More On MyEconLab – Doing another study session so more bugs

Well, since contacting support is a non-starter, my only hope that some social shaming will get them to fix their crappy software.  To that end, I have a couple of more screen shots of broken questions.

You’ll notice that apparently, this question has some “questionable” math, when I can’t get their answer for some fairly simple division from anything.  560.25/95 – feel free to try it for yourself.  And this POS gives me my grades… seriously...

AnotherBrokenQuestion

This next gem isn’t even what I drew in their graphing tool… *sigh*  Apparently, it doesn’t play well with any browser consistently.  First, it crashed Chrome when I tried to install the plug in.  So I moved to IE.  The plug in didn’t work at all there.  So i tried Firefox, but now I can’t use the graphing tool from Firefox to answer questions so I’ve gone back to Chrome.  I finally got Chrome to work by installing the plugin from the Chrome store instead of the download from their website.

NotWhatIDrew

This next bit of loveliness is another “Question Impossible” since it won’t accept the right answer as being correct

Apparently130788NotReally130788

And to revisit the first “Question Impossible”, I tried it again with commas this time and it’s still telling me I’m wrong even though my answers, even though my answers match it’s helpful red box exactly. 

StillWrongEvenWithCommas

And round 3 of the same insanity, but I think I’ve found the error.  Either the forumla given is wrong, or they are making the same math error repeatedly.  I’ll highlight it in the screen shot.  You see when you subtract 1 – .01 to get .9 this is, according to the formula, supposed to be squared to yield .81 not remain at .9 :/

QuestionImpossible5

Pearson MyEconLab: Part 2

Ruby: Hi, my name is Ruby. How may I help you?
This Student: : Hi, there is a question that won’t take correct answers
File attachment upload has started.
The file StillWrongEvenWithCommas.PNG (79.79KB) was received.
This Student: : I have tried entering the data and even with the commas in it, it still tells me that I’m wrong.
This Student: : I’ve attached screenshots of both
Ruby: I am sorry for the inconvenience. I will be happy to assist you with that.
Ruby: What is your login name?
This Student: : I have another question that’s doing exactly the same thing.
This Student: : XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
Ruby: What is the course, class, or section ID your instructor provided?
File attachment upload has started.
The file Apparently130788NotReally130788.PNG (28.49KB) was received.
This Student: : The course ID in the URL is XXXXXXXXXXX
Ruby: What is your preferred email address?

This Student: : XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX is fine
Ruby: Thank you for the information.
Ruby: One moment please while I investigate the issue you are describing.
This Student: : Let me pull the rest of the screenshots off my facebook page
This Student: : I can give you all of them at once
Ruby: I am very sorry for what you are experiencing right now, but may I ask where you able to inform all these to your instructor?
This Student: : I did inform him that I was having problems with these questions. In addition, there is another quesstion that asks for FRED data, but doesn’t say which GDP data set to use :/
File attachment upload has started.
The file BadQuestion3.jpg (80.52KB) was received.
This Student: : This is a screenshot of another question that has issues. It’s not calculating correctly.
This Student: : FYI, there are a LOT of FRED GDP datasets. If you don’t know which one to pick, you’ll never get the right answer.
This Student: : All in all, I’ve found trying to use this to learn economics to be incredibly painful. I’m a graduate student (MBA) but my undergrad is hard science (biochemestry) so all this business stuff is new to me
This Student: : being told you’re wrong when you are not wrong is VERY confusing
Ruby: Yes I understand Student but you may need to contact your instructor to further assist you with the issue since your instructor who have setup the course including the questions into your quiz. Kindly provide a screenshot of the question where you encounter the issue, so your instructor would know the dispute for this particular content.
This Student: : So you’re not going to do anything to fix YOUR quesstions?
This Student: : seriously?
This Student: : Fine. I’m going to post this conversation to Facebook, Twitter, and my blog
Ruby: Sorry Student but instructors create those questions, homework’s, assignments and even discussions.
This Student: : No, they come from your book.

Pearson Academic Software, How do I hate thee, let me count the ways….

On top of the appalling, dreadful, nasty, crap-tastic steaming pile of code that I refuse to call software, the access fee for it is outrageous.  It’s almost $150.00 just for the access code.  That’s assuming you don’t have to buy book, cases, or anything else.  So, please, give your students a break.  I’ve seen semesters where my books topped $1000.00.  No one’s scholarships or tuition reimbursement plans cover that.  Very few grants will allow it.  About all you can do is take out a student loan or live on peanut butter and crackers for months to make it up.

If you are a professor at any higher ed institution and you truly hate your students, you can use any of the Pearson products like MyFinanceLab, MyMathLab, or my latest rant, MyEconLab.  I know what all the marketing puffery says on the Pearson website.  My experience is that… well… let’s just say I’m surprised they still have pants that haven’t burned up yet.  Some of it might have been true once up on a time, but my experience with this stuff has been HORRIBLE. If, after reading this, you deliberately chose to inflict this overpriced crap on your students, well, I don’t really have a word bad enough for you, which is saying something.

This is my second class with this Pearson MyLab & Mastering software and I have to say that “horrible” would probably be an upgrade from my current experience. 

It is incredibly frustrating and cannot possibly be beneficial to the educational experience.  As point of reference for you, I broke my femur and didn’t cry.  This software has frustrated me to the point of tears. I can’t use it in public because it involves a large amount of very “blue” vocabulary and the destruction of small, easily replaced items. Its wrong a lot but it tells you, student, that you are wrong.

I’m going to post some of my most recent examples.  I was a hard science undergrad (biochemistry) so dealing with these business concepts is new ground for me – much like dealing with stereo-isomers would be for you.  However, if you think that constantly being told you are wrong when you’re not while you’re trying to learn a new subject doesn’t 1) make the process harder than it has to be, 2) drive the frustration level through the roof, and 3 ) just generally piss someone one off, you shouldn’t be teaching. I had this crap as “MyFinanceLab” for my finance class.  I complained about it so much that finance professor thought I was being a big baby.   Unfortunately, I have had nothing BUT problems with this stuff.   I thought I’d gotten away from this particular bit hideousness when I got out of that class.  Imagine my shock when I find that my economics professor is going to use this.

The worst part is that we’re only 3 weeks into the class and this is what I have so far.  3 chapters and 3 homework assigments generated all this and I have some I haven’t posted yet. 

This time, however, I’m prepared.  I’m snapping screenshots showing all the stoopid things that software does. I swear this stuff is coded up by deranged monkeys who don’t have the sense god gave a grapefruit. I’m going to post some screen shots and explain what’s wrong with each one of them…

One asks me to look up some data and then plug in it before doing some calculations….  You’ll notice that my answers and the ones its asking for match exactly but I’m still “wrong”.    ImpossibleQuestion

This question asks me to draw a graph….  Do you see any differences between the one on the left and the one on the right?  Neither do I, but I’m still “wrong”.

BadSampleQuestion This one asked me to do some calculations and plug in some numbers….  Once again, I’m “wrong”…. YetAnotherBadQuestion -3

Even their help function is wrong.  It changes the numbers given in the question, but fails to update the answers and other things.

HelpWrong

In this one the help that’s provided isn’t related to this particular question. Here’s the question:

QuestionForUnrelatedHelp

And here’s the so-called “help”.  Note that, other than i, there is absolutely no mention of the variables we are presented in the question.  Because this help isn’t actually pertinent to this question.

UnrelatedHelp

This one is a real prize winner since the “right” option isn’t even offered. Note all of the options that you’re given to pick from.  First up the question:

QuestionForAnswerNotOffered

Now look at the “correct” answer…. Do you see it listed above?  Neither do I, which is why this one made the list….

AnswerNotOffered

Now I have this one…. Once again I’m wrong even though it’s the only answer offered that even approximates the “correct” answer.

ProductionFunctionQuestion

Oh, joy!  Another “wrong” graph…..  They don’t give you any numbers to graph in the question.  Apparently, I’m not doing so well because I’m not psychic and can’t pick the right distance between ND and ND2.  Has anyone here ever tried to draw a perfectly straight line with a mouse?  I thought I did pretty good…. *sigh* Did I mention that I’ve come to truly hate this company and everything they make? 

AntotherBadGraph

Ebola & My Tin Foil Hat

I’m not generally a big fan of conspiracy theories, but I feel the need to point out a few things.  We have not one but two federal agencies who have had their budgets cut severely for years.  If you were a federal agency and you wanted to get your budget back, what would the ideal scenario to accomplish that look like?

*whips out a big coal black Stetson and pops it on*

<Begin mode =”evil”>You know, I was think that if a really scary disease were to finally come to the US, it might shake those retards in Congress up and we might get our funding back.  I can’t bring it, or they’d crucify us. But if it just sort of showed up….  Hmmm…  *flips through Rolodex of nasty diseases*  What do I want to invite over?  Lemesee….  Smallpox?  No, we already had that and most of the older population is vaccinated.  Bubonic plague? No… that nearly wiped out humanity and caused the Dark Ages.  Nothing quite that severe…  What else do we have? SARS?  Um…no, that’s too contagious.  Dengue? Nah… mosquitoes might get it and we’d never get rid of it.  What else is left?  Oh, wait… this looks promising.  Not too contagious.  No insect vectors.  Just a few known animal vectors but the US isn’t exactly teeming with antelopes, gazelles, and gorillas.  The mortality rate is kind of high, but, hey, we can contain it.  We’re not out to actually hurt anyone.  We just need to give ’em a good scare.  Boys and girls, I think we have ourselves a winner.  It’s called Ebola.  Heck, its even been in the news lately since there’s a big epidemic of it in Africa.</End>

These two agencies chose to deliberately bring infected people into the continental US.  The VHF that they decided to bring in was Ebola.  Eric Duncan dies in an ill-equipped Dallas hospital 5 weeks after Kent & Nancy are released from their hospital stays.  Now, thanks to the mass confusion, 75 health care workers are home being monitored.  There are 2 more confirmed  cases – both nurses who cared for Eric Dunan.  Now, thanks to CDC approved travel plans by one of the nurses, that’s expanded to 131 people that shared a flight with her from Cleveland to Dallas.  It also adds anyone those 131 people have had contact with.  This particular nurse became symptomatic IN CLEVELAND, OH.  This adds everyone she had contact with in Cleveland to the quarantine/watch list.  48 (from Eric Duncan) + 75 + 131 + ????

  1. The “Ebola” nurse & doctor Kent Brantly & Nancy Writetbol were brought to the US, studied and treated before Eric Duncan (Patient 0E).  I’m calling him Patient 0E since Patient 0 was a flight attendant who brought AIDS to the US.
  2. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol are practically poster children for the Republican party while Eric Duncan, a Nigerian-born immigrant, is clearly not.
  3. There was no compelling reason to bring either of these individuals to the US for treatment.  You see we have these giant aircraft called C-130.  We don’t just have one or two of these things either. We have a lot of them. We could easily put an entire isolation ward and everything necessary to care for both of these people into C-130s and deliver it to most anywhere in the world… like Sierra Leone, Liberia, or Nigeria.
  4. Given the severity of the consequences, even the small possibility of an accident while transporting and treating Kent Brantly & Nance Writebol should have been flatly unacceptable to anyone with the sense God gave a grapefruit.
  5. These people had Ebola and not some other VHF.
    1. Ebola is not able to readily infect people who do not have direct contact with a sick person and/or their bodily fluids.  While it can be transmitted by some animals, these aren’t animals that are common to the US.  It also doesn’t seem to be transmitted by insects at all.  Ebola also has one of the lower mortality rates for a VHF.
  6. For the reasons below, “Viral Hemorrhagic Fevers” are a matter of national security.
    1. While Ebola’s 50% mortality rate is appalling, many of the other “Viral Hemorrhagic Fevers” are far worse with mortality rates exceeding 80%.
    2. You can’t catch Ebola just by being in a room with someone who has it.  Some of the viruses in this group are extremely contagious among humans.
    3. Many of the viruses in this group have a very high probability of “going native” should they ever reach the US.   This is because they are spread by insects, rats, mice, and other rodents (e.g. bats, muskrats, etc.)
    4. I think we’ve all seen how stunningly ineffective our collective efforts at controlling West Nile Virus have been.  While West Nile isn’t one of the “Viral Hemorrhagic Fevers”, it now roams freely through the native mosquito population.
    5. Some of the viruses in this group raise the specter of contaminating our food supply since they are spread by contact with, drinking milk from or eating an infected animal.  The animals affected are most primates (monkeys, gorillas, etc). horses, cows, goats, and pigs.  There is a limited body of evidence that dogs and cats may also be affected.
    6. There is a segment (IMHO a VERY stupid segment) of the population who actually wants to contract a horrible disease and survive it so that they can be famous.
    7. There is also the threat of bio-terrorism.  This group wants to contract the disease so that they can spread it to as many as possible in order to create an epidemic.
  7.  As a point of reference, the Dark Ages were brought on by the death of approximately 33% of the population of Europe due to the Bubonic Plague.  It took 15 centuries for Europe to recover from this.  In dealing with these diseases, we face the potential loss of two to three times that  percentage of the population.
  8. Another point of reference is the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918 which only had a mortality rate of about 2.5%.  In today’s dollars (adjusted for inflation, etc.), the economic costs were about $200 billion dollars.
  9. Given the gravity of the situation, I cannot help but think that our agencies are watching who is and who is not travelling to this country.

Notes on a Large svchost.exe

My computer very suddenly got really really slow. When I went to look svchost.exe was at nearly 2GB of RAM and 50% of my CPU.  I immediately thought I had a virus and ran through several virus, root kit and malware scans and got nothing.  I didn’t even find anything remotely suspicious.  For those of you who hit this blog looking for help, I’ll skip to the end of the story.  I stopped a service from Citrix  – wfcrun32.exe  – from starting on boot and rebooted.  This dropped my svchost.exe back into the realm of sanity. 

If you try this and it doesn’t work for you, keep reading.  One of the things that didn’t work for me might be your culprit. 

First off, my employer requires Microsoft Security Essentials. I don’t personally care for it.  It’s like most free things…. you get what you pay for, unless YOU happen to be the product.  In the case of Security Essentials, it’s a bit of both.  You are the product  – your data, your usage, your browsing habits, your code.  I personally hate it because it wants me to send all of the code that I write for my employer back to Microsoft “for analysis”. So I have it.  It scans once a week. I meet our mandated requirements for it, but no one said I have to trust it to be only line of defense. 

So I was using another product for my “real” protection – real time, email, web browser, etc.  Since neither of them are active at the same time, it was working quite well.  Well, it seems that Microsoft’s product suddenly took exception to that and this was contributing to my giant svchost.exe problem.

Next I set Superfetch to “Manual” and stopped the service.  This helped a little but still didn’t resolve my problem problem.  Since I’m on a static IP and a hardline, I disabled all the wireless and bluetooth services.  Again, this helped some but still not enough.  So I kept looking and lo and behold I found wfcrun32.exe chewing up my CPU and my RAM.

 

E-Cigarettes: Why We Should Keep Them: Part 3

The FDA is out to apply the same regulations to e-cigarettes that the tobacco companies operate under. Do I think you should be 18 or 21 to buy e-cigarettes and e-liquid?  Yes.  I think that’s common sense.  Should there be some kind of oversight into the flavorings and other additives?  Probably.  Again, I think that’s common sense.  Should there be standards for hygiene in the lab?  Yes, but look at what good that did the victims of the pharmacy who sold the contaminated injections.

Item #1 – I don’t really see the similarities.  One is a potentially lethal cocktail of carcinogenic and poison laced smoke that’s carefully crafted to keep the customer making purchases.  The other is way to quit smoking and eventually break a nicotine dependency.

Item #2 – The process to make them isn’t similar at all.  Tobacco is genetically engineered and grown in a field where it is sprayed with herbicides and pesticides which eventually end up in your cigarette.  E-liquid is blended in a lab from chemically produced nicotine.

Item #3 – Tobacco is taken and processed with additives like tolulene, formaldehyde, salt peter, ammonia and often worse.  E-liquid is blended with ingredients that are already approved for things like asthma inhalers.

Item #4 – If you’re going to do this with e-cigarettes, it needs to include ALL nicotine containing products.  I know too many people who quit smoking but now have a Nicorette habit.

Let’s take a close look at who’s pushing this.  Wait… Let me get my shocky face ready… It’s Big Tobacco.  Guess what’s been eating into their sales?  You got it… E-cigarettes.   This is just another lame attempt by an industry group to legislate and regulate themselves back into relevance once technology has passed them by.  It is EXACTLY the same thing that the Recording Industry Artists Association (RIAA) did with Napster when their lobbyists shoved the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) through Congress.

Don’t fool yourselves about Big Tobacco. They only thing they’re looking out for is that wallet.  Big Tobacco is about as dirty as you can get this side of Auschwitz.  Let’s take trip down memory lane or in this case, Big Tobacco’s history.   Big Tobacco told us that cigarettes were safe.  When that got debunked, it lied for decades and said that cigarettes weren’t addictive. Big Tobacco has been caught red handed marketing to children.  Big tobacco has been caught red handed tinkering with the ingredients to get and keep users hooked.

Allow me to describe Project SCUM to you.  Project SCUM was carried out fairly recently – during the 1990’s. This was the brain child of one of the biggest tobacco companies – R J Reynolds, the makers of Camel and Pall Mall, among others.  They decided to target specific communities like gays, because they didn’t like them and thought they could trick them into smoking.  Since these were “fringe groups” of society, they thought that no one would care.  The marketing was so selective that it’s been called a hate crime against certain communities.

Big tobacco has been busted for creating a secret spy organization to keep tabs on anti-smoking groups, their members, and their activities. While that does sound a bit over the top, you can google “Operation Berkshire” for more information.

Contrast this with the guys who live down the road from me and run my local vapor bar.  They blend most of the e-liquid they sell themselves.  They buy the best ingredients they can find. They test every batch themselves – on themselves.  Which one would you trust?

E-Cigarettes: Why We Should Keep Them: Part 2

In the red corner we have real cigarettes. Weighing in at 4000 various and mostly toxic compounds, these are made not just from tobacco, but a whole host of other things.  There are about 4000 different compounds in them besides just plain old tobacco.  Some are “flavorings”, others are meant to keep the “cherry” lit and hot, others are “filler” and others are just stuff off the tobacco leaves.  Some of these things are known carcinogens.  Others are known poisons.   Others, like tar, just damage your lungs.

In the blue corner we have e-cigarettes.  Weighing in at just 4 chemicals, we have e-cigarettes. E-cigarettes just have nicotine, water, polyethylene glycol (aka PEG) and vegetable glycerin. Nicotine, other than being addictive, isn’t any worse for you than caffeine.  There is even something called the “Smoker’s Paradox” because nicotine, on its own, actually prevents certain cancers.

Polyethylene Glycol sounds scary but it really isn’t.  It’s already approved for inhalation and is found as an “inactive ingredient” in most asthma inhalers, nebulizer treatments and a whole host of other products.  It’s used in eye drops, food, make up, and even baby wipes.

Vegetable glycerin is used in small quantities and is an inert ingredient that can be found in everything from injectable medications to lotion to baked goods.

E-cigarettes are better just from the “common sense” perspective simply because of what they are missing. No tar.  No carcinogens.  No poisons.