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

November 21, 2005: P.S. A Column On Things

November 21, 2005 Vol. 7, No. 46

Table of Contents:

Unless there is overwhelming demand for the traditional column format, I'm going to stop posting new columns in that format and simply make this file into an automatic redirect. Write me at column@schindler.org to express your opinion

General News

  • The Girls Return
  • How I Feel About School Now
  • Political Notes
    • Ohio Election Fraud--Again, Iraq Arguments, GOP Culture of Corruption

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

Humor

  • Bird Flu
  • Candidate For A Pullet Surprise
  • Chicken and Egg

Movies

  • Guest Review: Prime
  • Guest Review: A History of Violence

Letters

  • Sullivan on Degrees of Separation of Ideas, Teacher Man, Dern on FSM, Malchman on Degrees of Torture, Dan Grobstein File

General News

The Girls Return

An awful lot of good material got left out of the column this week, and for that I am sorry. It was the last week before the week-long Thanksgiving break, and I was as busy as a beaver at school, especially with the annual Thanksgiving Turkey Luncheon which the Social Studies department throws for all the 8th graders. A logistical nightmare made feasible by buckets of parental volunteers, who cook the turkeys and serve the food. Compounded by my near-inability to breath and near-constant coughing. Allergies? Cold? Low-level flu? Whatever creeping crud my students have been coming down with? Who knows, but it was short rations of sleep all week, which kept me away from my PC as I tried to rest up enough to stagger into class.

Then Marlow came home from the Netherlands on Friday afternoon. Rae is due in from Boston on Monday afternoon, and both of them are staying until next Sunday. It is, as always, a joy and pleasure to have my far-flung daughters back in the fold. As a special surprise for Marlow, I used a scanning wand and an automated lookup program to catalog all 250 of her books (man, do Liberal Arts majors buy a lot of books for college). I also created a CD for both girls entitled "35 Years Before The Mic," a highlight reel of my high school, college and adult broadcasts and webcasts.

We talked and watched American TV (American TV!) until late Friday night.

Plans for the week ahead include the movie The Aristocrats Saturday night, tennis Sunday morning and bike-riding Sunday afternoon. Monday and Tuesday I have professional development days at school (see second item). Thursday is a real old-fashioned Thanksgiving, with turkey for the carnivores, tofurkey for the vegetarians, and, God willing, my nephew Paul will join us for the feast.

Next Friday we will be photographed for a family studio portrait, a tradition that has been interrupted by the girls far-flungedness. I have only one studio portrait of me, my brother and my dad; the girls have a dozen protraits to choose from. It was a good tradition, and I am proud of it.

Next Saturday, we will join the whole extended family and scatter the ashes of the girls' grandmother, Lynne, in San Francisco Bay. And Sunday, they go flying off again. It will always hurt when they leave, but I am starting to think it will hurt a little less each time as time goes on.

All the prospective activity is simply to inoculate you against the possibility of an unusually slim column next week--or perhaps no column at all.

11am

How I Feel About School Now

When I was student teaching at M High School four years ago, I was close to quitting when Thanksgiving rolled around. Only pep talks from my wife, my mother, and my unbelievably supportive master teacher kept me in the business. My first year teaching, I reached Thanksgiving like a marathon runner who had hit the wall at 5 miles and was running on fumes for the last 20. Last year, my second year teaching, I welcomed the week-long Thanksgiving break and concluded that, even though teachers have to work Monday and Tuesday of that week, the worst day of professional development was better than the best day of teaching. (This is, I am sure you know, a variation on "The worst day fishing is better than the best day working.")

I started to use the same formulation in a conversation with my wife Vicki earlier this afternoon, when I realized--it is no longer true! Now, the most I can say is that the worst day of professional development is better than the average day of teaching. And, of course, most days are average. But I've had a few good days this year--they tell me the number of good days rises every year you teach. I have classes full of students who are interested, learning, and paying attention. I have the lowest incidence of classroom disruptions of any year so far. Good heavens, will I finally learn to enjoy my new career? Was everyone right?

10:00

Political Notes

Ohio Election Fraud--Again, Iraq Arguments, GOP Culture of Corruption

This is SERIOUS! Ohio Election Fraud--again! And this is why you should have paid attention during statistics when you were at school. The polls in question in Ohio were not exit polls--BUT--the results on one issue were within about 1% of the poll results. The official results on the 4 reform issues were up to about 20 standard deviations away from the poll results. At 5 SD the odds of getting the official results (given the poll results) are way less than 1%. Put that another way: the probability is greater than 99% that official results are dubious. The same people were responding on the same day with their responses being subjected to the same processing. A surge of last weekend advertising might explain this but it seems unlikely given that the campaign for and against these proposals was in progress for many months.

Wholly coincidentally, Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell's office is now linked (per SecState website) electronically to the central computers at all 88 county boards of election. Here's a pencil and paper. Draw your conclusions. The Democrats may never win another election in Ohio until after the velvet revolution.

...

About Iraq:

Rep. John Murtha's announcement that he favors withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq as soon as possible was the lead story in many newspapers on Nov. 18, 2005.

Washington Post: "Hawkish Democrat Joins Call For Pullout; GOP Assails Murtha's Demand to Leave Iraq"

New York Times: "Fast Withdrawal Of GI's Is Urged By Key Democrat; 'Flawed Policy' On Iraq; Vietnam Veteran Reacts to Challenges by 'People With 5 Deferments' "

Note that the Times managed to put in the headline the best quote about Dick Cheney ("People With 5 Deferments) who had severely castigated critics of continued U.S. military action in Iraq. The Post could not be bothered to put the full quote in its article. But The Times placed the full quote where it usually places the news - at the end of the article where one finds:

When asked about Mr. Cheney's remarks on Wednesday, Mr. Murtha replied sarcastically: "I like guys who've never been there that criticize us who've been there. I like that. I like guys who got five deferments and never been there and send people to war and then don't like to hear suggestions about what needs to be done."

In the Vietnam era, Mr. Cheney had five deferments and did not serve in the military.

As a result of Murtha's remarks, the sleazy GOP attack machine swung into action, but Kerry, thank goodness, won't stand for the swift-boating of Murtha.

Three good questions from Needlenose.com

  • How can we be "fighting them over there so we don't have to fight them here" when Iraq's borders are almost totally unguarded?
  • How can we be "staying on the offensive" when we're retaking towns we previously cleared out just six months ago?
  • How can we "stand down as Iraqi troops stand up" when there is no timeframe for training them, and we refuse to give them the heavy weapons and independent logistical ability they need to take over the job?

***

The Republican culture of corruption continues to endanger the life, safety, and health of every American by continuing tax breaks to their campaign contributors while refusing to take elementary precautions. For example, by buying vaccines and anti-virals to protect against the near certainty that the bird flu will turn pandemic and reach the United States.
Republicans reject pandemic flu plan funding

How far back does the GOP culture of corruption go? Is it a continuous thread? Why yes, it is. Bill Jeffress, Libby's lawyer, represented Richard Nixon. This guy has been representing the Republican culture of corruption for a long time.

Briefs

  • Huffington Post: Bush sinking in polls
  • Knight Ridder: In challenging war's critics, administration tinkers with truth.
  • This Isn't the Real America
    By Jimmy Carter
    The Los Angeles Times
    Monday 14 November 2005
    In recent years, I have become increasingly concerned by a host of radical government policies that now threaten many basic principles espoused by all previous administrations, Democratic and Republican.
    The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel agrees with Jimmy
  • Cheney Heckled by Anti-War Protesters
    Nov 15 12:26 PM US/Eastern
    By DUNCAN MANSFIELD
    Associated Press Writer
    KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Vice President Dick Cheney was heckled by protesters Tuesday as he spoke at the groundbreaking for a public policy center honoring former Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker. [Dick hears from a few of his employers. One might wonder whether Howard was asked whether on the current trip he asked Dick what he and George knew and when they knew it]
  • Former Intel Officials Demand Accountability by White House in CIA Leak Case
    Letter Sent to Bush Today Requests 'No Pardons' Pledge, Suspension of Security Clearance for Officials Who Spoke to Reporters About Valerie Wilson's Identity; Asks Bush to 'Restore Honor' to White House After 'Breach of Trust' With Intel Community

Plamegate

8:00

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

Sony's invasive DRM, part III: welcome to week three of the DRM debacle that wouldn't die.  Sony BMG swallowed hard and did an about face.  Within a week they went from proudly announcing their intention to eventually use the malware DRM on all their CDs to recalling the ones in stores and offering to replace CDs already purchased with DRM-free versions: CD's Recalled for Posing Risk to PC's.  The BBC described the drum-beat of anti-Sony news as: More pain for Sony over CD code.  Then Microsoft formally classifies Sony DRM scheme as "spyware" to be swept from users PCs: Microsoft to remove Sony BMG malwareLatest Sony news: 100% of CDs with rootkits, mainstream condemnation, retailers angry.  A DHS Official Weighs In on Sony, warning about potential public health risks.  (Probably over the top, but I like that even DHS is piling on!)  Bruce Schneier asked a key question in the Real Story of the Rogue Rootkit: "...The story to pay attention to here is the collusion between big media companies who try to control what we do on our computers and computer-security companies who are supposed to be protecting us...  But much worse than not detecting it before Russinovich's discovery was the deafening silence that followed. When a new piece of malware is found, security companies fall over themselves to clean our computers and inoculate our networks. Not in this case..." Then yet another outrage, evidence that the Sony BMG virus contains open source software in blatant violation of the copyright that protects open source: Software writers spot open source in Sony BMG CDs, Sony Rootkit Allegedly Contains LGPL Software and DVD Jon's Code In Sony Rootkit?.  Could it be that in its ham-fisted attempt to protect its own copyright, Sony BMG was violating someone else's copyright?  That is just too sweet!  EFF: An Open Letter to Sony-BMG and Sony issues non-apology for compromising your PC.  USA Today ran this backgrounder on the whole DRM mess: Firestorm rages over lockdown on digital music

Google: new this week: Google Analytics, with coverage by NYT, Reuters and Businessweek.  On the launch of Base: Google Aims for the Classified Ads Business.  More small steps for Google WiFi: Google wins approval to give home city Wi-Fi access.  Big picture on Google Print: If Books Are on Google, Who Gains and Who Loses?

One Laptop Per Child: progress on the $100 laptop: The $100 Laptop Moves Closer to Reality, Negroponte: Laptop for Every Kid and MIT suffers hubris over $100 PC idea.

Hybrid hijinks: Wired wrote about people who "mod" their hybrids to produce variations like full Electric Vehicle mode: Hacking the Hybrid Vehicle (more on such mods from last June).  And how about this for coming out of left field?  A Diesel/hydrogen hybrid: Truckers Choose Hydrogen Power.  Fuel cell technology still a decade away? No problem, just inject hydrogen into the Diesel engine's air intake for more power and better mileage!  No hydrogen filling stations?  No cheap onboard storage for hydrogen?  Again, no problem, use the truck's existing electrical system to extract hydrogen by electrolysis from a tank of distilled water.

Colored Bubbles: coming next spring to a toy store near you, Zubbles colored soap bubbles.  See this photo and watch the video on their homepage.  Now I've been a fan of those multicolor swirls of traditional bubbles since I was old enough to blow through a bubble wand.  (See these cool photomicrographs of soap films .)  Yet these new fangled monochromatic bubbles are certainly eye-catching.  As the inventor notes, there are lots of commercial applications for team colored or logo colored bubbles.  But to me the best part of this is the incredible journey he took to bring his simple concept to reality, as documented by PopSci: The 11-Year Quest to Create Disappearing Colored Bubbles: "Chemical burns, ruined clothes, 11 years, half a million dollars -- it's not easy to improve the world's most popular toy. Yet the success of one inventor's quest to dye a simple soap bubble may change the way the world uses color."  That the desire for colored bubbles lead to an entirely new class of pigment chemistry is amazing.  Via Slashdot.

Technobits: Volunteers helped turn IMDb into big business --- Cost of making games set to soar --- TV Networks Say Digital Recorders Raise Viewership --- amazing picture from Spitzer of a giant stellar nursery APOD, NYT --- Huge Solar Plants Bloom in Desert --- Just another day at the South Pole... --- Switch to Firefox Kill Bill's Browser.

7:00

Humor

Bird Flu

Thank you Dan Grobstein:

The Center for Disease Control has released a list of symptoms of bird flu. If you experience any of the following, please seek medical treatment immediately:
1. High fever
2. Congestion
3. Nausea
4. Fatigue
5. Aching in the joints
6. An irresistible urge to s*** on someone's windshield.

6:50

Candidate For A Pullet Surprise

Thank you Kent Peterman

I have a spelling checker.
It came with my PC.
It plane lee marks four my revue
Miss steaks aye can knot sea.
Eye ran this poem threw it,
Your sure reel glad two no.
Its vary polished in it's weigh.
My checker tolled me sew.
A checker is a bless sing,
It freeze yew lodes of thyme.
It helps me right awl stiles two reed,
And aides me when aye rime.
Each frays come posed up on my screen
Eye trussed too bee a joule.
The checker pours o'er every word
To cheque sum spelling rule.
Bee fore a veiling checkers
Hour spelling mite decline,
And if we're lacks oar have a laps,
We wood bee maid too wine.
Butt now bee cause my spelling
Is checked with such grate flare,
Their are know faults with in my cite,
Of nun eye am a wear.
Now spelling does knot phase me,
It does knot bring a tier.
My pay purrs awl due glad den
With wrapped words fare as hear.
To rite with care is quite a feet
Of witch won should bee proud,
And wee mussed dew the best wee can,
Sew flaws are knot aloud.
Sow ewe can sea why aye dew prays
Such soft wear four pea seas,
And why eye brake in two averse
Buy righting want too pleas

6:45

Chicken and Egg

A chicken and an egg are lying in bed.

The chicken is leaning against the headboard smoking a cigarette, with a satisfied smile on its face.

The egg, looking a bit ticked off, grabs the sheet, rolls over, and says "Well, I guess we finally answered THAT question."

6:35

Movies

Guest Review: Prime

This film by Ben Younger (Boiler Room) has its pluses - Uma Thurman's looks, a cute and charming story of a romance between a Jewish psychiatrist's young son and her older goy patient, an unexpectedly sweet and appropriate ending (rare for this type of film), and bits of amusing dialogue. But Prime is undercut by glacial pacing, more than a few improbable plot elements, Meryl Streep's surprisingly one-dimensional performance as the psychiatrist, and very little visual energy. I left the film feeling felt like I had just watched Books-On-Tape.

--Neal Vitale

6:00

Guest Review: A History of Violence

Canadian director David Cronenberg has a long, albeit uneven, track record of making creepy and disturbing films, such as Scanners, Videodrome, The Fly, Dead Ringers, Crash, and Spider. A History of Violence profiles a seemingly upstanding citizen and restaurant owner in a small Midwestern town (Viggo Mortensen) and his family, whose lives are suddenly upturned by a group of Philadelphia mobsters (led by Ed Harris) who come for a malevolent visit. On one hand, the film is difficult to recommend - there is an implausible, cartoonish quality to many scenes; it features another dreadful performance by William Hurt (what happened to this guy?), and there are a number of scenes of gruesome and bloody carnage. But Cronenberg also injects a fascinating appeal into A History Of Violence - an opening sequence (in which the viewer continually expects something bad to happen even while no violence occurs on camera) is absolutely riveting and terrifying, and his treatment of the family as they confront ugly revelations about the past as well as shocking present behavior is ultimately elegant and nuanced.

--Neal Vitale

5:50

Letters

Sullivan on Degrees of Separation of Ideas, Teacher Man, Dern on FSM, Malchman on Degrees of Torture, Dan Grobstein File

News Item: "'Nobody was beheaded or killed,' a defiant Bayan Jabr told a news conference Thursday, saying that only seven of 170 detainees showed marks of torture." Robert Malchman comments: "Oh, OK, then, as long as you're holding the torture rate below 2%, that's fine. Keep up the good work on avoiding beheadings, too."

Daniel Dern finds another site detailing the Flying Spaghetti Monster theory of creation.

A friend notes Frank McCourt (author of Angela's Ashes) has a new book, Teacher Man. about his experiences as a classroom teacher

From Net Surfer via Kevin Sullivan:

From NetSurfer Digest
Search for Degrees of Knowledge Separation
Remember the party game "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon"? Omnipelagos would win every round. It uses a path-finding algorithm to plot the fewest links between two concepts in a database of over 500,000 Wikipedia entries. Enter any two terms in the input boxes at the top of the page and click the Search button. After a few seconds the server will display relationship chains ranked by path length, popularity, or other heuristics. You can even tweak the ranking system for different links. Use it for fun, research, or brainstorming. It's simple and intuitive, but its answers will surprise you.

Dan Grobstein File

5:00

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