STEM to STEAM, Andy Savage, and a manipulative huffpost ad that could have been great

Andy Savage gave a powerful and on-target keynote at the Collaborate Conference (Quest, OAUG, and IOUG #C14LV). There is a nice summary at http://collaborate.ioug.org/p/bl/et/blogid=40&blogaid=289 , which I recommend. My favorite bit was point #7 : Art belongs in the same discussions as Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (S.T.E.A.M., not S.T.E.M.).

Andy phrased his entire take, even the bits of irony, on calling for positive action.

This is in contrast to a recent huffpost manipulation: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/24/verizon-ad-tells-parents-to-encourage-girls_n_5526236.html

that insinuates compliments on being pretty imply stupid repression. It cobbles together a fictional account that would make anyone who took even the basic youth sports coach seminar cringe. See it yourself. Now the voiceovers of objection to specific acts of the girl in question were about preventing certain imminent disasters, but were phrased in the worst possible way. It is probably worth watching. Then come back here.

Now as I recall the very first introductory NYSCA seminar video, there was a bit about encouraging positive action, especially in kids. Scene one, dad coaching new bike rider on a sidewalk fringed by hedges: “Don’t ride into the hedges.” Of course the kid looks at the hedge on one side and rides right into it. Scene two: “Ride between the hedges down the center of the sidewalk.” The kid looks at the hedges, then looks at the center of the sidewalk, and rides down the center of the sidewalk to success. Hooray. Oversimplified? Perhaps a bit, but the underlying point is to coach the thing you want to have happen as a positive and as the last words in an instruction.

So what does this have to do with the Huffpost ad? Sigh. Well plenty. So consider the girl in the muddy rivulet wearing a party dress. “Don’t get your dress dirty.” could have been: “Let’s get into our adventure clothes before we climb up that muddy stream.” Another bit has the girl struggling with a power drill awkwardly on what looks like expensive equipment that might be ruined or at least damaged by unskillful drilling. “Be careful! Give that to your brother!” (Who in addition to being male, seems older and skilled at using power drills just by the way he takes the handle.) So how about “Let’s practice some drilling on some scrap so we do a better job on the telescope.” The message still prevents the imminent danger and probable damage, but it re-casts the message from “you can’t do that” to “you surely will be able to do that better with a little practice.”

That sums up my objection to the manipulation of this ad. 1) Its very title implies that a compliment about being pretty must come coupled with offensive other remarks, and 2) That there is no way to prevent bad results without causing psychological restriction on the person restrained from getting dirty in party clothes or getting hurt and damaging expensive equipment.

So rise above this manipulation! Voice restraints and prevent accidents WITH your best thoughts about how to accomplish the desired activity safely and to a good result. If you cannot offer a solution in real time, there is always the generic fallback, something like: “Hang on a second. Let’s figure out how you can do that {safely | effectively | without trashing your pretty dress}. ”

And let’s make sure we don’t trash ART while praising Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Praise being well-rounded and note that excellence in Art is synergistic with excellence in STEM: STEAM! (Thanks Adam). And of course also, let’s get geared up for #C15LV. Happy New Year.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

xfinity customer service chat

MARK_: My Issue: An hour on the phone and three attempts to authorize my replacement equipment PKKVZQSMC ended with a hang-up while supposedly transferring me to a supervisor.

user MARK has entered room

analyst Cherry has entered room

Cherry: Hello MARK_, Thank you for contacting Comcast Live Chat Support. My name is Cherry. Please give me one moment to review your information.

Cherry: Hi! How are you doing today, Mark?

MARK_: read what I wrote

Cherry: I know it has been a roller coaster ride for your Mark. I understand that you have spent hours over the phone to activate the new box.

Cherry: I can only imagine what you have gone thru.

Cherry: No worries, I am here to assist you with your concern.

Cherry: I am now checking if the box is already in the account so I can start sending a signal.

Cherry: While waiting, may I know what do you see on the Led lights in front of the new box and if you are getting any error on your TV screen?

MARK_: I wonder if the problem is the two serial numbers. One is PKKVZQSMC and the other is SAZBFVHPS. The power light is on. The message on my screen is that my EXPLORER unit is not authorized for use.

Cherry: Thank you for providing that information.

Cherry: Nothing to worry about the Serial numbers, one of them is for the card, the other one is for the box.

MARK_: We’re now 2 hours and 17 minutes into simply trying to get this box to work.

Cherry: I understand. Rest assured that we will work on all possible solutions to get the box work.

Cherry: I see here on the account that the box is already added.

Cherry: However, the box is not getting signal from the network.

Cherry: Before I go ahead and send a signal to the box, let us make sure your box is connected tightly

Cherry: Is the box connected to the wall via CABLE IN?

MARK_: That is not correct. Three times the activation and reset has been received. When it gets to about 2:10 to go of the interactive program load, it shuts off and goes back to “not authorized for use”

Cherry: If yes, please make sure the cables are snug and fitted to the ports from wall and CABLE IN port of the box

Cherry: Thank you for letting me know. I will take note of that

Cherry: Are you using any third party device like a splitter, amplifier, power surge/strip that is connected to the cable box?

MARK_: The cables are snug. They are brand new RG6.

Cherry: Thank you.

MARK_: I’m using the splitter the xfinity tech installed, exactly as with the old box that recently froze.

Cherry: I see. Would you mind bypassing the said splitter to isolate where the issue is coming from? Let us see if the splitter affects the signal distribution. We also have to make sure that the connections are perfect before I send a special signal from my end.

MARK_: I am not willing to disrupt my phone and the working cable box to do that.

MARK_: Or my internet service

Cherry: I understand. No need to worry as we will only try this temporarily. If there is no improvement, then connect it the same way it was connected earlier. Yes we will be disconnected, but I will wait for you within 8 minutes to reconnect. We just have to make sure.

MARK_: A) I’m not disconnecting my phone at all

MARK_: B) I’m not disconnecting my internet

MARK_: c) I’m not disconnecting my working cable box.

MARK_: d) Do you think this is a reasonable plan, or is this a practical joke?

MARK_: And I’m NOT worried. I’m out of service and you are suggesting I get more out of service. Get a supervisor.

Cherry: Alright, Not a problem with me if you do not want to do the steps. Let me do it on my end then. Please let me know if there are changes on your new box

MARK_: There is a problem with ME that you suggest turning off my phone, internet, and working cable tv service as a step. That is not acceptable.

Cherry: I am only asking if it is fine. and the step is only for temporary. I am not asking you to turn them off all the way. Sorry for making you feel like that.

Cherry: Hows the box? are there any changes?

MARK_: no changes

Cherry: Thank you.

MARK_: I go look again if you just did something

Cherry: Let me Initialze the box now

Cherry: Thank you.

MARK_: You exactly asked me to bypass the splitter, which would disconnect my other services. If you do not understand that I am very worried.

Cherry: Alright

Cherry: I have sent the initializing signal to activate the box

Cherry: Please check if there are any changes. It should take effect within 2-3 minutes

MARK_: The power led blinked. The remote led came on. The data led came on. Then the power led went steady and resumed blinking. I’ll got back out, but I assume it will be starting the interactive program download again, then that will get to about 2:10 left to go, and it will screw up again. We’ll see.

Cherry: Thanks for the update,

MARK_: so once again the on demand information loaded very quickly and when the interactive program guide got to the 2:10 to go point the unit shut off and once again reports that it is not authorized for use.

MARK_: Based on the load moving at the wall clock speed and the on demand loading very quickly, I’m pretty doggone sure I’ve got a good signal. Something is going wrong.

Cherry: Thank you for updating me.

MARK_: Now get someone who can diagnose this problem.

Cherry: Since the box has reacted but has not stabilized as normally expected, I would like to ask your help to do the refresh manually.

Cherry: Oh, you do not want to continue on troubleshooting?

MARK_: Is this where I disconnect the power for 20 seconds and try again?

Cherry: No. Please turn off your cable box and unplug it from the power outlet. Wait for 60 seconds and plug it back in and turn on the cable box and TV after 3 minutes. Then once the TV is on, please wait another 5 minutes before accessing and pressing anything

Cherry: Guide, On demand and channels should be allowed to load for 5 minutes.

MARK_: OH. LONGER WAITS. SURE. I’ll try that. In the mean time, since you’ll have a lot of it, get some advice from someone else there. Ok. So unplugged for 60 seconds. Then plug in. Then wait 3 minutes, turn cable and tv on. Then wait 5 more minutes. Got it. I’ll be back to your in about 10 minutes. (including the walk)

Cherry: I understand that this has been an inconvenience for you, Mark. We are only trying the best solution to get your box work. But if you have already tried everything on your end and everything fails, then I’ll be more than glad to send out a technician to check on the new box.

Cherry: I am checking on the soonest schedule now

Cherry: May I have the best number to call you for appointment confirmation?

MARK_: I already have a tech coming tomorrow to put in new boxes. This is for family here tonight.

Cherry: I see

MARK_: I’ve already done the 60 second unplugged and we’re 2 minutes into the wait.

Cherry: Thank you.

MARK_: I’m walking back now and I’ll turn both the cable box and tv on at the 3 minute point on my timer

Cherry: Thank you.

Cherry: By the way, upon checking here in the account, the pending order for HD Complete was cancelled. Is this what you ordered for?

MARK_: yes. Who could possibly have cancelled that?

MARK_: by the way. the cable box power was not responsive. when I turned on the tv it reported it was in the process of downloading the interactive guide. Once again, when it got to the 2:10 point it stopped displaying anything. I have not touched anything since.

Cherry: Possibly the sales rep who applied the order since they are the only ones who can access the ordering system.

Cherry: Thank you for updating me, Mark.

MARK_: I’m glad I’m got this transcript.

MARK_: Now we’re at your 5 minute point. Should I try turning it back on?

Cherry: Yes please.

user MARK_ has left room

user MARK has entered room

MARK_: now it is back to your explorer unit is not authorized for use

Cherry: I understand.

Cherry: Thank you for cooperating and trying it with me.

MARK_: now can we get someone who can diagnose the problem?

Cherry: Since we have both tried to do the activation and refresh remotely and manually and the box has not responded effectively, I would like to suggest to send our field technician and personally check on your box

Cherry: Yes. I can send him as soon as 3-5 pm on 28th

Cherry: Shall I proceed>?

MARK_: I fetched the box personally to repair it for tonight

MARK_: We need to get someone on the line now who knows more.

Cherry: We all have the same knowledge and tools to have this issue resolved. The best resolution is for us to send out a technician since this is more than a line issue that we can remotely detect

Cherry: Our technician can personally check on your box to see if there is something wrong with it, He can also double check the connections and inside wiring .

MARK_: I’m verifying the replacement of this box tomorrow with complete service. They are supposed to come between 3 and 5.

Cherry: That is I am not sure of. I am seeing the order here as cancelled. We can only confirm this with the Sales Department.

Cherry: Shall I verify this with the Sales Department over here on chat?

MARK_: I’m calling them. Someone is playing games with me and interfering with my family’s enjoyment of the Christmas holiday.

Cherry: I understand.

MARK_: I do NOT want it cancelled. I did NOT cancel it.

The analyst has left and your issue has been closed.

Waiting for response from Cherry

Cherry: I understand.

Cherry: That is why I am asking you if you want to verify it with them here on chat

user MARK_ has left room

Not really. I’m still there waiting.

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Short and sweet: What do you think of when you hear “Republicans?”

Oddly this was a discussion topic on Amazon. Most of it was vitriol from folks who have been schooled to hate Republicans. As a Republican, I know we get a bad rap and often our predominant touted feature is a confusion that we are against stated goals rather than being against the stated means of attempting to achieve those goals.

So here is my answer: What do you think of when you hear “Republicans?”

Folks who want to efficiently create a safe and prosperous society who end up spending all their time trying to stop the Democrats from pursuing stupid, hateful, and wasteful policies that would never work to achieve the laudable goals they claim the policies pursue. Unfortunately the Republicans are then cast as being against those goals, most of which they also support.

Posted in politics, Thinking Clearly | Tagged | 2 Comments

What’s more sexist: Time’s question or Sandberg’s response?

So I was reading Time’s September 22, 2014 edition and came across 10 questions for Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg when I reached this absolute gem:

Why do you think women are so afraid of making mistakes?

WOW. So in the question women are defined as being afraid of making mistakes. Now I don’t know whether this comes from Charlotte Alter (the by line for the 10 questions) out of whole cloth or whether it was inspired by something Sheryl Sandberg wrote or said previously of which I’m not aware.

In my book attributing qualitative faults (like fearing making a mistake) to one sex as opposed to another is pretty much the definition of sexism. I’m not saying the sexes cannot be compared. On average men are taller than women. More women have wombs than men. Calling out objective differences of fact is not sexist in and of itself.

So the question itself as posed seems to me a pretty bad thing. Maybe we should excuse Sheryl Sandberg for her completely sexist response (as printed by Time – she should sue if they got that wrong):

“When men make mistakes, they don’t internalize it is their fault, so it doesn’t hurt them as much. Because gender makes us over-estimate male performance and underestimate female performance, we have more tolerance for men’s mistakes.”

Holy cow! Did I miss a memo? Has a study been done that men don’t internalize mistakes as their own fault as a whole gender? Even as a tendency for the gender?

But what might be worse is the illogic, at least as I see it: My tolerance for mistakes IS related to my estimation of what a person is capable of. So if I am in fact over-estimating male performance then a mistake is going to be regarded more harshly as something they should not have let happen. Under Sandberg’s apparent vision of reality, men should be more afraid of making mistakes.

So I call on all y’all to reject these sexist notions. The correct response to mistakes is some amount of disappointment relative to the individual’s capabilities, current run of overwork and personal distractions, and the difficulty of the task at hand. Often the correct response is: “Sorry I put you in that tough of a spot.”

Over the long haul you learn which individuals you can trust with what and gender should play no role, even with physical tasks, because you work with individuals, not gender averages.

Uncharacteristic mistakes are worthy of examination because you need to know whether something was an aberrant loss of focus rather than some problem, acute or chronic, that has developed. Then comes the far tougher question of whether or not any problem is your business.

But questions like Time’s and answers like Sandberg’s have no place in the workplace.

Posted in Thinking Clearly | Tagged | Leave a comment

New Oracle CEOs “Hurd ‘n’ Catz”: This should be great

“Hurd’n’Catz” – I’ve always liked Larry, and especially in the old unscripted public discussions of technology. The best one I was at was at the Fairmont in 1994, but I’m biased because I was the MC. Larry and Ron Wohl were on hand for a general question and answer session instead of having a keynote talk at a particularly robust OAUG conference. After a few questions from the audience it turned into a snappy debate between Ron and Larry about how the future of some pretty doggone important things to the entire audience were going to go. I barely had to egg them on. It was real and it was useful. I think Larry was genuinely disappointed we had to stop when it was time for the vendor sponsored cocktail reception. I wish Larry well and I would not begrudge him for a second letting go of pain in the butt day to day control. I would also not underestimate the value of Larry just having fun taking a look at the technology base he controls. And he’ll still be in charge of the overall strategy – just not stuck with the day to day pain in the butt execution details. This all seems perfect to me. Mark Hurd and Safra Catz run their portfolios like well-oiled machines. By giving up being CEO Larry can be the Chairman of the Board and still runs the hardware and software development pieces he’ll have fun with. I’m surprised the stock didn’t go up! And Larry, if you ever want me to moderate a talk like that again I’m pretty sure I can clear up my dance card. All the best!

Posted in Oracle | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Back to technology: Is it effective to place Oracle REDO on SSD?

Ever since I was asked to improve the throughput of an actual general ledger posting job involving Oracle in December 1993 on some hardware where solid state disk (SSD) was available (at high cost relative to “spinning rust” or hard disk drives [HDD]), I have been trying to explain the overall advantage of placing different types of the different Oracle storage selectively on SSD.

When FLASH SSD arrived on the scene, studies quickly arose that writing to FLASH SSD is often not as fast as writing to disk drives dedicated to receiving those writes.

Today I’ll try to explain why I don’t care.

While there was some advantage to writing to SSD in my tests (which were to RAM based SSD on a VAX), the write speed to online REDO was not a significant part of the advantage of placing online REDO on SSD.

As Kevin Closson has repeatedly and carefully explained,  the write speed of online REDO is rarely the problem: http://kevinclosson.wordpress.com/2007/07/21/manly-men-only-use-solid-state-disk-for-redo- logging-lgwr-io-is-simple-but-not-lgwr-processing/

There are two things about moving online REDO to SSD (even the relatively slower FLASH kind) that are a big performance and cost advantage most of the time:

1) Mostly writes to online REDO are small and frequent. This generates a constant stream of seeks to find the correct place to write. On HDD that means either you have dedicated a chunk of HDD (usually two, four, or eight whole trays, because we stripe and duplex by tray in actual big systems and many folks insist on both hardware duplexing and multiple members of each REDO log group on storage that fails separately and you might need to Ping-Pong your REDO log groups so that REDO is written on distinct drives from where ARCH reads REDO) or you degrade the performance of the HDD containing the online redo for other purposes because you pester it with constant seeks away from the other work it is supporting.

2) Reads from online REDO are big drinks by ARCH which demands bandwidth. On HDD that means you either dedicate a chunk of HDD (as above, usually an expensive chunk) to the online REDO or you consume some of the read bandwidth from that HDD that would otherwise be available to all the oracle readers whenever ARCH is running.

Normally the required amount of storage acreage required for online REDO is modest.

Thus, the cost calculation for deploying online REDO on SSD should be for the size of SSD big enough to do the job (times two or four, perhaps for duplexing and multiple members, but never times eight because of seek irrelevancy on SSD) versus the cost of deploying the online REDO on isolated chunks of HDD if overall performance is an issue.

The central value of putting online REDO on SSD is to de-heat the rest of the disk farm.

Unless you are in a rare situation where writing to online REDO is your pacing resource and it is the pacing resource due to the write speed of the media (not available CPU or dimm channel speed and availability), the relative reduced speed to writing some kinds of SSD over writing to dedicated HDD presumably waiting to swallow the write at the correct seek location is of zero concern. (IF you are in that situation, it is probably time to invest in a small amount of RAM based SSD  [or you are doing a laboratory test just driving REDO, which is an interesting test not directly related to production throughput of most real systems.])

Let’s review: If your actual problem is the speed of writing to online REDO log or log file sync, you are not likely to solve that problem by moving online REDO to slower SSD. (There is some possibility that the concomitant de-heating of the disk farm may have that net effect, but you could also achieve that by isolating online REDO on independently operating HDD.)

On the other hand, if you have a hot disk farm that is the pacing resource to your throughput and you can remove a lot of the heat for a modest investment in SSD,  that is an effective use SSD.

The leap to the conclusion that moving online REDO to SSD is for the purpose of speeding up log writing or log file sync makes it seem like a laboratory test showing writing to some kinds of SSD being slower means putting online REDO on SSD is wrong.

I hope today I have helped explain why it is often a good investment to place online REDO on SSD.

Posted in Oracle, Thinking Clearly | Tagged , | 4 Comments

The primary election is over. Sadly, I did not win.

Either the power of social networking is not yet up to the task of overcoming television ads and the visual and other pollution of yard signs EVERYWHERE, or New Hampshire is not ready for the #SAFE_DEAL and to #IMPOVERISH_DRUG_LORDS. (Or, I suppose, they just didn’t like me. Quickly figuring my likely exposure, though, I believe a large percentage of folks who heard my message actually voted for me. So maybe I just need to get better and spreading the word at low cost. I do find it ironic that MAYDAY pac endorsed a candidate who did spend money on the grounds he pledged to fight against large campaign media budgets in the future, while I operated on a minimal media budget. Notice that is not a criticism of the candidate they did endorse.)

Anyway, completely cribbed from WMUR-TV’s site, here are the apparent 99% returns:

Brown, Scott 58,635    50%  Rubens, Jim   27,048 23%  Smith, Bob     26,483 23%

Kelly, Walter    1,376      1% Heghmann, Bob  823   1%  Farnham, Mark   733    1%

Martin, Andy      717       1% Beloin, Gerard     500   0%  Dziedzic, Miro    499     0%

D’Arcy, Robert  415        0%

While of course it is painful that less than 1,000 voters rushed to support me when I really thought my policies were best and that I had the best chance to not only win the general election but forcefully guide the country in a better direction by winning with a minimal expenditure, I also find it interesting that Robert D’arcy finished dead last. Now I only met Robert at the Franklin Pierce debates, so I have not thoroughly vetted him. But with the exception of one of his ideas that I completely disagree with, I thought he had a set of ideas and proposals in the top two of a field that contained a lot of folks who would serve us well. Being left off the NHPR interviews and the WMUR-TV debates, Robert also apparently had trouble getting his message out. After the debate at Franklin Pierce it WAS reported that he had a detailed 10 point plan. But his actual plans were not reported. (At least not widely.) I faced a similar, though possibly even more damaging (though completely accurate as far as it went) result of reporters words: Unless you took the trouble to read my positions on this blog (as about 800 did, which I can see from the site tracking, and which compares very favorably with getting 733 votes) all you knew from the newspaper (if anything at all) was that I wanted to subsidize the poor and make drugs legal. Without an explanation of how and why, those are pretty unlikely positions to inspire my fiscal conservative, be kind to your brother, social libertarian base. Oh well. I really cannot blame anyone else; instead of waiting to publish my ideas lest they be grabbed by several campaigns, I should have published my programs and policies last fall and started a long slow push. Live and learn. I don’t think it would be useful to undertake a write-in campaign in the general election. But if you’re thinking of voting for Shaheen, go ahead.

In a few days I’ll put up a poll regarding whether I should form a non-candidate oriented pac to promote my ideas. I still think it is shameful we spend enough on welfare to have no one legally here in poverty, yet over 12 million often go to sleep involuntarily under the stars and hungry. And I still think the best way to put money and power in the hands of criminals is to make something popular illegal. We just got to end this drug war. The war on drugs makes the problems worse, not better.

All the best!

Mark W. Farnham

Posted in Book Review, politics, Thinking Clearly, US Senate Primary | 1 Comment