Thursday, July 9, 2009

Harry Towb: Man of Mystery

Around 40 years ago, a man was trying to pay bills. To that end, he played a part, the cook, in the movie "Patton."

Some 35 years later, at the suggestion of my brother-in-law, Matt, I watched the movie "Patton." Immediately, I was fascinated by it. Not only that, but I was wondering where I had seen one of the characters, the cook, before.

I checked the credits. Nothing listed for the cook.
I checked IMDB. Nothing listed for a cook. (Surprisingly, though, Harry Morgan did get credit, even though he wasn't in the movie.)

I asked the missus, who is a trivia fan and a librarian. Nothing.
I asked siblings; especially the trivia fans. Nothing.
I went to the public library. They suggested I try the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
I contacted the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. They said they didn't know, but would send me the roster for the movie. I received that roster on September 12, 2006.
I did more online research using the roster. Nothing.
The missus did more research using the roster. She found the e-mail address for one of the other bit players in the movie.
I sent an e-mail message to said bit player. Nothing.

The entire quest was put on the back burner. Except, every once in a while, I tease my trivia fanatic brother, Jon, with the question: Who played the cook in "Patton"?

One of the times I did that was yesterday, July 8, 2009. Later that day, I read a note from him, quoting a web site:
Northern-Irish actor Harry Towb, who played Kettering in "The Blue Max", also has a very brief role in "Patton". He plays the American GI cook who gets chewed out by Patton for not wearing a proper uniform and helmet. His one memorable line is something like "Hell, general, I'm a cook!". He sounds very American to me. The second or third time I saw "Patton", I finally recognized good old Kettering again...

Jon solved the mystery: Harry Towb played the cook in "Patton." Again, Harry Towb played the cook in the movie "Patton."

Now, there's suddenly a void where they was once a quest. I need a new one.

Of note, I checked Harry Towb's IMDB resume. Other than "Patton," I haven't seen any of Harry Towb's work. The entire quest was based on a mistaken identity (I may have been thinking of Johnny Haymer.)

Let me repeat that:

More than three years of searching, utilizing the services of at least 4 people, an e-mail account, and the United States Postal Service; all for a mistaken identity.

Unless, of course, there are other things missing from his IMDB resume.

I should check on that.

And have a good day!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Words of God

Slowly, but surely, I'm trying to read my way through the Bible. Never have before; probably never will again. It's pretty long, so I may not even make it through this time.

I did read far enough, though, to have a new favorite Old Testament verse: Exodus 25: 4. The problem is that there are many versions of the Bible and I may be the only one with the version with the fun wording of this verse (Revised Standard Version). Here is how it reads in my Bible:
Blue and purple and scarlet stuff and fine twined linen, goats' hair

God used the word "stuff"? How cool is that? The guy who starts every other sentence with the words "thou shalt" used the word "stuff."

So, until I get to the part where God asks Samson to hand him "that whachamajiggy" or informs Isaiah to add a "doohickey to the altar," I think I'm set for my favorite Bible passage for a while.

What a treat!

And have a good day.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Refreshing combo boxes in Microsoft Access VBA

For those of you using VBA in Microsoft access and need to refresh a combo box, I've figured out how to do it.

Add a button or create an event in the combo box properties. For the event, just set the row source for the combo box (Even though it will just be the same table, it will still use the updated information)

Combo87.RowSource = "SELECT [tablename].field1, [tablename].field2, [tablename].Field3, [tablename].Field4 FROM [tablename] ORDER BY [field];"

You can get the select statement from zooming in on the current setting for the row source.

And have a good day

Thursday, May 7, 2009

An Examination of Take-Home Tests

I'm taking Economics 113 this semester. On Monday, we have our mid-term exam. Last class session, a student asked the professor if it could be open book. The professor asked the student to, since this is an economics class, give the costs and benefits of an open-book exam. A back-and-forth ensued. The professor said, since it is more likely that a student would study less and watch American Idol more, the exam would not be open-book. However, it will be open-notes. I'm not sure if he believes students should not be allowed to Idol in particular or enjoy entertainment in general.

Upon reflection, here are my thoughts, economic and otherwise, on the open-book debate. These thoughts came after the class and I said nothing during the exchange.

IF it can be assumed that a student will watch Idol instead of studying, it can also be assumed that one or both of two things economic perceptions are in place for the student:
  1. the student sees more value in watching American Idol than it doing well on an exam
  2. the student sees little marginal benefit in an hour of Idol is more than the marginal benefit in studying
It may be of no surprise that I concluded there is little or no perceived benefit to the student to take an exam. And that may be true. You do not learn anything taking a closed-book exam. (If we assume the student will watch Idol, is it not fair to assume the student will not go back and study his/her incorrect answers?) You get a grade, but you could have gotten a grade through several of many other arbitrary means: homework, presentation, papers, class participation, etc. An exam, itself, is not mandatory for grading. The only thing the student gains from an exam is experience in a very specific and uncommon stress situation--the stress of remembering things and verbally regurgitating them onto a piece of paper during an allotted amount of time in a specific place. I don't have the facts on this, but I'm betting the post-mortem for the Bay of Pigs crisis did not include the phrase, "unfortunate that POTUS did not have more closed-book exams in school."

So, the student does not benefit from the exam. So why take the exam? Because the professor wants you to. Since you are, to a large degree, a captive audience, you do what the professor wants, to a large degree.

So the question goes back to the professor. What is the value in an exam? What is the marginal benefit? Is it worth the time it took for you to write it up? Why do you want the student to take the exam?

I've come up with three reasons (other than "I was told to" or "I dunno; seemed like the thing to do") for a professor to want students to take an exam:
  • To quantify what a student can memorize and verbally regurgitate
  • To quantify what the student understands about the material
  • To make sure the student is exposed to the key objectives for the course
For the rote memorization reason, it would have to be closed book. I don't see another way to test memory; but I also don't see how that's an indicator of how well a student understands material.

To quantify what the student understands about the material, it should be open book or open notes. You can understand a concept without knowing the jargon. You can understand how to use a formula without having it memorized. Open the book/notes so the student has access to the jargon and formula and can more clearly explain what he/she knows and understands.

To make sure the student is exposed to the key "talking points," if you will, no test is needed. Just give it as homework. Create a list of questions about the most important items discussed during the course of the course and tell the student the due date. If the student doesn't know it, the student learns it. If the student already knew, the time saved could be enough to watch an episode of American Idol.

Unfortunately, since I now understand that an exam is of no benefit to me, I have trouble taking them seriously. If you think that grades are important, then my economics course was very costly to me. I hope my prof can live with that.

And have a good day.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

NFL Considers Expanding Season

As reported by many news outlets, the NFL is considering expanding the regular season from 16 to 17 or 18 games. Commissioner Roger Goodell did some spin doctoring, saying the season was 20 games long, but that's including preseason games--which help determine which players should make the team and help the team prepare for when the games count. Goodell's plan would keep the total at 2o by subtracting from the preseason the number of games added to the regular season.

"Fans don't believe preseason games are up to our standards"
That's what Goodell said, regarding the necessity to shift some preseason games to the regular season. The point that Goodell misses is that the problem fans have with the preseason is that the NFL charges full price for them when they are not meant to be the same importance as regular season games.

I have three questions for Roger Goodell:
  1. With the expanded injury list coinciding with the expanded schedule, do you really want the players who would be playing in the lower-standard 4th preseason games to be the players playing in the Super Bowl.
  2. By expanding the season both in length and later into February, do you run the risk of over-saturation--losing the casual fans and the television ratings they bring
  3. How does the expanded schedule "grow the game" on the field? (I understand how it grows the owners' pocketbooks, but how will it improve the game itself?)
That said, I sure won't mind watching another week of games each year. Just start the regular season in August instead of extending it so the Super Bowl is in February.

And have a good day.

Monday, September 1, 2008

The Ol' College Effort

I start classes next week. At least, I hope to. I'm having difficulty figuring out what day of the week one of my evening classes meets.

The registrar's office says it meets one day. The syllabus says another day. We received an e-mail message from the professor who claimed it was a third day.

Along with that, the bookstore wants us to buy the eighth edition of the textbook. The prof mentioned in his syllabus that the bookstore wants us to buy the sixth edition, but we should buy the fifth edition. The fifth edition is from 2000.

Topping it all off is the name of the class: Principles of Management.

If that isn't a clear statement on the state of management these days, I don't know what is.

But, on the bright side, this is why we can so enjoy Dilbert.

And have a nice day.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Baseball's Instant Replay

Baseball is introducing their version of instant replay. This is needed, you see, because several months back there was a home run which was ruled not a home run. Or not a home run which was ruled a home run. Who can remember?

This is vitally important to the game, you see. What would happen if, in game seven of the World Series, an umpire made a mistake? For, like, 2 weeks, people would care. Maybe.

I actually don't care one way or the other about instant replay. What I've enjoyed is that no one's taking the conversation any deeper. Most seem to be in favor of instant replay, but no one is asking the questions. Do we just do home runs? Do we do any call that a manager argues? Do we do something in between? Will that elephant in the room, er, stadium obstruct the view of the replay camera?

In the end, of course, it doesn't matter. The entire point of it is that once or twice there was a slow sports news day. Sports radio had nothing else to talk about so they made it seem like the lack of instant replay was a crisis situation. In the future, there'll be a complaint about how instant replay was handled. It'll be a slow sports news day. And sports radio will have another crisis Du jour to talk about.

So enjoy baseball. Enjoy instant replay. Enjoy the inevitable "crisis" which will come from it.

And have a good day.