PS... A Column
By Paul E. Schindler Jr.
Some things are impossible to know, but it is impossible to know these things.
April 16, 2001
Breaking the Sacred Covenant
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:
Breaking The Sacred Convenant
Among the sacred covenants of this world is the one between a writer and his audience. If you promise people a weekly column, you should deliver a weekly column. I didn't deliver last week, and I apologize. I was on vacation, and I wasn't doing a very good job of it. I checked email everyday, and voice mail too (lucky thing, as it turned out there were some developments that would have been hard to deal with on Monday morning). Still, with all the time I put in on my PC, I felt another two or three hours writing this column would have really irritated my wife, Vicki. Frankly, the sacred covenant I have with her trumps the one I have with you. I hope not too many of you wandered off while I was gone.
God I Love Vacations
I derived a great deal of pleasure from the week before last, which I spent in Los Angeles and Bodega Bay.
Sunday night, Vicki and I scooted down to LA with our daughter Rae, to spend a few days with her mother and to let Rae see some LA-area colleges. On Monday, we took the long drive down to San Diego so she could see the University of California at San Diego. Our tour guide was Marlow's good friend Tara, a preternaturally perky lass with the energy of a hummingbird and one of the sunniest dispositions I've ever seen. While we were there was also saw Eric and Jason, two sons of friends who are also attending UCSD. Very rural feeling, despite its proximity to San Diego (it's really in suburban La Jolla).
Tuesday, it was the Bruins and the Trojans, back to back at UCLA and USC, which either stand for University of California, Los Angeles and University of Southern California, or, if you will, Under Construction Like Always and University of Spoiled Children or University of Second Choice. Both are huge and impressive.
Wednesday, we went to the opposite end of the scale, with a 40-mile drive to the Claremont Colleges in Pomona, Calif., location of Vicki's Alma Mater, Pitzer College, a school with only 700 students. Rae, I think, was much more impressed with Pomona College, although I thought Scripps, the Alma Mater of Vicki's sister Pamela was really the most impressive. But Scripps is an all-women's school, and I think Rae has made up her mind that's not what she wants.
Then Rae went off for a few days in Oregon, while Vicki and I split for our favorite vacation retreat, Bodega Bay, about 90 minutes north of San Francisco on the coast. It is near the town of Bodega, where Alfred Hitchcock shot the movie The Birds about 40 years ago. Our love for this bucolic and restful spot highlights the big difference between vacation for a kid and vacation for an adult. Vicki and I like it because there's nothing to do and a long white-sand beach we can walk on (it's about 90 minutes end to end round trip at a brisk pace). We light fires in the fireplace, we read, we eat out, we watch movies, we nap. A perfect vacation for us, and a vision of hell on earth for our daughters. Which is why we haven't gone much since Marlow started high school six years ago. But we vowed to go back more often, if Rae can take it. Or, when, as is increasingly the case, she's occupied elsewhere.
The Big Apple
Big meeting in New York this week, at the five-star Garden City Hotel on Long Island. I went in with a serious resolve to exercise and eat right. I batted .500. I only got four hours sleep the first night, and I couldn't bring myself to get up early and exercise. The next night, after a day of meetings during which I hope the other participants didn't notice I was running on empty, I went to bed at 8:30, slept until 6:30 (when will I ever be able to do that again?) and had to do email until I had to leave for a couple of meetings.
I've got to tell you, the best part of the three-day trip was dinner Tuesday night at the Terrace, a very nice restaurant atop a Columbia University faculty residence building (business casual dress code, but I was the only many there not wearing a tie), with Ian and Marlow. We had a lovely meal, and my respect for Ian grew a few more notches--he is a smart, pleasant, witty young man who obviously cares a lot for my daughter and treats her very nicely.
The scariest part was the way a simple install and hard disk cleanup on Marlow's PC turned into a techie's nightmare, when I discovered that I had not turned on automatic updating for her virus protection. More than 140 files were infected with some dumbass East European virus she picked up from heaven knows where. This virus was so nasty, it infected Norton Antivirus itself, but fortunately Norton was able to repair itself. So, a task that I had allowed two hours for took six (which is why I landed at 4pm and still didn't get to bed out on Long Island until 2 am). However, Marlow now has: a flat screen, an extra gig of disk space, an d a virus-free computer that will check twice a month for virus updates.
By the way, anybody out there know how to get Netscape Navigator to empty its trash automatically? Marlow had 130 MB of trash.
Anyway, the meeting was actually kind of cool--planning for the future beats the hell out of laying people off. We spent a couple of hours knocking back Perriers in the bar (wither journalism? Only one smoker in a group of 10--and he went outside to smoke), then went out together for an early dinner at a nearby Italian restaurant. I haven't seen so much bonding since I squeezed a tub of superglue too hard.
Tom, a friend and colleague from work who is--how can I put this--much closer to Marlow's age than I am--met me for breakfast Thursday. That was cool. I had a meeting with Tim, a colleague I've known for 17 years (he's now in another division of my company). That was cool. I got two hours with my boss (one in his office, one at the sushi place). That was extremely cool, even though he confused me a little (something that always happens when someone asks me to think through one of my proposals. When you're a mile wide and an inch deep, thorough examination does not come naturally).
Despite the rain, I got the JFK in a record 40 minutes from midtown. That's what you get when you leave at 2:45. Of course, as frequently happens, the 5pm American flight for San Francisco left from the International terminal. Is this like an editorial comment? Does American think SF is not part of the U.S. (no, really, I know… It either comes in from overseas or goes on to there from SF, but still…)
URLs, We Got URLs
Dan Grobstein characterized this as "another column on why term limits aren't the answer."
Democracy In a Noose
Newspapers used to point out that members of the Soviet Politburo had more chance of being turned out of office than incumbent congressmen--probably more true now than ever.
Craig Reynolds and Richard Dalton both let me know that MIT is going to make all of its course material available for distance learning. As a friend of Craig's put it, "Finally! A way to satisfy my midnight cravings to revisit the wonders of 801 and mysteries of 5.41!" Maybe I can finally finish 18.02? Nah…
You ever wonder if Dan Rather is a closet pinko? Peggy Noonan knows, according to a column she wrote for the Wall Street Journal's online opinion section, pointed out to me by a fellow former Unipresser.
This was a great story on an interesting topic, which buried its lead in the fifth graf…
Newspaper Cuts Raise Concern About the Quality of Journalism
Except, maybe, putting your lead up higher.
You know that nasty email about Jane Fonda's behavior in Vietnam? You've seen it, it's been all over the Internet at least twice. It's an urban myth, mixing a small amount of fact with a large amount of fiction. It's debunked here and here.
Computer Industry News
Craig Reynolds notes an FTP server security hole.
Daniel Dern notes security holes in hard-disk-based home video recorders.
David Strom sees no reason we should trust Microsoft's Hailstorm or Passport.
Meanwhile, in another part of town, The Industry Standard says "At stake is the Silicon Valley's future as the cradle of technological innovation," in an article spotted by a member of the UPI Alumni newsgroup on Yahoo Business.
Andy Yemma of the UPI mailing list wrote this:
For you space and/or photo buffs:International Space Station Alpha taken by a digital camera from the Space Shuttle Discovery March 18. High resolution image contrasts the sleek bright Alpha against deep black background of space.
Thanks to Al Webb for outpointing this great site many moons ago.
The Top 15 Rejected Album Titles
On the one hand, 15 is as low as you can go and still make the list (most days). On the other hand, I think "Yoko Ono--The Gershwin Songbook" deserved better than Runner Up. But as they say in the lottery, you can't win of you don't play, and what with vacation and a snap trip to NYC this week, I haven't submitted in two weeks, so we're headed into a period of looking at other people's humor, at least for a while.
April 2, 2001
15> Courtney Love -- "My Sunday School Favorites"
[ The Top 5 Listwww.topfive.com ]
[ Copyright 2001 by Chris White ]
Selected from 186 submissions from 67 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
Ed Brooksbank, Sacramento, CA -- 1 (8th #1)
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 15
Sweet and Mellow
...for a beautiful spring morning!!!!
Now That's Good Writing
Here are excerpts from an Anthony Lake New Yorker (April 9, p. 139). This is the kind of thing that makes me feel inadequate when I read it.
The film was "Say It Isn't So" with Heather Graham. Although it isn't technically a Farelly Bros. film (they only produced, allowing a protege to direct), it certainly has their sensibility, to wit:
At one point Klein unaccountably gets his hand stuck up the rear of a cow, which then drags him along. The joke makes no sense at all, but Klein's situation pretty much describes that of the theatre-complex audience in a lousy movie season, pulled along and hoping for something more redolent of pleasure.
God, I wish I could write like that.
You want the facts? Go to the Internet Movie Database
Most of the time at the movies, you get an unpleasant surprise. Either the trailer gives away all the major plot points, or it advertises a film as being something it isn't, or the whole thing just turns out to be one big disappointment.
Then, once in a while, you see a film that restores your faith in the medium--almost always a film produced in another country, or, at the very least, by an independent filmmaker.
Once in a blue moon, any more these days, you see a film that is clever, funny, entertaining, intelligent (OK, at least not egregiously stupid), and it turns out it was made by an American Movie Studio. How amazing is that?
From the previews, Spy Kids looked like it had a great presence--mom and dad are spies, and the kids didn't know it. The comic strip Calvin and Hobbes had a great time with this concept, as Calvin imagined his parents were super heroes.
Anyway, I really enjoyed this film and so did Rae who saw it with me. We were impressed with the beats, satisfied by the story arc, and blown away by the acting, directing and special effects. There wasn't much about this film we didn't like.
Go see Spy Kids. Take your kids.
Not As Such
But Rae is right, Gladiator did not win Pest Picture, it won Best Picture, a correction I have already applied to my last column.
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