Category Archives: School

Adobe Digital Editions is *still* the worst ebook reader I have ever used.

Somehow, Adobe managed to upgrade Adobe Digital Editions from version 2 to version 3 with absolutely no improvement. This is impressive in its own way. Text selection for highlighting is still a complete disaster. The app still translates my moving the pointer one pixels to jump the selection of a single sentence to half a paragraph, a problem that inarguably plagued the last version.

That the app was allowed to be released with such a major bug in a vital feature of any ebook reader, is astounding to me. Now I get the impression that the app lives in some sort of development backwaters, using version numbers simply to call attention rather than indicating any real improvements (which puts it in line with past Creative Suite upgrades).

For a company that is in the business of making books and wants to be in the business of eBooks, Adobe Digital Editions is just an embarrassment.

I finished my homework

Instead of having hobbies, making side projects, watching TV or movies, playing video games, or reading for pleasure, I did my homework.

eXperimental Knotty Credential Developer

An easy-to-use password generator based on randomly selected words from the English language.

Passwords need to be created such that they are difficult to crack by hackers yet still easy to remember, which is a surprisingly hard thing to do. Randall Munroe of XKCD postulated (but did not endorse; a subtle but important distinction) an idea to create passwords that balance memorability and complexity by using words from the dictionary by virtue of their length.
eXperimental Knotty Credential Developer

There is a lot more I could do with this, but I moved past the spec as encouraged and I have a lot of political philosophy to read before Monday.

Go Crimson

Sleep as a Competitive Advantage

Too many of us continue to live by the durable myth that one less hour of sleep gives us one more hour of productivity. In reality, each hour less of sleep not only leaves us feeling more fatigued, but also takes a pernicious toll on our cognitive capacity. The more consecutive hours we are awake and the fewer we sleep at night, the less alert, focused and efficient we become, and the lower the quality of our work.

The research is overwhelming that the vast majority of us require seven to eight hours of sleep to feel fully rested, and only a small percentage require less than seven. The problem is that we kid ourselves. “Like a drunk,” the Harvard sleep expert Charles A. Czeisler wrote, “a person who is sleep deprived has no idea how functionally impaired he or she truly is. Most of us have forgotten what it really feels like to be awake.”
NY Times: Sleep as a Competitive Advantage

For me, nothing beats a twenty minute nap in the afternoon, maybe thirty minutes. Anything more than that is of little to no benefit. But that twenty minutes can make all the difference in the world for the rest of my day.

I think sleep is really only part of the solution to good productivity, and that exercise and a reasonable diet are needed as well for sleep to be its most effective. I say, “reasonable diet” in that there only a relative few out there that eat truly good all the time; some foods aren’t good for the waistline, but they are good for soul and are therefore irresistible.

I have been working on my health for the past several weeks by working through an exercise regimen from Nerd Fitness. I work out five days a week on average, for an average thirty minutes a day. It’s a well packed thirty minutes prioritizing intensity over time, and within only a couple weeks I found benefits in regards to how I feel overall. Even those nights where I only could get five to six hours of sleep I felt better than before I started working out.

Apple hijacks Unix headers into Xcode in Mavericks

I am currently taking a class on Unix systems programming. While following along with lecture, the professor stated that almost always the header files needed for our type of work are located at /usr/include. However, that directory does not exist on my brand new Mavericks MacBook Pro. I have learned (after much searching the web) that the header files are now here:

/Applications/Xcode.app/Contents/Developer/Platforms/MacOSX.platform/Developer/SDKs/MacOSX10.9.sdk/usr

After doing some more research, I found that to get those Unix header files back into /usr/include, one has to install Xcode’s command line tools. But, in order to get those, one has to be a registered member on Apple’s developer website. Not necessarily a paying member, but registered.

I was once a paying member for Apple’s developer tools but I gave it up because I was not actually using everything that was made available. My focus changed and the annual $99 was going to waste. In fact, because of that and that Apple has so much of their Cocoa documentation available externally for free, my need to log into their website has decreased over time to my not touching it in over a year. Now I am jumping through the hoops to figure out which account I was using and what was the password, but that is turning out to be harder than expected for a variety of reasons on Apple’s side, the servers not propagating my Apple ID resets to the developer site being one of them. Yes, I should have done a better job of recording my information, but a simple password reset shouldn’t be this hard either. At this point, I will likely just create a new account solely for getting me what I need.

I have no idea when Apple hijacked the header files, and i can understand the logic and convenience of doing so for tool updates, but knowing what little I do about Unix, hijacking seems to be anathema to the Unix culture. Apple has made my morning nothing but hassle trying to get this fixed and I will have an assignment due soon. So, cheers for that, Apple.

UPDATE: I wound up creating an account solely for the developer account, and it was, as expected, faster and easier than mucking about with a bunch of password resets. Once I did that, getting the command line tools was not straightforward though not hard (Xcode > Open Developer Tool > More Developer Tools… which then kicks you over to a downloads page on the developer website, with registration required for access).

As for my comment about the new default header location being anathema to Unix, I realize now that’s not necessarily true. If anything, Apple can do whatever they want with their distro. But the fact remains based on everything I have read so far that there are some clear expectations about there things ought to be and the header file location is one of them. But at least now I can establish a workflow where I can use the muscle of Xcode to develop and then confidently test outside before submission.

The Federalist: The Death of Expertise

The death of expertise is a rejection not only of knowledge, but of the ways in which we gain knowledge and learn about things. Fundamentally, it’s a rejection of science and rationality, which are the foundations of Western civilization itself. Yes, I said “Western civilization”: that paternalistic, racist, ethnocentric approach to knowledge that created the nuclear bomb, the Edsel, and New Coke, but which also keeps diabetics alive, lands mammoth airliners in the dark, and writes documents like the Charter of the United Nations.
The Federalist: The Death of Expertise

About a year ago, I took a class that explored a number of issues related to this very topic, and I look forward to taking a similar class next year.

That…

That first cup of coffee brewed from a french press that is fresh out of the dishwasher. Bad coffee is bad coffee, but a completely clean press can turn an okay grind into a surprisingly good one.

That wonderful diminishing effect holiday weeks have on the traffic in which I almost inevitably find myself along my fifty-mile commute. I actually have time to post something this morning.

That mix of both hope and dread at the remaining weeks of a semester when almost of the final assignments have been released, and the true scope work needed to be done in the next (less than) four weeks has been revealed.

That sense of calm that comes from finding out that others are in the exact same situation in their own words.

Bullet Journal: An analog note-taking system for the digital age

For the list-makers, the note-takers, the Post-It note pilots, the track-keepers, and the dabbling doodlers. Bullet journal is for those who feel there are few platforms as powerful as the blank paper page. It’s an analog system for the digital age that will help you organize the present, record the past, and plan for the future.
Bullet Journal: An analog note-taking system for the digital age.

via tomtunguz.com

I love this productivity stuff. I prefer digital tools these days—Toodledo has become a long-time favorite for work and school—so I got a bit overwhelmed with all the writing and re-writing when the system reached the monthly lists and indexing, though every aspect is a really good idea. I might actually have a use for all those Field Notes books sitting in my office for stuff around the house, which I don’t do in Toodledo for some reason.

The Atlantic: Did I Really Go to Harvard if I Got My Degree Taking Online Classes?

Here’s the article so you read the answer to this non-starter of a question yourself: Did I Really Go to Harvard if I Got My Degree Taking Online Classes? – Theodore R. Johnson – The Atlantic

But, in case of TL;DR: Yes.

I hate these kinds of articles. I am undeniably proud of my work at Harvard, and am looking forward to completing my education. The author, in the end, is proud of his work as well, but also puts all this other needless burden on top the degree, as if somehow he not only has to qualify the degree to himself as well as others. The headline and opening headline are little more than link bait and some of the author’s own reactions speak to a conflict not shared by any of my schoolmates, both of which are in direct contrast to his evidence and summary. Let’s dissect…

About two years ago, my classmates and I gathered in Harvard Yard to receive our graduate degrees alongside more than 7,000 of the university’s newest alumni. As the procession made its way to our designated seating area, an onlooker eyed our banner with a puzzled look and asked the guy in front of me, “What in the world is the Extension School?”

My classmate’s reply: “It’s the back door into Harvard.” Ouch. . .

Bait. How can anyone associated with Harvard or critical of online curriculum not bite? Even so, so what? The author notes that schools like HES were established to “to engage the local community, further the education of university staff and their family members, and provide new skills to working adults.” Yep, that sounds like a back door to me, that Harvard wanted to make accessible quality education to as many people as are able and willing to attend, for the betterment of themselves and those around them in the real chance that some good will come of their work creating a virtuous circle perpetuated by a social service bestowed by an organization that wants to teach. The classmate’s attitude to their education is a problem only because it is typically punctuated by a short-sighted and wrong “Ouch” by the author. Was there not a smack to the back of the head and a “shut the fuck up” that followed his response if only because he didn’t get it?

At HES, of the 13,000 students, only about 2,000 are admitted degree candidates, and the school confers about 600 bachelor’s and master’s degree every year. Shinagel notes that of all the students that have taken courses at HES since its inception, less than one fifth of 1 percent have graduated with degrees. As it turns out, Harvard is hard. . .

At least the author has established one of the more little-known facts on campus that speaks to the fact that while admissions may be easier than, say, the College, Harvard is clearly not for everyone and is reflected by the dropout rate. But did he really have to take more than halfway through the article to get there?

That said, people drop out for a lot of reasons—the life of a working adult, especially with kids, is not easy—and while making someone drop out is likely a challenge, the chances increase dramatically when real life gets involved. Not that I am one for data-less speculation, but I have to wonder, perhaps idly, what the dropout rate would be if such issues were not in play in people’s lives.

. . . unfortunately, sometimes its students walk in with guilty consciences, especially when, like me, they probably would not have gained admission in the more traditional way.

Why is there guilt in taking something that is publicly, and soon freely, offered? If Harvard had a problem with the HES degree programs, they would shut them down. But they have not and the student body is growing in other ways that makes it even easier to take Harvard classes: see edX. Guilt has only to do with an individual’s attitude and has nothing to do with Harvard. Stop projecting and get on with it.

All who apply themselves can walk proudly out of the gates with a prestigious diploma in hand. This is exactly what Harvard allowed me to do. The school even provided a few stalks of wheat to carry during the procession as a reminder of HES’s founding mission and as confirmation that I did indeed belong.
Did I Really Go to Harvard if I Got My Degree Taking Online Classes? – Theodore R. Johnson – The Atlantic

Thank heavens for small miracles coming to that conclusion. I never thought this was going to end. This is the same kind of weird self-pity found over at Extensionstudent.com, and I have rarely ever see any questioning like this outside of the Extension student body. Maybe all this mucking around is self-doubt really does come from having left-over guilt of not having “done the right thing” and gone to college right outside high school. But one’s character is derived by one reaction to a situation, not necessarily the situation itself. By going to school, we are each righting some personal wrong, fulfilling a leftover, unkept promise. Here matters only the fact the work is being done, not a preconceived notion of temporal requirements predisposed by a non-answerable-to society.

In the end, either you are proud of your degree or you are not. You pays your money, you makes your choices. Live with it. While I am not going to kid myself even for one second that Harvard Extension is anything like Harvard College, but you won’t see me perpetuating this crap that a Harvard Extension degree is somehow inferior to any others just because some courses are also online. Casting around that kind of self-doubt undermines defenses that the HES degree is better than the online-only for-profit schools, despite the elevated levels of coursework. In the end, the HES degrees say “Harvard University” across the top just like all the others, and I highly doubt Harvard would be putting its name on those degrees if they felt the work was not worthy. Maybe I’m naive, but I am not worried about my school or my degree, if only because I am not doing this for anyone else but me. On this issue, I really don’t care what anyone else thinks. The author should consider the same.

Go Crimson.