My Oscar Picks

Yesterday I went to the second day of the AMC Best Picture Showcase which shows the Academy Award nominations for Best Picture. The Colonial 18 in Lawrenceville hosted the event. The Saturday prior I also went with a friend. The movies I really liked ranked from best down are:

  1. The King’s Speech
  2. The Social Network
  3. True Grit
  4. Inception

The first three I had already seen and looked forward to seeing again. The last one I probably will watch a second time. The rest were good movies, but I probably would not miss only seeing them only once. The exception is Black Swan. I wish I had never seen it. Of course, I hate psychological thrillers.

Personally, I think ten nominations are too many. Maybe it is just me, but I have trouble remember all ten. Five I can remember. Typically I falter at around the eighth movie and only a cue from someone else helps me remember the others.

Appendage damage appeared to be a theme. Several movies involved arms, fingers, legs getting dismembered or at the least broken. (As Amy said, “Mr. Potatohead does not count.”) Aron and Mattie lose their arms. Mickey has his hand broken by the police. Nina breaks toes and fingers. Laser’s friend breaks his arm in skateboarding off the room.

Happy Ayyám-i-Há

The Ayyam-i-Ha Spread
The Ayyám-i-Há Spread by Lacey

The Bahá’í calendar consists of nineteen months with nineteen days plus 4-5 intercalendary called the Days Outside of Time or Ayyám-i-Há. On the Gregorian calendar, it starts at sunset on February 25th and lasts until sunset on March 1st. The morning of March 2nd starts the Bahá’í Fast where we abstain from eating between sunrise and sunset through March 20th. On March 21st we celebrate Naw-Rúz, aka the New Year.

Ayyám-i-Há is like a heady celebration right before going through tough work. Then we also have another celebration at the end.

(The photo is one a friend, Lacey, posted on Flickr of the Ayyám-i-Há party she hosted last year. I went looking for Ayyám-i-Há photos on Flickr and was pleased hers was in the first page of search results on most interesting. She also had Creative Commons settings which looked like I could use it. Thanks, Lacey!)

Curious Traffic Spike

I glanced at my Google Analytics stats for this site and noticed a huge traffic spike. Somehow my TED Talk: We Are All Cyborgs post landed Bing’s number two spot and Google’s number three spot for “ted talk we are all cyborgs” a couple days ago. Normal for a Tuesday is something like 650 visits. That Tuesday I got 2,578. It kind of reminds me of the Made Stumbleupon.com? post.

The actual We Are All Cyborgs talk was the number one spot for both search engines. Why would anyone come to my site for the same video?

(Glad I turned back on WP-Cache again.)

Research in Higher Ed

SC lawmakers want to professors at universities to teach more instead of doing research. An Associated Press article “SC budget would make professors teach more classes”:

College professors should be in the classroom teaching at least nine credit hours each semester because the state is having a tough time paying for college budgets, said state Rep. Murrell Smith, a Republican from Sumter.

“I think we need to have professors in the classroom and not on sabbatical and out researching and doing things to that effect,” Smith said.

The committee adopts temporary law changes that would be part of the state’s $5.2 billion budget. The full Ways and Means Committee will vote on those next week.

This is exactly the kind of thing I try to explain to my mom. Lawmakers are responding to the desires of parents. Parents hear the stories from their kids about being taught by teaching assistants. The parents feel like to get their money’s worth their kids should be taught by the professors instead. After all, the professors are the true content experts. (No one tells stories about the good teaching assistants unless they are better than the professor at teaching the class.) I agree interacting with professors is likely the best way for students to get access to most current and useful knowledge.

The thing which seems to be neglected is doing the research makes professors the experts students should know. Take away the research and over time one really ought to go back to the teaching assistants.

Good research will also bring in money to the university. Especially in sciences and technology, this money would go into updating research labs which exposes the students to stuff which makes them marketable to employers.

ITS Spotlight Article

A Georgia native, Ezra graduated from Valdosta State University (VSU) with a BS in Psychology. While an undergraduate student, he worked at VSU’s Odum library until his last term when the Information Technology department hired him as a Cooperative Education student for the Campus Webmaster. Writing code and solving problems banished his thoughts of a career sitting at a reference desk and finding sources for other students’ papers. To retain Ezra as an employee, VSU’s IT department created a new position and eventually made him the Campus Webmaster. The role expanded from just managing servers and pages for the WWW web site and a few custom web applications to including the online class system, portal, 75 department web sites, and oversight of three students.

In March 2006, Ezra joined ITS to become the newest of three database and middleware administrators for GeorgiaVIEW. This program provides a platform for online classes to most USG institutions. In just under five years, GeorgiaVIEW has grown from 5,523 (spring 2006) to 34,581 (fall 2010) active sections, from two production clusters/databases to 10, and from about 40 web servers to 140. The technical support Ezra, Amy Edwards, and George Hernandez provide prevents cascading meltdowns. Sometimes students and their faculty never experience the problems. Ezra believes that this makes all the 4:00 a.m. false alarms worth it. Amy adds that “Ezra is committed to working for the common ITS goal of providing a quality online learning environment for our USG campuses” and quotes Dwight D. Eisenhower to sum up how she feels about working with Ezra: “It is better to have one person working with you than three people working for you.”

When not working, Ezra pursues several interests. In February 2010, he traveled to Haifa, Israel for pilgrimage to the holy places of the Bahá’í Faith. Just after joining ITS, Ezra bought a dSLR camera and is currently involved with social photography clubs. His favorite subject so far is the Eastern Box Turtle at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia. Also, Ezra has been writing a blog for more than a decade, “Rants, Raves, and Rhetoric.”

WordPress+Facebook

Since I cannot use Facebook Apps over HTTPS, that put a wrinkle over using the NetworkedBlogs app. Because one had to go to their apps.facebook.com to do more than look at a post (goes to networkedblogs.com which shows my site in a frame) or view the app profile, I decided to ditch it. I decided to look for another way to facilitate the integration. I’m used to Twitter Tools which just posts to Twitter. I thought there should be an equivalent for my blog posts to end up as a Facebook link post (not as a Note).

So I started searching on WordPress for possible plugins. Many were out of date. Many were for functionality not useful to me. Eventually I started searching through Google which muddied the waters even more by giving me much older plugins.

  • Simple Facebook Connect required me to publish to WordPress then go back and hit a button to publish to Facebook. Lame.
  • Facebook Comments for WordPress pretty cool if all I wanted was comments. Really I wanted the posts to show up in my profile more.
  • WPBook sets the URL for each post to go through apps.facebook.com.

Wordbooker finally did what I want… It creates a post in my newsfeed for my blog which uses a link to my blog. I manage it through WordPress not Facebook apps.

I could be happy now. (Until I next get annoyed.)

Facebook Apps Not HTTPS Enabled?

I much prefer to use sites with the encrypted HyperText Transfer Protocol (https) because it is a more secure connection. It is not just for banks or shopping. So I jumped on the chance to use https for my use of Facebook on more than just the login. Only now I am annoyed by the message I have to turn off https to use apps.

Switch to regular connection (http)?

Sorry! We can’t display this content while you’re viewing Facebook over a secure connection (https).

To use this app, you’ll need to switch to a regular connection (http).

First, the main Facebook address is www.facebook.com. This message occurs when going to apps.facebook.com with https. AIt means one should go to Account > Account Settings and click the “change” link next Account Security. Finally, uncheck “Secure Browsing (https): Browse Facebook on a secure connection (https) whenever possible”. better design for this message would to give a button where people could turn off this setting. Clicking the continue button turns off https. What this page does not make clear is apps users have to make a choice: 1) be more secure and not use any apps or 2) be less secure and use apps or 3) remember to switch back and forth. I suspect many people will go with the less secure option.

Second, I suspect the reason why apps.facebook.com is not protected is because the https protocol does not allow for two parties on to provide items in some elements on the same page even if both are secure. This is because one party cannot ensure another is not doing something illegitimate.

Still, there should be a handover from https to http for apps.facebook.com. A warning to users who want to have secure browsing they are no longer so would be nice. Really they should be clued in by their browser address bar, but most people would not notice that, I think.

Blackboard Mobile Learn Support

Last week about this time both Blackboard Mobile Learn and SafeAssign were experiencing an outage. Both were resolved by the afternoon. However, Support Bulletins, how I have come to expect to receive notifications about Blackboard issues came only for SafeAssign. I complained about this to my support representative by CC’ing him on an internal message. Wednesday afternoon we had our normal conference call where I went into more detail. Thursday morning he wanted more details. I probably went too far when I wrote, “I am just looking for Mobile to put on its big boy pants and alert us through the appropriate support channels.”

Before I continue, here is what I understood about Blackboard Mobile Learn. Mobile Learn is a new acquisition of Blackboard. According to TechCrunch’s CrunchBase…

In July of 2009, Blackboard Inc. acquired Terriblyclever for $4mil, at which time TC had 5 full time employees, most of whom were close friends and current students at Stanford University.

Rather than being completely rolled up into the Learn division of Blackboard, Mobile is a separate division. Well, even if it has been added to Learn, there is the possibility like with Angel it would have been allowed to do things their way. I heard Ray Henderson say a mistake Blackboard made in buying WebCT was to try and integrate the support structures too soon. With 5 employees there was not so much a support structure at TC as maybe a half to full person? Plus supporting a couple dozen clients is far different than opening up to thousands of clients who have tens of millions of users. So the big boy pants comment was about integrating with the rest of the company rather than sitting off to the side doing their own thing.

Anyway, I got an email from Francois Hedouin asking to pick my brain about planned improvements to Mobile Learn support. I will not go into the specifics of what he and Mobile Learn are planning. I liked what I heard. He seemed to like my input. He had done his homework and knew about me and my organization. I probably drank the Kool-Aid, but I came away feeling like any client should: The vendor understands my needs. A conference call a couple weeks ago about Mobile Learn left me feeling like we got a sales guy who was on his first day at the job because he did not say anything about the product that was not already in the advertisements we had already read.

Saint Valentine

We celebrate with flowers, candy, dinner, and gifts the beheading of the patron saint of love, bee keepers, young people, and happy marriages. The flowers all of a sudden make sense given the bee keeper part of his domain.

I forget how interesting Catholicism can be. According to Catholic Online….

Valentine was a holy priest in Rome, who, with St. Marius and his family, assisted the martyrs in the persecution under Claudius II. He was apprehended, and sent by the emperor to the prefect of Rome, who, on finding all his promises to make him renounce his faith in effectual, commended him to be beaten with clubs, and afterwards, to be beheaded, which was executed on February 14, about the year 270…. To abolish the heathens lewd superstitious custom of boys drawing the names of girls, in honor of their goddess Februata Juno, on the fifteenth of this month, several zealous pastors substituted the names of saints in billets given on this day.

So like positioning Christmas near the Winter Solstice to combat the pagans, Saint Valentine’s Day was used to counter Juno. Of course, how times have changed for writing the names of the opposite sex to be considered lewd.

Naturally, my sister-in-law prefers the Medieval Romantic-esque version the priest Valentine confidentially married couples as the (she says king which Rome did not have in 270AD) emperor had outlawed. The people gave flowers to show their solidarity. “Your Valentine” came from the signature on the love notes he sent his jailer’s daughter. She wonders how anyone can be against this kind of Valentine’s Day. How about this? It was the Medieval equivalent of a romance novel. Fiction. Not truth. It may have a sappy spirit, but I do not go around believing in Artificial Intelligent robots truly exist because I read I, Robot.
🙂

UPDATE: The Dark Origins of Valentine’s Day from NPR…

From Feb. 13 to 15, the Romans celebrated the feast of Lupercalia. The men sacrificed a goat and a dog, then whipped women with the hides of the animals they had just slain.

The Roman romantics “were drunk. They were naked,” says Noel Lenski, a historian at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Young women would actually line up for the men to hit them, Lenski says. They believed this would make them fertile.

The brutal fete included a matchmaking lottery, in which young men drew the names of women from a jar. The couple would then be, um, coupled up for the duration of the festival – or longer, if the match was right.

The ancient Romans may also be responsible for the name of our modern day of love. Emperor Claudius II executed two men — both named Valentine — on Feb. 14 of different years in the 3rd century A.D. Their martyrdom was honored by the Catholic Church with the celebration of St. Valentine’s Day.

Later, Pope Gelasius I muddled things in the 5th century by combining St. Valentine’s Day with Lupercalia to expel the pagan rituals. But the festival was more of a theatrical interpretation of what it had once been. Lenski adds, “It was a little more of a drunken revel, but the Christians put clothes back on it. That didn’t stop it from being a day of fertility and love.”

Around the same time, the Normans celebrated Galatin’s Day. Galatin meant “lover of women.” That was likely confused with St. Valentine’s Day at some point, in part because they sound alike.