A School Official Who Homeschools?

Originally published at PJ Media
By K. Daniel Glover

Bonnie Henthorn and her husband spent their formative years in Tyler County public schools. Between them, their two children spent at least 15 years in that school system. The family has paid taxes that support the schools for decades.

bonnie_henthorn_twitterWith deep roots and a historical perspective like that, Henthorn is an ideal choice for president of the Tyler County school board, a role she has filled since 2014. But none of that matters now because in January she committed the unpardonable sin of public education: She started homeschooling.

Henthorn announced the family decision at the Jan. 4 school board meeting, citing two reasons that had nothing to do with Tyler County schools. “One is that I want them to have a more Christian-based education,” she said. “… Number two is I no longer feel that the state leadership has the best interest of the students at heart.”

That very personal decision, designed to benefit Henthorn’s sophomore son and seventh-grade daughter, quickly became the topic of a very hostile public debate.

At the meeting, board member Linda Hoover peppered Henthorn with questions. She implied that Henthorn couldn’t lead an education system if her children weren’t part of it and that pulling them from it is “a slap in the teachers’ faces.” Another board member, Jimmy Wyatt, called it a “questionable decision” that might show a lack of faith in the county school system.

The outrage escalated over the next few weeks. A Tyler County native created a Facebook group and a Change.org petition demanding Henthorn’s resignation. The Charleston Gazette-Mail published an editorial decrying the “sad mess” in Tyler County and calling Henthorn “unsuited for public school leadership.”

At the next school board meeting, the union that represents Tyler County teachers expressed its lack of confidence in Henthorn. Even State Board of Education president Michael Green, whom Henthorn specifically mentioned when criticizing state leadership, felt compelled to issue a statement.

Read the rest of the article at PJ Media.

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There’s A Cougar In Them Thar Hills

Originally published at Medium
By K. Daniel Glover

There are no cougars in Wayne County, W.Va. By official accounts, there are no cougars anywhere in wild, wonderful West Virginia. In fact, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concluded in 2011 that the eastern cougar is no longer endangered because it is extinct.

But for a few days last month, a Prichard, W.Va., man named J.R. Hundley deceived a whole bunch of gullible people on Facebook into thinking he had seen one near his house. “I think he killed my [pit bull]! Something tore him up pretty bad,” Hundley wrote Dec. 16.

When asked by Facebook readers, Hundley divulged phony details about the origins of the picture. He implied that he took the photo on “my driveway up the hill to my house” on Lower Gragston Creek Road. When one reader voiced concern about a free-roaming mountain lion killing pets and livestock, Hundley even offered this reassurance about the one he never actually saw: “I was gone, came home and found him. He wasn’t mean at all!”

Nearly 1,600 people shared his warning about a puma on the prowl in the hills, and another 600 liked it. You could tell from the comments that locals wanted to believe it was true, if only to justify their unfounded fears that mountain lions are in the area. Some people spread rumors of their own.

“We saw one cross the road in Prichard a few years ago in front of us, but it was black,” Carrie Ann Bragg wrote. Kathy Baker Rice shared this tale: “I saw one on Bear Creek a few years ago, just about three miles from Buchanan, Ky., which is across the Big Sandy River from Prichard. Huge.”

Cara Nelson-Hall suggested that the mountain lion Hundley imagined was not alone. “They’re on Davis branch. We hear them,” she said. And Jim Reed cried conspiracy by state game officials. “I bet DNR released him out there, lol,” he said half-jokingly. “I would call them and ask them if they did and tell them to pay [you] for your pit bull.”

Appalachian Magazine bought into Hundley’s story, touting it and other alleged sightings of mountain lions in Appalachia under the headline “Mountain Lion Sighted in West Virginia.” Several readers told their own cougar tales in the comments of the magazine’s Facebook page and ridiculed the doubters.

“Anyone that thinks there are no panthers in West Virginia is a fool,” Opal Marcum said. “They are in Wayne County, Mingo County and Logan County for sure. Just because you don’t see them doesn’t mean they don’t see you.”

But discerning readers quickly pegged Hundley as a hoaxer. “Also look out for the notorious Sasquatch,” Travis Boone mocked. “He’s around too!!”

Some critics assumed that the picture was real and that Hundley edited a mountain lion into it. But as it turns out, the entire photo is real (along with a second one like it). Hundley just didn’t take it.

The photos were published on three Facebook pages, Hunting Trophy Trips, Oregon Outdoor Hunters and Oregon Outdoor Council. Oregon State University forestry student Hayden England saw the cougar March 10 while working in the field near Vida, Ore., and the McKenzie River.
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Where Babies Come From

Father, daughters and son -- the story of three Guatemalan adoptions. (Photos: K. Daniel Glover)

Father, daughters and son — the story of three Guatemalan adoptions. (Photos: K. Daniel Glover)

Originally published on the FAA’s internal website and at Medium
By K. Daniel Glover

Sixteen years ago this month, my wife and I entered that new phase of life called parenthood. Some young adults dread the responsibility — the sleepless nights of infancy, the terribleness of toddlers, the drama of middle childhood, the rebellion of teenagers and the costs of college. But with our glass half full back then, we dreamed instead of the rewards of nurturing children.

For five long years we dreamed. Then one evening, in the back of a car in Guatemala City, our dream came true. That’s where Kimberly and I met our son, Anthony. Two years later we went back to “The Land of the Eternal Spring” to add our first daughter, Elli, to the family mix. And in 2005 we made one more trip to bring home the baby of the family, Catie.

Our lives have been a blur of (mostly) precious memories ever since, and along the way, we embraced another culture as part of our heritage and developed a passion for adoption.

Adoption has been part of my life since childhood. One of my aunts took several foster children into her home and eventually adopted two of my cousins that way. So when infertility temporarily dashed the parenting hopes Kimberly and I shared, we decided to adopt.

We quickly learned that adoption is more than one simple decision. Foster-to-adopt or outright adoption? Agency or private lawyer? Open or closed adoption? Domestic or international? Infant, toddler or older child? Special needs? Sibling group? Transracial adoption? We knew we wanted a baby, but the options seemed overwhelming as we reeled from reproductive loss. Even after we settled on international adoption, we had to pick a country.

A providential trip to the airport made that choice an easy one. We met a couple with a young girl from Guatemala. Her Hebrew name was Eliana, which means “God answered me.” We knew right then that not only would we adopt from Guatemala but that one day we would have a daughter named Eliana.

guatemala-adoption3Big brother came first, though. Anthony’s foster mother placed him in Kimberly’s arms almost nine months to the day after we turned our adoption focus toward Guatemala. He was eight weeks old when we brought him home hours before Thanksgiving, the perfect holiday gift. We had some fun with our adoption announcement, which proclaimed, “We finally figured out where babies come from … Guatemala.”

Anthony had our full attention for the next year — but that wasn’t always to his benefit. To this day, Kimberly calls him our “practice child,” the one subjected to the idiocy of bumbling, first-time parents. Here are just two of the embarrassing lessons we learned: 1) Don’t hold a baby in your lap while shaking Tabasco sauce onto your gumbo or you may blind him; and 2) when your son cries the first time you feed him refried beans at Taco Bell, it’s because they’re stuck to the roof of his mouth and burning his palate.

Despite such mishaps, we felt confident enough as parents by Anthony’s first birthday to try again. Guatemala had changed its rules, so Elli’s adoption took longer. We didn’t get to bring her home until she was 3 1/2 months old.

The upside is that we had changed, too. Two years earlier, we rarely left our hotel with Anthony for fear of how Guatemalans might react to our mixed family. By the time we adopted Elli, we invited a globe-trotting friend to Guatemala with us, stayed there longer, and spent as much time as possible shopping, sightseeing and talking to Guatemalans. We spent several days in Antigua and toured both a coffee finca and a macadamia plantation.

Our two years with Anthony made all the difference in our attitude. We didn’t just fall in love with him; we fell in love with his heritage. Latinos in our community also loved meeting Anthony. We once passed him through the window of a Checker’s when he was a baby so all the ladies inside could cuddle him and get a closer look.
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Danny’s Nightmare Aboard Betty’s Dream

Co-pilot Bill Miller (left) and pilot Alan Miller pose in front of Betty’s Dream in May 2015 after a practice run for the Arsenal of Democracy Flyover. (Photo: K. Daniel Glover)

Co-pilot Bill Miller (left) and pilot Alan Miller pose in front of Betty’s Dream in May 2015 after a practice run for the Arsenal of Democracy Flyover. (Photo: K. Daniel Glover)

Originally published on the FAA’s internal website and at Medium
By K. Daniel Glover

If one slogan could capture my thoughts at lunchtime on May 7, this would be it: “I flew in the belly of a B-25 bomber, and all I got was this lousy motion sickness bag.” That’s how I felt as I exited the floor hatch of Betty’s Dream, stepped onto the tarmac at Culpeper Regional Airport in Virginia and inhaled a much-needed breath of fresh air after a rough flight.

But if a pilot in the Commemorative Air Force had asked me later that day whether I’d ever want to fly in a World War II aircraft again, I probably would have said, “When do we take off?” I don’t think I could resist an adventure like that — even though I get anxious about flying in general and even after having endured the worst flight of my life.

I am a writer for the Federal Aviation Administration and talked my way onto Betty’s Dream while reporting an advance story on the Arsenal of Democracy Flyover for the agency’s internal website. With several high-profile media outlets covering the event, I figured my chances of getting a seat were slim but made my pitch anyway for a flight with good video potential.

Two months and many pestering emails later, I finally heard from Leah Block at CAF: “I will put you on one of the trainers, so you should be able to take some great shots. … You will fly from Culpeper. In the air about an hour.”

The writer originally was scheduled to fly in this Stearman trainer. (Photo: K. Daniel Glover)

The writer originally was scheduled to fly in this
Stearman trainer. (Photo: K. Daniel Glover)

And that’s the point at which my nerves began to fray. The journalist who practically begged for a seat in a 70-year-old warbird suddenly remembered he used to drive up to 10 hours one way for assignments in order to avoid flying in modern aircraft.

When I asked to fly along, I thought I’d be in the air a half-hour max. Fifteen minutes would have been plenty. Now I was looking at an hour in a “trainer”? I didn’t even know what that meant until I clicked to the Arsenal of Democracy website again.

Then I started asking frantic questions. “Do you know yet what type of trainer I will be flying in? And just to prepare myself mentally for the experience, what maneuvers can I expect in the air? My co-worker who is a pilot said I probably want to avoid being turned upside down.”

That was an understatement. I definitely did not want to be part of any acrobatic maneuvers, but I couldn’t bring myself to openly admit that.

Leah reassured me that the flight — later confirmed to be on this Stearman biplane so I could get the best GoPro footage — should be relatively calm and that the pilots had been told not to subject us newbies to any “funny business.” But I was on edge for the next 10 days.

By the morning of the flight, I was more excited than nervous — at least for a few hours. I stopped at a 7–11 on the way to Culpeper to check for Dramamine, but the store did not have the non-drowsy formula. I opted for alertness over peace of stomach, a bad choice in hindsight.

World War II aircraft filled the tarmac at Culpeper Regional Airport earlier this month in preparation for the Arsenal of Democracy Flyover. (Photo: K. Daniel Glover)

World War II aircraft filled the tarmac at Culpeper Regional Airport earlier this month in preparation for the Arsenal of Democracy Flyover. (Photo: K. Daniel Glover)

I was in awe as I drove past the airfield and saw the array of aircraft on the tarmac. My favorites were the P-51 Mustangs and F4U Corsairs, the latter of which I remembered best from the short-lived 1970s television series “Baa Baa Black Sheep.”

I went to work after registering at the press office. I snapped a few photos of the warbirds from a distance, listened to part of the pre-flight safety briefing for all pilots and attended a short press conference.

Andrew McKenna, who owns and flies a P-51 Mustang and a North American T-6 Texan, talks with a colleague during a pre-flight safety briefing. (Photo: K. Daniel Glover)

Andrew McKenna, who owns and flies a P-51 Mustang and a North American T-6 Texan, talks with a colleague during a pre-flight safety briefing. (Photo: K. Daniel Glover)

Soon after the press conference, a guide pointed a few of us toward the Stearman planes. We found our designated rides by using the tail numbers on our press badges.

“I’m now at my assigned plane — and pretty well terrified,” I posted to Facebook at 10:07 a.m. My hands were shaking uncontrollably, and my legs were wobbly. I couldn’t even picture myself maintaining enough composure to climb (or fall) into a plane that small, let alone fly in it for an hour without having a panic attack.

Fortunately I only had to ponder that potentially embarrassing fate for a few minutes. When owner/co-pilot John Weyrich arrived, he said he hadn’t realized the ride-along was part of a practice run for the flyover the next day. That being the case, he didn’t have a spare seat for me — but the event organizers found me another spot on a B-25 Mitchell.

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Mobile Payments: A Developer’s Guide To Processing Money

This is an excerpt of a white paper I wrote for The Application Developers Alliance.

Earlier this year, Forbes.com contributor Gene Marks asked a question that gets to the heart of commercial transactions in the digital age: “With all the advances in technology, and all the things our smartphones do, why aren’t we paying for everything using a mobile app?”

Mobile PaymentsMarks posed the question in the context of his prediction that Starbucks will be the “kingmaker” in the world of mobile payments, but until there is a king, app makers and companies that wish to leverage mobile devices to sell their products and services face many choices. They have to decide how to collect money, which operating systems to use, and which payment providers have the friendliest fee structures, best support and most security.

Xconomy Deputy Editor Gregory Huang captured the essence of the challenge. “There are so many players coming in from different angles and at different levels of the value chain,” he wrote. “Besides all the techies with apps and software platforms, you’ve got retailers, brands, banks, credit card companies, payment-processing firms, and a slew of loyalty and rewards programs, all vying for a piece of the pie.”

This guide will define the current state of the mobile payments landscape, which continues to evolve rapidly, and help players in the app industry explore their options.

The methods to mobile payment prosperity
The term mobile payments has many different meanings, from consumers using smartphones or tablets instead of their laptops to make purchases from their homes to merchants swiping credit cards on tablets or smartphones. But none of them are mainstream yet by any stretch.

The third annual Global Mobile Payments Index released in January found that such payments comprise only about 20 percent of global transactions. But that figure was up from 13 percent of transactions the previous year, a growth rate of 55 percent. The index is based on data for transactions made through Ayden, which processes payments for more than 3,500 medium, large and enterprise-sized organizations mainly operating multi-national businesses.

The realities of modern culture are certainly favorable toward even greater adoption of mobile payments. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 90 percent of Americans have cell phones, 58 percent have smartphones, 42 percent own tablet computers and 32 percent own e-readers. Research by BI Intelligence tells a similar global story, noting that consumers around the world have purchased 1.3 billion smartphones in just four years — and the penetration of tablet devices into the market is double what it has been for smartphones.

Read the full paper in PDF format.

The Challenge Of Cross-platform Development

AppAlliance_Device Fragmentation This is an excerpt of a white paper I wrote for The Application Developers Alliance.

You might think that in a perfect world, application developers would write code just once and it would run everywhere. But that mobile utopia doesn’t exist. Instead, developers practice their craft in a digital universe that includes multiple versions of competing operating systems and thousands of devices in various screen sizes.

This fragmentation forces developers and the companies that hire them to answer tough questions every time they imagine the next big thing: Should they build for one operating system over another? Should they develop only for the big two, Android and iOS? If so, should they build the apps simultaneously, and should they design one app for both or two different apps for the two platforms? Should they use tools designed to streamline cross-platform development? How should they test the app for the hundreds of Android options? Or should they go to the Web via HTML5?

All of those questions and more are behind the mobile industry’s pursuit of interoperability, the term that describes the ability of apps to work on numerous devices and platforms. “Right now it’s frustrating,” said Peter Braxton, the founder and CEO of Jump Rope Inc. “For someone who’s trying to build a business and presence on different platforms, it’s really hard because it’s additional investment in resources, both time and capital, each time you encounter a new platform.”

Pure interoperability is not technically possible. It also doesn’t consider the cultural, regional and language differences of customers, or their preferred user experiences or devices. Every market has its own peculiarities (try asking a Finnish person to fill in the “State” field in an address form); every device has its own style. In short, there are many reasons to have different versions of an app for different devices, markets and groups of users.

That being said, app makers have sound business reasons to maximize the available market for an app without technical constraints. This white paper defines the challenge, explains why it matters and discusses the options available to developers, including tools to help both developers and non-developers build interoperable products more quickly. The paper concludes with case studies based on the efforts of several experts in the app industry to achieve interoperability or help others do so.

Read the full paper and case studies.

Monetization: Picking The Path To App Profitability

Monetization White PaperThis is an excerpt of a white paper I wrote for The Application Developers Alliance.

Developers get their motivation to build from a passion that is equal parts creativity and innovation, but to a certain extent, the bottom line to success is the bottom line. Those who make money on their applications get the resources they need to fund future creative projects. As CEO of HitFox Group Jan Beckers says, “Monetization is survival.” The best way to make sure that happens is to map a path to monetization for each app well before it hits the market.

One of the first questions to answer is whether to put a price on the app or rely on in-app purchases, advertising or other approaches to generate revenue. As AppMuse CEO Mark Stetler noted last year, “The mobile app ecosystem is steadily trending to a point where the free mobile app is the rule rather than the exception.” Developers also have to decide where to sell their products — exclusively in one of the top app stores, in third-party venues, in specialized markets, or a cross multiple platforms.

The advantages and disadvantages of each monetization strategy vary from app to app. This paper explores the many options to help app makers streamline the decision process.

The big decision — App Store, Google Play or both
Realtors love to say the three most important factors in marketing a property are “location, location, location.” Their mantra sounds a lot like the question app makers ponder every time they imagine a new product: “Locations, locations, locations — which ones will lure people to the revolutionary invention I’m about to build?”

The two most important locations are Apple’s App Store and Google Play, the top marketplaces for the iOS and Android systems. Most developers will build for one operating system or the other because of their dominance — 91 percent of the global smartphone market in 2012, according to International Data Corp. — and perhaps both.

Developers have more than 500 million reasons to consider the App Store. That’s how many iOS devices Apple had sold as of last December, including 75 million in the fourth quarter of 2012 alone. The operating system is limited to Apple devices, but app consumers can choose from an array of those — multiple generations of the iPad and new iPad Mini, the iPhone, the iPod Touch, and even Apple TV.

The App Store appeals to developers because of its size. At more than 800,000 apps as of January, it is the largest store. The 23 categories also give users the broadest selection of apps. They have downloaded more than 40 billion of them over the years, activity that has generated payouts of more than $7 billion to developers.

Some developers don’t like the App Store’s “walled garden,” which requires them to get Apple’s advance approval to market apps. But DLP Mobile CEO Zak Tanjeloff sees a money-making advantage in that approach. “The App Store has a higher proportion of quality apps, thanks to the approval process,” he said. “That means developers can, and have, charged more for their apps.” He added that consumers see the App Store as “a safe community” because of its connection to the iTunes payment process.

But developers definitely should consider the restrictive nature of the App Store when plotting their monetization strategies. To win Apple’s endorsement, app makers have to adhere to guidelines that cover user experience, functionality, content and the use of specific technologies. Companies that want to give their apps away for free and instead make their money on in-app purchases also may not make the App Store cut. Once apps are in the store, they face additional reviews for every update.

Read the full paper in PDF format.

Pirates In The House!

The R Street Institute, a think tank in Washington, hosted a pirate-themed open house last week, and my wife and I were there with our green screen and portable photo studio to capture the creative memories.

It was not your typical wonky Washington party, but we photograph those, too. Email us at Tabula Rasa Media and we’ll shoot your event, with or without the green screen.

Discoverability: How To Get Noticed In A Market Overflowing With Apps

Discoverability White PaperThis is an excerpt of a white paper I wrote for The Application Developers Alliance.

If an app drops in the store and no one is around to see it, does it make a profit? The answer is no, and therein lies one of the major challenges facing application developers today.

Developers can make the most innovative app of the year or perhaps the decade, but if consumers cannot find it because of marketing obstacles, all of the engineering prowess will be for naught. What good is an angry bird without gamers to fling it from a slingshot or an Instagram without amateur photographers to capture nostalgic memories and share them?

Discoverability matters. It is as central to successful app ventures as the creative genius behind great apps. This paper identifies the challenges that developers and companies face in getting their apps before the right audiences, explores the current options available to do so and proposes solutions for optimizing discoverability.

The discoverability challenge
The app marketplace is immense. The virtual shelves in the major app stores are flush with about 1.5 million products, with more on the way every day. The download data is even more intimidating to developers hoping to be discovered. Consumers downloaded more than 40 billion apps between 2008 and mid-2012, but experts estimate that half of the business goes to only 0.1 percent of the available apps.

When the analytics provider Distimo released new data about apps in December, it rightly concluded that the exploding growth in the marketplace makes it more difficult for new developers to have their work discovered. Last July, the new Apptrace tool found that 400,000 of the then-650,000 iOS apps were “zombies” that had not been downloaded even once.

But even overcoming the download hurdle does not ensure success. While nearly 1 billion apps get added to devices every month, one in four of them are never used again.

The challenge also is daunting because consumers head primarily to overstocked app stores to shop. David Gill, vice president of emerging media at Nielsen, said his firm’s research found that 53 percent of app shoppers learn about products in app stores, which favor existing apps that have been installed often and recently over new apps.Add to that reality the short attention span of app consumers — they typically spend just three to 10 minutes shopping for each product — and it’s clear that guiding consumers to any given app can be like drawing them a map to a needle in a haystack.

“Consumers have a hard time finding good apps,” Appsfire co-founder Ouriel Ohayon wrote last year at GigaOm. “But, paradoxically, they don’t care enough to read reviews, compare apps or even search for apps. On mobile people are lazy.”

Read the full paper in PDF format.

Beware The Allure Of Shale ‘Mailbox Money’

Originally published at EagleFordForum and GoHaynesvilleShale
Attorney Spotlight: Ben Elmore
By K. Daniel Glover

If a land man calls with an offer of “mailbox money” for the mineral rights on your property, read closely before signing on the dotted line. If you don’t, oil and gas lawyer Ben Elmore said the words above it may come back to haunt you.

Mailbox money is a slang term of the shale era. “You wake up one day and you get a call from a land man” promising $1,000 an acre and a 20 percent royalty on oil and gas production from your property, said Elmore, an attorney in the industry for 13 years who now works at WattBeckworth in Houston. “You don’t have to do anything if you don’t want to, and every month a check will come.”

A few years ago in Texas, he said, the average mineral owner was a 65-year-old widow – the kind of people who could use the money. But the fine print they didn’t read in their royalty deals back then may be making them miserable now.

“It’s a bad attitude to have,” Elmore said of people who sign for quick cash. “Mineral owners need to educate themselves about what they own. They need to educate themselves about the industry and how it works.”

Elmore, whose clients include both landowners and oil and gas companies, said understanding the law in Texas before signing is even more important now because the government is making it harder to bring lawsuits after the fact.

“They are streamlining the litigation process in the oil and gas context much like they have in the tort context,” he said, and mineral owners are feeling the brunt of it.

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