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

May 1, 2006: P.S. A Column on Things

May 1, 2006 Vol. 8, No. 17

Table of Contents:

General News

  • A Cascade of Incompetent Scheduling
  • Yosemite
  • Boston

Political News

  • State Impeachment Resolutions: NOT POINTLESS! The Worst President in History, Gerrymandering Even Newt Dislikes

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs


  • The Wise Old Poodle


  • None


  • Top 10 XP Tips, The Future of Newspapers, LaSusa Links, Chuck Carroll's Blog, A Sweet Story About Flaws Dan Grobstein File

General News

A Cascade of Incompetent Scheduling

Sorry I failed to produce a column last week.

What the heck was I thinking? Well, nothing obviously. It was just a train wreck of incompetent scheduling. The Moraga school district decides when Spring Break takes place. You have to reserve Yosemite a year in advance to the day if you want to stay in the Ahwahnee, and I either didn't have (or, more likely, failed to look at) the school calendar when I made the reservation. Then there was the 125th anniversary of The Tech, the MIT student newspaper, on a date I didn't set--but an event I refused to miss. The whole thing is compounded by the fact that I generally look at my calendar a week at a time--so that events just over the horizon are generally invisible to me.

No one my age in his right mind who has an actual job would schedule himself to be away from home four weeks in a row. As of this morning, I literally could not see my desk. Several hours of effort have left me merely behind, as opposed to obscenely behind. No one forced me to go; these were all voluntary trips. That doesn't make it better, that makes it worse.

Here's today's free advice: keep an eye on your schedule and don't overbook yourself.

We're going back to the Ahwahnee next year, but this time I've obtained a school schedule and insured we're going on a weekend that isn't too close to spring break or summer vacation, but is just right--in the middle.



I fled my classroom moments after my students were gone on Friday afternoon. Vicki and I lept in the car, and managed to make it over the Altamont Pass on I-580 before the Good Friday getaway got into gear. The result was we managed to check into the Ahwahnee and change our clothes before the dining room was closed for the evening.

Like so many of the world's most beautiful restaurants, it is a shame you can't eat the Ahwahnee with your eyes--the high-timbered ceiling, the artisanal work and craftsmanship visible in every direction--because it is definitely a shame you came there for the food. Lackluster at best. Still, not so bad eating it in a place that breath-taking.

A lovely night's sleep in a quiet, elegant, old-fashioned room with a high ceiling. Alas, even the Ahwahnee has succumbed to the need to put a TV in the room, but I'm proud to say we never turned it on once. We had the most spectacular view of the upper Yosemite Falls from our window; turns out to be one of the three rooms in the classy 1920s-era hotel with a view that good. I'll not mention the room number, thank you, because I want to try to get into that room again next year and I don't need the competition from you. It's amazing, but all the rooms--even the two with access to a deck--are the same price.

Saturday dawned--well, not bright and clear, but at least bright and not too cloudy. We breakfasted in the dining hall (the view is much more spectacular when it's light out) then set out for some hiking. We hiked from the lodge to the Lower Falls on the less washed-out of the two trails (it has been a REALLY wet winter in Yosemite). Every waterfall in the valley was overflowing with amazing quantities of water, and numerous waterfalls appeared from nowhere, tumbled down the granite cliffs and washed out the trails. We were soaked at the foot of the falls, where we took several pictures that, mysteriously, did not turn out (what is this, the Winchester Mystery falls?). Then we hiked over to Mirror Lake. I make it a point to see Mirror Lake every time I am in Yosemite. The new "let it be" approach of the park's managers probably means the "lake" (now redefined as a wide spot in the river) will eventually silt up and no longer be the artistically composed nexus of water and landscape it still is. My sore ankle acted up, so we took the hybrid bus back to the lodge. Vicki bought a lovely hurricane-lamp style candle holder for the house and an Indian-patterned yellow tie for me.

Saturday night in the dining room again, but the only meal on Easter Sunday was a brunch well beyond our needs or desires, so we had a room service breakfast. Took them an hour to serve it, and my poached eggs were, in fact, hard-boiled, but it is still hard to argue with the view.

Alas, it was raining on Sunday (we were just darned lucky it didn't rain on Saturday), so we stayed until checkout time, reading the Chronicle and the Sunday New York Times. We then bid Yosemite a fond farewell, stopping by Bridal Veil falls just long enough to take some pictures which amused our daughters. We'll be back next year, and we'll ask for room... well, the one with the... as I say, who needs the competition?



Shortly after I was laid off from my last journalism job, I went to visit Marlow at Columbia in New York City. The comic highlight of that trip was me giving my ankle a severe twisting while hailing a cab, but the part I particularly remember if flying out on the red eye and promising myself that I had reached the age where I wasn't going to do that anymore. It is uncomfortable, I don't sleep well on airplanes, and I had already done it enough. It wasn't like in the old days, when Pan Am and TWA flew half empty planes from San Francisco to New York which gave you an entire center section as a "bed." Every time I have taken the Jet Blue red eye from Oakland to Boston, it has been full. Not just nearly full--but full.

Yet, here I found myself last week, on the Red Eye to Boston again. The temptation is great from this direction of course--you get a full day in San Francisco, and then you have the prospect of a full day in New York. The other choice is to leave SF at 7 or 8 and get to Boston or New York at 4 or 5. But the fact is, if I arrive in the East at 7am now, I don't go to work or out on the town, I go to bed, in the room I paid for on Thursday night so it would be ready for me on Friday morning. I stayed, by the way, and the beautiful, centrally located and intelligently managed Lenox Hotel. When I say intelligently managed, what I mean is no charge for 800 calls, no charge for WiFi access. When you're paying $219 a night, should you really be nickled and dimed? The Lenox says no, and believe me, I will be staying there again.

I picked it because it was across the street from Morton's, where the current staff of The Tech decided to hold its annual dinner, and devote part of the evening to a celebration of the newspaper's 125th year of existence ("Continuous News Service Since 1881"). I chose my words carefully here, because the huge (more than 100) newspaper staff of college students far outnumbered the alumni, and held what I recognized as a completely unmodified annual dinner. The staff of my old paper treats themselves to a fancy restaurant meal each year, topped off with an hour or so of "toasts," in which staff members roast each other in an allegedly good-humored way. Some of the toasts were obscure even to the staff, but 99% were baffling to the alumni in attendance (1% were clever enough that you didn't have to know the staffer to get the joke).

A half dozen of us old coots (myself included) were permitted to make a few remarks about our era on the newspaper. I could have gone on at some length, but chose not to. The oldest editor in attendance, a graduate of the class of 1949 told about efforts to rename the Harvard Bridge as the Technology Bridge, which led an editor from the early 1950s to explain the famous picture of the band in the car on the bridge with the sign that said "The Tech Dedicates Technology Bridge." There was discussion of tuition riots back in the days when $1,000 was "too damn much." By my era, it was "$2,750 is too damn much," or even TFM--today tuition is $20,000 and they don't riot any more. Apparently, the MIT Campus Patrol was created in response to manhandling of students by Cambridge Police during a tuition riot. We had a spread of editors from the five decades, the 40s through the 90s. Disappointingly, I discovered the stories I had been told about Pat McGovern '59 as an undergraduate were not true; they were knocked down by former editors who were also fraternity brothers of his.

What particularly struck me was how much better the alumni attendance was at this meal than it was at the Centennial in 1981; on that occasion, if memory serves me (and it may not serve me...), Dr. Killian, president-emeritus of MIT, Eisenhower science advisor and editor of The Tech in 1926, was joined that night by editors from the 60s and 70s. What's changed? The students now have access to an e-mail database, collected for them by MIT, comprising more than 1,200 former staff members of the newspaper (obviously, participation is higher from recent grads than older grads). I was proud to be in attendance with the second-ever female chairman of The Tech (the title was formerly general manager), but I have still never met Linda Greiner Sprague '60, the first female chairman. Some alumni of my vintage were disappointingly unable to come, including Storm Kaufman, John Hanzel, Mike McNamee (just started a new job) and John Kavazanjian (family conflict). I would have enjoyed seeing Tim Kiorpes and Dave Searls ("the carpet in Burton, when wet, smelled dankly of old beer), but I can only assume they somehow weren't on the e-mail list. Lee Giguere, '73, my predecessor, showed up from Connecticut, where he has been a journalist for all the 33 years since graduation--and is still married to his college sweetheart. Most of the usual gang of idiots was there--Barb Moore (I'm still the only person who calls her chief) and Norm Sandler--as well as our chairman, David "Plymouth Duster" Tenenbaum. Among those I saw, however briefly, were Roger Goldstein, Brian Rehrig, Neal Vitale, Sandy Yulke (our first female sports editor), David Boccuti (long-time Indexing Project Representative), Carol McGuire, Julia Malakie, Bob Nilson, Dan Gantt... but not Diana ben-Aaron (who led the centennial), Barry Surman or Robert Malchman from the generation just after us.

[Update April 30, 2006: Within minutes of this post, Diana ben-Aaron, a long-time reader, as well as a friend and former colleague, wrote to say: "I didn't lead the Centennial, Stephanie Pollack '82 did. She wasn't there, according to the list, nor was Jerri-Lynn Scofield '83, the Rhodes scholar of our generation." So far as I know, Diana was right, neither was there.]

[Update Jan. 23, 2008: Through the miracle of Internet search engines, this item was also seen by Jay Glass '82, who wrote: "I was Chairman that year, brought in President Killian, and organized and MC'd the Centennial dinner (at the Parker House, IIRC), rather than Stephanie (who was EIC that year) or Diana (on staff). Thanks for the narrative, anyway. Not that the events of the fall of 1981 matter much, at this point... actually, I'm sadder that I didn't know about the 125th until 18 months afterwards! "]

I can't list the name of every alumnus who attended, but it was a star-studded evening. I hope to be more active in the arrangement of the 150th, 25 years from now, and will endeavor to convince the young' uns to hold a separate dinner for themselves so the alumni have more of a chance to shine.

We paused to mourn a few colleagues who have already died. We topped off the evening with a champagne toast, among the 22 of us in attendance that knew him, to Edwin Diamond, the godfather of modern journalism at MIT. He was a great man whose loss is as fresh today as it was nine years ago when he died, too young, at age 72. Then we took our The Tech mugs with the mysterious inexplicable date from the 1920s on them, and wandered into the night.


Political Notes

State Impeachment Resolutions: NOT POINTLESS! The Worst President in History, Gerrymandering Even Newt Dislikes

I heard this on Randi Rhoades, then looked it up myself because it seemed to good to be true. Under the rules of the House of Representatives (an adaptation of Roberts' Rules of Order written by Thomas Jefferson and used by the U.S. House for centuries), there are several methods for introducing impeachment; one of them is by resolutions from the states. It is right there, clear as a bell in section 53 (LIII). Have a look for yourself. Then get your state legislature off the dime to impeach Bush! Resolutions from state legislatures are not pointless during this time of congressional spinelessness. Of course, when the House grows a Democratic majority this fall it may also grow a spine. It would be nice if impeachment were bipartisan (as Nixon's near-impeachment was) rather than a partisan Kangaroo Court (Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton), but at this point, America needs him out by any peaceful and legal means possible, and we can't wait for 2008.

Here are the lyrics to Let's Impeach The President.


Richard Dalton says:

If you haven't read this Rolling Stone piece, it's a must read. It's the most thorough and scholarly denunciation of Bush and his presidency I've read anywhere.

Being a bit skeptical about phrases like "leading historian," I Googled the author. He definitely qualifies for that description.


Steve Coquet reports from Slate: The Gerrymander That Ate America.

"Even former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., who once embraced such tactics as a key to helping his party take control of Congress, now backs any redistricting reform plan that involves "citizens who do not have an interest in maximizing [political] leverage." Under the current system, Gingrich reasons, Democrats "get to rip off the public in the states where they control and protect their incumbents, and we get to rip off the public in the states we control and protect our incumbents, so the public gets ripped off in both circumstances. . In the long run, there's a downward spiral of isolation." "

Steve concludes: I always knew he was smart, but on some level is he actually ethical? Who woulda thunk!



Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

by Craig Reynolds

Copyright and Fair Use: what could be worse than the DMCA?  Look out, here comes the IPPA: Congress readies broad new digital copyright bill, more from Public Knowledge. A smart manifesto from the Canadian Music Creators Coalition works to separate the interests of musicians and fans from those of the major labels ("...suing our fans is destructive and hypocritical"). The EU is pushing to end the traditional copyright monopoly of scientific publishers. Access often requires expensive subscriptions or outrageous pay-per-view fees.  But as the European Commission notes, much of this research was paid for with public funds, and there are mandates for public access to publicly supported research.  The practical solution today is for individual researchers to make their research papers available on the web, despite threats from publishers. Probably the future is free "open source publishing" such as pioneered by the Public Library of Science. Finally, Geoff Goodfellow invented and deployed wireless email and left it in the public domain: In Silicon Valley, a Man Without a Patent, yet ten years later the Patent Office incompetently awarded the patent to some johnny-come-lately poser.

Google news: back in March, Google bought the little company who made SketchUp, an easy to use 3D editor (modeler, CAD system) to much puzzlement and conjecture. Turns out they bought it to give it away: SketchUp: Google's Latest Cool Free Download. They encourage users to store and share their models in a public warehouse. Google is rightly praised for keeping its home page very uncluttered and focused. In fact Googlization has come to mean paring down a home page to just a search box. But there are times when you need a different page at Google and navigating down to it can be tedious. Simply Google is a "de-Googlized" version of Google, with all of the specialty search boxes available on one page. Cool! Like the web, the quality of Google Video is, well, uneven. To help you find the "gems" (if that is the right word) you can now use Google Video Top 100, although if you prefer human filters, try Google Video of the Day.

Black holes, wet Mars, more KBOs: a new technique allows much improved simulation of colliding black holes: Black hole mergers modelled in 3D, see the video. Something similar has been observed in real space: A megamerger in space: Two black holes collide. Imagining the long lost Martian seas: Young Mars Was Wet, Mineral Map Shows. Lastly: a Kuiper Belt bonanza: 45 new KBOs.

Tagging Air Force One: dang, they had me going there for a while... Like any red-blooded blog junkie, I visited and saw the very convincing video of Ecko tagging (graffiti-ing) the engine cowling of Air Force One. A day or two later details came out: Air Force One Subject of Internet Hoax. Still, renting a 747 and giving it a custom paint job just to use it as a prop for a fake documentary? That rates pretty high in hack value as we used to say back at the 'tute. This puts me in mind of the spectacular train-versus-bus crash scene in The Fugitive, which was staged live and full scale.

Technobits: All About NSA's and AT&T's Big Brother Machine, the Narus 6400 --- RIAA sues family that doesn't own a PC --- workers rights in the game production business: EA settles overtime suit --- e-paper, almost real --- dust mite vaccine --- Fifty Ways to Take Notes --- foundry's choice: ICs versus solar cells --- 3-wheel tilting "car" --- teledildonics, etc. --- Ellsworth AFB foam test.



The Wise Old Poodle

This, from a friend:

A wealthy old lady decides to go on a safari in Africa, taking her faithful aged poodle named Cuddles along for company.

One day the poodle starts chasing butterflies and before long, Cuddles discovers that he's lost. Wandering about, he notices a leopard heading rapidly in his direction with the intention of having lunch.

The old poodle thinks, "Oh, oh! I'm in deep doo-doo now!" Noticing some bones on the ground close by, he immediately settles down to chew on the bones with his back to the approaching cat. Just as the leopard is about to leap the old poodle exclaims loudly, "Boy, that was one delicious leopard! I wonder if there are any more around here?"'

Hearing this, the young leopard halts his attack in mid-strike, a look of terror comes over him and he slinks away into the trees. "Whew!", says the leopard, "That was close! That old poodle nearly had me!"

Meanwhile, a monkey who had been watching the whole scene from a nearby tree, figures he can put this knowledge to good use and trade it for protection from the leopard. So off he goes, but the old poodle sees him heading after the leopard with great speed, and figures that something must be up. The monkey soon catches up with the leopard, spills the beans and strikes a deal for himself with the leopard.

The young leopard is furious at being made a fool of and says, "Here, monkey, hop on my back and see what's going to happen to that conniving canine!"

Now, the old poodle sees the leopard coming with the monkey on his back and thinks, "What am I going to do now?", but instead of running, the dog sits down with his back to his attackers, pretending he hasn't seen them yet, and just when they get close enough to hear, the old poodle says:

"Where's that damn monkey? I sent him off an hour ago to bring me another leopard!"

Moral of this story...

Don't mess with old farts...age and treachery will always overcome youth and skill! Bullshit and brilliance only come with age and experience!






Top 10 XP Tips, The Future of Newspapers, Lasusa Links, Chuck Carroll's Blog, A Sweet Story About Flaws, Dan Grobstein File

My brother Steve found the Top 10 Windows XP tips.

Interested in the future of newspapers, editors, journalism, free society? Take a look at former Los Angeles Times editor John Carroll's speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors. Thank you, Barry Surman.

Gathered by Tom Lasusa with a little help from his friends... A breakdown of relgious adherents in America.... History Of Easter Candy... U.S. Rep. John Duncan, R-Tenn wants all US citizens to acknowledge American trust in the *Christian* Deity...Darth Vader Takes on The Japanese Police...Bumblebees Can't Fly!...30 Second Bunny Theatre presents Resevoir Dogs..."C" For Cookie Sesame Street Meets V for Vendetta... If you live in Idaho, YOU'RE LIVING A LIE... The Rebel Alliance takes in all kinds, even sassy girls from the Valley. The Pink Five series of Star Wars fan films features a Valley girl getting herself caught up (and sometimes indirectly affecting) the various happenings of the Star Wars movies... Pink 5... Pink 5 Strikes Back... The Return of Pink 5. ...Republican Senators propose giving Americans $100 back to pay for gas. Of course, by the time you get in your car and drive the check to the bank to deposit it and then come home, you've probably already spent it.... White House to Press Corps: We don't watch CNN here, you can only watch Fox... RIAA has filed a file-sharing suit against a family in Rockmart, GA. The family doesn't own a computer.

Can't say I agree with him, but gosh Chuck Carroll writes well and clearly and does not accuse me either of treason or satanism in his Deep Thoughts blog.

Also in the news: Philadelphia Inquirer: Many Questions [about Flight 93] Linger and this item: Microsoft Pitches for Anti-Piracy. First Microsoft helped themselves to about 10% of the hard drive space (with no payment to the purchaser). Now they are helping themselves to a significant percentage of the screen space. Next they'll probably put rotating ads in the screen space they have apparently misappropriated and intend to continue misappropriating without payment to the purchaser. The corporate motto: we make error-filled software so we can steal from you. Can you say can you say Apple? Linux?

A sweet story from a fellow teacher:

An elderly Chinese woman had two large pots, each hung on the ends of a pole, which she carried across her neck. One of the pots had a crack in it while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water. At the end of the long walk from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full. For a full two years this went on daily, with the woman bringing home only one and a half pots of water. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it could only do half of what it had been made to do. After 2 years of what it perceived to be bitter failure, it spoke to the woman one day by the stream. "I am ashamed of myself, because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house." The old woman smiled, "Did you notice that there are flowers on your side of the path, but not on the other pot's side? That's because I have always known about your flaw, so I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back, you water them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table. Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace the house. Each of us has our own unique flaws. But it's the cracks and flaws we each have that make our lives together so very interesting and rewarding. You've just got to take each person for what they are and look for the good in them. To all of my crackpot friends, have a great day and remember to smell the flowers on your side of the path

5:30 a.m.

Dan Grobstein File


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