• 2015 Tech in Review

    The end of the year is a great time to look back and see what made it so special. For this year I am going to look back at some of my favorite posts that deserve a second look.

    1) The first post on my list is one of my all-time favorites and it is a double feature on "smart homes". If I had the financial resources, I would totally deck my place out with everything in these articles. Click here for Part 1 or right here for Part 2

    2) The next post is on net neutrality and is a favorite because the battle that is still going on today. This battle is very important to anyone who uses the internet. Take a look and see why reclassifying internet service as a utility could have helped: Internet as a Utility

    3) Technology moves so absurdly fast. Less than a year ago Meerkat got a first-to-market advantage on the live video streaming app competition. Now I can barely even remember how to spell it. Periscope quickly jumped in and dominated the market because of its close association with Twitter. Posts like this one is a cool way to see a snapshot of where we were at that point in the year: Live Streaming apps

    4) I like this next post because it points out some of the advantages that northwest Indiana has over cities like Chicago when it comes to being a testing ground for potential services: Rural Automation 

    5) This year I made some requests of Siri and Google Now. They both saw minimal improvements since, but nothing ground-breaking: AI Personal Assistant

    6) The last article on my list is about the not so new craze of e-cigarettes and the need for new legislation: E-Cigarettes

    What was your favorite article? Leave your thoughts in the area below or on the relevant article.

  • Power of incumbency can be a drag

    There's no better election night than one when you're an unopposed incumbent, right?

    Don't tell that to Valparaiso Mayor Jon Costas.

    The Republican who will get a fourth term leading the city, was nonetheless disappointed by the results of Tuesday's municipal elections. What had once been an all-Republican City Council will be split between four Republicans and three Democrats.

    "The low voter turnout was a huge impact for us," Costas told Times reporter Rob Earnshaw. Indeed, turnout in Porter County barely topped 20 percent. With no mayor's race on the line, Costas' supporters may very well have stayed home, opening the door to the new Democratic faces. In this case, Costas would have been better off to have a Democratic challenger to stoke turnout on his side.

    The turnout in Porter County was heavy compared to Lake County's 15 percent and LaPorte County's 13 percent. It's the kind of turnout that usually spells good things for incumbents and Northwest Indiana's mayors enjoyed a stellar evening. Leaders in East Chicago, Gary, Hammond, Hobart, LaPorte and Michigan City all easily won re-election. East Chicago's Anthony Copeland and Hammond's Tom McDermott Jr. both had more than 90 percent of the vote. Crown Point's David Uran was unopposed. The one tight mayoral race was in Portage, where Republican Mayor James Snyder edged Democrat Brendan Clancy by just 225 votes. It was a hard-fought victory for Snyder in a city that leans Democratic.

    Uncompetitive or unopposed races aren't just a drag on voter turnout. In East Chicago, 3rd District Councilman Robert "Coop" Battle won his unopposed race from his cell in the Lake County Jail, accused of killing a man. John Cantrell, the attorney for Battle (who is also facing federal drug charges), said he was disappointed by calls for Battle to resign his council seat. Obviously, in Northwest Indiana, you're presumed re-elected until proven guilty.

    Finally, under the category of "every vote counts," just 37 Kouts voters were enough to give Democrat Nicole Markovich a one-vote victory over Republican Kevin Salyer for the at-large Town Council seat. Do you think there's a friend or family member of Salyer feeling guilty for staying home?

    Hopefully, for the vast majority of Region voters who stayed home, this guilts you enough to get you to show up for the 2016 primaries in May.

     

  • Things our state and governor did this year

    This Friday will be the start of an election year. So if you’re already sick of the campaign cycle, get used to it, because it’s about to get worse. All I have to say is thank the maker this era of near-unlimited spending on political ads is also the era of DVRs that allow us to skip commercials.

    In the midst of all the ads, grandstanding, attacks, and other irrelevant noise to come in the next ten months, it’s important to not get distracted and to keep track of the things that really matter: the issues. To that end, I’m here to help.

    Here are a few of the things Governor Mike Pence or the Indiana state legislature did in 2015:

    • Accepted the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, used to augment the existing Healthy Indiana Plan.
    • Announced, then cancelled, JustIN. Though to be fair, it was never clear if the site was really a state-run news source or, as Pence claimed, simply a press release service made out to be something it wasn't.
    • Stripped the Superintendent of Public Instruction, an elected office, of its power after fighting Glenda Ritz at every turn since she took office.
    • Abandoned Common Core standards without much a plan to replace them. The state later adopted a new curriculum heavy on standardized testing.
    • Passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, effectively legalizing LGBT discrimination in Indiana and resulting in a nationwide backlash against the state. The legislature hastily added anti-discrimination language to the law to save face, but later in the year, a proposed expansion of the state’s nondiscrimination policy left exemptions allowing some forms of discrimination.
    • Created a needle exchange to help stem an HIV outbreak in the state.
    • Repealed the state’s Common Construction Wage law. 
    • Announced that Indiana would not take in Syrian refugees (and was ignored).

    You might agree with some of these, disagree with others. I myself have different opinions on each issue. But these are things that happened in Indiana this year. So regardless of whatever pageantry 2016 has in store on the campaign trail, just remember everything that went down this past year when you get to the voting booth, whichever way you vote.

    And if you're not registered to vote, go do that. Call it a New Year's resolution, one that you might actually keep.