kaiyen: pepper

the life and times of Allan Chen

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Okay I get it – law students are evil

This is another one of those difficult posts, as it has to do with work, and with another group on campus.  As always, I preface by saying the following:

  • Administration at a school is hard
  • Dealing with students is hard
  • Students always take advantage of everything and will abuse the system until you stop them

I see and deal with this, too, and one should not read the following as a criticism without qualification. Really.  These jobs are hard, between dealing with difficult students and even more difficult faculty.  I know that.

A new building opened up on campus recently.  One of the services implemented was a self-scheduling system for the whopping 29 (or so) small study rooms in the building.  The problem is that the system is designed for highly-controlled environments or situations where groups, such as a team at a company looking to do a phone conference, need a space for a fixed amount of time and will then leave.  The software system has no limits on the length of the reservation or how many rooms a user can book simultaneously.  It even allows one user to delete the reservation of another if password-protection is not used.  Several people acknowledge the flaws in the software.

However, the group of students that abused the system most severely – and it was BAD – was students at the School of Law.  Where I work.  I swear, every time I am even in the presence of someone talking about the rooms, reservation system, the building, or even the world in general, the fact that it was law students who abused the system comes up.  The subtext is super-text.  It’s above the surface, plain and obvious.

I just don’t get it.  The way I see it is:

  • Students have always and will always find and exploit every loophole you give them.  I did it when I was a student.  Why wouldn’t they do so?  Seriously.
  • If the system has a flaw, then it’s the system that has the flaw, not the students abusing it.
  • If the law students hadn’t been the first to abuse it, then someone else would have.  But perhaps that would not have been such a clear-cut population and not as targeted by the remarks.
  • In reality, it’s probably just a handful of students abusing the system disproportionately
  • Can’t we just get over it?

I was chatting with some colleagues at another university, where they work at the business school, which is also separate from the main university as our law school is.  Their first response when I told even half of the story is that the law students were probably being blamed for all the problems.  They’ve had it happen to them all the time.  This notion that their students consider themselves ‘special’ and ‘above the law’ (no pun intended).

Argh.

Review: Epson RX680 Multifunction

So about a month ago I bought an Epson RX680 multifunction.  Epson can’t quite decide where it wants its multifunction printers to go. One model has an auto-feeder, which seems really nice, but no CD/DVD printing. I needed the latter, but didn’t really need the ‘photo’ multifunction printer, but so be it, and I got the 680. It was a good deal at the time.

Let me tell you – avoid this machine. It just flat out stinks. Let me list the ways:

  • Slow start up time. I have a Canon MP830 at work which is, admittedly, about 2x the price (slightly more, actually), with a feeder, and gets going in about 2 seconds. The 680 takes a solid 7-8 seconds before it starts to feed. Printing itself is fine and fast, but start up time is slow.
  • There are two paper trays, but you can’t switch between then in mid-stream. So if you run out of paper in the back, you have to put more paper in back to keep printing. I guess the idea is that you have one type of stock in the bottom tray and another in the rear tray but it’s nice on the Canon that I can just hit a button, switch trays, and keep printing. I keep both stocked as often as I can.
  • CD/DVD printing is way off. I have to adjust by several mm in both directions to get the print centered. It worked flawlessly with Nero Cover Designer on my 4 year old Epson Photo 960.
  • Settings get stuck. I print once to CD/DVD, and it tries to print to it everytime. So I have to go in and reset all settings (even on/off doesn’t work) to get it back to regular printing. In general, this would not seem a problem, except that if you make a copy while it says CD/DVD you get it stuck in just the upper corner (where’the blank CD/DVD would be).

The printer looks cool, but it’s junk for any kind of office-like environment. And I do believe that Epson is pitching it that way, even though Epson is mostly a photo printer company. My mistake.

EduPunk?where did this come from? How did schools lose their way in the first place?

Introducing Edupunk | BlogHer

Edupunk is an interesting idea. To quote from the linked article, ‘edupunk is student-centered, resourceful, teacher- or community-created rather than corporate-sourced, and underwritten by a progressive political stance.’

The example given of why Edupunk is important is that of Blackboard – we implement this technology supposedly to improve the educational experience of students, but Blackboard is a commercial product, designed to sell well, marketed by a commercial company that is watching the bottom line. And that this is – well, the implication is that this is evil.

I don’t know about this. That’s why this is ‘can’t be contained’ rather than just an ‘interesting link.’ I mean’a lot of the examples of what edupunk is – ‘Lego is edupunk. Chalk is edupunk. A bunch of kids exploring a junkyard
is edupunk. A kid dismantling a CD player to see what makes it tick is
edupunk.’ – are, in my opinion, too deviant to really be of use. Are we to all go super open-source/build it yourself/stop buying from “the man?”

I have two perspectives and experiences that are relevant. First, just because a technology is from a company doesn’t mean it’s evil. It’s only evil and manipulative of how we are able to educate students if we let it be. If we lose sight of the goal, which is to improve the learning experience of students. Personally, I am ridiculously demanding of vendors – I tell them what we want to do (based on our (progressive) ideas on improving education) and tell them that they have to meet my needs. I don’t let them tell me what I need based on their products. Yeah, it costs money, and I have to consider those costs. But the issue is about how I and my department see the technology. Not whether the technology is from a company or not.

Another issue is that, if DIY is the essence of Edupunk, then let’s look at some of the monsters that have arisen out of such efforts. You want to displace something as big as Blackboard? That’s one heckuva system one has to build, and that takes a lot of resources. And do Edupunk-heads think that managing resources for a huge project like that isn’t also dealing with capital and the issues associated with compromising educational benefit for the sake of actually being able to afford to do something’

Weird.

Review: Professor Darrel (Del) Mank, Management, Santa Clara University Leavey School of Business

At a glance

  • Workload: Heavy
  • Teaching Style: Interactive
  • Interest in students: Very high
  • Relevance to outside world: Very high.

Overall Professor Rating: 4.5

Overall Course Rating: 4

Professor Darrel (Del) Mank is an engaging, intriguing and ultimately very interesting professor with a strong, real-world background. Management 524, Managing Technology and Innovation, is the perfect course for him. It’s a lot of work, though, but if you have a good team it’s worth it. If I had a bad team, though, it would have been a rough ride. It’s only because of that caveat that I don’t give the class a point higher. It is possibly the best and most engaging class I’ve had thus far. Possibly, but not for certain.

The Review

This is the second of my reviews on the professors I’ve had while an MBA student at Santa Clara University’s Leavey School of Business. There are lots of sites out there that provide feedback and rates – ratemyprofessor is the most notable. The SantaClaraMBA Yahoo group also has a big database of comments and lots of additional information in its message archive. But only here can I write as much as I want 🙂

I review professors from a variety of perspectives. First, I explain the context(s) under which I took the class. Time of year, time of day, etc. Then I talk about the quality of the class and the professor, and finally about the professor as a person. After all, we are trying to learn about our interactions with people, so knowing that side of a teacher is critical, too. So these would be interactions outside the classroom, etc.

The facts

I had Professor Mank for Management 524 – Managing Innovation and Technology – Spring 2008 (just this past term – I’m kind of working backwards). The course is basically on how to determine the innovation capabilities of a company, which really means a lot of different things (details in the “more” section). The class was at 7:05 on Mondays and Wednesdays, which was my 2nd class on those nights. Interestingly, I had much more trouble staying awake after a long day on the job during the preceding class than this later one…

Them’s the facts. Now read on for the review.
(more…)

Review: Professor Dongsoo Shin, Economics, Santa Clara University Leavey School of Business

This is the first of my reviews on the professors I’ve had while an MBA student at Santa Clara University’s Leavey School of Business. There are lots of sites out there that provide feedback and rates – ratemyprofessor is the most notable. The SantaClaraMBA Yahoo group also has a big database of comments and lots of additional information in its message archive. But only here can I write as much as I want 🙂

I review professors from a variety of perspectives.  First, I explain the context(s) under which I took the class.  Time of year, time of day, etc.  Then I talk about the quality of the class and the professor, and finally about the professor as a person.  After all, we are trying to learn about our interactions with people, so knowing that side of a teacher is critical, too.  So these would be interactions outside the classroom, etc.

The facts

I just this evening finished my final exam for Economics 401 (macro) with Professor Dongsoo Shin. This is Spring quarter 2008, and it was during the one and only offered time, 5:30. Professor Shin is an Assistant Professor with the Economics Department, does most of his research in game theory, and seems to teach only in the spring.  I took it on Monday and Wednesday, along with two other courses covering all four instructional days of the week.  So it was a heavy load.

Them’s the facts. Now read on for the review.
(more…)

Review: Professor Oliver Yu, OMIS, Santa Clara University Leavey School of Business

This is the third of my reviews on the professors I’ve had while an MBA student at Santa Clara University’s Leavey School of Business . There are lots of sites out there that provide feedback and rates – ratemyprofessor is the most notable. The SantaClaraMBA Yahoo group also has a big database of comments and lots of additional information in its message archive. But only here can I write as much as I want  🙂

I review professors from a variety of perspectives.  First, I explain the context(s) under which I took the class.  Time of year, time of day, etc.  Then I talk about the quality of the class and the professor, and finally about the professor as a person.  After all, we are trying to learn about our interactions with people, so knowing that side of a teacher is critical, too.  So these would be interactions outside the classroom, etc.

The facts

I took Professor Yu?s OMIS (operations management and?something) 355 course in Spring 2008.  The course is designed around computer-based decision-making, though we do not use computers at all.  Professor Yu wanted us to understand how various computer programs that helped in decision-making were designed, rather than just sitting down with those applications and not using our brains.  I thought this was a pretty good idea.  The class section I took met at 5:30, Tuesday and Thursdays.  The course had 2 midterms, a final, and a group homework assignments (roughly 1 per session).  We also had a lot of extra credit opportunities and the professor was clearly determined to help us through the course.

Two caveats:  First, I was worried that I would not fare as well in 355 with other professors, and had heard about Yu’s extra credit and desire to help us pass the course.  Also, he has changed his curriculum a bit and now (writing in Summer 2008) has students do homework individually.  I believe the overall content is still the same, though.

Them’s the facts. Now read on for the review.

(more…)

The Conundrum of Protected Left Turns

The SF Bay Area (which includes all the way down to San Jose, yes), is the land of protected left turns.  Everywhere you go, there is a left turn lane, and a signal just for that lane.  People get used to it.

There are two problems with this.  First, it’s not really ‘everywhere.”  There are a couple of intersections here and there that don’t have it.  One in particular, Oak Grove and Middlefield in Menlo Park, is surrounded by protected left signals but does not have one itself.  The result is that everyone presumes they can blast through when they see a yellow, but that is precisely when someone trying to make that unprotected left has to try and zoom through.  Not a good combination.  I’ve been on the wrong end of that a few times, though have escaped unscathed thus far.

The other problem is when a light didn’t used to be protected, they’ve made it so, and done the related multiple-lane changes required.  For instance, at Washington and Lafayette here in Santa Clara, heading east-west, there was an unprotected left, and two straight lanes in either direction.  So you have just the one light that went for east-west, and those turning left just fended for themselves.  It worked just fine, I almost never missed making a left, though sometimes I had to wait a bit and yes, I used the yellow sometimes.

In particular, since I cross there when walking to work, the timing was very good and I never waited for long.

Now, however, they have made the right most lane right-turn only, the other straight lane straight only, and provided a protected left.  People aren’t running into each other like the Oak Grove example, but it takes forever to cycle through all the lights now.  Now it’s southbound-protected, then northbound-protected (this was as before), then westbound protected, then eastbound protected.  I want to cross on eastbound protected.  And I have to wait for the people turning on the protected left to turn first, then it says I can cross.  I seriously waited for 4 minutes the other day, and that is a long time at an intersection if you actually sit and watch the time.  The link above actually shows the new version of the intersection, by the way.

Hiking: Almaden-Quicksilver Park, New Almaden Trail, Mockingbird Hill Entrance

Well, this took a bit longer than expected. My first “major” hike through Almaden-Quicksilver Park in San Jose (location of trailhead) was via the Mockingbird Hill Entrance, from which I took the New Almaden Trail. The park map is very useful and detailed.

My actual path was to head southeast along the New Almaden trail, then south onto the Buena Vista trail, bearing left onto one of the branches that eventually led to the Randol Trail, then the Hacienda Trail back to the trail head. Total of about 4 miles. Most of my hikes are about this long, at least partly because I stop so often to take photos that I take a long time to cover those 4 miles. Trunk Stripped Bare.

This is a nice hike. There is alternating shaded and brightly lit areas (for example), which makes for a nice combination of hot and cool, which means you can go most anytime of day. The trails are not very steep. I chose the New Almaden trail specifically because it’s a hiking-only trail – mixed use trails, in my opinion, tend to be a bit too soft, even on inclines and declines, making it harder on the legs than if there were at least some rocks upon which to really get some traction. Actually, on the way back, along the Hacienda trail, which is mixed-use, I had a hard time dealing with what felt almost like loose sand as the path material. Next time, I’ll go the other way on the trail, heading over to the Norton trail instead. It’ll be about the same distance.

The only weird part is the Buena Vista trail. It?s narrow, very rocky, and sufficiently undeveloped (and therefore unhiked) that it felt like I had taken a wrong turn. I actually went back to make sure. The tree limbs were literally coming right over my head and wrapping around the trail. Very strange. By comparison, going through the “Capehorn Pass” off of the Randol trail didn’t seem like much of a pass. Buena Vista felt like it was creating a whole new path.

I intend to take this trail combination again, except going to the Norton trail at the end. I liked it much, and it was nice not going to the main Hacienda entrance that is most popular for this park. The photo ops abound all along the way, even in the harsh, dry middle-of-the-summer time of year . So keep some film or memory space left up until the end.