Tales from the Technoverse

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

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My Current Aspirational Goals – Email Edition

January 13th, 2017 · University of Maryland University College

These days at the University of Maryland University College, I find that my goals for the day revolve around my email in-box. Each day is a bit of a war, my goal is to end up with no more than the number of emails in that in-box than I started the day with.

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Welcome to 2017

January 2nd, 2017 · Entertainment, movies

Happy New Year to everyone, I hope that this coming year brings happiness to everyone including the ability to determine what happiness is.

These days the most common thing that Ellen and I do December 31st is we go out to dinner, see a movie, and then come home and attempt to stay up to midnight. In my case often not successfully. This year we went to our local Not Your Average Joe’s for dinner and saw the movie Fences. Fences is one of ten plays written by August Wilson about the African-American experience during the 20th century. It covered the 1950’s and early 1960’s.

You can read about the play here and the movie here.

Translating plays into movies is a tricky business. Each relates  to an audience differently. The less the play is changed, one runs the risk of it not being entertaining. The more, one runs the risk of losing the intended story (not dissimilar I suppose when dealing with book to screen adaptations also). In this case, what seemed a labor of love by one of stars and the director, Denzel Washington, the movie was basically the play.

Having said that, the movie is well worth watching. First, for those of us who grew up outside that African-American experience, it brings us at least aspects of that perspective in a powerful fashion. And second, with very strong acting from most of the cast especially Washington and Viola Davis, husband and wife in the play (and movie), the movie is very entertaining. I found the ending very emotional. It is not a short movie, running 2 hours and 13 minutes but I did not feel the movie dragged at all.

After we got home, we in fact stayed up to midnight capping 2016 with watching the truly remarkable lip-syncing spectacle of Mariah Carey. For those who missed it, you missed watching her continually making sure her outfit stayed on pulling at straps of her dress over and over again, while starting and stopping lip-syncing somewhat independently of her recorded singing. It was like a very bad, very old foreign movie where the dubbing was out of sync, but starring Mariah Carey.  What amazed me however was the report that the staff for Carey had to ask when the ball was going to be dropped to make sure the evidently often late singer would show up on time.

On the other hand when the show she was appearing on was “Dick Clark’s Rockin’ Eve 2017”, perhaps no explanations for anything is necessary.

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Being Articulate at the University of Maryland University College (UMUC)

November 30th, 2016 · education, University of Maryland University College

A significant number of students have taken courses at other post-secondary institutions that need to be looked at and credit given which can count towards achieving a UMUC degree. The process of doing this examination as you might imagine is sufficiently important enough to UMUC to result in a formal effort. The result of each review is what we call an articulation agreement defining how the earlier course ‘articulates’ to its UMUC equivalent.

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What is Information Systems Management?

November 28th, 2016 · education, technology

For close to two years now, I have been the Program Chair for the Information Systems Management, IFSM, major for the undergraduate school, cleverly called The Undergraduate School (TUS), at the University of Maryland University College (UMUC).  By something probably a bit more than coincidence that is the same major I graduate in from the University of Maryland College Park 45 years ago (yikes, 45 years ago!!).

Recently working with the small, but highly talented, Media Lab at UMUC, we created a video that describes out take on what IFSM is and why someone might want to major in it. The script which was in large part written by faculty who teach IFSM courses was great. There was only so much the video editing software could do to improve on the speaker, who is the Program Chair for IFSM.

For those who have a free five minutes, you can watch the video here.

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Hacksaw Ridge

November 20th, 2016 · Entertainment, movies

Ellen and I went to see Hacksaw Ridge last night.

Even Ellen, who dislikes Mel Gibson, who directed the film, intensely, thought it was a very good movie. The story was based on the real story about Desmond Doss, the first conscientious objector to earn the Congressional Medal of Honor. In this case for saving a large number of soldiers under fire during a very terrible attack in the South Pacific; we get to see and hear the real Desmond Doss and some of the people he saved.

The acting was really excellent, the writing helped make all of the major characters believable as people. Andrew Garfield was excellent as Desmond Doss, Hugo Weaving who played his alcoholic and sometimes violent farther suffering from the trauma of his experiences in World War I did a wonderful job. And remarkably Vince Vaughn was very believable as a tough army sergeant.

As you may have read Gibson, who directs war films well, also does them with a great deal of graphic violence. This fact caused me some trepidation since I have become over the years less interested in seeing movie violence. I thought however that really none of it was gratuitous, it was necessary to set the battle situation and show how remarkable Doss’s achievement was. It is understandable why the movie was appealing to Gibson, this is a story of someone who wrestled with his faith which formed the underpinning  of his why he would not carry a gun even under the most terrible battlefield conditions. Worth going to see.

One other thing, of course there were a small number of people around us who insisted on turning on their cell phones periodically during the film. There was a woman in the row in front of me who did it three times, I told her twice to stop. I guess I was lucky my daughters were not with me, they get embarrassed whenever I, or Ellen, tell people to turn off their cell phones.

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Daylight Savings Time

November 6th, 2016 · technology

Ignoring for a moment that Standard Time remains standard less than 50% of the time, which is a metaphor in my opinion or today’s world, it occurs to me that if ‘falling backward’ is such a great idea perhaps we should continue to do it every day, adding an hour on a continuous basis.

Perhaps I am, as usual, missing the point.

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The Black Widow by Daniel Silva

October 28th, 2016 · books

I seem to always need something else to do when I am doing something, which probably says something about me I am not sure I want to examine.

Music when I am working. A book to read between innings at a baseball game or between periods at a hockey game or between halves at a play. By book I mean a book on a kindle. And when driving to and from work at the University of Maryland University College, an audio book. Just what I need something to distract me on the Beltway in morning or afternoon rush hour traffic.

Yesterday I finished listening to The Black Widow by Daniel Silva, the 16th of Silva’s Gabriel Allon series. It was narrated like many of the others I have listened to by George Guidall. On a side note, if you listen to enough audio books, you will get to the point where you start to recognize specific voice talent especially if you listen to books in a series by a single author. While I have not reached the point where I pick audio books by noticing who is narrating it, the quality of the narrator does have a big impact on enjoying the book.

The Gabriel Allon character and Silva’s writing while a bit formulaic is always entertaining and worth reading/listening to. For those unfamiliar with Allon he is an Israeli spy and an art restorer, one of which I guess is ‘on-the-side’. At the very beginning of the series, Silva’s wife and young son are in a car which is blown up killing his son and putting his now physically and mentally damaged wife into an institution. Silva thus has lots of plot threads that he can weave together in various combinations educating us on art, providing complex plots that involve Middle-East terrorism and Israeli politics, the often heartbreaking interactions between Allon and his wife.

For me the reason I love to return to the books are the vivid portrayals of the characters and the often witty and always clever dialog. Moving from the terrible violence and its impact, which Silva does not shy away from describing, to the touching scenes where Allon revisits with great guilt having put his now dead son into the situation where he died, Silva can change from the shocking to the lyrical from paragraph to paragraph.

Highly recommended.

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The Second Presidential Debate

October 11th, 2016 · politics

I was at a baseball game during the first Presidential debate and at a movie during the Vice-Presidential debate. I was happy to be at the baseball game and I enjoyed the movie.

Sadly Sunday I was home upstairs working and wandered downstairs to talk to Ellen. I want to emphasize I was not sad to talk to Ellen but sad that she had on the TV the second Presidential debate which I stayed and watched for a while, sort of like when you come across some horrific scene you really did not want to see in the first place but have difficulty not continuing to stare at.

My takeaway from the debate was that each candidate’s framing main question to consider when making a decision between the two was whether it was more credible and more important that:

  • Vladimir Putin was trying to elect Donald Trump, or that
  • Hillary Clinton should be in jail

While I have opinions about those two issues, it is not obvious to me that either candidate’s stature was enhanced by the exchange.

Finally it is not clear to me whether I find Donald Trump’s denial of ever actually doing anything he talked about on the recently released tape less or more credible than Hillary Clinton’s defense of her remarks on having different public and private policies by referring to Abraham Lincoln as her role model.

Dispiriting.

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Pilot Lights

October 8th, 2016 · General

This morning Ellen told me that we were having a problem with the stove pilot light (subsequently fixed by this afternoon by, as usual, Ellen).

In a panic, I asked her if this affected the pilot light for the microwave.

She assured me it didn’t, thankfully.

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Springtime in Largo

September 5th, 2016 · education, University of Maryland University College

After a big gap, which I will try not to allow to repeat, I am back and focused on my day job at the University of Maryland University College (UMUC).

My role as the Program Chair of the Information Systems Management (IFSM) Undergraduate Degree program means I have both academic responsibility for the quality of the content of our current 13 courses as well as owning logistical responsibilities associated with staffing and dealing with classroom issues. It is not always easy to spend as much time as I would like on the Academic concerns. Over the last couple of days I spent time assigning faculty for our Spring, 2017 classes which will start in January, 2017. The numbers involved will give you some idea of the logistic challenges.

The UMUC Undergraduate school runs multiple eight week on-line sessions each semester. After we begin the first session of the semester, two to three weeks later the second session starts. We hold four such sessions each Fall and each Spring, and three during the Summer. We cleverly refer to them as OL1, OL2, and OL3 (and OL4 for the fall and spring). The OL stands for on-line. We also hold overlapping hybrid sessions. Hybrid sessions include one three hour in-person class plus the rest is on-line, thus hybrid. We hold two of these in the Fall and Spring, and one in the Summer. We call these US1 and US2.  On reflection, I am actually not sure what the US stands for, I’ll need to check. The hybrid classes are held all around the country. Making sure we have enough faculty to staff hybrid locations takes a great deal of time, since in effect all of the on-line courses are one big queue. We also have face-to-face classes, given all in person, in Europe and Asia. While I am responsible for the academic content for them also, I do not have any logistical responsibilities.

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