Terra Nova

I saw a version of this commercial without the sneaking through the gate and most chase stuff. My first impression was, does humanity get so ignorant of the past that they are unaware of what populated the Earth 85 million years ago? After watching this version, it answered my question: yes.

Anyone who read or watched Jurassic Park or its sequels knows a Tyrannosaurus Rex eats a couple of humans for a midday snack. Maybe the idea is in 20 million years humanity is able to prevent themselves from getting wiped out by the asteroid? Seems to me if one was going to pick a time period to establish humanity, I would pick the Paleogene period when horses, bovine, and other creatures have developed and are prime for re-domestication. Mammals are much easier to tame into giving us the power to accomplish work.

Of course, I could also pick not take a sci-fi show seriously….

Guard Dead Paper?

Seth said, “What we don’t need are mere clerks who guard dead paper.” Whenever, I read “mere”, “only”, or “just” as a descriptor, it makes me sad someone (even me) relies on obvious straw men.

Librarians already do more than guard dead paper. It just makes it easier to knock them down and kick them while they are down to portray them as such. Of course, the point is that Seth wants to see “… a librarian who can bring domain knowledge and people knowledge and access to information to bear…” which describes… every… librarian… I have ever known going back to age 5. Maybe growing up in and working in libraries gives me a different perspective than Seth?

The librarians I know…

  • Help patrons learn how to find information.
  • Learn quickly what the patron knows and how to connect the dots.
  • Have a master’s or doctorate in librarian (information) science but an undergraduate in something else because almost no where offers a bachelor’s in it.

How about this? “What we don’t need are mere scribes who throw words on paper. I want to see an author who can bring domain knowledge and people knowledge and communicate  information.” Yeah. Still just as demeaning without being at all helpful.

Happy Towel Day!

Towel Day is an annual celebration on the 25th of May, as a tribute to the late author Douglas Adams (1952-2001). On that day, fans around the universe proudly carry a towel in his honour.

From towelday.org. According to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy:

A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitch hiker can have. Partly it has great practical value — you can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble‐sanded beaches of Santraginus Ⅴ, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a mini raft down the slow heavy river Moth; wet it for use in hand‐to‐hand‐combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or to avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mindbogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you — daft as a bush, but very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

So… Carry your towel proudly and avoid Vogon poetry.

Bb Mobile Learn Phones Home

We acquired Blackboard Mobile Learn Powerlink version 1.1.9 to solve a problem. Something was done on the Blackboard side before our institution administrators could successfully get to the registration page. This version fixed that issue by doing a registration behind the scenes. Naturally the information it has is wrong, but at least now the institution administrators can change it to the correct information.

Looking to gather logs on an issue, I stumbled across a new-to-me log: vistaMobile.log.

There was a call to a strange URL:


What shocked me most was this was an institution where Mobile was not ready for use. By going to the URL, I figured out it was the advertisement image on the course list after Mobile Learn is set up. (I would have the image show up on the blog, but they seem to prevent it from working on my blog. Direct access works. For now? :))

Every user logging into our system by a non-mobile web browser unwittingly connects to Blackboard Mobile Learn servers to download this image. This Powerlink sets this channel on by default. It is a wealth of information on users we were not informed Blackboard would acquire. So we will likely turn off this channel and stress pushing the advocacy for Mobile by other means.

If a user were to click the link on the advertisement, then they would get this URL:


This has not one or two but THREE marketing campaign products tracking the users. Not intrinsically a bad thing, but it makes me nervous to unknowingly contribute to a marketing campaign operating through my system.

TED Talk: Leonard Susskind: My friend Richard Feynman

What would be in your sandwich?

Richard Feynman wrote a couple of my favorite books: The Pleasure of Finding Things Out and The Meaning of It All: Thoughts of a Citizen-Scientist. It was reassuring to find someone who held similar views on the world.

Susskind’s The Black Hole War is on my to-read list. Guess I should bump it up higher in the list.

Browser Checker

Mark Wescott wrote to a Blackboard Learn 9 list,

Imagine a world where Bb Inc. provides browser checkers for each Rev/SP combo, and all we (aka “The Customers”) have to do is place a link on our Bb logon page to the browser checker that matches our production environment…. mmmm serenity.

Said browser checkers would:

  • be GREAT customer service; EVERY institution that uses Bb would benefit
  • be relatively simple for Bb Inc’s staff to create
  • be branded with Bb’s logos and marketing
  • be up to date
  • be released commensurately with each SP
  • have a static, publicly available URL
  • be found on the Course Sites logon page
  • eliminate a topic that appears about every 6 months on this board

Sadly, we Blackboard Vista clients have Mark’s “imagine a world”. Yet still the topic appears in our email lists every time a new web browser or version of Vista was released. Why?

  • Telling a user their web browser may have problems is not a deterrent. Their (correct) opinion is Blackboard should fix the product so the browser they use every day will work. Students and instructors should not have to become a computer geek to take or teach a class.
  • Blackboard only checks a small amount of browser and operating system combinations, so potentially fine web browsers were marked “not tested”. Blackboard has better things to do than test the long tail of browsers. So users have stopped trusting the browser checker because untested browsers often do work. The browser checker has cried “Wolf!” too many times for people to believe it.
  • The browser checker is not consistent with the official supported browser list. Oh, and that is intentional. Browsers which used to work are nor removed from the list unless clients make a stink about them not working. Blackboard stopped testing them, so they are clueless whether it continues to work, but users are not alerted to the problems.

Imagine a world where Blackboard products work in every web browser because it does not reply on coding for specific browsers. You know… Web Standards.


A hard thing

A hard thing is never done by reading an article about doing it.

From Michael Kopp of rands in repose fame on Twitter.

I have relearned this the hard way over the past few months. Documentation and sales pitches are the same as an article.

Don’t get me wrong, articles, documentation, or sales pitches are great for coming up with the hypothetical. Only by testing that hypothesis enough to resolve all the various possible problems can one have confidence in it.

Probably I still have this point of view because I sit at bottom rung of the organizational ladder where we implement the hypothetical. The higher one goes up the ladder, the less one works in reality and more immersed in hypothetical. Taking the time to send this down to someone like me to work out the problems and then make a decision based on that strong reality-based grounding takes strong discipline.

There will be pressure to make a decision faster. One way to make that improvement is to skip the testing or do less testing. We end up paying for that later by making a poor decision which costs us later. Maybe I get annoyed because I am one of the people who has to pay the cost of making the impossible happen.

Unintended Consequence of Ads

My Internet Service Provider spams me about deals. Requests not to receive phone calls or emails have no effect. (I love Google Voice because I have their number on a no ring list for their robocalls.) They send emails weekly about deals I should take to pay them more than I am. Usually I delete the emails without thought. However, when I am trying to use it and the web mail takes three minutes to load like every I accessed recently on the Internet, this email about a deal makes me think…

If I stop paying you anything, then that is the best deal of all.

Not sure if this is fortunate or unfortunate, I try not make decisions when frustrated. That negative emotional state leads me to attentional bias to predict that if I stay, then constant poor performance will annoy me all the time. The reality is occasional.

Still. Frustrating.

This is how our clients feel when performance problems both of our ability to resolve and some outside something (ISPs, networks, client computers) cause.


Summer Movie Season

The commentary my friends made during the trailers in front of Thor inspired this post. So here are the movies coming soon this summer I want to see. After compiling the list, it is interesting how the ones I most want to see are all based on comics, graphic novels, short stories.

As a kid, I could connive my grandmother to let me see every summer blockbuster in the theater. And I wanted to see them all. Lately, I have not seen that many in the theater. Looks like that is changing for the better.

Matinée or better:

  • June 3: X-Men First Class – When Mom and I went to Jekyll Island back in December, we saw them working on a set next our hotel. There were also lots of palm trees in boxes near our hotel. So I figure JI represents Cuba. Really it is the “Filmed in Georgia” aspect that most compels me. Well, that and I like the X-Men, especially Magneto, despite the butchering it repeatedly.
  • June 10: Super 8 – In general, I guess I like JJ Abrams television and movies. So I’ll go see this one too. 🙂
  • June 17: Green Lantern – I never read the GL or Justice League of America comics. The various JLA Warner Brothers cartoons were pretty good. Prior, Batman was the only JL member I liked. I came to better appreciate others through these shows and movies, especially GL.
  • July 22 Captain America – This is a must see in the build up to the Avengers movie.
  • July 29th Cowboys and Aliens – AW asked if they based this movie on something when we saw this trailer. I told her I thought it a comic. Okay, so it was a graphic novel.
  • August 19: Conan the Barbarian – The Ahnold ones defined much of my vision about sword and sorcery. As a Dungeon Master, when I felt writer’s block, this is a movie I would watch to help me.

Dollar theater or Netflix: