PS... A Column

on Things

By Paul E. Schindler Jr.
Vol. 3 No. 32

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

September 4, 2000

Better late than never, he said on Thursday.

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

  • Letting Go Is Hard To Do
  • Rae Learns To Drive
  • A Need For Faith?

Computer Industry News

  • Open Source Commentaries
  • Open Source Respects Copyright

Web Site of the Week

  • The George W. Dance


  • The Top 15 Cool Things About Having a Beer Belly
  • The Top 15 Signs Your High School Reunion Didn't Go Well


  • The Crew


  • Dan Rosenbaum on General Sherman and a Neils Bohr anecdote.

General News

Letting Go Is Hard To Do

I have a sneaking hunch I wrote an essay much like this one last September, except possibly gloomier, when Marlow left for her freshman year at college.

I know how lucky we were that she decided to spend her summer at home, and it was quite a long summer, since Columbia lets out in mid-May. She enjoyed working for Dianne Feinstein, had a lovely week with Ryan in upstate New York at the end of July and thoroughly enjoyed her four days at the Democratic National Convention (where, it turns out, I could have gotten her press credentials--but that's another story. I may be able to make it up to her at Gore's victory celebration in Nashville, or at Gores' inaugural in January).

Anyway, it is hard to let go, again. I doubt it will ever get easier. She jokes about being a boomerang kid. But I am coming to grips with the fact, as I have said here before, that I am rapidly making the transition from a daily role as the central character in the sitcom of her life to a "special guest star" who only shows up for the holiday shows.

Marlow may decide to spend next summer in Europe, and she's got her heart set on a European sojourn during her junior year (Columbia has a Paris campus), so she could end up farther away, not closer.

This despite the fact that Senator Feinstein's office said she could have paid employment in the San Francisco office next summer if she wanted it.

Well, as it turns out, I spent my sophomore summer at school, working at WBZ. Sorry mom and dad. If I'd known, I'd have come home.

I know how lucky I am that I get to make a gradual transition, although I find myself wondering: which hurts less: removing a bandage all at once, or gradually?

Back when I had affairs of the heart, I had two that ended suddenly and one that was drawn out. They all hurt. Like Hell. There's probably no good way, only the ways we survive.

Rae Learns To Drive

If you want to learn the limits of your patience, your goodwill, and your commitment not to yell at your child, teach them how to drive. Rae's driver's test comes up on her16th birthday, Oct. 5. I haven't driven with her enough, and I'm frantically trying to make up for lost time. She is a good, careful, intelligent driver. I am a terrible teacher. It is always thus.

I have absolutely no recollection of my own instruction by my parents. I know I learned to work a stick. I learned in 1968 by driving, under supervision, in my mother's 1966 avocado-green Pontiac GTO convertible--the sweetest car I have ever driven (well, the Alfa Romeo Spyder Vicki and I tended for a friend of hers for six months was a very close second). The GTO had a 400-cubic inch engine and four-on-the-floor transmission.

I took my Oregon drivers' test in the GTO and flunked (for bad right turns--on a four-lane street, I turned into the second lane, not the curb lane). By the time I could take it a second time, my dad had found and purchased a 1959 Volkswagen microbus, which I quickly learned to drive and took to the DMV. I passed the second time.

To this day, I remain convinced that my driving hadn't changed, but that I seemed rather more harmless in the gutless VW than in my mother's muscle car.

A Need For Faith

I swear, I was walking along recently, minding my own business, when a feeling of spiritual emptiness suddenly overwhelmed me. That's an extraordinary experience, and I'm still not quite sure what to do about it. Maybe I'll wait and see if it happens again.

Computer Industry News

Open Source Commentaries

Craig Reynolds writes:

There is a very thoughtful and positive essay about Open Source in the online edition of the New York Times. Its called Whose Intellectual Property Is It, Anyway? The Open Source War (requires free registration). The author, Peter Wayner has written a book called Free for All: How LINUX and the Free Software Movement Undercut the High-Tech Titans. Based on the NYT essay, I want to read the book.

Here's how the essay starts:

There's a war going on. It isn't between ethnic groups, provinces, religions or ations. It is between nimble people who want to think for themselves and big dinosaurs of corporations that want to keep the upstarts penned up and docile.

And it pretty much stays that hard-hitting. Craig also found DVD Toy For Rich Techies by Peter H. Lewis, which he describes:

This starts as a product review, but see the second half beginning with "And that inspires us to take a lateral arabesque into public policy..."

Open Source Respects Copyright

Along the same lines, this statement came in. It was Issued by and for the Board of Directors of OSI by Eric S. Raymond, President 28 August 2000. It's strong, and to the point. And the DVDCCA is wrong. I would point you to a URL, but as far as I can tell, this statement only exists as email--and you may not have gotten this email.

The DVDCCA states in its brief.
"Defendant Pavlovich is a leader in the so-called "open source" movement, which is dedicated to the proposition that material, copyrighted or not, should be made available over the Internet for free."
This claim is both incorrect and defamatory. The Open Source Initiative, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that is the custodian of the Open Source Definition and widely recognized in the open source community for its educational and advocacy work on behalf of the that community, takes the strongest possible exception to it.
We in the open source movement respect copyright; in fact, we use copyright law to underpin the licenses that define the social contract of our community. The basis of Matthew Pavlovich's work, and of our community's opposition to the DVDCCA lawsuit, lies in that social contract; a belief, founded in both engineering pragmatics and ethical conviction, in the voluntary sharing of program source code and the voluntary renunciation of secrecy.
The core principles of open source are transparency, responsibility, and autonomy. As open source developers, we expose our source code to constant scrutiny by expert peers. We stand behind our work with frequent releases and continuing inputs of service and intelligence. And we support the rights of developers and artists to make their own choices about the design and disposition of their creative work.
The results of this policy of openness can be seen in the enormous public benefit that has come through the open-source movement's works: the World Wide Web, the core software of the Internet itself, and the Linux operating system.
While we advocate the full disclosure of code, and we support Matthew Pavlovich's right to reverse-engineer proprietary technology in order to permit Linux users to play DVDs that they legally own on machines they legally own, we oppose piracy and reject as a prejudicial falsehood the DVDCCA's attempts to tie the open source community to copyright violation.

Web Site of the Week

The George W. Dance

Richard Dalton submitted this without comment, and for that I award him kudos. I only wish it had music. Also, can anyone tell me why it needs the extra periods after the .com in order to work?

In any case, if it only had music, it would be perfect. Some of it is nasty, most of it is just silly, and yes, I'd think it was funny if someone did an Al Gore page like this, even though they'd have a few less obvious jokes to work with, as long as it was equally clever. The problem is, in my experience, liberals do nasty and funny (Al Franken) and conservatives strike back with nasty and unfunny (the conservative "counterbook" written after Al's).


The Top 15 Cool Things About Having a Beer Belly

Presented without comment, except to note I was in a five-way tie for 15th (meaning my idea was pretty good, but rather common).

August 28, 2000
The Top 15 Cool Things About Having a Beer Belly
15> Doubles as a convenient TV tray for nachos and beer.
14> 96% less likely to be pestered by annoying sorority girls.
13> Use your kid's action figures to play "Survivor" while in the bath -- on your very own hairy island!
12> Great way to meet cute female cardiologists.
11> Understanding mothers give up their seat on the subway.
10> You no longer feel like an outcast at the bowling alley.
9> Small penis? Out of sight, out of mind!
8> The bliss of knowing that its "yin" meshes perfectly with your butt crack's "yang."
7> Instant "street cred" in biker bars worldwide.
6> Playground pecking order makes that geeky Zima-bellied kid your bitch.
5> Prevents dribbled beer from rusting your NASCAR belt buckle.
4> Allows you to fit perfectly into the concave embrace of waifish supermodels.
3> When you lie in bed watching "NYPD Blue," it conveniently obscures Dennis Franz's ass.
2> Irrefutable proof that you really really really really really REALLY like beer.
and's Number 1 Cool Thing About Having a Beer Belly...
1> May be light-sabered open to provide warmth if you're ever in danger of freezing to death on an ice planet.
[ The Top 5 List ] [ Copyright 2000 by Chris White ]
Selected from 146 submissions from 53 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
Jim Rosenberg, Greensboro, NC -- 1, 12 (25th #1 / Hall of Famer)
Geoff Brown, Ann Arbor, MI -- 15 (Hall of Famer)
Chris Irby, Dallas, TX -- 15
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 15
Alan Wagner, Pittsburg, KS -- 15
Michael Wolf, Brookline, MA -- 15
Chris White, Irvine, CA -- List owner/editor

The Top 15 Signs Your High School Reunion Didn't Go Well

I made #13 on this list, which is kind of raunchy in places. Been a long time since I made #1, but I turned in a couple of submissions this week I feel pretty confident about.

August 30, 2000
15> The cheerleaders' daughters ignored you, but you got wedgies from the jocks' sons.
14> Although you just wanted some closure, you should've thought twice before telling old Mr. Storrs' widow that dropping those books behind his back was all meant in good fun.
13> Shades of '81! Your new wife went home with the varsity quarterback.
12> Reunions for homeschooled pupils are pretty low-key -- and especially for you, since you still live with your parents anyway.
11> Your biggest accomplishment? Editing an internet humor list.
[HEY! I resent that! - Chris]
10> Your former classmates recognize your wife as Doris, the cafeteria lady.
9> Your Internet millions mean nothing to your old classmates at Amish High.
8> You'd think that after twenty years, they'd have forgotten about that little act of self-love you performed in the locker room shower.
7> You only had a chance to greet half the class before running out of ammo.
6> Turns out that ol' Salmolinda Hayachek, the dumpy chick you stood up on prom night, began her acting career by shortening her name to Salma Hayek.
5> Your practical joke backfired when everyone in the class of '58 appreciated your Ex-Lax brownies.
4> Although your high school fantasy involved girl-on-girl action, reality hit home when you caught your drunk octogenarian wife behind the dumpster with a drunk octogenarian cheerleader.
3> Some "golden opportunity" -- 4 1/2 hours and not ONE friggin' Amway sale.
2> Everyone else went home with a commemorative program and pictures of their classmates. You went home with a court order and pictures of children you never knew you had.
and's Number 1 Sign Your High School Reunion Didn't Go Well...
1> While slow dancing, your beloved homecoming queen gently whispers in your ear, "Two hundred for a straight-up, four hundred for around-the-world -- and no kissing."
[ The Top 5 List ]
[ Copyright 2000 by Chris White ]
Selected from 137 submissions from 49 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
Chris Irby, Dallas, TX -- 1 (2nd #1)
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 13
Chris White, Irvine, CA -- List owner/editor


The Crew

You want the facts? Go to the Internet Movie Database.

Mildly amusing old-guys film. Not as good as Space Cowboys. It is nice to see Burt Reynolds working again, and yes, it really was him they threw out of the Burger King--you can tell both from the freeze frame and from the interviews he's given.

The reviewers were right. They aren't always, but they were in this case. Director Michael Dinner and writer Barry Fanaro fell into the trap Clint Eastwood so deftly avoided in Space Cowboys. Whereas Clint treated his old flyers with respect, the old mobsters are treated here as doddering buffoons. Admittedly, Clint was going for drama while Michael and Barry were shooting for (and mostly achieving) comedy.

Itís a fluffy entertainment (complete with gratuitous non-explicit sex, so keep the pre-teens away) that's not too bad and sometimes mildly amusing. Give it about two stars, and you're probably just as well off waiting for the video.


More on Quotations

This from Dan Rosenbaum on the subject of the Gen. Sherman quote in my bulletin about the week I skipped:

I may be forgetting things at my advanced age, but I'm pretty sure that Phil Gill is wrong; Lyndon Johnson never said, "What do we do know, Mr. Peabody?" Even in jest.
A check of failed to find the source of the "If nominated" quote, (A Google search confirms Sherman, BTW), but yielded this gem from Lillian Carter, mother of President Jimmy:
Sometimes when I look at all my children, I say to myself, "Lillian, you should have stayed a virgin."
ATTRIBUTION: Comment to 1980 Democratic Convention that nominated her son for a second term as president, quoted in Newsweek 29 Dec 80

Finally, this anecdote is kind of long, but it appears all over the web, so I assume it is public domain. I saw it in a comic newspaper I get called Funny Times, and I liked it so much I wanted to repeat it here.

Sir Ernest Rutherford, President of the Royal Academy, and recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics, related the following story:
Some time ago I received a call from a colleague. He was about to give a student a zero for his answer to a physics question, while the student claimed a perfect score. The instructor and the student agreed to an impartial arbiter, and I was selected.
I read the examination question: "Show how it is possible to determine the height of a tall building with the aid of a barometer." The student had answered: "Take the barometer to the top of the building, attach a long rope to it, lower it to the street, and then bring it up, measuring the length of the rope. The length of the rope is the height of the building."
The student really had a strong case for full credit since he had really answered the question completely and correctly! On the other hand, if full credit were given, it could well contribute to a high grade in his physics course and certify competence in physics, but the answer did not confirm this.
I suggested that the student have another try. I gave the student six minutes to answer the question with the warning that the answer should show some knowledge of physics. At the end of five minutes, he hadn't written anything. I asked if he wished to give up, but he said he had many answers to this problem; he was just thinking of the best one. I excused myself for interrupting him and asked him to please go on.
In the next minute, he dashed off his answer, which read: "Take the barometer to the top of the building and lean over the edge of the roof. Drop the barometer, timing its fall with a stopwatch. Then, using the formula x=0.5*a*t^2, calculate the height of the building." At this point, I asked my colleague if he would give up. He conceded, and gave the student almost full credit.
While leaving my colleague's office, I recalled that the student had said that he had other answers to the problem, so I asked him what they were.
"Well," said the student, "there are many ways of getting the height of a tall building with the aid of a barometer.
For example, you could take the barometer out on a sunny day and measure the height of the barometer, the length of its shadow, and the length of the shadow of the building, and by the use of simple proportion, determine the height of the building."
"Fine," I said, "and others?"
"Yes," said the student, "there is a very basic measurement method you will like. In this method, you take the barometer and begin to walk up the stairs. As you climb the stairs, you mark off the length of the barometer along the wall. You then count the number of marks, and this will give you the height of the building in barometer units." "A very direct method."
"Of course. If you want a more sophisticated method, you can tie the barometer to the end of a string, swing it as a pendulum, and determine the value of g [gravity] at the street level and at the top of the building. From the difference between the two values of g, the height of the building, in principle, can be calculated."
"On this same tack, you could take the barometer to the top of the building, attach a long rope to it, lower it to just above the street, and then swing it as a pendulum. You could then calculate the height of the building by the period of the precession".
"Finally," he concluded, "there are many other ways of solving the problem. Probably the best," he said, "is to take the barometer to the basement and knock on the superintendent's door. When the superintendent answers, you speak to him as follows: 'Mr. Superintendent, here is a fine barometer. If you will tell me the height of the building, I will give you this barometer."
At this point, I asked the student if he really did not know the conventional answer to this question. He admitted that he did, but said that he was fed up with high school and college instructors trying to teach him how to think.
The name of the student was Niels Bohr." (1885-1962) Danish Physicist; Nobel Prize 1922; best known for proposing the first 'model' of the atom with protons & neutrons, and various energy state of the surrounding electrons -- the familiar icon of the small nucleus circled by three elliptical orbits ... but more significantly, an innovator in Quantum Theory.

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