PS... A Column

on Things

By Paul E. Schindler Jr.
Vol. 3 No. 34

Some things are impossible to know, but it is impossible to know these things.

September 18, 2000

A Really Quiet Week

I have a day job, so I need to make it clear to anyone who comes here that the opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not represent those of my employer, my family, or your great-aunt Mathilda. Offer not valid in Wisconsin. You must enter to win.

Table of Contents:

General News

  • A Really Quiet Week
  • Subliminable

Computer Industry News

  • The Death Of Interval

Web Site of the Week

  • Virtual Fish Tank

Humor

  • Comparing Apples and Oranges
  • Not One Pun In Ten Did
  • The Nation's Newspapers

Movies

    • Nurse Betty

Letters

  • Mom re Spirituality, Joe Brancatelli Re: Politics, Rosenbaum on "Trade Press."

General News

A Really Quiet Week

It was a quiet week, and not just at Lake Woebegone. Sometimes life consists mostly of the daily dailyness. Attending Cross-Country parents' night. Lunch with Lisa Picarille, a former colleague and voice-over artist. Playing second tenor saxophone at a rehearsal of the Contra Costa Wind Symphony (and showing up on time!). Picking Rae up after a Cross-Country Meet. Going to the Diabetes Center for my six-month check up (and showing up a half-hour late because of a calendar error). Taking a private Saxophone lesson. Reserving the beach house at Lincoln City, Oregon for a week over Christmas. Five days of work that yielded solid but unspectacular results. A Friday night movie with Vicki, Rae and long-time friend Sue Thiem.

And dinner at the Bay Wolf to celebrate my 48th birthday (Sept. 17) with Rae and Vicki. Another year older and deeper in debt. Trying not to owe my soul to the company store.

Subliminable?

Craig Reynolds wrote:

What was that word that George W. used when denying his "...RATS" ad used the technique? Was it:

subliminable

I've heard the clip a few times on TV/radio but couldn't find it online to phonetically transcribe more closely. Maybe he is sending us a subliminal message about the "Texas miracle" in education.

Yes, he was saying subliminable, and although he has denied in public now a Vanity Fair accusation that he has dyslexia, you have to wonder. Either that, or we're being held hostile by terrorist powers.

Computer Industry News

The Death Of Interval

I don't see the San Jose Mercury. Years ago, I subscribed, but I just don't have time to read everything, so the Merc, along with the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times bit the dust.

This means, however, that I miss stories like the major story on Paul Allen's ill-fated $250 million think tank, Interval Research Corp., closed this spring two years short of its "guaranteed" 10-year life span. Craig Reynolds brought it to my attention:

There is an interesting post-mortem on Interval corporation in last week's Silicon Valley Magazine. Some of it is pretty edgy analysis of the Interval management, as well as some general commentary on commercially sponsored research.

And here's the story:

The Think Tank That Tanked
By Tia O'Brien

This is what we in the business call the "nut graf" of the story:

The story of Intervalís demise is a cautionary tale not just for researchers, but for all entrepreneurs and Silicon Valley dreamers, revealing how the best brains, wads of money and abundant creative freedom can implode, leaving behind a stack of unexploited patents, accusations of betrayal, damaged careers and failed start-ups.

A sobering, cautionary tale. We're unlikely to see a repeat of Paul Allen's visionary investment.

Web Site of the Week

Virtual Fish Tank

Richard Dalton writes:

This is too much fun if you have work to do. Even better, you can mess with your fish at your computer AND at the museum.

And he's right!

By the way, turns out the credits are complex. A day after I posted this, I heard from Bruce Wyman of Nearlife:

The FishTank [has] actually been primarily developed by Nearlife, Inc.. We have our roots in the [MIT] Media Lab, but we've been separate for a couple of years. The original museum exhibit, which the online experience is tied to, was a joint project involving the Media Lab, Nearlife and the Museum of Science. The online experience, which you mention, is simply Nearlife and the Museum of Science.

Humor

Comparing Apples and Oranges

If you've ever said something was like comparing apples to oranges, you need to read this silly scientific article which shows that they are, in fact, quite comparable (at least under spectrographic analysis).

Not One Pun In Ten Did

1) Evidence has been found that William Tell and his family were avid bowlers. However, all the league records were unfortunately destroyed in a fire. Thus we'll never know for whom the Tells bowled.

2) A man rushed into the doctor's office and shouted, "Doctor! I think I'm shrinking!!" The doctor calmly responded, "Now, settle down. You'll just have to be a little patient."

3) A marine biologist developed a race of genetically engineered dolphins that could live forever if they were fed a steady diet of seagulls. One day his supply of the birds ran out, so he had to go out and trap some more. On the way back, he spied two lions asleep on the road. Afraid to wake them, he gingerly stepped over them. Immediately, he was arrested and charged with transporting gulls across sedate lions for immortal porpoises.

4) A skeptical anthropologist was cataloging South American folk remedies with the assistance of a tribal brujo who indicated that the leaves of a particular fern were a sure cure for any case of constipation. When the anthropologist expressed his doubts, the brujo looked him in the eye and said, "Let me tell you, with fronds like these, who needs enemas?"

5) Back in the 1800s the Tates Watch Company of Massachusetts wanted to produce other products and, since they already made the cases for pocket watches, decided to market compasses for the pioneers traveling west. It turned out that although their watches were of finest quality, their compasses were so bad that people often ended up in Canada or Mexico rather than California. This, of course, is the origin of the expression, "He who has a Tates is lost!"

6) A thief broke into the local police station and stole all the lavatory equipment. A spokesperson was quoted as saying, "We have absolutely nothing to go on."

7) An Indian chief was feeling very sick, so he summoned the medicine man. After a brief examination, the medicine man took out a long, thin strip of elk hide and gave it to the chief, instructing him to bite off, chew and swallow one inch of the leather every day. After a month, the medicine man returned to see how the chief was feeling. The chief shrugged and said, "The thong is ended, but the malady lingers on."

8) A famous Viking explorer returned home from a voyage and found his name missing from the town register. His wife insisted on complaining to the local civic official who apologized profusely saying, "I must have taken Leif off my census."

9) There were three Indian squaws. One slept on a deerskin, one slept on an elk skin and the third slept on a hippopotamus skin. All three became pregnant and the first two each had a baby boy. The one who slept on the hippopotamus skin had twin boys. This goes to prove that the squaw of the hippopotamus is equal to the sons of the squaws of the other two hides.

10) By the way, I know the guy who wrote these 9 puns. He entered them and one other in a contest. He figured with 10 entries he couldn't lose. As they were reading the list of winners he was really hoping one of his puns would win, but unfortunately, no pun in ten did.

The Nation's Newspaper

I enjoyed this list so much I broke my "two humor items per column" rule so I could include it. As a resident of SF and a former resident of Boston, I found the Globe and Chronicle entries particularly amusing. The Oregonian, by the way, is read by people who are convinced the U.S. is some other country whose residents constantly fly over Oregon.

1. The Wall Street Journal is read by the people who run the country.
2. The New York Times is read by people who think they run the country.
3. The Washington Post is read by people who think they ought to run the country.
4. USA Today is read by people who think they ought to run the country but don't understand the Washington Post.
5. The Los Angeles Times is read by people who wouldn't mind running the country, if they could spare the time.
6. The Boston Globe is read by people whose parents used to run the country.
7. The New York Daily News is read by people who aren't too sure who's running the country.
8. The New York Post is read by people who don't care who's running the country, as long as they do something scandalous.
9. The San Francisco Chronicle is read by people who aren't sure there is a country, or that anyone is running it.
10. The Miami Herald is read by people who are running another country.

Movies

Nurse Betty

You want the facts? Go to the Internet Movie Database.

Director Neil LaBut's previous efforts, the little-seen Your Friends & Neighbors (1998) In the Company of Men (1997) were quirky little independent films. This R-rated, 112-minute effort is a quirky big film, graced with the substantial star power of Renée Zellweger (Betty Sizemore), Morgan Freeman (Charlie), Chris Rock(Wesley) and Greg Kinnear (Dr. David Ravell/George McCord). [West Wing fans note: this film also includes, all too briefly, a few delightful and well-played scenes with Allison Janney, who plays press secretary Claudia Jean 'C.J.' Cregg.]

 

I love the Internet Movie Database plot summaries; so succinct. "Comedy about a widow's post-traumatic obsession with a soap star." What I don't like is Hollywood's crappy habit of taking a perfectly good film and adding, one (or in this case two), gratuitous scenes of sex and/or violence, which make a perfectly executed comedy unwatchable for children under 13.

Well, depending on your taste, the bad language may make it unwatchable as well, but I gave up the battle on the F-word in movies decades ago. I should mention in passing, however, that I have considered patronizing the Internet site that sells airline versions of movies--with the bad language bleeped or dubbed and the worst scenes cut way back.

But back to Nurse Betty. This is probably Zellweger's breakthrough role; both she and Freeman do such warm, loving portrayals of seriously disturbed people that they are, in my opinion, possible Academy Award nominees.

One warning: if you, like me, have to cover your eyes during the more embarrassing moments in episodes of I Love Lucy, there are at least four scenes in this film you're going to find very difficult to watch. I had to walk out on one of them. I can't stand the humor of extreme embarrassment.

To sum up, seldom has the willing suspension of disbelief been required in greater amounts than in this film. Betty witnesses her husband's murder and is thrown into a total delusional state, drives from Kansas to L.A., and manages to meet and date the actor who plays the doctor on a soap opera with which she is obsessed. Right. One of the cold-blooded contract killers who killed her husband turns out to have a heart of gold. Right. She has a happy ending. Well, it is Hollywood.

The only thought this movie will provoke is that you've been entertained. Since you don't always get even that, it is satisfying.

Letters

Mom re Spirituality, Joe Brancatelli on Politics, Rosenbaum on "Trade Press"

I wrote more about my recent musings on the subject of spirituality last week, and got this from my mother, Mari Schindler:

As to your spiritual life, don't ever forget for one minute that our spiritual lives consist of every thought and deed every day of our lives.
The big difference among people is that some are too caught up in self to realize that life is 'spirit' and they live according to the dictates of the moment, the struggle to survive.
Others come to a realization that spiritual growth is of itself a reason for living, and then those people divide up into those who seek enlightenment and growth, and those who turn again to 'self' and make spiritual growth a self-centered search.
You are reaching out to find a way to express your spirituality, and that is a very good thing. But don't allow yourself for a moment to think that you have not led a life of the spirit - your concern for your loved ones, your compassion and devotion to the people in your life has always been an outward sign of the inward spirituality of your life.
There are many many paths to follow for spiritual growth, and finding and recognizing the right one for you is paramount --- and you have always been on the right one.
Now, at this time of your life, you are coming to a new stage of spritual growth, and are becoming more and more aware that it is time to find your new path. Just don't lose sight of the fact that you have been growing and giving all along.
As a matter of fact, you have been giving, love and support to the people in your life, all of your life.
You have given back to the world, you have always given joy and happiness and devotion, kindness and compassion. Remember that you have always led a deeply spiritual life, in your joyous way - you've already made the world a better place for 48 years.

I have always taken a great deal of pride in being a positive, upbeat, "light up the room when I enter it" kind of person my whole life. I'm not sure it's enough, but I am sure it's a start. It's nice to have this reinforced by my mother--who is actually in a three-way tie with Richard Dalton and my wife for the title of "most spiritual person" in my life.

Turning from the sublime to the, well, ridiculous, my rant about George Bush ducking debates brought this thoughtful response from Joe Brancatelli:

Well, you know, I would like to see Bush do all three debates, too. But it's no crime not to do what this commission wants to do. Clinton did only two in 1996 and no one accused him of not being up to the debates.
But let me posit two other things:
1) Russet, King and one traditional debate might actually have been interesting. You got a hardball journo like Russet, the goofy King style that often is VERY revealing, and then the traditional format. Might have worked and been very illuminating.
2) We have a way to assure candidates debate: tie it to matching funds. Once we agree on a format--or a group that would control the format--candidates would have to pledge to do the debates as proposed by the group in order to get matching funds. If they want our tax dollars underwriting their campaign, here are the debates you have to do. If not, use your own dough!

I like Joe's idea a lot. No play, no pay! I wish I'd thought of it! Let's light a fire under Congress to get this going.

I casually mentioned being in the "trade press" last week, inspiring Dan Rosenbaum to write:

Actually, Paul, you're not in the trade press. You're in the special-interest press, just like Vogue and Flying.
What we do has less to do with InformationWeek than it does with Men's Health.
It's also a discussion I've been having more or less steadily over the last year -- mostly with people at other industry's special-interest titles that look down on the computer mags as "trades." My rule of thumb: if you don't run a column that tracks who's getting financing and who's changed jobs, you're probably not a trade magazine.

To obtain a weekly reminder when new columns are posted or to offer feedback, advice, praise, or criticism write to me: paul@schindler.org

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