PS... A Column

on Things

By Paul E. Schindler Jr.

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

I have a day job. So every word of this is my opinion, not that of my employer. This offer IS 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.


To Pay For This Column Voluntarily
Tales of Teaching 2004
Tales of Teaching 2005

P.S. A Column On Things: May 5, 2003

May 5, 2003 Vol. 5, No.19

Table of Contents:

General News

  • Soapbox For The Self-Absorbed?
  • Exit Interview Done
  • Political Thoughts

Computer Industry News

  • Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

Web Site of the Week

  • Much Ado, Patriot Act Parody

Humor

  • The Top 15 Leftist Country-Western Song Titles
  • The Top 20 Least Successful Restaurant Chains
  • Coded Message

Movies

  • Confidence
  • Identity

Letters

  • A Little Dern, A Lot Of Grobstein

General News

Soapbox For The Self-Absorbed?

I was listening to the KQED radio broadcast of the PBS show NewsHour with Jim Lehrer last week when I heard an item about web logs, also know as blogs. The reporter called them "a soapbox for the self-absorbed." An MSNBC blog analyst said their two major characteristics were narcissism and creativity.

Well.

Exit Interview Done

I went out to Chapman University, turned in my candidate teacher profile and underwent an exit interview in which my adviser joined so many other people who have praised me to the sky and claimed I will be a great teacher. Here's hoping they are right. As of now, I have applied to the state of California for credentials to teach history and English in grades 6-12. Issuance of the credential is considered highly likely, and I have letters from Chapman U confirming that, which I am submitting in lieu of credentials with my job applications.

Alas, I did overlook a fourth and final course required for my CLAD credential (which means it is OK to have non-English speaking students in my class), but I hope to find a way to take it on-line this summer.

I'm a teacher!

Political Thoughts

On April 15, 2003, the United States (in the person of a force commander) signed an agreement with an organization designated by the United States as a terrorist organization. In the agreement the United States allowed the terrorists to keep their weapons and promised not to damage any of the group's vehicles, equipment, or any of its property in camps in Iraq. Further, the United States promised not to act against these terrorists in Iran. The cover story is that at some unspecified time in the future, the terrorists will no longer have their weapons. Statements about the matter by an official United States spokesperson (Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks) since April 15, 2002, have been, to be charitable about it, less than illuminating. One wonders why George Bush and Dick Cheney have decided to advocate the support and nurturing of this terrorist organization which has killed Americans in the past and which is active in both Iran and Iraq. The terrorists have effectively promised not to interfere with U.S. control of Iraqi oil. Read all about it in The New York Times, April 29, 2003, page A1, American Forces And Terror Group Reach Cease-Fire by Douglas Jehl with Michael Gordon.

Seems those paragons of virtue in the Department of Justice (or Injustice, you decide we just do the fair and balanced reporting) allowed another United States citizen (Timothy McVeigh) to be killed by the government without appropriate judicial review. Read about it in The New York Times, May 1, 2003, p. A23, "Lawyers For F.B.I. Employees Raised Doubts About Expert's McVeigh Testimony" under an Associate Press byline. An FBI scientist (we express no opinion on whether that's an oxymoron, you decide) testified at McVeigh's trial that his lab was always locked and therefore his findings could not be the result of contamination in his lab. The scientist's deposition was taken in another case later and he swore that various people who used the alleged chemical contaminant involved had unrestricted unsupervised access to his lab. The lawyers who took the deposition brought the testimony to the attention of John Ashcroft well before McVeigh was killed. Ashcroft buried the evidence and did not meet his constitutional obligation to deliver the evidence to McVeigh's trial lawyers.

Computer Industry News

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

Craig Reynolds surfs the net for you.

Apple's 99 store: at my house we have several Macs, an iPod and we use iTunes. I have also long advocated that the music industry stop treating their loyal customers as suspected thieves, and come up with a business model that fits the reality of the Network Age. So I have to be enthusiastic about Apple's entry into the pay-by-the-song music business, the iTunes Music Store, which was selling four songs every second on its first day. CNET rightly called it Evolution, not Revolution (but I'd have to say that sensible behavior from the media barons is borderline revolutionary) and MacCentral talked to Apple, analysts on the new music service. On the other hand, some say that even at 99 Apple is overcharging especially since their "competition" provides the same product for free. Brian Zisk of the Future of Music Coalition suggests downloadable music should sell for about 18 a song. By way of comparison, the music industry normally sells CDs containing one song plus filler for 2000. On the third hand, the iTunes Music Store is unlikely to diminish the appeal of peer-to-peer file trading services since Smut Trading Outstrips Tune Swaps. Finally, just in case you wanted to know, here is How to Link to Items in the iTunes Store and an unrelated iPod item: University finds innovative uses for iPods.

Spam: E-Mail Service Providers Unite in Bid to Stop Spam, Lofgren's anti-spam bill, Antispam panel: Proposed laws aren't enough, Spam, Spam, Spam, Lovely Spam, Reflections on the 25th Anniversary of Spam and Origin of the term "spam" to mean net abuse.

Emergence: I have a long and abiding interest in decentralized systems where complex global patterns arise out of simple local interactions. I happened to see three items on that topic this week: one on ant foraging ("...Mechanisms such as this allow a colony to marshal its workforce through interactions between individual ants..."), one on the RoboCup robotic soccer competition, and one on military applications of robotic herds.

I am pleased to announce that I am now officially an Open Source developer: OpenSteer is available on the web. Probably no one reading PSACOT would actually have a use for it, this item is really just to goose up Google's Page Rank for my page.

Technobits: Michigan seems to be backing away from its draconian Super-DMCA law --- U.S. Rep Rick Boucher on Can the DMCA be Fixed? --- some think buggy software would be improved by product liability lawsuits while others disagree --- The Reg reports that RIAA's Rosen 'writing Iraq copyright laws' (first cruise missiles, now this, will the horror never end?!) --- serendipity: a cancer-proof mouse --- see this free chapter on web page headings from a new book Designing CSS Web Pages --- cool illustrations of big things at 1 Pixel per meter, more here.

Web Site of the Week

Much Ado, Patriot Act Parody

Rae, my daughter, found William Sexpere's Much Ado About Puberty, of which she says, "Watch the film! It's weird and a half!" A lad in a modern suburb, speaking in iambic pentameter and dressed in Shakespearean clothes, inquires of his mother and father ( similarly attired), what he should make of these changes in his body.

Daniel Dern is developing a lock on this feature; this week he found a funny Patriot Act Parody at Whitehouse.org.

Humor

The Top 15 Leftist Country-Western Song Titles

I wrote No. 6.

April 28, 2003

NOTE FROM CHRIS:

As the Dixie Chicks recently discovered after sharing some left-leaning sentiments, the vast majority of country-western music fans are pretty conservative.

But the liberal minority must have some C&W songs...

15> My Wife Turned Right, So I Done Left

14> Stand by Your Domestic Partner of Non-Specific Gender and Sexual Orientation

13> Don't It Make My Green Party Blue

12> You're All I Have Left 'Cause They Done Took All My Rights

11> Tree-Hugger's Daughter

10> Sittin' Tall in This Genuine Vinyl No-Cattle-Were-Harmed-in- the-Manufacture-of Saddle

9> Ninety Miles From Berkeley and My 'Lectric Car Done Died

8> All My Exes Live in California Old-Growth Trees

7> D-I-V-E-R-S-I-T-Y

6> There's WMD on Your Lips but OIL in Your Eyes

5> Even Socialized Medicine Can't Fix My Broken Heart

4> Achy-Bleedy Heart

3> Sit Closer to Me in My Truck, Darlin', 'Cause I Don't Like Leanin' to the Right

2> I Beg Your Pardon (I Never Promised You an Organic Soybean Garden)

and Topfive.com's Number 1 Leftist Country-Western Song Title...

1> I Done Cried My Eyes Dryly ('Cause Baby Left Me for O'Reilly)

 

[ The Top 5 List www.topfive.com ]
[ Copyright 2003 by Chris White ]
================
Selected from 90 submissions from 34 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
-------------------------------
Brad Simanek, Cedar Rapids, IA -- 1 (7th #1)
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 6

The Top 20 Least Successful Restaurant Chains

My 13th No. 1; can you make the Hall of Fame incrementally?

May 2, 2003

NOTE FROM CHRIS:

Top5 reader Jonas Heilesen wrote from Copenhagen to tell me about a restaurant there named SARS. Talk about a bad choice for a name, right?

20> Slippery Slim's Happy Trails Snail Buffet

19> International House of Pancreas

18> Gandhiburger

17> Day-Old Discount Sushi Emporium

16> NRA Kill It/Grill It Steakhouse

15> Dahmer's Deli De-Lites

14> Tofu Bell

13> Jackass... the Restaurant

12> Hirsooters

11> Captain Tricky's Raw Pork Bar

10> Outhouse Out Back Steakhouse

9> Hairy Queen

8> Pee Wee's Hand-Jerked Chicken

7> Tastes Like Shiite Iraqi Cuisine

6> Phlegmpie's

5> Preggo's Sardine, Pickle and Ice Cream Parlor

4> Just Taste All That Greece!

3> Francisco McGillicutty's Bogus Ethnic Forced-Fun Emporium

2> Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf's Wonderful, Vermin-Free Restaurant

and Topfive.com's Number 1 Least Successful Restaurant Chain...

1> Bob Dole's Foot-Long Hot Dogs


[ The Top 5 List
www.topfive.com ]
[ Copyright 2003 by Chris White ]

=======================
Selected from 149 submissions from 53 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
--------------------------------
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 1 (13th #1)
Pat Sajak, Los Angeles, CA -- 11, Topic

Coded Message

After numerous rounds of "We don't even know if Saddam is still alive", Saddam decided to send George W. a letter in his own writing to let his friend know that he is still in the game. Bush opened the letter and it appeared to contain a coded message: 370HSSV-0773H

George W. couldn't figure it out so he typed it in and emailed Colin Powell.

Colin and his aides had no clue either so they sent it to the CIA. No one could solve it so it went to the NSA and then to MIT and NASA and the cc list got longer and longer. Eventually it arrived at the Fed.

Dr. Greenspan looked at it and replied the next second: "Perhaps the President would wish to look at the message up-side-down...."

Movies

Confidence

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

Three great genres combined into one entertaining movie. First of all, this movie is narrated by a dead man (ala Sunset Boulevard and American Beauty, which means you know the narrator is dead, as opposed to Sixth Sense). Secondly, it is a con game film (ala The Sting, one of my favorite movies of all time). Thirdly, it is a non-linear narrative (not as clever as Memento, but still clever). A very literate, witty, clever and well-done script by Doug Jung. This is his first produced feature film script; previously he wrote for television--his credits include a personal favorite, Breaking News, of which I have every episode on tape.

Great actors. Dustin Hoffman basically has an extended cameo, and its all of his usual bag of twitches and tricks, but he still makes it fun to watch. Why isn't Ed Burns a bigger star by now? The man has real range and is brilliant as the central con man in this film. Andy Garcia. If Andy has been in a bad film, I haven't seen it. Like Hoffman, he's only got a few minutes on screen, but he makes the most of them. James Foley, who hasn't directed anything you've ever heard of except for Glengarry Glen Ross and an episode of Twin Peaks, combines the elements with visual style.

Is it art? No it is not. Is it entertainment? Yes it is. Rated R for language, violence and sexuality/nudity. It would be incomprehensible to anyone under 16, and worse yet, boring. If your taste runs to any of its three genres, you'll want to see it.

Identity

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

Michael Cooney hasn't written much so far, but if this film is any indication of his abilities, he may have a bright future. Alas, Hollywood is littered with the metaphorical corpses of numerous one-shot wonder screenwriters. James Mangold, who has a few films under his belt (including the critically acclaimed Stallone comeback vehicle Cop Land) does a first-class job of directing this moody murder mystery. You can't possibly figure out who dunnit. I guarantee it.

Still, this movie is brilliant. The twist, which you don't get until three-quarters of the way in, will rock you on your heels. Even the anticlimax is well-executed. It's only 90 minutes--I like that. It is rated Rated R for strong violence and language. They aren't kidding. The language is strong and the violence is both strong and realistic. We're not talking slasher movie, but we're talking blood and guts and on-screen murder.

Besides, it features presidential candidate-in-waiting John Cusack as one of the major characters.

Adults only, and only adults with strong stomachs.

By the way, the film deals with multiple personality syndrome. I know a few psychotherapists, and they tell me that multiple personality syndrome is absolutely real, but seldom as clear as it is depicted in Hollywood films--but then films aren't life, they're a heightened metaphorical representation of life. At least they are if they are well done.

Letters

A Little Dern, A Lot Of Grobstein

Great news from Daniel Dern:

The June 2003 issue of F&SF, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, containing "For Malzberg It Was They Came," is out. (Dunno if it's on the newsstands, but my author's copies just arrived.)

This is my first published SF story of the new decade. It's part of special tribute in the issue to Barry Malzberg, author of numerous books and stories including Beyond Apollo and Herovit's World.

See mini-reviews of my story (and of the rest of the issue, too) in at BlueJack and Tangent Online.

Note, since this is a magazine, there's no additional royalties generated by your buying a copy -- but sales are good for F&SF's health, and if you really want to be supportive, become a subscriber!

Dan Grobstein found an AP story at the New York Times reporting that PETA wants Hamburg, PA to change its name to veggiburg. Also from the same pair of sources, the Louvre has digitized Leonardo DaVinci's notebooks, and Ailment of Nurse [Florence] Nightingale Is Diagnosed (she had bipolar disorder). Dan also found a Reuters story in the Times about an apparent bioterrorist who was killed by his own toxin in Brazil on his way to Canada. From Salon, he found Blaming The Victim by Lee Feinstein. Salon now charges you if you want to read past the lead paragraph, but here's how the story's described:

Newt Gingrich came back from the political grave to say the State Department is broken. He should know. He helped break it.

Dan also forwards a first-hand account of Apple's new iTune service:

I tried out the new iTunes store thingie. It's pretty neat. It'd be nice if they actually had the music I listened to on it. Emusic.com has the same idea, only you get 128kbps mp3s, unlimited downloads for 10$/month. AND they've got most of the good record labels (in my opinion). the iTunes online store charges 99 cents per song or 10$ a CD, you get higher quality mp4 encoded files (AAC) but they've got embedded Digital Rights Management (DRM) so that you can only put them on 3 Macs, unlimited iPods and burn unlimited CDs. The only problem is that not many things play AAC yet. Just iTunes on the Mac and the iPod and a few, select, shareware/commercial apps on the Mac and PC... nothing Linux. no other hardware mp3 players...

If the files were mp3s or non-DRM'd, then it'd be good.

You've all heard of the "deck of cards" given to our troops; Dan bought one. I hope it's not exactly the same as the deck given our troops...

I bought a pack of those Iraqi playing cards from one of the ubiquitous emails. Quite a few are pretty worthless for identification. Whoever did the artwork used a "fit to box" command for some of the photos. This alters the horizontal/vertical scaling. Some faces are condensed and some faces are expanded. Pretty hard to recognize somebody from a picture like that. They also could have taken a larger area on the card so that more details could be seen.

Other than that, they are a pretty neat gimmick.

Dan found a Thomas L. Friedman column about post-war Iraq in the New York Times that was, in my opinion, upside down. Here's how it concludes:

If conservatives exaggerate what has already been accomplished in Iraq, they're going to misread how much more needs to be done and blow the opportunity to meaningfully liberate Iraq. If Democrats underestimate the importance of what has already been accomplished by Saddam's removal, and its huge potential, they are going to miss the opportunity to shape - and help make happen - one of the most important turning points in U.S. foreign policy and the Middle East.

Dan had a busy week; he also found the Washington Post story Joe McCarthy Secret Hearings to Be Unveiled Monday.

From elsewhere came two possible answers to two questions asked in last week's column:

Why has George Bush decided to advocate IRS enhanced enforcement efforts against the poor but not the rich? The position Bush advocates will leave the rich with their money so they can contribute to Bush's Republican friends and to an election campaign Bush is reported to be contemplating.

Thomas White's resignation (as Secretary of the Army) may also be because there is a report due in about a month concerning the issue of whether the division White ran at Enron violated one or more antitrust or other laws during the energy crisis a few years ago in California and other states.

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