Archive for January, 2009

Prestigious NON-ACCREDITED Universities

Saturday, January 24th, 2009

Lately I have been getting an extra amount of spam offering to help me get a degree from “prestigious NON-ACCREDITED universities.” That’s the formatting they use. “NON-ACCREDITED” is shouted out in all caps. I have to wonder why?

Is it because they want to make sure you know that the “prestigious universities” they are working with do not have accreditation? Somehow I doubt it. After all “non-accredited” and “prestigious” are pretty much opposites when it comes to universities. The other option is that they are highlighting “non-accredited” to fool gullible uneducated people into thinking that “non-accredited” is a good thing. Surely, people must think, it is highlighted so that you notice how good it is?

And yet people fall for this sort of thing. For some reason they think, or fool themselves into thinking, that their real life experience is as good as a formal education. They think that all they need, like the scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz, is a diploma to prove how smart and knowledgeable they are.

Oh there is something to be said for real world on the job training. When I went back for my Masters there was an awful lot that I already knew. I could have passed tests in at least half of the classes without actually taking the classes. But these was this other half where I learned a lot of new things. And even in the classes I could have passed without attending classes I learn a lot of new things. I think this is true for most people.

Rare is the person who knows as much as a formally trained person does and generally those people are so obviously good that no one cares if they have a degree. Of course if you are an idiot no number of degrees is going to overcome that – earned degrees or otherwise.

Microsoft Tags

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

Playing around with creating tags that can be read by smart phones. Information on the tool at or go to from your web enabled phone. US only right now. What phones? From the FAQ:

The Microsoft Tag Reader is available for most smartphones and many feature phones. It is available on Windows Mobile, J2ME, iPhone, Blackberry, and Symbian S60 phones. Of course, your phone needs a camera and it must have Internet-access. A detailed list of all supported phones is available and new phones will be added over time.

Links to my vCard online.


Links to my other blog.


The Joy of Milk

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

When I was growing up just about all I drank was milk. At least that was the only thing we ever seemed to have in the house to drink. That was far from a problem as I loved milk. As I got older and my allergies became more of a problem I stopped drinking milk because it made my nose more stuffy. And I missed it.

Since that time I have had years of allergy shots that reduced that problem. I have had nasal surgery (just recently actually) that has opened my nose up. And they have lactose-free milk which seem to help. So I have started drinking it again.

Oh is is good. I am drinking 2% to cut down a little on fat (1% or less does not taste like real milk) and I am not drinking as much as I might like. But I sure am enjoying it. Might be the best tasting beverage ever.

The Impressive Thing About the Inauguration

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

No, it is not that an African-American is taking office. That is trivial. No what is impressive about this inauguration is the exact same thing that was impressive about the inauguration of John Adams. The impressive thing is that a change in the highest office in the land is taking place without bloodshed. No one was killed to make it happen. No one had to die to leave the office vacant. An election happened and the current office holder vacated the office and handed it over to a new president in accordance with the law.

Actually that this is happening for the 43rd time may make it more impressive than that it happened the first time.

I wasn’t so sure that Clinton would give up the office. I half expected a Y2K issue to enable Clinton to illegally hold on to the office. No I didn’t trust him. Still don’t. He owes Bush of huge debt for making him look less bad.

I had some concerns about Bush as well. The whole war thing and the “I’m the decider” thing. But he did give it up and seems to have done so quite graciously.

This sort of thing happens in other countries today but few for as long as it has happened in the US. And of course in many parts of the world it almost never happens.

In the US the rule of law rules and that is the thing that makes the inauguration special.

Why Pilots Get Paid the Big Bucks

Saturday, January 17th, 2009

So you all know the story of the US Airways plane that landed in the Hudson River. The pilot did an amazing job and is a real hero. Imagine the pressure of knowing that lives of 150 people depend on you doing something with a plane that it is not designed to do – land on the water.

I think though that it highlights something we don’t often think about. It takes a long time to become the captain of a big airline plane. There are years of training involved and then years of working your way up from smaller to larger planes first as a first officer and then finally as captain. But that is what we want. We want the most experienced and best trained pilots in the world in the cockpit. Money is a real part of the incentive to work though that struggle. Not the only thing of course – the best pilots love to fly. But money helps keep them from flying only as a hobby.

We want these people in the cockpit not so much for the ordinary flights. We want them there when things go wrong. It’s like insurance in a way. The experience and the training make it possible for a pilot to stay calm when the sky is falling – or the plane is falling from the sky. It is experience that lets the pilot know that he (or she) can do what no one else can do at a time when most people would panic.

I get on planes all the time and you know I always feel better when the pilot has some gray hair. That way I figure I have someone who has seen a lot, done a lot, trained a lot, and will be the right person there when things go wrong. I don’t want a young hotshot – I want an experienced mature person who will go past the red line when it matters but not when it is a way to show off “courage” or “skills.” I hope the airlines are always willing to pay extra for that.


Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

So the people who own “American Idol” (which is some TV show I have never watched) think that there are people who might reasonably think that a strip club’s “Stripper Idol” is sponsored by them. Say what! Well they use the word “Idol” and there is a logo that apparently uses a similar color and text style to the “American Idol” logo. But still – can you see people assuming that there is a connection? Perhaps an idiot might wonder for a minute or two. But would a reasonable person assume a connection? I doubt it. But there is a suit going on anyway.

Well maybe a lawyer would but if so I would drop them from my list of reasonable people. Of course the suit has brought a ton of attention to the strip club and their business is booming. So perhaps the “American Idol” people do have a piece of the action? Yeah right. Some things just make you wonder.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Friday, January 9th, 2009

Modern travel is amazing. Incredible when its good and, well, not much fun when its not. My most recent travels took me to Texas which is another story in it self. But my trip home took longer than expected.

It started out well enough as my sister-in-law drove me to the airport – DFW. Things continued to look good when the airline upgraded me to first class for the first leg of the trip. And it took off on time.

Now in Minneapolis-St Paul I had a 3 hour layover which I didn’t mind a bit. I took a longish and fairly good lunch in a sit down restaurant.  They loaded the plane on time. And then Murphy hit. There were traffic delays coming into Logan so we sat on the runway for an hour before take off. I called home and found out that the roads were very icy in New Hampshire. Between the late hour of my arrival (well after when my wife usually goes to bed so she can be awake at school the next day) I offered to stay in Boston for the night. A friend/co-worker offered to pick me up and let me crash at his apartment in down-down Boston. Which I did. So far so good.

The next day he dropped me off at the office in Cambridge and I got some work done. I also booked a seat on a bus to Exeter where my wife could easily pick me up. Two subway trains later I had missed the bus. It seems the MBTA estimate of how long the trip was off by a matter of 3 times the actual length. So I had my ticket changed to a later train. I figured I wanted to see what the train was like anyway.

Well the good news is that Amtrak Downeaster has both power and wi-fi. Well the power plugs in my seat were not working but I had plenty of battery so I got some work done. Good thing I had a backup battery though because the train was delayed in route for about an hour. Finally I got there and my wife was waiting for me.

With a break for supper at my son’s place (he cooked and it was great) we finally drove home. So I got home 36 hours after leaving Texas. And I rode in three cars, three trains, and two planes to get home. But you know, a 100 years ago this trip would have taken a whole lot longer so I guess I should be glad I was able to make it at all.

How well do you use search engines?

Sunday, January 4th, 2009

One of the things that amazes me is how poorly many people are at using Internet search engines. Students are particularly bad at it. You would be amazed at what they can’t find. Recently I found out about a game called Page Hunt.

A brief blurb about the game:

This game is like search in reverse:  you’re shown a web page, which you have to ‘hunt down’ using queries sent to Live Search.

When you see the web page, think of a set of terms that would return this page.

You type these words  into a search box. Page Hunt shows the top 5 results for this query from Microsoft’s Live Search.

You get points if the web page you’re ‘hunting’ is one of these top 5 result pages: 100 points if it’s at position 1, 90 points at position 2 etc. If you don’t get it right, change the query and try hunting again. If you get it right, you advance to the next page.

Occasionally, you’ll see very frequent queries listed for a page. If you don’t use these queries to hunt these pages, you’ll get a 50% bonus when you crack that page. And sometimes, just for fun, we give you other bonuses!

If you move the mouse away from the search box, it becomes slightly transparent, so you can see the page better. You can also move the box around if you like. If you get stuck on a page, you can click on the Skip button to go to the next web page, with no penalty in your score. If you encounter a page which does not render properly, or is bad in any way, click on the Bad Page button to flag it.

Each session of the game is 3 minutes long. At the end of a session, you get your session score. At the end of a session, you can review each page, the searches you tried and the results you got from Live Search.

The game uses Silverlight, so you may be prompted to load Silverlight when you first run it. 

Page Hunt is actually part of a research project that is trying to improve online search by looking at how people actually use search. How metadata is used and other attributes of both web pages and the way people form queries. So if you think online search could be better playing this game may help improve things. And honestly I find it fun trying to find out how many pages I can “find” in the 3 minute time period.

My best score so far is 520. Anyone else beat that?


Friday, January 2nd, 2009

Found this the other week on Tom Peters blog and it really bares passing along.

At a party given by a billionaire on Shelter Island, Kurt Vonnegut informs his pal, Joseph Heller, that their host, a hedge fund manager, had made more money in a single day than Heller had earned from his wildly popular novel Catch-22 over its whole history. Heller responds, "Yes, but I have something he will never have … enough."

Yeah I think I have enough. Could I do something with more? Probably. But I don’t need it.

On Death and Dying

Friday, January 2nd, 2009

OK it’s a morbid topic and if you don’t want to face it leave now. I on the other hand have no choice but to think about it. I’ve got stuff on my mind and the need to write them down and put them somewhere. Oh and frankly I no patience for euphemisms like “passing away” or what ever. Death is death and dying is dying.

I don’t expect to die any time soon and of course I have never done it before. But I’ve lost too many loved ones not to be aware of it. With my own Dad in poor health I worry that I will see it again all too soon. Hopefully not right away but probably not that far away either.

I am not afraid of death. I’m in no hurry to try it out of course but as a Christian I believe as it is written in Philippians 1:21For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” So I spend more time worrying about those I will leave behind than about myself.

There are two basic ways to die – quickly and slowly. Quickly is probably the best way for the person actually dying. I’ve watched a bunch of people go through slow lingering deaths. Trips in and out of hospitals, gradual failing of body and mind, tests and operations and alls sorts of people poking at parts of the body that would otherwise be none of their business. It’s painful emotionally, physically and in any way one can think of. Falling asleep and never waking up seems so much easier. Well for the person who dies. For the people left behind not much fun.

Both quick and slow deaths are hard on people who stay behind but in different ways. I’ve had several friends die quickly (at least from my point of view) in that I either didn’t know they were sick or they had sudden unexpected deaths. That was hard. There was no closure, no saying goodbye and now time to prepare myself for losing them. On the other hand watching someone be sick a long time and in pain is no great joy either. But in some sense there is closure and a time to reconcile differences, say goodbye and adjust to the future without them.

So perhaps there is no good way to die for all involved. I think I want to go quickly though. It may be harder, initially, for those who are left behind but in the long run I think maybe they will be better off not watching me suffer. I’m pretty sure I’d rather not suffer. And as full of watching suffering as I have been in my live I think that can take a toll on people that they may not be aware of. They may think they want to hold on to every second no matter how much their loved one is going through but at some point I think one wants to see their loved one end their suffering.

The term quality of life means more to me every day. The more I look at it life at any cost and in any condition is not always the best way for anyone.