Friday, December 21, 2007

Primus the Planet

It's time for the annual Christmas parody, as I prepare to take an extended break to celebrate the holidays. This year, I have a not-especially Christmasy tale set to a not-truly-Christmasy song, that nevertheless still always seems to be sung only for Christmas. Previous holiday parodies may be found here and here. Merry Christmas to all, and I'll be back after the New Year!
(to the tune of "Frosty the Snowman")

Primus the Planet
Is an old eternal soul
He's the god of light, and he's sleeping tight
So the universe stays whole

Primus the Planet
Fought with Unicron all day
Who could not be slain in the astral plane
So he tried another way

There must have been some problem
With those asteroids he found
For when he moved his spirit in
He and Unicron were bound

Oh! Primus the Planet
Caused the Transformers to be
And his children say he will find a way
To bring them to unity

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

In Case You're Looking for Last-Minute Christmas Options

Christmas has traditionally been a time not just of gift-giving, but also of looking for ways to make a meaningful positive impact on the world around us. This season, I'd like to suggest that you look into Kiva, a site that administers "microloans" to low-income entrepreneurs in developing countries.

The site allows you scan through a large list of people looking to improve their businesses. You can see who they are, and what they intend to use the money for. Kiva works with other organizations to handle administrative costs (and optional donations), so all the money you give goes to the person requesting the loan. You give $25, the small business owner gets $25 toward their loan (which is paid to them in one amount after enough people have donated enough to aggregate to the amount requested). The loan is interest-free, and they have one year to pay it off. Every month, you will get a progress report on the loan(s) you have contributed to. Although there is a small risk that the loan will default, the default rate is currently only 0.2%, making this a very safe investment that can truly help the lives of people seeking to improve themselves and their communities.

While they have a minimum loan of $25, you can certainly give more if you like. Also, a PayPal account is needed if you want to be able to get your money back after the loan's been repaid. If you do decide to join up and donate, please make sure you put my e-mail address in the "referral" field! Thanks!

Monday, December 17, 2007

RIP - Dan Fogelberg

I was surprised yesterday to learn of the death of Dan Fogelberg at the all-too-young age of 56. I was also surprised to see that the obituary mentioned several of his songs without mentioning "Run for the Roses". We'll, what kind of a Louisvillian would I be if I didn't make a point of bringing it to people's attention?

P.S. (I'm also a fan of Fogelberg's rendition of "Rhythm of the Rain" which is one of few remakes I prefer to the original having heard the original first.)

Friday, December 14, 2007

Now's a Good Time to Be in the Transformers Club

You've really got to love that the Transformers Club has some amazingly talented people in it. Here's a trailer for an exclusive story that will be posted soon on the members-only portion of the club site. Kudos to Trent Troop and the others behind this project (especially for getting David Kaye to do the voice honors for Megatron!).

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A Rare Moment of Unity

While I don't really suspect that the Transformers fandom is any different than any other in this respect, it's become something of an in-joke among those of us who are Transformers fans online that we seldom agree on anything. We can be regularly expected to get into arguments about any of a number of different aspects of our increasingly diverse (after more than 20 years, what do you expect?) hobby.

But, yesterday, a thread at TFW2005 proved a rare instance of almost-universal agreement on a subject. It seems that HasbroToyShop.com had started selling AFA-graded specimens of a particularly hard to get toy. Now, I've commented on this practice in the past, so it should come as no surprise when I say that I'm not a fan of AFA grading, but I was still somewhat surprised at the outrage that followed. Given that Hasbro has distributed a survey about AFA grading some months ago (the survey itself is gone, but it was apparently done in April), it would seem that they were making their intentions clear enough some time ago.

One of the things that made this practice especially galling was the fact that, for HTS to have specimens (I'm not clear on how many, but they definitely had at least two) to sell in an AFA-graded edition, they must have had them when they were selling these toys a few months ago, when folks were practically melting the HTS server trying to buy them while they were still in stock. This would mean that HTS purposely held a few back in order to grade them in hopes of selling them at an even higher price!

Of course, there's nothing illegal (that I'm aware of) about such a practice. The market should determine the price, and if an item is in high enough demand, and Hasbro can find a way to get people to pay more for the item, it obviously makes economic sense to sell the item at that higher price. But for Hasbro's own online venue to participate in an AFA sale seems to be a conflict of interest. AFA doesn't produce toys. They grade them (taking a fee for their trouble) so that collectors can say that their particular specimen of a toy is in particularly good condition, driving up its value (as I've said before, this only works if the collector agrees never to so much as touch the toy again, leaving it in its graded plastic box!). For Hasbro to hold back toys so that they never even reach the public so that AFA can grade it, get it back to Hasbro, and then for Hasbro to sell it, would artificially drive up that toy's value. That's not cool.

And, so, yesterday saw the creation of a thread that ran for nearly 15 straight pages in less than half a day. The thread's still ongoing, but I expect that some of the furor will die down now that the items no longer appear to be on HasbroToyStore.com's site. Some folks in the thread say that the items have been canceled, which may be true. The original link certainly no longer points to the items. But the fact that the page has been taken down may mean that the toys were sold very quickly, and assuming HasbroToyStore.com has no plans to put more on the site, why keep the page live? So we may have an example of Hasbro's responsiveness to fan outcry, but we can't be sure.

In the interests of full disclosure, I do own a few shares of Hasbro stock. Even still, I have no interests in letting Hasbro make a profit if it's at the expense of the goodwill of Transformers fans. Usually, when Hasbro-bashing occurs online, there will be a number of people come on to speak in the company's defense. Most fans have little idea what goes into the production of the toys they love so much, and can sometimes make unreasonable demands. If anyone came up in Hasbro's defense on this matter, I still haven't found it.


EDIT - 12/20/07: HasbroToyStore.com has since put the AFA-graded toys back on their site. So much for "listening to the fans."

Friday, December 07, 2007

Looney Fun?

Today's the last day of the quarter, and it's hard to focus on much anything for long, what with students looking to turn in papers and stuff. So rather than spend time thinking of something to write, I'd hoped to link directly to a cartoon, courtesy of http://www.in2tv.com. Unfortunately, not only could I not get the embedded link to work, but it caused my browser to freeze up whenever I tried to play it. Seeing that this would probably do the same to most of your computers, too, I took the link down. Sorry! If you still feel like watching cartoons, feel free to check out In2Tv, which has worked well enough for me on its own.

And if you really care what cartoon I posted in the first place, it was "Dr. Jerkyl's Hide" featuring Sylvester the cat.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

It's Finals Time Again!

It's the middle of Finals Week here at Fuller, which means that students are taking exams, turning in papers, or otherwise scrambling to take care of last-minute business before the deadline of 5:00 on Friday that signals the absolute end of the quarter (unless, of course, the student has filed the paperwork for an "Incomplete" with the Registrar).

It's not the first time I've written on the subject, of course. Here are links to some of my previous comments, in chronological order. Of course, nothing I say here should be taken as superseding anything a professor may have placed on his/her syllabus. The syllabus is always the final authority! However, since I find that so many students have questions about what to do with their assignments that aren't answered on the syllabus, I try to provide such information as I can. If you're not a Fuller student, you can safely ignore today's post. If you're still reading, I'll assume that this information might be of use to you.

First off, although it's redundant to say so, make sure you put not only your name (you'd be surprised how many people forget that part!), but also your professor's name (as well as the name and number of the course) on the paper. This will help me to know where to file your paper so that the proper professor or TA can pick it up at the end of the week.

Since Fuller is a bit spread out, with lots of potential places where a student could turn in papers, many students are understandably confused as to where to turn in their work. Again, check the syllabus first, since not all work comes to me. I don't take any papers for courses taught by adjuncts, for example, nor do I take papers for Fuller schools other than the School of Theology. If you've been asked to turn your paper in to "Mark Baker-Wright," that's me! Come to the second floor of Payton Hall and look for the sign seen in the picture. The arrow points directly into my office. If for whatever reason I'm not here (I often have to run errands elsewhere on campus, delivering mail and other items to professors and such), you can slide the paper under my door (do double-check to see that it's something that really does come to me, of course!) or wait until I'm back (I generally have the time I expect to return posted on the door).

I also have students come by looking to pick up some assignment or another. In that event, it will be helpful if you tell me what class you're looking for before telling me who you are! You'll see a wall full of papers, which I organize by professor. Once I know what class I'm looking for, the rest is fairly easy, but I haven't even figured out where to start if all I know is the student's name! Unfortunately, even then I may discover that your professor or TA hasn't given me your assignment. If that applies to you, you'll need to tell your professor or TA that you've been by, and that I didn't have it. Generally, I don't know anything further about the papers, since I don't tend to even be told that they're coming until they've actually arrived, nor do I have anything to do with the grading process.

Finals Week is always a hectic time for all concerned. But it's also a chance for me to see a lot of friends that I may not get to chat with while stuck in my office all the time. If you don't have to run to the next deadline (a real possibility!), feel free to say "hi!"

Monday, December 03, 2007

A Rant on the Misuse of Hyphenated Names

When I got married, I happily added my wife's last name to my own, creating the hyphenated "Baker-Wright." Despite some minor resistance and confusion from some family and friends, I have never regretted this decision.

But I have to confess to continuing frustration at how people misuse this name. Some occasional slips into calling me "Mr. Wright" might be forgiven. After all, this was my name before getting married, and many people knew me by that name. But "Mr. Baker"? I have never been known by that name, and know of nowhere where it is customary to "drop off" the second part of a hyphenated name, or any other place in the English language where it is acceptable to ignore the word or clause that comes after a hyphen. The hyphen means the names are connected! That's why we use it! It represents my wife's and my connectedness as a married couple! You can't just drop off the portion that comes after the hyphen! So why do so many people do it?

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