Last Thursday night, Oteil Burbridge, former bassist for the Allman Brothers Band and current low-end master for Dead & Company, brought an all-star collection of friends including Jason Crosby, Scott Metzger, Alfreda Gerald, John Kimock, John Kadlecik, Weedie Braimah to the Suwannee Roots Revival to kick the party off in style. After the Spirit Of The Suwannee Music Park narrowly avoided the full brunt of Hurricane Michael and hastily built the entire festival, from scratch, in under eight hours, everyone—from the bands to the fans to the production staff—was just happy to even have the party at all. That shared energy and relief mixed with love, hope and dissipated tension came together to create the perfect atmosphere for the loose, soulful sounds laid down by Oteil & Friends.It’s rare to see such balance and across-the-board excellence at a “& Friends” show, but if anyone would be able to put together such a cohesive unit, it’s Oteil. His experience playing in larger-scale bands like the Allman Brothers and Dead & Company has clearly won him the skills to fit the many moving parts together, ensuring that everyone on stage has time to shine. Guitarists Kadlecik and Crosby clearly know their ways around Dead tunes thanks to John K’s history with Dark Star Orchestra & Furthur and Crosby’s ongoing role with Phil Lesh‘s Terrapin Family, among other various Grateful gigs. The percussion section of Weedie and John Kimock had the show’s rhythm well in hand, and their feature turn during “Time Is Free” was astounding. You can check that out below!As impressive as the previously mentioned folks were, singer Alfreda Gerald was seemingly on another level all night long. Channelling the vocal chops of the late Aretha Franklin and the energy of a runaway train, she hit each mark and note with such precision, power and soul that it was hard to take your eyes off her. In fact, if it was anyone other than a player of Oteil’s skill and stage presence at the helm, she surely would have stolen the show entirely.There isn’t much to say about Oteil Burbridge that hasn’t been said time and again by hundreds of admirers throughout the years. His playing is intimately emotional. You feel his joy, you feel his sorrow, and you feel it in precisely the manner and the amount in which he intends you to experience it. His passion and joy to simply be playing, to share his love with you, is like an inexorable tide…he simply sweeps you away on a deep resonant frequency.The last notes sounded and the crowd’s pleas for an encore was among the most heartfelt the park has ever heard. As far as a night one headlining stint goes, you can neither ask nor hope for more than Burbridge gave at Roots Revival. Oteil’s ear-to-ear grin at the end said all it needed to say!Below, you can check out some clips from the show courtesy of our own Rex-A-Vision. For more information on Oteil Burbridge’s upcoming shows with various different projects, head to his website.Oteil & Friends – “Time Is Free”Oteil & Friends – “Tore Up”Oteil & Friends – “Run For The Roses”Oteil & Friends – “The Weight”
To teach is to take a risk.Before a traditional lecture, some faculty psych themselves up just as professional athletes do; others rely on grounding methods such as placing the lectern just so, or having a favorite kind of chalk at hand.After all, the odds are inevitably skewed. It could be an instructor looking out at a few dozen students, or in the case of some of Harvard College’s more popular courses like “Justice” or “CS50,” one up against nearly 1,000.Imagine, then, the reaction of even the most seasoned and confident teachers when they are encouraged to shake things up, rethink their tried-and-true format, and engage in new and unfamiliar methods.But a national faculty survey produced by Higher Education Research Institute and released on Nov. 13 implies that change may be afoot, as lecturers, often called sages-on-the-stage, increasingly adopt student-centered and team-based teaching practices. Such recalibrations of the pedagogical universe are happening at Harvard, too.For evidence, one only needs to look at a recent workshop held by the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning in early November. “Active Learning: From Evaluation to Practice” explored ways to create a safe environment for faculty to experiment. The meeting drew together faculty and pedagogy experts from 30 institutions in greater New England, ranging from community colleges like Bunker Hill to small liberal arts schools like Williams and Wellesley to larger public and private research institutions, including Harvard, Yale, Boston University, and University of Massachusetts, Boston.“While not new, active learning, or activity-based learning, has been on the rise as the traditional ‘sage on the stage’ of classroom learning has come under scrutiny in the ‘Google it’ age,” said co-organizer Dustin Tingley.The emphasis of active and activity-based learning, or ABL, is hands-on and minds-on engagement, such as in-class quizzes, team problem-solving, or student performances, and could even include related outside-of-class fieldwork or internships. While hybrid or blended learning, which uses online materials to replace or supplement standard lectures, has been the cause célèbre du jour, it is rightly part of the broader, evolving active learning tradition.Tingley, Paul Sack Associate Professor of Political Economy in Harvard’s Department of Political Science and Director of the Program on Experience Based Learning in the Social Sciences, said the event aimed to be catalytic, but also practical, with the notion of “creating more on-ramps for instructors to implement newer teaching practices.”“By studying and sharing what kinds of active learning techniques work, we can use evidence to influence how individuals and institutions think about teaching and allow for greater transparency for students.”Tingley’s fellow organizer, Robert Lue, who oversees a number of related efforts on innovative pedagogy and has a role as faculty director for both the Bok Center and HarvardX, said that this is a time when the pedagogical stars have aligned.“We are in a particular moment of opportunity to support learning more effectively,” said Lue, professor of the practice of molecular and cellular biology. “It has seemed like an uphill climb even though the research has long been there and there is a remarkable evidence base. The so-called MOOC revolution, or disruption dialogue, and the increased focus around standards happening at the government level, has been the proverbial shot across the bow of the traditional model of teaching.”Divided into two sessions (adoption and assessment), the daylong event was orchestrated with particular help from Virginia Maurer, associate director of the Bok Center. Taking cues from active learning methods, she asked the panelists and participants to share past successes as well as develop new solutions to promote active learning — on the spot.Professor Ping-Ann Addo of UMass Boston had all heads nodding when she said, “The main challenge with adopting new teaching methods is based upon faculty fears about having less control and less time to cover everything they are used to.”In short, they ask, “What do I have to give up?” in terms of content to introduce non-lecture-based activities in the classroom. For example, if a hands-on activity is used to teach acceleration due to gravity, will the standard chalkboard mathematical explanations suffer?Janet Rankin, MIT’s senior director for teaching initiatives, flipped things around by unpacking audience expectations, as “faculty and students have different visions of what teaching looks like. Students, while often thought to be digital natives or attracted by innovation, might resist new teaching techniques or group-based learning if expectations, for example, about grades, are not clear. [Several years ago] MIT students in an introductory physics course that was flipped” — students had to watch video lectures in advance and come to class ready to experiment ― “initially revolted.”In a similar way, faculty with promotions or tenure ahead might be more apt to think creatively if they knew that such experiments were protected, or evaluation-free. Addo recommended that one way to obtain buy-in was to change the assessment method, having faculty members who are trying out experimental teaching reviewed by other faculty in a collaborative, non-judgmental manner.“Transparency and expectation-setting are vital for success,” said Lue, in the same way that users of a new software program or a video game beta version know they are getting a sneak peak of something that still needs to be refined. They themselves become kind of co-creators by improving the final product.To that end, Rankin discussed the power of simple exit surveys or “exit tickets,” where at the end of class students write down what they liked or didn’t like about a given aspect of a class, or note a concept or idea that they did not fully understand.In addition to taking the temperature during the run of an innovative course, Aatish Bhatia, associate director of engineering education at Princeton University and author of the popular science blog Empirical Zeal, suggested letting students know the facts in advance.“If there is compelling evidence that a particular type of active learning led to better grades or satisfaction in a course, put that right in the description or have the faculty member announce that on day one,” he said.Tingley also noted that motivation is not always tied to the perceived academic Holy Grail: good grades. Instead of A’s, students might be seeking career or life advice.“Our job as teachers is not just to facilitate the role of students but having students generate some of the learning outcomes,” he explained. “In my case, I learned that what many of my political science students wanted out of my class was to know what public service looked like if they were to pursue a career. So I try [to] place opportunities for this alongside more traditional academic content.”Understanding the internal drivers, for both teachers and learners, not only helps signal what might be working in class, but could influence future content and methods and make it easier to develop new or revise existing courses. In short, up-front investment in novel or evidence-based methods could offer a win-win for both audiences, in particular to faculty.Addo put it this way: “While teaching can be nourishing, it can also be draining” when it is not tied to moving a needle or a means to self-fulfillment. To win hearts and minds and encourage new experiments that might be risky or time-intensive “demands a return to the core motivation of why faculty wanted to teach in the first place,” she said.All teachers, she said, want to get to the point “where they are not just covering the material but they are uncovering the material.”The second part of the workshop zeroed in on maintaining magic in the classroom and preserving the often ineffable student-teacher relationship while bringing data and more rigorous assessment techniques to bear.From the student perspective, Gillian Pierce, director of learning assessment in the Provost’s Office at Boston University, talked about the importance of giving students authentic assessment tasks that allow them to demonstrate their skills by doing rather than by knowing. “This involves identifying up-front the complex skills we want to measure,” she said.Moreover, performance-based assessments (such as, “Did you build the race car you set out to build?”) allow students to formulate problems, integrate information, test solutions, and assess their own progress along the way. This provides the basis for measuring both process and product rather than looking at assessment only in terms of the summative function.Jennifer Frederick, executive director, Center for Teaching and Learning at Yale University, echoed the need to have a visible path for learning (like building that race car); otherwise assessment can seem decoupled or after-the-fact, instead of part of the instructional process.Linda Grisham, director of the Center for Teaching and Learning at Massachusetts Bay Community College, echoed the importance of assessment during instruction to monitor learning progress, detect errors, and provide feedback to students. Grisham noted that this could be as simple as a series of low-stakes quizzes, such as those she uses in her classes to find out how students are doing.The panelists ended with a discussion about the importance of building communities of practice as a way to get faculty to adopt assessment strategies. This should occur both within universities and across institutions so that there are more opportunities for shared best practices — like the very meeting they were attending ― and for a greater focus on transparency and integration of efforts to promote new forms of learning.Harvard is an ideal case study, not only serving as a convener, but also engaged in bringing together like-minded local efforts. The ABL meeting, while organized by the Bok Center, had support from the Harvard Initiative for Learning and Teaching (HILT) and the Institute of Quantitative Social Science, and wide participation from the HarvardX team. Such collaboration has been taking root both organically and formally through the recently formed Office of the Vice Provost for Advances in Learning (VPAL).For example, in the past year, a comprehensive study by Bok’s Jenny Bergeron, director of educational research and assessment, explored best practices in four blended courses at the College that utilized online learning resources developed by HarvardX. One of the major reveals was the level of challenge faculty often face in figuring out how to integrate active learning components, as even short video content was not necessarily plug-and-play.With that in mind, over the past summer Bok set up the Blended Learning Support Team (nicknamed BLST or “Blast”), comprised of campus experts in instructional design, educational research and technology, and assessment methods.Designed as a flexible web of support, the BLST team, led by Terry Aladjem, Bok’s director for special initiatives, is already working with faculty from several current courses, such as “China” and “The Ancient Greek Hero.”“Many faculty are eager to take advantage of new forms of online content and other active learning elements,” said Aladjem. “It turns out, however, that integrating student-centered learning practices is not just flipping a switch, but a team effort that requires planning. We aim to be the team in the pits to help the driver, or the faculty member in this case, get up and running smoothly and to be able to fix things along the way.”Via BLST, discussions are happening with more than a dozen faculty members teaching in areas ranging from economics to chemistry to English literature. Active components being explored include more periodic student feedback to allow instructional and content adjustments on the fly, and real-time in-class electronic responses to quizzes to gauge comprehension.Mentioned frequently at the conference, one of the technologies spurring interest in highly engaged learning was developed right here at Harvard. Learning Catalytics ― the brainchild Eric Mazur, a professor of physics and pioneer of peer assessment; Gary King, head of the Institute for Quantitative Social Science; and Brian Lukoff, a former postdoc at the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences — offers real-time assessment responses using existing mobile technologies like phones and tablets.The tool, recently acquired by education publishing giant Pearson, is being considered for use in ECON 1723, “Capitol Markets.” One of the most common uses of the app is to pair classmates who have different answers to a question (e.g., “What is the difference between net and gross earnings?”) and have them hash out their reasoning during class. The underlying notion is simple, but powerful: Students often learn best from one another, with the instructor serving more as a coach or “guide on the side.” The days of being called up to the chalkboard to solve the question may be nearing an end.Of course, active learning opportunities can go beyond students clicking through questions or huddling up to solve for X — and even the physical limitations of the classroom. Gene Corbin, assistant dean of Harvard College for Public Service, has greeted the rise of active and online learning at the College with enthusiasm.“In my definition, active learning could mean finding ways to have students take knowledge right into the field. Imagine integrating local service opportunities that match with a course’s learning objectives,” he said.A fan of efforts such as the FIELD program at HBS, which offers students immersion opportunities at sites around the world, Corbin is interested in finding practical ways to mimic that experience in a way that makes sense for full-time undergraduates, without having to fly students all over the world or interrupt their studies.“I envision using technology to bring the world in or mount a collaborative group project with experts or other students, on, say, responding to something like the Ebola crisis,” he added. “All happening right on our own campus.”Introducing what Harvard President Drew Faust called the “bidirectionality of learning” — simultaneously pushing knowledge out and bringing knowledge in — is, in fact, already happening, in large part through open online learning efforts. HarvardX courses such as “CopyrightX,” “Justice,” and “Innovating in Health Care” have created global student teams, run parallel satellite courses at locations all around the world, and even integrated live feeds into a classroom.With such a plethora of active learning practices, technologies, and flexible content, the real barrier for Harvard and other faculty may be the tyranny of choice. How can faculty know what exists? Or get tips on what has worked well? A response and potential solution rounded out the workshop.Enter ABLConnect (http://ablconnect.harvard.edu), a compendium website of active learning suggestions, research, tutorials, and video tutorials. Tingley and Harvard graduate student Leslie Finger spearheaded the creation of the site, intended as an open archive for sharing and archiving active learning practices.Supported by a partnership of higher education institutions, Tingley envisions pulling together an advocacy group that could steer broader educational policies or inform the public about the ways institutions are upping their teaching game. Showing rather than telling, Tingley explained, may be the best way to change the infrastructure of both institutions and governing bodies.He reminded the participants that the site, like the workshop, was not about Harvard, but open to all. Harvard, he said, can help convene and elevate a dynamic conversation about learning and encourage transformation.Lue built on that idea, explaining that a change in definition and perception about teaching is now within reach.“The notion of redefining how we see ourselves as educators or as teachers is long overdue. Our identity is not simply as lecturers, or someone who holds this skill set. We are instead scholars, explorers, creators, and discoverers. And we are not alone in our classrooms, but we are a community.”
Smiles, handshakes, and even a little hair styling as first-years move in First-years recount the agony and the ecstasy Newly arrived first-years share special mementos from home How I wrote my Harvard essay GAZETTE: How long did it take you to write this book?AMES: I was just thinking on how connected to the school year this book is because I moved here in 2016, and started writing it in 2017. In 2018, the book sold, and I revised it, and in 2019, it came out. It was like working on a college schedule. I’m so connected to the rhythms of college right now. I had a rough idea of where I wanted the book to end. It changed as I was writing it, but most of the changes happened throughout the process rather than having a big revision after it was completed.GAZETTE: What’s the most surprising thing you learned while writing this book?AMES: This may sound silly, but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed working on it.Prior to working on this book, I might have agreed with people who say they don’t like writing, they like having written. I always kind of identified with that. Now I can really say I loved writing, coming back to it each day. I certainly tore some hair out, but I really loved working on it. That was a happy surprise.GAZETTE: Who are your favorite writers?AMES: I love Meg Wolitzer, Zadie Smith, Lorrie Moore, George Saunders, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Elizabeth Strout. I love so many writers. I just finished “The Need” by Helen Phillips; it was amazing. I just can’t even stop thinking about it. It’s so unsettling and immersive and beautiful that I want to join a book club just to talk about this book. That’s always a good feeling when you finish a book and you just are desperate to talk about it.GAZETTE: What do you hope your readers will gain from reading your book? Making themselves at home in Harvard Yard Related Their favorite things Elizabeth Ames always dreamed of becoming a writer. She earned her M.F.A. in fiction from the University of Michigan Helen Zell Writers’ Program in 2005, and she published short stories and essays. Then, in the fall of 2016, when she moved to Quincy House with her husband, Lowell Brower, a graduate student and resident tutor, the idea for a novel took shape in her mind. Surrounded by College students, Ames was inspired to write the saga of a friendship between four women who form an intense bond as first-years, and how it evolves over decades. The book’s title, “The Other’s Gold,” is based on a Girl Scouts song that extols the blessings of old friendships — and hints of the sometimes-selfish complexities of intimacy. The Gazette sat down with Ames to talk about her book and how she found inspiration in Quincy House.Q&AElizabeth AmesGAZETTE: First at all, what does being a Harvard resident tutor involve?AMES: As a resident tutor, my husband serves on committees and advises students. As an affiliate, I see myself as a support staff, a resource for the students. But there are so many people who work in the Houses or are connected to Harvard in some way; everyone from the other tutors, the deans, the dining hall staff, the maintenance staff, and the students, of course. When you think about the reasons why they’re called Houses, why families are part of this system, why this isn’t called a dorm, it’s in part because these Houses aspire to resemble students’ families. It’s great for students to see a puppy or a baby, and have a warm moment with the families who live here. Some students have told me that seeing a cute baby or petting a dog can kind of lift their moods some mornings.GAZETTE: What inspired you to write a book about college friendships?AMES: I always thought I wanted to write a college novel, but I don’t know that I would have written this one if we hadn’t moved to Quincy House. In retrospect, it seems inevitable that I would write a campus novel. I was living alongside students who were just beginning their lives as adults, going through intense introspection and self-discovery. This is a time when there is so much happening around your identity; who you want to be and how you want to live. You’re asking these huge questions about yourself and you’re doing it alongside other people who are doing the same, and in the process, you forge bonds that endure for a lifetime.GAZETTE: What struck you the most about the friendships among Harvard students?AMES: What struck me was the intensity of the friendships. I went to a large state school myself, and I’m so lucky to have lifelong friends, but I didn’t have like a small group of friends that I made as an undergraduate. I learned since moving here that many students, not everyone, but a large number of students at Harvard, make these really intense and enduring friendships during their freshman year when they’re randomly assigned. There’s something about smaller colleges that are more conducive to the formation of really tight-knit groups; students live together, take so many meals together, go to classes together, so it’s very likely that your college roommates can become your best friends for life. But in general, the time when you go to college is a special time; it’s the first time when you’re away from home, and you make lifelong friendships or meet your life partner in college.GAZETTE: Your novel is set in the fictional Quincy-Hawthorn College, where four characters — Margaret, Alice, Ji Sun, and Lainey — meet on their first day of college as roommates and become lifelong friends. The story follows them after they leave college and start families. How did you build these characters?AMES: I’m a sentence-to-sentence writer, a scene-to-scene writer, and in the course of writing sentences and scenes, you start to build characters, and they start to reveal themselves sometimes in ways that you don’t even want them to. It sounds kind of absurd because you are writing the book and you are at the wheel, but characters do become alive and kind of walk into the room and do things that you hadn’t expected. In the beginning I was writing a short story with Margaret as a character. Lainey appeared next, then Ji Sun, and finally Alice. And as I was writing, the characters started to become more who they were. I don’t want to undermine the hard work it takes, but I have to say that characters just start talking to you as you keep writing. That part does feel a little bit like magic. “There’s something about smaller colleges that are more conducive to the formation of really tight-knit groups … it’s very likely that your college roommates can become your best friends for life.” AMES: What I hope readers will gain from my book is more empathy. Every work of fiction, in some ways, is part of the project of having more empathy for other human beings. I hope they’ll come away with questions about their own friendships and their own decisions. I hope they’ll come away still wanting to spend time with the characters. For me, when I finish a book, sometimes I don’t want to leave the characters. That’s the feeling I’m always after as a reader. And so that’s the feeling I want to provide as a writer. Hopefully the book will offer the reader good company and consolation.This interview has been edited for clarity and condensed for length.
What are we in the business of doing? This is the first question organizations should answer when building an AI strategy. Anyone so charged needs clarity on why their company exists in the first place. The company’s mission statement will provide the answer to ‘Why’ the company exists. Once the ‘Why‘ is understood, assess the ‘How‘: how does the company execute on its purpose?For example, at Dell Technologies, our purpose (Why) is to drive human progress, through (How) access to technology, for people with big ideas around the world.With the organization’s mission statement in mind, instances where the company’s operations and outcomes fall short of the mission should be identified. A senior executive leader should have broader insight on where those instances exist and could recruit business leads to scope out pain points as well. For example, a food processing company with a mission to provide superior products and services to customers, might fall short of this mission if the company has high reported numbers of degraded produce or excess waste from product defects. This may point to underlying problems in the manufacturing process. If defects could be predicted with the foresight to avoid excess waste, this would take the old saying that ‘Hindsight is 20/20’ and make it ‘Foresight is 20/20.’All AI use cases are built on defined tasks that identify where AI can be used to improve company operations. In the case of the food processing company, the task could be to ‘predict, detect, identify or recognize,’ and the use case would be to predict or identify defected product early so that the company lives up to its mission. Some examples of AI tasks and the questions they answer are:Detection – Is something detectable/present?Recognition – Can something be identified?Classification – Does something belong to a certain class?Segmentation – If something exists, can it be carved out? How much of it exists?Anomaly detection – Is something out of line with expectations?Natural language processing – Can language and sentiment be understood?Recommendation – Can a solution be found for a desired outcome?Using this ‘task plus use case’ formula creates a running list of use cases from which a company can downselect. If several use cases can be resolved using the same kind of task, it allows for rinse and repeat opportunities and quick AI adoption wins. To downselect, the following questions should be considered:What is the business value? Will it have strategic impact? Can impact be measured?Waste from product defects will cost any company over time. Records of these costs serve as evidence of business value and strategic impact if money can be saved and reallocated to innovative projects.How feasible is the use case? Feasibility can be measured using the availability of relevant data to understand the problem and train AI models. What data is available, where it’s stored and how it needs to be prepared for use in AI are important factors. Relevant data provides information about factors that contribute to the desired outcome. For product defects that could be indicators of faulty processing equipment.As mentioned, looking for external answers too early could take away the uniqueness of internal ideation from the people who know the business the best. Identifying use cases gives reference point while conducting research on what ‘similar others’ are doing with AI. External research informs on the level of effort needed to execute on selected use cases, as some might be successfully deployed already, and some might not. Web searches such as ‘AI + *insert industry*’ or ‘predict product defect + manufacturing + AI’, will yield pertinent results. Other AI tasks might come up and be applicable to other use cases.Understanding the direction of AI adoption sets the stage for building a team of active participants to garner company-wide consensus for adoption. The following individuals would be candidates for this team:Data Architect/Engineer- Designs data retrieval, processing and preparation for consumption.Data Scientist/Machine or Deep Learning Engineer – Uses traditional statistical methods and ML/DL techniques to make predictions and solve complex data science and business tasks.Both sets of individuals understand what software/hardware tools are needed to be successful. Other key individuals include:Database Administrator – Handles data access and control, mainly works with traditional data, and knows data locations.Data/Business Intelligence (BI) Analyst – Performs analyses on historical data and runs reports that quantify costs and strategic impact.BI Developer – Uses tools like SQL and python to standardize analysesBusiness Leads who care about the business benefits of AI.Dell finds that successful AI projects follow a pattern like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to reaching one’s potential. This hierarchy starts with a use case and works up to an optimized IT environment to support it.Choosing the right solution can be daunting, so we’ve created an ecosystem of resources to help customers on their journey. Find more information here, and if you’re ready to get started, contact our Emerging Tech team. We look forward to voyaging with you.
NEW YORK (AP) — People wishing to pay their final respects to legendary actor Cicely Tyson will get a chance during a public viewing at a famed Manhattan church. The viewing for the actor, who died last week at age 96, will be held on Monday, Feb. 15, at Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem. According to a statement by her family through her manager Larry Thompson, the viewing will be from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and COVID-19 protocols will be in place, with masks and social distancing requirements. No photographs will be allowed.
By Kristen PlankUniversity of GeorgiaPlant new perennials and hydrangeas while keeping weeds at bay on “Gardening in Georgia with Walter Reeves” June 25 and 28. “Gardening in Georgia” airs on Georgia Public Broadcasting stations across Georgia each Wednesday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 12:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Keep up with the ever-changing hydrangea as Walter visits with Gene Griffith and Elizabeth Dean at Wilkerson Mill Gardens. They’ll show off vining hydrangeas with flowers shaped like a sheep’s head.There’s a new perennial in town. Watch as Stephanie Turner at Park Seed teaches Walter about Heuchera, a plant many did not know about 10 years ago.Walter explains three common landscape weeds: mulberry weed, yellow oxalis and copperleaf. Knowing these weeds could save your garden.Planting fruits next to vegetables may seem like a bad idea. Fears of the plants cross breeding into a nasty-tasting “veggie-fruit” are wide spread. Walter talks about pollination and genetics to explain why this isn’t a problem. “Gardening in Georgia” is coproduced by the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and GPB. It’s underwritten by McCorkle Nurseries and the Georgia Urban Agriculture Council.More on “Gardening in Georgia” can be found at www.gardeningingeorgia.com.
Radon, an odorless, colorless, tasteless, radioactive gas, is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. and the leading cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers — and your home is far from immune to it.Each year, approximately 21,000 deaths occur in the U.S. because of radon’s hidden properties. That is why January is National Radon Action Month, a month dedicated to making the public aware of the deadly effects of radon.Radon is a gas that forms naturally from the decay of uranium found in soil and various rocks, including granite, which is pervasive in the north Georgia landscape. Radon, which can seep into homes through cracks and gaps in the foundation, can be found in all types of homes, including those on slabs, basements and crawlspaces. It also can contaminate well water. Fortunately, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension can help you detect elevated radon levels in your home.Detecting radon is easily done through a radon test kit or a professional radon testing service. The kits are available from many sources, including UGA Extension. To order from UGA Extension, visit www.ugaradon.org. Kits are $15, which includes shipping and analysis. During the month of January, Georgia residents can get $5 off using the code NRAM2020.To test well water for radon, contact your local UGA Extension office for a kit or call 1-800-ASK-UGA1. The kits will be analyzed at the UGA Agricultural and Environmental Services Laboratories in Athens, Georgia.Radon testing should be as routine as any other household precautionary measures, says Derek Cooper, UGA Extension radon educator.“I like to ask people, ‘Do you have a smoke detector?’ Almost everybody says, ‘yes.’ In the U.S. about 3,000 people die from house fires each year. But if I ask someone if they have tested for radon, they usually say, ‘no,’ and about 21,000 people a year die from radon-induced lung cancer,” Cooper said. “Doing a radon test is just as easy as having a smoke detector. Radon is a problem that can be found and be fixed.”If the radon level in your home reads high, Cooper suggests having it retested to double-check the levels before investing in mitigation. From there, you can determine the need to contact a certified radon mitigator who will treat your home, typically with a radon-reduction system.For more information on radon testing and mitigation, visit www.ugaradon.org.
Today, Vermont Secretary of State Deb Markowitz announced a new program the Guard Card Project to provide free Verizon telephone cards to all deployed Vermont National Guardsmen and women. In partnership with the Vermont National Guard, the USO (United Service Organizations) and Verizon, the Office of the Secretary of State has created a program to engage students in service learning projects that will help guard families by putting a free, 100 minute calling card in the pocket of every soldier who is deployed as a result of the mobilization order announced by Adjutant General Michael Dubie last week.Secretary of State Deb Markowitz said, We are pleased to announce this new program to help our citizen soldiers keep in touch with their families while they are serving overseas. With over 1,500 Vermont National Guardsmen and women to be deployed to Afghanistan beginning next fall, every Vermont community will be impacted. When we learned how many Vermont families would be impacted by this historic deployment, we wanted to organize an effort that would bring our schools and communities together to help support our troops and their families. Missy Shea, Secretary of State s Office Civic Education Coordinator said, Communities across the state will feel this deployment. In many schools students will be impacted when a parent, or another loved one, is deployed. We thought a great service learning project would be to link students with guard families to offer support.Markowitz said, We know through research that students who have had opportunities to practice the skills of civic engagement will be more likely to be active citizens in the future. Our Guard Card service initiative provides this kind of learning opportunity. It is our hope that teachers will use this project to help students learn the meaning and importance of service in our communities.Shea explained that the original concept of the project was for students to provide assistance to guard families either through direct service such as babysitting, stacking wood and mowing lawns, or by raising money to help buy long distance phone cards for each soldier who is being deployed to make it easier for them to keep in touch with their families. Shea explained that when Verizon was approached with the phone card idea, they offered to provide the calling cards for free through a promotional program they had established with the USO. Shea says it was a pleasure working with Verizon. The company does a lot to support the troops. Their partnership with the USO is what s providing these cards. The fact that Vermont soldiers have a back-up way to stay in touch with their families during deployment is incredibly helpful. We very much appreciate the generosity of Verizon and the USO.Major Randall Gates, Director of the Vermont National Guard State Family Readiness Program, and himself a soldier who will be deployed, adds, “This calling card endeavor is a tremendous showing of community support for our soldiers. While some of our soldiers may use other communication technologies such as instant messaging or personal video, all of our soldiers will benefit greatly from these phone cards. The soldiers will be able to use the cards during their out-of-state mobilization training or use them for a call from Afghanistan. We commend Verizon and the USO. Our airmen, soldiers and Family Readiness Program have benefited from the ideas generated by Secretary Deb Markowitz’s office, and we look forward to further collaboration.”Now that the cards have been donated, it opens even greater opportunity for schools to develop other service-learning projects in support of the soldiers and their families. According to Shea, some schools have already been inspired by the Guard Card project to raise money to help pay for the distribution of the cards. Benson Village School 3rd and 4th graders have designed phone card envelopes with special messages for the guardsmen and women. At Cavendish Elementary, students hosted an Ed-u-thon , playing learning games through the night to raise $1,400 they will donate. Beginning this fall, the Office of the Secretary of State will be rolling out the Service-for-Service program to link schools with guard family support efforts in their communities. For more information about the Guard Card or related school-based service learning projects, please contact Missy Shea, Civic Education Coordinator, Office of the Secretary of State.Source: Markowitz’s office.
As California reels from this year’s record wildfires, the state announced on Thursday that it would prevent insurance companies from dropping homeowners for one year in many parts of the state, a sign of the growing financial turmoil caused by climate change.The measure, which applies to almost one-fifth of the state’s residential insurance market, prohibits companies from canceling or refusing to renew insurance policies for 2.1 million households in or near areas hit by this year’s wildfires.- Advertisement – The announcement reflects the increasing strain that climate change has placed on California, which had imposed a similar moratorium once before, at a smaller scale. As rising temperatures and longer droughts make wildfires more devastating, some insurers have responded to enormous financial losses by leaving fire-prone communities. That threatens the economies of those areas, because homes that can’t easily be insured are harder to sell, and nearly impossible to rebuild after a fire.California’s struggles are a preview of the threat that climate change poses to the long-term economic health of communities around the country. Insurers have begun pulling back from fire-prone areas in other states across the West. And in communities near oceans or rivers, the increasing cost of flood insurance poses a similar risk, driving down home values and make them harder to sell. Insurers have said that if the state wants them to keep doing business in those areas, officials must make it easier to allow insurance companies to charge higher premiums, reflecting what they say is the true risk from wildfires. Carolyn Kousky, executive director of the Wharton Risk Center at the University of Pennsylvania, described the new moratorium as a temporary measure that would not solve the underlying problem of growing climate risk.“This problem’s not going to go away. That raises a lot of questions about how we’re building and where we’re building,” Dr. Kousky said. “Clearly the market needs something much beyond this.” A bill that would have allowed insurers to take those steps, including justifying rate increases using computer models that predict future risk, failed to pass the state legislature this year after consumer groups said it would impose an unfair burden on homeowners.The Personal Insurance Federation of California, which represents insurers, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.People who lose access to private insurance can still buy coverage from a high-risk state program called the Fair Access to Insurance Requirements plan. But that coverage is typically more expensive and covers fewer types of damage.The state’s longer-term strategy involves encouraging local officials to reduce exposure and vulnerability to wildfire, through tougher building codes or rules about managing the vegetation around homes.“If we don’t want to be in this position every year, we have to reduce the risk to lives and homes,” Mr. Lara said.But the most promising changes tend to be restrictions on home construction in vulnerable areas. And those restrictions provoke strong pushback in California, where high housing prices have left many people struggling to find homes they can afford, creating pressure to keep building in high-risk areas. Mr. Lara’s office declined an interview request. In a statement, he said the new policy “gives millions of Californians breathing room and hits the pause button on insurance non-renewals while we take additional steps to expand our competitive market.”Still, the state’s ability to shield homeowners from the consequences of climate change is limited. The moratorium cannot be extended, which means that insurers who want to stop offering coverage in high-risk areas will eventually be able to do so. In response to growing climate risks, state officials have intervened to stop insurers from leaving high-risk areas. In December, California’s insurance commissioner, Ricardo Lara, for the first time imposed a similar one-year moratorium on insurers dropping coverage for more than 1 million policyholders in or near areas affected by wildfires.- Advertisement – – Advertisement – – Advertisement –
But currently only 208 clusters remain active, it said, clarifying a statement from Monday by Health Minister Olivier Veran, who cited 400 to 500 active clusters even though “we are very far from a second wave” of widespread cases.As people take advantage of the summer holidays, “travel, events and gatherings of families or friends are factors that could foster the epidemic’s resurgence,” the DGS said.Over the past 24 hours, however, only 13 new deaths had been recorded in France, far below the daily tolls at the height of the outbreak.Currently, 6,482 people are hospitalized for COVID-19 treatment, of which 455 are in intensive care requiring ventilator assistance to breathe — compared with over 7,000 in intensive care while the virus was overwhelming hospitals in March and April. Nationwide the “R” number indicating the viral transmission rate now stands at 1.2, meaning 10 infected people will infect an additional 12 on average, according to the Sante Publique France health agency.But in some areas on the French mainland, the rate is much higher, with the southern Mediterranean region including Marseille and Nice now reporting a rate of 1.55.Brittany in western France stands at 2.6 percent — meaning 10 infected people could infect on average 26 more people.This week the government made face masks mandatory in enclosed public spaces such as shops or public buildings, and new lockdowns are possible as the government hopes to avoid a “second wave” of cases that could swamp hospitals. Topics : The French health ministry said Tuesday that coronavirus transmission is increasing during the summer holiday season, with the total number of COVID-19 deaths now standing at 30,165.The ministry’s DGS health directorate said it had registered “an increase in the number of emergency doctor calls, emergency room visits, the number of virus clusters and new hospitalizations” for suspected cases across the country.The directorate said a total of 547 virus clusters had emerged since May 9, just before France began lifting the strict stay-at-home orders and business closures imposed in March to limit the virus’s spread.