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User Journal

Journal Journal: Patriot Act position of one security professional to Senator Cornyn

Texas republican senator Ted Cruz is leading the fight to do the right thing regarding (non)renewal of the Patriot Act, to protect our Constitutional rights. Our other senator, John Cornyn, wants to renew the Patriot Act in full. Here is my letter to Cornyn.

As a career security professional, I implore you to reconsider your position regarding the Patriot Act, the USA Freedom Act, and the Fourth Amendment.

  For twenty years I have worked to keep protect American citizens, interests, and our way of life. Currently, I am employed at TEEX, where I work with our National Emergency Response And Rescue Training Center, assist in homeland security training, and support our role as a founding member of the National Cybersecurity Preparedness Consortium. I do this work in order to protect the American way of life, that we might be the beacon of freedom that the founders envisioned. The antithesis of this would be that the United States would be taken over by those who would subjugate the citizens. Our role, sir, is to protect Americans from not one specific foreign threat, but from any and all who would threaten our Constitutional liberties. Your current position, senator, places you on the wrong side of this fight. Please reconsider whether you wish to be the force fighting against the Constitution, against the fourth amendment, and against the American way of life. We work today, and will work at election time, to realize the vision of America as the brightest beacon of freedom and liberty in the world.

The above is my personal opinion only and does not reflect any opinion held by my employer.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Continuation on education 13

Ok, I need to expand a bit on my excessively long post on education some time back.

The first thing I am going to clarify is streaming. This is not merely distinction by speed, which is the normal (and therefore wrong) approach. You have to distinguish by the nature of the flows. In practice, this means distinguishing by creativity (since creative people learn differently than uncreative people).

It is also not sufficient to divide by fast/medium/slow. The idea is that differences in mind create turbulence (a very useful thing to have in contexts other than the classroom). For speed, this is easy - normal +/- 0.25 standard deviations for the central band (ie: everyone essentially average), plus two additional bands on either side, making five in total.

Classes should hold around 10 students, so you have lots of different classes for average, fewer for the band's either side, and perhaps only one for the outer bands. This solves a lot of timetabling issues, as classes in the same band are going to be interchangeable as far as subject matter is concerned. (This means you can weave in and out of the creative streams as needed.)

Creativity can be ranked, but not quantified. I'd simply create three pools of students, with the most creative in one pool and the least in a second. It's about the best you can do. The size of the pools? Well, you can't obtain zero gradient, and variations in thinking style can be very useful in the classroom. 50% in the middle group, 25% in each of the outliers.

So you've 15 different streams in total. Assume creativity and speed are normally distributed and that the outermost speed streams contain one class of 10 each. Start with speed for simplicity I'll forgo the calculations and guess that the upper/lower middle bands would then have nine classes of 10 each and that the central band will hold 180 classes of 10.

That means you've 2000 students, of whom the assumption is 1000 are averagely creative, 500 are exceptional and 500 are, well, not really. Ok, because creativity and speed are independent variables, we have to have more classes in the outermost band - in fact, we'd need four of them, which means we have to go to 8000 students.

These students get placed in one of 808 possible classes per subject per year. Yes, 808 distinct classes. Assuming 6 teaching hours per day x 5 days, making 30 available hours, which means you can have no fewer than 27 simultaneous classes per year. That's 513 classrooms in total, fully occupied in every timeslot, and we're looking at just one subject. Assuming 8 subjects per year on average, that goes up to 4104. Rooms need maintenance and you also need spares in case of problems. So, triple it, giving 12312 rooms required. We're now looking at serious real estate, but there are larger schools than that today. This isn't impossible.

The 8000 students is per year, as noted earlier. And since years won't align, you're going to need to go from first year of pre/playschool to final year of an undergraduate degree. That's a whole lotta years. 19 of them, including industrial placement. 152,000 students in total. About a quarter of the total student population in the Greater Manchester area.

The design would be a nightmare with a layout from hell to minimize conflict due to intellectual peers not always being age peers, and neither necessarily being perceptual peers, and yet the layout also has to minimize the distance walked. Due to the lack of wormholes and non-simply-connected topologies, this isn't trivial. A person at one extreme corner of the two dimensional spectrum in one subject might be at the other extreme corner in another. From each class, there will be 15 vectors to the next one.

But you can't minimize per journey. Because there will be multiple interchangeable classes, each of which will produce 15 further vectors, you have to minimize per day, per student. Certain changes impact other vectors, certain vector values will be impossible, and so on. Multivariable systems with permutation constraints. That is hellish optimization, but it is possible.

It might actually be necessary to make the university a full research/teaching university of the sort found a lot in England. There is no possible way such a school could finance itself off fees, but research/development, publishing and other long-term income might help. Ideally, the productivity would pay for the school. The bigger multinationals post profits in excess of 2 billion a year, which is how much this school would cost.

Pumping all the profits into a school in the hope that the 10 uber creative geniuses you produce each year, every year, can produce enough new products and enough new patents to guarantee the system can be sustained... It would be a huge gamble, it would probably fail, but what a wild ride it would be!


Journal Journal: History books can be fun (but usually aren't and this is a Bad Thing) 2

Most people have read "1066 and all that: a memorable history of England, comprising all the parts you can remember, including 103 good things, 5 bad kings and 2 genuine dates" (one of the longest book titles I have ever encountered) and some may have encountered "The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody", but these are the exceptions and not the rule. What interesting - but accurateish - takes on history have other Slashdotters encountered?


Journal Journal: HOWTO: Run an educational system 1

The topic on Woz inspired me to post something about the ideas I've been percolating for some time. These are based on personal teaching experience, teaching experience by siblings and father at University level and by my grandfather at secondary school, 6th form college and military acadamy. (There's been a lot of academics in the family.)

Anyways, I'll break this down into sections. Section 1 deals with the issues of class size and difference in ability. It is simply not possible to teach to any kind of meaningful standard a group of kids of wildly differing ability. Each subject should be streamed, such that people of similar ability are grouped together -- with one and only one exception: you cannot neglect the social aspect of education. Some people function well together, some people dysfunction well together. You really want to maintain the former of those two groups as much as possible, even if that means having a person moved up or down one stream.

Further, not everyone who learns at the same pace learns in the same way. Streams should be segmented according to student perspective, at least to some degree, to maximize the student's ability to fully process what they are learning. A different perspective will almost certainly result in a different stream. Obviously, you want students to be in the perspective that leads them to be in the fastest stream they can be in.

There should be sufficient divisions such that any given stream progresses with the least turbulence possible. Laminar flow is good. There should also be no fewer than one instructor per ten students at a secondary school level. You probably want more instructors in primary education, less at college/university, with 1:10 being the average across all three.

Section 2: What to teach. I argue that the absolute fundamental skills deal in how to learn, how to research, how to find data, how to question, how to evaluate, how to apply reasoning tools such as deduction, inference, lateral thinking, etc, in constructive and useful ways. Without these skills, education is just a bunch of disconnected facts and figures. These skills do not have to be taught directly from day 1, but they do have to be a part of how things are taught and must become second-nature before secondary education starts.

Since neurologists now believe that what is learned alters the wiring of the brain, the flexibility of the brain and the adult size of the brain, it makes sense that the material taught should seek to optimize things a bit. Languages seem to boost mental capacity and the brain's capacity to be fault-tolerant. It would seem to follow that teaching multiple languages of different language families would be a Good Thing in terms of architecturing a good brain. Memorization/rote-learning seems to boost other parts of the brain. It's not clear what balance should be struck, or what other brain-enhancing skills there might be, but some start is better than no start at all.

Section 3: How to test. If it's essential to have exams (which I doubt), the exam should be longer than could be completed by anyone - however good - within the allowed time, with a gradual increase in the difficulty of the questions. Multiple guess choice should be banned. The mean and median score should be 50% and follow a normal distribution. Giving the same test to an expert system given the same level of instruction as the students should result in a failing grade, which I'd put at anything under 20% on this scale. (You are not testing their ability to be a computer. Not in this system.)

Each test should produce two scores - the raw score (showing current ability) and the score after adjusting for the anticipated score based on previous test results (which show the ability to learn and therefore what should have been learned this time - you want the third-order differential and therefore the first three tests cannot be examined this way). The adjusted score should be on the range of -1 (learned nothing new, consider moving across to a different perspective in the same stream) to 0 (learned at expected rate) to +1 (learning too fast for the stream, consider moving up). Students should not be moved downstream on a test result, only ever on a neutral evaluation of some kind.

Section 4: Fundamentals within any given craft, study or profession should be taught as deeply and thoroughly as possible. Those change the least and will apply even as the details they are intertwined with move in and out of fashion. "Concrete" skills should be taught broadly enough that there is never a serious risk of unemployability, but also deeply enough that the skills have serious market value.

Section 5: Absolutely NO homework. It's either going to be rushed, plagarized or paid-for. It's never going to be done well and it serves no useful purpose. Year-long projects are far more sensible as they achieve the repetitious use of a skill that homework tries to do but in a way that is immediately practical and immediately necessary.

Lab work should likewise not demonstrate trivial stuff, but through repetition and variation lead to the memorization of the theory and its association with practical problems of the appropriate class.

Section 6: James Oliver's advice on diet should be followed within reason - and the "within reason" bit has more to do with what food scientists and cookery scientists discover than with any complaints.

Section 7: Go bankrupt. This is where this whole scheme falls over -- to do what I'm proposing seriously would require multiplying the costs of maintaining and running a school by 25-30 with no additional income. If it had a few billion in starting capital and bought stocks in businesses likely to be boosted by a high-intensity K-PhD educational program, it is just possible you could reduce the bleeding to manageable proportions. What you can never do in this system is turn a profit, although all who are taught will make very substantial profits from such a system.

User Journal

Journal Journal: 2012 Sigs

The following is a list of sigs I have had, or will have (in no particular order).
  1. Well, my days of not taking Slashdot seriously are certainly coming to a middle...
  2. I am a vampire. I may ponder, or mull, or mediate, consider, ruminate, or think about...
    ...but I never reflect.
  3. Flying cars: Bringing stupid into the third dimension.
  4. For there ain't no Bottle in all the world
    Like that dear little Bottle of mine.
  5. It's not how much gold there is, but who's wielding it.
  6. "This is E.G. Marshall inviting you to return to our Mystery Theater for another adventure in the Macabre. Until next time, pleasant dreams?"
  7. If the lessons of history teach us any one thing, it is that no one learns the lessons that history teaches.
  8. Woah... Frogger flashback!
  9. What happened?
    He was starting to make sense. So I shot him.
  10. Build a better mousetrap and patent lawyers will beat a path to your door, carrying cease and desist letters.
  11. I'm gonna develop grass that only grows an inch and a half tall, and retire on the hush-money from the mower companies.
  12. I resent that. I am not sleeping on the job. I'm thinking laterally... with my eyes closed.
  13. adoxography: (n) 1. Skilled writing on an unimportant subject. 2. Any Slashdot posting.
  14. What fun it is to laugh and sing a slaying song tonight!
  15. If money is power, why don't we fix the dollar to the kilowatt?
  16. Buy our vacuum cleaners. They really suck!
  17. The pen was considered mightier than the sword until it was discovered that a sword could hack off a person's hands.
User Journal

Journal Journal: OldSigs2

The following is a list of sigs I have had, or will have (in no particular order).
  1. Is a Turing test valid if the human is an idiot? (From ivan256)
  2. Lost: one compass. If found, please return to the guy wandering aimlessly in the woods.
  3. The myth ain't busted 'till Savage and Hyneman blow something up.
  4. "Despite being an elegant and technologically sound solution, I think IPv6 will be adopted universally within a few years." - Sybert42.
  5. To destroy Paminella's tower, bake the hall in the candle of her brain.
  6. Honey, I'll be honest with you. If I could think of an excuse that you would buy, I'd use it.
  7. Maple Flu: A disease affecting Canadians; most prevalent when Canada Day (July 1) does not fall on a weekend.
  8. Camping Tip: You can duplicate the warmth of a down-filled bedroll by climbing into a garbage bag with several geese.
  9. Wild berries can be poisonous, or even cause hallucinations.
  10. Camping Tip: In an emergency, a drawstring from a parka hood can be used to strangle a snoring tent mate.
  11. Camping Tip: The guitar of the noisy teenager at the next campsite makes excellent kindling.
  12. Patents force people to work around patents.
  13. I ache therefore I am, or in my case, I am therefore I ache - Marvin the Paranoid Android
  14. When you talk about damage radius, even atomic weapons pale before that of an unfettered idiot in a position of power.
  15. Never ask a Canadian about global warming during the winter. They'll just say, "Bring it on!"
  16. Camping Tip: Bear bells provide an element of safety for hikers in grizzly country. The tricky part is getting them on the bears.
  17. Camping Tip: Navel lint makes a handy fire starter.
    Warning: Remove lint from navel before applying the match.
  18. We used to watch 2D video on a 3D box. Now we watch 3D video on a 2D box.
  19. Why is the sky blue?
    Well, molecules in the air scatter blue light from...
    I asked why, not how.
  20. Tango Lima; Delta Romeo.
  21. It's not how much gold there is, but who's wielding it.
  22. "This is E.G. Marshall inviting you to return to our Mystery Theater for another adventure in the Macabre. Until next time, pleasant dreams?"
  23. If the lessons of history teach us any one thing, it is that no one learns the lessons that history teaches.
User Journal

Journal Journal: OldSigs1

The following is a list of sigs I have had, or will have (in no particular order).
  1. "I'm not impatient. I just hate waiting" - My Dad
  2. "Any landing you can walk away from is a good one" - Flight Sim Pilot
  3. Life is an adventure
  4. Wake up, Zeke! The day ain't gonna waste itself.
  5. The chicken and the egg came at the same time... along with the toast and orange juice.
  6. There are two kinds of people in the world. Those who are me, and those who wish they were me.
  7. Life... It's what happens around you while you're busy reading Slashdot...
  8. We don't inherit the Earth from our parents. We borrow it from our children.
  9. Can't sig now. Gotta read Slashdot.
  10. But, you have access to the greatest source of knowledge in the universe.
    Well, I do talk to myself sometimes, yes.
  11. "It is my firm belief that helicopters fly because they are so ugly that the ground repels them." - Pittance
  12. Freedom is not just another word for doing whatever the US says.
  13. Everything I needed to know about life, I learnt from reading "Everything I needed to know about life" posters.
  14. We have a blind date with destiny...
    ...and it looks like she's ordered the lobster.
  15. Eyes sore and red from reading Slashdot long into the night?
    There's a Visine for that.
  16. If my dad took a photo, would that make him a "papa"-razzi?
  17. Before: 2 Sith, 100s of Jedi.
    After: 2 Sith, 2 Jedi.
    Qui-gon was right. Anakin did bring balance to the force.
  18. Where can I get one of these?
  19. Mental note: If you're going to clone a grand army, make sure the prototype is a good shot.

Journal Journal: Critics of Tea Party Movement Miss the Big Picture 8

Many commentators seem to believe that the Tea Party represents a net minus for the GOP because of the split between them and the existing establishment. This criticism seems oddly familiar to me. Many people predicted that the drawn out fight between Hillary and Obama would be the death of the Democrats in 2008. As it turned out, that extended fight kept them in the news for months and built up the ground networks that helped Obama carry the day in states that normally be out of reach for a Democrat. Take Indiana, where Obama carried the state by ~28k votes. Does that happen without the ground operation built for the primary and the name recognition/publicity gained from it? Impossible to say, but I think it's clear that the intra-party squabbling was a net positive for the Democrats in the end.

It seems likely to me that the Tea Party will have the same impact on the GOP. They may well prove to be a net minus in selected races (Delaware) but the enthusiasm they've generated and the new people they've brought into the political process will more than balance that out come November.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Here comes the tidal wave..... 1

Worked the NYS primary election today. We had higher turnout for this mid-term primary than I've ever seen -- more than we did for the Presidential Primary in 2008. I'm only one poll worker in a single district but I've never seen this kind of enthusiasm for a primary before. We had 44% turnout for our GOP voters and 30% for the Democrats.

Paladino looks to have crushed Rick Lazio. I called this race at 10pm -- Paladino ran up a much higher margin (93% in Erie and Niagara counties, all districts reporting) with his base than Lazio did with his (60-65% in Suffolk and Nassau counties, 60% of districts reporting) . Paladino beat Lazio in some downstate counties (Dutchess and Orange) that should have been more familiar with Lazio. He looks to have edged him out with 50-55% of the vote in most other upstate counties, though we'll have to wait for tomorrow for the final numbers.

With this kind of turn out for a primary I'm betting that November is going to be huge. It wouldn't surprise me if we beat our numbers for 2008 -- we had a 60% turnout that year.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Motorola Providing free TouchDown Licenses to DROID X Owners

Well, I got my Droid-X. Imagine my surprise when my $550 phone failed to properly communicate with my employer's Exchange server. Turns out the Droid-X has some software glitches relating to Exchange. Push e-mail will not work at all with Exchange 2003 and only works intermittently with 2007 and 2010. Polling e-mail may work but there are also issues with the notification system. Your phone might download messages off Exchange but fail to notify you about them until some time has passed.

Motorola is providing a free license for a third party app called TouchDown to anyone who writes in and complains about this issue. This app normally goes for $20. It is without a doubt the best mobile Exchange client that I've ever seen. It offers features above and beyond the stock Motorola application. I would encourage anybody who needs to use Exchange to get this application -- even if you aren't dealing with the push e-mail/notification bugs. It would be worth paying for, IMHO. Getting it for free because Motorola couldn't run their Exchange application past QA before launching the Droid-X is an added bonus.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Anyone out there with the Motorola Droid-X? 8

The only reason I haven't yet gotten a smartphone is because of Verizon's nickel and diming. I primarily want one for the usual smartphone functionality but I'd also like the ability to tether for some lightweight usage. Not looking to use tethering as a replacement for my home internet connection or even for web surfing. My desire is to be able to ssh and/or rdp into the office when I'm in the field. It seems kind of absurd that I should have to pay $30/mo extra for the ability to do something I could easily accomplish with a POTS line and modem. It's also absurd that Verizon expects you to pay more for the privilege of talking to an Exchange server. I guess the data packets from Exchange weigh more than the packets from a pop3 server or some such.

I've been told that the Exchange data requirement isn't actually enforced for non-Blackberry devices. Found a few posts on various forums where people claimed to successfully sync with Exchange on the $30 data plan. I've also been told that you can tether Android devices using third party applications such as PDAnet without paying Verizon's additional $30 fee. It's against their TOS but they won't find out about it unless you consume an "excessive" amount of bandwidth. Not real worried about doing that with the occasional ssh/rdp session. Can anyone confirm these two points? If they are indeed true then I'll probably be ordering the Droid-X soon.

User Journal

Journal Journal: I don't know which is scarier

That I am old enough to remember where my current .sig came from, or that nobody else is.....! For those who are suffering from a memory lapse, here is the sig: "The world is in darkness. To erase data is to suppress truth; to halt computing is to shackle the mind."

Ok, ok, you're too lazy to google it, so here's the link: Son of Hexadecimal Kid

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