New Discoveries

Dell USB.  There all the time!
This fall, I discovered that the Dell flat-panel monitor in my office had two USB jacks on the side.  It operated as a USB hub.  Neato!  No more rooting around under my desk to plug in my flash drive.  To my chagrin, I’ve just discovered that the Dell flat-panel monitor on my desk at home, which I’ve had since August of 2004, has the same feature.

A holiday cooking tip

Humble Stumble

Word to the wise: Hazelnuts, when sold by themselves, come in small packages and are labeled Fillberts.

So my question is, does the author of The Humble Stumble assume the audience knows this fact or doesn’t know this fact?

It’s that time again

Miracle on 34th Street
For you long time readers of Digital Sextant, it’s common knowledge that I love A Miracle on 34th Street and mark the beginning of the holiday season by watching it each year. Each year I find a few new things to appreciate about the film. This year I noticed a few small things that hadn’t caught my attention before.

  • When Fred leaves the Judge’s office and Sawyer chats with the DA, we see a pencil-sharpener on the wall opposite the door, holes facing the camera. Who put that sharpener there? I have to assume it was a studio set, so some set designer decided a pencil sharpener would work there, but it’s not at all convenient for the secretaries, who would need to stand in front of the judge’s door to sharpen their pencils.
  • The judge’s political adviser enters the courtroom with a cigar in his mouth. When the baliff stops him, he taps the end with his finger tip to show that it isn’t lit. Contrarily, Fred Bailey has one last cigarette (after he brushes his teeth) before he goes to bed. It smolders in the ash tray while Kris reveals that cold air makes whiskers gggrrrow.
  • When Mr Shellhammer invites Kris downtown to meet the mayor, Kris says “Good! Look forward to meeting him. I have a few things I want to talk over with him.” We never learn what Kris was going to say to the Mayor.
  • Santa Claus plays Checkers.
  • The moment when Kris sings with the Dutch girl is perhaps the most affective moment in film history. I wonder how many modern viewers understand the oblique reference to the fact that the child’s parents were killed in World War 2.
  • Every year, I’m amused by the fact that Mr. Shellhammer’s wife is such a battleaxe that he can only convince her of things when he gets her plast–er, “feeling gay.”

On Scaring Away students

Dawn of the Dead
When I was a graduate student, I tried a couple strategies early on to let students know how challenging my classes were going to be–the goal, of course, being to scare away students and thus leave myself with a smaller class. I quickly learned that scared-away students were just replaced with other students who had been scared away from other classes but now missed the other information I included in my opening day schpiel.

So I switched tactics and have, for a long time, used the first day as an honest, friendly, welcoming presentation of the work we plan to do with the goal of keeping most of the students and only losing the ones for whom the class really won’t be a good fit.

With my j-session course, though, I’ve tried a new tactic. Since the class will only be 14 days long, I don’t want to waste a day on “what this class is going to be” and have to start again on the next day. Since it will be particularly rigorous, however, I also want to give fair warning to the folks who sign up. Thus, I’ve started emailing the students who sign up with a note saying how awesome the class will be, but also how challenging it will be:
Continue reading On Scaring Away students

Work from home! (OR: Will you launder our money for us?)

My good friend Lakeisha Bernard writes:

1. Receive the correspondence from our clients to your home address and ship it further according to our manager’s instructions;
2. Report to our manager of every delivered parcel or of every received check (every candidate will be included in managers lists)
3. Repack received items following the instructions our manager will send to you.
4. Receive money from our company for shipping and payment for each shipped out package. Money transfer method described below. we offer $24 for each shipped out box and 5% of each Money Order.
It would be better if you cash checks at a cashing locations rather than in a bank.
5. Fill in the forms and papers as it will be shown in our managers instructions (you will receive an e-mail instruction for each box).
6. Ship the package out using the specified shipping method (at this moment we mainly use EMS. Every USPS office can ship it with EMS Global Express/)
7. Receive and cash Money Orders and Cashiers Checks.
8. Transfer the money by Western Union to our company (our manager will give you the transfer address).
9. Check your e-mail 5-6 times a day

I’ll pass, Lakeisha.

Making game-work count


When I told my colleague Dave about the elaborate and immense work being done by players of Urban Dead in meta-game forums and other places, he lamented that it would be great if we could put that creative energy toward some useful end. While I don’t agree that creative energy spent in pursuit of pleasure is, automatically, wasted, I understand the sentiment. It’s the same complaint that Steven Johnson offers about our educational system: SimCity teaches little Johnny about things (like citywide tax structures) that he would revolt from in class.

So what if game companies, following the lead of South Korean MMOs and Sony Online, began their own regulated money-marketplace for exchanging in-game objects. And what if, alongside the normal options for trading common among such sites, they included a “give to charity” link like Bookmooch does? I bet there are a fair number of gamers like me who don’t see their in-game property as anything more than accumulated stuff. I don’t really use my in-game money, so I might be inclined to give it to a charity who could convert it to real-world donations. In the end, then, my pleasurable gaming would translate to real-world aid.

Is that really the joke???

Dilbert comic 2006 11 23

I know the topper’s a liar, so he didn’t do anything, but I couldn’t help thinking about the comment he’s making here. Why would the last 300 stop saying it was unlikely he was going to strangle them? How could they know about the first 600? I think he is implying he was a guard at an Abu-Ghraib-like prison, and that the 900 prisoners watched him strangle each, one by one.

They’re coming! Oh God! They’re coming!

My zombie course, Zombies in Popular Media, has officially received the green light for J-session 2007. Woot.

Drives me CRAZY


(Click on the image to get to the image page,
then click on it again to see it full size)

With all the decidedly liberal comics in the paper (ala Doonesbury and Opus), I try to balance my natural sinister leanings with Prickly City, which pokes fun at both sides of the aisle but comes down on the conservative more often than not. But while Doonesbury makes some jokes that are clever and some jokes that are stupid, it rarely includes jokes that are nonsensical. Prickly City, on the other hand, often includes ideas that are intended to be funny, but just send my rational mind reeling.

Usually these jokes involve the coyote (the Colmes to the girl’s Hannity) saying something conservatives have characterized as Liberal claptrap. Then the girl makes a statement like the one in panels three and four that is MEANT to be a witty rejoinder but usually leaves me saying, “Um. No.” Coyote, though, says “Yikes, you’ve bested me.”

The biggest puzzle to me is what the author THINKS the meaning of the argument is. In this comic, for example, what fear is the coyote playing on? The calls for being security minded obviously play on a fear–the fear of being blown up–even though we tend to over-emphasize how likely that fear is of being played out. What fear is the coyote mongering? The fear of media savvy? The fear of critical attention to the PR machines of the political process? Seriously? I want to know.

As I reread this comic, though, I wonder if I’m underestimating Stantis. In fact, I feel very much like panel 5. Perhaps the Stantis realizes the ludicrousness of panel 4 and is expressing not “touche” but “wtf?!” in panel 6. The girl, of course, believes she’s delivered a brilliant coup-de-grace. No, I don’t credit this comic with intentional double-readings.