PS... A Column

on Things

By Paul E. Schindler Jr.
Vol. 3 No. 33

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

September 11, 2000

Thin, but on time

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

  • George W. and the Debates
  • Family Snaps: 1974 and 2000
  • An Empty Spot

Computer Industry News

  • Journalism On The Web?

Web Site of the Week

  • The George W. Dance--Again


  • If There Were Computers In 1776


  • No Movies This Week


  • Rosenbaum and A. Nonymous re: Lateness

As most of you noticed, last week's column was late. If you missed it, it's still available here.

General News

George W. and the Debates

OK, I'm saying this here because I'm not hearing it often enough: is there anyone in America who can't figure out that George Bush doesn't want to do 90 minute Presidential Debate Commission debates because he hasn't got the mental firepower to do well in the format? Of course he wants a shorter, folksier format and a smaller audience--so people won't watch him putting his foot in his mouth. And I'm not talking about verbal slips. I'm talking about getting asked questions he isn't going to know how to answer.

Doonesbury summed it up well on Sept. 9 (and I paraphrase here), putting these words in W's mouth: "I promised not to have sex in the White House. What more do people want? Why do they keep asking me for details about my tax cut? This election isn't about policy, its about character!"

I am sure George W. is a very decent fellow, kind to his family and his parents. But he's not more qualified to be president of the United States than I am. Probably less so--he has to take some blame for the current state of the state of Texas, while I have no record in that regard.

I haven't been this upset at the punditocracy, the media and the American People since the impeachment

Family Snaps: 1974 and 2000

A picture of Rae fencing appeared in the Contra Costa Sun on Sept. 7, 2000 and can be found on my website.

She fences weekly and may begin competitive fencing this year.

The shot John Krout took of Kathy Flanagan and me anchoring the closed-circuit cablecast of MITV News in the spring of 1974 is now in its permanent internet home.

An Empty Spot

I am still working through my stunning realization that there may be an empty space where my spiritual life should be. I have always been satisfied to think that it is sufficient to be a good person, to work hard not to harm anyone, and to help everyone I feel I reasonably can--starting with my wife, my children, my parents, and my brother.

I believe, as the bible says, that much is asked of those to whom much is given. I have not yet begun to give back. I don't know if that means the Episcopal Church, or the Ashram, or something I do on my own.

Richard Dalton, one of the most deeply spiritual people I know outside of my own family, noted after my comment on this subject last week that,

"Maybe that's an opportunity, not a problem, Paul (and if I sound like an IBM salesman I say the same thing anyway)."

As I have mentioned here before, I try to insure that not a day goes by during which my loved ones are not explicitly told of my love for them. I try to wake up every morning grateful for another day of life, and I try to appreciate each day for the good that is in it--and there is some good in every day.

I think I have the basis of some spiritual practice here. We'll see.

Defining Journalism

This came from a former UPI Washington Bureau Chief:

A newspaper is not the place to go to see people actually earning a living, though journalists like to pretend they never stop sweating over a hot typewriter. It is much more like a brothel - short, rushed bouts of really enjoyable activity interspersed with long lazy stretches of gossip, boasting, flirtation, drinking, telephoning, strolling about the corridors sitting on the corner of desks, planning to start everything tomorrow. Each of the inmates has a little specialty to please the customers. The highest paid ones perform only by appointment; the poorest take on anybody, The editors are like madams - soothing, flattering, disciplining their naughty, temperamental staff, but rarely obliged to satisfy the clients personally between the printed sheets.

I just added it to my journalism quotes page. But I have another definition I've always liked, and I'm going to reprint it here, from Ray Brown's journalism novel Arizona Kiss:

I can tell you what it's like to work for a newspaper. Imagine a combine, one of those huge threshing machines that eat up a row of wheat like nothing, bearing right down on you. You're running in front of it, all day long, day in and day out, just inches in front of the maw, where steel blades are whirring and clacking and waiting for you to get tired or make one slip. The only way to keep the combine off you is to throw it something else to rip apart and digest. What you feed it is stories. Words and photos. Ten inches on this, fifteen inches on that, a vertical shot here and a horizontal there, scraps of news and film that go into the maw where they are processed and dumped onto some page to fill the spaces around the ads. Each story buys you a little time, barely enough to slap together the next story, and the next and the next. You never get far ahead, you never take a breather, all you do is live on the hustle. Always in a rush, always on deadline, you keep scrambling to feed the combine. That's what it's like. The only way to break free is with a big story, one you can ride for a while and tear off in pieces so big, the combine has to strain to choke them down. That buys you a little time. But sooner or later the combine will come chomping after you again, and you better be read to feed it all over again.

Computer Industry News

Journalism On The Web?

Richard Dalton doesn't agree with everything Kathleen Quinlan says in Journalism On The Web Has No Future: Take A Lesson From TV, which appeared August 28 on ZDNet. But it is provocative.

She buries the lead in the penultimate paragraph:

As the smoke from Web journalism's intense burn rate clears, it's becoming easier to see that the job of being journalism's flame keeper still falls to print newspapers, with their solid foundation of local advertising, and to those few remaining national news outlets that are subsidized. Original, quality journalism on the Web simply falls between the cracks: It's too general in content and its audience too dispersed to attract the local or niche advertiser, yet it's too elitist and too complicated for users to access to attract the national advertiser.

Web Site of the Week

The George W. Dance

This is the first time I've ever done this. Since last week's column wasn't up all week, and since I REALLY liked this site, I am running it a second week in a row.

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).

If you find that boring, Daniel Dern likes this rotating poultry, and Britney Spears Guide To Seminconductor Physics. Or, see if you can answer Richard Dalton's question:

A an ex-San Franciscan, how many of the "members" of this service are male.


If There Were Computers In 1776


Mr. Jefferson: Gentlemen, the summer grows hot, and it is essential that we complete this declaration of independence.
Mr. Franklin: Wait a minute, Thomas. I have to reboot here.
Mr. Jefferson: That's all right, Ben. We'll go on without you. Has everyone had a chance to look at the draft I posted yesterday?
Mr. Sherman: Not yet, Thomas, I've been having Notes replication problems.
Mr. Adams: Here, Roger, I brought a hard copy
Mr. Sherman: Thanks, Saaaaay, nice font.
Mr. Adams: Do you like it? I downloaded it off Colonies Online just last week
Mr. Jefferson: Gentlemen! There is work to be done. I fear our document will soon leak out.
Mr. Livingston: Too late, Thomas. There's already a bootleg circulating. I saw it posted on last night.
Mr. Franklin: @#$$%^$# General Protection Fault!
Mr. Adams: Ben, you might try upgrading to Windows 75. It solved that problem for me.
Mr. Sherman: Thomas, the part here about the Acts of Pretended Legislation; have you considered using bullets to air out the text?
Mr. Jefferson: I can fix that easily enough. Drat! I've spilled candle wax on my keyboard again.
Mr. Adams: You know, Thomas, that wouldn't happen if you'd buy an active-matrix screen.
Mr. Franklin: Hard-disk failure?!? Aw, criminy!
Mr. Livingston: Are you sure it's "unalienable rights"? My spell checker recommends "unassailable".
Mr. Jefferson: Can we stick to the substance of the document, please? Shoot. Low battery. Anyone got a spare power cable?
Mr. Sherman: What have you got, a Toshiba? No, mine isn't compatible.
Mr. Franklin: Hello, PCs Philadelphia? What does it mean when the floppy drive buzzes? OK, I'll hold.....
Mr. Livingston: The "In Congress" part here at the top; have you thought about blowing that up really big and maybe centering it in 72 point Helvetica?
Mr. Jefferson: Not a bad idea. Aw, nuts! Word macro virus! I can't save the file.
Mr. Franklin: That's all right, Thomas. We can manage. Here, borrow my quill pen....


No Movies This Week

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


Rosenbaum and A. Nonymous re: Lateness

Dan Rosenbaum wrote me an instant message on Thursday, asking if I had taken last week off. I hadn't; I had written the column in plenty of time, knowing the long weekend was coming, then simply failed to post it on either Friday or Monday, as I had planned to. Dan was the first person to notice, so he wins the "first person who noticed" award for this week. It is a virtual award, of course.

My favorite anonymous correspondent noted my prescient headline(which could not possibly have been written on the column date of Sept. 4) and riposted thusly:

Was wondering where the column was. Now that it's arrived, the wonder is how on Monday the 4th the author knew to write on Monday the 4th something like "better late than never he said on Thursday" (the 7th). Given this awesome prognosticating ability, For your next prediction, who's going to win the 2000 U.S. Presidential and Vice Presidential elections; first tiebreaker: Which party conrols the next U.S. House?; second tiebreaker: Which party controls the next U.S. Senate? Looking forward to the answers (as may be a lot of others) next week at the latest.

Well, Gore, the Democrats and the Democrats, of course, but that could be wishful thinking on my part.

Dan Rosenbaum also notes:

So this Stealth fighter and the United jumbo jet nearly hit each other over LA. What I want to know is, if this Stealth stuff is so good, why did it trigger the passenger jet's avoidance radar?

I was curious about this, so I asked John Ruley, a pilot friend of mine, who responded:

When the Air Force flies airplanes in civil airspace, they enable a "blip-enhance" radar transponder identical to that used by airliners (and for that matter, by little guys like me). The transponder transmits a reply message when it's scanned by an air traffic control radar--or by the TCAS collision-avoidance system. The latter's what alerted the United flight.
One a related (if slightly silly) note: I fly in the airspace over Palmdale pretty regularly, to and from trips to Mexico with my wife (she's a doctor who does volunteer work in a clinic at San Blas), and to Las Vegas on business. I don't remember which trip it was; but last summer I was on my way back from one when the following exchange ensued:
Joshua Approach (Edwards AFB): "Cherokee 42L--traffic. F-117 at 11:00"

Me: "Cherokee 42L, looking for traffic... traffic in sight."

UNIDENTIFIED VOICE ON RADIO: "You can't see me, I'm stealthy!"

Me (with big grin): "Not today, you're not!"

He passed about 1 mile off my left wing. Weird looking airplane!

John added one more note about his stealth encounter:

It was "clear and a million" as the saying goes. And while an F-117 may be invisible on RADAR, I assure you it sticks out like a sore thumb when you use the Mark-1 eyeball.

One more word on the subject from Jerry Pournelle, a friend, colleague, writer and aerospace engineer:

"Stealth" technology is a bundle of stuff including active countermeasures. I would presume the active countermeasures were not turned on.

The simplest and best explanation, but it was still fun to learn about it, from people who know.

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