Archive for January, 2011

False Addresses

Monday, January 31st, 2011

It’s not especially uncommon for people to lie about their primary address – saying that a child lives with a friend or grandparent, for example – in order to gain admission to a better school. And I’ve never heard of anyone being prosecuted for it. Well, until now.

Kelley Williams Bolar has been charged with theft and records tampering for sending her children to school in the district her father lives in, rather than her own.

I don’t especially agree with the strident tone of this news writeup, but it is one more painful example of how tying school funding to local property values is a flawed solution. Education is the tool that can break the cycle of poverty. Insisting that a population already mired in poverty has to fund its own schools is ridiculous.

Mocek Trial

Monday, January 31st, 2011

What happens when you try to fly Southwest Airlines without showing ID?

Well, the TSA and the local police will deny you and toss you out of the airport, under a whole bunch of specious charges.

And what happens when you actually show up in court to fight?

You win. In a big way.

Bike Evolution

Sunday, January 30th, 2011

An interesting article at Gizmodo about new innovation in the world of bicycle technology.

I want – nay, NEED – a belt drive.

Educational “Sea Change”

Friday, January 28th, 2011

The State Education Commissioner held a public meeting in Buffalo yesterday to discuss the necessity for change in secondary education in this state. More math. More science. Proper accommodation for special education students, rather than the same tests everyone else gets. The ultimate goal – to provide enough competency in core subjects that students will no longer need remedial classes on basic topics if they go to college.

Not mentioned – the needs of ESL students. The need for vocational training. The need to consolidate school districts, cutting administrative bloat. The Buffalo School District is paying over $20,000 per year per student, for a sub-50% graduation rate. The second largest district in the state is both too expensive AND poorly performing.

Big Flats 1901

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

Walgreen, ever concerned that its customers are making meth out of Sudafed, has decided nonetheless to encourage alcoholism with its new release, Big Flats 1901 beer. Apparently, it’s manufactured by Rochester’s own Genesee Brewing. 

The reviews and comments are amusing. My favorite: “At least they didn’t call it ‘Yeast ‘N Stuff’.”

I know where I’m going after work tonight…


Thursday, January 27th, 2011

Ralph Wilson has full faith in Tom Modrak, the man who has overseen the draft for the eleven years we’ve been out of the playoffs.

John McCargo, Mike Williams, Aaron Maybin – with a track record like that, I can see why he would continue to bet the franchise on this guy’s ability to evaluate talent.

UNC Breach

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

An excellent writeup on the recent UNC-Chapel Hill security breach at Inside Higher Ed.

Here’s a quick synopsis: Dr. Bonnie Yankaskas, a professor of radiology at the university, was collecting mammography data for a study. The server holding the data, which included medical records and social security numbers, was breached by an unknown attacker and the data is considered to be potentially compromised.

The University wanted to fire her, but settled for demoting her to Assistant Professor and halving her pay.

Dr. Yankaskas’s argument is that she is an academic researcher, not a computer security expert – disciplining her for a security breach is unfair, because this is not her area of expertise or her responsibility. The school’s policy is that she should have appointed a “server caretaker” to monitor the firewall, install patches, etc., and the person she chose is a programmer with no training in security and no experience in server  administration. She also ignored his requests for training over the years, and continually graded him as “excellent” in his administration of the server, despite the fact that he did not know what he was doing.

This is a typical tension in higher education – the faculty want to be free of the strictures of security and IT policy, because they feel it unfairly confines their research. IT, on the other hand, wants to be as strict as possible and keep everything in a nice, predictable box.

Science Education

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

Apparently, things are not going well in the land of science education. Depending on grade level, somewhere between 28 and 40 percent of American students lack basic competence with scientific concepts.

I suppose this is what happens when we tell science teachers to shut the hell up and help prep the kids for their standardized reading and math tests.

It’s A Start, I Guess

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

Finally, a politician has found the intestinal fortitude to stand up to the TSA and sue them for violations of a citizen’s right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. Well…”politician.” Well…specifically “a (singular) citizen’s right.”

[Jesse] Ventura is asking a federal judge in Minnesota to issue an injunction ordering officials to stop subjecting him to “warrantless and suspicionless” scans and body searches.

He had a hip replacement and now he will always set off a metal detector, and thus always get a pat-down. Okay, so it sucks that he’s doing this for himself and because of the TSA’s widespread abuse of power. That being said, it’s a step in the right direction. Legal precedence in this case would go a long way for the other American citizens that are offended and violated by these scans and pat-downs.

Facebook and Tunisia

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

A fascinating story in The Atlantic about the cat-and-mouse game between the Tunisian government and Facebook during the recent political unrest. Ammar, the governmental security apparatus, strongarmed the ISPs that Tunisian citizens were using into running domain-level keylogging. Essentially, they were stealing an entire country’s worth of passwords.

The Facebook developers responded with an ingenious technical hack to get around the key capture. All password submissions were pushed over an encrypted channel, and also required the user to identify a friend from his or her accounts. Ingenious – the passwords as a single authentication token were rendered useless.