December Dilemma

From a CNN article, For Many, December’s a Dilemma by Joe Sterling (mentioned by Phillipe Copeland):

Navigating the Christmas season can be a challenge for the millions of people who don’t celebrate the holiday. Many acknowledge and sometime embrace the season’s customs, such as gift-giving and sending out greeting cards, while at the same time they are conscious of maintaining their own religious identities.

I will admit, when I was Catholic, Christmas was significantly easier. There was no conflict as I was wholly within the mainstream of others I knew. Choosing to become a member of the Bahá’í Faith didn’t significantly reduce the importance of Christmas for me. Bahá’í don’t celebrate Christmas with each other. Nor would we alienate those around us who choose to celebrate. Similarly, I would hope people don’t feel alienated when I fast in the

We still eat with family on Christmas Day. True, I no longer to to midnight or Christmas Day mass. My mother, who is also a Bahá’í stopped giving Christmas presents and only gave Ayyám-i-Há presents, a Bahá’í celebration in February just prior to our Fast and New Year. She does give presents to my brother and his wife who give and receive presents with their other family. I no longer expect Christmas presents or put up a tree, but that is okay.

Keep in mind Christmas as we celebrate it now, merges several holidays, making it convoluted. The primary one, the birth of Jesus, resonates with the Baha’i Faith. We recognize the station of Jesus and all his accomplishments. The Wiccan / Druidic winter solstice, Germanic Yuletide, the Roman Saturnia all are comingled into Christmas. As other faiths like Hinduism, Buddhism, Shinto, Islam, Judaism, and even Kwanzaa deal with the surrounding peoples celebrating Christmas, their traditions could trade in and out with Christmas. In the end, the sentiment of giving gifts is a good one, assuming one doesn’t go to excess.

The real dilemma ought to be what is the impact of gift giving. Joel Waldfogel, an economist, thinks receivers value gifts less than the giver, causing a loss in value to the economy, so he recommends gift cards. Several Bahá’ís and Christians I know donate to charities instead of gifts.

No Hiding From Blackboard

Some former WebCT (bought by Blackboard) customers switched to ANGEL rather than move to Blackboard products. PDF Apr 14, 2009 Today, Blackboard announced it is buying ANGEL. You can run, but you cannot hide from Blackboard.

Some light reading for you…

  1. Learning, Together ANGEL Learning and Blackboard® have decided to join forces.
  2. Blackboard Plans to Buy Another Rival, Angel Learning | Chronicle.com
  3. Why HigherEd is rejecting Blackboard … | Laura Gekeler
  4. Open Thread on Blackboard/ANGEL Merger | mfeldstein.com

So the options left are…

  1. Blackboard-WebCT-ANGEL
  2. Moodle
  3. Desire2Learn (currently in patent troubles with Bb)
  4. Pearson eCollege
  5. Sakai

Merge Historically Black Colleges With White?

Retention is one of those numbers higher education leaders tend to review to determine how effectively the faculty reaches the students. Historically black colleges and universities were created because students found it difficult both to get into “neutral” colleges and graduate from them. That latter part sounds like they were created in part to solve a retention issue.

Enter Georgia Senator Seth Harp who suggests a couple HBCUs in Georgia should merge with their neutral neighbors. The idea is to save money by not having more than one college in a town. Are black students as successful at “neutral” colleges as their white counterparts? If not, then the reason these schools exist has yet to be solved.

If we want to eliminate HBCUs, then we should have colleges and unviersities where all students succeed regardless of race (or gender, religion, or other factors).

Monopoly Fears

Something brought up my abandoned Friendster blog, which had a link to fiftymillimeter which used to be my favorite photography site by people in Athens prior to me even moving here. Why “used to be”? Well over a year ago, they stopped posting to the site. Sad, I know. Still, I was curious, Where are they now? I ran across Twitter-Free Fridays looking for Toby Joe Boudroux.

What I found interesting about this post was his approach to whether or not Twitter is or is not a monopoly. I agree with the first part. The last sentence surprised me.

Being at the top of an emerging market segment does not constitute a monopoly. Unfair practices, abuses of that dominance to limit fair access to resources and outlets – those are monopolistic. If Twitter struck a deal with Mozilla that blacklisted other microblogging services, we’d have something to talk about. Opening APIs freely and allowing supplemental markets to emerge hardly seems consistent with railroad barons.

Supplemental markets would be the equivalent of a railroad baron allowing new train stations or business to sell to the customers using the trains. Open APIs allow other corporations to find a niche. However, they are not a direct competitor. For example, with Twitter, the API is not used by Pownce or Jaiku. Friendfeed who fits in both the lifestream market and the micro-blog markets does use the API. More commonly, the Twitter API is used by companies like Summize or Twitpic in searching or posting content.

If economists or lawyers determining whether a company with a large market share is monopolistic are influenced by open APIs creating supplemental markets, then this could be a strategy to avoiding DOJ further scrutiny? At Bbworld / DevCon, a frequent point of pride from the Blackboard folks was the anticipation of Bb9 to have a more open, accessible, and useful API. This API will be able to do everything the current one in the Classic line can currently do. The anticipated additions to this API could benefit many supplemental markets. (Let’s just forget at the same time, they are saying API for the CE/Vista products is a dead-end development path.)

Scoring points with the DOJ (and more importantly the court of public opinion) could never hurt while trying to sue a much smaller competitor like Desire2Learn. Some characterize Bb as not likely to stop until D2L no longer exists. Who knows? I doubt even Chasen knows. Still, it would far fetched to characterize just this as making Blackboard a monopoly.

There are pleny of alternative LMS products to the Blackboard Learning System: Moodle, Sakai, ANGEL, eCollege, and many, many more. Heck, the rumor mill would indicate more and more higher education institutions are considering and even changing to the alternatives. Blackboard acknowleges institutions likely run multiple products. With Bb 9, they encourage people to use the Learning Environment Connector to single sign-on to into the other products. With the Bb9 frame remaining so they know who got them there, of course.  Don’t forget about a Personal Learning Environment,

Certainly I dislike that Blackboard hears my objections and continues to act in ways contrary to them. However, that happens within my own team. Neither group are criminal for ignoring me.

Boredom Correlates to Mistakes

We never get to stay bored at work for very long. Every day has an emergency from something caused by a user of the institutions we host, the admins at the institution, or even people who work for our project. Wait…. Maybe it is the boredom which is the cause of the mistakes which keeps the rest of us from really getting bored. So eliminating the boredom in one part of the system would cause boredom in other parts.

Thankfully our philosophy is to automate monotonous activities as much as possible. Computer brains do not get bored to make mistakes.

According to Dr Eichele of Norway and Dr Stefan Debener of the UK, when the brain switches to autopilot is when we are likely to start making mistakes. The brain economizes by shifting electrical activity from the prefrontal cortex (attention) to the default mode network.

I can’t want for them to figure out brains which sit in the default mode network are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s or dementia. 🙂

Of course, the worst mistake you could possibly make is to get bored enough to get involved in social networks.

Anti-Malware and Blackboard Vista

Tier1 support was contacted by a student to report a problem with a quiz. Some sort of anti-malware software complained about code in the quiz. Tier1 support replicated the issue. Their software identified it as belonging to MyWebSearch. Very bad news.

Tier2 support suggested the student remove the MyWebSearch toolbar. Tier1 escalated to Tier3 who claimed that because Tier1 and the student both saw the issue, the malicious code must have been inserted into Vista by the instructor. Tier3 also escalated it to me… Tier4.

From the email conversation, no one looked at the quiz in question despite Tier2 and Tier3 both having the access (and Tier2 being involved in instructional design).

*headdesk*

Instead of providing my own equally valueless speculation, I got a copy of the quiz and looked at the HTML. Eventually, I used WinMerge to compare the problematic quiz and a previous quiz side-by-side.

Turns out the difference between the two is the use of WebEQ Java applets. (The problem-free quiz used GIF images instead of applets.) I think the anti-malware software of the student and Tier1 both reacted to the Java applet. Here is one of the items used.

<applet code=”webeq.Main” archive=”/path/to/jar/WebEQ2Applet.jar” width=1899 height=40 align=middle><param name=eq value=”<math> <mrow> <semantics> <mrow> <mi>f</mi> <mo stretchy=’false’>(</mo> <mi>x</mi> <mo stretchy=’false’>)</mo> <mo>=</mo> <mn>2</mn> <msup> <mi>x</mi> <mn>2</mn> </msup> <mo>+</mo> <mn>3</mn> <mi>x</mi> <mo>+</mo> <mn>1</mn> </mrow> <annotation type=’MathType’/> </semantics> </mrow></math>”><param name=color value=”#ffffff”><param name=parser value=”mathml”></applet>

The way WebEQ passes the parameters as XML inside a parameter tag strikes me as very odd. Maybe causes anti-malware to trigger a false positive?

These applets have been a problem in the past, as many were hard coded into the HTML prior to Vista incorporating this into the equation editor. Vista instead, uses a parameter block to pass the values to the applet.

I think our instructional designers are moving away from use of WebEQ as it has been consumed so much of their time, they hate it now.

The Shot Heard Round the Vista World

What is the worst possible outcome of an event from an admin’s perspective? You lose everything.

Next worst is lose a large portion of the data. Losing days worth of data, as Utah did, is huge. This is the biggest news since the merger of Blackboard and WebCT, I think. To Utah’s credit, they have done their best to let people know their SAN and not a Blackboard code error was the culprit.

Still, its a bad boat to be sitting in right now.

Blogged with Flock

Tags: , Blackboard Vista

Quotes to Make You Think

These also make great signature files! Additional collected quotes are under the blog’s quotes category. Drop a comment to suggest something.

Organized alphabetically by first major word.

Anonymous/Unknown Author

A

Accomplishing the impossible means only the boss will add it to your regular duties.

According to my calculations, the problem doesn’t exist.

Adult: A person who has stopped growing at both ends and has started growing in the middle.

Advice is free: The right answer will cost plenty.

After all is said and done, more is said than done.

All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the flame of a single candle.

Almost anything is easier to get into than out of.

Always remember that you’re unique. Just like everyone else.

Always try to be modest. And be darn proud of it!

Ambition is a poor excuse for not having enough sense to be lazy.

B

Be nice to your kids. They’ll choose your nursing home.

Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you’re a mile away and you have their shoes.

The best part about procrastination is that you are never bored because you have all kinds of things that you should be doing.

Blessed are the pessimistic for they hath made backups.

By the time a man realizes that maybe his father was right, he usually has a son who thinks he’s wrong.

C

Children may close their ears to advice, but they keep their eyes open to example.

A clean desk is a sign of a cluttered desk drawer.

Cleaning the house while your kids are still growing is like shoveling the walk before it’s stopped snowing.

A clear conscience is a sign of a bad memory.

A company is known by the people it keeps.

A conclusion is the place where you got tired of thinking.

Confidence is the feeling you sometimes have before you fully understand the situation.

A conscience is what hurts when all your other parts feel so good.

The customer is always right but not always pleasant.

D

Don’t be irreplaceable; if you can’t be replaced, you can’t be promoted.

Don’t hate yourself in the morning – sleep till noon.

Duct tape is a lot like the Force. It has a Dark Side, it has a Light Side, and it binds the galaxy together…

E

The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.

Endeavor to so live that when you die even the undertaker will be sorry.

Ever stop to think, and forget to start again?

Every time I think I’ve hit the bottom, someone lends me a shovel.

Everyone seems normal until you get to know them.

Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lessons afterward.

Experience is something you don’t get until just after you need it.

F

Few women admit their age, Fewer men act it!

A filing cabinet is where papers get lost alphabetically.

Four-word story of failure: Hired, tired, mired, fired.

G

Generally speaking, you aren’t learning much when your lips are moving.

Go the extra mile. It makes your boss look like a slacker.

A good test for conversation: if you wouldn’t write it and sign your name to it, don’t say it.

Good resolutions are often checks drawn on an account with insufficient funds.

The great essentials of happiness are something to do, something to love and something to hope for.

H

Hard work has a future payoff. Laziness pays off NOW.

The Haves and the have-nots can often be traced back to the Dids and the Did-Nots.

The highest reward for man’s toil is not what he gets for it but what he becomes by it.

How many of you believe in telekinesis? Raise my hand….

I

I don’t exaggerate. I just remember bigger than most people.

I don’t suffer from insanity, I enjoy every minute of it!

I have a mind like a steel trap – rusted open.

I haven’t lost my mind. It’s backed up on tape somewhere.

I pretend to work. They pretend to pay me.

If at first you don’t succeed, destroy all evidence that you tried.

If at first you don’t succeed, give up, no use being a damn fool.

If at first you don’t succeed, skydiving is not for you.

If both of us thought alike, one of us would not be necessary.

If everything seems to be going well, you have obviously overlooked something.

If nothing ever sticks to TEFLON, how do they make TEFLON stick to the pan?

IF Pro is the Opposite of Con, What Is The Opposite of Progress? Congress!!

If you’re going in the wrong direction, God allows u-turns.

If you ask a question you don’t want an answer to… expect an answer you don’t want to hear.

If you don’t learn from your mistakes, what’s the point of making them?

If you find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere.

If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.

If you think nobody cares if you’re alive, try missing a couple of car payments.

If you were somebody else, would you want to be friends with you?

Indecision is the key to flexibility.

It has been determined that research causes cancer in rats.

It is harder to conceal ignorance than to acquire knowledge.

It is when we forget ourselves that we do things that are most likely to be remembered.

It takes less time to do a thing right than to explain why you did it wrong.

It will do no good to get on the right track if you are headed in the wrong direction.

J

Just because someone doesn’t love you the way you want them to doesn’t mean they don’t love you with all they have.

K

Keep your ideals high enough to inspire you and low enough to encourage you.

L

Language is a wonderful thing. It can be used to express our thoughts, to conceal our thoughts, or to replace thinking.

Laugh alone and the world thinks you’re an idiot.

Leaders go down in history — some farther down than others.

Leadership has been defined as the ability to hide your panic from others.

Life is a sexually transmitted disease with a 100% mortality rate.

Life is complex: part real, part imaginary.

Love may be blind, but marriage is a real eye-opener.

M

Many people quit looking for work when they find a job.

The measure of man’s real character is what he would do it he knew he would never get caught.

The mistake a lot of politicians make is forgetting they’ve been appointed and thinking they’ve been anointed.

The more people I meet, the more I like my cat.

The more you know, the more you know you ought to know.

N

Never miss a good chance to shut up.

No matter how far money goes, it still can’t go as far as the next paycheck.

No matter how much I care, some people just don’t care back.

No one is listening until you make a mistake.

O

Of all the things you wear, your expression is the most important.

One of the mysteries of life is how the boy who wasn’t considered good enough to marry the daughter can be the father of the smartest grandchild in the world.

One reason folks get into trouble is that trouble usually starts out being fun.

One trouble with the world is that so many people who stand up vigorously for their rights fall down miserably on their duties.

The only time the world beats a path to your door is if you’re in the bathroom.

P

People who do the world’s real work don’t usually wear neckties.

People will accept your ideas much more readily if you tell them that Benjamin Franklin said it first.

Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.

Practice makes perfect, so be careful what you practice.

A professor is one who talks in someone else’s sleep.

The quickest way to get a lot of undivided attention is to make a mistake.

People who wonder where the younger generation is headed for would do well to consider where it came from.

The problem with the gene pool is that there is no lifeguard.

Q

R

The really productive ups and downs are getting up in the morning and down to work.

The reason we never see ourselves as others see us is that we’d never believe what we saw.

A reckless driver is a person who passes you on the highway in spite of all you can do.

S

Save time… see it my way.

Some people get lost in thought because it’s unfamiliar territory.

Some people spend the first six days of each week sowing wild oats; then go to church on Sunday and pray for a crop failure.

The sooner you fall behind, the more time you’ll have to catch up.

A sure-fire formula for making a good speech: have a good beginning and a good ending–and keep them as close together as possible.

To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism; to steal from many is research.

A synonym is a word you use in place of one you can’t spell.

T

Tact is the ability to close your mouth before somebody else wants to.

There can’t be a crisis today, my schedule is already full.

There is absolutely no substitute for a genuine lack of preparation.

There is nothing so comforting as the patter of little children’s feet about a home, because the moment the sound stops one knows that they are up to something they shouldn’t be.

There is nothing that upsets a person quite as much as having company drop in and see the house looking as it usually does.

There needs to be fewer Republican Senators and fewer Democratic Senators, and many more United States Senators.

Thinking is when your mouth stays shut and your head keeps talking to itself.

This isn’t an office. It’s Hell with fluorescent lighting.

Those who complain about the way the ball bounces are usually the ones who dropped it.

Time may be a great healer, but it certainly is no beauty operator.

Trains stop at train stations
Buses stop at bus stations
On my desk is a workstation.

A true friend is one who thinks you’re a good egg even though you’re slightly cracked.

U

Usually I try to take it one day at a time, but lately several have attacked me at once…

V

W

Warning: Dates in Calendar are closer than they appear.

We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office.

What most people want these days is less to do, more time to do it, and more pay for not getting it done.

When adults act like children, they are called silly. When children act like adults, they are called delinquent.

When computing, whatever happens, behave as though you meant it to happen.

When our children are old enough not to say or do anything in public to disgrace us, they have reached an age when the things we do and say embarrass them.

A wise man learns from the mistakes of others, a fool by his own.

Why is ‘abbreviation’ such a long word?

Wild horses couldn’t drag a secret out of most women. Unfortunately, women seldom have lunch with wild horses.

With every right, there is a responsibility. Just once, I wish someone would demand his responsibility.

A woman wants one man to meet her every need. A man wants every woman to meet his one need.

A woman will pay $1 for a $2 item she doesn’t want. A man will pay $2 for a $1 item he DOES want.

Work is the easiest thing man has ever invented to escape boredom.

Work like you don’t need money,
Love like you’ve never been hurt,
And dance like no one’s watching.

X

Y

Years wrinkle the skin, but lack of enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.

You are only young once. After that, you have to think up some other excuse.

You can’t keep people from having bad opinions about you, but you can keep them from being true.

You cannot build a reputation on the things you are going to do.

You cannot make someone love you. All you can do is be someone who can be loved. The rest is up to them.

You only live once, but if you live right, once is enough.

Z

Misc.

Comment from a correspondent in Australia on the U.S. political scene: “Thank God you got the Puritans while we only got the convicts.”