USPS Ending Overnight First-Class Letter Service
I've had Amazon Prime for two years, with multiple deliveries per week to a rural address. Hundreds and hundreds of packages, and only one issue with the package being delivered impaired (a large farm implement that wasn't even in a box, delivered missing a large bolt that was zip-tied to the steel frame).
UPS has been outstanding. USPS on the other hand can be guaranteed to leave mailboxes open, shred packages, place packages in strange places, destroy mail in transit, break DVDs, accumulate mail for a week at a time and then deliver it, etc.
FedEx has also been good to work with but by no means as friendly and helpful as our USPS has been.
Game CEO Sees "Gamification" of Work and Military
Philosopher and media theorist McKenzie "Ken" Wark addresses a large aspect of this issue of gaming as subversive work and mis(re)appropriation of labor in gamespace to the application of capitalist/vectoralist interests in his recent work Gamer Theory (online interactive book).
The Video Game Monologues project does a reasonable job explaining some of this, put to animation.
Obama Makes a Push To Add Time To the School Year
Wolvenhaven's comment about budgets is on target; our small, rural Iowa district had to let 8 teachers go this spring because of declining tax inflows due to the economy. Funding teachers across more time would be a financial benefit to our family (my wife is a teacher in the district and doesn't receive compensation for when she's out of school not teaching as would be expected), but it'd cause the district to lose more teachers. In a small district, this would be devastating.
But there's another aspect some (including Obama) are missing. The United States is a highly diverse nation with a diverse workforce. Like a fool who would prescribe public transportation to replace all motor transportation in the U.S. -- a proposal that simply fails to understand the large spaces the U.S. covers and treats Wyoming like Berlin -- the educational system has similar heterogeneous aspects. During the summer months, our system is not to "send the kiddies to the field" as Obama's inept education administration official claims, but rather to supplement education in a highly diverse, non-governmental-decreed manner.
Yes, many kids get summer jobs, and there is considerable education for those working in a shop, grocery store or other light skill or service economy function given the probability that such students will be moving into this workforce upon graduation. In case you didn't notice the recent unemployment statistics, this demographic (16-24) now suffers over 50% unemployment, mostly due to the recession and the increase in minimum wages (which causes employers to substitute an unexperienced teen with an adult with experience for the same higher wage).
But many kids destined for college go off to specialized camps. My son spent 5 weeks of the summer at one of the top national debate institutes, working harder in the summer than he did during the year. Music camps, international travel, student summer foreign exchanges and local university summer programs all round out the options available for the college bound to receive much more intense and specialized education, necessary for their advancement in higher education. Obama's plan would replace that with more of the same -- as Gilles Deleuze would say, smoothing terrain by pushing more of the same hegemonic, institutional programme and eradicating diversity education that predominates summer break.
While it's not appropriate to debate this on the terms of "more education vs. kids sitting around watching tv" (those kids are also preparing for their future career through the choices being made), it is appropriate to debate this on the terms of whether we desire the heterogeneous workforce we're encouraging through the current model, or seek a more homogeneous model (ala "sameness"). Should further globalization be desired, as Obama's administration advances and his financial backer George Soros promotes, then perhaps the United States would be better served by creating more interchangeable service sector jobs. Given that both political parties desire a global model, Americans are less likely to be programmers, system engineers, architects, creative thinkers, product designers, etc.; even finance and legal professions are increasingly being offshored with great financial benefit to the global corporation. Preparing students for a career where they're part of a replaceable, worker-commodity workforce may be more appropriate in the long term, given the unified desire of Americans through the expression of those pro-globalization representatives they continue to elect.
Microsoft Tax Dodge At Issue In Washington State
I must have missed something in the thread... what extra services is the state of Washington providing Microsoft to account for the additional billions of dollars of cost their governance structure provides? If we're paying for governance and one state is many times more expensive than another, is that extra cost due to it being a really high quality state or simply a problem due to mismanagement, inefficiency, corruption, misguided spending of funds on ineffective purposes and theft?
And specifically, should the difference be explained by a superior state government in Washington, are these additional high-quality services items that Microsoft would value? For instance, it could be argued that if Washington had state school districts that were 50% better than Nevada's, Microsoft employees would receive a value for the expense (although it could be effectively argued that such an expense should be applied more directly to the recipient of the educational service). Perhaps Microsoft benefits from a better state corporate liability law system? Or better roads infrastructure to their campus?
IBM's Patent To "Transfer Expert Knowledge" With Games
We have a similar misconception in the information technology risk management world (actually, the greater risk world as well) where executive management mistakenly believes that compliance practices will eliminate risk. Even if we have 100% compliance with regulations (like PCI) and standards (like ISO 27000 series, CoBIT, ITIL, etc.) and could have an imaginary 100% effectiveness in the controls provided by these regulations/standards, we'd only eliminate known risk.
Consider what regulations and checklists provide to assess risk: a checklist. And where does the checklist come from? Previous situations where we had problems occur. We learned, for instance, that simple 6 character passwords suck and are easily bruteforced, so the checklist asks if passwords are longer than 8 characters, have complexity, etc. But no checklist can ask for what problems we haven't encountered yet. So while we'll have regulators, external assessors, internal auditors and other compliance professionals examine an environment on a periodic basis, it will never substitute for a risk program that uses methods for uncovering risk from the un-checklisted and unknown terrain. Advanced techniques, such as those that use approaches that illuminate the risk domain through the creation and exploration of new vantage points, efforts that shock the perspective comparable to critical theory's radicalization, or those that de/reterritorialize and allow us to apply different thought models to a domain (e.g. looking at network attacks from a rhizomic, not a hierarchical model which reflects how a DDoS attack might manifest) are all non-checklist methods to assess risk.
Interestingly, these approaches are not able to be appropriated by a hierarchical expert-system approach. Consider how expert systems create decision-trees, subject to all the Deleuzian problems (Galloway's books http://cultureandcommunication.org/galloway/Protocol: How Control Exists After Decentralization, or his work with Gene Thacker, The Exploit: A Theory of Networks, are both exceptionally valuable in understanding non-hierarchy problems in information technology). Plus such expert systems are subject to countless other problems known to information theorists and end up creating predictable paths through the model, to which any information system will adapt, and regress to the mean. Consider this example: if the IBM expert system is employed in the information security realm, it will specify a predictable path to responding to any security incident. Any information system will naturally recognize this predictable response and then use it against the system. This basic technique is already employed by most competent hackers -- measuring, testing, assessing your target to learn of the quality of their response to your efforts.
In other words, any organization that would rely upon this service from IBM will be a predictable, exploitable target. They might as well publish the blueprints of their network and list user names and passwords. God help the fools that believe that knowledge is static and life is not competitive.
With a Computer Science Degree, an Old Man At 35?
Outstanding advice. I went back ~35 after a career up until then in network engineering and information security, though I went back and picked up a finance degree. gw0ntum makes a valuable addition. You're going to find it awkward, especially when you have some profs your age or even younger. Some suggestions I'd make:
1. BE HUMBLE: even if you're an alpha, don't play one. set it aside and adopt an alternate persona. your classmates not only don't want to hear about your experience but they're ready to reject you if you show any signs of it. instead, humility is your friend. when you kick ass in assignments and show you're naturally good at some things, your younger classmates will likely respect you then for it. but always keep the humility as your persona. they're going to be intimidated by the age difference and when they find that 15-20 years of age difference really doesn't mean jack u-know-what, they'll be cool with you.
2. HANDLE PROFS CAREFULLY: show your creativity, innovativness, eagerness, etc. by DOING, not by saying. this screws so many nontraditional students up. yes, its important to let the prof know you're eager to learn/succeed. but do it by doing, not by showing off. understand that you're an outlier, so every subtle action you make in the classroom will have 10x the effect. this pisses off your classmates and makes your prof uncomfortable.
3. FIND YOUR PERSONA AND STICK TO IT: my dad's long-time faculty at a university that has a good amount of nontraditional students. i've learned that even the faculty has stereotypes of the nontrads. eager beavers (over-eager volunteer for everything desperate to show their worth low self esteem types), suck-ups (total poseurs that will flunk out but will suck up at first and try to play the 'hey prof, i'm a grown-up like you, give me preference'), one-class-ponys (typically 60+ gals who take one class and blow the damn curve cuz they have no freaking life outside of that one class), over-committers (usually the nontrads who have just come back to academic world and are so clingy and over-committing trying to prove their worth to self and prof), and dominators (nontrads that want to give input to everything, dominate the discussion, share their "worldly" experience on everything and embarrass everyone in the room except themselves). Those are not good choices. Find something subtle, quiet and driven. Sit in the front row, kick ass and let your work show your drive. Let the prof call you out because you get stuff right. They will balance the dialog and keep you from being seen as a show-off - hey, when your work is good, that's the game.
4. FRIENDSHIPS: Be open, kind and friendly to all. I ended up with friends spanning the total range - from girl jocks to geeks to poet-thinkers to hard core achievers. All I had to do was smile, be relaxed, be damn good, and be a team player.
It's a weird situation but if you handle it right, it'll be very rewarding, and that degree does open up tons of doors. Good luck!
Amazon Caves On Kindle 2 Text-To-Speech
I'll only buy TTS books. I own a Kindle2 and have more than 20 texts (philosophy works for my degree and debate coaching) on there already. I've spent more than $500 in the past week on my Kindle investment.
As someone who also commutes, I find the TTS to be invaluable already. We'll see if that continues to last, but as I'm reading for educational purposes, not entertainment, I have a utilitarian informational need. I don't need an actor reading Baudrillard's "The Illusion of the End" (the words are powerful enough). And incidentally, good luck finding any of that material on books-on-tape... there's simply not the market for it.
So if an author or publisher refuses to allow me to listen to it, they take away a core functionality. I'll find another version (on older philosophical texts, that's common), or simply check it out from the library, depriving them of the sale. The TTS audio quality is no threat to your books-on-tape business, you offer no such capacity on most of the works I purchase, and the TTS allows me to make use of two hours a day of drive time during which I need to study.
Sprint Cuts Cogent Off the Internet
Funny how history repeats itself, especially in Sprint's case. In 1996, Sean Doran (SprintLink senior network architect) decided CIX-W peering was no longer cool and dropped peering, causing one hell of a black hole. From my recollection, it was the first instance where open routing was disabled due to political or commercial objectives, and unfortunately for Sprint, it came at a time where Bob Collett (then head of SprintLink) was trying to promote Sprint's openness and participation in the community. Bob overruled his engineer and routing was restored several days later.
Since that point, BGP black holes have continued, usually to the detriment of customers. BBN Planet, Exodus and numerous others played the game presuming that content was more important than eyeballs or vice versa. The fallacy in their model is that content without consumer is as useless as consumer without content. Until they establish that understanding, neither unbalanced provider will succeed.
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