Wireless Speakers?

by Harry on December 12, 2010

My wife has asked for wireless speakers for Christmas, for using an ipod or ipad with. I’ve looked through some of these options at amazon and, frankly, I’m clueless. I want speakers that are easy to set up, not too fancy or expensive, but reliable. Something like my Sanyo Internet Radio (much admired by my teenage daughter’s friends) that even I managed to set up in 5 minutes flat. I assume that our least tech-savvy reader is more tech-savvy than I, so I thought you might be able to give advice.

The Haunted Man

by John Holbo on December 12, 2010

The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain

Tis the season for posting more original Dickens Christmas story illustrations to Flickr. I just put up a set for “The Haunted Man”, which is, in addition to being a nicely gothic sort of affair – such as suits the season – another nice illustration of Henry’s point that sf has its roots in the ‘condition of England’ novel. “The Haunted Man” is about a mad scientist who finds a way to erase from his own memory all the sorrows and wrongs he has suffered. And: the effect is contagious. Those he touches have their memories erased as well. Of course it turns out to be a terrible idea. “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and all. (But a lot more sentimental.) The only one who is immune to the effect is a boy – a feral child. Furthermore, this feral child is, as it were, a morlock rising. A harbinger of a feral race to follow. But there’s a happy ending!

Tell it that way and it sounds like some sort of sf scenario. The mad science-y atmosphere is indeed well conjured: [click to continue…]

How should students address professors?

by Harry on December 12, 2010

Well, prompted by the various criticisms of my practice described in this post on 75 Tips for Getting a Better Education I asked my current crop of freshman students what they think. Some answers below the fold (these do not make things easier). Entirely coincidentally I read this amazing paper about reducing the gender achievement gap in science courses, and it made me wonder whether the this issue (addressing professors) has more significance than I have thought.
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Gifts For Kids

by John Holbo on December 12, 2010

As the father of two moderately manga-mad little girls, I have some X-Mas recommendations. First, Manga Studio is a drawing/comics application that kids can really use and enjoy. At the moment, Amazon is selling the Debut version at the low, low price of $9.99. That won’t last. [UPDATE: nor did it.] If you want to know more, here’s an interesting, 90 minute tutorial from Dave “Watchmen” Gibbons. A good introduction. If you just want to watch him make something neat, go here. Word to the wise: you can’t use this sort of application without some sort of graphics tablet.

Might as well recommend a couple books while I’m at it. A lot of how-to-draw-manga books are not really age appropriate for a 6-year old and a 9-year old. But two by Christopher Hart have been a big hit in our house: Manga for the Beginner: Everything You Need to Start Drawing Right Away!; and Manga for the Beginner, Chibis: Everything You Need to Start Drawing the Super-Cute Characters of Japanese Comics [amazon]. Christopher Hart has published a ton of how-to-draw books. A lot of them aren’t good, in my opinion. But these two hit the spot.

A question for you: I read quite a bit of manga; my daughters, not so much. They draw the stuff day and night but don’t read it. American stuff like Amulet and Bone and Tiny Titans is what they like (influenced by manga, but not manga). The Japanese stuff, with few exceptions, is hard for them. This is even the case when the titles are ridiculously ‘easy’, like Happy Happy Clover (bunnies having fairly quiet adventures, in case you couldn’t guess.) They find the panel layouts baffling and hard to follow. This isn’t just the right-left problem. I tend to agree that it all seems oddly cluttered, given the intended audience. I wonder whether Japanese tots are hyper-literate when it comes to tracing a not-so-obvious line through a series of panels. What do your little girls like to read these days?

While we’re feeling gloomy …

by John Quiggin on December 12, 2010

… let’s look ahead beyond 2012. Based solely on the likely rate of unemployment, the odds are against Obama being re-elected. As Jeff Madrick points out, the odds against a presidential re-election are long whenever the unemployment rate is above 7 per cent, and that’s a virtual certainty. There are other economic variables that reliably affect voting behavior, such as income growth, but they are just as negative. And it’s hard to see anything positive in the current political dynamic.

On the information we have at present, any Republican candidate other than Palin will have very good odds of winning. But there is also a fair chance that Palin will get the Republican nomination, despite her high negative ratings outside the Republican base. That would give Obama his best chance, but still no guarantee.

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