PS... A Column
By Paul E. Schindler Jr.
Some things are impossible to know, but it is impossible to know these things.
May 17, 1999
Lift Your Eyes Up
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:
It is not true that life is one damn thing after another...It's one damn thing over and over.
-Edna St. Vincent Millay
Keeping Your Priorities Straight
First, a brief digression: is the Internet a wonderful place or what? I have been looking for an attribution for my opening quote for years. It took me five minutes this morning. Last night, Marlow asked me to find sound files to help her in her pronunciation of the first 12 lines of the General Prologue to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. I told her I doubted I could find such files. Ten minutes later I had found three sites and hints of even more sites that had .wav files of people reading Chaucer in old English.
What I really wanted to do here, however, was propagate a couple of pieces of good advice I have gotten in the last few years. First of all, and believe me I know, it is very difficult to raise your head above the dailiness of life and think bigger thoughts about yourself, your place in life, your longer-term goals or your family.
At this particular time, I am being forced by circumstances to carefully examine the way I am spending my time. I am editor of Byte.com, and, because of a series of resignations, I am also the editor of TechWeb Today. I just hired a new managing editor for Byte.com, but it will take a while to break him in and shift some of the workload.
This is probably the last May that my daughter Marlow will ever spend living at home, and I am trying to make extra time to be with her. As a matter of fact, I was thinking about taking a nap yesterday, when she said, "Let's go bicycle riding." I changed my plans--that's as close to 180 around as you can get, I think. As we filled the tires on our bicycles, she said, "So, for the next few months, you're pretty much going to do anything I say, huh," to which I could only respond, "Yup."
No matter how satisfying my work is, I will never look back on this period and wish I spent less time with my daughter. I'll take some of the time out of sleep at night, some of it out of staying in touch with my friends, some of it out of the extra work I do each day after 5 for my job, and some of it, in the end, even from this column.
The piece of good advice I wanted to share came from Michael Leeds, soon to be the ex-president of CMP Media. A year ago, he came to China Basin and suggested that each of us "get off the treadmill" sometimes. "It isn't like what we do is life and death. Let things slide for a day."
Now frankly this advice was not taken too well at the time. Most everyone felt they were way underwater, short-staffed, leaderless, without resources or management commitment, and that to take a day off or a half day off would put us even further behind the Eight Ball. And, in fact, more than half the editorial staff who heard his message is gone today.
But the fact of the matter is, he was right. If you don't make some time now and then to take control of events, events will take control of you. The only way to move from one damn thing over and over to the slightly more interesting one damn thing after another is to grab the bull by the horns and make things happen.
Yecch. Sounds like one of those self-improvement tapes, doesn't it?
25th Reunion Here I Come
Overwhelmed by a quite surprising last minute wave of nostalgia, I am taking the Red Eye to Boston, arriving at 6 a.m. on June 4 (which should get me to MIT in time to hear Click and Clack give the commencement speech). What put me over the top was a boatload of interesting activities, a critical mass of familiar names on the list of attendees, and my hiring this week of Daniel Dern as the new managing editor of Byte.com. By going to Boston, I get to spend some time with him.
Time and space are limited, but if you're in or around Boston (or will be that weekend), book now to avoid disappointment.
Internet Valuation Mania
Someday, we will all look back and laugh at the Motley Fool's loud protestation that the current runup in Internet stock values is not a bubble, ala the Tulip Craze in the Netherlands. This will someday be viewed with the same scorn and derision as the economic experts who confidently advised putting all your money in stocks in September 1929.
These prices are not real and they will not stand. I know you're supposed to rider your winners and cut your losers, but now might just be the time to cut your winners.
But hey, I thought Microsoft was overvalued at 90 and sold IBM when it got back to 100 (from 70), so who am I to talk?
What, another search engine? A tip o' the Schindler Hat to Craig Reynolds, whose note suggesting Google arrived just two days after the Google people found me on some editors' mailing list and sucked me into trying it.
Well, yes, Google is a new one that I am rather fond of. It says it is a "beta" version, but it seems to work pretty well. It is built on a new concept: something Jon Udell has dubbed "Web Mindshare."
What's the biggest problem with most search engines? You get 10,000 hits, of which 9,000 are irrelevant trash. You can, of course, refine your search. But in the end, most search engines can only rank the found pages by number of times the search term is mentioned and the prominence of that mention, or by date. So you can get fresh trash or trash that speaks its name loudly.
Web Mindshare is a measure of "how many other pages point to this page," and it is an idea borrowed from science, where it exists in the form of the citation index. The quality of scientific paper is judged by how many times it is cited. My scientist friends who publish tell me this almost the only accolade that counts.
In the same way, you can probably judge the quality of a web page by the number of pages that point to it. That's how Google ranks its pages. I have found it to be one of the best search engines I have ever used. You try it and let me know.
The Farmer And His Wife
A tad risqué, but too good to resist, and since it doesn't actually contain any dirty words:
A farmer drives his tractor away from the homestead when half a mile later his brake cable snaps. He sees his wife on the porch and manages to catch her attention but is unable to make her hear what he is shouting.
However, he thinks she should understand what he wants if he uses sign language.
So he raises his hand above his head and starts to operate an imaginary pair of pliers, then opens and shuts an imaginary cupboard door and then puts the tips of his fingers together to indicate a shed roof.
His wife waves to him and then grasps both her breasts, then grabs her crotch and lastly lifts both her buttocks.
"Stupid woman", he mutters to himself. "Hasn't understood a thing". So he repeats his signals, but gets the same response.
Exasperated, he walks back to the homestead ready to berate his wife.
"Didn't you understand a damn thing?' he asks.
"Yes", she says, "you wanted a pair of pliers from the cupboard in the shed. But what I was telling you was that there is a pair in the toolbox under the seat."
Just the facts (courtesy of the Internet Movie Database).
Written and Directed by Stephen Sommers. Tagline: The sands will rise. The heavens will part. The power will be unleashed. Plot Outline: Bredan Fraser stars as a French Foreign Legion soldier, who on an archaeological dig at the Pyramids accidentally awakens the Mummy. Cast: Brendan Fraser: Rick O'Connell; Rachel Weisz: Evelyn; John Hannah: Jonathan; Kevin J. O'Connor: Beni; Oded Fehr: Ardeth Bay. Rated PG-13 for pervasive adventure violence and some partial nudity.
Two hours of the Mummy was about 30 minutes more than we needed. How I yearn for a fast-paced piece of entertainment instead of something bloated. I mean, it's not like the story was so important or historical that they needed two hours of screen time to kill off every last secondary character.
The surprise in this film is "the man in black." I didn't catch his name during the film; I assume from the name and where he was billed in the credits that the fellow of whom I speak is Oded Fehr. All I know is that my wife and both daughters were mightily impressed by the Arab with the black ink drawings on his cheeks who first tries to stop the archaeologists from raising the mummy, then saves their bacon after the mummy comes back to life.
Comic relief responsibilities are shared by John Hannah as Jonathan (the girl's whimpy brother) and Kevin J. O'Connor as Beni, Brendan Fraser's cowardly second in command. It is sometimes a relief to see that the role of the funny sidekick has not significantly evolved since Gabby Hayes.
The Mummy is a mildly amusing, not terribly scary special-effects romp, with a handful of clever scenes and a boatload of good-looking special effects in support of a not terribly engaging or clever story.
And yes, I did say I wasn't going to go see it. I changed my mind.
Midsummer Night's Dream
Just the facts (courtesy of the Internet Movie Database).
Written and Directed by: Michael Hoffman. Tagline: Love makes fools of us all. Cast: Kevin Kline: Bottom ; Michelle Pfeiffer: Titania; Rupert Everett: Oberon; Stanley Tucci: Puck; Calista Flockhart: Helena. Rated PG-13 for sensuality and nudity.
Funny, IMDB didn't include a plot summary…
I hardly noticed the "sex" scenes in this film, but Rae did, so be forewarned. They may be considered obnoxious (gratuitous was Rae's word) by young teenagers.
I hate to keep harping on the question of length, but I rather enjoyed this two-hour movie version of the play; I always felt Shakespeare, like Dickens, must have been getting paid by the word. In fact, I couldn't help thinking as I watched that a brave director would have ended the film after the lovers are discovered properly matched up the next morning; that would have made a snappy 90-minute movie. Of course, that would have caused a revolt by the players company, since their performance of Pyramus and Thisby would disappear).
Well, first the notice you've all been waiting for. Yes, Calista Flockhart can act, although the role of Helena is way too redolent of Ally McBeal for my taste (the woman scorned). Still, she delivered Elizabethan lines convincingly and conveyed the range of emotions required (love, hate, confusion, fear, anger) quite well. However, she's still way too thin for my taste.
The pleasant surprise of the movie for me was Stanley Tucci, who seems to be carving out quite a two-track career for himself, as an amusing character actor in other people's studio films and star of his own quirky independent films. His Robin Goodfellow (Puck) was, well, puckish.
Kevin Kline, of course, is a God, and this movie will buff his lustre even further. The role of Bottom is a scenery-chewing delight, and he really sinks his teeth into it. He even plays the pathos well--of course he would. Frankly, he could be the Cary Grant of this generation, with his deft touch for comedic roles.
We don't see much of Michelle Pfeiffer (well, in terms of time anyway), but she handles the role with professional aplomb.
A Movie Note
This short note from Ray Pardo (by the way, Ray, I hope to see you on the Big Ditch tour, if I can get into the limited space J
Yoli and I saw Entrapment just before I read your review.We liked it also. I can understand the gender gap on this one. We liked seeing the 20 year old as the heroine (even if she was a thief). And we liked seeing Connery grudgingly acting as an older guy.
Most of us older guys are grudgingly acting as older guys, as far as I can tell.
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