PS... A Column

on Things

By Paul E. Schindler Jr.
Vol. 3 No. 4

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

January 24, 2000

Life returns to "normal"

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

  • Life Returns To "Normal"
  • The Invention Of Love

Computer Industry News

  • Writing and Computing
  • Transmeta

Web Site of the Week

  • Spyonit


  • Scientific Process
  • The Top 16 Bad Merger Ideas


  • Girl, Interrupted
  • Cider House Rules


Not This Week

General News

Life Returns To Normal

With Marlow's departure, life begins to return to what passes for normal around here. She left at 7:45 a.m. last Friday (requiring a 5:15 wakeup call). I miss her already, and I think I speak for Vicki and Rae when I say they do too.

Anyone who reads as many newspapers and magazines as I do is constantly reminded of the extremely thin string that holds our lives together. I have still not forgotten a headline I read a few years ago in the San Francisco Chronicle, to the effect that most middle-class families were one layoff and two catastrophic illnesses from the street. I am reading a novel in which an attorney spends $2 million to ameliorate his wife's ALS, an inevitably fatal wasting disease. In plays, movies and books, authors dwell on the life reversed in an instant, both because it makes good drama, and because it is true. I'm not even going to tell you my dark nightmares. They're easy to imagine, at least for me.

I appreciate and cherish normal, even though any particular normal never lasts very long. I mean, normal for the last four years was intense involvement in women's basketball from November through March of every year. That's over. Normal for the last 18 years was two girls at home. Now there's one.

I really enjoy my job at right now, which, historically, means some giant 10-ton weight as about to drop on me professionally. It's like telling a pitcher he has a no-hitter going--it's a jinx. Every time I get the least bit comfortable and say anything about it, the roof caves in. Change may be inevitable, but it doesn't mean I have to enjoy it. What some people call a rut I call a comfortable routine.

If I could, I think I'd eat the same breakfast every day, see the same people, and sleep in the same bed every night. Paul and Linda McCartney supposedly never spent more than a night or two apart during their entire three-decade marriage. That's my idea of a good time--but don't tell Vicki J

The Invention of Love

That Tom Stoppard. He's at it again. The Invention Of Love was a hit in London, but New York decided the play was too esoteric and British to succeed in the Big Apple, so they decided not to produce it.

Fortunately, Stoppard has a relationship going back 20 years with the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, where I saw it last night with a sell-out audience that included my daughter Rae and her friend Lizzie, a pair of high-school freshmen who enjoyed it as much as I did.

Admittedly, the material seems unlikely; it is about the study of ancient Latin and Greek texts in Oxford in the 19th century. It is also about Oscar Wilde and homosexuality. But most importantly, it is about the life of British Poet A.E. Housman (author of Shropshire Lad) from his Oxford matriculation until his death, at age 76, in 1936. Like his previous stage plays and his radio plays, Invention has a lot of small overlapping scenes and clever devices, the cleverest of which is to have Housman appear on stage at age 26 and 76 at the same time.

Rae was particularly upset with the scene in which Housman tells his long-time friend and roommate, the heterosexual athlete Moses Jackson, that he's "sweet on you." Jackson reacts very calmly and rationally, yet firmly makes it clear that won't happen. It devastates Housman, who, according to the play, never loves again. Rae found it heartbreaking, but after discussion, agreed there is no easy way out of such a situation.

I have never seen a Stoppard play I didn't like. I've also never seen one where I didn't feel compelled to buy the script (almost always on sale in the lobby). Invention of Love was no exception. Apparently, the season ticket holders to my left and right felt differently, as they bailed at intermission. I supposed the subject matter might offend some, but I feel I know much more about Greek and Latin textual analysis then I did before I saw the play. Stoppard has a way of making you feel smarter.

Computer Industry News

Computing and Writing

There was once a young man who, in his youth, professed his desire to become a great writer.

When asked to define "great" he said, "I want to write stuff that the whole world will read, stuff that people will react to on a truly emotional level. Stuff that will make them scream, cry, and howl in pain and anger!"

He now works for Microsoft, writing error messages.



Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen is the lead investor. Linus Torvalds, the inventor of the Linux operating system is an employee. Security has been airtight for more than two years. Last week, the truth finally surfaced. Here's two stories about what could turn out to be the most important chip company of the new century.

Transmeta Tops Intel Mobile CPU Speed
TechWeb News , January 19, 2000
Transmeta on Wednesday finally took the wraps off its long-awaited Crusoe processor, which translates Intel's X86 instructions into native code for dramatically improved processor life and clock speed.

S3, Transmeta To Create Linux Net Devices
TechWeb News , January 20, 2000
S3 on Thursday announced plans to work with start-up Transmeta to build Internet appliances based on the Crusoe microprocessor.

Web Site of the Week


Craig Reynolds bailed me out on a week when I would have had no nominees, and did so with not one, but two cool web sites.

Way back at the dawn of web-time (1995?), I discovered Michael Sippey's informative and opinionated column "stating the obvious" Sometime back in 1997 it went on hiatus and I never noticed that it had come back. When I did recently, he was talking about Spyonit which allows you to set up a list of "spies" things to watch for on the Net. So far they provide spies for changes to a web page (find out when PSACOT is updated, even if Paul didn't tell you), or links to a web page, or a general search engine query, or a usenet query. In each case it does an initial "baseline" query and then (using date ranges) lets you know when there is a new hit. It can also monitor the availability of a web site: now I know if mine has gone down when I wasn't looking. Some of these features had been available before from others (, NetMind's Mind-it (aka URL-Minder)) but Spyonit provides it all in one place, conveniently organized. It's still in beta but worth checking out.


Scientific Process

There was a scientist who was studying frogs.
The scientist told the frog to jump, so the frog jumped, and he jumped 4 feet. So the scientist wrote in his notebook: a frog with 4 feet jumps 4 feet.
The scientist then cut of one leg. He told the frog to jump, so the frog jumped. He jumped 3 feet. So the scientist wrote in his notebook: a frog with 3 feet jumps 3 feet.
The scientist then cut off one more leg. He told the frog to jump, so the frog jumped. He jumped 2 feet. So the scientist wrote in his notebook: a frog with 2 feet jumps 2 feet.
The scientist cut off one more leg. He told the frog to jump, so the frog jumped. He jumped 1 foot. So the scientist wrote in his notebook: a frog with 1 foot jumps 1 foot.
The scientist cut off the last leg. He told the frog jump, Jump, JUMP!
But the frog did not move. So the scientist wrote in his notebook: a frog with no legs goes deaf.

The Top 16 Bad Merger Ideas

A tie for 11th is better than not making the list at all.

January 20, 2000

The Top 16 Bad Merger Ideas

16> Mennen Black & Decker

15> Brother Cannon Sperry Daimler

14> Rubbermaid Snap-On Genuine Parts

13> Olde McDonald's Hickory Farms

12> Eaton Apple Caterpillar

11> Good 'n' Plenty Johnson Wax

10> Motel 6 Hostess

9> Camel Apple

8> Hershey Gateway

7> Microsoft Weinerschnitzel

6> Star-Kist Tuna Aqua Net

5> Blue Cross Dresser Industries

4> Pfizer Wang Boeing

3> Yahoo! Wendy's Intuit

2> Playboy Staples Busch

and's Number 1 Bad Merger Idea...

1> Zippo Johnson & Johnson Hertz

[ The Top 5 List ]
[ Copyright 2000 by Chris White ]

Selected from 111 submissions from 42 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
Rick Welshans, Alexandria, VA -- 1, 8 (Woohoo! 1st #1!)
Tristan Fabriani, Passaic, NJ -- 11
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 11
Chris White, New York, NY -- List owner/editor


Girl, Interrupted

Just the facts from the Internet Movie Database.

Director: James Mangold; Writer: Susanna Kaysen (book), James Mangold; Tagline: Sometimes the only way to stay sane is to go a little crazy. Plot Outline: Based on writer Susanna Kaysen's account of her 18-month stay at a mental hospital in the 1960s. Winona Ryder:Susanna; Angelina Jolie:Lisa; Jeffrey Tambor:Dr. Potts; Vanessa Redgrave:Dr. Wick; Whoopi Goldberg:Valerie; Mary Kay Place:Mrs. Gilcrest. MPAA: Rated R for strong language and content relating to drugs, sexuality and suicide. Runtime: 127 minutes.

This film is just a little too long, although it seldom drags. It was interesting to find out it was based on a true story, because in discussing it with my daughter Rae, we both concluded it had to be--no one could capture a milieu like that if they hadn't been there.

Winona Ryder as a mildly crazy person in a private psychiatric hospital. Angelina Jolie as a seriously crazy person, and Vanessa Redgrave and Whoppi Goldberg appear in cool cameos. In terms of acting chops, this film has everything you could want. There will be Academy Award nominations scattered all over it. The Academy loves a good scenery chewing crazy person, not to mention the people around her.

This is an idea movie and relationship movie for the most part. Things happen (I mean, it isn't European, for pity's sake), but the movie isn't about action, it's about motivation and internal dialog. It is enthralling without being entertaining or uplifting. It's certainly no Rain Man or Awakenings but you'll think about it after you leave the theater.

I promised myself I'd say a few words about an odd thought that came to me as I was watching this movie. I suddenly found myself thinking about my year at Bank of America in 1977. I was a public information officer, stuck, for the first time in my life, with juggling long-term and short-term projects and setting priorities. It was very difficult. I found myself envying the secretaries, who could, without penalty, say to someone else, "Tell me what order to do these things in and when you need them done by." Of course, I was making more than them, on the theory that I could make such decisions myself. I could, but I didn't always want to.

Once in a while, when I see depictions of nervous breakdowns, and mental institutions that aren't totally frightening, I find myself musing on how lovely it might be to simply not have to make any decisions for a while. To just drift along. Can I be the only person who has ever mused on such a thing?

Cider House Rules

If you like John Irving, if you've read the novel of the same name, if you think abortion is the correct choice for some women under some circumstances, if you want to see one of the most important actors of the 21st century before he gets to be super-hot (and here I mean Tobey Maguire as Homer Wells), go see Cider House Rules. John Irving wrote the screenplay himself. It struck me the other day when I read in a New Yorker Profile that a movie contains only 10 percent as many words as a typical novel. I knew you had to cut a lot--but I mean REALLY.

Lasse Hallström directed the film, which is beautiful, well paced, and about a half-hour too long at 131 minutes (I guess John couldn't bear to cut himself that much). Michael Caine, as the ether-addicted Dr. Wilbur Larch, turns in a first class performance and an almost-believable American accent. Well, a Maine accent, which is closer to his cockney then, say, someone from Oregon or Washington.

The film is about orphans, decisions, fidelity during war-time and apple picking, as well as American race relations in the 1940s (depicted, I rather suspect, somewhat unrealistically here). Lots of drama. Lots of things happen. This movie has it all; birth, death, love, murder and adoption.

The film is rated PG-13 for mature thematic elements, sexuality, nudity, substance abuse and some violence. Definitely not suitable for pre-teens, and pretty intense even for teenagers. I haven't yet met or talked to an adult who didn't enjoy it.


None This Week

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