One of the most hysterically funny essays ever written is David Sedaris' "Jesus Shaves" from his book, Me Talk Pretty One Day, in which he describes taking a French class in Paris. He and his classmates, who have nothing in common except their inability to communicate, get in a discussion of Easter. The teacher brings up the fact that in France, Easter candy is brought to good little children by a large bell that flies in from Rome. Sedaris is confused and a little outraged and tries to explain about the Easter Bunny, but is met with blank stares of incomprehension from his European classmates. After a few minutes of discussion in mangled French, a confused Moroccan classmate asks what an Easter is, leading to one of the most bizarrely funny theological discussions in history.

"That's incredibly fascinating, but what", an astute reader of blog titles might ask, "does any of this have to do with squids or cables?"

And he or she would have a good point. What, indeed, does any of this have to do with squids? Or cables?

You know how sometimes, in the middle of a conversation, someone will casually mention something that they take totally for granted, something so utterly familiar that they assume you know exactly what they are talking about, but you have never heard of it before? (I once had a friend who was completely charmed and amused by the phrase, "Six of one; half-dozen of the other". He had somehow gone through his entire life without ever hearing the saying and was amazed at this cool and potentially useful new aphorism.)

I recently had that experience with a surge protector.

I had a visitor to my classroom a few weeks ago. He was impressed with the work my students had done and the cool things we were working on, but what really grabbed his attention and engaged his enthusiasm was my power squid.

Have you ever tried to plug several pieces of equipment into a conventional power strip - a projector, a laptop computer and a set of speakers, for instance - and been frustrated by the bulky box-like plugs that cover up the power sockets and keep you from plugging everything you need into one surge protector?

A "power squid" solves that problem.

Instead of five or six power sockets laid out in a row, a squid (which, it has to be said, does look very squid-like) has five or six tiny extension cords that fan out from a central surge protector and allow you to plug your appliances with power adaptors into individual sockets without blocking access to other outlets.

It's very cool.

Yes, I realize you probably already know about power squids.

But if you don't, Ta DAH!!!!

(Yes, I know. I really need to work on my definition of "exciting".)
I've got wimpy speakers in my classroom.

I picked them up on sale at a big box store a couple of years ago. (In my defense, at the time, 30 watts sounded like a lot...) They looked cool. They plugged neatly and easily into the headphone jack on my laptop. They were portable. They sounded loud enough in an empty classroom.

Unfortunately, once you fill a classroom with fidgety 8th graders, 30-watt speakers really don't do the job. I got around this for a long time by being extra-fascinating, so my students would be forced to listen really hard.

There comes a time, however, when a basically dull person like myself hits the Fascinating Wall.

So, imagine my gratitude when someone gave me a new pair of speakers.

Then I looked at the box and realized that they were - you guessed it - 30 watt speakers. So I sighed and got back on the Fascinating Wagon.

About a month ago, I bought a new toy - the Belkin Rockstar. It's a headphone "splitter"; think of it as an extension cord or a power strip for a set of headphones. You plug it into the headphone jack on a computer or MP3 player and you can plug five sets of headphones in at a time instead of just one.

Originally, I had thought I'd use it to record podcasts with multiple microphones, but the more I looked at it, the more possibilities I saw.

1) Five students can listen to a sound file at a computer or iPod at the same time - ten, if they share earbuds. (Eww.)

2) One microphone could run to multiple computers or MP3 players so that multiple students could record something and edit it individually.

and possibly most importantly...

3) One computer could connect to multiple sets of wimpy speakers.

I'm considering buying three more sets of speakers.