Tales from the Technoverse

Commentary on social networking, technology, movies, society, and random musings

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I Think Not

January 29th, 2016 · healthcare

For reasons I am not sure I can articulate I am on an email list from academia.edu (I guess because I play one these days at UMUC).
I received an email from them today generated I assume by some automated search engine saying they had found 90 papers that I may have written including one by “Daniel Mintz, George Kyriakides, Alexander Rabinovitch, Les Olson, et al” entitled:
“Long-Term Study of Vascularized Free-Draining Intraperitoneal Pancreatic Segmental Allografts in Beagle Dogs”.
The question asked was whether this actually was a paper I had written.
I am leaning toward “no”, though I am sure Beagle Dogs everywhere are thankful for the work that other Dan Mintz has done.

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Comcast Is Not On My Favorite Companies List

January 25th, 2016 · cable

I have two and a half goals when we have a major storm.

First, have power. Our neighborhood has buried power lines which means no trees to fall and break a connection in the neighborhood. However, eventually the lines go above ground outside the neighborhood and therein lies the problem. The neighborhood seems actually to connect in two separate places (I am sure I am describing this incorrectly). The result is that even when one part loses power generally the other one does.

In 2010, our half lost power, but we have some close friends (well, Ellen has close friends, as my daughters remind me I have no friends) in the other half, so we stayed with them for three days until power was restored.

This time, evidently PEPCO’s investments seem to have paid off. No power problems thus far at all.

Having said that, even in 2010, PEPCO would display on their web page which areas were out of power, how big the areas were, and give estimates of when they would at least arrive to fix each problem. Accepting that they were not always correct, sometimes physical circumstances make such predictions hard, it was at least something.

And that brings me to my second goal.

Second, keep the Internet. That also was going well until yesterday, Sunday morning, when Comcast went out. Comcast, now Monday morning is still out.

My problem with Comcast is that when you access their web page, when you send them the text message OUT, when you call their customer service representatives, they are able to tell you absolutely nothing of value. They confirm there is an outage (duh). The web page says, your area has an outage we are doing our best to fix it. How big is an area? Is there any estimates of any kind? It would seem to me that either Comcast has knowledge of at least the scope of the problem, in which case they should share it, or they do not have any knowledge of anything, in which case they need new management.


Oh, my last half of a goal, I would at some point during the January/February timeframe like Montgomery County to plow the neighborhood streets. We have had our driveway shoveled out. In fact, it was dug two feet into the street, where it ends in a two-foot-high pile. It is not clear it makes sense to dig away the two-foot-high pile, since when the streets are finally plowed they will cover the end of our driveway again. Having said that, if we had both power and the internet while we are waiting for plows it would be a plus.

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Madame Bovary

January 18th, 2016 · General

Being married to someone who focuses so much on books inevitably rubs off (a little). So even though I read my books generally on a Kindle, unlike Ellen who reads her books in a, for lack of a better word, book, I still have tried to read more, rather than just play Guild Wars 2, watch hockey and baseball games, and reruns of Serenity.

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Kids Are Getting Too Smart These Days

January 17th, 2016 · University of Maryland University College

A year ago, actually one year and five days ago I started work at the University of Maryland University College (UMUC) as a Program Chair for Information Systems Management.

Yesterday morning at synagogue I was told that the 13 year old son of a friend of ours noted that it was a good thing that Florida did not have a comparable school.

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My Thoughts About Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens

December 31st, 2015 · Entertainment, movies

If you have not seen the new Star Wars film and do want to know anything about its plot, do not read this post.

So a couple of weeks ago, Ellen and I went to see the new Star Wars movie. To be upfront about it, it was more of a check-the-box thing for me; something like seeing every movie based on a Marvel or DC Comics character.

When I saw the first Star Wars film, now Episode IV: A New Hope, with lines of people waiting to get in that wrapped around the block, I found it remarkable. It was so different than the kinds of films I was used to seeing and as a Star Trek fan and Science Fiction reader at the time, anything about space was fun to experience.

I also really enjoyed the second film,  now Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, which I found actually a bit complex and complicated in its plot. Though the big reveal that Darth Vader was Luke’s father could have been guessed at by the similarities between the name Vader and the German Vater which means father as pointed out by Beca in Pitch Perfect. By the way, did anyone like Pitch Perfect 2? A big disappointment.

The third film, now Episode VI: Return of the Jedi,  I found a total cop-out. Darth Vader went from being James Earl Jones, who had heft and weight as a sort-of disembodied voice and who went through a climatic choice between his life’s work, evil, and his son, picking his son (more on that later) only to become Sebastian Shaw when unmasked and as a spirit at the end of the film. The whole film with its teddy bear Ewoks and no one actually dying was a big disappointment.

I then, like the lemming I am, went through six years of watching three prequels, the less said of them the better. All had actual actors in them, as opposed to the original three which had perhaps two, Harrison Ford and Alec Guinness; none of the actors however acting. All three proving that George Lucas needed an editor (or perhaps a writer) to do his scripts. And remarkably also had Jar Jar Binks, the one character, other than Darth Vader who I really really wanted to die and disappear, kept coming back in film after film.

Star Trek at least tended to have a 50% batting average, every other film was pretty good. Star Wars through the first six films had barely a 33% positive result.

The interesting thing is that I never bought into the plot. While it was obvious that the Empire was bad (duh), it was much less obvious that the Jedi were good. I tend to being a populist, free market guy. The good guys in Star Wars were dependent on a hereditary based leadership with only a tiny group of people having ‘The Force’ which was needed to protect everyone else. Normally that would be the formula for the bad guys. And yes I understand my level of hypocrisy here, after all I really liked Frozen which sort of had the same approach though thankfully without Jar Jar Binks as a Senator.

The new director JJ Abrams had done a pretty good job of rebooting the Star Trek movies, I enjoyed both of the Star Trek films he was associated with so was interested in what the new film would be like, especially when it was clear that he was brought in to take the series in a new direction.

My take was that the special effects were fine and seeing the old characters was fun, like seeing Spock in the newer Star Trek films. Hmm, like seeing …

I have one overarching thought here. The original series took three films to show an arc illustrating a conflict between a father who was focused in one direction and a son who was focused in a different one. In the end the father was willing to sacrifice himself in service to the son’s journey. It was supplemented by lots of alien characters and a few fights between fighters in space (green squadron, red squadron, …).  And the big overpowering and seemingly impervious weapon of the Empire, the Death Star, had just one tiny little itty-bitty weakness (bad engineering I guess) which if the good guys could just attack that one spot would blow the overwhelming impervious Empire’s weapon up.

Thank goodness the new Star Wars film, Episode VII, had nothing going on that was similar to that.

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November 14th, 2015 · books

One of the advantages (or from a different perspective disadvantages) of reading books on a Kindle is that the reader does not really get a sense as to how long a book is.

For reasons I am not sure I can explain I decided to download and then read Middlemarch, considered the greatest of George Elliott’s novels. Whether I would have done so if I had realized at the time that it was over 800 pages long is not clear to me. However, I am glad I did, it is a wonderful book, well worth the time to visit Dorothea Brooke, the idealistic center of the book, and the other characters living in the early 1800’s in small-town England.

Ellen in her blog points out that good books take us to locations, both in geography and time, and to learn about people, we would otherwise not know and understand, Middlemarch certainly did that for me. Reading the epilogue earlier this morning as I finished the book, I felt regret after finishing all of those pages to leave these characters whom I had gotten to know so well and care so much about.

I highly recommend the book for anyone. The often funny, always wise commentary on the winding lives of the large number of interconnected characters create a rich picture of a society so different from today yet with such recognizable human emotions, strong and weak, good and bad; it is well worth the trip. In the end, you will find the book ends too soon, you will leave Middlemarch reluctantly.

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Pondering Educational Provisioning

November 2nd, 2015 · education, University of Maryland University College

On my white board in my office at the University of Maryland University College (UMUC), I have written down three big questions which I hope at some point during my time here to be able to answer:

  • Why are we here? I am interested in answering that question for both the school itself and for the program/major I am responsible for, Information Systems Management (IFSM).
  • How do we help faculty to make a difference?
  • How do we reduce barriers to student success?

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Adaptive Learning in the On-line Classroom

October 13th, 2015 · education, University of Maryland University College

I started working full-time at the University of Maryland University College (UMUC) in January of this year when I accepted the position of Program Chair for Information Systems Management (IFSM) within the Undergraduate school (cleverly named The Undergraduate School, TUS).

As the Program Chair, I have responsibility for both:

  • logistics issues: hiring adjunct faculty, ensuring classes have assigned faculty, dealing with problems/complaints that come up during each semester, and
  • academic results: how to ensure we provide the best and most valuable experience within the IFSM major.

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Still Another Presentation on the Future of Technology

September 18th, 2015 · internet of things, technology

Luckily for me, the future of technology remains exactly that, the future, so I can continue to update and present such presentations unless, or until, The Future is NOW, becomes reality and not just a slogan.

Last Friday, September 11, I was invited to give the keynote talk at a conference held by the Modern Technology and Management Institute (MTMI) in Virginia Beach, VA. MTMI is a non-profit which supports:

  • Bringing academicians together to look at management, technology and related areas,
  • Provides training for physically challenged individuals, and
  • Provides distance education opportunities for third world nations.

The presentation is here: MTMI Presentation.

My focus was to talk about what I think were broad trends in how technology is affecting society as opposed to trying to make a bunch of predictions about specific technologies.

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My Advice for Career Advancement

August 17th, 2015 · education, life, University of Maryland University College

I recently was asked to provide advice relating to career advancement for the UMUC Alumni association (some would argue that perhaps I am not the best source for such advice), but in any event as a proud UMUC Alumni (and current UMUC employee), I wrote up the following which appeared here and which is copied below:

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