Monthly Archives: November 2013

Review: Chant of Ages; Cry of Cotton

Chant of Ages; Cry of Cotton: The Biography of a South Georgia Jewish Community's Beginnings 1865-1908Chant of Ages; Cry of Cotton: The Biography of a South Georgia Jewish Community’s Beginnings 1865-1908 by Louis Schmier

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

NOTE: I have known the author since I was maybe 5 years old? His son and I were friends in elementary school. We worked in the same building for several years.

Some time last week I heard an interview about the Diaspora becoming uncomfortable and leaving Europe. I think it was with Ari Shavit and his book My Promised Land The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel. This was about the Zionists going to restore the nation of Israel. Similar tensions were in effect even decades earlier resulting in people of the same faith coming to the United States and a few of those settling in south Georgia.

Hearing about the people of south Georgia accepting others culturally very different from them restores my faith in humanity.

As a Baha’i, I am empathetic to the challenges of not being a Christian in the rural Southeastern United States. The temptation is to keep the head down low and act just like everyone else so no one can you are obviously different.

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Review: What the Dog Saw and Other Adventures

What the Dog Saw and Other Adventures
What the Dog Saw and Other Adventures by Malcolm Gladwell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Pro-tip: All the chapters are articles published for Gladwell by The New Yorker. Most are behind their paywall. However, his web site has an an archive where I found the ones mentioned below. The publication date is noted at the end of the chapters, which I would have preferred in the front so I could put discussions into context.

Every information technology administrator or analyst ought to study three pieces in this book:

  1. Blowup” uses the Challenger and Three Mile Island disasters to talk about modern technology and disasters. Small failures and accepting the risks for those blinds us to the risks of disasters which can be caused by cascading small failures in unforeseen scenarios. The large system I help run at work has dozens of machines with hundreds of interworking components. Most are designed to work with some kind of redundancy or failover who work most of the time, but occasionally they fail and most of those go unnoticed by anyone other than those of us running it. On rare occasions, though, they most spectacularly fail.
  2. Open Secrets” uses the Enron implosion to talk about puzzles and mysteries. With puzzles more details narrows the scope for us to find an answer. Enron was more of a mystery where all the details were available for anyone looking to understand them, but few people did. This obfuscation through transparency at its best.
  3. Connecting the Dots” uses the Yom Kippur War and 9/11 to talk about the difficulty in interpreting data to anticipate what someone else is going to do. Certainty is almost certainly pretty low, but decision makers want high certainty. So the result is a judgement call that could very much go the wrong way.
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Ad Fails

An advertisement for a Porsche plug-in hybrid really fails. First, Porsche was old and lame by high school. Lotus, Lamborghini, Ferrari, and so many other car companies come ahead. Second, I do not have a job where an ostentatious car helps me. Third, I cannot keep my mobile phone properly charged. A plug-in hybrid is not the car for me.

Given how much activity I have online and all the tracking data collected about that activity, I feel that advertisements delivered to me ought to be fantastic. There should only be advertisements delivered on the pages I visit that confirm my desires or make me suddenly desire it.

Certainly looking up this car put plenty of data out there supporting the advertiser’s algorithms pushing this ad at me. Probably I will see more of it. Perhaps it is better, though, than the ads of the last item I checked out on Amazon. Reminding me that I did not buy it probably will not trick me into actually buying it.

UPDATE: Perhaps the ad had more to do with the page I visited than data about me? It was a piece critical of the Chegg IPO by comparing it Twitter as a success. I visited it because I heard a stock doubling after the IPO like Twitter’s did should be considered a failure. (The gains go to investors not Twitter, so Twitter should have set a higher price since other valued it more.)

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Windows Module Installer

A pain in my side over the past year finally forced me into addressing it. Windows Module Installer runs as TrustedInstaller.exe and for most cases just does its job which is to keep in touch with the Windows Update service and apply the updates sent to it.

Occasionally they develop a memory leak and consume RAM until someone intervenes. We have about 140 servers. About 22 over the past two months about 20 showed this behavior. Only when it uses about 2GB of the 10GB we allocated to these servers do I usually have to intervene. That has been about 3 times over the past 2 months and ten over the past year.

Using Yaketystats to see the trend was far worse than I had noticed, I decided we needed to do one of two things.

  1. Shut it down. Start them when we need them. Shut them down again when we do not. Benefit is we do not have to worry about them getting out of control consuming resources. Unfortunately those wanting to push out updates will have to add a step to start them before pushing them.
  2. Recycle. Routinely shut them down and start back. Relatively easy to automate, so set it and forget it. Recycle

Well, it gets much worse. First, running the commands work inconsistently. For example, I ran

Set-Service TrustedInstaller -startuptype “Automatic”

against every host in a development system. As is my habit, I ran a check to make sure it worked. It did on two of the five. So I ran it again. The other three were fixed. So I did that same process on another development system with five hosts. Three of the five worked the first time and the other two the second. The pattern held true for another three systems all with five servers each. Setting the startuptype to Manual worked the same inconsistent way.

My check:

Get-WmiObject -ComputerName $computer win32_service -Filter “name = ‘trustedinstaller’”

Second, stopping and starting them does not appear to stick. Several minutes after I have stopped all of the services they appear to back in the prior state. Those who were not running stay not. Those who were running are again. And if I start all of them, then at some point those who were not running stop again.

Guess I have a lot of research ahead of me. :(

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Review: Divergent

Divergent by Veronica Roth
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The dystopian environmental use of Factions reminded me of the Houses in Harry Potter. People have a label by which they belong to another group of people who behaviorally are supposed to be like themselves. They are natural allies and yet frictions exist within the groups as people are more complex than a single trait. And some people are not easily categorized as belonging to a specific group, especially those who transferred from another. This aspect of the book I enjoyed.

The plot disappointed me. Well, the story plot was also very weak. But I meant the conspiracy that is the backbone of the story. I suppose people’s reliance on their faction is meant to show they have rose colored glasses that make them blind to what was happening. Meh. It felt forced. Full of holes. Not dramatic enough.

Love stories are not my thing. Though, I did initially like the love interest even before I knew he was one. I wanted more of him developed as the story progressed. Instead he devolved into the helpless knight who needed saving by the reluctant princess.

It is obvious this book was written with the idea of becoming a movie. I just wish it was the kind of book worth reading after having seen the movie.

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Moral behavior in animals

TEDxPeachtree focuses on ideas worth spreading in myAJC mentions this video. By the way, TEDxPeachtree returns this Friday, November 8th.

This features Frans de Waal showing videos demonstrating animals cooperating on tasks, something we think of as human behavior. One I really liked was chimpanzees give the researcher a prosocial (feed both) or antisocial (feed chooser) token and how often they picked the prosocial was measured. Retaliation by the non-choosing chimpanzee reduced how much the choosing one picked the prosocial option.

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