Archive for November, 2010

Dear Comcast

Monday, November 29th, 2010

I do not care if the entire city of Boston, New England, East Coast of the US, the entire country, or the entire world is having internet connectivity problems! When I call you because my service is not working I expect to either:

  • Talk to a person, to whom I can explain my service problem and receive help or direction
  • Be able to loge a service out notice with a computer
  • Be told of known service problem in my area and be provided with a estimated time of service restoration

Any of those is acceptable. Just to be clear and ensure that I am not being unreasonable in my request, when my power goes out, my power company offers all 3 of those options depending on the circumstances. Now, the ETA I am told by the power company is not always correct. However, it is updated from time to time, and they will call me back if and when they update the ETA. Also, they call me back after they expect the power has been restored to confirm that my reported outage has been resolved. That is how a service outage should be handled, if you ask me. Excellent job government sponsored monopoly, nStar.

Being told to go online for help when the internet is not working is not acceptable! At the very least your system should detect that there is an internet problem and not play that recording. With the power company, most of those options are handled automatically by a computer, which is fine. No one expects a service provided to have enough people answering calls to deal with the flood of complaints during a service outage. However, we should be informed of the problem, when we call; not disconnected because too many people are calling. If I have to turn to twitter to find out that this is a larger problem and not just me, as well as find the solution (use google’s dns servers), then you as a service provider have failed miserably. I don’t know why I expected that you would not fail in this case, you fail every day all of the time. I really don’t understand why the government monopoly power company provides an entirely different level of customer service than you; you technically do at least have some minor form of competition.

Not Cheating

Monday, November 29th, 2010

In this video, which I found via, a class of 600 students is accused of widespread cheating. The results of their midterm were thrown away, and they were required to take a new midterm. Also, they attempted to identify the cheaters by name, some 200 students, but offered amnesty to those who admitted guilt. The “cheating” was discovered when someone placed a copy of the “complete set of test bank questions” for the exam in the professor’s mailbox, and was suspected based on the grade distribution.

Now, hold on. I no way is what they did cheating. Lets list the ways you can cheat on a test:

  • Copy someone else’s answer(s)
  • Use a written, electronic, or other method to view a copy of the answers or any other disallowed information during the test
  • Use a tool, such as a calculator or cell phone, when use of that tool is not permitted
  • Acquire or transmit information about the test from someone who has taken it prior to you, or while you are taking the test

Note, that use of a set of questions which may or may not appear on the test as a study guide prior to the test is not a method by which one can cheat on a test. It is a method by which one can study for the test. It does not matter where this list of questions comes from. It does not matter what the probability of appearing on the test any one, or the collective set of questions has, may have, or is expected to have. Unless you bring this material to the test, and use it during the test, it is not cheating. The fact that the entire class did not study via this method is not any indication of cheating; the entire class should study via this method. It is highly recommended to view a professor’s previous tests while studying for a test. This is a tried and true method; tests are passed down year to year for this purpose. However, a prior year’s test is nothing more than a list of questions. It is no different from a set of questions acquired from a test bank. This class did not cheat, and their scores have been thrown out in error. Those scores should stand. The students who did not study using a set of questions or prior year’s tests have learned a valuable lesson to do so in the future.

I would argue, that any student who wants a quality education should in fact use this method as it provides a free market incentive demanding a better education. Also, any student who wants a quality education should likely not attend the University of Central Florida, although; if you have to live in Florida, I do realize there are not a lot of options once you count out Florida and Miami as I would have you do ;-). The professor in this case is really the one at fault. He created a test which relied heavily on “Test Bank” questions. That is, the same test questions appear year in and year out, and maybe also on tests at other schools. A higher quality education would be provided by a professor who took the time to personalize both his course, and his tests. His tests should include a preponderance of questions which do not appear in their exact form at other schools, and in previous years. The class should be tailored to the students, and as such topics that have not been covered or tested in previous instances should occur. By studying from previous questions sets, if a professor fails to provide such a test/class then the grades in that class will be inflated, and the class will be considered easy. It is considered easy because it does not properly provide a quality education to the level of students taking the class. If the professor desires to avoid this sort of situation, and provide a quality education, he should make up his own, new tests every time. If he does this, then studying previous tests and using questions sets is still invaluable to the students, as it does prepare them for the kind of questions they will face, but it does not inflate grades, as the students are still required to understand the material in order to answer the different questions that appear on the test.

Anyone who argues that this is simply to difficult for high school teachers or professors to do, is forgetting that their job is provide a high quality education. If they were doing their job, this wouldn’t happen. The fact that they may not be paid highly enough to compensate them for the time that providing a quality education, and writing their own unique tests may take is another story entirely. None of this means that anyone who used the question set to study for that class cheated. Now, maybe someone in that class did copy answers from someone who studied using a question set; such a person would have indeed cheated.

Christmas Music

Thursday, November 25th, 2010

In my family, we traditionally wait until the car ride from Louisville to Cincinnati following thanksgiving to begin listening to Christmas music. Traditionally black friday, or the nicest day of the rest of the long weekend is for stringing up Christmas lights. Since I don’t haven’t been going home for thanksgiving recently, I’ve sadly, been missing out on these traditions, but I’m not missing out on the music! A favorite from the traditional car tunes set:

Bonus, another excellent way to kick off the season, All I Want for Christmas is You.

Halloween 2010: Google Maps

Friday, November 19th, 2010

For two weeks prior to Halloween 2010, I slaved over this Home Depot painters jumpsuit, hand tracing and painting a map of Boston and Cambridge on to it, using the Google Map’s color scheme. On the front, North is to the left. The arms connect as though I am standing like a cross. The arms wrap on the inseam, as do the legs. The body wraps over the shoulders, and has disconnects under the arms (when the arms are down) and across the but where Boston Harbor ends. The coast line on the bottom of the harbor is that of East Boston, South Boston, and the Ted Williams Tunnel, which connects them, but the map on the land mass is wrapped around from the front of the legs.

I estimate that I spent about 44 hours on the project over the course of two weeks in late December. This includes two days that I took off from my job to work on the costume (as well as other things like doctors appointments). About 12 hours of that was tracing Google Maps onto the jumpsuit by using a projector and a pencil. Then I bought a bunch of fabric paint in white, black, apple green, blue, yellow, and red. I later went back and bought much more white, as well as some orange. The colors are brighter than Google Map’s colors. Primarily this is because I could not buy enough of the white fabric paint I was using to make the colors pale enough to match exactly. The brighter colors also make it more exciting to look at I think, so its a win.

Labeled Version

I did not win any costume contests, mostly because the only one I managed to enter was a club that I should have known was lying about having one. I tried to enter a couple others, but I was too late or it was for kids. I spent most of Halloween itself out and about in the city. Walking from the South End (not labeled, hardly on the map at all) to the Prudential Center to Boston Common. On the way I got lots of questions, a bunch of smiles, and a couple thumbs up. I also gave directions to two couples. One pair of women needed directions, and had an android phone, but couldn’t figure out how to have it direct them. The other was a young asian couple, who asked me how to get to the Prudential Center, when they were about 1.5 blocks from the Prudential Center. It is of course, a huge tall building, with the word “Prudential” written on the top. I’m pretty sure the woman there just wanted to ask me for directions, she also gave me a hug. The T-shirt and food vendors outside Park Street Station were the most impressed of all the people I encountered.

Cotton, the WTO, and You Tube

Friday, November 19th, 2010

I want to share 3 links I uncovered over the past 6 months, 2 of them this week, one thanks to Kara, about the World Trade Organization, how it works, and what Google wants to do with it.

First, an NPR Planet Money podcast about Cotton. The Planet Money team is trying to buy cotton from a cotton farmer, and they get caught up a whirlwind of intentional politics, economics, and enforcement.

Second, if you think cotton is the only industry where this has happens, this re-cap peice from Arstechnica last March sets the record straight about the myriad of WTO claims against the US, which we have ignored or paid off.

Some commentary before we move on. Farm subsidy are awful, economically, you shouldn’t need me to explain that. So we should comply with the WTO decision on cotton. The Antigua ruling about on-line gambling is likewise an easy choice, we should repeal the law and come into compliance. On-line gambling remains legal in Nevada even under the current law, and horse racing exemption make the current policy inconsistent at best. Cuban sanctions should have been lifted long ago, along with all their associated cruft. Now, the music issue, its strange. I think its the Europeans who are wrong on this count, but our radio payment system also needs an overhaul for other reasons. But the real reason why we want a better record for complying with the WTO is because of China, Turkey, and Pakistan.

All of those countries engage in internet censorship. Specifically they have blocked in the past. This Arstechnica piece describes how Google, owner of You Tube, sees that as a very specific trade embargo. If I were the WTO, and based on the Antigua case I would accept that argument and rule against those countries for censorship as it ruled against us. That, if the WTO rulings were enforceable, would be a really great way to force China and the Islamic world to stop censorship, something that sweet talking about human rights has not accomplished in the least.

It all comes down to the Rodrik Hypothesis, which I increasingly see reason to beleive may be accurate. It states roughly that:

Economic globalization, political democracy, and the nation-state are mutually irreconcilable. We can have at most two at one time. Democracy is compatible with national sovereignty only if we restrict globalization. If we push for globalization while retaining the nation-state, we must jettison democracy. And if we want democracy along with globalization, we must shove the nation-state aside and strive for greater international governance.

In this case, as with most that I am prone to like, we are going the globalization + democray route by getting rid of the nation-state. Making the WTO rules enforceable over the sovereignty of the nation-state has the essential action of eliminating what makes a nation-state a nation-state.

Don’t Blame Massachusetts

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

We sent a 10 out of 10 democrat delegation to the U.S. House today! Way to go M.A. If only more people lived, here then we could have done more to help. Trust me, I am doing my part, I have 4 room mates in a 4 bedroom house (plus me).

This is proof that:

  • We still love Obama.
  • Only Martha Coakley could have lost to Scott Brown.
  • Mike Capuano (my representative) still rocks! No one even had the balls to run against him in this year of “change.”

So, I don’t want to hear any whining when nothing gets done for the next 2 years. On the plus side Nancy Pelosi is out; if only she could be replaced by someone reasonable, and not John Bohner who’s just as damn fucking crazy as she is. Oh I wish every day was a rally4sanity.