the student, not the administration.

Principal Woods, by his actions at Wharton High's commencement ceremony, seriously undermined the values of American liberty and democracy - of which his faculty teaches to students who take required civics and American National Government classes.  Why have these classes in the very first place?

Perhaps Wharton High School Principal Brad Woods ought to consider organizing a study tour over the summer to a country where human rights and civil liberties such as freedom of speech and freedom of lawful expression are not respected and where abuse by law enforcement is routine, such as Singapore which is rated partly free by Freedom House for laws that restrict freedom of speech, or to the Eastern European dictatorship of Belarus (rated by Freedom House as Not Free) whose leader, Alexander Lukashenko, suppresses any and all dissent including restrictions on freedom of speech among other things.

After all, school principals who care to erode parental rights, trample the civil liberties of students, and exercise control over students beyond the school campus (with the exception of school sponsored events held off campus) and turn students and parents into criminals for no reason do not deserve to be in the business of educating students in the very first place.  And on a side note, if school principals do want to trample on the principles of American patriotism as well as the principles of American liberty and democracy and the civil liberties of students - which is taught in classes such as civics and American National Government - take down the American flag that flies in front of your school and stop reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of the school day.

Which ponders me to think:  Is Wharton High School in Tampa still part of the United States?  Judging from the actions of Principal Brad Woods at the commencement ceremony, I think Wharton High is slowly trying to secede from the United States.

And this is just my opinion.

Finally, I can't close out this blog entry with a positive remark for Harold Shaw, Jr.:  Congratulations on a well deserved achievement, not only graduating from high school but graduating as the salutatorian of the Class of 2013!  You worked so hard for not only that high school diploma but that standard of distinction; don't let anyone take that away from you!

09 June 2013

Hurricane Season is Underway!

It's here, and hurricane season is underway!  Here in St. Petersburg, we are lucky to have dodged the bullet especially since the close call we had with Hurricane Charley in 2004.  Besides, it's amazing how nine years have gone by and it's just a matter of time before St. Petersburg's - and the rest of the Tampa Bay region's - luck runs out with a major hurricane strike.  The recent brush with Tropical Storm Andrea should be the Tampa Bay region's wake up call.
The question is this:  Have you made your hurricane action plan yet?
Preparing for a hurricane need not be elaborate, and it depends on your personal circumstances.  Perhaps the first item of planning is this:  Do you live in an evacuation zone or do you live in a safe zone?  The best way to find out is to go to your county's emergency management website and take a look at a hurricane evacuation map; some counties also have a lookup tool in which you can find out if you are in a hurricane evacuation zone based on your street address.
Here are the links to hurricane evacuation street address lookup tools for Pinellas County as well as Hillsborough County.
It is believed that knowledge is power, especially when it comes to hurricane preparedness.  Now that you know if your home is in an evacuation zone, you can answer the next question:  Do I stay or do I go?
If it's determined that you can stay - whether it may be a non-evacuation zone such as in Lealman (the unincorporated Pinellas County community sandwiched between St. Petersburg and Pinellas Park) or in an evacuation zone which is not under mandatory evacuation orders - the time to prepare your home is now, not when a hurricane watch is issued for our area.
In fact, Pinellas County Emergency Management has prepared a concise two-page kit for those of you that can shelter in place during a hurricane.  Among the items listed is food that you do not have to cook, as electric power will more than likely be out for an extended period.  You will want to add first aid supplies to your hurricane kit as well.
On the other hand, if it's determined that you live in an evacuation zone and under mandatory evacuation orders, you need a plan as to where you will relocate temporarily during the storm.  Ask yourself:
1.  Will I go to a friend's house?
2.  Will I go to a motel or hotel outside the evacuation area?
3.  Will I go to a public shelter?
Option 1 is the best if you have the means of getting there before it gets worse.  Just make sure that you do not have to cross major evacuation routes to get there, as certain evacuation routes - such as routes leading out of the Pinellas beaches - will in most likelihood be a one way route making crossing difficult, if not impossible.
Option 2 is the best, tied with Option 1, if a hotel or motel located outside the evacuation zone is better for you to reach.  Here's a great tip I would like to share with you when I had to evacuate for Hurricane Charley in 2004:  As soon as the weather maps determine that a hurricane will more than likely head our way, and prior to a hurricane watch being issued, go to the websites of the major hotel chains and check for room availability.  Once you find the room you want, at hopefully the price you can afford, book the room and use a major credit card as the guarantee.  That way, if the storm does take a turn and your area comes under an evacuation order, at least you will have a place to go to.
Now if in the event that things change and the hurricane goes somewhere else, you can always cancel the hotel reservation.  Be sure to get a cancellation number when you cancel so that you can have something as a reference in the event of an issue with your credit card issuer.
Option 3 is the very least, and should be considered only as a last resort.  Public hurricane shelters are, for the most part, located in public schools and you will more than likely be sleeping on a cot or on a hard floor.  Besides, you do not have the privacy like what you would get in Options 1 or 2.  For that reason, you want to consider either a friend's house or a hotel/motel as your first option.
The same thing goes for those of you that live in a mobile home, even though your mobile home park is in a non-evacuation area.  You do not want to be in a mobile home, especially during the most severe part of the hurricane.  For that reason, evacuation orders when issued include residents of all mobile homes which must evacuate at all evacuation levels.
For those of you that live in a condominium unit, if your complex comes under a mandatory evacuation order you must evacuate.  If you live in a high rise condominium it is unsafe to take shelter on a higher level, as wind speeds get higher the more higher you go in the building.  The same thing goes for if you live in a two-story townhome - again, the wind speeds get higher even on the second floor of your townhome!
Now that we have the question of stay or go covered and what you should do, there is another task that you need to perform:  Check your insurance coverage.  In fact, now is a great time to review your homeowners' or condominium unit owners' policy with your insurance agent.
Another item we need to cover is your important documentation, both for you and your home as well as your vehicle.  According to Pinellas County Emergency Management here is a list of documents that you should take with you:

Driver’s license or ID card  (a United States Passport or Passport Card will also work as identification if you do not carry a Florida ID card or driver's license)

Important numbers and emergency contacts

Credit cards and list of creditors

Medical records and blood type

Prescription information (list of medications, dosage, prescription numbers, etc.)

Doctor’s contact information

Cash and bank account numbers

List of savings and investments, including CDs, stocks, bonds and mutual funds

Household inventory: paper copy, photos, video tape or computer disk

List of insurance policies with name of company, type of policy and policy number

Copy of wills, trust documents and living wills

Titles for your house, car and other property

Birth, marriage, divorce, death and adoption certificates, and passports

List of family advisors, such as accountant, attorney and religious leader

Educational and military records

Other special papers that would be difficult or impossible to replace if lost

Which brings us to the next item:  Do you have a scanner or a multi-function printer and scanner for your computer?  Believe me, you will want to scan those important documents, especially documents that are difficult or impossible to replace if lost, and save them on your computer as PDF files.  As for the documents themselves, these should be kept in a safe deposit box.  Besides, multi-function printer and scanner units don't cost much and it is the best investment you will ever make.
Speaking of computers, you will also want to invest in an external hard drive and back up the data on a regular interval.  That way, in the event of a hurricane evacuation you can easily disconnect and carry the hard drive with you.

Be sure that you back up your data from your computers on regular intervals, not to mention downloading and installing the latest Windows updates.  You do not want to be rushed in any way when you are watching something on 10 News (WTSP-TV) only to have your program interrupted by a tersely speaking voiceover announcer:  This is a 10 News special weather bulletin.  Or if you are watching something on Bay News 9 and - all of a sudden - the breaking news music and graphics come up followed by the voice of a Bay News 9 anchor.
Now that hurricane season is underway, and the recent wake up call we experienced from Tropical Storm Andrea, now is not the time for our region to become complacent as far as hurricane preparedness is concerned.  We hope for the best all the way through the end of hurricane season on 30 November, but we need to be prepared for the worst especially if the worst comes.