PS... A Column
By Paul E. Schindler Jr.
Some things are impossible to know, but it is impossible to know these things.
February 7, 2000
Let The Readers Write It!
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:
The Muralist Is Coming
You'd think a column written mostly by other people would be on time, wouldn't you? Well, you'd be wrong. The last few weeks, I have been preparing the column gradually, a little each day. This week, I let it all slide, and here it is Tuesday. So, I apologize.
The headline here is something I actually said to a friend of mine. I hadn't intended to be either weird or amusing, but he pointed out that "The muralist is coming" is a pretty odd reason to turn down a luncheon invitation.
It's true though. Rae decided she'd like a ceiling mural of forest canopy in her room. The muralist looked at some picture books and took some horseback rides through woods, looking up. She came yesterday and again today and will be here several more days until her Michaelangelo-like work on the ceiling of Rae's (formerly Marlow's) room is complete. I'll run a picture here when one is available.
What's The Point Of Work Redux
My unintentionally extra self-revealing item on the meaning of work last week drew two very thoughtful responses. One came from Richard Dalton:
I think the more passionately you feel about your work (and hopefully, the life that work is only part of) the more it has personal meaning. Money is a trade-off, not an absolute. Recognition's nice, yet it's a sour substitute for the excitement that comes from pursuing something consuming.
Beyond that, I think the real question becomes: is your focus solely on your own navel or do you have a view that includes other people, the whole world, and even--maybe especially--that part of yourself that isn't identifiably material?
In an similar vein, I heard from my mother, Mari Schindler:
One's work should somehow be a part of one's hopefully ongoing effort to lead an integrated life of growth achieved through a blending of the mental, physical and spiritual. I believe that when you realize the ultimate goal of life, you must then find the path that leads you towards it, and that all aspects of your life should be in harmony. And isn't it lovely that some of us have the means to consider these things instead of scratching for survival!
Yes, mom, it is.
What's The Point Of Education Redux
This is what I wrote last week:
As most of you know, I attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which, along with Stanford, is designated a "near Ivy" for many purposes, including joint admission and financial aid decisions. But the fact is that many faculty and students at Ivy league schools look at MIT as a "trade school," while many MIT people view Ivy League schools (esp. the one just up the river) as "a waste of time." Certainly, MIT made every effort to give me a practical education.
One of the disadvantages of rarely going to class is that you run the risk of getting the wrong impression about what kind of education your alma mater is dishing out. This arrived from Harrison Klein:
Did we go to the same university? I think MIT made every effort NOT to give us a practical education. I remember being told constantly that an MIT education taught you the fundamentals of science, engineering and humanities, rather than anything specifically applicable to today's (now yesterday's) technology, so you would be able to think critically and prepare yourself to continue learning throughout your career. Sounds similar to your definition of a liberal arts education.
In fact, I got very little practical knowledge from my classes; most of that came from WTBS and my outside jobs. Perhaps MIT's focus on problem-solving differentiates it from liberal arts schools. (Is teaching people how to solve contrived problems "practical"?) If so, learning the techniques of problem-solving was as close to practical as it got, because the problems themselves generally did not apply to the real world. When I started working I used the thought processes I had developed at MIT rather than much of anything specific from my courses.
MIT appeared to have little desire to teach anything practical. I got great grades at MIT but came out with embarrassingly poor knowledge of what the rest of the profession regards as engineering, particularly as measured by my first tries at the GRE and fundamentals of engineering (EIT) tests. It wasn't until I studied in depth for the Professional Engineer exam that I began to understand those disciplines.
I think MIT generally embodied the principles of a good liberal arts college. Actually, I would have preferred a bit more on the practical side than MIT delivered.
I actually took a terrific and enlightening course called Problem Solving, taught by Professor Ed Fredkin [now on the board of Radnet and still making appearances, as of last spring, at MIT]. And I've often heard other alumni, particularly lawyers, say that it wasn't what MIT taught them, but the way MIT taught them to think that the cherished.
I will counter only that the practical knowledge MIT could have imparted to Harrison and me (rough compatriots; he's class of '72, I am '74) about electronics--mostly op amps and integrated circuits--wouldn't have lasted us long after graduation. Maybe teaching us how to think was a good idea. Maybe I got (or would have gotten) a better education than I realized.
Microsoft and Doubleclick
Two items from my ace technology observer, Craig Reynolds:
Here is an interesting spin on how to remedy Microsoft's Monopoly
DoubleClick the big online advertising outfit has come under criticism recently for user tracking practices that raise significant privacy concerns. Here is coverage at Wired.
As mentioned in the article, the Center for Democracy and Technology has set up a page to make it easy to opt-out and to complain.
The Top 11 Things Revealed by Instant Replay Review at The Super Bowl
January 31, 2000www.topfive.com ]
[ Copyright 2000 by Chris White ]
Selected from 103 submissions from 38 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
Jeff Scherer, Brooklyn, NY -- 1 (15th #1)
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 9
You want the facts? Go to the Internet Movie Database.
Guest columnist: my mother, Mari Schindler.
Some time ago, I saw a movie that in retrospect seemed too good - like I must have been in just the right mood or something, it couldn't have been as good as I was recalling.
Last night dad and I watched Smoke Signals together, the first time for him, and my recollection was right on !
I have to say that my all time favorite movie, "Harold and Maude" now has a companion - "Smoke Signals" is such a fine piece of work, a beautiful blend of meaningful story, great casting, believability and humor - a really worthwhile film, I highly recommend it. Also, for anyone with any interest in the Native American life today, the author of the film has written several books that give the reader a real opportunity to learn something about life on the "rez." Two of them by Sherman Alexie are: "First Indian On The Moon" and " The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist Fight In Heaven."
Daniel Dern wrote me last week, quoting one line from my column. The topic of his email was:
New HTML techniques, or are you also a bombardier? ;-)
And he quoted just one line of my column
Me? I've lowered my sites.
Not all of you saw it because I fixed it pretty early Monday morning. It should, of course, be sights…
Letter From Europe
Once again, my extraordinarily droll and talented friend, Larry King, has written a letter from Europe. I reproduce a few highlights here. You can find the entire letter here.
As before, I must say, the letter is studded with gems. Here's just some samples. On Thanksgiving…
A holiday featuring a vast amount of carbohydrates fits right in in the Czech Republic, where the basic food unit is the dumpling. You can do a lot with a dumpling -- fill it with cheese, garlic, and various meats and smother it with gravy, for example -- and whatever you do, anyone who eats a few will spend the rest of the day in a caloric torpor, occasionally belching but otherwise inert. Throw in football, and you've got the kind of afternoon any American who's endured a traditional Thanksgiving dinner would recognize.
On Karl Marx…
Actually, I retain a sneaking affection for old Karl. He was such a complete scoundrel. Did you know the champion of the working class never actually worked for a living? He sponged off his bourgeois family while he bummed around Europe preaching revolution until he was thirty-one. Then the Belgians, usually an even-tempered bunch, threw him out of their country. He'd already exhausted the patience of the authorities in his native Germany and in France, so he moved to London. From then until his death thirty-four years later, he sponged off Frederick Engels. Engels, incidentally, had arranged his life rather neatly -- he earned his living oppressing millworkers at his family's textile factory in Manchester, and between times wrote books expressing his shock and horror at the oppression of millworkers.
And finally this on Mass Transit…
But in fact the Paris Metro is a model for how public transport ought to run…The trains are clean and comfortable, they come along every few minutes, and breakdowns and unexplained delays are rare. Anyone who puts up with the London Underground on a daily basis would cheerfully vote for Josef Stalin if he got anything like the same performance out of the Circle Line.
… So maybe left-wingers are uniquely suited to building and running public transport systems. The best subway systems in the U.S., at least in my experience, are those in San Francisco and Washington D.C., two notorious nests of pinkos, commies, anarchists, fellow-travelers and Lord knows what else.
There is MUCH MUCH more like this in his letter. Click over here, print it out, and read it as your leisure. I continue to believe Mr. King is a New Yorker-class writer (in the spirit of Perelman and Benchley) waiting to be discovered.
And here's my mom's third contribution this week (writing about herself, my father, and the passage of time. She's 63, he's 65):
We both are having a hard time finding some kind of relevance to time. At this point in our lives, with all the memories, the artificiality of time really becomes apparent. I can still feel the first time I held you in my arms when you were only moments old - and that is on the continuum with the first time you brought Marlow into my room in the middle of the night, when she was ten days old. I can only look back on the different periods of my life so far, the baby years, the college years, the teaching years, the child care years, the spiritual discovery years, the writing years, and the current doldrums!! There really is no sense of time passing, just different aspects of myself. I think the aborigine lack of a sense of 'time' is the most realistic and spiritual path.
Wow ! didn't mean to go all philosophical !
That's OK mom…
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