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

October 24, 2005: P.S. A Column On Things

October 24, 2005 Vol. 7, No. 42

Table of Contents:

General News

  • Blog Rolling: Jim Forbes
  • The Best Experience A Teacher Could Have
  • Political Notes

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

Humor

  • Historic PowerPoints
  • How To Start Your Day With A Positive Outlook

Movies

  • None

Letters

  • Richard Sleegers, How to become a Republican, Confronting Bullies, Virtual Pumpking Carving, Hanzel on Southwest, Cheatley on The Truth, Bobbi Fox: A Great obit a Funny Top 10 list; Dan Grobstein File

General News

Blog Rolling: Jim Forbes

My good friend and former colleague Jim Forbes, now retired, has started a blog that I am enjoying and think you will enjoy too:

Forbes on Tech

This is the RSS Feed:
http://forbesontech.typepad.com/my_weblog/index.rdf

Some recent headlines include: Things I Can Do Without, Ugly Things I Catch In The Ocean, A Smarter, More Cautious Media. Topics he covers include My Life, Media, Web/Technology, Portable

I like and admire Jim. He served in the Marines in Vietnam, and did both daily journalism and computer journalism. But while I was playing AAA ball in those career fields (UPI, Oregon Journal, CMP), Jim was in the Big Show (LA Times, Ziff-Davis), and his writing, attitude and life experience prove he's a major leaguer. Politically, he is to the right of Genghis Khan on many issues, but he respects (or is it tolerates?) my fuzzy-headed liberalism as I respect his rock-ribbed conservatism.

It's a great blog. I added it to my list below; you should too.

The Best Experience A Teacher Could Have

Kevin Sullivan had the best experience a teacher could have. He shared it with me. It's a little on the long side, but stick with it, because the payoff is worth it.

I feel like a pinball in a Pachinko machine, bouncing from my launching point off each pin I strike. Each interaction (ball hitting pin) affects both the ball and the pin. While, eventually we all end up at the bottom, a Bhuddist might point out the recycling of the balls for the next round. Which pins we strike and the path we take have a lot to do with where we are in the game and which pins we hit before.

The ways the ball bounced I never did teach English in the classroom. It would have been a different experience, but the balls might have ended up in the same places at the end.

This week I had one of the most moving experiences a teacher could have. On a lark I googled an ex-student who had shown remarkable ability when I was teaching his eighth grade Algebra class, lo some thirty years ago. You'll do this yourself some day, when your path and the paths of your students have long diverged. You'll wonder what happened to them, if they even remember the schools they went to, much less you, and if anything you ever taught them had any affect on their lives. Although he hung out with the geek squad, Wattie, as he was known, was beyond geekdom. He lived and breathed the beauty of thinking through complex ideas without an awareness of how unique his gifts were. I could almost look back and think to myself, "the force is strong in this one". At one point mid-year I realized that Wattie's talents would take him into the stratosphere of academia far beyond any spot I would ever see. The best I could do was to keep the flames of his interest burning by providing challenges that would make him reach beyond where he could see and make the trip fun for both of us. From his part he reveled in leading efforts to beat me at speed chess, hacking the passwords of my computer accounts, and bring in math problems on levels of infinity. It was a great, great year.

I left teaching the next year, and heard little about Wattie until my excursion with Google. Researching with Google is like putting together pieces of a puzzle and watching what emerges, which was the following. The first references indicated that he was a speaker at conferences somewhere, but the topics seemed vague. (A good thing, Wattie must have kept his career growing). He had attended college (Good, good, he kept up with his education). He got his BA at Stanford (Impressive! but he took some detours before he completed it. I wonder why?). He got an MS from UC Berkeley. (Very good, very good). And then I began to see the launch into the stratosphere gathering speed. I found Wattie was now a Professor of Physics at MIT (Wow!! Am I reading this right?). Wattie had obviously gotten a PHD along the way. It turned out it too, was from Berkeley and it was in Physics. (Cool!) For fun, I googled the PHD thesis to see what a PHD thesis in Physics looks like. As I expected, and to quote Shakespeare, (because I AM certified to teach English), "it was all Greek to me!" (Julius Caesar). In Jerry Maguire, the female lead said, "you had me at 'Hello'". In my case, in the first two sentences of the PHD abstract, I was lost at "conformal field theory", "coadjoint orbits of algebraic structures of resolutions", and "chiral vertex operators". As I read on the woods did not get any thinner! (Way to go, Wattie!!) As I was about to abandon all hope (another deep literary reference!) I came across the following which just about stopped time for me in a way a PHD thesis in Physics had not anticipated.

"Thanks to my parents..and to early teachers Kevin Sullivan,..who helped me to learn to pursue the things that interested me and to have faith in my own point of view"

The sound of balls hitting pins suddenly sounded a little more sweet. The paths made some sense and seemed a little less random. The pieces of my own puzzle began to emerge just a bit. I was struck with the certainty that when I look back as I enter the recycling bin, the time I spent teaching will fill me with feelings of satisfaction as having made a difference to at least one other person.

Keep putting your best efforts into your teaching. It's one area where you reap far more than you sow, and in ways you could never imagine.

Political Notes

This first item violates Pournelle's Law (Walk out of any political discussion at the moment Hitler is invoked) in spirit, but not in letter. And it seems so apt:

Kristol is just an Ivy League Goebbels, whose only interest is ensuring that his bumbling, law breaking, lying, failed neo-con pals maintain their grip on power, even if they drag America down with them.

So for advocating the impeachment of Bill Clinton for lying about oral sex, while condoning illegal Bushevik actions that put America at greater risk from Weapons of Mass Destruction, we name William Kristol the BuzzFlash GOP Hypocrite of the Week.

***

Richard Dalton writes, compellingly, of a vote that many people may have missed last week: the GOP congress decided there was no need to raise the minimum way. Richard entitled his email, "All they are trying to do is earn a living." I agree that this action was disgraceful.

Some things the current congress does are venal or otherwise disagreeable. The Senate's votes to reject two proposals for an increase in the $5.15/hour minimum wage this week were disgraceful.

To put that picayune amount in sharper focus, a mother with two children, working 40 hours a week, would wind up with $14,097 including net income and earned income tax credit. That was still 5% below the poverty level in 2003. Since then, the poverty level has risen and the minimum wage remains the same $5.15, where it has been since 1997.

An estimated 700,000 single mothers would benefit from an increase from $5.15 to $7.25, the amount originally proposed by Ted Kennedy. Why the "big" jump in benefits? Partly because the $5.15 that was deemed adequate in 1997 had been eroded to $4.23 due to inflation. Minimum wage employees earn one-third the amount earned by the average American wage earner.

Mierswatch

Three forwards to Daniel Dern and a fourth to me: A Funny Review of the book Supreme Court for Dummies at Amazon.com. Eventually, I suspect, they'll take it down; the reviewer calls herself "Harriet M."

Briefs

  • Sunday Telegraph: Captured SAS men 'spying on drill torturer' By Sean Rayment, Defence Correspondent (Filed: Oct. 16)
    Two SAS soldiers imprisoned by Iraqis last month had been spying on a senior police commander who was torturing prisoners with an electric drill, The Sunday Telegraph can reveal.
  • Thenexthurrah:Gephardt admits mistake in Iraq

Millergate

Is it true none dare call it treason? Last week, I entitled this section Treasongate, because I believe the activities of Karl Rove and Libby Lewis in exposing the identity of a covert CIA operative for petty political reasons gave aid and comfort to our enemies, the definition of treason found in the U.S. Constitution (treason is the only crime defined in the constitution). I had a vigorous exchange of views with Robert Malchman on the subject of whether I was either devaluing or misusing the word treason. As a man who steadfastly maintained that Clinton did not commit perjury because the law requires the lie to be material, I cannot argue (without the hypocrisy which so irks me when the GOP practices it) with Malchman's final word on the subject: [Citations removed, but available on request]

[quoting a court decision] "He may on the other hand commit acts which do give aid and comfort to the enemy and yet not be guilty of treason, as for example where he acts impulsively with no intent to betray. Two witnesses are required not to the disloyal and treacherous intention but to the same overt act."

This is why the disclosure of Plame's status isn't treason -- there is no intent to help America's enemies; it's a mere byproduct of a political vendetta.

As much as I dislike Rove and Libby and feel their policies are harming America, I, for one, and not prepared to accuse them of intentionally helping our enemies. They do help our enemies, but do so by their malice and incompetence, not their intent. After all, there have only been 30 treason cases in our nation's entire history.

More specifically on the Miller aspect:

  • Huffington Post: "Which is just as well, because if these two articles have revealed anything at all, it's that Judy Miller is no journalist."
  • October 21, 2005
    Cover-Up Issue Is Seen as Focus in Leak Inquiry
    By DAVID JOHNSTON
    WASHINGTON, Oct. 20 - As he weighs whether to bring criminal charges in the C.I.A. leak case, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special counsel, is focusing on whether Karl Rove, the senior White House adviser, and I. Lewis Libby Jr., chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney, sought to conceal their actions and mislead prosecutors, lawyers involved in the case said Thursday.
  • National Journal: Looks like part of Scooter's letter comes very close to obstruction (the part about how the public reports of every other reporter's testimony indicated Scooter was a Boy Scout in July 2003).
  • Setting up a website on Oct. 21, 2005, does not appear to be the act of a Special Counsel intending to end his activities on Oct. 28, 2005--without a final report.

The Left Coaster: "Yet her account of what Fitzgerald asked her in several grand jury appearances, as well as her inability to remember the second source where she got the name "Valerie Flame" (a made-up after-the-fact concocted reference if ever I heard one) are at best implausible, coming from someone who is supposedly intelligent and can recite complex scientific facts about WMDs.

Miller's still lying and protecting someone else, hoping to get away with it while her soon-to-be former employer watches its reputation go down the toilet."

While we're on the topic, why is a public servant (one Patrick Fitzgerald) taking the word of a lawyer (Robert Bennett) representing a private interest (or interests) (the Gullible One and the NYT, which by one account is about to become her ex-employer and (with appropriate waivers) conceivably the allegedly non-meaningful source(s) being protected) for the truth of the statement that the Gullible One (Judith Miller) "had only one meaningful source," according to her own newspaper.

What might the non-meaningful source or sources say (say George and Dick) (the terminology "only one meaningful source" leaves open the prospect that there are many sources for the Wilson information and the effort to defame Joe and Vicky and cause grave damage to our national security in the process)? How about George and/or Dick and/or Don and/or Paul and/or Andy and/or Scooter and/or Karl and/or Colin and/or Dick Armitage and/or Condi and/or George Tenet and/or Tenet's deputy at the time told me to confirm Vicky's full name, status, and job description to the Gullible One as a matter of what was represented to be national security.

Assuming (a monumentally unreasonable assumption) the Gullible One was telling the truth twice (1) when she reported in The NYT she told Pat and the crew that she did not know who gave her the name "Valerie Flame" and (2) her version of what she told the grand jury is in fact what she told the grand jury, it seems the "non-meaningful" source or sources know who gave the Gullible One the name Valerie Flame. This information (which may be known to Pat) is highly relevant to the inquiry (but could be shown to be irrelevant by the indictments, if any).

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

Working at his real job this week...

Humor

Historic PowerPoints

Long time readers will recall that I enjoyed the parody "Lincoln's" PowerPoint presentation at Gettysburg.

Although neither as long nor as funny, there is now a clever Thomas Jefferson PowerPoint Presentation on the Declaration of Independence brought to my attention by its author, Haibo Peng.

Peng has also created the first Baby Boomer's Time Capsule on the Internet. It's an interesting commercial idea.
He has also created to somewhat amusing Digital Index that accurately predicted the search engine market position for Google, Yahoo, MSN, and AOL.

How To Start Your Day With A Positive Outlook

1. Open a new file in your PC.

2. Name it "HOUSEWORK"

3. Send it to the RECYCLE BIN

4. Empty the RECYCLE BIN

5. Your PC will ask you, "Are you sure you want to delete Housework permanently?"

6. Answer calmly, "Yes," and press the mouse button firmly....

7. Feeling better now???

 

Movies

None

Letters

Richard Sleegers, How to become a Republican, Confronting Bullies, Virtual Pumpking Carving, Hanzel on Southwest, Cheatley on The Truth, Bobbi Fox: A Great obit a Funny Top 10 list; Dan Grobstein File

Thank you Richard Sleegers for doing the identifying icon now used by this column.

A friend of a friend found How to become a Republican.

Here's one that's close to my middle-school teacher's heart: Confronting Bullies Who Wound With Words

Kent Peterman found this virtual pumpkin carving site.

John Hanzel caught Southwest Airlines playing politics.

David Cheatley was kind enough to write with a suggestion:

Two great items from Bobbi Fox via Daniel Dern. A great obit:

From The (Madison, Wisc.) Capital Times: Theodore Roosevelt Heller, 88, loving father of Charles (Joann) Heller; dear brother of the late Sonya (the late Jack) Steinberg. Ted was discharged from the U.S. Army during WWII due to service-related injuries, and then forced his way back into the Illinois National Guard insisting no one tells him when to serve his country... In lieu of flowers, please send acerbic letters to Republicans."

Also, from DailyKos.com: Top Ten Reasons I Don't Date Republicans by California Democratic Congresswoman Linda Sanchez. No. 1: Because they make love like they make war: they lie to get in and don't have a plan for what to do once they get there.

Dan Grobstein File

A few words on the subject of transcripts from Dan:

I'm looking over the rest of the transcript of Col. Lawrence Wilkerson's speech in FT.com. I can understand [inaudible] being in the text sometimes, but when they say "Jimmy Carter allowed [inaudible] Brezinsky to essentially negate his Secretary of State, can't they do a little fact checking and find out his name is Zbigniew Brzezinski? Or "Read George Packer's book The Assassin's [inaudible] if you haven't already." Put "George Packer" and "Assassin's" into Amazon.com and you get "The Assassin's Gate." Or "Now, let's get back to Dr. [inaudible]. For so long I said, yeah, Rich, you're right. Rich being Under Secretary of State Richard [inaudible]. What's so hard about putting in "Dr. Rice" and "Richard Armitage"?

Here's another one, just because I love the quote: "Under Secretary of Defense Douglas [inaudible], whom most of you probably know Tommy Frank said was stupidest blankety blank man in the world. He was. Let me testify to that. He was. Seldom in my life have I met a dumber man."

The answer is "Feith". (And it's Tommy Franks).

I will say that in my experience transcripts are not very accurate. Back when I was about 20 (and I seemed to have a helluva lot of time available) I used to transcribe some of my old time radio news broadcasts and together with a friend used to transcribe movie soundtracks and turn them into scripts. I remember listening to some of the Edward R. Murrow broadcasts while comparing them to the transcripts in "In Search of Light". They weren't very accurate.

While transcribing, sometimes there is a dropout and the word is inaudible. Sometimes you have to listen several times to figure it out. Sometimes there is crosstalk and you can't figure out what is being said.

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