Reverse Passing

Passing is a term for a person with both black and white ancestors who encourages others to think he or she is white. I recall a blonde woman talking about her father having told people he was Greek in order to pass.

Has anyone really seen members of the black community excluding people who admit a white parent or call themselves biracial?
Reverse Passing? Kidding… Right?

Reverse passing is a term for a person with both black and white ancestors who encourages others to think he or she is black. The assumption people make is the “one drop rule” means a biracial persons’ people are blacks. Therefore the person is automatically accepted as a member of the community. Not so. Having a white parent is a major strike against someone. So much so to be considered black by those who are, one has to work hard to earn being called black.

I learned this lesson from my peers when I started middle school. I was not white enough to be friends with most of the white kids. I was not black enough to be friends with most of the black kids. Prior to attending this school, the other kids might see my parents waiting in the car or at open house. They saw an adult. At this school, my mother, a very pale skinned blonde teacher, was very well known as a harsh disciplinarian. They knew her and were greatly upset by me somehow disturbing the universe’s rules. My first week I was confronted by a group of black boys who wanted to know if I was adopted. “No,” was apparently the wrong answer. I got into a lot of fights over having a white mother. I became really good at volleyball and dodgeball because the game was almost every black kid desired to hit me in the face with the ball. The next year I gave up trying to be either. It just was not worth the effort.

Had my father been the teacher, I suspect no one would have cared. Growing up, no one stared at me with Dad. People never questioned him whether we could possibly be related. The differences between my skin color and his, I think, is greater than that with my mother’s. Yet our relatedness goes unquestioned.

Yeah, I need to carry a picture of Dad and I together around in my wallet. I thought the middle school kids were confused by Mom. Airport security overseas gets way more confused with the consequences of me (not her) getting pat downs and detained. Maybe I can use my picture with dad as my second identification card so I can reverse pass?


Challenger Explosion
NASA: Challenger Explosion

Twenty-five years ago today my teachers had us all gather in a classroom. A teacher was being sent into orbit. The intent was for us to see a historic event. Instead we got to see even bigger history being made as the Space Shuttle exploded 73 seconds after launch. The disintegration of the vehicle was blamed on failure of the o-rings to contain the hot gases. It grounded the shuttle program.

When I attended Space Camp over a year later, the program was still grounded. One of my hopes was to better understand the cause. The adults instead steered us towards the physics of space flight and mechanics. A black spot on the history seemed to be avoided.

Years later, my eighth grade science fair project was to show how freezing o-rings, especially with water involved, distorted their shape. Some o-rings even cracked. It earned me a second place overall for the school. It also got me to the regional science fair where it did not fare so well.

The Saturn Group

Why Ten

The question of why we run ten clusters came up recently. Off the top of my head, the answer was okay. Here is my more thoughtful response.

Whenever I have been in a conversation with a BEA (more recently Oracle) person on Weblogic, the number of nodes we run has invariably surprised them. Major banks serve ten times the number simultaneous users we have on a half dozen managed nodes or less. We have 130 managed nodes for production. Overkill?

There are some advantages they have.

  1. Better control over the application. WebCT hacked together an install process very much counter to the way BEA would have done it. BEA would have had one install the database, the web servers, and then deploy the application using either the console or command-line. WebCT created an installer which does all this in the background out of sight and mind of the administrator. They also created start and stop scripts which do command-line interaction of Weblogic to start the application. Great for automation and making it simple for administrators. It also lobotomies the console making many advanced things one could normally do risky. So now the console is only useful for some minor configuration management and monitoring.
  2. Better control over the code. When there is a performance issue, they can find what is the cause and improve the efficiency of the code. The best I can do is point out the inefficiencies to a company who chose as a priority a completely different codebase. If you do not have control over the code, then you give the code more resources.
  3. As good as Weblogic is at juggling multiple managed nodes, more nodes does not always equal better. Every node has to keep track of the others. The heart beats communicate through multicast. Every node sends out its own and listens for the same from all the others. Around twenty nodes they would miss occasional beats on their own. Thrown in a heavy work load and an overwhelmed node can miss enough missed beats it becomes marked as unavailable by the others. Usually at this point is when the monitors started paging me about strange values in the diagnostics. Reducing the number of nodes helped.

More resources means more nodes. We had two clusters with about 22 nodes (44 total) each when we hit a major performance wall. They were split into four clusters with 15 nodes each (60 total). Eventually these grew to over 22 nodes each again. At this point upgrading was out of the question. A complete overhaul with all new databases and web servers meant we could do whatever we wished.

The ideal plan was a cluster per client. Licenses being so expensive scrapped that plan.

Ten clusters with 13 managed nodes each was a reasonable compromise. More nodes while also using smaller clusters achieved both needs well. Empty databases also gave us a better restarting point. The databases still have grown to the point certain transactions run slowly just for 4 terms later. (I was hoping for 6.) Surviving the next two years will be a challenge to say the least. I wish we got bonuses for averting disasters.

Rethinking Education

A new Michael Wesch video.  He wrote as the introduction:

This video was produced as a contribution to the EDUCAUSE book, The Tower and the Cloud: Higher Education in the Age of Cloud Computing, edited by Richard Katz and available as an e-Book at… or commercially at…Produced in 2007 as a conversation starter in small groups. Released in 2011 as a conversation starter online.

STEM Celebs

This interesting article on the need of more science, technology, engineering, and mathematics graduates in the United States to compete with other countries strikes me as the kind of thing said to Romans right before the fall. Maybe also to the English just before World War I. Of course, predictions of the future are fraught with misreading the most crucial factors.

In fact, scientists and engineers are celebrities in most countries. They’re not seen as geeks or misfits, as they too often are in the U.S., but rather as society’s leaders and innovators. In China, eight of the top nine political posts are held by engineers. In the U.S., almost no engineers or scientists are engaged in high-level politics, and there is a virtual absence of engineers in our public policy debates.

Why does this matter? Because if American students have a negative impression – or no impression at all – of science and engineering, then they’re hardly likely to choose them as professions. Already, 70% of engineers with PhD’s who graduate from U.S. universities are foreign-born. Increasingly, these talented individuals are not staying in the U.S – instead, they’re returning home, where they find greater opportunities.

Global leadership is not a birthright. Despite what many Americans believe, our nation does not possess an innate knack for greatness.  Greatness must be worked for and won by each new generation. Right now that is not happening. But we still have time. If we place the emphasis we should on education, research and innovation we can lead the world in the decades to come. But the only way to ensure we remain great tomorrow is to increase our investment in science and engineering today.

How would someone determine whether someone is a celebrity? This article did not define it other than as a leader or innovator. If one used by number of Twitter followers, then Lady Gaga is the current leader with the current president trailing at number four and with only 81% the number of followers. Well, even the President of the United States was a lawyer and not a STEM educated person.

I thought maybe the Secretary of Energy would be a good place to look for a leader with scientific credentials. It appears Chu (physcist) and Bodman (chemical engineer) were. The three prior to them were lawyers at best. The rest of the cabinet were mostly lawyers or political administrators. Chu is the only scientist on the list. The president’s science advisor is a physicist, so that is good.

Conservatives do after all say government is the worst of society not the best. They look to corporations to take the societal lead. So maybe top CEOs from the Forbes top 500 list would be a better metric? Three of the top five is pretty good.

  1. Walmart – Michael Duke – Industrial Engineering
  2. Royal Dutch Shell – Peter Voser – Business Administration
  3. Exxon Mobil – Rex Tillerson – Civil Engineering
  4. BP – Bob Dudley – Chemical Engineering
  5. Toyota – Akio Toyoda – Business Administration

Personally my favorite scientific celebrities are Neil deGrasse Tyson, Stephen Hawking, Jamie Hynaman, and Adam Savage. We Americans like to see people fail. Each of these have: Neil and Pluto, Stephen lost the black hole bet, Jamie and Adam often misjudge what happens in a test. The spectacular blunders of science are reported as a discovery. Reports on the discoveries in the news usually sound as though it was the intent all along. We get the impression scientists and engineers spend every hour successfully making cool new things.

What scares me of having scientists are leaders is the over expectation of them to be better than anyone else. A smart person is only as good as the decisions they make. Even a good engineer can make mistakes. The ability to acknowledge and work towards correcting errors is not an exclusively scientific ability.

Fix WP Numeric Broken Permalinks

In the early days of my using WordPress, I set the permalinks setting (the URL format style) to Numeric. They looked like On 2008-SEP-27 I changed the permalinks setting to the Day and Name. According to my broken links post each time WP autosaved a draft it incremented the number so the names were no longer sequential. The gaps annoyed me. The new setting hid those gaps. (No, I do not have OCD.) However, it meant

  1. all those links in posts to old permalinks no longer worked and
  2. anyone incoming from search engines hit permalinks who no longer worked.

The search engine problem worked itself out without any effort on my part. They recognized the 404 HTTP error code, dropped the bad page from the index on the next crawl. They also picked up the new posts.

I occasionally spent some time working on fixing broken links. However, the process of determining where the link should go took so much effort I rarely fixed more than a few links at a time. So I did not make the progress I would have liked.

Then I discovered the Broken Link Checker plugin for WordPress last weekend. It has been sending me notices about all my broken links. In desiring to shut it up, I had to spend time trying to fix those Numeric permalinks again. I noticed the format of a link in “Get Shortlink” buttons when I edit a post is the same as the Default permalink which look like It seemed logical I could just replace “archives/” with “?p=” and fix the internal links. Sure enough, it worked. So I’ve cleared up the remaining internal broken links much more easily than I ever expected. It could only be easier if the broken link checker automatically did it.

The WordPress Codex says,

Find a post’s ID number and type the following (with your information) in your browser and you should be redirected to your post: ID #)

Well, no matter what id number I use here, they go to the same post on 9/12. Weird. This would have been an even easier fix as I could double clicking on archives does not get the slash. Maybe it means I need something in the .htaccess to make it work correctly?

Meh. I am glad to have an easy solution. Annoyed it seems undocumented. Hope this helps someone else who has the same problem.

Not So Watch Instantly

Stargate SG-1 season 3 on Netflix watch instantly requires getting the disks for episodes 5, 15, & 20. Why? My best guess is unlicensed for the medium because of an actor.

Netflix needs to work on providing a warning when episodes of a television show require getting the dvd so I can plan ahead. Also only the select another episode shows the dvd only icon. The main screen with play just skipped 5.

Very poor user experience design here.

D2L Drops Utah Lawsuit

Higher education is very litigious. Students sue universities over encroaching on personal beliefs. People who fail to get accepted sue over discrimination or reverse discrimination. Employees claim wrongful termination. Publishers claim copyright infringement. Software companies battling over patents. Equal funding of historically black colleges and universities to non-black counterparts.

We are involved in selecting a new LMS. The Utah Education Network is one of the few Blackboard clients very comparable to us. I track their performance issues because I expect when we reach the same size we could have the same problems. Their selection of Instructure Canvas caused quite a buzz. D2L going for the buzzkill with a lawsuit perhaps stirred up even more buzz. Unfortunately, it seemed all against D2L.

D2L milked being the victim in the Blackboard patent lawsuit. Now they want to be the victim in suing a tiny company over winning the UEN LMS contract. Some speculated this was all so D2L can get a hold of the documentation explaining why they lost to a company they consider inferior. (The letter explaining why they could not possibly be the real reason.)

Dropping the lawsuit was a good move for D2L, I think. What they would lose in the “court of public opinion” certainly outweighs anything they could gain through a lawsuit.

Anyhow, a good of this is others involved in a selection process hopefully will make sure to be more transparent in order to avoid a similar situation.

TED Talk: We Are All Cyborgs

Technology is evolving us, says Amber Case, as we become a screen-staring, button-clicking new version of homo sapiens. We now rely on “external brains” (cell phones and computers) to communicate, remember, even live out secondary lives. But will these machines ultimately connect or conquer us? Case offers surprising insight into our cyborg selves.

Martin Luther King, Jr. : Quotes to Make You Think

Various Martin Luther King, Jr. quotes my Facebook friends posted today. Strangely enough I did not already have any on the Quotes to Make You Think page.

The time is always right to do what is right.

Everybody can be great because everybody can serve.

Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.

In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.

I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.

A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom. (from Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?, 1967.)

I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

Some others:

Man was born into barbarism when killing his fellow man was a normal condition of existence. He became endowed with a conscience. And he has now reached the day when violence toward another human being must become as abhorrent as eating another’s flesh. (from Why We Can’t Wait, 1963.)

All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality.

Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man’s sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true.

Of course, the The Vision of Race Unity: America’s Most Challenging Issue seems very applicable here. Dr. King’s views and that of the Baha’i Faith seem very much in sync.