April 18, 2007

Some campus staff members recieve e-mail notice about bomb threat as late as 3:14

Well, it's too late to dig a well when you're already thirsty.

I've been thinking about emergency response mechanisms for data distribution all day, only to find a real life situation in the afternoon. I'm angry and upset about it, so I did what I could do--blog about the emergency and try to track how the news articles emerged on Google news. I'm interested how the flow of information actually reaches our community at present. In part, because this is such a large campus and it just seems that we need to take the matter seriously and leverage emerging technologies to our advantage. I'm also interested in this, because data delivery is a large part of what I do here and I've been brainstorming with some of the campus' brightest all afternoon on how to quickly implement a next-gen emergency-data delivery system on campus. I didn't think we'd need it this afternoon.

It was instructive that I could get news from Jerusalem before KARE 11 picked up the story on their site, for example.

Tracking how the news unfolded on Google was actually very edifying. I found that there was a 20-30 minute lag between when articles became available online and when they were picked up by my news aggregator. That's disturbing and it underscores the need for an in-house "push" system for data delivery.

Although we're not relying on e-mail to evacuate buildings, one of my colleagues only received an e-mail about the campus emergency at 3:14, roughly two hours since the emergency was announced. This is two hours after the emergency began.

I was discussing emergency data transmission procedures today via e-mail with the Innovation Fellows board on campus, and there are some very good ideas out there about how we can more effectively propagate information to the campus than we are presently doing. We're looking at incorporating push technologies, possibly video and almost certainly IM to cell phones for these sorts of events. I find it particularly frustrating that although there is a sense of urgency, the matter could get bound up in politics.

What I propose is that the central X.500 directory tools page at the University, where UMN students, staff and alumni set up their directory information (http://www.umn.edu/dirtools) contain a form where UMN community members and register a cell phone number. During emergencies, messages could be sent automatically to any cell phone numbers which are subscribed for emergency notifications. Students could put their parents' phone numbers down for emergency notification as well. Then, when we have emergencies on campus, we can broadcast messages over IM to anyone subscribed.

Additional benefits of such a system would involve password resets--when people forget their passwords, they could go to a page to have a new password assigned and sent via IM to their cell phone. I can open up an Instant Messenger client right now and send my cell phone number a message.

As always, these are my ideas, opinions and thoughts. They're not "official" by any means, and don't reflect the views of the University of Minnesota, the Board of Regents, etc. Everyone stay safe out there.

Also, with that said, I hope the police catch whoever did this, and if it's a student, I hope he or she gets expelled and tried in the criminal courts.

FOX News reports on Northrop Mall bomb threat

FOX News reports on Northrop Mall bomb threat

  1. Bomb Threat at University of Minnesota - 22 minutes ago as of 15:42:45

AP Newswire finally picks up story on Northrop Mall bomb threat

Houston Chronicle, Forbes, Town Hall DC, St. Cloud Times all report on Northrop Mall Bomb threat:

  1. 7 UMinn buildings evacuated after threat - 31 minutes ago

  2. Seven UMinn buildings evacuated after bomb threat - 31 minutes ago
  3. It looks like these news outlets are pulling down an A.P. newsfeed. The initial report was issued at 1:15. The Minnesota Daily had an article at about 2:10, and the A.P. finally begins broadcasting the story through portal outlets at about 3:37

USA today reports emerge about Northrop bomb threat

USA Today has issued a report on the Northrop Auditorium Bomb threat.

  1. 7 U. Minn. buildings evacuated after threat - 27 minutes ago as of 15:24:37

KARE, Minnesota reports on Northrop Mall Bomb threat

KARE, MN now has reports about the bomb threat on the Northrop Campus.

  1. U of M evacuates buildings - 43 minutes ago, as of 15:22:27

Jerusalem Post reports on this afternoon's Northrop Mall bomb threat

The Jerusalem post has reported on the Northrop Mall bomb threat:

  1. Minnesota University evacuated after bomb threat - 18 minutes ago as of 15:14:54

KTTC and West Central Tribune report in on the Northrop Bomb Threat

Two more newspapers have reports published on this afternoon's Twin Cities bomb threat and evacuation. They are listed below:

  1. KTTC - Portions of U of M Evacuated, 30 minutes ago
  2. West Central Tribune - Seven UMinn buildings evacuated after bomb threat, 30 minutes ago

MPR.org article on UMN Twin Cities Bomb Threat

Minnesota Public Radio posted an article at this afternoon's Northrop Mall bomb threat and evacuation of the Northrop Mall area.

  1. U of M evacuates buildings after bomb threat

WCCO Article on UMN Twin Cities Bomb Threat

WCCO posted an article at about 2:20PM on their site about today's bomb threat on the Northrop Mall. I found it while performing a google news search for "Northrop Mall". "University of Minnesota" did not yield any news results about the bomb threat or evacuation. Here's the WCCO article:

7 'U' Buildings Evacuated Due To Threat

Bomb threat on UMN Twin Cities Campus

http://www.umn.edu reports the following:

Seven buildings on the East Bank campus are in the process of being evacuated due to a bomb threat. They include: Kohltoff, Smith, Frasier, Johnston and Morrill Halls as well as Walter Library and the Science Classroom Building. All classes and meetings in these buildings have been canceled for the remainder of the day. Students are asked to return to their residence halls or their off-campus housing. Please do not congregate in the Mall area.

2:30 PM - Minnesota Daily Article appears

The Minnesota Daily has published an article about the bomb threat and evacuation of the Northrop Mall area. It can be located at http://www.mndaily.com/bomb_threat.htm

April 03, 2007

Local company seeks Agile Flex / SOAP UI Guru

This might be the job you're looking for. Local business seeks a "UI God" with a background in Agile software development, SOAP, AJAX, Flex and web technologies. Full time position, by the looks of it. If you're interested, drop me a line and I'll Link You In.

March 22, 2007

The Great Global Warming Swindle

'Global Warming Is Lies' Claims Documentary
Sunday, 4th March 2007, 11:04 (Life Style Extra)

Accepted theories about man causing global warming are "lies" claims a controversial new TV documentary.

'The Great Global Warming Swindle' - backed by eminent scientists - is set to rock the accepted consensus that climate change is being driven by humans.

The programme, to be screened on Channel 4 on Thursday March 8, will see a series of respected scientists attack the "propaganda" that they claim is killing the world's poor.

Even the co-founder of Greenpeace, Patrick Moore, is shown, claiming African countries should be encouraged to burn more CO2.

Nobody in the documentary defends the greenhouse effect theory, as it claims that climate change is natural, has been occurring for years, and ice falling from glaciers is just the spring break-up and as normal as leaves falling in autumn.

A source at Channel 4 said: "It is essentially a polemic and we are expecting it to cause trouble, but this is the controversial programming that Channel 4 is renowned for."

Controversial director Martin Durkin said: "You can see the problems with the science of global warming, but people just don't believe you - it's taken 10 years to get this commissioned.

"I think it will go down in history as the first chapter in a new era of the relationship between scientists and society. Legitimate scientists - people with qualifications - are the bad guys.

"It is a big story that is going to cause controversy.

"It's very rare that a film changes history, but I think this is a turning point and in five years the idea that the greenhouse effect is the main reason behind global warming will be seen as total bollocks.

"Al Gore might have won an Oscar for 'An Inconvenient Truth', but the film is very misleading and he has got the relationship between CO2 and climate change the wrong way round."

One major piece of evidence of CO2 causing global warming are ice core samples from Antarctica, which show that for hundreds of years, global warming has been accompanied by higher levels of CO2 in the atmosphere.

In 'The Great Global Warming Swindle' Al Gore is shown claiming this proves the theory, but paleoclimatologist Professor Ian Clark claims in the documentary that it actually shows the opposite.

He has evidence showing that warmer spells in the Earth's history actually came an average of 800 years before the rise in CO2 levels.

While Prof Clark fully acknowledges that recent increases in atmospheric CO2 are anthropogenic, he just doesn't see any evidence that the man-made increases of CO2 are driving temperature change.

Scientists in the programme also raise another discrepancy with the official line, showing that most of the recent global warming occurred before 1940, when global temperatures then fell for four decades.

It was only in the late 1970s that the current trend of rising temperatures began.

This, claim the sceptics, is a flaw in the CO2 theory, because the post-war economic boom produced more CO2 and should, according to the consensus, have meant a rise in global temperatures.

The programme claims there appears to be a consensus across science that CO2 is responsible for global warming, but Professor Paul Reiter is shown to disagree.

He said the influential United Nations report on Climate change, that claimed humans were responsible, was a sham.

It claimed to be the opinion of 2,500 leading scientists, but Prof Reiter said it included names of scientists who disagreed with the findings and resigned from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and said the report was finalised by Government appointees.

The CO2 theory is further undermined by claims that billions of pounds is being provided by governments to fund greenhouse effect research, so thousands of scientists know their job depends on the theory continuing to be seen as fact.


The programme claims efforts to reduce CO2 are killing Africans, who have to burn fires inside their home, causing cancer and lung damage, because their Governments are being encouraged to use wind and solar panels that are not capable of supplying the continent with electricity, instead of coal and oil-burning power stations that could.

Nigel Calder, a former editor of New Scientist, is featured in the programme, and has just released a book claiming that clouds are the real reason behind climate change.


'The Chilling Stars' was written with Danish scientist Henrik Svensmark who published a scientific paper, claiming cosmic rays cause clouds to form, reducing the global temperature. The theory is shown in the programme.

Mr Calder said: "Henrik Svensmark saw that cloudiness varies according to how many atomic particles are coming in from exploded stars - when there are more cosmic rays, there are more clouds (BBC).

"However, solar winds bat away many of the cosmic rays (Stanford University) and the sun is currently in its most active phase (BBC), which would be an explanation for global warming.

"I am a science journalist and in my career I have been told by eminent scientists that black holes do not exist and it is impossible that continents move, but in science the experts are usually wrong.

"For me this is a cracking science story - I don't come from any political position and I'm certainly not funded by the multinationals, although my bank manager would like me to be.

"I talk to scientists and come up with one story, and Al Gore talks to another set of scientists and comes up with a different story.

"So knowing which scientists to talk to is part of the skill. Some, who appear to be disinterested, are themselves getting billions of dollars of research money from the Government.

"The few millions of dollars of research money from multinationals can't compare to government funding, so you find the American scientific establishment is all for man-made global warming.

"We have the same situation in Britain The government's chief scientific advisor Sir David King is supposed to be the representative of all that is good in British science, so it is disturbing he and the Government are ignoring a raft of evidence against the greenhouse effect being the main driver against climate change."

The programme shows how the global warming research drive began when Margaret Thatcher gave money to scientists to 'prove' burning coal and oil was harmful, as part of her drive for nuclear power.

Philip Stott, professor emeritus of biogeography at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London who also features in the film, warned the issue was too complex to be down to one single factor, whether CO2 or clouds.

He said: "The greenhouse effect theory worried me from the start because you can't say that just one factor can have this effect.

"The system is too complex to say exactly what the effect of cutting back on CO2 production would be, or indeed of continuing to produce CO2.

"It's ridiculous to see politicians arguing over whether they will allow the global temperature to rise by 2C or 3C."

Mr Stott said the film could mark the point where scientists advocating the greenhouse effect theory, began to lose the argument.

He continued: "It is a brave programme at the moment to give excluded voices their say, and maybe it is just the beginning.

"At the moment, there is almost a McCarthyism movement in science where the greenhouse effect is like a puritanical religion and this is dangerous."

In the programme Mr Calder said: "The greenhouse effect is seen as a religion and if you don't agree, you are a heretic."

He added: "However, I think this programme will help further debate and scientists not directly involved in global warming studies may begin to study what is being said, become more open-minded and more questioning, but this will happen slowly."

Copyright © 2006 National News +44(0)207 684 3000

November 30, 2006

Welcome Back, Purple Onion

The Purple Onion coffee shop, former home of many a recluse and midnight mathematician, is back online at their new location on 14th and University. I'd like to welcome them back with open arms. The new place looks quite a bit more spiffy than their former arrangement--which in truth was a few years overdue for incineration. We didn't call it the "Grungy Bunion" for nothing. I look forward to seeing the old crowd there on weekends and evenings--Joe with his Loeb editions, Baraki and his underappreciated poetic fervor, and various other displaced forces in the Dinkytown culture. You know who you are, O venerable fixtures of style and grit.

A cafe like the Purple Onion glues a community together in a way no Potbelly's could ever hope to do. Other places, like the Starlight and Espresso Royale did their best to catch the overflow, but the last days of the old Onion really were a high water mark in the culture of Dinkytown. Hopefully the new location will foster a fresh spin on the old haunt, that grizzled battleship, elder matron of dressed-down haute couture.

February 13, 2006

Remembering Ragin Miller

Ragin Miller Westerlund

My roommate, John Ragin Miller, a man of acid wit and cynical humor, died one year ago today. It was Monday, February 14, 2005. Ragin, whom I sometimes called "Johnny Ray-Gun" was 30 years old when he died of, among other things, complications from his long battle with diabetes. Those other things include untreated acute and chronic depression, poverty, frequent alchohol use, and a street "counterculture" completely devoid of the power to instill hope and promise to a young man in dire straits.

Those who knew him will agree that he died of a broken heart. When a man's heart breaks, romantic love is only the first thing to go. The weight of debt, poverty, sickness and anger can drive one beyond dispair, and break the very will that makes us human. I believe that Ragin expressed his will in his spirited and blistering wit, but that it failed in the end to keep him afloat.

Ragin, despite his many troubles, was a talented actor and critic, with a sense of irony that far outstrips that of most people. Moreover, he possessed an ability to acknowledge and directly confront the uglier aspects of human life. I count my conversations with him during his lucid moments among the most rewarding of my life.

Ragin was a terror in the kitchen. He was a gifted cook, and he employed his encyclopaedic memory to excellent use in his distinctly southern cuisine. His tyrannical manners in the kitchen only contributed to his charm. He was a proud American from beneath the Mason-Dixon line, a fact he never let his "Damned Yankee" roommates forget.

I can't say enough about Ragin. He remains unforgettable. Today, one year after his death, I wish to remember him and send my warm regards to his mother and father.

Requiem Eternitum, Ragin.

Ragin Miller Westerlund

January 11, 2006

How to obfuscate your UMN e-mail address on your weblog.

If you want people to be able to contact you at the University of Minnesota (or anywhere else, for that matter), but don't want to broadcast your e-mail address to all of the spam robots in the entire world, you might find this little script I wrote this morning very useful.

All you have to do is enter your x500 ID (Also called your Internet ID) in the appropriate spot (mine's listed in the example below as "saintx"), and drop this code snippet into your site template, then you'll be able to display your e-mail address on the website without giving it up to the robots. This is written in JavaScript, which means that your e-mail address won't be reassembled until the webpage loads in the user's browser. Most web crawlers aren't equipped to preprocess JavaScript programs, but only crawl over the HTML for the site.

In any case, here's the code. I've made it available under a very good Open Source License, which is similar to the ASF 2.0 license, so commercial users can write derivatives of it and use it in their software products. I hope it's useful!


Continue reading "How to obfuscate your UMN e-mail address on your weblog." »

January 10, 2006

stylecatcher hints for UMN users

As you can see, I've been doing some work with the style of my weblog here at the University. I've noticed some things about the stylecatcher plugin which are worth noting to our users.

First, if you want to browse skin categories from the sixapart page (http://www.sixapart.com/movabletype/styles/library) in the stylecatcher, you have to manually enter the addresses as follows:

  • for Pale Palettes, type "http://www.sixapart.com/movabletype/styles/library/pale_palettes" in the URL field.
  • for Cool Colors, type "http://www.sixapart.com/movabletype/styles/library/cool_colors" in the URL field.
  • etc.

Also, I found instructions for adding the calendar to the base template, which I'd also like to share. Use this updated template for your Main Index template in order to show your calendar:

The views and opinions expressed in this page are strictly those of the page author. The contents of this page have not been reviewed or approved by the University of Minnesota.