PS... A Column

on Things

By Paul E. Schindler Jr.
Vol. 3 No. 38

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

October 16, 2000

A Lovely Wedding

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

  • A Lovely Wedding
  • Drinking Across The Sea
  • Great Use Of Language
  • Rae's Driving
  • What's Wrong With The Democrats

Computer Industry News

  • Microsoft Case Commentary

Web Site of the Week

  • Queer Duck


  • FAQs about HMOs
  • Try This Number


  • The Contender


  • Indian Educators, Columbia Rules, Columbia Drools (Sexual Assault Policy)

General News

A Lovely Wedding

My niece, Leslie Marlow, was married last weekend in Santa Barbara where her parents live. The wedding itself was in Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Catholic Church, a mission church in the hills south of downtown. The reception was at her father's house, where a tent was erected in the backyard that seated 200. There was a 10-piece band with singers, great food, and much dancing.

It was a lovely wedding. Vicki and I, as many of you will recall, had both our wedding and the reception on a boat, the Mariner IV, a yacht that sails out of Oakland Harbor. Father William H. Barkus III, the Episcopal priest who performed the ceremony (and a friend of mine at the time), romantically filled out our marriage certificate "at sea," although we were tied to the dock during the ceremony itself. We were limited to 40 people by the size of the boat, and that's always seemed about right to me. I've never been a fan of big weddings. I hope I have another decade or so before I'm the father of the bride.

Drinking Across The Sea

This smacks of apocrypha, but is too good to resist. It comes to me by way of my winemaker friend, Clark Smith.

The following tale is from the history of the oldest commissioned warship in the world, the USS Constitution. It comes by way of the National Park Service, as printed in "Oceanographic Ships, Fore and Aft", a periodical from the oceanographer of the US Navy.
[Note - and it's been modified slightly by someone along the way ]
On 23 August 1779, the USS Constitution set sail from Boston, loaded with 475 officers and men, 48,600 gallons of water, 74,000 cannon shot, 11,500 pounds of black powder and 79,400 gallons of rum. Her mission: to destroy and harass English shipping.
On 6 October, she made Jamaica, took on 826 pounds of flour and 68,300 gallons of rum. Three weeks later, Constitution reached the Azores, where she provisioned with 550 pounds of beef and 2,300 gallons of Portuguese wine.
On 18 November, she set sail for England where her crew captured and scuttled 12 English merchant vessels and took aboard their rum. By this time, Constitution had run out of shot. Nevertheless, she made her way unarmed up the Firth of Clyde for a night raid. Here, her landing party captured a whiskey distillery, transferred 13,000 gallons on board and headed for home.
On 20 February 1780, the Constitution arrived in Boston with no cannon shot, no food, no powder, no rum, and no whiskey. She did, however, still carry her crew of 475 officers and men and 18,600 gallons of water. The math is quite enlightening: Length of cruise: 181 days Booze consumption: 1.26 gallons per man per day (this does NOT include the unknown quantity of rum captured from the 12 English merchant vessels in November).
Naval historians say that the re-enlistment rate from this cruise was 92%.

Great Use Of Language

I love Leah Garchik's Personals column in the San Francisco Chronicle but I was particularly taken with this item from the Oct. 12 column:

-- John Joss heard Joel Schumacher say on ``Fresh Air'' the other day that there is no homophobia in Hollywood. ``If you make money for them, they don't care what you do. You could be (action for which one uses a screwdriver) yaks in the street. They'll buy you a yak. They'll give you their yak.''

Her phrase, "action for which one uses a screwdriver" just slays me.

Rae's Driving!

Rae passed the California behind-the-wheel driver's test on Thursday at the Corte Madera office, some 60 miles from our house.

Why did Rae have to go that far? Because every one of the more urban offices (there are a dozen closer) was booked a month ahead for driver's tests.

Why were they booked a month ahead? Two reasons. Two years ago, the California Legislature tightened requirements for young drivers. It seems to be working; fewer deaths, fewer accidents. However, all the driving examiners had to be retrained. Which meant the offices were short-staffed. So they got behind.

Also, more drivers flunk the new, harder test. So the volume of tests went up. But the number of examiners did not go up. The result: instant gridlock. Month-long waits at offices in large population centers.

I would say this is another example of government waste, but have you been on hold at a bank lately? Apparently, the number of calls they get every day is "unusual calling volume." Why not hire a few human beings? Whatever happened to customer service? I hate phone trees.

What’s Wrong With The Democrats

Ray Pardo forwarded this to me. Since I have no intention of providing aid and comfort to the party whose stands on most issues I find abhorent, I have stripped the URLs. What I want to know is… why haven't the Democrats done this?

Dear Friend,

I have been asked by Jim Nicholson, Chairman, Republican National Committee to send you the following important information;

As you know, the coming election is projected to be the closest race in 40 years. And the future of our great country literally hangs in the balance. That's why I want to tell you about [A GOP web site]
Please take a few seconds to sign-up at [URL here]. Once you've registered as an eChampion, you will receive fact-filled e-mails twice a week on the upcoming election, the candidates' stands on issues, etc.
Blah Blah Blah

Then a little viral marketing and a pitch for contributions.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Paid for by the Republican National Committee
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

P.S. I am appealing to you, as part of a select group of eChampions to SPREAD THE WORD BY FORWARDING THIS MESSAGE to your own email list today! Please feel free to add a personal message to the top of the message you forward.

P.S.S. You can help the GOP reach more people by contributing online. Click here to help the Republican Team!

The only thing wrong with this is that my party didn't think of it first, that I know of. Well, as Will Rogers once said, I don't belong to any organized political party, I'm a Democrat.

Computer Industry News

Microsoft Case Commentary

This comes from a correspondent who would rather not be identified. I think his analysis is cogent and spot-on.

The article on MS from ACT was obviously self serving, but I agree with one part of its conclusion: splitting MS into two new monopolies isn't the right solution. We'll be back in court in a few years doing this again (unless Bush is elected :-) ).
If we truly want to increase competition, trim and improve products and lower pricing in the Windows market (albeit with inevitable balkanization) MS will need to be broken into multiple (4 or 5) vertically integrated companies, each with access to the same initial source code (Windows, Office, etc.).
Furthermore, I believe Bill is making a strategic blunder by not voluntarily breaking up MS along different lines of his own choosing. MS could settle the case and reinvigorate the stock in one quick move, much as the Baby Bells have surpassed the former AT&T while avoiding any serious re-regulation.
The government has already condoned Windows and Office monopolies. MS would have free reign to design a viable breakup that would leverage key technologies and initiatives. Through Bill's paralysis and control paranoia, MS is increasingly likely to lose key employees the longer the stock price remains stalled.
Just as not finishing the job in Iraq has left us with a very dangerous situation in the Middle East today, settling for two new monopolies that would still require continuous monitoring by the Feds is not a solution that does justice to all the work done by David Boies.

Web Site of the Week

Queer Duck

I had to think long and hard about this one, because there's quite a range of people who read this site. But this column is about me, my life, and my sense of humor. I found this web cartoon to be funny, so I'm sharing it. If you don't like man edgy, South Park/Ren and Stimpy style of humor (edgy in content, not in language), you might enjoy this. Icebox is the name of the site. You'll need Flash to see this, and a high-speed connection REALLY helps.

From the creator of "The Critic" and Icebox's own "Hard Drinkin' Lincoln" comes the story of a left-wing hero: "Queer Duck." Featuring the voices of RuPaul, Jim J. Bullock, and Estelle Harris (of Seinfeld).

He's here, he's queer, he's a duck - and he couldn't be prouder. Watch Queer Duck and his friends Openly Gator, Bi Polar Bear and Oscar Wildcat live it up on Icebox.


FAQs About HMOs

This came in without attribution:

Q: What does HMO stand for?
A: This is actually a variation of the phrase, "Hey, Moe!" Its roots go back to a concept pioneered by Doctor Moe Howard, who discovered that a patient could be made to forget about the pain in his foot if he was poked hard enough in the eyes. Modern practice replaces the physical finger poke with hi-tech equivalents such as voice mail and referral slips, but the result remains the same.

Q: Do all diagnostic procedures require pre-certification?
A: No. Only those you need.

Q: I just joined a new HMO. How difficult will it be to choose the doctor I want?
A: Just slightly more difficult than choosing your parents. Your insurer will provide you with a book listing all the doctors who were participating in the plan at the time the information was gathered. These doctors basically fall into two categories--those who are no longer accepting new patients, and those who will see you but are no longer part of the plan. But don't worry--the remaining doctor who is still in the plan and accepting new patients has an office just a half day's drive away!

Q: What are pre-existing conditions?
A: This is a phrase used by the grammatically challenged when they want to talk about existing conditions. Unfortunately, we appear to be pre-stuck with it.

Q: Well, can I get coverage for my pre-existing conditions?
A: Certainly, as long as they don't require any treatment.

Q: What happens if I want to try alternative forms of medicine?
A: You'll need to find alternative forms of payment.

Q: My pharmacy plan only covers generic drugs, but I need the name brand. I tried he generic medication, but it gave me a stomach ache. What should I do?
A: Poke yourself in the eye.

Q: I have an 80/20 plan with a $200 deductible and a $2,000 yearly cap. My insurer reimbursed the doctor for my out-patient surgery, but I'd already paid my bill. What should I do?
A: You have two choices. Your doctor can sign the reimbursement check over to you, or you can ask him to invest the money for you in one of those great offers that only doctors and dentists hear about, like windmill farms or frog hatcheries.

Q: What should I do if I get sick while traveling?
A: Try sitting in a different part of the bus.

Q: No, I mean what if I'm away from home and I get sick?
A: You really shouldn't do that. You'll have a hard time seeing your primary care physician. It's best to wait until you return, and then get sick.

Q: I think I need to see a specialist, but my doctor insists he can handle my problem. Can a general practitioner really perform a heart transplant right in his office?
A: Hard to say, but considering that all you're risking is the $10 co-payment, there's no harm giving him a shot at it.

Q: What accounts for the largest portion of health care costs?
A: Doctors trying to recoup their investment losses.

Q: Will health care be any different in the next century?
A: No, but if you call right now, you might get an appointment by then.

Try This Number

Marlow sent me this. It is WAY cute.

I think you might find this amusing. Dial 1-800-888-3999, listen to all the options. The choice as to which button to press ought to be obvious.


The Contender

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

The tagline is, "Sometimes you can assassinate a leader without firing a shot." The shorthand plot: "Sexy secrets from a woman's past come to light as she" undergoes confirmation hearings after being nominated to finish the term of a deceased Vice President.

I was disappointed to find out this movie finished fifth during its opening weekend, with a take of $5.5 million, after Meet the Parents, Remember The Titans, Lost Souls and The Ladies Man (although that last awful film didn't beat it by much). If there is any justice in this world, and any word of mouth, this political thriller, written and directed by Rod Lurie, will actually do more business next weekend than this. It sold out Saturday night at 7 in Moraga's Rheem Theater.

It has a superb twist ending which I'm not going to get into here. And, by the way, Mr. Oscar, meet Jeff Bridges and Joan Allen. You'll be seeing them on a Sunday night next spring. I always thought Bridges was a lightweight, for whom Starman was the perfect role, as he played an affectless alien. Well, I was wrong. His president is complex and nuanced, and while he has the advantage here of an excellent script, he plays it to the hilt, without chewing so much as a single piece of scenery.

Even the normally bland Christian Slater rises above himself, giving a terrific and subtle performance as a weasally congressman.

Gary Oldman, a frequent villain (Dr. Smith in Lost in Space, Zorg in The Fifth Element), plays a great one here. His character, Shelly Runyon (what a great name, huh?) is out to get Joan Allen's Sen. Laine Hanson. I have read that Oldman is a conservative in real life, and says the movie was recut to turn his character into a cardboard villain. I can't imagine how he was ever anything but, unless they reshot the entire film after he left. He is a cardboard villain. That's what he gets paid for. I'll say this, like most British actors, he does a very convincing American accent.

A few brief sexual scenes and constant discussion of sex mean you should take the kids to this. If you're a conservative Republican, you won't like it, because the Republicans are sleazy villains with no principles and the unabashedly liberal Democrats are noble and heroic. The film ends up having a Mr. Smith Goes To Washington kind of tone which I really enjoyed. With so many Oscar-quality performances, the movie itself could win a few awards.


Indian Educators, Columbia Rules, Columbia Drools (Sexual Assault policy)

My usual anonymous contributor writes:

Precisely what does one think the Marines, naval security guard types, and offloadable small craft are for on a destroyer anyway, waterskiing?

Our exchange continued. I asked:

Do I get the feeling you think this didn't have to happen? That there may be some command culpability?

He replied:

There should be, but there will not be. Went out of style when FDR needed a scapegoat and found Admiral Kimmel and his Army counterpart.

Those are the men who took the fall for Pearl Harbor, despite the fact that the U.S. Government knew, or should have known, of the imminent attack, but did not inform them it was coming. Although the evidence is now overwhelming that they were unjustly punished, the government has never rescinded their courts martial.

On another subject., a pair of journalism professors from India wrote to me about my journalism sites (URLs below):

It was fascinating to go through your site and enrich ourselves with some exclusive information on media.

When a Columbia professor was among the recipients of the Nobel Prize for Medicine, Marlow couldn't help but gloat:

In addition to the Nobel Laureate, she notes, Columbia boasts:

The kid from 3rd Rock From The Sun, Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman's daughter, Anna Paquin, Christina Ricci, Leonard Nimoy's son, Woody Allen's son, and Rider Strong go here. Nobel prizes and actors. Oh yeah.

Speaking of Marlow, I asked her about the following, and she said words to this effect: the administration said there were no rapes at Columbia or Barnard. This did not jibe with the statistics available from nearby hospital emergency rooms. There may be problems with the university sexual harassment policy, but at least it now has one. She, along with many other female students, believe it effectively had no policy before.

Here are excerpts from a recent email on the subject. LENGTH WARNING: This is rather long, which is why I put it down here at the end:

From: Thor L. Halvorssen <thor@thefire.org> Columbia Imposes Appalling Sexual Misconduct Policy University Tramples Fairness And The Search For Truth
NEW YORK, NY---This fall, Columbia University imposed perhaps the most flawed and unfair sexual misconduct policy found at any university in America. The policy, specifically designed to eliminate the already weak protections of a prior code, lacks even the most minimal safeguards and fundamental principles of fairness. The policy offers no substantial protections to the accused, who, in decent societies, are presumed innocent. Approved by the Columbia University Senate in the spring, over virtually no opposition from the faculty, it has the enthusiastic support of Columbia President George Rupp.
The new policy denies to the accused student the very rights that have formed the basis of our concept of fair process since the founding of the Republic: the right to timely notice, the right to prepare a defense, the right to confront one's accuser and to cross-examine witnesses, the right to an attorney, and the right to an impartial hearing. "As it stands today, students at Columbia will be far less free than students who attend the City University of New York or Staten Island Community College. The privilege of attending Columbia should not require students to give up the expectation of receiving decent treatment and fundamental fairness from all of Columbia's programs, including its campus disciplinary system," says Alan Charles Kors, President of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). "That expectation is natural and reasonable," Kors adds.
In an August 1 letter to the Board of Trustees of Columbia University…
FIRE's letter pointed out that under the new policy, a student in his senior year could be expelled from Columbia as a result of charges from an ex-girlfriend that he allegedly committed "date rape" in his freshman year. He could be informed of those charges less than ten days before a hearing. He would not know the specific nature of the evidence alleged against him until the hearing officer described it to him immediately prior to the student's own testimony. Despite the grave seriousness of the charges and the ruin awaiting him from false conviction, the student would not have an attorney present to advise him and would not have the right to be present even to hear the testimony of either his accuser or the witnesses against him. He has no right to cross-examination, which, elsewhere in this society, is regarded as the principal way to test the believability of a witness and the truth of testimony. Indeed, the policy goes out of its way specifically to prohibit cross-examination. In short, the accused student lacks even the minimal information, time, and means to defend himself….
In supporting the passage of this new policy, student activists (many of whom have been selected by Columbia to help administer the policy) wore red tape to symbolize the rights of the accused that they were seeking to eliminate from Columbia's old sexual misconduct policy. "What the students perceived as 'red tape' was, in fact, a set of procedural protections designed to guarantee that the sexual misconduct disciplinary process was fair and impartial, not dominated by lynch mob hysteria and witch hunts," Kors noted. In the letter from FIRE, Kors asked the trustees of Columbia, "Would you want a friend, or your son, or your daughter tried under such a fundamentally unfair policy?"
CONTACT: Thor L. Halvorssen, Executive Director of FIRE: (215) 717-3473, Email: thor@thefire.org George Rupp, President of Columbia University (212) 854-2825, Email: rupp@columbia.edu Stephen Friedman, Trustee of Columbia University, (212) 345-5000 Roone Arledge, Chairman of ABC News and Trustee of Columbia University, (212) 456-7777, Sexual Misconduct Policy.

To obtain a weekly reminder when new columns are posted or to offer feedback, advice, praise, or criticism write to me: paul@schindler.org

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