PS... A Column

on Things

By Paul E. Schindler Jr.
Vol. 4 No. 7

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

February 18, 2002

An Old Error Resurfaces

I no longer have a day job, so every word of this is my opinion, and if you don't like it, lump it. This offer is NOT void in Wisconsin.

Except, of course, that some material in this column comes from incoming e-mail; such material is usually reproduced in the Sans Serif type font to distinguish it from the (somewhat) original material

Family photos 1, 2, 3

Table of Contents:

General News

  • A Paid Section?
  • Why I Don't Work For The Washington Post
  • Why We Are Here: To Fart Around
  • My Feelings About Journalism Movies
  • Talking About Journalists On Film in LA
  • Class = Grace Under Pressure
  • Mark Your Calendars: Paul In Concert

Computer Industry News

  • Assisted Computing Facility
  • Changing The Face Of Digital Photography
  • Microsoft Antitrust Comments

Web Site of the Week

  • Valentine's Day

Humor

  • The REAL Enron Story
  • Axis of Just as Evil
  • The Top 20 Valentines from Enron Executives

Movies

  • Sad News Of Digital Projection

Letters

  • Dan Grobstein's Grab Bag; Craig Reynolds Spots John Dean In Print, Twice

 

General News

A Paid Section?

OK, don't panic. There's almost no chance that any of you would pay for this column, and I recognize that. I know the authors of the Top 5 List, the LangaLetter, the Office Letter, the JoeSentMe travel news site and the Scot Finnie News Letter (operated, curiously enough, by a guy named Hank), and I am well aware that you have to offer real value in order to get real money. All I offer is some occasionally interesting political commentary, carefully selected humor, a journal of my life, and some cool links as collected by my very intelligent friends. I don't see the value proposition there, and I'd be surprised if you did either.

However, for complicated tax and financial reasons, it would be really cool if, say, 10 percent of the 700 of you who came each week was willing to pay $10 a year for the premium content version of this column. Through some magic, it would have a much larger positive effect on my finances, and might save some money on my health insurance (if only it could help me lose weight!).

However, in order for you to pay me, I have to figure out:

  • What to offer as premium content
  • How to offer it only to those who pay
  • How to accept payment

I am soliciting your feedback. I get way more humor than I can print each week, some of it quite good. Is a special members-only humor section good enough for a little less than a dollar a month? I'm not even going to investigate password technology until I find out how many of you are interested. The payment technology I am considering is Paypal.

If you'd pay $10 a year via PayPal for an expanded humor section, just send me this email; you don't even have to fill in the body of the message. If you have questions or suggestions, send me this email, and, yes, you would have to fill in the message, with, like, your question or suggestion.

If there's enough interest, we'll explore it further.

Why I Don't Work For The Washington Post

I am preparing some old documents for the second volume of my memoirs (don't ask). I just ran into the essay from my application to be a summer intern at the Washington Post in the summer of 1973. It would have been an interesting time to be there, during the Senate Watergate hearings, although I, of course, would have been covering the police beat in some god-forsaken ghetto or suburb, most likely. On the other hand, Watergate itself began as a police beat story. In any case, having reread this in the light of nearly 30 years of experience and living, it astounds me that the Post didn't send someone to Cambridge, Mass. to beat me up for applying. Talk about discursive, off-the-subject and not doing a very good job of selling myself. As I read this now, all I can is, "who cares?" I'm sure you'll agree.

I was born 21 years ago in Portland, Oregon, and lived most of my life in one house, near the house my father lived in as a child. A top student in grade school, I was third in my class at Benson, the city-wide technical high school. I wrote several columns for the Benson paper about the Benson radio station, where I served as Chief of Staff. Broadcasting was more interesting to me that print at the time.

Refusing an admission offer from Cal Tech, I came to MIT in the fall of 1970 because it offered a wider variety of courses, especially in the humanities. My two freshman-year extra-curricular activities were a weekly campus newspaper and the MIT radio station. That took up too much time; after four years in radio during high school, I decided to devote all of my efforts to newspaper work at college.

ERGO, one of two weeklies on campus, was not much of a paper, so I moved to the older, established, twice-weekly newspaper, The Tech. It has become, in the years since, a consuming passion, and was at least partially responsible for breaking up my engagement with an MIT Co-ed who felt that more time was devoted to the paper than to her.

Exposure to the paper, and to Edwin Diamond, diverted me from becoming an electrical engineer by the end of the 72/73 school year. At that time, I decided to major in management, because it is the most flexible of MIT majors, in terms of degree requirements. Thus, I could continue to sample MIT's scientific and technical courses, learn about journalism, get a degree, all at the same time.

"Why go to MIT if you want to be a journalist?" The answer is simple: journalists have to know something. It is not enough just to know how to write. At MIT, the general requirements include physics, calculus, and chemistry, and even management majors have to take a respectable amount of science. Although science writing is not my first interest, science and technology are omnipresent in modern life. Some knowledge of them is important, no matter what field you report in.

In addition to the relevant jobs listed on this application, I have done research for articles that appeared in The Columbia Journalism Review, New York Magazine and The Readers' Digest. I am the Boston Globe stringer for MIT, and have written for Technology Review, the MIT alumni magazine, and NWJ, a Portland, Oregon journalism review.

My family, glossed over earlier, consist of a father (milkman) and mother (high school teacher) married for 22 years and a younger brother (machinist), who provided me with a stable childhood atmosphere.

My hobbies are reading science fiction, playwriting, tennis and squash.

Why We Are Here: To Fart Around

Richard Dalton forwarded this item:

From an interview with Kurt Vonnegut in the November 1995 issue of Inc. Technology. Vonnegut was asked to discuss his feelings about living in an increasingly computerized world.

I work at home, and if I wanted to, I could have a computer right by my bed, and I'd never have to leave it. But I use a typewriter, and afterward I mark up the pages with a pencil.

Then I call up this woman named Carol out in Woodstock and say, "Are you still doing typing?" Sure she is, and her husband is trying to track bluebirds out there and not having much luck, and so we chitchat back and forth, and I say, "Okay, I'll send you the pages."

It continues on in this vein and concludes:

I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don't let anybody tell you any different.

If you visit the Inc. website, you'll also find Vonnegut's opinion of the Internet (he doesn't much like it), being called a Luddite (he doesn't mind) and Tom Clancy's much-less-interesting take on technology as well, in the same article.

My Feelings About Journalism Movies

Well, it happened again; a student wrote to me asking some questions about journalism movies. As many of you know, this is an area dear to my heart. Here is the e-mail exchange:

1. Do you have any favorite journalism movies?

Yes. My favorite movie is "The Paper" with Michael Keaton, which I think is the most realistic portrayal of modern journalism, except, of course, for the fantastic parts they had to add for Hollywood (the columnist with the gun, the button that stops the presses). The depiction of the pressures of competition, the scorn for competitors, the drudgery, cajolery and trickery involved in eliciting stories--these things all ring true. And the scene with the Managing Editor and the Publisher in the bathroom was priceless. You can find more details on my web site.

Second best is the favorite I share with Bob Greene of the Chicago Tribune, and that is "Deadline USA" (at least it used to be his favorite; he wrote it up years ago in the Sigma Delta Chi magazine). This 1952 film starring Humphrey Bogart, is a classic, and a great depiction of journalism as it was practiced from the 20s through the 60s. Again, more details at the site.

"Citizen Kane" is nice enough, and its an honor to have the late Pauline Kael pick a journalism movie as the best film of all time. That's as may be, but in my opinion it is not the best journalism film of all time.

2. Do you feel that any movies featuring journalists have had an impact on the field of journalism?

Almost without question, "All The President's Men" contributed to a groundswell of newcomers into the field of journalism during the 1970s, with its heroic portrayal of Woodward and Bernstein. It also contributed to a loss of trust between journalists and public officials, and led, in part, I believe, to the current state of "constant scandal" in the Washington press corps.

3. Do you feel that any movies featuring journalists have had an impact on the public's perception of journalists?

I think "All The President's Men" made us heroes, and "Absence of Malice" made us goats. Fortunately, many more people saw the former than the latter. Although I haven't seen it, I understand "The Insider" makes journalists look pretty good as well.

4. Have you been impacted or inspired by any movies that feature journalists?

"Absence of Malice" made me more careful about both facts and implications. "The Paper" made me more careful about not putting the job before the marriage. The Superman TV show and comic book actually contributed mightily to my decision to become a journalist; I loved Superman.

5. Of the movies you have seen, do you feel that any have portrayed journalists accurately, and if so, which ones?

"The Paper", "Absence of Malice", possibly "The Insider," which I haven't seen. "Deadline USA" was good for its day, a period also depicted, somewhat mechanically, by "-30-". To a certain extent, "Ace In The Hole," although its picture of journalism isn't very pretty. Certainly not "I Love Trouble" or "Switching Channels," which are just silly.

6. Do feel that some movies stereotype journalists of various types? If so, what stereotypes have you noticed?

There are good journalists and bad journalists, and most publishers are shown as venal and stupid, although a few are brave and courageous. For every example, there seems to be a counter-example, in every era. Since former print reporters write more movies than former broadcasters, most print reporters are portrayed well, most broadcast reporters come off as idiots. Obviously, "Broadcast News" and "Up Close And Personal" were extreme exceptions to this general rule.

Talking About Journalists On Film in LA

I haven't met Saltzman yet, but I will soon. In the meantime, if you're in LA or can get there easily (and have $35), this sounds good to me.

Libraries Lunch-Lecture Will Probe Journalists' Images in Frank Capra Films

USC Information Services and the Friends of the USC Libraries will hold a literary luncheon featuring Annenberg School for Communication Associate Dean Joe Saltzman and his book "Frank Capra and the Image of the Journalist in American Film" on Wednesday, March 27 in Doheny Memorial Library.

Saltzman's book discusses a wide range of the director's representations of journalists -- the iconic news hawks portrayed by Clark Gable and Jean Arthur in It Happened One Night and Mr. Deeds Goes To Town, and many other, more obscure Capra Fourth Estate creations, including editors, publishers, and even media tycoons.

Class = Grace Under Pressure

I went to see my nephew Paul play his last JV basketball game of the season up in Sacramento Friday (2.5 hours for a 90 minute trip, but that's another story). His team lost by 15 points and had only six players. In the last four minutes, he scored two three-pointers and kept his cool. Which just reminds me that the definition of class equals grace under pressure. He has it.

He takes after his father, my brother Steve. He is charming, suave and catnip to the women. He has a pencil-thin moustache that is the spitting image of the one my father had the day he married my mother in 1952.

Mark Your Calendars: Paul In Concert

Mark your calendars and don't miss this event. If you don't live around here, fly in for it. The music will be great and the narrator and second tenor saxophone will be... well, modesty forbids.

Gala 20th Anniversary Concert
Saturday, April 27th, 2002 8 p.m.

Hofmann Theatre
Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts
Walnut Creek, California.

Tickets are now available. Call the Regional Center Box Office at
(925) 943-SHOW

Computer Industry News

Assisted Computing Facility

This link has been making the rounds, probably because most technical people wish places like this really existed. I got my link from Robert Malchman.

The Toughest Decision:
Should My Loved One Be
Placed In An Assisted Computing Facility?

For family members, it is often the most difficult and painful decision they will face: to accept that a loved one - a parent, a spouse, perhaps a sibling - is technologically impaired and should no longer be allowed to live independently, or come near a computer or electronic device without direct supervision. The time has come to place that loved one into the care of an Assisted Computing Facility.

Changing The Face Of Digital Photography

Craig Reynolds kicked it off with this:

Subject: new image sensor from Carver Mead's Foveon:

Digital Sensor Is Said to Match Quality of Film

Say Cheese, You Poor Emulsion-Film Dinosaurs

More at Daypop.

Another person on the distribution list added some more links:

I've seen sample output from Foveon's X3 technology compared head to head with traditional tech, and the difference is quite astounding in certain areas. Specifically, the drastic reduction of moire patterns and complete elimination of color artifacts are truly impressive.

FWIW, the articles at Digital Photography Review are a better source of info (though the business2.com article was pretty good):

X3 press release
X3 technology overview
X3 hands-on preview

And

Sigma SD9 D-SLR press release

Microsoft Watch

Microsoft won't get away with anything while we have Craig Reynolds to watch out for us:

States Request Microsoft Windows Code

States: MS, Show Your Code

Microsoft's lobbying efforts eclipse Enron

Judge Says Microsoft Must Give States Windows Code

I echo Craig on this last one: Way to go Judge Kollar-Kotelly!

Microsoft Antitrust Comments

The most important comments in the Microsoft antitrust case have been posted by the Department of Justice. If you're seriously interested, you should read them. I especially recommend those of Relpromax, which I find particularly compelling. I think you will too.

Sources tell me that the government has been playing fast and loose with the comment process, demanding that some comments before edited before they were accepted for submission, then being denied because they missed the deadline! That's like killing your parents and then denying you benefits because you're an orphan, in my humble opinion.

Web Site of the Week

Valentine's Day

Just when you think there's going to be no Web Site of the Week, an old college buddy comes through for you, in this case Fred Hutchison (yes, another The Tech alumnus):

Therefore, to restore some luster to our long-last friendship, I have decided to forward to you an interesting Valentine's Day site. Methinks this Captain Wacky dude has a bit too much time on his hands, which reminds me a touch of you.

Humor

The Real Enron Story

The Arthur Anderson partner was on his cell phone when he said, "Ship the Enron documents to the feds," but his secretary heard "Rip the Enron documents to shreds."

It turns out that it was all just a case of bad cellular. Like those TV commercials with Charo.

Thank you, Glen Speckert, for suggesting this scenario.

Thank you Barb Moore, for the graphical version.

Axis of Just as Evil

When Dave Sims sent this to me today, it was my 15th copy. I realized I was in the presence of an overwhelming Internet force that I simply have to take notice of.

Angered By Snubbing, Libya, China Syria Form Axis Of Just As Evil
Cuba, Sudan, Serbia Form Axis of Somewhat Evil; Other Nations Start Own Clubs

Beijing (SatireWire.com) Bitter after being snubbed for membership in the "Axis of Evil," Libya, China, and Syria today announced they had formed the "Axis of Just as Evil," which they said would be way eviler than that stupid Iran-Iraq-North Korea axis President Bush warned of his State of the Union address.

The Top 20 Valentines from Enron Executives

If they hadn't gone to 18, I'd have been a runner-up

February 14, 2002

20> Dear Valentine,
No time to compare thee to a summer's day
I'm off to the Caymans with Kenneth Lay!

19> You worked so hard, put in so many hours,
I wish I could give you Valentine flowers.
But all I can offer are words for enjoyment
Welcome to the world of unemployment.

18> Roses are red,
Violets are blue.
What I did to the shareholders,
I'll soon do to you.

17> Dear Wife, I'm writing to say,
"Have a Happy Valentine's Day"
I was a bad lover,
But I'll soon discover,
If jail makes me a better Lay.

16> Roses are red,
Clouds make it rainy.
I won't tell Congress
What I discussed with Cheney.

15> Can't afford heating oil?
Try lighting a romantic fire!
Use those Enron stock certificates
On which you thought you'd retire.

14> Be mine.
All mine.
And when I've sucked every last penny out of you,
you can be yours again.

13> "Let them eat cake,"
Said the chick with the hair.
They chopped off her head and...
Hey, screw that. I'm going to Aruba.

12> Dear Valentine, I love you to shreds!

11> Your smile is infectious,
Your laugh is endearing.
Please keep them both through
My Congressional hearing.

10> Though we may soon be parted,
Your heart will remain with me.
Despite the rest of my body
Residing in Cell Block 3.

9> Though our stock fell faster,
Than a commie-built rocket.
Please say, Mr. Cheney,
You're still in our pocket.

8> The ink is all red,
Bankruptcy's blue.
Now get the hell out,
And take a plant with you.

7> Dear Shareholders,
This lovely candy box is for you.
The candy was great.
Thanks, The Enron Management Team

6> It once was ninety bucks a share
Then melted into thin, thin air.
We thank you for your confidence,
But you ain't got no common cents.

5> Roses are red,
Violets are blue.
Just to be safe,
Shred this card, too.

4> Happy Valentine's Day, Senators!
Thank you so much for the interest,
In how we dug this deep rut,
But if you're looking for answers,
You can kiss our collective butt.

3> Dear Sweetheart,
Remember you said I look good in stripes,
How they complement my physique?
Well, I'll soon be wearing them 24/7,
As will my cellmate, Zeke.

2> The company's broke,
The employees are broker.
But for you, Mrs. Lay,
Here's a huge diamond choker.
Your loving husband, Kennyboy

and Topfive.com's Number 1 Valentine from an Enron Executive...

1> How do I love thee?
I take offense to the prosecutorial tone of such an inflammatory question and will therefore, under advice of counsel, be exercising my Fifth Amendment right not to answer.

[ The Top 5 List
www.topfive.com ]
[ Copyright 2002 by Chris White ]
======================
Selected from 125 submissions from 50 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
----------------------------------
Chris Irby, Dallas, TX -- 1 (9th #1)
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 18

And an irresistible celebrity runner-up

I miss you, dear, when I'm away,
My heart, it aches so then.
And I know I'll miss you even more
When I'm serving 5-to-10.
(Pat Sajak, Los Angeles, CA)

Movies

Sad News Of Digital Projection

This from Craig Reynolds via Slashdot:

Looks like there will be only 20 theaters in the US using digital projectors to show "Attack of the Clones" which was shot entirely in digital video:

Digital screens sparse for 'Star Wars' release

Like digital television, this is a real chicken-and-egg situation that will require someone with a ton of money to step to the plate and make the obvious next move a reality sometime in our lifetime. I've seen digital projection (one of those 20 Star Wars-capable screens is at the AMC Theater on Van Ness in San Francisco, where I intend to see Star Wars II at least once) and it is better; George Lucas (and virtually every knowledgeable observer of the film industry) is right.

Here's Lucas threatening an all-digital rollout of Star Wars III, here's Roger Ebert downplaying digital projection, and praising MaxiVision48, an interesting system you should more about--and which has about as much chance of success as Douglas Trumbull's 70mm, 60-frame Showscan process. You know, the one that's available in every major U.S. city for major film releases? Oh wait... no it's not. It's dead and gone, with an afterlife as a component of Imax.

Yes, people are right. It makes no sense for theater owners to go digital when studios reap all the economic benefits. So studios need to step up to the plate.

As for the argument that customers obtain no benefit, let me tell you: a crystal clear print is a joy to behold. Frankly, it reminds me of all the arguments about records vs. CDs. I do not wish to engage in a religious discussion, so I'll only say this once, as clearly as I can: the world's best record on the world's best turntable may well be better than the best CD on the best CD player (although I doubt it). But no one I know can afford a granite base and a hand-carved rosewood pickup arm, combined with temperature-controlled and hermetically sealed storage.

So, reality is simple: the average CD played on average equipment is 10,000 times better than the average record played on the average turntable. And the same will be true for digital projection.

No Movies This Week

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

Letters

Dan Grobstein's Grab Bag; Craig Reynolds Spots John Dean In Print, Twice

Several items from Dan Grobstein this week:

Mark your calendar. Next Wednesday, 20 February 2002, will be an historic moment in time. When the 24 hour clock ticks on 8:02 p.m. on Wednesday, 20 February 2002, then time, day, month, and year will read in perfect symmetry 2002, 2002, 2002. To be more precise - 20:02, 20/02. 2002. A symmetrical pattern has only happened once in the past, a little over a thousand years ago. The exact moment was 10:01 a.m. on 10 January 1001.This balanced pattern will never happen again.

And this as well:

A good example of the philosophy that the people below you don't count.

Under the Fog of War
By Richard Cohen

Carl Sandburg's fog comes on little cat feet. The fog of war comes differently -- on the heavy boots of soldiers. It is these boots that allegedly walked across the backs of Afghan prisoners, in some cases cracking ribs of men who, it later turned out, were American allies. The imprisonment was a mistake. The torture, if true, was a crime.

Also from Dan:

Shades of Vincent Foster! I don't usually subscribe to conspiracy theories, but this is interesting.

Woman Charged in License Scam Dies
February 12, 2002
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) -- A driver's license examiner charged in a scheme with some Middle Eastern men to sell fraudulent licenses died the day before her first court appearance in fiery car wreck prosecutors called ``most unusual and suspicious.''

And finally this:

I clicked the "most emailed articles" link and this popped up.
Why Some People Won't Be Fit Despite Exercise
February 12, 2002
By GINA KOLATA

Fitness, like weight loss, has genetic underpinnings making it inherently much easier for some to get fit than it is for others.

No comment needed, right? This from Craig Reynolds:

I hadn't heard much from John Dean, then I see two commentaries by him in one day:
In the New York Times:

Cheney Should Stop Stalling
by John W. Dean

And at MSNBC:

Theater of the absurd
By John W. Dean

Both commentaries are interesting. Old John still has something on the ball, I'd say. And he's right about dragging people in and forcing them to take the fifth in public. It is undignified. While gratifying, it is unfair and should be stopped.

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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