PS... A Column

on Things

By Paul E. Schindler Jr.
Vol. 4 No. 27

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

July 23, 2001

Colleagues and Friends

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.

Some Material in this column comes from anonymous incoming e-mail; such material is usually reproduced in the Arial (Sans Serif) type font to distinguish it from the original material

Table of Contents:

General News:

  • Why Weekly?
  • Colleagues and Friends
  • Week at Work
  • Listen To Jim White

Computer Industry News:

  • Where Webvan Went Wrong
  • DCMA

Web Site of the Week:

Humor:

  • Pig Joke

Movies

  • Cats and Dogs

Letters

  • Two From Dan Grobstein

General News

Why Weekly? Why Fuss?

I decided recently to make a paper copy of the "General News" section of my column since I started it back in 1998. I guess my main motivation is the fact that the Internet is so ephemeral, and because I feel my weekly maundering will provide a pretty good record of my feelings, my life and my times for these two and a half years--almost as good as a diary or journal.

Along the way, I noticed (tried not to focus on, but noticed) the gaps in weekly publication. Sometimes they're planned, sometimes they just happen. Sometimes I apologize, sometimes I don't. But it got me to thinking; a lot of web logs (blogs) are irregular; some are very irregular, and get written only when the author has something to say.

Well, of course, I believe I have something to say every week, and I appreciate and blossom under the discipline of a weekly deadline. I don't think I could do this column any other way. But sometimes, as I trudge either up or down the stairs at a silly hour on a Sunday night, Vicki points out to me that no one is paying me to do this, so why all the fuss?

Regulars already know, but there are always newcomers, so I'll just mention briefly that writing has been my life for as long as I can remember. I wrote a novel when I was 12, and churned out radio scripts in high school and college. I probably wrote a million words during my 18 months at United Press International. I am quite sure I have written more than 10 million words in my life. But since 1996, writing has been a decidedly secondary task in my professional life. I found I missed it dearly, so I started this column to keep my hand in. I suppose I could simply have done a private journal, but I'm a public person, who enjoys the act of being read as much as the act of writing.

That's why I'm here every week. That's why the fuss. Thanks for reading.

Colleagues and Friends

Two more friends and colleagues, Lee Keough and Aaron Fischer, left the company this week. Lee, technically, decided not to return from maternity leave, and Aaron gave his two weeks notice. Lee was my boss; Aaron was my boss while Lee was on leave.

I have tried, and failed, to learn this lesson before: don't mix business with pleasure. Don't get to be a friend of your boss or your colleague or your subordinate, because, inevitably, either you'll leave or they will, and then you'll be saddened by the loss. And while it is, of course, possible to stay in touch (never more so than now, thanks to the Internet), it gets more difficult because you're not thrown into daily contact. In the end, the bonds grow weaker, the visits less frequent, and they become one more face in the long list of friends and colleagues that you honestly liked, whose company you enjoyed, whose stories you have shared, and who are no longer part of your life. It is inevitable, but that doesn't make it any less sad.

Tom LaSusa, for example, was my subordinate, then I left for another division, then I came back and was able to recruit him to work for me again, then we were separated again. He has become my friend and colleague, and while we are still in touch, it isn't as often as either of us would like. Heck, I can't even tell you what's on the wall in his office, although he can guess what's on the wall in mine (pictures of me, among other things).

So, I will strive to say in touch with Lee and Aaron, and maybe they'll prove the exception, but most likely two intelligent, clever, witty and funny people who briefly lit up my life will move on and light up someone else's.

Week at Work

Those of you who know me realize I work at home and telecommute. Those who know me really well know I have been doing that since November, 1979. At that time, my tools included a rotating-drum Qwip facsimile machine. I used an Exidy Sorcerer 64KB Z80-based PC for which I had to write both the word processor and the com program (with help from John Taylor). My printer was a modified IBM MT/ST keyboardless selectric mainframe printer (John built the circuit board full of relays that ran it).

I was granted permission to work from home by the late Tom Cooper, the founding publisher of Computer System News. I had flown to Long Island to make my case for telecommuting and had a whole presentation ready. Cooper, was often cavalier, waved aside the presentation. "You want it, you got it. What do you need?" A fax machine and two company paid phone lines. "Done, now get out of my office." And that was that. No more commuting to San Jose three days a week. And I have been at it ever since. Although I have been in and out of the company, my cumulative 20th anniversary is July 27th. Even when I worked as a consultant or as a senior technical analyst at PC Week, I still telecommuted from home. I can't imagine working in an office again. There have been years when the company supported and encourage home workers. There was a time in the mid-80s when home work was prohibited, except for me (I was grandfathered).

Last week, however, in order to get ready to fill in for a colleague, I had to commute into the downtown SF office three days in a row, two by car and one by mass transit (BART). I shudder to think how different my life would be if I had been doing THAT for the last 20 years. I expect no sympathy from the vast majority of you, who do have to make the daily grind, but of the many things for which I am regularly and sincerely grateful, my lack of a commute comes quite near the top of the list.

As for that whole issue of working in one place for 20 years--I'll deal with that next week, after the big day. I'll just tell you this, I never expected it.

Dog's God

More poetry from Richard Dalton:

Dog's God


I wait
for my mind to clear
of smells, tall weeds
of other dogs.

I approach
this powerful Being
with heart-bursting love,
without fear.

I seek
the stroke of His hand
my will bent to his guidance.

No small wish-
to live in my Master's house
content through eternity.



God's Dog


Relating to God is hard,
ego-strangling, beyond child-parent
understandings.

Premise:
I am God's loyal,
enthusiastic servant, more a gleeful dog
than His child.

Let me happily retrieve
God's sticks,
not questioning if they
were thrown too far.

And bring them back, wagging my tail, ready for the next.

...Richard Dalton
July, 1998

Listen To Jim White

Craig Reynolds makes an interesting musical recommendation, which I pass on because I liked the guy's stuff too.

As I was driving home yesterday I heard a song on the radio that really caught my attention. The KFOG DJ back-announced the song, which they don't normally do. He said that for more information you should go to the website of David Byrne's record company, Luaka Bop. I immediately forgot all the details but was able to find it today with a web search. The singer is Jim White.and you can hear full length tracks from his CDs by following the "sound and video" link. The song I heard was "10 Miles To Go" from the CD "No Such Place".
I'm sending this to friends that might be interested, or at least have eclectic taste in music, hoping to spread the word about this interesting artist.

Computer Industry News

Where Webvan Went Wrong

I donít want to get into a reprint of a reprint, so I won't offer any details, but I strongly recommend you go and read this, from David Strom's Web Informant:

Where Webvan Went Wrong
I have not been a big user of the online grocery stores, but my friend Adam Engst has and put together the following report of the demise of Webvan, reprinted from his wonderful newsletter TidBITS.

DCMA

I didn't check whether the friend who sent this wanted credit, so I'll just print these links anonymously, adding only that the Millenium Copyright act gives him the willies. To be honest, it gives me the willies too. It was a big mistake, and this proves it.

Arrest of Russian programmer will test copyright law

Case highlights law's threat to fair-use rights (Dan Gillmor)

Hacker Arrest Stirs Protest

Web Site of the Week

None This Week

Humor

Pig Joke

This of course, happened while President Clinton was still in office. He gets off an airplane with two pigs under his arms. The Secret Service agent salutes him and says, "Nice pigs sir." Clinton replies, "These aren't jus pigs, they're Arkansas Razorbacks." "Yes sir," says the agent." "I got them for Hillary and Chelsea," the then-president adds. "Good trade, sir" says the agent.

Movies

Cats and Dogs

You want the facts? Go to the Internet Movie Database

Cute, funny, fluffy, lovable, trite. Go if you have young children to entertain or if, like me, you're willing to sit through anything. The special effects are pretty cool, the voice talent (I love Jon Lovitz as voice talent) is better than average. Hey, at least they kept it to 90 minutes. Smart people.

.

Letters

Two From Dan

The ever alert Dan Grobstein had two good finds this week:

Just saw this on Salon's website. I've been lurking around findagrave.com for the last year or so. I discovered it when I was trying to find out if Portland Hoffa (Fred Allen's wife) was dead. I would have to assume yes, but I still don't know. I found his grave on the site. They have a great feature that lists other famous people who are buried in the same cemetery. I also have looked at baseball players, presidents, military heroes and actors.

And this, about the San Francisco Chronicle and its ilk.

The incredible vanishing book review section, from Salon.com.

This is a good place to mention my journalism quote site, to which I just added a good quotation suggested by Dan Rosenbaum.

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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