Jacob J. Walker's Blog

Scholarly Thoughts, Research, and Journalism for Informal Peer Review

Archive for April, 2014

Why My Post about C was Wrong

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Heartbleed LogoRecently, I wrote a provocative blog posting about how I think that the C programming language itself is part the systemic problem of how Heartbleed happened.  I asked to have some of my friends who were C programmers comment, and since that point, I had a good conversation with my friend David Deppner, and from that conversation, I now can see why there hasn’t been a solution within the C compiler to solve this.

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April 13th, 2014 at 11:59 am

A True Solution to the Password Conundrum

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I was listening yesterday to NPR’s Morning Edition, and they had a story about  Tech Alternatives To Passwords Could Help Thwart Hackers, which was geared towards trying to show solutions to the password problem of Heartbleed.  Unfortunately, similar to how I shared yesterday that the news got it wrong about the culprit of Heartbleed, they are presenting an answer that on the surface seems right, but has problems.  So today, I’m going to talk about the real solution.

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April 12th, 2014 at 11:59 am

Thought of the Day: The Real Culprit behind the Internet’s Heartbleed

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Picture of a Dead GnuFar too often, as a humanity, we can see the inevitable probability of a future problem, yet we don’t fix the systemic problem.  With the Heartbleed bug recently being discovered by a white hat, but with evidence that it has already been used by black hats, where all of us may have had our credit cards and passwords stolen, there should be an outcry to find the culprit.  And yet, the “perpetrator” has been known for at least 20 years (and probably has been known by some people for over 40 years).  But the news doesn’t seem to be reporting on the real problem. (Although one not easily solved, as I explain in an update.)

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April 11th, 2014 at 11:40 am

Why I believe Twin Rivers is Mostly on the Right Path to Improvement

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Twin Rivers LogoOn Monday, I went to the Grant High School Community Update, hosted by Sacramento Council Member Allen Warren and Twin Rivers Superintendent Dr. Martinez.  I personally thought it was a very good and positive community forum.

Although, as the Bee reported, there were several tough questions (which there should be), I really thought that Dr. Martinez was able to give honest answers that were the right answers for how to move Twin Rivers forward.  Specifically, he and his staff are looking not only to how to solve the short-term problems, but of equal (and actually more) importance, he is working to solve systemic problems. He is also not putting energy into the “blame game”, as that is counterproductive at the moment to fixing the issues from the past.

I don’t blame parents and community members for being upset, but there are not “magic bullets” to solving long-standing problems, and the community needs to give Dr. Martinez and the board enough time to solve the problems that exist.  The interesting thing from a psychological perspective, is that systems thinking answers are not those that seem the most strong when shared at a forum like this, but in fact, true systems thinking is the the only long-term solid answer to problems.

Those in Twin Rivers who care about the future of the students, need to put aside politics, and instead look at how each can work together to improve the future for the students of the district.  This is not easy to do in an election year of the board, when slate politics can rear its ugly head.

But, I have seen signs that those on “opposing” sides can work together.  For example, it was just last year that Trustee Linda Fowler nominated Rebecca Sandoval to become Board President, despite the two of them being on different slates in the past election. And I think Linda and the board made the right choice in this, as I posted previously.

I was also impressed that the Twin Rivers Board this year gave unanimous approval of the Highlands Community Charter School petition.  (Of course, I have a little bit of a bias in favor of this decision, but I think any rational person who looked at all the facts would agree it was a good decision for the community and the district.)  If the Twin Rivers Board can continue to work with Dr. Martinez and his new management team, then I know that while it will take time, Twin Rivers can succeed.

Written by Jacob Walker

April 10th, 2014 at 7:50 am

Posted in Twin Rivers USD

Accepting the Position of Coordinator of Academics with Highlands Community Charter School

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Temporary Logo of Highlands Community Charter and Technical SchoolsThis last Saturday, the board of Highlands Community Charter and Technical Schools (HCCTS) voted to establish several positions, and offered me the position of Coordinator of Academics.  While I have been involved with this project for some time (and sit on the non-profit board), with the number of setbacks we had along the way, there were times I was not sure it was going to happen.  And, due to this, I had taken the position of Full-Time Faculty of Information Technology with Heald College Online (which I am now leaving).  I am appreciative that the board of HCCTS (in which I was not involved in making this decision) sees the value that I can contribute as an employee, and further wishes me to stay on the non-profit board.

I know there will be challenges that I will face in this position. The first is how to best ensure appropriateness in both being an employee of the non-profit and a board member.  This is not an unusual situation for Charter Schools, as California law allows up to 49% of a non-profit board to be composed of employees (and our board has only 2 out of the current 7 board members being employees).  Further, some evidence suggests that having employees on the board has a correlation with good performance of a charter school.

But still, I take conflict of interest very seriously, and so I need to walk that important tight rope of “wearing 2 hats”, making sure that my decisions as a board member are the right ones for the organization.  And, if a decision would impact me directly (such as this offer of employment), that I am uninvolved in any deliberation of the matter and recuse myself from any vote.

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April 10th, 2014 at 6:14 am

I’m now on Tumblr

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One of my good friends does not use Facebook, and encouraged me to check out Tumblr… So this morning I joined Tumblr and have a blog there, which is linked to my main blog.

Written by Jacob Walker

April 8th, 2014 at 7:48 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Thought of the Day: P.J. O’Rourke on Democrats vs. Republicans

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The Democrats are the party that says government will make you smarter, taller, richer, and remove the crabgrass on your lawn. The Republicans are the party that says government doesn’t work and then they get elected and prove it. – P.J. O’Rourke

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April 7th, 2014 at 11:59 am

Thought of the Day: “Being challenged, but not punished if incorrect.”

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One of my students was sharing at the end of their Excel course that learning was best when they were “Being challenged but not punished if incorrect.”  I think there is a lot of value in this feeling, and it shows a problem with how traditional assessment/evaluation/grading systems work.  In this quarter, I had several students tell me how great of a teacher I was, but I also know I had far more students fail my course than pass it, and I wonder how I could have helped those students more.  I believe part of the answer lies in having assignments that are challenging, and then having an assessment & evaluation system or work that doesn’t punish students, but has built-in methods of encouraging students to try again so they can succeed.  This is what video games do very well, and it is amazing to me that we haven’t gamified higher education (or even primary and secondary education) to a greater degree.

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April 6th, 2014 at 2:26 pm

Thought of the Day: Campaign Finance Reform through Taxing Large Contributions

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The recent rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn campaign finance reforms are paving the way to having the U.S. political system having an extremely titled playing field, where the marketplace of ideas will become an oligopoly or potentially even a monopoly.  By removing campaign finance reform, in effect, it legalizes a form of corruption, such that politicians must become beholden to those who pay them if they want to continue to hold office.

But I thought of a solution to the problem this morning.  The majority on the Supreme Court say they are protecting free speech.  While I will not argue this point at the moment, I will point out that free speech advocates often say that the solution to “bad speech” is more speech, not less.

So, the solution I am recommending is a tax, as justice Roberts has even recognized in the Obama Care court case, that congress can levy taxes.  The tax would be simple, if any group (including unions, corporations, and PACs) contributes over $x either directly to a candidate or simply in support of a candidate, that they will be taxed in such a way that they must contribute the same $x to ALL viable candidates within that particular election.

While I am sure some of my conservative friends might jump up and down about this being a tax, I hope my Libertarian friends can see that if they ever want to be able to have the chance of their ideas being heard more by the masses, they need to have a level playing field, and that this would be a simple solution to level that playing field.  We cannot go down the road of having a monopoly or even oligopoly on speech when it comes to politics in this nation, if we want to preserve any semblance of democracy.

Written by Jacob Walker

April 4th, 2014 at 11:59 am

Posted in Political Science

Thought of the day: “Often in politics it is the blind leading the ones they are trying to blind.”

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Often in politics it is the blind leading the ones they are trying to blind.
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Written by Jacob Walker

April 2nd, 2014 at 11:39 am

Posted in Original Quotes