PS... A Column

on Things

By Paul E. Schindler Jr.
Vol. 4 No. 11

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

March 19, 2001

Headline Here

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.

Some Material in this column comes from anonymous incoming e-mail; such material is usually reproduced in the Arial (Sans Serif) type font to distinguish it from the original material

Table of Contents:

General News

  • My Brother's Here
  • Eurostar Travel
  • About Those Pardons Redux

Computer Industry News

  • From Free To Fee
  • Weblogs
  • What, More Disclaimer?

Web Site of the Week

  • Room 102, Mir


  • The Editor's Prayer
  • Wisdom


  • Why Not?


  • Headline Here

General News

My Brother's Here

My brother Steve came down from Seattle to visit me here in Orinda on his way to a week's vacation and job hunting in Las Vegas. Steve and I lead very different lives. He's a retired Navy man (20 years) who runs a trailer park in Oak Harbor, Washington. At the hotel, in the grocery store, listening to him handle trailer park business on the telephone, I was reminded again of the innate charm that has smoothed his path through life since he learned to talk. Because of a miscommunication, he spent a half hour in the lobby waiting for me. He knew all the hotel people by name, as well as the lobby shop woman, and introduced me to all of them. His charm was insufficient to obtain a military discount from a hotel that doesn't offer military discounts, but by remembering his AAA card, he saved me $30 a night on his room. He's staying at the Concord Sheraton because it is next door to a golf course, so he doesn't need me to drive him around. Steve is 18 months younger than me. Like me, he has a weight problem and a diagnosis of diabetes. But he's not his disease, any more than I am mine.

Eurostar Travel

I am blessed with a friend who is as funny as S.J. Perelman or Robert Benchley. Larry King, an American ex-patriate living in London has found (or ate least I have found) that frequent exposure to the British has sharpened his wit, just as it did Sid's. I subtly asked him to match the Chicago Tribune story about Eurostar travel in last week's column, and he did so. This is the introduction to his letter, but I recommend you read the whole thing.

I read the Chicago Trib piece on rail travel with some interest and a little irritation. What irritated me was a certain tone I've come to associate with Americans writing about Europe, which manages to sound simultaneously condescending and naive. Look how much the people of these cute little countries have accomplished! They have trains! I realize word probably travels slowly across the prairie to Chicago, what with the oxen dying and the Conestoga wagons getting mired in the mud, but Eurostar has been in operation since November 1994. It's not a new toy.
Other than that, I was left with a few questions. For one thing, I don't see how on earth the writer could take an hour and a half to get from a hotel in Kensington to Waterloo station, particularly at 6:30 in the morning. I live in South Kensington, and at that hour it takes me twenty minutes. You could walk in an hour and a half.
(He gave us one clue, albeit inadvertently. He said he was delayed because a shortcut through St. James Park was shut. He was not. No roads traverse St. James Park. It sounds to me as if one of London's more enterprising taxi drivers spotted a wide-eyed, apple-cheeked son of the plains, invented a shortcut that to his shock and dismay was closed, and took the guy for a ride, as it were. I wish he'd mentioned what the fare came to.)
I also don't see how the Chicagoan could have had any trouble finding his coach. At Waterloo, Eurostar has its own terminal, where overhead monitors tell you to use a particular stairway, A, B, or C, depending on the number of your coach. That number is clearly printed on your ticket. Big signs direct you to the stairs, which lead to the platform. Once on the platform, you're near your coach. Every coach is marked with its number at each end.
But if you have trouble reading and can't tell your left from your right and don't know the alphabet, it doesn't much matter. All the stairs lead to the platform. On the platform, a horde of Eurostar staff stands ready to point you in the right direction. You might end up walking a bit farther than you'd have had to if you'd paid attention, but not a lot.
At least he enjoyed the trip. He should have. First class on Eurostar is about as comfortable a way to travel as I've found. You have a comfortable, roomy seat and attractive Frenchwomen bring you surprisingly good food and wine. You may smoke. And half the time, when you arrive, you're in Paris.

About Those Pardons Redux

In last week's column I had this item. In midweek, my anonymous correspondent pointed out the link was already dead (even though the LA Times says it keeps stories up for 14 days). I found the column on Scheer's own site, so here's that link again. And it's still true: 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).

Also, Dan Grobstein sent this new commentary in on the same subject:

The Rich Pardon: Messy? Yes. Crazy? No.
When he left the White House, Bill Clinton lost quite a bit. Gone was Air Force One. Gone was the power to pardon, to make war, to address Congress and, of course, to commute the death sentence of the Thanksgiving turkey. The one power he still retains, though, has become more and more apparent in the past two months. He can still make people crazy.

Computer Industry News

From Free To Fee

As the Web turns from free to fee
By Jane Weaver, MSNBC
What will Web surfers pay for online? It’s one of the most pressing questions of the year as a slowdown in online advertising has Web content providers like Yahoo! and others scrambling to develop new paid services.


This from David Strom's Web Informant:

My latest column (Weblogs: a Window on the Influential) for Sam Whitmore's Media Survey on the influence of weblogs, care of Dave Winer.

This, of course, is a web log you're reading here.

What, More Disclaimer?

The eagle-eyed among you will already have noted my expanded disclaimer at the top. It comes from an incident with Larry King that has been repeated in too many places on the web, as reported here. Note: you'll need to follow the link for the entire section of the column devoted to King--this is only an excerpt.

Ex-Columnist's Bias Case Goes to Court
Chris Nolan claims sex discrimination in her demotion

By Dan Fost
San Francisco Chronicle
March 15, 2001&&KING OF FACTS: In his column in USA Today on Monday, talk show host Larry King gave a list of idle musings, under the heading, "Things I learned while looking up other things." The list started: "Dreamt is the only English word that ends in the letters 'mt.' . . . Almonds are a member of the peach family. .
Well, last year, the Boston Globe suspended columnist Jeff Jacoby for four months for pulling a similar stunt. In that case, Jacoby had even independently researched the facts in the e-mail, rewrote some of it and acknowledged everywhere but in print that he had taken the idea from an e-mail.
But King is not likely to be disciplined. When his editors at USA Today called, he said, "I told 'em what happened and they laughed."
…[King's editors told a different story…]
King said crediting a ubiquitous e-mail would be like crediting a dictionary every time a reporter looked up a word.
"I never pilfered anything. I'm 67 years old," King said. "This is taking journalism to its nth idiocy. This is berserk. The more I think about it, the funnier it gets. If you find out who was the originator of 'Maine is a one syllable state,' I'll print his picture and apologize on CNN."

Web Site of the Week

Room 102

My friend and colleague Joy Culbertson:

Take a look at this search engine, pick your sub-category, and start clicking the next button. It will show you a thumbnail of each website in the catergory. very cool.

Also, my old friend and former colleague Will Gee says this simulation of Mir's re-entry is cool. He's right.


The Editor's Prayer

Also known as the "anti-serenity prayer."

God grant me the anxiety
to try to control the things I cannot control,
the fear to avoid the things I can,
and the neurosis to deny the difference.


My brother Steve sent me this:

Inside every older person
is a younger person -
wondering what the hell happened.


Why Not?

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

(I leave that line in so I don't have to got and look up the coding when I need it).

We need to have a talk about the way things are with me. Don't worry--I just liked the phrase so I borrowed it from the late Herb Caen, who started off his announcement of his imminent death that way. Me, I'm just using it to tell you that my priorities have been reordered. Temporarily, I hope, but there you are.

I am still the guy who saw 72 movies last year, and although I am way off pace at 8 movies (in the year's 10th week) and have missed several Academy Award nominees this year, I am sure my life-long love for movies will reassert itself.

But several things have come up, including one very-long term project, two big projects, and a change in approach.

The very long-term project, of course, is my daughter Rae. He is a sophomore in high school, and I am clutched by the realization that I have but 2.5 years left with her. I want to make the most of them, spend time with her, have dinner with her every night. She has fencing, guitar lessons, and public speaking, so it makes for a hectic schedule. Plus, there's some hardware for her PC I have sitting here that I've yet to install. And some hardware for mine as well. My CD burner has been a blessing AND a curse (a floor wax AND a dessert topping).

The two very large projects are: the closet in my den and my audiotape collection. When we moved to Alice Lane in January of 1999, I simply took all my attic materials (journals, souvenirs, old pictures and the like) and threw them in my closet. It turns out I organized the closet backwards; stuff I never need or refer to was easy to get to, office supplies I need every day, week or month were way in the back, behind a door which the furniture arrangement makes it impossible to open. Cleaning out and reorganizing this turned out to be a colossal effort that has soaked up nearly every available free minute. I need to finish. My office is a disaster. I have found some real gems, but at quite a price.

At the same time, I noted that I had a number of reel-to-reel audio tapes, many of them unmarked, some mismarked. I also realized that it is only going to get harder to find reel to reel players. So I borrowed the reel player from the CMP office, and for the last several weeks I have been digitizing all my tapes. I now have raw digital "footage" that needs to be massaged, then burned into CDs. This takes up all the "free" time that isn't taken up by the office-cleaning project. I have found some real gems, but at quite a price.

Finally, I try to relax more in the evening. Rather than working several hours after dinner in my office, I try to read or watch television. There are several shows I really enjoy . These include West Wing, Futurama, The Simpsons, Malcolm in the Middle, That 70's Show, even, God Help Me because I never watched the X-Files, The Lone Gunmen. And Dark Angel. And Seinfeld reruns, although I try not to watch the ones I've already seen. With the exception of West Wing, I note as I list them that these are all Fox or on the local Fox affiliate. Well, they've got my (undesirable) demographic nailed.

So, the combination of all these things plus a pretty heavy load at work, is keeping me out of the theaters for the time being. But, as Kilgore Trout used to say, "This Too Will Pass."

Vulcan Junction

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

Now here's an example of how things have changed. Rae insisted I join her for this movie, which was part of a Jewish Film Festival. I had to miss band (second week in a row) in order to make the 7:30 showtime. But I went and I really enjoyed the story of four young men in a band in Haifa on the eve of the Yom Kippur War in 1973. For a film made in the 90s, it offered a relentlessly accurate depiction of the 70s. The characters were well developed, the plot was interesting, and the film really moved right along. Of course, you're going to have a hard time finding the film, in Hebrew with English subtitles. But if you see it somewhere -- well, see it somewhere.



You Didn't Know… Because they were wrong

Last week's Things You Didn't Know section was intended to wake you up. It woke up Kevin Sullivan. Here's the tiem in question:

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."

Kevin writes:

I disagree. (perhaps I'm wrong but....) When a printer was setting type by hand he/she uses reversed letters (type). On those letters its extremely easy to confuse the small letter "p" with the small letter "q". (That's my story and I'm sticking to it. :-)
If I get a cycle or two I'll do some net snooping on this one.

If I get a further update, I'll share it. I hope someone finds something more on No. 16 as well (having to do with the word that won World War II).

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