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Posted 2007-10-21 22:36:29

Like many folks, I occasionally crave chicken strips, but they're pretty awful fat-wise (being deep-fried and all). Unless you bake 'em: Baked Chicken Strips This recipe bakes the strips with a thin coating of egg white (for low fat/cholesterol) and a thin coat of corn flake crumbs for just a bit of crunch. It's baked at 450 degrees to give it just the right balance of texture and pre-brined in teriyaki (or soy) to keep the inside nice and moist.

Recipe

Ingredients

  • Boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into strips
  • Teriyaki sauce or soy sauce (the thin stuff)
  • Egg whites (I use the pasteurized prepared whites in a carton)
  • Crushed corn flakes
  • Garlic powder

Procedure

Prepare egg white dredge in e.g. a cassarole dish and put corn flakes and garlic powder in a second dish. Brine chicken strips for 15-20 minutes in a bowl with teriyaki. Remove and pat dry with paper towels. Dredge each piece through egg white and then through the corn flake/garlic mix. Place on a greased cookie sheet. Put cookie sheet in a 450-degree oven for 13-16 minutes or until done. Eat with sesame-ginger (preferred), sesame-miso, or Italian salad dressing as a dipping sauce.
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Posted 2007-10-08 12:17:57

I just encountered a story at the Consumer Law and Policy Blog that seemed a bit beyond ridiculous. A website that deals with infomercial scams was slapped with a C&D. The weird part is that the C&D itself was, er, "copywritten," ostensibly in the hopes of avoiding embarrassment of the company doing the C&D. So let me get this straight. You're saying "shut up now or we sue. Oh, and don't talk about us shutting you up or else." I don't think so. This isn't terrorism, or some other matter of national security or violent crime--it's a bunch of people saying you have a crappy product and are dicks about it. Sorry, but that's not speech you can squash willy-nilly just because you have lawyers and don't like what they're saying. I invite the reader to judge for themselves: Check out the letter from DirectBuy here and the response here and decide for yourself.
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Posted 2007-10-08 01:14:00

(This is a followup to my previous screed about SJSU's handling of GE certifications.) After 32 months, literally 160 hours of concentrated effort trying to figure out what happened, and numerous opinions from the various administrative peanut galleries at both Mission College and SJSU, it would appear that my lower-division GE certification is in effect. Barring some catastrophe, I shall no longer have to take any lower-division general education classes, and have only 10 total credit-hours remaining after this semester. The lessons I learned? First, assume failure at the receiving institution's end and audit continuously. Second, get copies of everything, and keep bugging them until they give you one. Third, be prepared to build a solid case for every line item on your cert anyway, just in case. Fourth, if at first you don't succeed, escalate.

The General Education Certification

A GE certification is a process enabled by both California State Law and CSU Executive Order. In theory (and the way it's characterized by community colleges in my experience), it is a binding contract between the sending and receiving schools and the student. Students that have a full certification can not be required to take lower-division general education classes to satisfy graduation requirements at all. In the case of a partial certification, whatever areas are checked off get that same treatment (i.e. in a subject area-by-subject area fashion, instead of wholesale). The completed requirements listed on my Academic Advising Report (upon which many advising decisions are made) never matched the partial certification that Mission College sent SJSU. The opinions as to why this was the case broke down to one of the following:
  • Some of the classes were out-of-state.
  • It was a partial (and not a full) certification, so it carries less weight somehow.
  • I hadn't been patient enough (30 months? really?).
  • I had not sacrificed enough chickens to Komodos, lizard god of evaluations and gangrenous limbs.
OK, maybe that last one is a bit fanciful, but it was a real mystery here. It turns out that these were all bogus speculation, as CSU executive order makes no distinctions between full and partial certs and the active (though apparently unwritten) policy is that certifications are to be taken without edits except in very obviously bogus cases. By process of elimination, that means either that my paperwork never got processed or Komodos is angry with me.

Disclaimer

It is worth noting at this point that the folks I dealt with at/near the evaluations department were very careful not to say anything that might be construed as definitive with regard to their treatment of GE certs. While I believe (and I am neither a lawyer nor SJSU evaluations official) that these certs are contractually binding as characterized by the community colleges and they seem to treat them as such, don't take this as gospel.

Lesson 1: Assume Failure at the Recipient's End

While nobody has been able to confirm what exactly happened at SJSU's end, I was able to get some semblance of an idea. My understanding of the power of the GE certification has not been altered, and I assume (in a vacuum of real answers) that the paperwork was mishandled. My first guess had been that the paperwork had not been sent, and I ended up wasting a month figuring out that the folks at Mission had done the right thing. The lesson here is to be tenacious and assume that the recipient has messed up somewhere until someone proves otherwise. In particular, have the person who says "I don't see one" scour the entire system--my transcripts languished in an unexpected part of the user interface until the person at the counter finally found it at my insistence. Remember also that these folks have a 6-12 month backlog, so getting your case squared might take some real time.

Lesson 2: Get Copies of Everything, and Bug Them 'Till You Get One

I had assumed when I applied for the full GE certification at Mission that they actually gave me one. It turns out that they didn't at first, and I didn't know that until I got a copy from them by pestering until I got one. In short, getting a copy for yourself shortly after applying for the GE cert from your community college is a Good Idea (tm).

Lesson 3: Be Prepared to Build a Case for Every Line Item, Just in Case

While I believe that a GE cert is relatively iron-clad, the verbiage in the relevant CSU executive order is a bit vague. The heirarchy of "what's acceptable for GE" seems to be:
  1. SJSU classes listed as GE-applicable in the catalog. I'm pretty sure someone could sue if SJSU mishandles this one :-).
  2. Community college classes listed as GE-applicable on http://artic.sjsu.edu. This list changes on a regular basis as articulation agreements change, so when the class was taken is as important as what class it was.
  3. Classes certified by a community college, but not listed on http://artic.sjsu.edu.
  4. Everything else.
There is a fairly large legal chasm between items 2 and 3. While SJSU seems to have a policy in place that says there is no difference between them, it is certainly prudent to assume that preparing for the worst is a good idea. Get your documentation in order, visiting the relevant department heads as needed to get equivalence forms filled out while you wait for things to happen. If you've read this far and have guessed that keeping every class syllabus and catalog description in a file cabinet/folder/whatever and in good order is a good idea, you'd be dead right.

Lesson 4: If At First You Don't Succeed, Escalate

I tried desperately to not involve additional parties in my little problem, but it turns out that this was probably a bad move. My boss rides the train with the university ombudsperson and eventually got us talking to one another. This was a Good Thing, since it lit a fire under the right people and gave me access (and a modicum of authority) to ask tough, direct questions. I can't recommend going up the chain of command when a case has no merit and you're getting an answer you don't like, but if you're not getting an answer at all, go for it.

Conclusion

Having learned to distrust the recipient, get copies of everything, escalate, and especially put in the extra work to build a case for every single line item, you might be asking the question if it was worth it or not. To that question, I'll answer a qualified "yes." Transferring is painful, and your goal is to avoid having to take as many classes as you can get away with. The school, meanwhile, wants (for various reasons) to make you take as many classes as they can get away with. Every piece of evidence you can put together to build your case helps. That said, the 160 or so hours I've spent on this issue in the last 2.5 years could have been spent on all the work that goes into a typical 4-credit class (or one business month of wages). Depending on your perspective, I've either saved myself three semesters of work (by making the GE cert work) or cost myself an earlier graduation (through time wasted dealing with administrivia). Getting the GE cert in and of itself was a tiny fraction of this time, however, so I suspect that GE certs are generally worth having as one component of the transfer student's toolbox--it's just unfortunate that they can't realistically be the only component.

Acknowledgments

I am deeply grateful to the articulation and ombudsperson staffs at Mission and SJSU for their assistance, along with the Humanities department, my CS department advisor, and my boss for their assistance and support. While I'm disappointed at the opacity and lack of communications of the evaluations process at SJSU, I can't fault the folks I dealt with directly--they were all top drawer.
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Posted 2007-10-07 23:20:55

Update: Issue has been Resolved!

This post has been a long time in coming--since I work for SJSU, I had to clear it with the Powers That Be that I'm OK to write such a thing. That said, here's a disclaimer: These are my experiences and opinions, SJSU can't have them :-). This article will be edited and reposted whenever new information becomes available. For the last two years, seven months, and 25 days (and counting), I've been trying to get San Jose State University to grant me credit for all lower division general education requirements. This is the story of how I got here, why I'm still waiting, and what this might mean for the community at large. Many thanks to the folks at Mission College and the Ombudsman's office at SJSU for their continued help--with any luck, this will be fixed and someday I'll be able to graduate. Click "Read More" to continue. Back in fall '92, a much younger (and lazier, and less cynical, and...) version of yours truly started at Arizona State University as an Electrical Engineering major. After a number of bad decisions, one particularly depressing engineering class, increasingly worsening grades and numerous administrative nightmares, I was in a state of school-shock and decided to leave ASU and start working. I sold computers for a year, did 18 months of tech support for a major shipping provider (including 9 months of being tech support for the tech support folks), did call center scheduling for a year or so, and a few more months of tech support for good measure. At some point, I decided that going back to school part-time might be a good idea. Instead of braving the horrors of Arizona State again, however, I restarted at Mesa Community College. It turns out that this was a great idea--the experience made up for a fair amount of ASU trauma and I finally developed something resembling a work ethic. I was still not a huge fan of the ASU experience, but at least school was fun again. Enter 1999 and the dot-com era and my wife and I moved to Silicon Valley. In 2001, I started back to school at Mission College in Santa Clara. I spent months going through all the necessary paperwork to get my transcripts sent and to beg, borrow and plead for as much GE credit as I could muster while taking reasonably difficult math, science, and engineering classes (among others) and working full-time for Sun Microsystems. Two Associates' degrees later, I calculated (on a spreadsheet) that my shortest path to a reasonably technical Bachelor's was through the Computer Science department at SJSU (this despite holding an Associate's degree in Engineering). I did an additional semester part-time at Mission to minimize my time in the parking nightmare that is downtown San Jose and to fill out as many CS requirements as I could ahead of time. I finally transferred in time for Fall '05. I had Mission send a GE certification and SJSU received a cert well ahead of time--January '05. I was under the impression that I would receive a complete cert, and had no idea what Mission actually sent SJSU until much later. I did, however, make a point of checking the "Academic Advising Report" on MySJSU with some regularity and eventually noticed that some (not all) of my GE areas were covered in the report. It's worth noting that my experience with ASU was so bad that I was not about to take any chances with SJSU. When I found out that the GE certification is (at least in theory) a binding contract that compels the target CSU school to not require additional lower-division GE, I jumped on the opportunity. After over 12 meandering years at this whole college thing, I wanted out--no administrative hiccups, no "sorry, but you never did XYZ" bullcrap. The whole point of seeking out a GE certification was to tie SJSU's hands and to leave them no option but to graduate me with minimal fuss. After a few queries (culminating in about January of this year), the SJSU records folks eventually told me that Mission had sent a partial certification (instead of the full cert I had applied for) and that I should therefore take the matter up with them. So I did. Over the course of the next several months, I made repeated trips to Mission College and finally broke through in June of this year, spending considerable time with the articulation officer there trying to iron this mess out. It turns out that they have an unpublished (as far as I can tell) procedure on file that states that they will not certify GE area A3 if the class was from out-of-state. Had I known that earlier, I would've bitten the bullet and retaken English 1B, done the papers and all, and moved on with my life. But it seems as though it might not have mattered anyway. I finally got a look at the partial GE certification (I'd never seen it before this point), and it didn't match MySJSU. Areas A3, C2, and C3 did not match the cert whatsoever. What had been "the other guy's problem" was now clearly SJSU weaseling out of a legal obligation somehow. Speaking with folks at SJSU again, the following hypotheses were raised:
  1. The fact that it was a partial certification may have altered the outcome.
  2. The fact that it has out-of-state (or passthrough) classes on it may be at issue.
So the folks at Mission decided to grant me a full certification after hearing my tale of woe and by having enough documentation on my Engl 1B equivalent from ASU thrown their way. And I did more research. After reviewing the relevant CSU executive orders and California State Code (with a LARGE grain of salt that I am NOT a lawyer and the following should not be construed as legal advice), my conclusions are that:
  1. Partial certifications behave essentially as a group of subject-area certifications, with each subject area certification behaving approximately as a "mini" full certification whose scope is one GE area. SJSU has (in my eminently non-binding opinion) no legal reason to alter the areas covered by the certification for partial vs complete reasons. Hypothesis #1, if this was the cause, is bogus.
  2. While the relevant executive order explicitly allows community colleges to do pass-through certification of courses from other "eligible institutions," which may or may not include out-of-state schools (it's a bit ambiguous in that regard).
Let's let that last statement sink in for a second. Depending on what "eligible" means, a CSU may be able to flatly refuse a GE certification based on a fairly arbitrary determination of "eligible." CalTech might not be "eligible," nor Harvard nor MIT (much less Arizona State) for the purposes of a GE cert. Sorry, but if you ran out of money for your private or out-of-state school, or took correspondence classes while serving in the military, or you had to move at some point, then you're stuck. California's community colleges may be mistaken in thinking that the GE cert is an iron-clad contract, and if so the cert is a pointless exercise in paperwork. I say "pointless" because:
  • If you're taking all your classes at a school that grants certs (or a set of schools that all do them), they articulate automatically without the cert (such classes are already listed on http://artic.sjsu.edu).
  • If you take any of your GE-fulfilling classes at a "non-eligible" school (which could be taken to mean almost anything), the CSU may be able to ignore the cert, since the certifying school was non-conformant to the terms of the contract.
If this is true, then it's actually worse than pointless. The GE cert is silently worthless, creates a false sense of security and damages the student's chances of ever graduating (would YOU want to continue with school if you found out at the last minute that you had to take 30+ hours of freshman and sophomore-level classes all over again?). Removing the discretion of these schools to certify anything that reasonably fulfills GE requirements would castrate the certification process and I sincerely hope that this is not the case. I keep praying that someone made a mistake on my records and that I am an isolated incident, but I can't help but wonder why it has taken so long to correct, why nobody in evaluations seems to be talking, and why I have a nagging feeling that I've touched a nerve. I know for sure that a less conscientious (or at least less stubborn) student would have either rolled over and taken the extra classes or would have simply dropped out. I should at this point cut the melodrama a bit and put things into perspective. Depending on how I read the report on MySJSU, my case may have as little as one class at issue. While it is true that this may mean an extra semester for me (remembering that I work full time and am in school only part time), it's a drop in the proverbial bucket. Add to that the fact that I now have engaged the SJSU advising department, the ombudsperson, the Mission College articulation officer, and a number of people whose titles currently escape me and it seems that I'm making much ado about nothing. If it turns out that this was all a mistake, I'll look rather silly except for the facts that:
  • Nobody has been able to fix it thusfar, and if there is no fix, then
  • Nobody has been able to figure out what happened, nor if there is any rhyme or reason to this process, and
  • This process has been completely opaque. Since it directly affects when (or even if) someone graduates, the luxury of bureaucratic obfuscation is inappropriate here, and
  • Other schools make decisions and advise their students based on a blind (and perhaps inaccurate) understanding of this process.
If the CSUs can ignore GE certs for any reason, the community colleges and other schools that participate in the program MUST know what those reasons are or risk casting their students into an administrative nightmare. If the CSUs can't ignore such certs, then their records departments MUST follow policy and let those GE certifications stand. At risk is the college career of anyone who transfers from out-of-state or from most private schools to a CSU via a community college or other GE-certifying institution.
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Posted 2007-10-02 08:51:58

Sometimes you run into the most amazing sidewalk art: Someone Drew 'PooP' on the sidewalk.
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Posted 2007-08-28 01:36:03

I'm usually reminded of the amount of work I've done over the years when I spit out some process that only I would know off the top of my head, or when I fix something in seconds that would've taken anyone else hours (or sometimes months!). In short, I'm a pretty good SysAdmin, but it's taken tons of work to get here (and tons more to maintain). Physical activity, however, is not usually how I'm reminded of how much work it takes to make things seem effortless. Read more below... SJSU requires that everyone take two different "physical activity" classes to graduate. Unfortunately, my top picks (like bowling, archery, and fitness walking) were taken by the time my enrollment appointment rolled around. In fact, most of the choices available at the time were of the form "Advanced ______ball" or "Run Your ___ Off While People Laugh At You." While I'm sure I could use both the exercise and the forced humility, that's a bit of a large pill to swallow. So I signed up for the least of the available evils: self-defense. Fast-forward a couple of months and it dawned on me that the target demographic of such a class (intentional or otherwise) is likely to be 5-foot-nothing, sub-100-pound girls, and I would be the obvious class punching bag at 5-11 and 265lbs. "Nonsense," I scolded myself, "I'm just stereotyping and should really give the class a chance." So I did. And it was mostly full of 5-foot-nothing, sub-100-pound girls. I was at least 4 inches taller and 100lbs heavier than the nearest contender and therefore was the obvious class punching bag. When the instructor first glanced my way, I noticed a subdued, unmistakable glimmer in his eyes--he was trying desperately to hide it, but a giant bullseye was firmly affixed to my forehead. ...or more accurately, my crotch. And not in a good way. Week 7 or so, the syllabus noted that the techniques to be practiced included various ways of punishing your opponent via blunt force trauma to the dangly bits. In purest self-defense, I therefore fled with all due haste and eventually sought refuge in a nearby T'ai Chi class. T'ai Chi, if you're not familiar, is a Chinese martial art that bears a passing resemblance to both yoga and kung fu. It's practiced by people of all ages (including those of advanced age) and does wonders as a stress reducer and circulation/flexibility improver. It involves slow movement, various isometric exercises, and tightly controlled breathing. I'm grossly oversimplifying all that T'ai Chi is, but it's a start... And it's a lot harder than it looks. It takes a LOT of work to make it seem effortless, as I found out at length today. When I got out, I'd stretched my knees enough that they didn't really want to work normally while I walked back to my office, my legs hurt, and I was sweaty. All without getting winded whatsoever--T'ai Chi basically prevents this, and it's a bizarre feeling to have all the symptoms of a good workout without having to catch one's breath. Weird.
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Posted 2007-08-10 20:09:57

So I upgraded glibc. And rebooted. And schmong.org didn't come back up. A ticket to my provider later, and I have console access (nice). But it took most of the day to happen (not so nice). Anyway, I'm back, baby!
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Posted 2007-07-24 01:56:17

I last had golumpkies around 1988 or so, but I got a weird craving for them recently and decided to take the recipes I could find and meld them into something decent. The traditional recipe calls for roasting the stuffed cabbage leaves in tomato sauce (or boiling them in same), but that sounded icky. I decided instead to just steam the whole works in a standard bath (i.e. 1" of water, a steam tray, and a big pot). This made the flavor of the cabbage come to life and made for a relatively light dish (unlike most Eastern European fare). Ingredients: 1 head cabbage (you'll only be using about half of it--the outer shell mostly) 1 lb ground turkey 1 pkg Lipton beefy onion soup mix or similar 1 egg 2 tbsp minced garlic 3/4 c cooked brown rice (lower carbs, more fiber) 1/4 c bread crumbs 1/4 c catsup (could also use some diced tomatoes instead if you prefer) 1/2 tsp ground black pepper dash worcestershire sauce 1/2 tsp crushed caraway seeds if you want to be a bit more authentic. Procedure: Remove a dozen or so of the outer leaves of the cabbage. They need to be relative whole and unbroken, so be careful. Put those in a steamer basket and steam them on medium-high heat until they're nice and pliable. Leave the steamer on the stove (you'll need it later), but let the leaves cool for a while (so you can handle them). Combine everything else in a mixing bowl by hand (it's the only way to squish everything together nicely). It should be about the consistency of meatloaf. Take each cabbage leaf and put 2 oz or so of the mix into each leaf and wrap approximately like a burrito (cabbage doesn't wrap as well as tortillas do, so be easy on yourself here). Pop those back in the steamer and take it for a 20-minute steam or until the internal temp reaches 165.
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Posted 2007-07-24 01:27:28

I swear my inbox is getting weirder and weirder stuff in it. At least the penny stocks and anatomically-correct (and graphic) penis enlargement/viagra/horse tranquilizer ads I can deal with. These weirdo "come meet me online" ads are getting really strange. No really! Please to be meeting me online? I am being not native English speaker: first! You don't say. I would've never guessed. How do I get the feeling that you're a 419 scammer that just decided to try something new, since folks are hip to the 419 nowadays? If the enticement of millions of dollars doesn't work, let us try instead the fake, pretty woman from a semi-exotic land (this last one was from Argentina). The meeting of our souls will surely create an ecstasy of mateness. Ugh. At some point, this will stop working and those poor Nigerians will be forced to try bribing us with free Amway (or whatever they're calling themselves now). Anywho, here's the email for your viewing pleasure (names/urls/etc censored):
Hello, dear My goal is a serious relationship and I will do everything possible and impossible to build a strong and friendly family. I hope you are ready to be honest and I guess you can demand this from me too. I don't want to meet in the future and to find out that you are 150 cm higher than me or that your seventh child is entering college this year. I want to find out everything before the actual meeting. I know for sure that all misunderstandings and quarrels start from lie. Any important detail, anything which you think can spoil our relations should be discussed and in the future it will not influence us any moreā€¦It will be very kind of you if you answer me to http://someurl.url and will tell more about yourself. Please tell me about your plans for the future so that I could imagine what is waiting for me if we will be together. I am a serious lady, and I will give my heart to the man who will deserve it with honesty and respect to me. Looking forward to hear from you soon SomeFakeyWoman'sName
Should I respond? OK. If you insist:
Dearest Fakey McFakerson: My passion is first and foremost in my mind, that you might be a plausible woman with which I may have extended relations. The impossibility of which you speak is paramount; nay, extensible to the telescoping bereavement of the many small woodland creatures with which my 150cm of tree bark is heavenly. My chocolate member trembles with anticipation of your loving touch, for Easter candy always trembles in the heat of late July. For certain, lie is the genesis of all hate and I shall tolerate none of it whatsoever. You speak with the verity of 1.000 fishy beavers, covered in the saltwater of verisimilitude. I do not wish to cause undue influence on our future; she cannot handle such endeavors. Planning for the future is the most important kind of planning. I do it frequently by candle with a speculum and lubricated liberally with Australian wine. The shrubs of the high desert mock me as I do so, but it is not for them I pine--it is for that lonely woman for whom my brain throbs. I too am serious as the untalented mime or the rabid dog. For your unyielding devotion, I shall be as a sawblade that cuts through particle board--too heavy to move and yet unyielding to pressure. My commitment is serious, my tone divine, and my taint unbruised by chicken carcasses. Fare thee well, --me
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Posted 2007-07-10 15:19:02

So I read this article on CNN about a planned 640 acre (1 square mile) solar farm that is being built outside of Fresno. So I got to thinking: If one square mile generates 80 MW, the power requirements of the entire country could be supplied in about 1/3 the land area of Arizona. Click "read more" to see the calculations. According to the DoE, we use roughly 100 Quadrillion BTUs of energy in the US per annum. Google says that's about 10^20 Joules, or an average of 3 TW. If you can have 80 MW in one square mile, that means that 35000 square miles of solar farm would power the US. Arizona has about 120,000 square miles of land area, so this is about 30% of it. At least during the day. Presumably we could use hydro and other sources at night...
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