Trackback Pings Disabled

And then the spammers sayeth, "If thou wilt not alloweth comments upon thy blog entries, we shalt spam you using yonder trackback ping!"

— If there were a Spammer’s Bible, this would be in there.

Trackback pings have been disabled by default on blog entries after this one, and I will (very) slowly be turning trackbacks off on old entries as well. Damn spammers.

Johnny Carson

I meant to mention this the day it was posted, but the New York Times has a touching letter from Steve Martin to Johnny Carson in its op/ed pages for January 25.

My generation either barely knew Johnny Carson or didn’t know him at all. I’ve seen at least one of his Tonight Show appearances (somewhere…), and it’s obvious to me that we’ve lost a great comedian and an honorable man.

Play to the stars, Johnny.


Over the course of the quarter, as I’ve continued to judge the amount of work required for my program (The Novel: Life and Form), I’ve found myself having to make time adjustments accordingly. In addition to class, I also work in the Writing Center, do client work for naturalaxis, serve on the Enrollment Coordination Committee, and serve on the Enrollment Growth DTF. By far, the part of all that work that has taken the biggest hit is my Writing Center work.
I started out the quarter working 13 hours a week — 4 on Monday, 4 on Tuesday, and 5 on Thursday, I rapidly found that I had to drop the 5 hours on Thursday, bringing me down to 8 hours a week. Then, just today, I decided that I needed to drop that down even further, eliminating my Monday shift and shortening my Tuesday shift from four hours to three. So I’m now only working 3 hours a week for the Writing Center, in addition to all my other work.
The Enrollment Growth DTF has now completed its request for enrollment proposals from the campus community, which resulted in no fewer than 44 proposals sitting on my desk for review, averaging about 5 pages each. All these need to be read by the next meeting during the first week of Feburary, so I’m going to be hustling over the weekend to read all of them. I’ve also got a presentation on monday about John Singer Sargent, the American painter originally born in Florence in 1856. The very next day, there’s a paper due on one of our books — I forget which.
Ain’t life grand?


Since I’m a Puget Sound Energy customer, I get access to a very nice little utility which they call EnergyTracker. This interface allows me to track my energy usage through a number of views, and I thought I’d share some screenshots.

The daily view shows me the energy usage for the last 8 days — this is quite useful if you know exactly what’s been turned on and turned off for each day. For instance, the sudden dip in the graph above reflects the heat being lowered or turned off due to higher outside temperatures in Olympia.

Average Day is fairly self-explanatory.

This Billing Cycle reflects usage throughout this month.

The abrupt dip at the end of the Last Month’s Usage view is the Christmas break.

This one’s particularly interesting (at least to me), since it shows a number of dates when I wasn’t actually in the apartment. It’s pretty clear that the apartment was empty in July and August. Anything past that is my usage — seems like, overall, we’re using less energy than the previous tenant.

I really like this little utility and check it fairly often. It’s a nice way to see how different actions affect the billing.

Netflix Review Update

I wanted to update my initial review of Netflix with more information, and will likely continue to do so for a few months.

Partly due to class and partly due to the fact that Amanda and me are both still watching stuff we got for Christmas, our usage of Netflix’s service is relatively low this month, but delivery continues to be quite expedient.

I discovered, by way of Netflix Customer Support, that we are charged $19.50 instead of the promised $17.99 due to in-state sales tax. Netflix doesn’t make any mention of the application of sales tax anywhere in their web site (that I have so far been able to discover), but it does make sense — it’s just irksome that it’s not disclosed.

DVD Title
Sent by Netflix

MASH (1970)

Sleepover (2004) – Amanda

Bill Cosby: Himself (1983)

Hope Floats (1998)

The difference between this month and last month is that Amanda now has her own queue through Netflix’s profile services (which just recently launched) — thus, her movies are marked here as “Amanda”.

The service has seemed a little skittiish lately (at least in terms of their web site) — the Recommendations features seem to go down randomly, as does the new Friends feature.

Overall, with four DVDs rented, we have a cost of $4.87 per DVD rented. This is comparable to Blockbuster in-store rentals.

TV/DVD Captions Update

From Toshiba Customer Support:

Dear Peter,

Thanks for writing!

We appreciate your interest in Toshiba.

The closed captioning on our units is only through the TV's tuner.


Toshiba Customer Service

In other words, Toshiba did the absolute minimum required by law.

Closed Captions on TV/DVD Sets

So I happened to get a Toshiba MD13P1 for Christmas from my parents, which is a combination TV/DVD unit. I had originally intended it for use in my own room, but it’s taken its place in the living room now that there’s plenty of room out there that just begs for filling up.

This is a nice little unit, despite that we don’t actually have cable TV to hook into. It has very nice picture, great sound, and DVDs play flawlessly. It has built-in closed captions, which makes me quite happy, being hearing impaired.

But here’s the rub: the closed-caption decoder on the unit only decodes captions from TV shows. We’ve discovered this by a little trial and error with DVDs we know to be captioned but that don’t have subtitles. So we’ve had to play any DVD that doesn’t directly have captions on my faithful laptop, autumn. Strangely, this seems to have the effect of turning my nice little TV/DVD combo into a paperweight in some situations.

But why doesn’t the closed caption decoder cover both units? In cases such as these, plugging in an external DVD player would probably force the pickup of captions through the unit, but this doesn’t make any logistical sense — if you buy a combination unit, you sort of expect — nay, demand — the ability to use closed captions on any application that unit is good for.

So what’s up with this? Is this the only model to do this, or is this a bigger plague than I make it out to be? Am I the only one that finds this a very strange loophole in the FCC’s Part 79 Closed Captioning Rules? A more digestible version of this information is available through the FCC’s Consumer Information on Closed Captioning. All that document states is that "the Commission has required that all analog television sets with screens 13 inches or larger sold in the United States contain built-in decoder circuitry that allows viewers to display closed captions". This unit does do that, but it seems like that rule should reasonably apply to all parts of the unit.

So I’m more than a little puzzled and somewhat irked — what’s the point of shelling out $200 for a TV set if it doesn’t caption everything it should caption? Admittedly, this television was a gift, but good money was paid for it, and I feel somewhat slighted by Toshiba. I doubt, however, that there’s all that much that can be done about it past my current solution.

Update (10:57PM)

I decided to do a little web searching and ran across the following from the National Captioning Institute’s FAQ:

Why don’t the captions show up on my DVD?

The problem may be with the DVD player or it may be with the DVD. Some of the early models and some inexpensive models don’t support closed captions.

The problem may not be the DVD player, but rather the hookup, decoder, or TV with built in decoder. Some consumers have written to say that using an S-video hookup with certain models of DVD players and television sets prevents the captions from being displayed.

One possibility is that the DVD distributor opted to use English subtitles instead of captions, so if the viewer is looking for captions, they can’t find them. The subtitles do not need to go through the decoder to be displayed the way captions do. Captions must go through the TV decoder to be displayed. Subtitles are turned on and off through the DVD player.

I’ve used DVDs where I know the last option to not be the case. I’m not sure about the other two options on there.

Sean and Me

Sean and me seem to be in the same situation girlfriend-wise, except I’m living with mine and not paying enough attention to her. Arguably worse.

Perhaps Amanda would disagree with me on that point. I don’t know for sure what she thinks of that.