Reading 2008


Goal to read 25 books.

  1. How Doctors Think – Jerome Groopman – 04-JAN-2008 – A look at how doctors make mistakes. Patients should take on a more participatory role by asking the right questions and challenging doctors to be more confidence. Finished Jan 2008
  2. What is Intelligence?: Beyond the Flynn Effect – Dr. James R. Flynn – 17-JAN-2008 – Does IQ measure what it purports to measure? Flynn attempts to account for the increases of these scores increasing such that adults from generations ago would appear mentally challenged on today’s tests. Finished Jan 2008
  3. The Mighty and the Almighty: Reflections on America, God, and World AffairsMadeleine Albright – 09-FEB-2008 – Former Secretary of State Albright discusses why appreciation of religion will solve many of challenges of the United States.
  4. Doc Holliday – Gary L. Roberts – 11-FEB-2008 – A biography about the gentleman rogue. Turns out the most evil man of the west was the victim of embellishments.
  5. Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae – Steven Pressfield– 25-FEB-2008 – Herodotus‘s Histories didn’t feel compelling, but it did provide context. Frank Miller’s 300 visually captured the excitement and energy we ought to feel and usually missing. Its only weakness, I thought, was context. Gates of Fire finds a great middle ground by providing both context and energy.
  6. Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time – Dava Sobel – 05-MAR-2008 – I’ve been to Greenwich and seen the clocks, so it was good to better understand the importance.
  7. A Whole New Mind: Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age – Daniel H. Pink – 06-MAR-2008 – How to tap into the resources for the right side of the brain in business.
  8. Einstein and Religion: Physics and Theology – Max Jammer – 07-MAR-2008 – Okay.
  9. On Education – Krishnamurti – 18-APR-2008 – Difficult to read as philosophically very different from what I believe.
  10. The Persian Puzzle: The Conflict Between Iran and America – Kenneth Pollack – Done – Helped me understand the difficulties and appreciate Pollack’s prescription for solving this.
  11. The Edison Gene: ADHD and the Gift of the Hunter Child – Thom Hartmann and Lucy Jo Palladino – Done –
  12. The Subtle Knife – Philip Pullman – Done – Possibly even better than The Golden Compass.
  13. The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature – Matthew Ridley – Done – About the Red Queen hypothesis where organisms are locked in evolutionary arms races against its parasites, other members of its species, and other species.
  14. The Amber Sypglass – Philip Pullman – 03-JUL-2008 – Conclusion of The Golden Compass and The Subtle Knife.
  15. The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design – Richard Dawkins – 06-JUL-2008 – An atheist defense for why evolution does not need God. The design of life is too haphazard to have been by a gifted designer.
  16. Gut Feelings: The Intelligence of the Unconscious – Gerd Gigerenzer – 19-JUL-2008 – Started off pretty well.
  17. His Excellency: George WashingtonJoseph J. Ellis – 02-AUG-2008 – George didn’t want to go to war. He had to in order to make a living. Riiiight.
  18. Revolutionary Characters: What Made the Founders Different – Gordon S. W.ood – 17-AUG-2008
  19. State of Fear – Michael Crichton – 17-AUG-2008 – Global warming is a ruse perpetrated by scientific bias upon do-gooder Americans to flush their money down the drain on nothing.
  20. Marriage Beyond Black and White: An Interracial Family Portrait – David Douglas and Barbara Douglas – 24-AUG-2008 –
  21. The Thousand Orcs – R.A. Salvatore – Worst book in the Forgotten Realms or Salvatore I have read. Same struggles, new series, no depth, no surprises. Yet I continued on to book 2?
  22. Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got WrongJames W. Loewen – 10-SEP-2008 –
  23. Snowball Earth: The Story of the Great Global Catastrophe That Spawned Life as We Know It – Gabrielle Walker – 28-SEP-2008 –
  24. The Lone Drow – R.A. Salvatore – 14-OCT-2008 –
  25. Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World – Jack Weatherford – 17-OCT-2008 -GOAL MET
  26. Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking – Malcolm Gladwell – 30-OCT-2008 – We tend to quickly assess the data around us. This is called thin-slicing. We run into trouble when we stop using this ability, such as in cases of extreme stress. (my Goodreads review)
  27. The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference – Malcolm Gladwell – 05-NOV-2008 – We are social creatures, so new ideas spread from person to person like viral epidemics. Connectors have a large number of acquaintances (barely know). Mavens are always on the lookout for more efficient ways to accomplish things. Salesmen convince people of new ways to do things. Is this how viral marketing got started?
  28. The Art of Strategy: A Game Theorist’s Guide to Success in Business and Life – Avinash K. Dixit and Barry J. Nalebuff – done
  29. Into a Dark Realm – Raymond E. Feist – done
  30. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? – Phillip K. Dick – done
  31. Across the Nightingale Floor – done
  32. Grass for His Pillow – done

Christmas Blog Post 2008

Last night I read Uncle Bill’s Christmas letter. He mailed it, but he apparently doesn’t have my postal address so I got the electronic version. Woohoo! His letter recaps the year for his family. Do any of you have such a tradition? Or a family member who does? Oddly my blog doesn’t provide much basis as it is devoid of personal information.

So here goes….


Mom went off to Houston in January to consult with one of the best doctors in the country about a health issue. How things fell into place to allow her to get better amazed me daily. I got to grandparent sit for a week where I made Nannie tell stories so I could post them on Youtube. 😀

William married Nicole, his high school sweetheart. I finally have a sister. It rained on us briefly, so if you are into superstitions, that means either: 1) kids, 2) money, or 3) good luck.

I met Dad’s girlfriend, Sally, this year. She is definitely very nice. I’m happy with the match.


My only New Year’s Resolution for 2008 was to read 25 books this year. I completed that goal back in October. I’m thinking for 2008 to do a similar resolution. This time I’ll count up the number of pages and set a goal to read 20% more pages.

Some fellow Flickr users started an Athens Flickr Meetup. I’m hoping this is something to continue in 2009 as the weather improves. (Though who knew Georgia would be 20 degrees Farenheit above normal in December?)

RingsAdrianne and Britt asked me to be the photographer for their wedding. I spent hours looking at professional photographer portfolios for ideas about what I should capture. You see, while I do have a camera, I had never really taken photos at a wedding. Heck, few people invite me to weddings, so I was a little unclear what happens. In the end, I think it all turned out pretty well. Adrianne is happy. So I am happy. Working in computers became a profession because it was a hobby. Maybe photography will end up the same in the end? Posted 840 photos to Flickr this year. Started to show off my photography.

Las Vegas in July? Dumb. Star Trek: The Experience made my geeky heart soar.
NCC-1701-DNCC-1701-D @ ST: TXP


People do weird things. Often these are due to the operant conditioning or classical conditioning inflicted on them. Its funny I’ve been seeing references lately to these to describe….

  • Email – Like Skinner’s pigeons, we hit the button to check for new messages hoping to get something. The intermittent reinforcement of not getting a new message with every click just helps strengthen the behavior.
  • Twitter – Similar to email, click the button and hope for something good.
Are we our habits? Or are we something more?

Division Issue in YAPB

Problem PHP in Yet Another Photoblog causes “Warning: Division by zero in on line 859” (the problem line is in bold):


  // More complicated way of expressing exposure time, so only use
  // this value if we don’t already have it from somewhere else.
  if ($this->ImageInfo[TAG_EXPOSURETIME] == 0){
    $sp = $this->ConvertAnyFormat($ValuePtr, $Format);
    // Temporary Workaround for divizion by zero problem
      if (!empty($sp[0])) {
        $this->ImageInfo[TAG_SHUTTERSPEED] = (1/exp($sp[0]*log(2)));
      } else {
        $this->ImageInfo[TAG_SHUTTERSPEED] = 0;


Looks like YAPB is attempting to create a value if one doesn’t exist for TAG_EXPOSURETIME by inventing a new value. In my problem picture, the exposure time is 0.003 seconds which != 0. So why is the ($this->ImageInfo[TAG_EXPOSURETIME] == 0) condition evaluated as true? 

Interestingly, just prior to this is some code dealing with TAG_EXPOSURETIME which seems to be affecting this. Changing the 0.5 to 0.0005 (less than my current value removes the problem.

  // Simplest way of expressing exposure time, so I trust it most.
  // (overwrite previously computd value if there is one)
  $tmp = $this->ConvertAnyFormat($ValuePtr, $Format);
  $this->ImageInfo[‘h’][“exposureTime”] = sprintf(“%6.4f s (%d/%d)”,(double)$tmp[0],$tmp[1][0],$tmp[1][1]);
  if ($tmp[0] <= 0.5){
    $this->ImageInfo[‘h’][“exposureTime”] .= sprintf(” (1/%d)”,(int)(0.5 + 1/$tmp[0]));


With this conditional, the exposure time is “0.003 s (1/400) (1/400)” without “0.003 s (1/400)”. Didn’t see a reason to have it twice, so I’ve dropped it.

Also, I figure it would be better to call ImageInfo[‘h’][“exposureTime”] instead of ImageInfo[TAG_EXPOSURETIME]. With this change, it seems to have resolved the issue for me.

Separate Populations?

What are my neighbors doing? Curiosity about that question resulted in some conflicting data. Ordered by when I added the RSS feed for them.

  1. for “Athens GA”  – results are full of people talking about Athens, GA not in Athens, GA. Useful for people coming into town for an event.
  2. TweetLocal search for “Athens, GA” (or 30605 get same results) within 20 miles – Over the last 24 hours the RSS feed has given me 12 posts. First 5 users in search before 9pm: JeremyAce4 in Athens, GA, justdandelions in athens, ga, bozaf in Néa Smírni, Europe/Athensaaronbarton in Athens, GAelbee103 in Athens, GA (last @ 7pm). The hit on Europe/Athens is pretty disappointing.
  3. for “near:AHN within:20mi” (or 30605 or AthensGA get same results) – Over the same 24 hour period, its RSS feed has given me 53 posts. First 5 users in search before 9pm: ThePicManjulieteastonryan_lafountainRyanHaguealester (last @ 7pm)
No overlap. How is that possible when they supposedly are coming from the same population (time, space, and active)? Both services look for their data on Twitter. Both are looking at the self-identified location for Twitter users. Both have the same range. So, why do they have such different results?
Looking specifically for the Tweetlocal users in reveals them in the results. Searching on a user though doesn’t reveal the location. On the profile is the right location, so they should have been in both results.
Both fail in my opinion.

Access to Multiple Systems

For the term starting Jan 7, we have students who need to be directed to the new Vista system (v8). By standard practice, students also have access to the previous term a few weeks into the new term, let’s say Feb 23. So we’ll need to ensure some access to the old Vista system (v3).

There are multiple ways we can handle this access:

  1. School VIPs – We highly encourage users bookmark, publish links, and access school VIPs instead of the actual address. The idea being these addresses will always go to the right place. Other addresses could change and not work. We even have a v8 version for pre-cutover access and a v3 version for post-cutover access. The problem seems to be some campuses and users continue to use the addesses other than the school VIPs (v8 will only show them the school VIP).
  2. Custom login page – We would place an HTML file on the v3 system explaining general access has moved. Some people would need to get past this page and into the v3 system. The questions here are:
    1. Can we just give the admins the link to bypass the custom login page? They could then manage who has access to the site. They might have to provide this “secret” to thousands of students.
    2. Do we dare publish the link on the page? Something like “To check Fall 2008 grades: click here.”
  3. Deny access – We would deny access to all users except those who hold the Institution Administrator role in v3. The holders of that role would then be responsible to granting access one-by-one to other users who need to access to this old system.
  4. f5 iRule to 302 Redirect – We do host a school who uses autosignon. It is conceivable we could intercept attempts to login and redirect them to the correct host. It would be much better for them just to use the School VIPs solution.

Anyone have a better solution?

Writer’s Block: Infamous

January 28, 1986

At school, a teacher knocked on the door. Our teacher went to find out what was wrong. We were told to go into another room and sit on the floor. About half the kids on the hall were packed into one of the two rooms with a TV. The talking heads were in the middle of reviewing what had happened and the latest updates.

Me and another kid noticed the flame on the Solid Rocket Booster before the broadcasters. We wanted to know what it meant and why did it get bigger?

Before this event, I doodled army stuff… planes, tanks, soldiers, explosions, tracers. After this event, I doodled space shuttles, launching facilities, landers, alien worlds, and space stations. I had a defined future… to build space vehicles.

Merge Historically Black Colleges With White?

Retention is one of those numbers higher education leaders tend to review to determine how effectively the faculty reaches the students. Historically black colleges and universities were created because students found it difficult both to get into “neutral” colleges and graduate from them. That latter part sounds like they were created in part to solve a retention issue.

Enter Georgia Senator Seth Harp who suggests a couple HBCUs in Georgia should merge with their neutral neighbors. The idea is to save money by not having more than one college in a town. Are black students as successful at “neutral” colleges as their white counterparts? If not, then the reason these schools exist has yet to be solved.

If we want to eliminate HBCUs, then we should have colleges and unviersities where all students succeed regardless of race (or gender, religion, or other factors).

Open Source Is Not Broken

Cohen says:

Open-source code is generally great code, not requiring much support. So open-source companies that rely on support and service alone are not long for this world. The traditional open-source business model that relies solely on support and service revenue streams is failing to meet the expectations of investors.

The whole point is to have a model producing great code. As these open source companies try to be everything to everyone, they eventually hit the same issue as proprietary companies: Bloatware. The software starts to suck and the users abandon the ship for another product which seems to do the same job better.

Virtual Doctoral Graduate Student

People think I am smart because I read hard stuff. Okay, maybe it takes a special breed to read a book by academics on applying game theory to every day life. I read hard stuff because the easy stuff doesn’t take my mind off things.

Today, two people asked me if I am a doctoral student.

Also, I struck Blade Runner off my list as a great movie because I was disgusted by it missing all the really cool stuff in the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep

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