PS... A Column

on Things

By Paul E. Schindler Jr.
Vol. 4 No. 10

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

March 12, 2001

An Unusually Short Column

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

  • Why So Short?
  • About Those Pardons
Computer Industry News
  • Save The Net?
  • Descrambling DVDs
  • Hoist On Their Own Petards

Web Site of the Week

  • None This Week


  • Potatoes
  • Things You Didn't Know


  • None This Week


  • Dan's Picks

General News

Why So Short?

Rae went to Oregon to spend the weekend with my mother, while Vicki and I went to Pt. Reyes National Seashore, where we hiked for several hours on Saturday and Sunday and otherwise just relaxed completely in a quite nice motel in Olema. Alas, the Olema Inn was closed Saturday night, so we only had a good dinner instead of a great one. But it soaked up all the time I'd normally use to write this column. In short, this week, a quickie!

About Those Pardons

I couldn't have put it better myself:

Many a U.S. President Pays the Pardon Piper
LA Times, March 6, 2001

I have been waiting for someone to compare Clinton's pardons to Ford pardoning Nixon, or Bush pardoning Weinberger (and thus, in essence, himself).

Get a load of these:

Bush's pardon of Aslam Adam, a Pakistani heroin trafficker serving a 55-year sentence, would seem more startling than Clinton's pardon of an L.A. Latino from a sentence one-fifth as long.
Armand Hammer:
Not only had he pleaded guilty to the charge of making illegal campaign contributions but also, when pardoned from that offense by Bush, he forked over two gifts of $100,000 to the GOP as well as to Bush's inaugural committee.

As Bob Dole used to wonder, "Where's the indignation?" Oh, wait, those were Republican pardons. Excuse me.

Note that LA Times stories don't persist forever, so read it this week if you're going to read it.

Computer Industry News

Save The Net?

Richard Dalton forwarded this. I understand Tchong papered the Internet with it; I don't know how he missed me (maybe my spam filter blocked it).


Anyway, Richard's comment was,

How to spend your way to a new world. Maybe we should help out the poor Internet by clicking on every banner ad we find, as well.

Here's the letter

Mar. 7, 2001
Dear Netizen:
Your help is needed. Fueled by a lack of confidence, our economy is slipping into recession. If this trend continues, you might soon lose access to your favorite online store, greeting card site, music site or financial chat group. Imagine the Internet without Yahoo! or But you can help the Net regain its respect. We must band together and send the world a loud, clear message that the Net will not only survive, but thrive. That's why we're asking you to demonstrate your dedication to the Internet. On April 3, join us in "Take Back the Net" day: Buy Something Online. On April 3, avoid offline retail stores. Instead, visit your favorite online store(s) and make at least one purchase. If you prefer, donate to your favorite charity, which you can find at sites such as
Support Our Economy. The Internet is very young. Some mistakes have been made. But this budding industry still needs your support. Remember your positive Internet experiences then, on April 3, buy 10 shares in a company you admire. Your participation will send a signal to Wall Street that Netizens will not abandon their favorite medium. Please forward this letter to 10 other, or as many as you can, and help us in our crusade to take back the Net!
Michael H. Tchong Editor & CEO ICONOCAST Inc.

Unscrambling DVDs

A friend of mine sent me this:

Gallery of CSS Descramblers
by Dr. David S. Touretzky

I found it via a link in this Wired story about qrpff, a very short descrambler written in Perl:

Descramble That DVD in 7 Lines

Someone else on the same mailing noted:

Apparently people have started appending the Perl script (under 600 characters) to the end of their e-mail signatures as a protest against the various MPAA lawsuits.

Finally, I got these links:

Congressman Rick Boucher (D VA) advocates changes to DMCA to reaffirm consumer's Fair Use rights:

Stumping for Fair Use

Dan Gillmor says "In the name of preventing piracy, the entertainment moguls are treating every customer like a thief.":

Hollywood putting the squeeze on consumers

The idea that simple software tools like DeCSS have become illegal contraband is ludicrous. If someone makes (or, more egregiously, tries to sell) an illegal copy of (say) a DVD, I have no problem with the copyright holder suing them for the entire $20 retail price (per copy). The notion that the government would overreact to this potential problem by outlawing the completely legitimate tool is troubling, like outlawing photocopiers because they COULD be used to violate copyright.

(Its worth noting that DeCSS exists only because the DVD consortium failed to provide an authroized player for the Linux OS
so someone had to reverse-engineer CSS to watch his legitimate DVDs.

Hoist On Their Own Petards

This is what the people who passed the law in the first place deserve, along with the lobbyists who goaded them into it.

"On Sunday night, Napster started filtering out copyrighted song names from its system. People have been proposing alternate ways of naming their music files so as to defeat such filtering, but no workable solution has emerged... until now! AIMster is offering a Pig Latin encoder that will encrypt your mp3 titles. They state that, under the DMCA, it would be illegal for the RIAA to reverse engineer their encoding scheme and try and filter the encrypted filenames from Napster. Beating the RIAA over the head with the DMCA is fun!"

Web Site of the Week

None This Week



Two little potatoes are standing on the street corner.
How can you tell which one is the prostitute?

The one with the tag that says, "Idaho"

Things You Didn't Know

I'm not so sure about some of these (especially the last), but some seem funny, so that's why it's under humor.

Subject: Things you do not know....

1. In Shakespeare's time, mattresses were secured on bed frames by ropes. When you pulled on the ropes the mattress tightened, making the bed firmer to sleep on. That's where the phrase, "goodnight, sleep tight" came from.
2. The sentence "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog." uses every letter in the alphabet. (It was developed by Western Union to test telex communications.
3. The Main Library at Indiana University sinks over an inch every year because when it was built, engineers failed to take into account the weight of all the books that would occupy the building.
4. The phrase "rule of thumb" is derived from old English law which stated that you couldn't beat your wife with anything wider than your thumb.
5. Ten percent of the Russian government's income comes from the sale of vodka.
6. On average, 100 people choke to death on ball-point pens every year.
7. Only one person in two billion will live to be 116 or older.
8. In Cleveland, Ohio, it's illegal to catch mice without a hunting license.
9. Thirty-five percent of the people who use personal ads for dating are already married.
10. The world's termites outweigh the world's humans 10 to 1.
11. The 3 most valuable brand names on earth: Marlboro, Coca-Cola, and Budweiser, in that order
12. In 10 minutes, a hurricane releases more energy than all the world's nuclear weapons combined.
13. It was the accepted practice in Babylon 4,000 years ago that for a month after the wedding, the bride's father would supply his son-in-law with all the mead he could drink. Mead is a honey beer, and because their calendar was lunar based, this period was called the honey month" or what we know today as the "honeymoon."
14. In English pubs, ale is ordered by pints and quarts. So, in old England, when customers got unruly, the bartender would yell at them to mind their own pints and quarts and settle down. It's where we get the phrase "mind your P's and Q's."
15. Many years ago in England, pub frequenters had a whistle baked into the rim or handle of their ceramic cups. When they needed a refill, they used the whistle to get some service. "Wet your whistle," is the phrase inspired by this practice.
16. In ancient England, you could not have sex unless you had consent of the King (unless you were in the Royal Family). When anyone wanted to have a baby, they got consent of the King & the King gave them a placard that they hung on their door while they were having sex. The placard had F.U.C.K. (Fornication Under Consent of the King) on it. Now you know where that came from.


None, Again

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


Dan's Picks

Dan Grobstein offered some interesting articles this week:

Maybe someday this will all come together.

NASA's Wish Upon a Star: Inexpensive Space Travel

NASA last week halted the struggling effort to build an experimental space plane, called the X-33, and the dream of inexpensive, reliable access to space receded further into a murky future.

Jerry Pournelle originated the predecessor to this project, but tells me it grew out of control and deserved to be axed.

Dan's second pick:

Here's an interesting article from the Chicago Tribune about travelling by train from London to Paris (through the chunnel) to Rome. The author's not always happy about the trip, but it sounds great to me.

I have an ex-pat friend in London who has made the trip a few times; maybe we'll hear from him.

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

Paul Schindler Home Page | PS...ACOT archives | Journalism Movies

You are visitor number

since October 16, 1998