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

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

March 28, 2005 Vol. 7, No. 12

Table of Contents:

General News

  • Spring Break Dude!
  • Six Years With Two Cats
  • I'm So Over It
  • Political Notes

Computer Industry News

  • Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

Humor

  • Newspapers

Movies

  • Melinda and Melinda

Letters

  • Deadline USA, Dalton on Cronkite, Dan Grobstein File

General News

Spring Break Dude!

I am so on spring break in Oregon that there will be no new column on April 4. Yet the sun will still shine, the world will still turn...

Oh yeah, check out the web site of the Moraga Teachers' Association for the real low-down on the job action being taken by teachers in that school district.

Six Years With Two Cats

We had Minuit, the runt of a Moraga litter of cats, for 10 years. Only one of her kidneys worked, she never purred and she was really unfriendly. But this little black cat was ours and we loved her and when she died over Labor Day weekend in 1998, we mourned her. As a result of our experiences with her, we knew we wanted two cats this time. We wanted kittens.

When we got to the pound in February 1999, we found out everyone wants kittens. There are very few kittens at the pound. What we found instead were two male orange tabby cats with a remarkable history. Their loving owner had been forced to move and could not take Oscar and Nerber with him. A bereaved cat owner whose cat had run away had adopted them. When her cat came back, she returned them to the pound. They were within a few weeks of... well, of being downsized. We played with them in the "get to know the cats" room at the pound, and fell in love. We brought them home. For weeks, they hid behind and under furniture--so much so we were afraid they'd get trapped and be unable to get out. One of them puked and messed in Marlow's gym bag, on her basketball uniform, which wouldn't have been so bad, except it was March and she didn't return the uniform until June, so the surprise was really unpleasant.

Anyway, we had a list of 48 pairs of names, and every vote came down to 2-2, with the girls liking the names they suggested and Vicki and I liking the names we suggested. I still think our cats should be called Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern, (or Rosy and Gil for short). But when it became obvious someone was going to have to compromise, I voted for the least noxious of the girl's proposals: Champagne and Jagermeister (there was a tradition in my family of alcohol names; our cats had been Schnapps and Schnapps 2). That is who they became and that is who they are.

The previous owner told the pound these cats were two years old. When the vet saw them a few weeks later, he informed me that if they were two years old, he was the tooth fairy. They were either 3 or 4 when we got them, which means they are 9 or 10 today. Many cats live to be 20 (especially well-cared-for, indoor-only cats), so ours are probably middle-aged.

Here's to six wonderful years with two wonderful cats, and my hope that we'll have at least six more.

I'm So Over It

My friend and colleague Tom called last week to mention that there is an editorial executive job open at my old company. I told him they should just promote him. In any case, I was fascinated by my own feelings about this news. Three years ago, I would have jumped at the chance to slip back into the harness.

Being laid off after 20 years is like being dumped in a relationship. I dreamed of reconciliation for a while, including as part of the fantasy an admission by senior executives that "we were wrong," to let me go. You have those dreams (or at least I do) until you don't have them anymore. I don't have them anymore.

As I look around my office, I see a few hundred dollars worth of hardware I purchased in anticipation of doing some freelance writing after I was laid off. I was offered a few things--a chance to be a regular columnist on a travel site, a chance to do a roundup for a publication at my old company, and a chance to write some "sponsored editorial." But the fact is, I haven't sold a word or a moment of audio since October 2001, and at this point, I don't imagine I will again. Never say never, and freelancing is a wonderful way to pick up pocket change in retirement (I have seen many ex-journalists do this). But first I was too busy taking classes for my teaching credential and substitute teaching. Then I was too busy actually teaching 8th grade U.S. History.

This doesn't mean I won't do journalism again, but it does mean I don't now, and would especially not take a journalism job in preference to teaching. I believe I have crossed the great divide.

Political Notes

I got an email last week about the Brit Hume graphic at the bottom of the column, calling for his resignation over his deliberate misrepresentation of Franklin Roosevelt's stance on privatization of Social Security. Well, you may say, he made a mistake, why should he resign for that? Here's why: because Hume--a graduate of the University of Virginia--wasn't exercising the judgment all of us were granted by God at the moment of birth. Instead, he was merely shilling for his right-wing network (Fox, Rupert Murdoch, proprietor). Any reasonably well educated person would have realized that Franklin "Savior of Capitalism" Roosevelt, who saved our economic system by softening its brutal edges, would never toss our retirees into the shark tank of Wall Street, particularly given his opinion of Wall Street. That means Hume knew the words he was speaking were a lie, but spoke them anyway to pander to his audience and his bosses. Being a national news anchor is a public trust. Hume has broken that trust. If his honor were as big as his ego, he'd resign.

***

Cogent analysis from my friend Richard Dalton:

As medical science continues to extend the parameters of life, we see babies who are given incredibly skilled and costly care to compensate for the child's gross prematurity. According to a friend who has been in special education for decades, the majority of these children suffer physical and/or mental disabilities that are most often uncorrectable. No matter how precarious life may be we seem willing as a society, to expend resources that could benefit many more children in need throughout the world.

We deal with a larger problem at the other end of life. The extent of prematurity is finite. The extent of prolonging life is limited largely by amount of money and health care resources (and now, political machinations) we choose to apply at the end of a person's life.

Today's Boston Globe had an op-ed piece written by Leonard H. Glantz who is a professor of health law at Boston University School of Public Health. In a discussion of The Schiavo Tragedy, he has a particularly cogent view of how end-of-life care should be administered.

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the Terri Schiavo case is the appearance that it raises novel questions.

The legal and ethical issues this case presents are routinely resolved in hospices and hospitals across the country.

Indeed, the very existence of hospices, institutions where no medical ''treatment" to prolong life is rendered but which care for people at the end of their lives with respect and dignity, is proof that we have come to a broad consensus that medical treatment to prolong the dying process is not always required or even desirable...

It is understandable why Schiavo's parents wish to continue treatment. There is no greater tragedy a person can suffer than the death of a child. But recognizing this does not lead to the conclusion that the parents should make this decision. It is wrong to subject a person to inappropriate and unwanted medical interventions as a way of treating the grief of a parent.

The whole piece is worth reading as an antidote to all the public posturing and maneuvering that has denuded this poor woman's remaining hours of any shred of dignity.

Briefs

  • Molly Ivins / Creators Syndicate / 03.22.05
    Pull the plug on pandering
    Congress, president have no business in Schiavo case. I nothing to say on this because she says everything I would ever want to say, only better.

Computer Industry News

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

DVD John and Apple iTunes: Apple supports iTunes on Mac OS and Windows, leaving Linux users in the lurch. It was the same situation with DVD players in 1999 that led Jon Lech Johansen (now known as DVD John) to write DeCSS, an open source utility which allowed DVDs to be played on Linux. Recently Johansen and friends wrote PyMusique which allows Linux (etc.) users use iTunes, bypassing Apple's FairPlay DRM in the process. No moss grows on Apple: they quickly plugged the hole -- only to be out-maneuvered by PyMusique again. Stay iTuned...

Search news: when Google offered the definition of a search term (near the top of the results page, where it says how many hits it found) it had been a link to Dictionary.com, now it goes to a useful new site called Answers.com which is worth a look. NewScientist on ZoomInfo: Automated web-crawler harvests resume info. Audio of a panel discussion of Google's AutoLink with Cory Doctorow, Robert Scoble and Marty Schwimmer.

Octopus is garden: I have previously admitted to a special fondness for cephalopods, particularly the octopus and cuttlefish. This is a wacky, alien and endlessly surprising family of animals. Please believe me when I tell you that even if you do not read this article on mimicry and locomotion in octopi you absolutely must view this video and this video.

Technobits: Bloggers narrowly dodge federal crackdown --- Feds set security breach rules for banks, credit unions --- Mac Hack Attack --- Rockers Flex BitTorrent's Muscle --- the company I work for released its new PSP (a review) --- Mercury Pollution, Autism Link Found - U.S. Study (see also) --- 3D printer to churn out copies of itself --- Glow of alien planets glimpsed at last --- New Scientist: 13 things that do not make sense --- our friend, the olive --- more on faces: Babies Recognize Faces Better Than Adults --- Need a Building? Just Add Water --- Surnames on the march reminded me of The Baby Name Wizard's NameVoyager --- a "Flickr photoset" of Transparent Screens.

Humor

Newspapers

I am sure I've run this before, but it's so good I'm going to run it again:

1. The Wall Street Journal is read by the people who run the country.
2. The Washington Post is read by people who think they run the country.
3. The New York Times is read by people who think they should run the country and who are very good at crossword puzzles.
4. USA Today is read by people who think they ought to run the country but don't really understand The New York Times. They do, however, like their statistics shown in pie charts.
5. The Los Angeles Times is read by people who wouldn't mind running the country - if they could find the time - and if they didn't have to leave Southern California to do it.
6. The Boston Globe is read by people whose parents used to run the country and did a far superior job of it, thank you very much.
7. The New York Daily News is read by people who aren't too sure who's running the country and don't really care as long as they can get a seat on the train.
8. The New York Post is read by people who don't care who's running the country as long as they do something really scandalous, preferably while intoxicated.
9. The Miami Herald is read by people who are running another country but need the baseball scores.
10. The San Francisco Chronicle is read by people who aren't sure there is a country... or that anyone is running it; but if so, they oppose all that they stand for. There are occasional exceptions if the leaders are handicapped minority feminist atheist dwarfs who also happen to be illegal aliens from any other country or galaxy provided, of course, that they are not Republicans.
11. The National Enquirer is read by people trapped in line at the grocery store.
12. None of these is read by the guy who is running the country into the ground.

Movies

Melinda and Melinda

It seems like I've been watching Woody Allen movies my whole adult life; in fact, I have. After a sputtering start, he's made movies steadily since Bananas in 1971. He's 70 this year. I admit Allen's personal life is a shambles, but I still enjoy his art, including his new one, Melinda and Melinda. Now, I've heard it said (including at IMDB) that his last good film was Crimes and Misdemeanors in 1989? I say, no way. Even Mighty Aphrodite, which so offended my mother and my daughters that the will never see a Woody Allen film again, had, underneath its incredibly crude and vile outer surface, some interesting ideas and techniques.

From IMDB:

Tagline: Life can be a comedy or a tragedy, it all depends on how you look at it.
Plot Outline: Two alternating stories about Melinda's attempts to straighten out her life.

If you liked Gwyneth Paltrow in Sliding Doors (and who didn't?) you'll appreciate the cleverness of the basic plot device, the story of a woman told as either a tragedy or a comedy. By the way, I thought Jason Biggs might have a bright future playing the Woody Allen role in Woody Allen movies, but Will Ferrell of all people has proven extraordinarily adept in the role in this film. It's funny and thoughtful and thought-provoking. I'm glad I saw it and you will be too. As usual, he elicits career best performances from his actors, including Radha Mitchell as Melinda (a Brandeis graduate, I might add) and Chloë Sevigny.

Letters

Deadline USA, Dalton on Cronkite, Dan Grobstein File

I'm not the only one who wants to see Deadline USA released on DVD.

There's an e-mail petition to save the Brazilian Rain Forest going around. I'll send you a copy if you're willing to sign it. My email ID (safe from harvesting by bots) is at the bottom of the column.

More on the whole Cronkite thing from Richard Dalton:

Have to agree that "act" of any kind is a curious description of a journalist. It reminds me of the British use of the highly descriptive term "news reader" which strikes me as descriptive and not prone to misinterpretation. All the anchor charisma we seem to insist on is a distraction. Read the stuff professionally and leave the reporting and news management off the air.

Dan Grobstein File

  • Clocky: Clocky is a clock for people who have trouble getting out of bed. When the snooze bar is pressed, Clocky rolls off the table and finds a hiding spot, a new one every day. From Dan's son Spike.
  • Newsday says Title IX (women's sports) is under attack again.

New York Times:

  • OPINION | March 22, 2005
    Op-Ed Columnist: Masters of Sleaze
    By DAVID BROOKS
    Jack Abramoff didn't reach the highest order of sleaze on the Indian-tribe
    gambling scene on his own. It took a village.

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