Tales from the Technoverse

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

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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.


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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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Information Systems Management

July 9th, 2016 · education, University of Maryland University College

As I have mentioned a number of times over the last 18 months, I now work for the University of Maryland University College (UMUC), as the Program Chair for Information Systems Management in the undergraduate school, cleverly called at UMUC by the name The Undergraduate School (TUS).

Since the undergraduate degree I received over forty years ago from the University of Maryland College Park was, in fact, in Information Systems Management, my career path ultimately has only taken me a short distance from a geographic perspective though obviously a somewhat longer temporal one.

In any event I recently was asked to respond to a questionnaire about careers in Information Systems Management. The results are here.

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Stanley Cup Finals

May 31st, 2016 · Firefly, hockey, Serenity, sports, tv

As I have mentioned elsewhere, there tends to be two kinds of fans rooting for their favorite team in the playoffs when that team loses.

One type hopes the team they lost to wins the Championship The reason is that a case could be made that their team, their favorite team, which lost to the eventual Champion was very possibly the second best team. With a better draw, if the loss was too early in the playoff sequence, or a little more luck, if in the finals, then their team, their favorite team, might in fact BE the Champions. Except of course they were not.

The second type hopes the team that their favorite team loses to will at some point in the playoffs also lose but in their case in the most painful awful fashion possible. That the fans of the team that beat their favorite team are, regardless of their qualities outside of who they root for which in fact could be quite wonderful, are so diminished as people, for rooting for the team that beat the favorite team, that it is important to restore the overall karmic balance by having those fans suffer along with their team.

That is an introduction to the fact that the Washington Capitals lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins (of all teams not THAT team) and the Penguins are in the Stanley Cup Finals.

So which kind of fan am I?

Let us just say if the Penguins were playing the Winterfell White Walkers and Ramsey Bolton was the White Walkers best player, and even if somehow, mixing TV metaphors, Malcolm Reynolds became the new Captain of the Penguins, I would still be all in hoping  the Penguins lost in double overtime in Game 7, and that instead of a handshake line Ramsey Bolton would flay each of the Penguins players one at a time.

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May 22nd, 2016 · life, technology

I guess the story today is that mostly old people use Facebook, though of course that puts me right in the Facebook main stream.

Having said that, it is clear that people, old or young, who do not use Facebook or at least one of the more popular social networks do not realize how much interaction goes on that has a reasonable amount of social meaning. While I recognize that in-person relationships are deeper and agree with the studies that most of us can only have a limited number of ‘true’ social friendships, the interactions on Facebook have meaning and allow us to interact with people we otherwise would not touch.

My recent example is a post I made recently about a book that was sent by a publisher to Ellen so she could potentially review it, the joy of leaving your sh*t all over the placeMy post said: “I am not sure if I’m more surprised that we have this book to read or that we were not the author.”

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That Third Party Option

May 6th, 2016 · General, politics

Third parties have not fared well in American politics over the last century or so, either having no impact on the Presidential race results though in a few cases potentially moving the winner from one party to the other (though not electing the third-party candidate). One example of the latter was when Teddy Roosevelt ran on the Bull-Moose party ticket in 1912 electing Woodrow Wilson and helping to elect a Democrat Congress.

Having said that since I tend to support the non-Trump wing of the Republican party, I have noticed a bunch of like-minded individuals making noises about supporting a third-party Presidential candidate.

The thought is that Trump has  no chance of gaining 270 electoral votes.  The hope is that with a serious third-party candidate, Hillary Clinton also would not get 270 electoral votes throwing the election into the House.

I decided to take a quick look at how that possibility would play out.

The method for electing the President is covered in Section 1 of Article 2 of the Constitution.

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Seder – 2016

April 21st, 2016 · judaism

Every  year we are fortunate to have many friends who join us for our Passover Seder, and I am lucky to have married Ellen who plans, organizes, and works to make it a special event. My role is to find a bunch of quotes, see below, and lift and carry stuff up and down stairs and around the house.

One of the goals of the Passover Seder is to create, in whatever fashion makes the most sense to the participants, an evening of discussion and thought about the themes that flow from the story of the Exodus of the Jewish people as they left Egypt. Since I am not fluent in Hebrew, Ellen has allowed me to, subject to her review and approval, create an evening that I can understand better and more actively participate in, largely in English though singing some of the Hebrew prayers from a ‘standard’ Seder.

Each year we identify a theme that we want to focus on. To supplement the theme, I identify quotes from various sources associated with the theme. During the Seder a participant will read a portion of the Haggadah, literally in Hebrew “the telling”,  the book which contains the fifteen steps of the traditional Seder, and then read the quote they have been randomly assigned. If the participant wants to they will then discuss what the quote, and/or any other aspect of Passover, may mean to them.

This year we return to expand on an issue we have touched on before, the uncertainty of change and how people react to the uncertainty. It felt to me that one of the driver’s behind some of the political events in the 2016 Presidential race and in the US in general derives from the great economic and social uncertainties that are impacting large segments of our country. In my most optimistic points-in-time, I hope, as is mentioned in one of our quotes, that it is not the end point of change that is the problem it is the situation in the middle when we have left what we are familiar with and not arrived at the next step in our journey. This was comparable to how I felt after Game 3 of the current Capitals-Flyers first round Stanley Cup playoff series. When I am feeling less optimistic, I worry about whether that next step is actually the problem and that we may be ultimately heading to a not so great destination. This is comparable to how I feel, like any long-time Washington Capitals fan thinks, after Game 4.

Regardless, the key aspect to me is the direction found in every Haggadah that each of us should consider ourselves as having been there at the original Exodus during that difficult transition and to consider the implications for us today in what seems an increasingly contentious time here in the not-so-United States and a complex and complicated world.

Here is a copy of the directions I will read from at the Seder: 2016 Seder Script. The quotes are organized into groups of ten, here are the three files setup to be printed (poorly) on labels: First 10 Quotes, Second 10 Quotes and Final 6 Quotes.

We reference a few external readings in the course of the Seder:

I find Passover perhaps the most accessible to non-Jews of all Jewish holidays, the theme of striving for Freedom and exactly what that means is a universal one and worth considering for all of us.

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