Moral Operating System

“We have stronger opinions about [iPhone vs. Android] than we do the moral frameworks to guide our decisions.” To be fair the choices were selected to be ones most people would have to have taken a Philosophy major to understand, Kant versus Mill. There are other moral guides like Jesus, Aquinas, Richard Dawkins, Mohammed, Pope Bennedict, Baha’u’llah, we could use. But, yeah, the point is to think and discuss.

Elemental Nuclear Threats

I was sequestered in a war room for a month during which the Japanese earthquake and tsunami happened as well as the meltdown of the nuclear power plant at Fukushima. We projected on the wall video of the stories over and over.

It just occurred to me each of the Empedocles classical elements (air, fire, earth, and water) have threatened a nuclear power plant this year. True, only the one event resulted in a melt down. Still, it is interesting how a bit of everything has been a problem.

  • Air: “A nuclear power plant in Alabama that lost power after violent thunderstorms and tornadoes on Wednesday will be down for days and possibly weeks but the backup power systems worked as designed to prevent a partial meltdown like the disaster in Japan.”
  • Fire: “A raging wildfire in Los Alamos on Monday briefly entered the property of the nation’s preeminent nuclear facility, Los Alamos National Laboratory, a vast complex that houses research laboratories and a plutonium facility.”
  • Earth: Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. (Okay technically, seawater from the tsunami is what caused the worst problems.)
  • Water: “The head of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has been dispatched to a nuclear power plant in Fort Calhoun, Neb., where a berm collapsed Sunday…. The breach allowed Missouri River flood waters to reach containment buildings and transformers and forcing the shutdown of electrical power.”

Before you ask, no, the classical elements are not fighting back against the modern elements (Uranium and Plutonium).

Duplicate Selective Release

Analyst asked me to look at the server logs for a case where students were getting system exceptions. Armed with the JSESSIONID, I found many cases in the webct.log of an error called: “Stack size too large”. In my old email, I found a September 2010 discussion with Rajini Prabhu and Mike Cooling about thread-dump analyzers. In it Rajini told me:

Turns out the “Stack size too large” error is caused by duplicate release criteria on anything in a section (assignments, assessments, discussions, folders, etc).

Looks like 9 months later, the root cause was not identified and resolved.

The analyst found this in the selective release for a quiz:

June 20, 2011 12:06 PM Until June 26, 2011 11:00 PM
June 20, 2011 12:06 PM Until June 26, 2011 11:00 PM
Boolean Expression And UserID Equals user1
Boolean Expression And UserID Equals user1

When the duplicates were removed, the errors stopped. No idea why a designer or instructor would do this except that it probably was to set up a makup quiz for user1.


There seem to be two ways to recommend something to others…

  1. Because the person making the recommendation likes it.
  2. Because the person making the recommendation knows the one receiving it and thinks that person will like it.

The last time I looked, I am not anyone else. I like things others do not. Others like things I do not. My list of books I hate falls includes the favorites of others. What another likes is only a measure of whether we like similar things. Only if we actually have strong similarities in what we like would the recommendation of what I like have real value.

Reading books people know about results in people either telling me their opinions. They loved it, hated it, felt ambivalent, or may want to read it. That last group want to know whether I like it. When they are my friends, I tend to offer why I think they will or will not like it.

Yesterday on Facebook, a friend asked whether Catch-22 is good. As an Austen fan, I did not think she would adore a book about war, bureaucracy, and most especially sex with prostitutes. Male friends who did not know the one asking about the book said they loved it. They naturally recommended reading it. If she had similar tastes to them, then I would agree.

What I get for discussing things in public.

Also what I get for discussing books people have or want to read. I probably should stick to esoteric non-fiction no one else wants to read.


Open Letter Re: Behind the Blackboard

Hi Blackboard Support,

Today, without warning, you changed Behind the Blackboard. Clients dislike surprises. We like knowing how things work. Give us access to the new thing before we have to deal with it. That way we become familiar with it.

Even if you do not give advance viewing of the service, then advance warning the change would happen today so I can plan around it happening. I had a phone call with one of your employees yesterday. That would have been a good time to tell me. It is a web site, so you could put on your web site to expect the change.

The main problem is I cannot login to this site. My current user id and client id are not accepted. The math problem to foil bot does not accept the correct answers. Others found the password provided did not work. This roll out seems less than ready for production use. I emailed the address on the support page for help.



UPDATE 2011-06-10: Apparently there was an email sent on May 27th, about 12 days before change. It looks like many customers just like me did not see the email. Also, this is about the time a coworker’s email address changed to foo@blackboard. In the lists discussing this mess, another client got

I guess the old system is not available because apparently we have to tell Blackboard the people who to add to our client id? (Nevermind that because we are a system there are about 40 client ids.)

UPDATE 2011-06-14: I got into the site. Now my default list of tickets belongs to the first client id in the set of our consortium. Since the merger of the WebCT and Blackboard support almost five years ago, I have been working tickets in the client id for the system office. Maybe one day this will work?

Complex Policy => Confusion

There is a video of soldiers returning from Afghanistan irritated about having to pay out of pocket for bags they thought were allowed under the government contract with Delta Airlines.

At the time, Delta’s understanding of the contract was First or Business class could carry four bags. Economy class could carry three.

Because of this, Delta will now allow First or Business class to carry five bag while Economy class can carry four.

With the next round of returning deployments there will be another Youtube video about soldiers having to pay for their fifth bags. If the bag allowance is the same for everyone, then it will be less confusing. Changing the number higher does not help. Making it simpler helps.

Odd Mozilla Spellcheck

We maintain a wiki page with which DBA will do which maintenance. By convention, the months are the first three characters of the month’s name. In doing updates, I noticed only month marked as misspelled was Sep for September. So Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Oct, Nov, Dec were all okay spellings but Sep was not? Changing it to Sept made it okay.