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 2004
Tales of Teaching 2005

February 28, 2005: P.S. A Column On Things

February 28 2005 Vol. 7, No. 8

Table of Contents:

General News

  • Looking At Life
  • Looking at Teacher Education
  • Journalists and Teachers
  • Marlow in The Netherlands
  • Political Notes

Computer Industry News

  • Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

Humor

  • Bush Joke

Movies

  • Guest Review: Constantine
  • Oscar Commentary

Letters

  • Albinus on Snow, Dern on Pratchett, Peterman on Computer, Old Wiesner News from Hanzel, Dan Grobstein File

General News

Looking at Life

I am helping my wife and her sister clean out the house their mother lived in for 55 years (their father died eight years ago). It has been a remarkable experience; like looking for a needle in a haystack. We are desperate not to throw out anything of value, either emotional or financial, yet there is so much... stuff. Five dumpster loads so far. I think that's the worst of it. From now on, it's fine work rather than gross work.

One thing's for sure, I'm learning a lesson: don't put things off. Shed possessions that no one wants or will ever want. If you say you're going to clean out your house, do it. In fact, don't put things off at all if you can help it. My mother-in-law Lynne always wanted to swim with the dolphins. She kept putting it off and never got her chance.

***

Rae came home for a week because Brandeis took a one-week break. It is, as always, a joy to have her home, and it gives me the opportunity to reflect on the job I've done as a parent. Pretty good, I'd say, especially because Rae still likes us. Most college children, I've discovered, do not like their parents. I take this as an endorsement of our parenting.

***

Haven't mentioned my heart in a while, but I was just in for a followup. Rhythm is fine, and the "no treadmill treadmill" test I took (I forget the name of it), says I have no blockage or significant heart disease. Like I said last week, all I need is to lose 100 pounds...

Looking at Teacher Education

Is teacher credentialing effective? I am being exhausted, physically and emotionally, by the penultimate class I have to take to "clear" my credential. No movies, no reading, no TV, just planning, papers and the class.

This is exhausting for mid-career teachers. Maybe young people have the stamina for it. I don't. Do they really want us to come from other professions and become teachers? The barriers, it seems to me, are set too high with dubious relevance to the teaching experience. There is an extremely high dropout rate; half of all teachers leave the field within five years, whether they are mid-career or callow youth. I know California and every other state wants to improve the quality of teaching. Are all the people being forced out bad teachers?

When you are up to your ass in alligators, it is hard to remember that your original goal was to drain the swamp.

On an unrelated note, I notice that a national non-partisan commission spoke truth to power this week: The No Child Standing... Sorry, No Child Left Behind act is stupid, underfunded, and will never achieve its goals because they are silly goals. The truth at last!

Journalists and Teachers

As I was tallying up my membership in various unions and professional associations, and listening to our negotiating committee describe the state of negotiations with our district, it suddenly occurred to me that teachers and journalists are much more alike than I realized. In both fields the number of qualified practitioners far outweighs the available positions. Admittedly, teaching is a profession, with ethics and rules and state licensing, while journalism only aspires to be a profession. But one thing is for sure: management, in both fields, realizes that it can pay peanuts because the people who do the work love it so much they'd do it for nothing. Journalism management, like school boards, will not rest until teachers and journalists are doing it for nothing.

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:

Well, it's snowing, again. So much for the weekend being the last of the winter weather. Some flowers have started blooming a little though, so I remain optimistic that spring is coming.

Today I'm going to an indoor soccer game at 3 with J the Canadian from my program for the tennis team. I'm not sure if I'm going to play but I'm going to meet another tennis player who is also the coach of the women's soccer team, which apparently isn't that good, so if it sounds interesting I may also go to a soccer practice tonight at 8. Though if its still snowing I don't know about that. I haven't played soccer since middle school, except for a little juggling in Riverside Park with Nelson his senior year, my hope is that I don't completely embarrass myself. On the plus side I'm an American and a girl so expectations should be low, and I'm really biking out to the sport center for the social aspect anyway.

I have a short paper on the European Commission due this week and one on Iraq for a presentation next week. I am having trouble getting motivated before the last minute since none of this is thrilling.

Political Notes

Here is an example of what I am sure is unintentional irony. David Brooks, the designated right-winger on the New York Times op ed page (a Safire-in-waiting, as it were) wrote the line in a Feb. 19 column on the threat of a future, more successful Perot-style budget hawk. Brooks admits that Bush's plan to veto any change in the prescription drug benefit is irrational. He then utters a remark I am sure will come back to haunt him:

Have we entered another world, where up is down and rationality is irrational?

Welcome to our world, David. The rest of America has been asking this question since about September 2001 or so. And, of course, we should have asked it last November, except this is apparently the way the American people like their world.

***

Steve Coquet offers an interesting theory:

So I've been thinking....All these presidential appointments of people who are prima facie criminals, or at the very least have really obvious conflicts of interest (which under some circumstances can be criminal): there's not really that much ado about it. Sure the Demos say it's terrible and all that, but then they just let it go! What if they are doing it on purpose -- letting the (P)resident surround himself with indictables? Make a little noise now and then to keep the Republican cabal from getting too suspicious. Then when there are nothing but crooks at every position for two levels below the very top, indict the lot of them. Under the RICO statutes, some of them would almost have to break away from the stone wall. Then the Republican party itself would have to call for an impeachment. I know it's nuts, but it is one explanation of the evidence at hand.

Briefs

  • Brit Hume Must Resign (from Oliver Willis, "Like Krypronite to stupid")

    If you'd like to support this effort on your blog, cut and past the following code onto your blog (as I have; see the bottom of the column):
<a href="http://www.oliverwillis.com/resignhume"><img src="http://www.oliverwillis.com/images/humebutton.jpg" width="88" height="198" alt="" border="0" ></a>
  • As a former White House correspondent, Don Davis agrees with the Center for American Progress: Don't Give Gannon A Pass. As a former one-day White House press pass holder, I, too, am miffed to be in his company.

Computer Industry News

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

Technology policy: Hollywood v. the public good: should the federal government set technology policy to allow innovation in the free market, and so benefit the citizens? Or should it work the way it does now, where rich media barons dictate policy because of their political contributions? If that isn't what is happening its hard to understand changes in copyright law and federal rule making over the last several years which serve to enrich media conglomerates while eroding the rights of citizens and undermining technological innovation. The Washington Post reports on the tension between Old Media and New Technology in Technology Sparks New Legal Debate, which uses Bram Cohen's BitTorrent as an example of beneficial technology with "significant non-infringing uses" that drives Hollywood bonkers. AP's Court Debates Anti-Piracy TV Technology describes the tongue lashing the FCC got from a U.S. appeals panel for mandating the broadcast flag in future video devices: "...circuit judge David B. Sentelle...acknowledged entertainment companies could be reluctant to broadcast high-quality movies or TV shows that can't be protected against copyright violators but said that wasn't the FCC's problem. 'It's going to have less content if it's not protected, but Congress didn't direct that you have to maximize content,' Sentelle said. 'You can't regulate washing machines. You can't rule the world...'" (See also: Court questions FCC's broadcast flag rules and FCC overstepped authority on digital TV.)

Google pro and con: Google Unveils Movie Showtime Search so now if you type in the name of a movie you will get a "showtimes" item near the top of your results, similar to the news headlines item. If you happen to use Google Local, Google will use your Zip code to customize it for your local theaters. Another article gushing about the technical mastery of the new map service: Google Maps pushes the envelope. On the other hand Google has taken a lot of heat this week because of changes to "autolinking" provided by the Google Toolbar. Since the Toolbar is only for Windows I don't have any experience, but the beef is that Toolbar quietly inserts links to its services (such as Google Maps) into pages authored by other people: Google under fire over autolinking and Google's toolbar and content modification.

Viral ads and/or hoaxes: more on viral ads and viral ad hoaxes, and how can you tell the difference? See On Hoaxes... and Viral marketings worst nightmare - Hoaxes. The latter worries that hoaxes will spoil it for "real" viral ads. My first response: oh boo freakin' hoo! I just hate to see another form of cynical mass manipulation debunked. Other than VW's claims of outrage and threats of lawsuits, is there any concrete proof they did not in fact secretly pay for the car-bomber ad, then pretend to be horrified by it?

Technobits: the geeky version of the Peace Corps: Geeks to the Corps --- Sony to withdraw fully from PDA market --- Shut the Cell up --- translation by example: Software learns to translate by reading up (cf earlier Technobriefs item: The web is the corpus) --- walking robots: from New Scientist and Reuters --- Hubble pics 'like romantic art' and a slide show --- evolution of bad teeth: from New Scientist and National Geographic --- high tech pogo: BowGo.

Humor

Bush Joke

President Bush was invited to address a major gathering of the American Indian Nations last weekend in Arizona. He spoke for almost an hour on his future plans for increasing every Native American's present standard of living.

He referred to his career as Governor of Texas, how he had signed "YES" 1,237 times - for every Indian issue that came to his desk for approval. Although the President was vague on the details of his plan, he seemed most enthusiastic about his future ideas for helping his "red brothers".

At the conclusion of his speech, the Tribes presented the President with a plaque inscribed with his new Indian name - Walking Eagle. The proud President then departed in his motorcade, waving to the crowds.

A news reporter later inquired to the group of chiefs of how they come to select the new name given to the President. They explained that Walking Eagle is the name given to a bird so full of shit it can no longer fly.

Movies

Guest Review: Constantine

I am unlikely ever to see this film, but if you'd like to read and intelligent and knowledgeable review of it, check out Tom Lasusa's review of Constantine.

Oscar Commentary

My "deserved/didn't deserve" list, along with links to my reviews and/or Neal's (I posted this late on Feb. 27; early readers of the column may not have seen it last week). I am too embarrassed to tell you how my early line compared to the actual winners; suffice it to say that any early line composed the first week in December, unless it is composed by an Academy member or film critic in LA or New York is not going to include most nominees in most categories. I did not see Neverland or Hotel Rwanda, which won't stop me from expressing my opinion. If ignorance is good enough for Rush Limbaugh, it is good enough for me.

  • Best Supporting Actress (Cate Blanchett as Katherine Hepburn), Costumes, Art, Editing, Cinematography: The Aviator. Deserved it.
  • Best Film, Best Leading Actress (Hilary Swank--too young to have won twice. Annette Benning was robbed), Best Supporting Actor (Morgan Freeman), Best Director (Clint Eastwood ): Million Dollar Baby. (Also Neal Vitale's review on Jan. 17). Sort of deserved most of it. Second-best picture after the Aviator.
  • The Incredibles--best animated, best sound editing. Deserved it.
  • Best Foreign Language--The Sea Inside. The Chorus deserved it.
  • Best Song--Al Otro Lado Del Río (first ever Spanish winner). Vois Sur Ton Chemin from The Chorus deserved it.
  • Adapted Screenplay: Sideways [Neal's Review]. Deserved it.
  • Original Screenplay: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Charlie "Being John Malkovich" Kaufman is a genius.

Letters

Albinus on Snow, Dern on Pratchett, Peterman on Computer, Old Wiesner News from Hanzel, Dan Grobstein File

Phil Albinus, whom I blog roll every week, reports he is getting tired of all the snow in New York this winter.

Daniel Dern sends word of a fan-done movie version of a Terry Pratchett's Lords and Ladies. As a huge Pratchett fan (He never minced words. People, yes, but never words), I welcome this move. Apparently there's been British animation of his works as well. A real subversive, that Pratchett, sneaking in clever bits amongst the entertainment.

Kent Peterman says this is what a computer should do first thing in the morning!

Three from John Hanzel:

  • An interesting story about Howard Johnson and Jerry Wiesner in Time Magazine, from November 1969, a year before I got to MIT in September 1970. They're talking about what was called "The Time Of Troubles" by the time I got there. Another famous quote, from Dean for Student Affairs Kenneth R. Wadleigh, "Anyone here in five minutes won't be here tomorrow."
  • SCIENCE | February 15, 2005
    Scientist at Work: Origami as the Shape of Things to Come
    By MARGARET WERTHEIM
    Origami may seem an unusual route to a prestigious university job, but most things about Dr. Erik Demaine defy academic norms.
  • Technology: The Big Picture
    Interview With Jerome Wiesner, Ph.D
    R&D Innovator Volume 2, Number 11, November 1993

    ... R&DI: At MIT, you placed considerable emphasis on the arts and humanities. Why?
    Dr. Wiesner: As people mature, their scope and vision broadens, and they have to be involved in more areas besides science and engineering. If they are not well versed in arts and humanities, they will be unable to work effectively on larger public policy issues. And the study of arts and humanities provides a great deal of pleasure to the individual.


    Two of the people who benefited from that policy, were, by the way, John Hanzel and myself.

Dan Grobstein File

New York Times

  • Dan notes: Guess nothing will be done about this considering the 4 states that are hit hardest.

    BUSINESS |
    February 21, 2005
    Case of Vanishing Deductions: Alternative Tax Called Culprit
    By DAVID LEONHARDT
    Federal tax deductions that people receive for paying local and state taxes have quietly started to vanish for many households.
  • OPINION | February 23, 2005
    Editorial: Some Inheritance
    President Bush always gets a big round of applause for promising that the money in a private account for Social Security could be passed on to one's heirs. If those happy clappers only knew the details.
  • OPINION | February 24, 2005
    Op-Ed Columnist: Honey, I Shrunk the Dollar
    By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
    When a country lives on borrowed time, borrowed money and borrowed energy, it is just begging the markets to discipline it in their own way at their own time.

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