February 29, 2004

A Day in the Life: Leap Day

After stumbling across it at Mac's, I've decided to participate in the A Day in the Life: Leap Day project. That being said, I'll be adding new photos to this entry hourly (or thereabouts) throughout the day. You can click on the images for a larger view and hover over them for descriptions.

And that, my friends, was Leap Day 2004.

Posted by Jess at 11:15 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack


I just found out that Kara has joined in on the Day in the Life fun. Oddly enough, one of Kara's photos shows her viewing this site. To add an extra layer of hand-drawing-a-hand trippiness to the whole affair, here's a photo of me viewing Kara's photo of her viewing my photos:

I think I have a headache now.

Posted by Jess at 04:05 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Speaking of witchcraft...

Interested in harnessing eldritch forces for personal gain, but just don't feel like leaving the comfort of your computer chair? Apparently, some people are, and that's where SpellKaster comes into play. Drawing upon the awesome power of radionic energy ("the powerful vibrational forces that flow throughout our universe"), the makers of SpellKaster claim that their innovative software can cast spells to help you achieve wealth, romance, and good luck. It can even be used to inflict misery and retribution on your enemies -- all for the low, low price of $97 (available for Windows operating systems only)!

Posted by Jess at 12:33 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 28, 2004

A Wiccan, a Naturist, and a Voodoo Priestess walk into a bar...

Remember back when reality television pretty much just consisted of sticking a bunch of quasi-attractive people in a house and filming them for a few months? Back then, there were no immunity challenges, no bachelors, no bachelorettes, no littlest grooms, no millionaires, no Amish teenagers gone wild, no makeovers, no obnoxious fiancés, no remodeled rooms, and no shocking twists. Things were so much simpler then.

On March 4, the SciFi channel premiers the latest entry in the increasingly ridiculous reality television genre: Mad Mad House. The premise? According to the show's website, ten ordinary folks move in with five "practitioners of alternative lifestyles" -- a Wiccan, a Naturist, a Modern Primitive, a Voodoo Priestess, and a "real-life" Vampire -- and "live out a Survivor meets The Real World meets The Osbournes lifestyle." Seriously.

Posted by Jess at 07:00 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

February 27, 2004

Drop-down and gimme twenty

Taking a cue from Anastasia at Southern Musings, I've replaced my sidebar category and monthly archive lists with drop-down menus. Please feel free to play with them, and let me know if they break.

Posted by Jess at 07:42 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

February 26, 2004

Tales from the Classroom XIV: The Secret to Good Teaching

After spending the past few years teaching college classes, I believe that I have finally arrived at the Secret to Good Teaching. As far as I can tell, good teaching consists of either:

  1. knowing a lot about the subject matter, or
  2. successfully creating the illusion that one knows a lot about the subject matter.
Obviously, the first option requires years of studying and research to achieve. That's an advantage that I simply do not have with respect to American politics, the course that I'm currently teaching. Therefore, the onus shifts to the second option: how does one successfully create the illusion that he or she knows a great deal about a particular academic subject?

It turns out that the answer is really quite simple: anecdotes.

That's right -- the key to making students believe that you know what you're talking about (assuming you don't) is to pepper your lectures and discussions with anecdotes about the material and other witty asides. For instance, if you're teaching a chemistry course, the students will be wowed if you bring up the fact that Marie Curie eventually died of radiation poisoning. Or, if you're teaching a history course, you can bowl them over with the fact that Teddy Roosevelt once wrestled a grizzly bear in the White House Rose Garden for control of the Panama Canal. I think. The details aren't really that important.

What is important, however, is that the teacher exhibits that he or she can go beyond what's in the textbook, showing a fundamental familiarity and comfort with the material. Just think back on your own education. Aren't the teachers who knew all the interesting stories trivia the ones who you remember most fondly?

Of course, you're probably saying to yourself, "Doesn't the liberal use of anecdotes, by its very nature, require substantive knowledge of the material?"

That's certainly one approach, but I have discovered a second way, dear readers, and that is the true Secret to Good Teaching (when actual knowledge of the subject matter isn't an option, of course).

Most textbooks include their own anecdotes that are relevant to the subject matter (it seems that textbook authors have also stumbled onto the Secret of Good Textbook Writing). Unfortunately, the students -- in theory -- are also reading the textbook for any given course, so they will most likely be able to detect if their teacher is simply repeating the same trivia that was already presented in their weekly reading assignments.

Even if the students are reading their textbook, however, it's a virtual lock that they aren't reading multiple textbooks on the subject. And that, dear readers, is the Secret to Good Teaching: consulting multiple textbooks to aggregate a wide range of anecdotes in order to create the illusion that one knows a lot about the subject matter.

For instance, I consult no fewer than nine American politics texts in preparation for each of my lectures to gather every anecdote possible to supplement the "nuts and bolts" of the lecture itself. Don't believe me? Here's the full spread:


By the time I've read six or seven chapters on the topic of, say, interest groups, I'm armed with enough anecdotes to last me through a week of lecturing -- anecdotes that the students haven't already read in their own textbook. Sure, it's a time consuming process, but nobody ever said that teaching was easy. Best of all, every textbook that a teacher reads brings him or her closer to the ideal situation of actually knowing something of substance about the subject matter. It's a win-win situation!

So, now that you know the true Secret to Good Teaching -- using multiple textbooks to cull anecdotes and other trivia, thus creating the illusion of knowledge -- go forth and educate, dear readers!

Posted by Jess at 08:40 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 25, 2004

Tales from the Lunchroom

Campus is abuzz today with rumors of snow in the forecast -- enough of a novelty in Georgia to get people genuinely excited. Meanwhile, I can't help but reminisce about elementary school in Virginia and the times when it would begin to flurry during the school day. Needless to say, my classmates and I would spend the entire day ignoring our teachers and staring out the windows, studying the snow a flake at a time to see if it would accumulate enough to send us home from school early. Sooner or later, usually while we were eating our lunches in the cafeteria, our vice principal would appear with important news.

"Did you hear that we're getting out after lunch today?" he'd ask us.

Needless to say, this would send all of us into ecstatics as visions of sledding and snowball fights danced in our heads. Around that point, our vice principal would break into a grin, prompting someone to ask, "Are we really getting out after lunch today?"

"Of course," he'd reply, "right around 3:15 -- just like we always do!"

He'd have a good laugh and then return to his vice principal duties, leaving my classmates and I to finish our lunches, dejected knowing that our dreams of a truncated school day had been deferred.

Then, he'd do it again the next year. And the year after that. Year in and year out, my classmates and I wanted school to be dismissed early so very badly that we'd go along for the ride one more time -- even though we knew better.

In our vice principal's defense, he wasn't a cruel man -- just a guy who enjoyed a good joke (even if it was at the expense of pre-adolescents). In fact, I remember him as a wonderful administrator that I truly respected and admired as a child, not to mention a man with an uncanny knack for hitting backward, over-the-head free throws in the school gymnasium.

Furthermore, I can understand his temptation to use his position of authority to mislead students. When I heard my class discussing the rumored snow before we got started today, my mind was racing to devise a way to adapt the "getting out after lunch" motif to the university setting. Thus far, I'm at a loss, but I hope to have something ready in time for next winter.

Posted by Jess at 01:42 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack


The official web presence for Kevin Smith's Jersey Girl (a movie I've written about before) is up and running, and notable by her virtual absence from the site is Jennifer Lopez. She doesn't have an entry on the cast and crew page and only shows up in a brief mention at the end of the "About the Movie" section ("Jersey Girl also stars Jason Biggs, Jennifer Lopez, Stephen Root, and Mike Starr").

I realize that J-Lo isn't a huge player in the film, but it's interesting nonetheless to observe Miramax's ongoing efforts to disassociate Jersey Girl from Bennifer and, in turn, prevent it from being branded by the public as Gigli 2: Electric Boogaloo. Frankly, I think it's a lost cause at this point. In fact, I can only predict a box-office failure and the further devaluation of Ben Affleck's Hollywood stock as a viable leading man. And I liked him so much in Chasing Amy.

Oh, who am I kidding? He'll probably end up with the lead in Kevin Smith's upcoming film adaptation of the Green Hornet.

Posted by Jess at 10:18 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

...and the Brain, Brain, Brain, Brain, Brain.

The third and final installment of the "Jess Takes Photos of Toys Because He Can't Think of Anything to Write" series:


"Spidey, are you pondering what I'm pondering?"
"Gee, I think so, Brain, but if I can stick to walls, why don't I get stuck to my own costume?"

Posted by Jess at 07:21 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 24, 2004



"Ladies and gentlemen, m-hey, I'd like to introduce my latest breakthrough: the hyper-embigulated mutant rhino beetle -- with the legs and the tusk and the chitin!"

Posted by Jess at 09:51 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 23, 2004

"Wh-who are you?" "I'm Batman."

Feel free to provide your own caption.


Thank goodness we own a digital camera.

Posted by Jess at 03:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 22, 2004


After much deliberation, my cable company has determined that a week's worth of broadband Internet access is worth precisely $7.34 -- i.e. the amount that the customer service representative somewhat begrudgingly agreed to deduct from my cable bill next month to compensate for my recent week-long service outage. Woo-hoo! I'm heading to Subway!

Naturally, I brought up my numerous late-night trips to school to administer the online portions of my course, as well as the four or five hours I spent on the phone with technical support, but they wouldn't budge. Oh, well...at least my Internet connection is running smoothly again. For now.

Posted by Jess at 11:03 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 21, 2004

Hail to the king, baby

My wife and I have watched The Fellowship of the Ring together several times since it first came out in 2001. Every time we would get to the part where Frodo is injured by the Ringwraiths and Aragorn says something along the lines of, "This is beyond my skill to heal; he needs elvish medicine," I would lean over and whisper to my wife, "Did he just say Elvis medicine?"

After about the fourth or fifth time we watched Fellowship, my wife finally sighed and asked me why I always insisted on saying that.

My response? "I'm just getting ready for The Return of the King, honey."

Meanwhile, Evil Doug offers up a much funnier variation on essentially the same joke as part of the first chapter of his Lord of the Rings parody. As always, if you aren't reading Evil Doug's blog, shame on you!

Posted by Jess at 08:48 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 20, 2004

Tales from the Classroom XIII: Just the facts, ma'am

You can learn a lot sometimes just by reading the work submitted by students. For instance, I've seen an entire essay exploring last year's controversy in Alabama over the "Ten Amendments," in which a student argued rather convincingly that the state judicial building should have the right to display the Bill of Rights since it is, after all, an important document in American history. I've also seen a student spend the better part of a five-page essay discussing the historic Al Smith presidency of the 1950s, examining how President Smith's disastrous policies ultimately resulted in the Great Depression. How, pray tell, does one grade that?

Ever wonder how the judicial process works in the Supreme Court? Rumor has it that the Justices preside as judges, the 535 members of the combined houses of Congress serve as the jury, and the President of the United States acts as the prosecutor. Oh, and I'm sure there are probably hobbits involved somehow, too.

Heck, I've seen an entire essay written about the origins of the Vitamin War. I assumed the student was talking about the unforgettable skirmish in which King Vitaman led his C battalion against the evil forces of Scurvy, but it turns out he was actually thinking of some obscure war that took place in Southeast Asia a few decades ago. I guess I'll just chalk that one up to a "Replace All" mistake while spellchecking in Microsoft Word.

I heard what remains my favorite "alternative history" back during my time as an undergraduate, though. It was during a modern European history class, and we were covering World War II. The professor had just finished reading an excerpt from Winston Churchill's famous "we shall never surrender" speech and concluded by posing the rhetorical question, "And did Great Britain surrender?"

Much to everyone's surprise, one of my classmates chimed in with the answer.


Now, I should note that this was an upper-level class consisting exclusively of history majors. The student in question, if I remember correctly, was a third-year history major at the time. That being said, the professor was justifiably taken aback by his response and decided to probe the matter a bit more deeply.

"So, after losing the Battle of Britain, England ended up surrendering to Nazi Germany?"
"Yes, sir."
"And Germany occupied Great Britain?"
"Yes, they did."
"And then went on the win the Second World War?"
"No, the United States eventually went over, liberated the British, and won the war."

Take that, Socratic method! In the student's defense, however, at least he got that part about the Nazis not winning World War II correct. For his part, the professor handled the increasingly ridiculous situation about as smoothly as possible, suggesting that the student had apparently misspoken and must have actually been thinking of France (which anyone who was in the classroom realized was quite obviously not the case).

It truly warms my heart to know that the student in question went on to earn the same degree that I did. Sigh...

Posted by Jess at 05:16 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Despite all his rage, et cetera, et cetera

As reported by CNN.com, Billy Corgan recently backed away from his oft-quoted statement that the Smashing Pumpkins broke up after "fighting the good fight against the Britneys of the world" and losing, now claiming that "the truth of the matter is that guitarist James Iha broke up the Smashing Pumpkins." I don't have any insightful commentary to add; I just know that there are at least a few fellow Pumpkins fans who read this blog.

The article also notes that Billy has a solo album, a DVD, and (ugh) a book of poetry on the way in the relatively near future.

Posted by Jess at 07:45 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

February 19, 2004

Horse people

Occasionally, my wife will be in the middle of relating a story about the vet school, and she'll refer to one of her classmates or professors as "a horse person." I always interject, "You mean a centaur?"

Hey, it's not my fault that I grew up with a copy of Bulfinch's Mythology on my bookshelf!

Posted by Jess at 01:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 18, 2004

The Spider-Man Covers Project

Wow -- the Spider-Man Cover Archive offers cover scans of virtually every Spidey comic book ever published.


I've always loved that cover. The link is via Groonk and Boing Boing.

Posted by Jess at 05:13 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

"The gaiety, the hoopla and the handshaking that make any presidential campaign a great political show..."

Just a few minutes after teaching a class on the civil rights movement, I stumbled across this great entry at On the Fritz that quotes extensively from a September 1960 article in Life aimed at providing background for voters on the issue of civil rights. It's interesting stuff; I might have considered working it into my lesson plan somehow if I had known about it sooner.

Posted by Jess at 10:29 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 17, 2004

Another reason why rap is a bad influence on kids

From CNN.com:

Polaroid warns buyers not to 'Shake It'

LONDON, England (Reuters) -- OutKast fans like to "shake it like a Polaroid picture," but the instant camera maker is warning consumers that taking the advice of the hip-hop stars could ruin your snapshots.

The image "never touches air, so shaking or waving has no effect," the company said on its site. "In fact, shaking or waving can actually damage the image. Rapid movement during development can cause portions of the film to separate prematurely, or can cause 'blobs' in the picture." (more)

What's next? Will Morton's warn us against the Ying Yang Twins and Lil' Jon's advice to shake it like a salt shaker? Or perhaps Steak 'n Shake will offer us some tips on better ways to bring the boys to the yard.

Posted by Jess at 11:31 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Damn you, Ashton Kutcher!

Yesterday, the campus newspaper -- its finger poised, as always, about a mile and a half from the pulse of contemporary American youth culture -- ran an article predicting that trucker caps are sure to be the fashion trend of the upcoming year. What, is it still April 2003 around here and nobody bothered to tell me?

On a related note, is it just me, or does anyone else out there ever get the overwhelming urge to just slap a color-coordinated, purposefully-askew trucker cap to the ground when you see someone wearing one as part of a carefully-planned outfit?

Posted by Jess at 11:08 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Resisting the urge to glue silk flowers to the walls

As part of our ongoing quest to transform our house into a bit more livable space, my wife and I spent the better part of Isolation Day weekend painting and redecorating our bathroom. First up is the cool rug we scored at Target:


Meanwhile, here's the view of the bathroom coming in from the hallway:


For what it's worth, the shower curtain also repeats a "colored circles" pattern not entirely dissimilar from the aforementioned rug. Here's another view of the room:


We found some great junky plates (also at Target) that matched the color scheme we were going for, and that's what you see above the towel rack (two smaller plates were flanking the mirror in the previous image). Meanwhile, the framed piece is just some wrapping paper that happened to match the overall design scheme -- an idea that we more or less stole from an episode of Trading Spaces.

Finally, since he's just too cute in this photo, here's the Notorious K.I.P.:


He loves that cheeseburger. Loves it.

Posted by Jess at 09:09 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 16, 2004


Apparently, in this week's episode of Angel, David Boreanaz's character is magically transformed into the blood-suckingest muppet this side of Count von Count. Don't believe me? Here's a publicity still that doesn't quite capture the sheer ridiculousness of the commerical I saw last night, but gets the point across nevertheless:



Posted by Jess at 10:14 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

What's your sign, baby?

Jay is guest-posting Electric Venom's weekly Hunting of the Snark, and my recent love letter to Charter Communications is included in the zodiac-themed list o'snarkiness.

Posted by Jess at 08:00 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 14, 2004

Saying something stupid like "I love you"

Isolation Day was going so well today. My wife busied herself with spackling the many cracks in our bathroom walls, while I prepared my lesson plans for next week. Then, she went and surprised me with a copy of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind -- an act that I can only interpret as the bestowing of the first-ever Isolation Day gift.

Frankly, I'm not sure what this means for the future of our treasured holiday.

Posted by Jess at 07:24 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

February 13, 2004

Isolation Day

My wife hates Valentine's Day. Hates it. As I'm reminded on an annual basis, she feels that it's a contrived, overly-commercialized holiday manufactured by the evil triumvirate of the greeting card, candy, and floral industries that only serves to perpetuate the idea that romance should be confined to one day per year. I should note that she doesn't reject the notion of Valentine's Day in that all-too-common way where she tells me not to buy her anything or take her out to dinner, only to get upset when I don't take the iniative to do so of my own accord. Trust me -- if I were to walk into the house tomorrow carrying a stuffed bear with little red hearts on its paws, the consequences would be too terrible to mention. Seriously.

Due to my wife's general distaste for all things Valentine's Day, we've celebrated our own alternative holiday on February 14th for the past five years -- a holiday we like to call Isolation Day. To celebrate Isolation Day, we basically just spend as much time apart from one another as possible for the day and carefully avoid doing anything vaguely romantic when we are together. It's a terrific day to clean out the gutters or grab a bite to eat at Taco Bell instead of buying roses or making dinner reservations at Chez Coûteux. Best of all, it leads to great conversations like this:

Me: "What do you want to do for Isolation Day tomorrow, honey?"
Her: "Nothing."
Me: "Cool."

Want to join us -- and by "join us" I mean "stay the heck away from us" -- in celebrating Isolation Day this year? Just explain to your significant other why you won't be celebrating Valentine's Day, make other plans for yourself, and have a great time sticking it to the confectionery-floral-military-industrial complex.*

Happy Isolation Day Eve, one and all!

*Apropos of Something is not responsible for any damages incurred while explaining to your significant other why you won't be celebrating Valentine's Day this year.

Posted by Jess at 05:23 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

More tech support fun

It turns out that I'm not the only person having Internet connectivity problems lately. I just heard from my mom she had to call her ISP this morning due to an outage in service. They told her that she probably needed to reinstall Windows to fix the problem. Being the savvy computer user that she is, my mom refused and asked instead if the problem could possibly be on their end. The response?

"Uh...we're pretty sure that the problem isn't on our end, because you're the first person who's called."

Now, I've never studied logic formally, but doesn't someone always have to be the first person to call in these situations? Fortunately, it turned out to be a moot point. An hour later, my mom tried to connect again (without making any changes on her end, I should add) and it worked fine. Neither of us was particularly surprised.

Posted by Jess at 04:24 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 12, 2004

Magic plastic, it's fantastic

As reported by CNN, it's splitsville for Barbie and Ken. With a surprisingly straight face, the article notes:

After 43 years as one of the world's prettiest pairs, the perfect plastic couple is breaking up. The couple's "business manager," Russell Arons, vice president of marketing at Mattel, said that Barbie and Ken "feel it's time to spend some quality time -- apart."
Isn't it odd that this announcement comes just as the controversy over same-sex marriage is heating up? Not that there's anything wrong with that, Ken.

Posted by Jess at 03:22 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Rush Limbaugh is a big fat idiot

Drudge is reporting today on unconfirmed rumors that John Kerry is currently fighting off a media probe into his alleged infidelity with an intern. Meanwhile, I just heard Rush Limbaugh speculate on his radio program that the whole thing is part of a grand scheme by -- you guessed it -- the Clintons. It seems that in the make-believe world of Rush, the Clintons orchestrated the leak of these intern rumors just as Kerry's campaign was gaining momentum -- all in an attempt to discredit Kerry, help Bush win the election, and ultimately clear the way for Hillary's run in 2008.

Isn't one level of potential scandal enough, Rush? Do we really need to make this a meta-scandal by once again dragging in the Clintons?

Posted by Jess at 12:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

His name is Jared...

I dropped by Subway yesterday for lunch, and in the process of preparing my turkey breast and ham sub, they ran out of lettuce. So, one of the sandwich artists shouted over her shoulder to an unseen co-worker in the back, "Jared, could you bring up some more lettuce?"

I can't tell you how disappointed I was when it turned out not to be that Jared.

Posted by Jess at 10:20 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Great googly moogly!

I woke up this morning to discover that my cable Internet access had been magically restored overnight. Now, let's see if I can get back into the swing of this whole blogging thing. Oh, and while I was out, I failed to notice that my recent post on hygiene and American politics made it into Electric Venom's weekly Snark Hunt. Be sure to check out the rest of the list for more snarky fun.

Posted by Jess at 08:50 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 11, 2004

Tales from the Classroom XII: Called Out

We discussed the establishment clause of the First Amendment today in class and ended up on the topic of the controversy over the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, and I couldn't help but think back to covering the same topic last semester. During that discussion, much like this morning, I brought up the fact that "under God" was not originally part of the pledge, but rather was added by Congress during the Eisenhower administration. As I said this, I noticed that one of my students made a snorting sound and rolled his eyes. Curious about his response, I asked him if he had a comment. It turns out that he did.

"That's not true. I'm pretty sure it was always in there," he said.

Honestly, I was more than a little taken aback. Had he just called BS on me in the middle of class? When teaching, I try to encourage critical thinking and I'm accustomed to having students question what's in their readings as well as the opinions expressed in class. I'm not, however, accustomed to having them challenge me on the facts -- especially when I had double-checked before class and knew that I was correct. Still, I was at a bit of a loss as to how I should respond to the student.

"Um, uh..." I stammered. "I'm relatively certain that the phrase was added during the Eisenhower administration."

"Whatever," he said, rolling his eyes again. "I don't think so."

Evidently, he wasn't buying it. To make matters worse, the rest of the class apparently wasn't familiar with this particular historical tidbit either and therefore couldn't offer any backup.

Ultimately, I settled for telling him he could look it up and confirm it if he wanted and decided to press ahead with the discussion. Still, the remainder of the discussion was colored by the fact he had introduced doubt among the class regarding a central point of the debate over original intent, essentially creating a scenario in which it was basically my word against his.

Looking back, I guess there wasn't really a better way to handle the situation. Of course, I could have just yelled "Wrong!" when he challenged me, à la John McLaughlin of The McLaughlin Group fame. Or, perhaps a simple, "You -- never talk again!" would have sufficed.

I never found out whether or not the student got around to checking the facts and came around to my point of view (if you can call a clear statement of fact a "point of view"). I have to admit, though, that I was definitely on the lookout for any rolling eyes when I repeated the fact in class today -- just in case.

Posted by Jess at 11:43 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Blogging on stone tablets

It's been a week now, and I'm still without Internet access at home (I'm presently blogging from my department's computer lab). After spending about four hours total on the phone with my cable company's technical support staff over the past several days, running through the troubleshooting flowcharts time and time again, the current prognosis is that it's "unclear" when I can expect to have Internet access again. At this point, I think we've reached a philosophical impasse. Since we've apparently done all the troubleshooting that's possible over the phone -- both on my end and on theirs -- I tend to think that we should step our efforts up a notch. You know, maybe send a technician over to make sure that my cable modem is working properly -- stuff like that. They, on the other hand, seem to have come to the conclusion that there's no problem at all and that any Internet outages I'm experiencing are simply a figment of my imagination. Therefore, we should just wait it out and give me a chance to come to my senses.

While my cable company has yet to successfully diagnose the problems with my Internet connection, I think that I have diagnosed a significant problem in their technical support protocols. From what I've gathered during our recent discussions, the company runs a two-tiered support system. First, I call a toll-free number that handles all technical support at the national level. They run through their standard troubleshooting questions ("Is your cable modem plugged in? Are the lights blinking?") and, if the problem isn't fixed by that point, they submit a technical support ticket to the local office so they can take a look at it on their end. Unfortunately, my support ticket in this case has been saying something to the effect that I'm having trouble pinging the DHCP server. In turn, the people in the local office take a look at the DHCP server, see that it seems to be working fine, and then kill my ticket.

End of story. No call to see if my problem has resolved itself. Nothing. The ticket is dead. Passed on. Ceased to be. It has shuffled off its mortal coil, run down the curtain, and joined the bleedin' choir invisibile. It is an ex-ticket.

So, I call back a day or two later to remind the national office that I'm still without Internet access. They pull up my record and note that the local office killed the previous ticket and once again marvel at the fact that I'm not online. Yeah, I know -- I'm shocked, too. Anyway, after running through the whole troubleshooting rigmarole again, they submit another ticket. Did I mention that it takes the local office two business days to get around to even looking at a technical support ticket? Well, it does.

As far as I can tell from speaking with the faceless technical support entities, the local office has killed two of my tickets so far. Unfortunately, there's apparently no way to me to get in contact with the local office directly. In fact, the last person I spoke with at the national office said that even he couldn't contact the local office directly. The only way is through the aforementioned tickets.

As it stands, my latest support ticket has been "escalated" -- whatever that means. The most recent technical support person I talked with, however, didn't have particularly high hopes for the future of my Internet connection. It was his opinion that since there doesn't seem to be a problem on my end or a problem on their end, there just might not be anything that we can do about it. If nothing else, it warms my heart to know that my hopelessness is contagious.

On the other hand, if I see another television commercial touting this company's willingness to go the extra mile to guarantee my satisfaction, I think I'm going to shoot my cable box. Maybe that will lure a technician to my house and we can finally get this whole mess sorted out.

Posted by Jess at 08:48 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

February 07, 2004

Still offline

Tomorrow marks Apropos of Something's six-month anniversary, but -- alas -- I'm still stuck without Internet access. Hopefully, my Internet provider will have me back online within the next two or three days, though. In the meantime, I should probably sign off before anyone catches me "borrowing" one of the vet school's computers without proper authorization.

Posted by Jess at 03:36 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 06, 2004

Please hold while we transfer you

Dear Faceless Technical Support Entity,

While I appreciate your concerns about my recent Internet downtime, I cannot help but notice that I am still unable to connect from my home computer. In the interest of making future technical support inquiries more efficient and productive, please take the following points into account:

  1. I did not install -- nor have I ever installed -- any software that secretly changed my network settings. In fact, I am not immediately aware of any programs that perform such nefarious functions.
  2. I am currently running an up-to-date anti-virus program, a spyware detector, and a firewall. Therefore, I am relatively certain that I have not acquired a virus, trojan horse, or other malware that has attacked and disabled my Internet connection. Furthermore, considering most viruses, spyware, and trojan horses tend to rely on the Internet to either mass mail themselves or transmit personal data, such a hypothesis seems somewhat counterintuitive on its face.
  3. Yes, my cable modem is plugged in. Thanks for asking.
  4. While I realize that it is far-fetched to assume that the problem could be on your end (although this is in fact what we ascertained after 45 minutes on the phone yesterday), would it be possible in the future to check whether my area is currently experiencing any outages before you walk me through manually resetting all my network settings -- not to mention a full Windows system restore? Just a suggestion.
Thanks for your time and continued efforts to make my time spent on the Internet both fun and productive.

All my love,


Posted by Jess at 08:01 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 04, 2004

Say it ain't so, Joe

I guess somebody's Joementum sputtered out last night when he finally realized that he just didn't have the Lieber-mandate of the people.

In all seriousness, while I realized all along that it was only a matter of time, I hate to see Joe Lieberman drop out of the race for the Democratic nomination. He has always struck me as an honest, respectable man of principles, and American politics can always use a few more of those. Meanwhile, I find it more than a little surprising to see that John Kerry leads President Bush in the latest CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll. While I'm sure public opinion will normalize a bit after the frenzy of the primary season dies down, the upcoming election may be a bit more interesting than the Bush cakewalk that it originally appeared to be.

Nevertheless, I still can't shake the feeling that the Democrats just don't have a candidate in the race this time around that's nearly as viable as Al Gore was in 2000 -- and that's really saying something considering that Gore was, in my opinion, a mediocre candidate at best (even given the advantages of being a vice president during an economic boom). Right now, if I were Kerry, I think I'd focus my campaign efforts on keeping my Dukakis-esque hair as under control as possible. Speaking of which, I'd probably try to refrain from any future "Dukakis in the tank" moments if at all possible -- e.g. making a Tonight Show entrance riding a motorcycle.

Posted by Jess at 10:38 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Tales from the Classroom XI: German for "The Boot"

I made it through showing the 1981 German film Das Boot to a class yesterday afternoon without making a single joke about its fictional (?) X-rated counterpart, Das Booty. Maturity, thy name is Jess.

Posted by Jess at 06:24 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 03, 2004


I woke up this morning with what I'm sure is my usual semiannual acute sinus infection, so I went to the health clinic to see a doctor this afternoon. Unfortunately, the doctor I saw was reluctant to prescribe any antibiotics for my condition, arguing -- no joke -- that it may very well be my "destiny" to get better on my own in a day or two. If so, he said that he didn't want to "interfere with that destiny."

Let's just hope that it's not my destiny to die two or three days from now from complications stemming from an untreated sinus infection.

Posted by Jess at 03:07 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Tale as old as time

I think it's safe to say that there are few places in the world more miserable and soulless than the laundromat. Well, maybe there are a few war-torn countries that are less pleasant -- but just barely. Unfortunately, my wife and I needed to clean a couple of comforters over the weekend, and our washing machine simply wasn't big enough to get the job done. So, we embarked on a trip to the local laundromat to take advantage of their industrial-sized "mega-washers."

In what must be an attempt to stem the number of mid-cycle suicides, this particular laundromat has installed several televisions throughout the facility and shows movies to while away the washing and drying hours. Unfortunately, as my wife and I discovered this weekend, the people running the audio/visual division at the laundromat haven't quite worked out all the kinks yet.

It started out innocently enough as they loaded the Monsters, Inc. DVD. The disc then began to play through its generous selection of previews -- including trailers for the DVD special edition of Beauty and the Beast, Lilo and Stitch, Inspector Gadget 2 ("Inspect the unexpected!"), Treasure Planet, and Finding Nemo. When it was all said and done, this amounted to roughly fifteen or twenty minutes worth of previews. Then, it was time for the anxiously-awaited feature presentation. The DVD menu loaded up, the person at the switch selected "play," and we were taken to a screen asking us to choose between the widescreen and fullscreen presentations.

Apparently, this is where the entire process broke down. After sitting at the widescreen/fullscreen selection screen for about five minutes, the "DVD technician" simply gave up, ejected the disc, and reloaded it.

So, we're back to the previews. "Tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme," and the whole nine yards. We spent another fifteen minutes watching the previews -- who was the genius that greenlighted Treasure Planet, anyway? -- before rencountering that tricky widescreen or fullscreen menu. Perplexed once again, the person at the switch ejected the DVD, reloaded it, and we were back to watching the (completely skippable) previews all over again.

How sad is it that Disney couldn't even get Matthew Broderick back for the Inspector Gadget sequel? It's not like he's busy doing anything other than being married to Sarah Jessica Parker. Meanwhile, if I'm not mistaken, it looks like the Finding Nemo trailer on the Monsters, Inc. DVD is an early rough cut; the animation doesn't seem quite as polished as the final release. But, that's neither here nor there.

Two more times the laundromat attendant restarted the disc rather than gambling on the all-too-risky widescreen/fullscreen issue. All told, we spent over an hour watching the five previews on the Monsters, Inc. DVD. By the fourth time around, I thought my wife was going to beat the person running the DVD player to death with a jug of detergent. Eventually, however, the attendant simply cut her losses, gave up on the film, and decided to give Shanghai Knights a try instead. Thankfully, the disc only offered the fullscreen option, so we were able to get it up and running with no major glitches.

My wife and I had the distinct pleasure of watching about five minutes of the film before our comforters finished drying and it was time to leave. Now I'll never know if Jackie Chan actually managed to avenge his father's death! Or if Stitch returned to his home planet. Or if the Beast was transformed back into human form. Or if Inspector Gadget captured Dr. Klaw. Or if Ellen DeGeneres regained her memory. Or if Treasure Planet is as stupid as it looks.

Posted by Jess at 11:01 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

February 02, 2004

We are a part of a sick, depraved rhythm nation

Okay, just a few more observations about last night's Super Bowl scandal -- then I'm finished, I promise. First up, don't you feel kind of bad for the halftime streaker and Survivor's Richard Hatch? They both went the full monty on Sunday night, but Janet's relatively minor act of public nudity is still getting all the attention. How is that fair?

Meanwhile, when I read earlier today that the FCC intends to investigate the whole Janet/Justin incident, I couldn't help but imagine a couple of courtroom scenes...

"Your honor, if you take these lyrics into account -- 'better have you naked by the end of this song' -- we can establish that Mr. Timberlake expressed premeditated intent."


"The prosecution would like to call Mr. James 'Jimmy' Jam to the stand as a character witness. Mr. Jam, how would you characterize the men with whom the accused typically assoicates herself?"

"Janet has always gravitated toward what you might call 'nasty boys.'"

"Objection, your honor! That's Miss Jackson if you're nasty!"

Okay, I'm out.

Posted by Jess at 05:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Better late than never

By now, we're all familiar with Microsoft's recent move to shut down Canadian teen Mike Rowe's MikeRoweSoft.com domain (they eventually settled for simply bribing him to take it down on his own). Still, I can't help but wonder if Mike decided launched a website dedicated to samples of his writing -- without metrical structure, mind you -- would he have to worry about similar legal action from computer game publisher MicroProse?


I know, I know...it would have been funnier a week ago. And it really helps if you happen to be a computer geek.

Posted by Jess at 10:12 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Better have you naked by the end of this song

I really have nothing else of substance to add to the mountain of commentary already provided not only by the blogosphere, but also by the legitimate media, on you-know-who baring her you-know-what during the Super Bowl halftime show (no Google-baiting here; I learned my lesson after the "Jacko on his backo" and Abercrombie and Fitch incidents). There is, however, an editorial worth reading by television columnist Tom Shales up at the Washington Post's website discussing the overall "sleaziness" of the halftime show, as well as this year's batch of rather juvenile Super Bowl commercials. Meanwhile, the "advertising critics" (heh) cited by CNN/Money seem to concur.

Returning to the whole "wardrobe malfunction" during halftime, I suppose it's apropos to close with the same statement I made in the aftermath of the big Britney/Madonna kiss last year: how unpredictable in that completely predictable MTV kind of way.

Posted by Jess at 07:15 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 01, 2004

Super Bowl Predictions

Since I haven't been following the NFL all that closely this season, I decided to have Madden 2004 simulate a match-up between the Panthers and the Patriots. Based on the results of the simulation, I'll go on record predicting a win for New England over Carolina, 34-17.

I also predict that the Super Bowl will appear to briefly lock up during the third quarter, but it will turn out just to be McAfee downloading new virus definitions in the background.

Posted by Jess at 12:28 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack