One summer when I was in high school I spent a lot of time playing ping-pong at a summer camp. Between games, I would watch this guy named Rob play Defender on a nearby console. Rob had godlike Defender skills, and he was always playing. I can still picture the game’s leader board screen: “RFH” from top to bottom. I was mesmerized by Defender. I never expected to get as good as Rob, but I always learned something watching him play (“Ah, so that’s when you should press the Hyperspace button”).
Fast forward many years, and video game voyeurism is a big business. It’s now clear that lots of people like watching other people play video games. Sometimes people like watching an expert do a speed run or a narrated walk-through, but often they just enjoy watching someone else play a new game for the first time. These “Let’s Play” videos show you how a gamer thinks about a game, how they solve problems in real time. You can learn a lot, in addition to being entertained.
Programming can work the same way. It can be very instructive to watch a skilled programmer solve a problem. I like how you get exposed to work habits and tacit knowledge that are hard to learn other ways (“Ah, so that’s where I should press F10 to dbstep”). So we have Let’s Code videos to go along with our Let’s Play videos. I made a short one once, but Stuart McGarrity does much better than that.
Here in the MathWorks Consolidated Blog Operations Business Park, my office is one building over from Stuart’s (a short ride away on the BlogTram). Stuart is the keeper of the MATLAB Videos blog, and he’s been making a number of these Code Along videos. I particularly like the series he did on solving Cody problems, but he’s got dozens of them. If you’ve ever needed a MATLAB script to compare two long lists of strings from Excel, then you might enjoy Making a MATLAB Script to Compare Two Long Lists of Strings from Excel. But you might enjoy it even if you have never once needed a MATLAB script to compare two long lists of strings from Excel. That’s the nature of these videos. Watch a few and see what you learn.
Finally we get to the title of this post: What is on Stuart’s table? Stuart shoots his videos in his office, and every video features an unusual object on the table to his right. I haven’t figured out a pattern yet, but I’m sure there must be one.
Why would the heart cupcake appear on March 24th and the leprechaun on January 5th?
What are we to make of the crown, the chair, and the Playmobil concert?
Your guess is as good as mine. Ask Stuart in his comments area.