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{ Category Archives } How things work

Dyson vacuum brush won’t turn

Another in our series of technical posts for specific problems.  Enjoy. We put vacuum cleaners through the meat grinder over here, what with two cats and a dog and two active children.  Anyhow, our Dyson FancyPants™ vacuum wasn’t working very well, so we went to work on it.  First, we discovered that one of the […]

Overt symbolism and doppelganger daddies

In watching Jumanji with my kids last week, I realized (belatedly) that Jonathan Hyde plays both Sam Parrish and the creepy man hunter Van Pelt.  This got me thinking about a similar move made by the creators of the recent live-action Peter Pan film, to have Jason Isaacs play both Mr. Darling and Captain Hook. In […]

On being a f’rigner

While I do (or did) have a reasonable facility reading French, I was never very good at speaking it.  I never took the leap to spend much time speaking it nor did I travel to any French-speaking countries where I had to make do and learn to do it well.  Truth be told, I’m a […]

Teaching as extreme improvisation

RadioLab’s recent short, TJ and Dave, focuses on two actors whose show consists of a 50-minute improvisation with no groundwork set to start it.  Here’s the story, in case you think it sounds neat. As they talked about the experience, the actors discuss the joy of being in the place, of letting the work guide […]

Them: Adventures with Extremists

Them: Adventures with Extremists by Jon Ronson It’s a little disconcerting how close Ronson gets to very scary people in this book.  But his point, I think, is that even the very scary people are just people.  Them details Ronson’s journey into the late 1990s and early 2000s subculture of conspiracy theorists, people who believe […]

Call to the Lazy Web: Virtual Library Shelf

I’ve often lamented to my classes that the Internet has not yet come up with the electrate equivalent of the library shelf.  Denizens of the library recognize the collectors’ delight in the surprising find, the book that’s near the one we wanted but not directly related to it.  It might be two shelves up, or […]

How to email about a problem

I’ve seen this from both sides within the last few days.  I’ll use my own example as the “questioner” and let you extrapolate. When you email someone about a problem to be solved, you should include enough information that an additional exchange of emails is not necessary.  Here’s my example: Situation: After Avery’s Girl Scout […]

Highlights from the first day of class

The first day of Spring semester went well.  I think I managed to bring the right level of enthusiasm and interest to the class while simultaneously doing enough intellectual work on the first day to develop an idea for the students of what we’ll do in the course.   A few words about my teaching persona: […]

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West written by Dee Brown, narrated by Grover Gardner Brown’s history the years between 1850 and 1900 (or thereabouts) documents the brutal genocide of band after band of Native Americans (whom the book calls Indians as was common in 1970) by whites who […]

Panic! The Story of Modern Financial Insanity

by Michael Lewis; narrated by Jesse Boggs and Blair Hardman Panic! examines the recent history of financial scares and how Wall Street deals with them.  Starting with the 1987 (88?) crash during which Lewis was working at Soloman Brothers (and from which he wrote Liar’s Poker), Lewis traces out the causes, effects, and nature of several […]

Email and conflict resolution

A couple quick thoughts regarding email or other asynchronous digital media and conflicts among colleagues. 1. MISSING CUES: We’ve all experienced “over-reading,” in which someone misinterprets, in the worst way they can, the email we’ve sent.  This often causes them to over-react back at us and a vicious circle begins.  As a reader, it seems […]

Well that was unexpected

Check out the bottom left option in this “related to I Sell the Dead” screen.  Weird, eh? I suspect all Chaz Palmenteri or Drea de Matteo films end up in the zombie list, just because.

The coming wave of consumer-created media

My friend Rolfe reminded me of a good exchange about copyright that I encourage you all to read.  Three key posts: It started with Emily White’s post at the NPR All Things Considered blog: But the truth is, I’ve never supported physical music as a consumer. As monumental a role as musicians and albums have […]

Which god do you listen to?

I don’ t know where this post it going.  I suppose the alternate title could be “Random thoughts on evil, Hell, and the religious questions thereabouts.” Also could be “blogging when I should be doing other things.” 1. Constructing Hells In Surface Detail, Iain M. Banks imagines a post-singularity future in which digital upload was […]

Profiting from Death (part 2)

Yesterday, I wrote about a This American Life episode in which investor Joseph Caramadre was profiled after he found a way to make a profit from an insurance company loophole that allowed him to protect his investment until someone died. Check out “Profiting from Death” The second argument against this goes to a bigger question […]