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.


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Tales of Teaching 2005

February 14, 2005: P.S. A Column On Things

February 14, 2005 Vol. 7, No. 6

Table of Contents:

General News

  • Groundhog Day Followup
  • Second Favorite Super Bowl Commercial
  • Marlow in the Netherlands
  • Political Notes

Computer Industry News

  • Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs
  • Leet Lite
  • Whatever Happened To HP CEO Carly Fiorina

Humor

  • None

Movies

  • Million-Dollar Baby

Letters

  • Bad Cupid, Mari's Cool Experiment, Sued for Cookies, Bob Nilsson on the Buster Lesbian Episode, Dan Grobstein File

General News

Groundhog Day Followup

I know you were worried about not being able to find Danny Rubin's web site, since webtoe.biz was closed. Luckily, a web search for his wife Louise revealed his new website as one of the ones she has designed. Frankly, I am feeling rather clever at the moment.

Second Favorite Super Bowl Commercial

My favorite Super Bowl commercial was Godaddy.com, an Internet registrar, which spoofed the Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction brouhaha from last year. But my second favorite was, hands down, the Fedex (Federal Express) commercial spoofing Super Bowl commercials. When I checked Monday morning, no one had listed all 10 of the factors listed in the commercial as required for a good Super Bowl commercial. I am pretty sure I remember them:

  1. Celebrity
  2. Animal
  3. Dancing animal
  4. Cute kid
  5. Groin kick
  6. Talking animal
  7. Pretty girls
  8. Popular song
  9. Commercial message
  10. Funny scene after message

Marlow in The Netherlands

Marlow is in The Netherlands right now, at Leiden University, working on her degree in International Relations. Here's what's new from her: [first written news in 2 months]

There have been a lot of social engagements this weekend. On Wednesday I had beer with H and we went over his essay on Friesian monks and watched episodes of Yes, Minister, a British sitcom. On Thursday A stayed after class and we had pizza and went to a lecture on "America in the world" by some Republican pundit. It was basically a lecture on EU-US relations, which was fine, but not exactly what it was billed as, and I didn't agree with him on some stuff. He also kept 'we'ing America in a way a non-elected official maybe shouldn't. Afterwards we went to a bar with some Canadians who had identified themselves as such during the question section. It turns out one of them grew up in the same neighborhood in Vancouver as my classmate J. Their siblings know each other, and they figured out that they had been in the same room many times for concerts. On Friday the political science masters program was getting together to drink at Einstein's, so I also went to that because my friend D would be coming in from Amsterdam and our trip to Maastricht had been pushed back a day because the Carnival parade was on Sunday. We ended up doing the whole Friday night international student circuit, including the international night at Caetena, one of Leiden's student societies. They had a dance floor and foosball and cheap beer. I even talked with one of my professors from last semester and the Canadians came out again.

Saturday J and I headed out for Eindhoven around 5 to get there around 7. A and B picked us up and we went to his parent's house to pick out Carnaval costumes from the stuff in their attic. A ended up wearing her boyfriend's childhood dog costume. J got a matador's hat and a fur vest. I took a kimono and an apron with a mushroom hat, and B ended up with a lab coat and spotted clown pants. This turned out to be a perfectly acceptable set of costumes. We went back and had some bbq at Amanda's and then went out to check out the club scene. True enough everyone was dressed up. And since everyone was out this time the scene was less dominated by 16 year olds. Some people were dressed up in Halloween style costumes, some Mardi Gras style, some just in ugly miss-matched clothes. Some people had a wig or face paint, but lots of huge groups had obviously put in a lot of effort. Everyone was drinking and singing in Dutch. There were a lot of guys in drag and tightly packed crowds. In the morning we drove out to Maastricht, but we were a bit early. We wandered around with the throngs watching the various bands warm up and march to the starting line of the parade. We weren't sure if what we were seeing was the parade, but plenty of people kept waiting around expectantly.

Eventually the parade really did start and we watched the crowd, sometimes going into bars to pee (or peeing on the public urinals on the street for the boys). We also bought whatever fried food we passed (that I can recall I had a kroket, a hotdog, a berliner ball, patat speciaal, a cheeseburger, and a milkshake). The beers were being sold in the regular little tulip glasses. No one seemed to care when you walked out with them. Tables were set up outside, but you could just as easily wander off into the crowd. Glass was everywhere under foot and empty glasses were piled on any stable surface. A bit odd. There were lots of kids in full costume matching their parents. We left as it was starting to get dark and drove back to Eindhoven and then took the train back to Leiden.

Political Notes

I added this item late, after posting the column last week. Early readers may not have seen it:

YOU MUST READ THIS DESCRIPTION of Bulgegate. Don't let the true story of a President so dim he needed to cheat in a debate by having his answers fed to him through an earpiece. The cynical lying and the determined effort to slander everyone working on the story as a "nutcase"-- do they sound familiar? Can anyone say Ohio? Send this link to all your friends:

http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=2012

Watch: as the proof becomes clearer and clearer, the White House will retreat, first to "So what? So he had help..." to, eventually, "our previous statements on this issue are inoperative." Actually, if Alberto Gonzales is an example of how the White House handles issues, they'll deny they ever denied Bulgegate and refuse to discuss it. Let's all bring some reality to this faith-based White House.

***

This started off as an email to fellow MIT alumnus (and former Maine state official) Joe Edwards:

As you may recall, I started the column to keep from going insane while yelling at my television set during the impeachment disaster. I begin to feel I need it for similar purposes during the next few years, as the Bush propaganda machine shifts into high gear. Teaching US History (esp. Jackson/Adams 1828 and Hayes/Tilden 1876) reminds one that there is nothing new under the sun. For that matter, watching the Saturday Night Live Election Special, in which Dana Carvey, as Bush the elder, smears Jon Lovitz, as Dukakis, for being a "flip flopper," reminds one that the American people have an attention span that would fit in a gnat's navel and leave room left over for a Hollywood Agent's heart.

Joe wrote back:

I wonder if the Founding Fathers are turning in their graves at what we've become, but somehow Americans always seem to get it sorted out when it really matters. I still believe (have faith?) that this phase of our politics will pass. The rest of the civilized/educated world gets it. Surely we will too.

Occasionally on Wednesday I watch the British question period when the opposition MP's try to roast and embarrass the Prime Minister. Recently one of the Tories asked Tony Blair to explain his support for the US. Without hesitation Blair said that the quickest, true measure of a country is how many people are trying to get in and how many are trying to get out. In the long sweep of history the perfidy and ignorance that afflict us now will not prevail. They never have.

My God, I do wish we had question time in our legislature...

***

This from Richard Dalton:

I don't know if I've mentioned the wonderful animation Ben Cohen (yes, that Ben Cohen) and his True Majority (actually OUR True Majority since I'm a card-carrying member) PAC has posted. It shows folksy Ben juggling Oreo cookies to illustrate how badly skewed the federal budget is.

This year's version also lets you juggle the cookies any way you believe makes more sense than Bush's wretched proposal. Invite a couple of kids to help. Their questions and comments can make it a truly educational process for all parties.

***

By naming Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General we are sending the world a message on torture which turns my stomach. .It isn't even un-American, it is anti-American, and we will reap the whirlwhind. From Truthout.org, A Scathing Denunciation of Alberto Gonzales, aka Statement Of Senator Richard J. Durbin On The Nomination Of Alberto R. Gonzales To Serve As Attorney General Of The United States. You'll enjoy its specificity if not its content.

***

From the New York Times

To the Editor:

Re "Blaming the Messengers" (editorial, Feb. 3): I write as one of the four lawyers who face sanctions for contesting the Bush-Cheney victory in Ohio. (The others are Robert Fitrakis, Susan Truitt and Clifford Arnebeck.)

Concerning our "weak" case: We filed more than 900 pages of evidence opposing sanctions sought against us because the case was "frivolous." A critical issue was large discrepancies between official results and results of exit polls directed by Warren Mitofsky, a polling expert.

Our expert witness, Dr. Ron Baiman of the University of Illinois, testified that the probability that John Kerry won Ohio (and thus the presidency) was about 99 percent. In a companion case affidavit, Dr. Baiman stated that Mr. Mitofsky's Jan. 19 explanation of the exit poll results does not suffice.

George W. Bush and Richard Cheney each waived their right to cross-examine Dr. Baiman and refused to appear for depositions, thus missing a golden opportunity to explain their precise involvement in the election and to enhance our country's stature in the minds of foreign citizens who know the meaning of a large discrepancy between exit poll results and official results.

The laws of statistics do not change at the United States border.

Peter Peckarsky
Columbus, Ohio
Feb. 7, 2005

Briefs

Computer Industry News

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

Google Maps: if you haven't tried Google Maps yet, do! For example here is where I work, and here are nearby restaurants. The map graphics are lovely, the search integration is tops, and the interaction is great. But wait, there's more! I think the coolest part is mouse scrolling: just click and drag to scroll the map, and scroll and scroll...it is very fluid! If you are interested in what is going on under the hood here is some commentary.

Negroponte's $100 PC: Nicholas Negroponte founded the influential MIT Media Lab and its predecessor, the Architecture Machine Group. When I was a graduate student at the latter, he was my boss and thesis advisor. Prof. Negroponte was in the news this week because of his recent proposal to create a "volks-computer", a $100 laptop for education in developing countries. See coverage from the BBC, Boston Globe and New York Times.

Online health resources: need help evaluating treatment options, want to research a physician? HealthGrades for rating of doctors and hospitals, Healthfinder for information sources, and to find your state medical board: FSMB. (Via the Today Show.)

Black hole wrap-up (or is that "warp-up?"): Black Hole Growth Self-Limiting, Simulation Shows and Rogue star shown the galactic door "...an encounter with the supermassive black hole at the galaxy's heart may be the cause of the star's exodus..."

Technobits: --- copywrongs: The Copyrighting of Public Space --- Steven Levy on eVoting --- The Firefox Explosion --- Why Does Windows Still Suck? --- Gates Vows 'Interoperable' Software (hope this goes as well as his last Big Leap: Trustworthy Computing) --- IBM, Sony, Toshiba present Cell and Sony's 'Supercomputer on a Chip' to Make Debut --- Ask Jeeves Buys Bloglines --- Turn your Mac mini into a low-cost recording studio --- too geeky for words: iPod Shuffle RAID --- Cooking For Engineers and a profile of its founder --- Singing in the rain: "The original updated".

Leet Lite

McSweeny's Magazine online via Daniel Dern: E-Mail Shorthand That Civil War Soldiers Would Likely Have Used In Letters Home Had The Technology Been Available To Them.

Whatever Happened To HP CEO Carly Fiorina

I am proud to say this is the best, clearest analysis of the Fiorina era you're going to see; it comes from an old HP hand:

Yes. Stratospheric IQ, fast, fast learn, totally inhumane -- maybe inhuman. Study Packard's book as she might, no ability to comprehend its meaning. The founders, her match in IQ, profoundly and sincerely concerned with decency, even generosity, in relations with employees, customers and suppliers, gaining thereby their enthusiastic contributions toward HP success. This is the essence of "The HP Way." These are concerns she lacked, maybe scorned. Had to dominate all occasions. I'd say not wicked, but oblivious to hurts she might readily inflict. Tough, top-down micro-manager with litttle understanding of motives, ambitions, weaknesses, talents and loyalties of her "subjects."

 

Humor

None

Movies

Million-Dollar Baby

Martin Scorsese or Clint Eastwood? That's a tough one. Scorsese is reaching the point in life where he needs the equivalent of a lifetime achievement award for all his great work in the movies, and it wouldn't even be as much of a joke as giving John Wayne his Oscar for Rooster Cogburn. On the other hand, Clint Eastwood has produced a funny, nasty, dramatic, comedic film with more artsy transitions and weird lighting effects than you can shake a stick at (at his age, I'm nor surprised he doesn't want his face fully lit all the time). My friend was right; this is two-thirds of a great inspirational movie and one-third a bummer of monumental proportions. I think you could have had one without the other, but in the first major fight film since Rocky Eastwood and his screenwriter decided to take the material in the other direction. It is amazing. I still haven't seen Hotel Rwanda, but right now, for my money, best picture is a toss up between Million Dollar Baby and The Aviator. You'll want to take a moment to look back at Neal Vitale's review on Jan. 17; as (almost) always, I agree with his characterization right down the line. If the film had ended with the first punch of the championship fight, it would have been classy and ambiguous--in short, great art. By the way, according to screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, Hollywood hates narration and finds it a cheap trope. So what happened here?

Letters

Bad Cupid, Mari's Cool Experiment, Sued for Cookies, Bob Nilsson on the Buster Lesbian Episode, Dan Grobstein File

Check out Valentines from Bad Cupid.

My mother, Mari Schindler, gave me this experiment. Sit down. Lift your right leg and do clockwise circles. With your hand, draw a numeral "Six" in the air. Your foot will be going counterclockwise. Try it!

This is just nuts, and I defy any lawyer among my readership to defend a judgment against two girls for leaving cookies at someone's front door: CNN.com - Girls sued for delivering cookies - Feb 4, 2005.

Bob Nilsson writes:

I wonder if you covered any of the Postcards from Buster controversy here in New England. With all the work needed to fix the broken US education system, our Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings has spent her time censoring an educational show on maple sugaring in Vermont. Spellings said that PBS should consider refunding the federal funds for the Postcards episode in which Buster learns about maple sugaring from kids in a real life Vermont family headed by two women. The scary part of all this is that PBS Chief Operating Officer Wayne Godwin claims that PBS had decided to pull the episode even before they received Spellings' letter. The show's producer, WGBH, says the two women of the family are only visible in the background of one of the shots. They still plan to air it here. PS Not a bad time for Boston-area sports!!

No, I haven't covered the Buster thing. Maybe I should have. Around here, we don't think of it as the "maple sugaring" episode, but as the "lesbian mothers" episode. KQED is airing it too. It is too bad about the PBS cave-in, but that's the price we pay for government support of public television without sufficient separation of authority. The BBC isn't perfect, but their separation is about right, I think. As for Boston sports, yes, I believe with a Red Sox miracle victory and a squeaker for the Patriots, it is a good time. How are the Bruins and Celtics doing? (Yes, I know about the hockey strike; just rubbing it in)

More questions and comments from Bob:

Any guess as to who was on the other end of the wire?

I wish it was Karl Rove on the wire and we could prove it, but it was probably some really bright intern with much better discretion and more discrete friends than Monica Lewinski.

Two good things coming out of Bush's presidency: 1. Encouragement to youth with disabilities - the other day Sally Quinn said Bush's speech pattern shows he has a learning or speech disability. I'm sure she is not the only one to notice that.

Many people believe Bush has a serious learning disability. Most smirkers do, I have learned.

2. Proves the county has a system that can survive no matter who or what is in the presidency.

Yes, he does prove the resiliency of the system. God the founding fathers were smart.

I see that the NFL pulled the second scheduled airing of godaddy.com's ad last night. Budweiser had a more mild spoof of the "wardrobe malfunction" that they were too timid to even try.

Loved Godaddy. If I weren't registered already, I might go there just to support the commercial. Sorry to hear Bud caved. If any situation deserves parody...

Is that line in the Cialis ad about calling your doctor if erection last more than 4 hours for real, or a joke?

I always thought the four-hour erection thing was a joke, but a couple of medical web sites say it is a serious, albeit rare side effect called priapism which can, in the words of one site, "damage the penis."

***

Dan Grobstein File

New York Times

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