PS... A Column

on Things

By Paul E. Schindler Jr.
Vol. 2 No. 10

Some things are impossible to know, but it is impossible to know these things.

March 22, 1999

Blood is Thicker than Water

I have a day job, so I need to make it clear to anyone who comes here that the opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not represent those of my employer, my family, or your great-aunt Mathilda. Offer not valid in Wisconsin. You must enter to win.

Table of Contents:

General News

  • Brotherhood
  • The Best Cat Column Ever

Computer Industry News

  • Settlement In The Wind? Don't Bet On It

Web Site of the Week

  • Metacrawler


  • Historic Humor


  • Affliction


  • Joe Brancatelli's Words To Live By

General News


I am flying to Las Vegas tomorrow for the weekend. I don't particularly like Las Vegas. In fact, after attending 15 of the 18 Comdex conventions that have been held there, I have developed an active loathing for the place.

I am going to be playing golf. It's a game I'm not very good at and don't particularly care for. I no longer own any golf clubs.

But if you're a decent person, life comprises a number of compromises. I love my brother. My brother loves Las Vegas and golf. I don't see Steve much, but we're going to spend the weekend together in Las Vegas, and I already know I am going to enjoy it. Not because of where I'll be, not because of what I'll be doing, but because of who I'll be with.

While I hate Vegas, it turns out that Golf evokes some great memories for me, because my father, my brother and I used to play it together on Sunday mornings when I was a boy in Portland, Oregon. I took a lot of lessons. I never got any better. Steve and I played 18 holes the last time I visited him in Oak Harbor, Washington. He did well. I only lost 9 balls. That's good for me. Once, when I played nine holes with my father-in-law, I lost 12 balls. He was so irritated I paid him for the balls. I think the money and the principle irritated him equally. We never played golf together again.

Like a lot of siblings, Steve and I have wandered in and out of each other's lives. He's 18 months younger than I am. After 16 years of enforced togetherness in childhood, we knew each other very well--better than anyone else knew us. But I went off to college and journalism, and he went on to a career in the Navy that kept us apart for nearly all of the next 20 years. He missed my wedding. I missed his. You drift apart from someone you don't see that long.

Then he retired from the Navy and moved to Oak Harbor, Washington. I live near San Francisco. That's two hours by plane, followed by several hours in the car. We saw each other a few times.

But in the last few years, I've come to realize that Steve's been a part of my life every day of my life. It's hard to find the time and money to see him, but it would be harder on me to think that I wasn't seeing him. We talk every other week on the phone.

All this is by way of saying that I'm no paradigm of a close brotherly relationship. But I know a lot of families that drift apart, and stay apart, and then get pretty darn sad about it when it's too late. Well, it's not too late for Steve and me. And if it's not too late for you and a relative, call them, write them, and then go see them.

Just don't call me. I'll be out on the golf course.

Coda:I drove to the wrong airport Friday, but made it to Las Vegas anyway by doubling my air fare. Steve and I rented a convertible Sebring which we drove with the top down through the 70 degree Las Vegas night to see Siegfried and Roy's magic show at the Mirage. Then at 7:30 a.m. Saturday, 18 holes of golf at the Las Vegas National course. Saturday we saw Steve Wright at the Sahara Congo Room, and we both won at roulette and video poker. Sunday my flight weather-delayed flight to the wrong airport took me 8 hours, door-to-door from Las Vegas to Orinda (should have been three hours). But I was right; I did have a good time. You always have a good time with your brother.

The Best Cat Column Ever

I have raved about Jon Carroll in this space before. He is the quotidian columnist of the San Francisco Chronicle, and a worthy successor to the late Stanton Delaplane and the late Charles McCabe--even to the late Herb Caen. He doesn't write an item column; quite the contrary, he writes a daily essay on the meaning of life from an absurdist perspective.

Jagermeister, the darker orange of our two orange cats, has taken to hissing at me when I enter a room. He doesn't keep it up, doesn't swipe at me, still allows me to pet him, still purrs. But he hisses. Almost every time.

I was quite upset about this: I feed him, love him, take his byproducts out of the house in plastic bags, and this is the thanks I get? Then I read Why Elephants Weep: a Meditation, Carroll's column for Friday, March 19. It is, simply, the finest cat column ever written anywhere by anyone. Go read it.

Computer Industry News

Settlement In The Wind? Don't Bet On It.

There's a drumbeat of speculation that Microsoft might settle the Justice Department antitrust suit. Don't you believe it. William "Nuke 'em" Neukom, Microsoft's chief legal counsel, is a scorched earth kind of guy. He'll never settle this one. You heard it here first.

Web Site of the Week


We have a guest selector for the Web Site of the Week this week. Take it away, Craig Reynolds:

Regarding search engines, I too am a long time Alta Vista fan. It was the first facility to allow complex queries ((A and B) or (A near C, when appearing on a page from the domain D)). However over the years I've had disappointing experiences with AV, like when all of my own pages mysteriously disappeared from their index, twice, or when it refused to index a colleague's page on a British university's server due to alleged "index spamming".

My new favorite search engine is "all of the above": metasearch. You give it your search keywords, it farms the query out to a bunch of search engines, then correlates the results. I especially like
MetaCrawler (There is also SavvySearch which also provides a handy free "submit my URL to a bunch of search engines" facility.

Metasearch is a useful example of the general concept of web-based agents ("bots") which will probably become increasingly important in the future of the Internet. As an example, I really like the book-comparison-shopping-bot
Acses which says it will "soon" be branching out beyond book sellers. You give it a shopping list of books and it tells you where to get the lowest price (including shipping/handling) for the whole list.


Historic Humor

I love a good piece of writing with a clever literary conceit. It always reminds me of the early Bob Newhart, with his "Discover of Tobacco" routine.

TO: Trojan Army Listserv <>

Hey Hector,
This was forwarded to me by Cassandra--it looks legit. Please distribute to Priam, Hecuba, and your 99 siblings.
Thanks, Laocoon


The "gift" is disguised as a large wooden horse about two stories tall. It tends to show up outside the city gates and appears to be abandoned. DO NOT let it through the gates! It contains hardware that is incompatible with Trojan programming, including a crowd of heavily armed Greek warriors that will destroy your army, sack your town, and kill your women and children.

If you have already received such a gift, DO NOT OPEN IT! Take it back out of the city unopened and set fire to it by the beach. FORWARD THIS MESSAGE TO EVERYONE YOU KNOW!


RE: Greeks bearing gifts

I hate to break to you, but this is one of the oldest hoaxes there is. I've seen variants on this warning come through on other listservs, one involving some kind of fruit that was supposed to kill the people who ate it and one having to do with something called the "Midas Touch."
Here are a few tipoffs that this is a hoax:
    • This "Forward this message to everyone you know" crap. If it were really meant as a warning about the Greek army, why tell anyone to post it to the Phonecians, Sumerians, and Cretans?
    • Use of exclamation points. Always a giveaway.
    • It's signed "from Poseidon." Granted he's had his problems with Odysseus but he's one of their guys, isn't he? Besides, the lack of a real header with a detailed address makes me suspicious.
    • Technically speaking, there is no way for a horse to overwrite your entire city. A horse is just an animal, after all.
Next time you get a message like this, just delete it. I appreciate your concern, but once you've been around the block a couple times you'll realize how annoying this kind of stuff is.

Bye now,



Given my predilection for seeing as many Oscar-nominated films and performance as possible before the ceremony, it was inevitable I would rush out to see Affliction, particularly since it was showing at the newly refurbished four-plex 1 mile from my house.

This Paul Shrader film is one of the darkest movies of 1998. It examines the consequences of alcoholic parenting. The drunken dad is James Coburn, the conflicted drinking son is Nick Nolte and the rarely seen teetotaler/narrator son is Wilem Dafoe. Nolte is up for best actor, Coburn for best supporting actor (amusingly, Coburn is quoted as saying this is the first time in his career a director has actually asked him to act).

I know the adult children of alcoholics, and none of them seem anywhere near as damaged as Nolte in the film (although if any of them want to say anything about this portrayal, I'd love to hear about it). He plays a man on the edge, who can neither give nor receive love, despite the best efforts of the women in his life (his daughter and his girlfriend, Sissy Spacek). Coburn plays a man who crawled into a bottle years ago and never came out.

The portrayals are both stunning and bleak, set against the wintry background of northern New Hampshire (but shot in Canada). Given the metaphoric use movies make of snow, it is a wonder everyone north of the snow line doesn't commit suicide.

I guess I am wandering around this review because I am not quite sure what to make of the film. No question both the performances are Oscar-worthy. But the film's anemic box office probably stems from the fact that it isn't quite entertaining and isn't quite moving. It is a character study, and while I am tickled to see an American director and an American studio (albeit a tiny one, Lion's Gate) make a character study, I'm not sure they quite have the knack. Things happen, which isn't always true in a character study, but many of them don't seem to add up. I'll spare you the plot; it's a red herring fest anyway.

See this film if you're interested in watching some first-class filmmaking and acting in the service of an odd little story.


Words to live by from Joe Brancatelli:

Life isn't always cruel. Sometimes it's just sarcastic.

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