Category: education

Tech: So much for Udacity

I may have mentioned that I signed up for Udacity courses. It’s a site spearheaded by Sebastian Thrun, the Stanford professor involved with the autonomous vehicles in both the DARPA challenges.

I signed up for CS101 which is their intro Python class that will ostensibly give the skills to build a search engine. I know a bit of Python already and was really looking forward to this in order to expand my Python skills.

I also signed up for CS373 – Writing code for an autonomous car. That takes the Python even further.

But even though my logon works on Udacity, I cannot access any of the course content. I tried using Firefox 3.6.22, 3.6.27, and 10.0.2 with no success. IE8 also failed to load course content and so too Google Chrome 17.0.963.56m.

So maybe it was my computer itself, nope. Other flash and javascript based sites work just fine.

So I fired off an email to their support people. I told them that in IE8 it would not load. They shot back with this:

This is a common problem if you have any of the following running: adblock, flashblock, noscript, httpseverywhere. In order to view the site you must have these disabled.

Now note I had said IE8. They probably looked in their apache logs and found I’d tried to access with Firefox.

So I decided to try it from my cell, and the Safari based browser there cannot access the Udacity course content.

The last email I sent them was that I’l revisit Udacity in a few months once their javascript code straightened out.

I can’t fault them too much, if you hit the Udacity site you see they put the Beta tag right on the header. So I’ll check back in a couple of months to see if things have leveled off.

Post 2001: One Town’s War on Gay Teens

You may well have heard about the Anoka-Hennepin school district. It’s where Michele Bachmann went to school. It’s also where the school board is comprised of clods who have no business being on that board.

Nine suicides in two years. Of the nine, four were LGBT.

I’m sick and tired of the religious bigots out there. You have no right to impose your morality on the rest of a community. And be careful where you tread because I for one want to make sure you all lose your tax exempt status. As I said on a facebook post, tax the churches, if they want to play in the political sphere, it’s their price of admittance.

We’re being beset with religious bigotry lately. Don’t they realize that they are putting the lives of the children at risk with their idiocy? That’s right, at risk. Whether it be a student who is LGBT, or a student who is an atheist, neither group, neigh no student deserves the abuse of bullying and name calling.

But as recent events here in the blue state of RI demonstrate, even the adults are guilty. For example, we have Rep. Peter Palumbo (D) Cranston calling Jessica Ahlquist an “evil little thing”. He said this when she’d won the case to remove a prayer banner in Cranston West High School. I’d expect better from a state representative but then I know who they are and I can tell you, we could do a lot better.

So lets stop the bullying at all levels, including from our elected representatives. There are reps out there who get it. As much as I dislike my state rep, he’s been fairly polite with me so he gets some slack there.

And I too should tone it down a little. I mean after all, my open criticism of people and my occasional use of ad hominem could be construed as bullying. But then, if you deserve a ration of shit, you’re going to get a ratio of it.

In memorial of the students who have taken their own lives due to the stupity of their school board:

Rest in peace. All of you. And know that you have many of we adults out there fighting for you to enjoy an education free of bullying.

No wonder – education and stuff

Back in April we moved to the new place. I’m still exploring the area but this time on foot. I’d always driven through but when you’re driving you miss lots of stuff.

One of the things I missed was found again while walking by Bell Street.
Bell Street, Providence, RI

The thing I’d missed on Bell Street is the Bell Street Chapel, a Unitarian Universalist Church. This church offers toddler daycare and I remember going to a Bell Street Nursery school when I was a young one. It’s one and the same. Unitarian Universalists aren’t know for their strict dogma. Matter of fact, to be a UU one really doesn’t need to proclaim any belief or faith at all. They are as close to Deist or Secular Humanist as you can possibly get.

And I can tell you who probably chose this particular daycare for me, it had to be my mother. Mom wasn’t a pious Catholic, in fact I think she was more an atheist than Christian. It would probably explain where my disbelief started. I wish she were still alive, because I’d be able to confirm my suspicions. Luckily my aunt lets me in on things about mom so I get some of the story.

After nursery school I was enrolled in what was then Msgr. Bove School (Now St. Ann’s School, I guess the old Msgr. didn’t hold sway, and he’s the guy who lobbied the funds necessary to build the school in the fist place!). While I was there the parish was under the stewardship of Msgr. DiMeo. Yes, it was Italian-Catholic. And it was guido central. One of the priests there drove an IROC Camaro, while the good Monsignor had to drive a Mercedes-Benz. I guess life wasn’t too bad for a priest in an Italian neighborhood.
St. Ann’s School

But I guess things have changed there. I happened upon their calendar and they get the Jewish high holidays too. Damn, we didn’t get that when I was there. Of course it’s all lay people teaching at the school now. When I was there we had at least two nuns from the Sisters of Mercy order. Let me tell you that they weren’t merciful at all. Sister Mary Florentia was right off the boat from Ireland, her favorite phrase being “You bold piece!”, and Sister Clair Marie was a dyke if I ever saw one.

From Msgr. Bove/St. Ann’s I then had two options for high schools, both of which required entrance examinations. The first was Classical High School, a public school allowed to be very selective in its student enrollment. Then there was LaSalle Academy (Warning, flash laden site!), a Catholic high school which also required not only entrance exams but also had summer reading lists. I chose to go to LaSalle and graduated in 1982.

LaSalle Academy

What amazes me is that in the twenty five years since I’ve left LaSalle the campus has grown like crazy. I’m happy to see them doing well.

It was at LaSalle that my inclinations toward atheism became cemented. After all, the religion class for one year had us reading the entire Bible and discussing the contents and context.

LaSalle had it’s cast of characters too. There was one Brother whose name escapes me that we used to call the Walking Holiday. He was that old and sure enough during my junior year he died. Then there was Brother Frederick the Android.

Brother Ralph Darmento who had to be taught that in the BASIC programming language, you could write an entire program on one line just using the : to separate operations.

For our science classes we had Stormin’ Norman DuBois taught one of the physical science classes I had, and the brotherhood duo of Ron and Charles Poirier did the physics and electronics classes. I still keep in touch with Ron, he’s a higher up in the Dept. of Ed now.

For math I had Brother Joseph Ventura for freshmen algebra, Peter Curtin for Algebra II, Knobby Walsh for Geometry and Mr. Quinn for pre-cal. That I passed pre-cal never ceases to amaze me.

For foreign language, Spanish to be precise, I had Brother Gregory, and Rita Ravo.

Oh this is a trip down memory lane.

My first stab at college was an abortion. I really should have gone away for school since lots of things would have been different, the most likely of which is I would have acknowledged my being gay that much sooner. But I ended up at Rhode Island College for about a year and a half. I remember two professors, Dr. Agetstein who I had for Developmental Psychology, and Elizabeth Gunning who I had for freshmen English, the class I promptly dropped.

Rhode Island College

It’s a relatively small campus at RIC. But I just wasn’t into it back then.

My second run at college went much better but I was in my 30’s when I did that and I had chosen Johnson & Wales University. Managed a 3.82GPA when all was said and done, and that would have been a perfect 4.0 if I’d given an absolute shit about a couple of the liberal arts courses I had to take, like the Legal Environment of Business.

Johnson & Wales University

And that campus sprawls across most of downtown Providence and then continues on the southern end of the city.

And here I am, thinking about going back to school. I’ve got my B.Sc in Information Science but I’m on the fence about what to go back for. There’s a move in congress to make it so those going to school for math, science and engineering go for free if they commit to teaching or working in the field for three years. That’d make it very easy for me to get my B.Sc in Electronic Engineering. But then the other part of me says if that doesn’t happen, I think I’m just going to do a PhD program. The object here is to die with student loan debt that approximates the GDP of a small nation. I’ll probably stick with the Information Science field, maybe do some work with cryptography. That’d be fun.

Americans don’t know their religion

This article in the Washington Post isn’t much of a surprise to me. By way of background let me explain that I am the product of twelve years of education in Catholic schools first at St. Ann School then at LaSalle Academy. During at least one of those twelve years we read and studied the Bible from cover to cover. College was a secular deal at Johnson & Wales University but by then I needed no more of religion.

The issue for me was that in addition to the Catholic schools trying to push dogma on me, they also taught me how to think critically. That’s a dangerous thing for religion for once you can think, you are then able to see the inconsistencies and outright falsehoods of the Bible.

Anyhow what struck me was that those who proclaim they’re religious couldn’t tell who Noah’s wife was (It wasn’t mentioned in the Bible, but the Jews name her Naamah for Beautiful One.). Nor could they tell who gave the Sermon on the Mount (Doh!, Christ himself!), or better yet any one of the authors of the gospels (Matthew, Mark, John and Luke and the jury is still out on Mary). These are the same folks who think “In God We Trust” has always been on U.S. Currency and the Pledge of Allegiance. It hasn’t, it’s only been there since 1954 and it’s original purpose was to show the godless communists who was top dog.

It astounds me that people don’t know the basic facts about religion, let alone civic government. But then I had the benefit of what I consider a good education. Unfortunately that is falling further out of reach for everyone. A co-worker has her daughter enrolled in a Catholic school and it’s almost $4K a year. Yikes!

But if you have a child, I urge you to educate that child as best you can. And while you’re at it, educate yourself.