Collected Quotes September/October 2012

My main page on quotes is Quotes to Make You Think. Additional ones can be found under the Quotes tag.


I am not sure that I exist, actually. I am all the writers that I have read, all the people that I have met, all the women that I have loved; all the cities I have visited. — Jorge Luis Borges

“All people are insane. They will do anything at any time, and God help anybody who looks for reasons.” — Kurt Vonnegut, Mother Night

Freeing yourself was one thing, claiming ownership of that freed self was another. — Toni Morrison

If a majority be united by a common interest, the rights of the minority will be insecure. — James Madison (attributed), The Federalist No. 51

Weird behavior is natural in smart children, like curiosity is to a kitten. ― Hunter S. Thompson, Kingdom of Fear

Thanks to people who posted quotes like Ben.

Sneaky Search Engine

I use Google search from my Chrome omnibox quite a bit. One of my favorite searches is “define <term>”.

Somehow my “define” got hijacked so that when I typed it, Chrome switched to a search of word.sc. Fortunately, I knew this probably would be Chrome’s settings for Search Engines (top right wrench or three horizontal lines > Settings > Show advanced link > Manage Search Engines).

Scroll down to the bottom of the search engine list and click the X next to word.sc. This removes it as a search option.

Basically, Chrome collects search engines from the sites I visit. If you enter the keyword for the search engine, then the omnibox searches that site instead of Google. So sneaky.

Foundation and Earth and Alpha

Wired Science has a post about a newly found Earth-sized planet around our closest star system neighbor:

The Alpha Centauri system — composed of three stars orbiting one another — is only 4.4 light-years away, a cosmic stone’s throw from us. Though the newly discovered planet has about the same mass as our own, its orbit is 25 times smaller, so a year on this planet passes in just 3.2 days. This means the planet is sitting up against its star, roasting at perhaps 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit with a surface likely composed of molten lava.

Last year I read the Foundation series by  Isaac Asimov. In Foundation and Earth, Asimov describes a water covered planet with a small island with refugees of Earth on a planet named Alpha orbiting Alpha Centauri. This gem is nowhere close to the fictional Alpha.  But, still, a planet so close is exciting!

We have a long way to go before we could travel there as well. Probably not in my life time. Nor in the next few generations.
🙁

Global Higher Education Trends

According to Trends in Global Higher Education (PDF), we should pay attention to globalization, massification,

Globalization is an interesting trend. As a college student, I enjoyed hanging out with international students and as an employer of student workers, half were international students. Exposure to different cultures, meaning values and perspectives and rituals and (the best) food was a great experience for me. It is harder to hate another culture when one has real friends among them. Such ties often become the basis of international diplomacy. But those students also mostly went home and are doing great things as part of the growing middle class.

Employers looking at post-secondary degrees as signals for middle class jobs drives massification. If this signal were terrible, then perhaps employers would seek an alternative. But I don’t think it means what most expect. The expectation is it means highly educated within the major. Instead, I see the bachelor’s degree as a demonstration of successfully navigating the world’s worst bureaucratic disasters. Having the tenacity, patience, and soft skills to deal with process failures all over the place. Secondarily, the degree means the ability to demonstrate some learning on demand to pass an evaluation.

Turning to look at how we here in Georgia compare to rest of the world, the crises facing least developed countries are constraints on research university budgets, constraints on student financial aid, increases in tuition, more part-time faculty, larger class sizes, a freeze on books & journals, construction, etc. This may not be solely a problem for least developed countries. Most of these are happening here in Georgia.

  • State funding was stagnant before the recession and been dropping since. Per student funding state funding has plummeted from about half to a quarter. The legislature and the governor have to make hard choices about what to fund. Higher education does not rank high enough compared to keeping people safe and healthy. Is there a Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs for government funding?
  • A big source of financial aid here, HOPE, used to pay for all tuition for students who maintain a B GPA. It is lottery funded, but revenues were not able to keep up with the 10%+ annual growth of students. So now the awards are reduced for all but the top most students and may continue to drop.
  • My librarian friends lament about their severely reduced budgets for purchasing journals. Combine this with skyrocketing costs for these same journals and maybe by 2030 the research universities should just sell their collections and close the libraries?
  • The one positive is construction has not stopped. Though buildings are not built fast enough. (Some schools schedule class days to happen on the online class system I help run because they lack the classroom space.)

Even when the Georgia economy fully recovers, the lost ground is unlikely to be regained. But there is also increasing pressure to improve graduation rates and the number of graduates. Interesting problems we get to solve.

Impressive Information Load

Last week I finished the Power Searching With Google MOOC. A month ago a coworker pointed out Google now offers the software used by this MOOC. As a Desire2Learn database and application administrator, I was curious. So I signed up. And actually finished!

On my emotional high, I signed up for Current/Future State of Education shortly before finishing Power Searching.

Boy are these two very different beasts completely different philosophies.

PS was what a coworker calls talking head videos, some self-quizzing activities, some forum posting, and taking the midterm and final tests.

CFHE12 is some articles, some forum postings, and posting artifacts.

CFHE12 is much more interesting. But unless taking this class is a full time job, where do people find the time? It is tempting to just scan articles, but then I would miss the deep knowledge they contain. Just now I resorted to searching by name in the forum for people I know to see what they said.

Here is to hoping how I think changes with this class.

TED Talk: 3 ways to (usefully) lose control of your brand

This talk reminds me of The Cluetrain Manifesto. Attempting to control the message, aka the brand, backfires. Employees doing good things builds the brand. It is especially the small things that count. Therefore, empowering employees to do good, altruistic things is really good for the brand. And those things may not even have to be part of the core business.

I am torn between official and unofficial directives not to assist our users in situations where I obviously can and wanting to feel like I am doing right by our users. It sucks to feel like I could be doing more. (So often I do, but superiors who rarely read this blog have no idea.) I just have to keep upholding our brand under the radar of the administration.

If the below video does not work, then try: Tim Leberecht: 3 ways to (usefully) lose control of your brand.

Who You Do It With

Study broadly and without fear. Learn a language if you can, because that will make your life more interesting. Read a little bit each day. But most importantly, try to surround yourself with people you like and make cool stuff with them. In the end, what you do isn’t going to be nearly as interesting or important as who you do it with. — John Green

I strongly agree with this and the rest of the video.

Of course, it meshes well with the intent of a liberal arts degree by having students study broadly and learn another language. But it does not necessarily have to be a degree unless that is required to get the job one wants. There are plenty of opportunities to learn.

I have been fortunate to always have had jobs with coworkers I like, even supporting me when I decided to leave. We made cool stuff because we needed to fill something in us. Another rationale was become people needed the cool stuff.

Undercounting Stats

Michael Feldstein posted on Twitter:

Seeing signs that Google Analytics significantly undercounts. Any recommendation for easy, reliable db-based WordPress analytics?

I knew Google Analytics relies on JavaScript to measure what users are doing. Bots typically do not execute JS, so go undercounted. That is OK, probably even great depending on how much they annoy me. It occurred to me browsers now incognito modes, which a desirable feature while in that mode would be to not execute known JS stats.

A response to Michael was:

Maybe try Jetpack? Has analytics built in.

I looked at the HTML for my own site. Jetpack appears to be JavaScript based as well.

Looking at Jetpack’s stats, though, I noticed a significant spike in traffic on September 27th. It got 487 hits compared to around 200 each day two weeks prior and since. Details for that day said my Nationalism post had 267 hits compared to my normal leader the Quotes to Make You Think. This made me curious. So I looked up the same day in Google Analytics. No spike in GA. So I pulled the raw access logs. The hits exist, but almost all were from a single IP. No visits to this page according to GA. Impressively disconcerting. I expected from Google Analytics 1 hit for the DSL user with 200+ hits, maybe 1 for the IP with no reverse DNS, and 0 for the Facebook bot.

Anyway, I looked at various WordPress plugins. I think WP Slimstat is the db-based WP analytics I will check out. It looks mature and seems pretty consistent with what I see in the hits. Too bad I did not add this a long time ago so I can compare Slimstat to GA and Jetpack. Will have to let it collect data and do this again.

Good thing I enjoy this stuff.

TED Talk: The currency of the new economy is trust

How would you describe my reputation in three words? My judgment, knowledge, and behaviors in various situations?

Back in the 1990s, the beauty of the Internet was we could disappear and be whomever we wanted. Wherever we went, almost no one knew who we were. Then web sites started providing accounts to sites and tracking who we were. Then web sites started sharing who we were. Now our reputation is going to follow us around on the Internet?

I guess it already does. I got my current job by doing something similar to the StackOverflow example used in the video. Helping others solve problems with the product developed into people trusting me. Measuring trust though. No existing rating system really works as well as I think it should.

I really dislike the ratings on most web sites because I do not really trust them. Authors don pseudonyms. Publishers make fake accounts. So I prefer something like Goodreads where people I actually know are the raters and whether or not to trust the rater is an easier task. Books that changed other people’s life? Meh. Restaurant I love? Other people find meh.

Guess I should go figure out how to trust the raters so eventually people can trust me trusting them.

If the video below does not work, then try The currency of the new economy is trust.